My Experiences in the 47-48 War with 8 Squadron

 
Micky Blake (Center) continues his personal story on his experiences in the Jammu and Kashmir Operations 1947-48. He was the Flight Commander with No.8 Squadron. No 8 Squadron moved to Jammu towards the end of Dec 47 under Sqn Ldr Padam Singh Gill. It had just eight Tempest IIs and one Harvard trainer on its strength. They were involved in repeated attacks and tactical recce missions over Naushera, Poonch, Rajouri, Jhangar and Handwara areas causing heavy damage to enemy strongholds.
 
 
DonMich04_Small.jpg (27839 bytes) Micky Blake standing in the center with Terry Hookins (Intelligence Officer) on the left and Walter Wamsley on the right.

Operations in Kashmir

On one sortie in Kashmir I was doing a recce down a very lonely road when I saw three figures in burkhas. I felt that three women would never be on such a lonely road on their own. So, I turned around to have another look! I was not surprised to see three men who divested themselves of the burkhas and were legging it to a hut which was about 100 yards off the road. I wish I could have timed them for I'm sure they broke the Olympic record for the 100 yards! I did catch up with them in the hut but had no idea with what success! I did not see them exiting the hut!

Pandit Nehru addressing the Jawans at Jammu Airstrip (Probably in 1948) -

Another time I caught a camel caravan loaded with loot very close to the Pak border to which they were heading. The looters evidently heard and saw me for I noticed them shinning up a large tree .On my firing at the tree I have never again seen so many bodies leaping out of a tree!! I don't know whether they made the border.

About that story regarding my attacking a tank in a Harvard that is in Kapil Bhargava's article on Anglo Indians [1]. I would now correct it as it was not a tank, but a gaggle of Pakis who were stealing cattle and herding them across the border. I don't know how Jackie Pawar got the idea of a tank. I was given a reprimand for my effort to thwart the enemy. I was most annoyed to learn that three other pilots who were senior to me never even got a reprimand for doing unauthorised low flying over the Ravi river to ogle the women having baths. In consequence one Tempest one Harvard came back with cables wound around their props and one Auster pranged on the banks of the Ravi!!!

Skardu Raid

8 Squadron's diary mentions an attack on Skardu by myself and Fg Offr Mathur. Fg Offr Livy Mathur and I did this trip to Skardu on the 9th Feb 48. We had tried to do the trip a few days before but Livy's oxygen system packed up so we returned without completing the mission. On the 9th we had to climb to about 26000 ft because of cloud and it was the first time I ever had to use the High Gear on the Tempest. Our target was not Skardu but a village called RONDU which was further west than Skardu. We were blown far off course by the easterly jetstreams which no one had ever told us about.

However we broke cloud when we hit the Indus and I was able to pin-point where we were. We followed the River Indus in a westerly direction and hit Skardu and then Rondu. We were told there was a Pir in Rondu who was making a lot of trouble. He evidently lived in the largest white house in the village and we were asked to hit it with rockets. As we needed overload tanks for the trip we could not carry bombs.

We both attacked the biggest house with rockets but when we tried to strafe the area our cannon failed to fire .I could only think this was due to our flying at these heights and the guns had seized. I cannot vouch for the amount of damage we did but I hope we gave the old bugger a fright! We flew alongside Mt K2 the 2nd highest mountain on our way to Rondu.

On our way back we flew past Nanga Parbat and when I started letting down I saw a structure which comprised of a hut on four tall poles. As there was no other habitation near by I was intrigued to know what it was and why it was on it's own!

The army had no idea what it was, 40 years later in Australia Lofty Plomer lent me a book by an Englishman who had visited Gilgit as a boy .In the book was a picture of the structure. It was a refuge for the Dak Runners those days to be safe from the Leopards and Bears at night!!

Minoo Engineer asked me later when Skardu was beseiged if I would drop supplies to the garrison in Skardu from Tempest overload tanks. I said I would have a go if he wanted me to do so, but it never materialised, maybe Skardu fell before we could plan the operation.

