Explanatory Notes for Anatomy of a Tac R Sortie
(1) Tamu, only 50 statute miles SSE of Imphal, and one of the three pivotal strategic points in the Japanese campaign to take Imphal by the 15th, 31st and the 33rd Japanese Divisions (and thereafter, the Brahmaputra Valley and India), had just been re-taken on the 4th. August by the 23rd Indian Division and the 2nd British Division.
(2) The Hurricane II (the Squadron had converted from the twelve .303 calibre machine-gun IIB to the four 20mm Hispano cannon IIC only in June '44, "but this was not allowed to affect the operational work of the Squadron," as mentioned proudly in Pg. 121 of the Official History of the IAF in WW II) had two Main wing tanks of 33 gall. each, one Reserve tank of 28 gall. just ahead of the engine firewall, and two fixed Auxiliary tanks of 44 gall. each (or two Drop tanks of 45 or 90 gall. each). Assuming that they carried two fixed Auxiliary tanks (several photographs show Indian Hurricanes returning with external tanks), this would give each pilot a total of 182 gall. for the sortie. The Hurricane II Pilot's Notes gives the approximate fuel consumption in Rich mixture (at the tree-top height at which they flew, they couldn't afford to lean the mixture) as follows :
(lb./ sq. in.)
Considering the fact that the journey there and back was fraught with the danger of being bounced by Oscars, and therefore required high throttle settings with frequent use of Boost Override (combat boost setting - not to exceed five minutes - else, there was a strong possibility of the engine seizing), this would give an endurance of under two hours. Therefore, a sortie to Tamu or slightly beyond Tamu would take up a travel time itself of 20-40 minutes each way, thus leaving only under an hour for reconnaissance/ loiter/ unforeseen circumstances (such as a pair of Oscars on your tail !).
(3) Equipment was not standard, and depended upon the wearer - typical IAF helmets were Type B or C (leather), Type D (cotton twill), or Type E (aertex - a synthetic material), with a Type D or G oxygen mask. Goggles were Mk. II or Mk. VIII flying goggles, although the writer has seen a photograph where the pilot appears to have Type B-6 or B-7 USAF goggles.
|The author wearing Type C Helmet, Type G Oxygen Mask and Mk. VIII Flying Goggles|
Some wore flying boots (a 6 Sqn. photograph shows Mohinder Singh Pujji wearing what appear to be 1930 Pattern Flying Boots Type 22C/49 whilst Bandy Verma appears to be wearing 1943 Pattern 'Escape' Boots Type 22C/ 917-924), or shoes with stockings, and some, ammunition boots with anklets (Wg Cdr Hoshang Patel's eyes twinkled as he recalled how Baba Mehar Singh of 6 Sqn. liked to fly bare-feet !). Some used gloves, some did not. Loose khaki half-arm (as they used to be called) shirts and shorts, or loose khaki flying overalls (or full-sleeved shirt and trousers - the danger of fire, and the need for protection from it, being ever-present). The weapons carried also varied - revolvers were the .455 Webley Mk. VI, the .38 Enfield Revolver No2 Mk.1, the .45 Colt 1917, or the .38 Smith & Wesson 1917, while some also carried a machete or a kukri as well. Micky Blake, in his article on the www.bharat-rakshak.com site, says he carried a Sten ! Of the four revolvers mentioned, the writer is of the opinion that the Webley is the best balanced, even though the Colt is 44 gms. heavier. The parachute was typically a Type C-2 - the pack itself formed a seat cushion and two thin cushions snapped onto the 'chute, each providing a small cushioning effect at the back and on the bottom of the seat.
