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Micky Blake: Officer, Gentleman and Exceptional Pilot

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We are all grieved to learn of passing away of Micky Blake (NOT MICKEY - he abhorred the nickname Mickey which for him was only for the Mouse). Micky was a legend in IAF. There is much that needs to be said about Micky, such as his winning the Sword of Honour in his Pilots Course, performance at the PAI and Day Fighter Leader Courses and his leadership qualities. Perhaps tales of his exploits and his famous Bull Terrier Sandy will have to wait to be written about. But right now what I remember most about him was the total support he gave to his officers and men and me as his Flight Commander.

GD (Nobby) Clarke had recited a few stories about him which I heard after joining No. 7 Squadron in March 1951. just short of three years later, after my own PAI course in UK I rejoined Seven in January 1954. By then Micky had taken over the Squadron from Sqn Ldr GK John. Nobby was Flight Commander of A Flight . By early April, Nobby was posted out and I, a Flying Officer. became the only Flight Commander,. I eventually got promoted to Flt Lt in October 1954.. Micky. had given me total charge of all flying of the unit, including detailing him for any sorties. I did that whenever I felt that he needed to teach us some tactics or should fly to keep his hand in. He never once asked me to put his name down on the programme as the delegation of the job to me was complete.

One bright sunny absolutely clear blue sky day, we were suddenly Palam airport was declared yellow for threatening bad weather. I promptly cancelled the flying programme and attended to other work. Soon enough Wg Cdr KN Gocal, OC Flying came to my office and asked me why there was no flying. I told him that the airfield was yellow and apart from me no one else had an instrument rating, not even the CO. He said that the weather was just fine. I explained that I was not aware what hazards had caused the airfield to be declared yellow and there was no question of anyone from our unit getting airborne in unknown and potentially dangerous conditions. Winco Gocal then walked into Micky's office and mentioned my refusal to get airborne, He asked Micky to order me to start flying.

Micky's reply made my day and guided the rest of my stay in No. Seven. Micky said, "Sir, in this Squadron the Flight Commander is the sole authority to make all decisions concerning flying. I cannot overrule him under any conditions." The support to me could not possibly have been more total.

The OC Flying quietly went back to his office and rang me a little while later. He explained that the airfield was green again and I should begin flying. I told him that flying would resume in less than fifteen minutes. Since he was a real gentleman I dared to ask him what had happened. He explained that an Air Commodore (later CAS) had taken a Vampire from Palam to visit Halwara. Just short of destination he found a bank of vicious Cb clouds. Quite rightly, he turned back but mentioned that bad weather was heading our way. In view of his seniority, the hazard was announced though the clouds were almost 100 nm away and never did reach us that day or later..The firm support extended by Micky was rare. I only knew very few senior officers who acted the same way. One of them, very well known for it, was Pete Wilson.

Before and during the 1965 War, Micky was posted in Eastern Air Command. One time an Army General needed to go to an inaccessible mountainous region. Micky arranged a helicopter for him. When his superior, the Air Commodore heard of it, he vetoed the idea and said that the army could very well march there. Soon afterwards, the General was wanted by the Prime Minister. But there was no way to bring him back in a hurry. When he was asked to explain, the Air Commodore, who later went on to become an Air Marshal. said that he had asked Micky to send the General in a helicopter but he had not carried out this order.

Micky learnt of this personally only from Lt Gen Sam Manekshaw. He was incensed at this moral turpitude and resigned in 1966 from IAF. As he said to me, "I did not want to serve in an IAF being run by dishonest liars who have no compunction in sacrificing others under them to go up the ladder themselves". In fact he had used some totally unprintable epithets for his ex-boss..

I first saw Micky with the three of our earliest Vampires, Mk III at Bangalore on March 5, 1949. But as a cadet, I never got a chance to talk to any of the testing team. His bull terrier Sandy travelled everywhere with the team in the accompanying Dakota. His instant growls kept all dhoti clad visitors well away from the aircraft. He never objected to anyone in uniform from approaching the aircraft or petting him. Tales about Sandy deserve a separate email, perhaps after a few days.

 


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