- Category: The Royal Indian Air Force in the Second World War
- Last Updated: 17 May 2015
- Written by Jagan Pillarisetti
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We are pleased to present the nominal rolls of Indian Air Force Units for the Second World War. These lists cover almost all the flying units, including Squadrons, Coastal Defence Flights, most of the Training Units and several ground establishments.
Almost all these lists have been built by painstaking reading of the pages in the ORBs of the listed units. It was never a simple case of transcribing the names directly into the database. Many of the names were entered in the ORB without identifying service numbers. Sometimes the initials were not given. Thus some background research needed to be carried out - by comparing dates of commissioning, dates of postings in other units etc - to assign the correct Service Number from the master database. in all nearly 2500 individual entries have been made into our database to provide you with this information,
Each list provides details of the rank, service number, dates and a photo where available. The remarks column may contain additional information as to the unit they were posted in from as well as the unit that they left for. Clicking on the Service Number will take you to the individual's "Service Record View" page giving a list of postings as taken from the database.
Work in Progress: RAF Peshawar | RAF Ambala | No.2 Elementary Flying Training School Jodhpur
No. 1 Squadron Listing of Officers and Aircrew
No.1 Squadron is the oldest unit in the Indian Air Force, having been raised in 1933. It is ironically the most challenging unit for this project. Its Operational Record Book is incomplete. The Squadron had lost the pages prior to February 1942 in the retreat from Rangoon. And it wasn't till months later that it started compiling the ORB pages in detail. Consequently all the personnel movements prior to March 1942 has to be compiled from other sources. Books, Pilot Logbooks, ORBs of No.2 Squadron, 3 Squadron and of Peshawar / Kohat. Of the 190 + names in the list, more than a third belong to the "lost" period.
Another quirk of No.1 Squadron was that prior to the unit receiving Lysanders, airmen below the rank of Sgt routinely flew as the second crewman. These names are not recorded in the list. Only those airmen who were qualified as W/Op AG in the rank of Sgt are included in the listings.
It is to be noted that No.1 Squadron was always a purely Indian Squadron. Only 8 RAF Officers served in the unit and all of them were posted out before the Second World War broke out.
No. 2 Squadron Listing of Officers and Aircrew
Though the authority to the raise the Squadron came in April 1942, the first personnel were only posted on 10 May 42. The CO and Flt Cdrs came from No.1 Squadron, while a bulk of the junior pilots were from the 4th Pilots Course. The ORBs of the Squadron for the period October 1942 to August 1943 are missing - and thus some names may have been missed out during the period. Very few RAF Officers had been posted to the Unit, numbering less than half a dozen. This roster consists of 184 names.
No. 3 Squadron Listing of Officers and Aircrew
With the exception of the first CO and its Adjutant, who spent about seven to eight months in the begining, No.3 Squadron almost always consisted of Indian Officers and men. A total of 174 names are featured in this list. The ORBs were very detailed for the first two years listing all Postings into the unit.
No. 4 Squadron Listing of Officers and Aircrew
The Squadron was raised in Feb 1942, with its nucleus consisting of the Pilots from the 4th PC who were returning from their deputation to the UK. Thus, many of its initial members consisted of those who had seen action in Europe and North Africa. As the Unit was raised on the Lysander - a significant number of Observers were posted in as well. After its conversion to the Hurricane in September 43, a steady stream of RAF and Commonwealth aircrew, inluding Warrant Officers and Seargents were posted in over time. These numbered around 45, making upto 30% of the Squadron's roster during WW2. The last of them left the unit in November 1946. The Squadron was commanded by RAF Officers from September 43 till upto August 1945.
No. 6 Squadron Listing of Officers and Aircrew
The Squadron was formed at Trichinopoly in Dec 42, after the CDFs were disbanded. The first CO was Sqn Ldr Mehar Singh - and till the Squadron went to Pakistan in 1947, was always commanded by Indian COs. There are 164 Names, and rather unique for an Indian unit, never had a British Officer posted to it. Ever. The Squadron operated single seater fighters till May 47, when almost all of the personnel were posted out and replaced by Pilots and Navigators converting to the Dakota.