(4) Again, not standard - could also have been grey and green. Also, the insignia varies from Type 'A' (RAF roundels with red inner circle, white middle circle and blue outer circle on the fuselage and wings and red, white and blue fin flash), to Type 'A1' (the same roundels with a yellow outer band on the fuselage, Type'A' roundels on the wings, and the fin flash is also the same as 'A'), Type 'B' (roundels with red inner circle and blue outer circle, with a red and blue fin flash, or with fin flash same as Type 'A,' or even a Type'C,' which had a narrow inner white band between the red and blue), or SEAC (roundels on the fuselage and wings with light blue inner circle and dark blue outer circle, fin flash light blue ahead of dark blue). Again, there were variations between, and even within, squadrons!
|Cockpit of the Hurricane Mk.1 which is currently preserved at the Air Force Museum in Palam, New Delhi. On the right is an illustration from the Pilot Notes.|
(i) If fitted with RP (rocket projectile) and a drop tank or RP and a bomb, the aircraft should be trimmed carefully to relieve stick load.
The recommended aileron tab setting (this was to be set on the ground and was not adjustable in flight) is neutral at full load. Then with a drop tank fitted under the port wing, changes in load will cause the following alterations in trim :
Tank empty : Slightly right wing low
Tank empty and RP fired : Trim satisfactory
Tank jettisoned and RP fired : Slightly right wing low
Tank jettisoned, RP not fired : Right wing low
(ii) Switch on the undercarriage indicator and check green lights. Test the change-over switch (these are two switches on the top left side of the cockpit coaming next to the large undercarriage indicator. Undercarriage 'DOWN' was indicated by two perpendicular green lights on either side of the centre of the instrument. Undercarriage 'UP' was indicated by two horizontal red lights on either side of the top of the instrument).
(iii) See that the short (lower) arm of the hydraulic selector safety catch is across the wheels up slot of the gate (this is a slot which looks like an H. The selector lever is in the centre - move it into the right-hand slot for flaps, and into the left-hand slot for the undercarriage - the undercarriage (u/ c) slot has a safety spring to ensure that you don't select u/ c 'up' in a manner to cause you red-faced embarrassment ["Sorry, Sir, I thought I was raising the flaps !!"]).
(iv) Check that the throttle pushbutton master switch is OFF ( a pushbutton on the top of the throttle lever - check it with your left thumb).
(v) Check contents of fuel tanks (this is a beautifully designed tumbler switch - turn it to whichever tank you want a reading of - Port, Centre (Reserve), Starboard, and press a button on the tumbler switch - the contents of the selected tank are indicated on a large gauge below the switch). If fitted with Auxiliary tanks see that the pump switches or control cock are OFF (bottom right side of your seat).
(vi) Test operation of flying controls.
(vii) See that the cockpit hood (or canopy) is locked open (this was not as foolproof a system as that on the Spitfire, in which, by opening the cockpit door one notch during take-off and landing, the hood is prevented from slamming shut - having said that, this is precisely what did happen to Furdoon Dinshaw Irani of 7 Sqn - whilst force-landing a Spit after engine failure, the hood slammed shut, almost scalping him in the process !).
STARTING THE ENGINE AND WARMING UP
i) Set the fuel cock to MAIN TANKS ON on the left side below the instrument panel - with your left thumb and forefinger, twist the large metal switch to the right - there.
ii) Set the controls as follows : Throttle - 1/ 2 in. Open Propeller Control - a small black knob above and ahead of the throttle. Push it fully forward to fine pitch so that the prop will claw your heavily-laden aircraft into the warm, dank air.
Supercharger control - push the knob forward with your left hand for moderate Radiator shutter - reach forward with your left hand, grip the hand-brake-like lever, depress the button at the top, and pull it all the way up for OPEN
iii) Work the priming pump until the fuel reaches the priming nozzles; this may be judged by a sudden increase in resistance right hand to the bottom of the instrument panel on the right, smartly twist the small black knob anti-clockwise, a spring makes it pop out, pull and push it two - three times - there - you can feel the resistance
iv) Switch ON the ignition flick the two small switches at the bottom left of the instrument panel up and press the starter and booster coil buttons to the left of the ignition switches. When the propeller reluctantly starts turning, keep pumping on the primer pump knob - ah, the engine has burst into life. Release the starter button, but keep the booster coil button pressed (to the right of the starter button) until the engine's running smoothly. Push the primer pump knob back in, twist it to the right and lock it.
v) Release the starter button as soon as the engine starts a cough, another cough, and the Rolls Royce Merlin XX rumbles to life, all twelve cylinders settling into a soft, growling, throbbing unison and as soon as it is running satisfactorily release the booster coil pushbutton and with your right hand screw down the priming pump.
vi) Open up slowly to 1000 rpm watch the needle gradually climb up on the large gauge on the top right hand of the instrument panel then warm up at this speed.