Dons Crash

- Jammu 1948. Tom Anderson , Micky Blake and Don Michael, with Micky's Bull Terrier 'Sandy'

This is a photo taken in Jammu 1948. Tom Anderson , myself and Don Michael. Later Don had a very nasty accident when his left tyre was either shot up or it deflated in flight. As a result he did one and a half somersaults and ended up on his back. I had landed ahead of him and really thought he had had it. I remember Doc Mukerjee coming to me and saying Don had had it,as he saw the red brake fluid spilt on the ground and thought it was blood!!

Amazingly he came out with only a strained shoulder. Pushong and Aquino pulled him out of the aircraft. Someone then switched off the electrics and the aircraft blew up. His time had not come!!

Change of CO

Blake01.jpg (50521 bytes)
8 Squadron Tempest at Jammu 1948. In the front from L to R Plt Offr Nagina Singh (Eng), Fg Offr BK (Scorpy) Ghosh, Plt Offr Vernie Vaz, Flt Lt Micky Blake, Sqn Ldr Padam Singh Gill (CO), Fg Offr Dhan, Fg Offr Livvy Mathur, Plt Offr Bhatnagar.

I was the Flight Commander in 8 Sqdn under Padam Singh Gill. He was a great CO . Always backed his boys no matter what. He got posted out because he backed me against Minoo Engineer. Because we were due to have rain in Jammu, Minoo wanted me to take the Sqdn to Amritsar. I was not keen to do this as I felt we had been very busy and it would give the ground crew a break.They had been working from before dawn to late at night for weeks and I felt they needed a break. I suggested to Minoo that 7 Squadron who were in Palam could be brought to Amritsar for a few days but to no avail. However, as I had got into my aircraft Padam arrived back from Palam and parked the Harvard next to me. He asked me where I was going and he saw I was not happy about going to Amritsar. He told me to get out of the aircraft and told Minoo the Sqdn was staying in Jammu. Minoo got into the Harvard and flew to Palam. The next day Padam was posted out. I never forgave Minoo for that.

Diggy Barrett:

Diggy Barrett was my course, the 18th. I have a photo of him and me at our passing out from ITW. I had won the Sword of Honour and he as our Flight Commander is holding the Flight trophy. He was one of my course who volunteered to go to Canada for training. For some reason they did not complete their training whilst overseas. They returned to India and completed it at home. As such none of them who went to Canada saw operations in WW2. Barrett was posted to No 8 Squadron as Adjutant. I was the Flight Commander . However Aunty (AL?) Berry decided that he would swap our roles so Barrett became the Flight Commander . I was in Palam and Barrett was in Jammu. As such I was not there when he crashed, from what I heard it was on takeoff or just after. I have no idea as to the cause.

While I was in Jammu the strip was grass but I know that the army was converting it to a bitumen hessian one. The Tempests of 8 Squadron had Blue painted Spinners, while 7 Squadron had Red Spinners.

Vir Chakra:

I do not have my citation. I was never given a copy of it. All I can honestly say is I had to go to Lucknow in the early fifties, either 52 or 53, to receive the award. There were two of us being presented with our rewards, me and a Jawan. My citation was read out first then the jawan's. After listening to his citation I thought to myself "What the hell am I getting a Vr C for?" What he did was so fantastic, it made me look like a Pussy cat as compared to his effort!!


All Photographs and Text Copyrights of Gp Capt MPO Blake VrC. The first photograph is from Wg Cdr Don Michael's collection

Notes:

[1] Quote from the Article - "Mickey Blake was always cheerful – angry for about two minutes only if greatly provoked. In the Kashmir War he was once flying a Harvard with SR (Jackie) Pawar as the other pilot. They spotted a Pak tank on the riverbank in Pak territory. Mickey Blake decided to take it on with the Harvard’s puny little gun. It did no harm to the tank, which fired back and hit the aircraft’s canopy. The shattered plastic damaged Jackie’s helmet, injured him and made him deaf. Fortunately the doctors were able to do the required repairs. But more than half a century later he still carries some plastic pieces in his neck."