No. 7 Squadron Listing of Officers and Aircrew
As with 6 Squadron, No.7 was formed at Visakhapatnam with personnel from Nos 4, 6 Coastal Defence Flights and the personnel from the Indian Flight of No.353 Squadron RAF. Raised as the first Vultee Vengeance Squadron, a significant number of the officer population consisted of Observers, Navigators and Air Gunners. No RAF or commonwealth officers were ever posted to this unit during the Second World War. This roster has 173 names in it including many NCO aircrew.
No. 8 Squadron Listing of Officers and Aircrew
With the disbandment of the CDFs in Dec 42, personnel of 104 Squadron (earlier 4CDF) were formed into No.8 Squadron in January 43. This was the second Vultee Vengeance Squadron, hence Pilots and Gunners trained at 152 OTU in Peshawar. Halfway into the their operational tour in Burma, The powers that be decided to start a Commonwealth flight within the Squadron and thus a great number of RAF, RCAF, RAAF and RNZAF personnel were posted in around Dec 43. The commonwealth personnel remained even after the Squadron converted to Spitfires in late 44. The Squadron reverted to an all-Indian composition in November 45. Of the 212 Names in this list, it is noticeable that nearly a quarter of them were non-Indian Officers and Aircrew.
No. 9 Squadron List of Officers and Aircrew
When the Squadron was raised in November 1943, the bulk of the postings were fresh pilots who just passed out of 151 OTU Risalpur. 164 Names make up this roll. Again, nearly 25% of the officers are commonwealth - RAF, RCAF and atleast two FAA fliers. These officers came in bulk in Feb 44, and stayed on till end of August 1945, at which point the Unit reverted to being 100% Indian. 9 Squadron was one of the three units that went to Pakistan on Independence (and the only on to retain its identity). The last two COs of the unit before Partition were all later in the PAF.
No. 10 Squadron List of Officers and Aircrew
Raised in April 44 on the Hurricane, under the famous Battle of Britain Ace RFT Doe, the Squadron, was along the lines of 4, 8 and 9, another mixed unit consisting of an Indian Flight and a Commonwealth fligh. 27 out of the 123 names featured in this roll are from RAF, RAAF, RCAF, SAAF and FAA. Most of them staying with the Squadron till late 1945.
No. 12 Squadron List of Officers and Aircrew
Raised too late to take part in the Second World War, 12 Squadron was raised as a fighter unit, supposed to be equipped with twin engined Mosquitos. Thus a number of Navigators were posted within four months of raising in March 46. While training started on Oxfords, the decision was taken to equip the unit with Dakotas. Thus the Squadron became the first transport squadron in the Indian Air Force. Many of the ex-Vengeance Squadron Navigators and gunners found themselves on the rolls of this unit. The ORBs for the period Jan-May 47 are missing, thus this list may be incomplete.
Coastal Defence Flights
The Coastal Defence Flights were first raised in July 1940 - with a sprinkling of local British industrialists and Indian fliers who were granted a Volunteer Reserve commission. In all, six Flights were raised for coastal defence. Mid 1942, No.3 Flight was absorbed into No.353 Squadron RAF, and the remaining five flights were disbanded by end of November 1942. The ORBs of these flights are incomplete. In most cases the ORBs were started only mid 42, with less than six months of their existence recorded. Thus the lists for the CD Flights are only indicative and are in no way comprehensive.
Anti Aircraft Cooperation Flights/Units
As with the CD Flights, atleast three Flights were raised for Anti Aircraft Cooperation - based at Karachi, Pune and Calcutta. The flights were formed in July 41 (No.1 AACF), January 42 (2 AACF) and March 42 (3 AACF). No.1 AACF (India) was later redesignated as No.1 AACU, and in December 1942, renamed as No.22 AACU, IAF. A few months later, the other two AA flights from Poona and Calcutta were absorbed into No.22 AACU, and it remained the largest Indian Air Force Unit, operating upto 60 aircraft at a time. No.22 AACU was finally disbanded early 1947 and some remnants were used to form No.1 Target Tug Flight.
Stations, Bases and Misc Units
Various establishments to which there has been a good number of Indian officers postings are featured here. Not all the links below have ORBs ready - IAF Display Flight for one had to be built based on the data from other units. We plan to feature additional units in due course of time under this section.
Operational Record Books of Units held at the National Archives, Kew, UK
"Forgotten Skies" - Wilfred William Russell