TESTING THE ENGINE AND INSTALLATIONS While warming up
i) Check temperatures and pressures check that the tape-like instrument on the right side of the panel shows a minimum oil pressure of 45 lbs/ sq. in, below that, check that oil temperature has risen to a minimum of 15 degrees C, and the gauge to its right shows a minimum radiator temperature of 60 degrees C - see whether the fuel pressure warning light (to the right of the oil pressure gauge) is not on - if it is, it means that the fuel pressure has fallen below 8 lbs/ sq. in. and test operation of the hydraulic system the various washers and seals easily deteriorate in the heat, wet, and humidity by raising and lowering the flaps right hand on the lever in the H-type slot, move the lever right and down - twist to the right and watch the little indicator on a strip of metal move down - good. Now move the lever up and watch the indicator move back to the flaps up position. Return the lever to the neutral position.
ii) Open throttle to +4 lb/ sq.in boost check the gauge on the right of the panel, below the rpm gauge and check the operation of the two speed supercharger. RPM should fall when S ratio is engaged ie., the supercharger is on - pull the knob out and check the rpm gauge on the top right of the instrument panel.
iii) At +4 lb/ sq. in. boost exercise and check operation of the constant speed propeller pull back the small black lever above the throttle lever. Rpm should fall to 1800 with the lever fully back. Check that the generator is charging; the power failure light top left hand side of the panel should be out and the voltage 14 or over grunt and twist to the left and back - check the small gauge on the left side of the cockpit shelf.
iv) With the propeller control fully forward open the throttle up to +12 lb./sq. in. boost and check static boost and rpm which should be 3000.
Throttle back to +9 lb./sq. in. and test each magneto in turn. Bottom left side of the instrument panel - flick the switch on the left down - a slight drop in sound, felt rather than heard, accompanied by a drop in rpm - back up and on - now the switch on the right for the right-side magneto. The drop should not exceed 150 rpm with each flick of the switch. If your Hurricane is battle-weary, as most were, the slight drop in sound would be accompanied with a slight shudder, and a drop of slightly more than the minimum allowed !
(6) Observers were later called Navigators, but the old Observer course included wireless training as well as gunnery, in addition to navigation.
The P-8 compass is a bowl-shaped instrument renowned for its robust reliability, but it has one inherent issue; you have to set the course by turning the grid ring (which has directions marked every 10 degrees graduated in 2-degree divisions, and is also divided into four quarters by two parallel wires which connect N to S, and E to W) until the required course is set against the lubber line (a small white marker on the inner ring of the compass). You are then on course when the pointer with a red cross is on the large red square marked 'N' for North (hence the expression, "Red on Red"); wonderful, you may well say, so there's no problem getting there and back, right ? Not quite; there is a problem, one that is all the more dangerous because it is an insidious one. You see, you have to remember that when you want to get home, you must make sure that you re-set the course home. In this case, the course to Tamu was 150 degrees on the way out. On the way back, a pilot had to set 330 degrees, the way back to Imphal and home, and then make sure that the pointer with the red cross was back on 'N.' The only problem was that, in the heat of combat, pilots could (and frequently did) forget to set the reciprocal course home, blindly keep turning until they had put 'N' on the pointer with the cross, and head farther and farther away from home, and run out of fuel, with its usually horrendous results. In fact, this problem was so severe that some squadrons used to block off the bottom or Southern half of the grid ring as a reminder - but - you still had to re-set the course home Photograph of P-8 Compass One can't emphasise enough how the Gyrosyn or Gyro-Magnetic or Remote Indicating Compass (which is a gyro compass which senses the earth's magnetic field) would have eased the pain - although these existed from the thirties itself and were used for several record-breaking flights, such compasses were not fitted on several of the British service aircraft of WWII, especially fighters. Whereas most British aeroplanes had the P Type compass described above, most American ones had the simple E Type magnetic compass in which you could simply read your heading on the face of the instrument (British bombers such as the Avro Lancaster and some others had Remote Indicating Compasses, or RIC's).
I have dwelt at length on this issue as weather and navigational errors (and frequently a combination of the two) accounted for a large number of casualties, both, in Europe/ the UK, as well as in Burma.
Talking about navigation - what about the usage of navigational slide rules/ computers ? Low-flying Tac-R pilots did not have the luxury of being able to use their plastic 'Computer; Dead Reckoning Type AN 5835-1.'
Observers in Vengeances, on the other hand, could use this, as well as the Mk. III D* metal computers, or the 'Unique' Navigational Slide Rule. However, even these were no great solace against the Burma weather (on the 1st. April, 1944, on a raid to Kalewa, Edul Dadabhoy of 7 Sqn. was killed, whilst his Observer, Jamsu Dordie, baled out when they were lost in horrible weather conditions and, according to my friend Cecil Naire who used these computers/ slide rules in Kohima/ Imphal [ I have them now], Jamsu was an excellent Observer - even so, the muck was so impenetrable, they were lost !). Therefore, most relied upon terrain which they'd flown over so regularly (like the Imphal-Palel road, or the Palel - Tamu road) to get them home. In such situations, luck and skill (eg., following a course and knowing the topographical contours) played a vital role.
(7) Unlike most conventional aeroplanes, Hurricanes required the chocks to be withdrawn forwards and thereafter to the side as they would foul and damage the shock-absorber strut and fairing if withdrawn directly to the side as was done for most aeroplanes (Point 6, Chapt. 2, Sect. 4., Vol. I A.P.1564B - Hurricane Maintenance Manual).
(8) T - Trimming Tabs - Rudder : Twist the star-shaped wheel on your left just ahead of the seat bottom fully right to counteract the Hurricane's tendency to swing left on take-off. The Elevator trim wheel just to its left - set it to Neutral - check against the indicator next to it.
P - Propeller Control - push the black knob above the throttle fully forward.
Supercharger Control - bottom left of the instrument panel - push it in for low (Moderate) gear.
F - Fuel - turn the tumbler above the fuel guage onto the different tanks, press the button and check the contents of the main tanks - full Auxiliary tank cocks and pumps - off Pressurising cock - just below the elevator trim wheel - set it to atmosphere F - Flaps Up - there was no need for the shortest take-off run, viz., 28deg. down - it would only use up more fuel.
Supercharger - pushed in for Moderate Radiator - lever up for Fully Open - you'd need to keep the engine as cool as possible for your low-level sortie
(9) Typical Tac-R sorties were flown at about 50' above the trees. Wg Cdr. Hoshang Patel was sent to a course in Ranchi before joining 6 Sqn. where they were put through an intensive three-week course on low-level flying where you couldn't fly above 50'. He tells of how once, on a Tac-R with 6 Sqn., he came upon a Japanese soldier who, upon seeing this ear-splitting apparition, ran to a tree and hugged it tight ! Great presence of mind on the part of the soldier, but imagine such a thing registering upon the pilot !
Ken Lister, DFC, RAF, says in Pg. 125 of Chaz Bowyer's 'Hurricane at War : 2,' "It was always the same thing. Briefed to fly at 50ft above tree-top level, people would fly at 50ft above ground level (italics mine). One can well imagine that with a carpet top of forest there is always one tree that's stuck high above the rest somewhere, and it's not seen against the background. That was the way generally people were killed."
Pg. 120 of the Official History of the IAF states "On 21 May two aircraft of the squadron encountered Japanese fighters for the first time. The aircraft fitted with long range tanks were reconnoitring the Bishenpur area at 1500 feet when they were attacked by six Japanese Oscars from above. The slow moving Hurricanes had little chance of escape"
It can be arguably stated that if the Hurricanes had been lower, they may have stood a better chance of camouflage and/ or escape. However, it must also be remembered that flying at 1500' rather than 50' gave the pilot a better opportunity to observe activity on the ground. When one sits and wonders today how pilots could fly at just 50' above the trees in horrible terrain, in horrible weather, and were still expected to bring back the detailed information they had to collect, one factor which played a very important role in this, was the experience, especially of the Indian squadrons, who maintained a consistently high level of serviceability, and mounted a consistently high number of sorties against the enemy, something which is still not given its due recognition in the world.
No. 1 Sqn IAF moved into Imphal from Kohat on 3. 2. 44 and were continuously in action for fourteen months. In March, they flew 366 sorties totalling about 530 hrs. In April, 412 sorties, 485 hrs. In May, 372 sorties. June saw 327 sorties "in the face of adverse weather which rendered many a sortie abortive and while conversion of the squadron to another type was being effected." (Pg. 121 of the Official History). "Weather in August was very unfavourable and no flying was possible for eight days. Still the squadron flew 354 sorties totalling 466hrs 45 minutes." (italics mine).
(10) While the superlative Mitsubishi A6M Zero-Sen was also no doubt in Burma, the fighter used in greater numbers in that theatre by the IJAAF was the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon), or the Oscar which, with a 'combat manoeuvre flap' under the wings, was a formidable fighter which could out-manoeuvre most Allied aeroplanes. In early 1944, the Japanese brought to Burma the Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki (Demon), or the Tojo. This signified a dramatic change in Japanese fighter philosophy which hitherto had emphasized manoeuvrability above all else. The Tojo ushered in the era of emphasis on greater speed. However, the small wings, higher landing speeds, poor take-off view and controllability issues (flick rolls were banned !) did not go to make it too popular amongst its pilots. These were brought to counter the threat of the Spitfires (three squadrons of V's and some VIII's). According to the Official history (pg. 105) "They also improved their tactics. They used decoy aircraft to draw the RAF while their camouflaged fighters flying above attacked their Spitfires. They adopted the defensive circle formation in combat and split into small groups when the circle was broken." During the course of March, April and May 1944, the Japanese had lost 120 aeroplanes, which forced them to abandon the Shwebo group of airfields, Heho and Meiktila, and prompted a move to the airfields around Rangoon. Whilst this greater distance impacted on the time they could spend over Allied-occupied territory, their superb range and endurance ensured that danger from Japanese fighters was ever-present. The Official History (pg. 120) states "Later, long-range reconnaissance was discontinued except on special instructions as several long range Hurricanes including one of No. 1 Squadron were shot down by the Japanese fighters. The extra petrol tank (sic) with which the aircraft had to be fitted for undertaking long range tasks reduced their speed rendering them easy targets for opposing fighters. Flying was therefore limited to within 100 miles radius of Imphal".
A brief, generic (different marks contained minor differences, and sometimes major ones, eg., the Tojo IIC had two 40mm cannon instead of 12.7mm machine guns whereas the III had two 20mm cannon. These have not been included in the interests of brevity) description of the principal actors will be of interest :
|Zero||1200hp||350-360mph||1940 mils||Two 20mm cannon, two 7.7mm machine guns|
|Oscar||-Do-||-Do-||1864 mls||Two 7.7mm or 12.7mm machine guns|
|Tojo||1260-1520hp||360-376mph||similar||Two 12.7mm & two 7.7mm machine guns|
|Hurricane||1280hp||335-350mph||460mls||Four 20mm cannon|
|A Photograph of two scale models shows showing the smaller wing span and length of the 'Tojo' (on the right) compared to the 'Oscar' (on the left).|
A scale model of the Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 'OO' - The Incredible Zero