The Dakotas of the 47-48 War.

Bhatia VP914 SmallNo.12 Squadron, RIAF was the only Squadron at the time of Independence operating transport aircraft. Equipped with the venerable Douglas Dakota, the Squadron had the distinction of flying many of the legendary flights that saved Kashmir for India. The Squadron was initially under the command of Wg Cdr K L Bhatia. From April 48 onwards, Wg Cdr J D Acquino was the CO of the unit.

Additionally several Dakotas of civil operators also helped in the war effort.  Nearly sixty years after the operations, it is now possible to piece together the identities of the aircraft involved in the Kashmir Operations.

In this page, we attempt to do a survey of all the Dakota aircraft that were operated both by No.12 Squadron as well as other Civilian Operators. We also provide a timeline of events involving Dakota aircraft in the war.

No.12 Squadron, RIAF

According to "An Incredible War" , the Squadron was the only one from the start to have its full complement of aircraft at 10 Dakotas. It lost atleast two aircraft during the course of operations.  It may have got various other aircraft as replacements later on.

The following aircraft were used during the 1947-48 War by No.12 Squadron.  These included three aircraft with Civil Registrations. The  Columns Q4,Q1,Q2, Q3 and Q4 indicate whether the aircraft flew in the Last Quarter of 1947 and then any of the Quarters of the subsequent year - 1948.

 

Serial No Late SNo Variant C/N USAF ID RAF ID Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Remarks
MA 963 C-47A-DL 9324 42-23463 FD857
MA 965 C-47A-DL 12819 42-92960 KG497 X Cr 31 Oct 47 near Banihal killing 4 Crew +21 passengers
MA 968 C-47A-DK 13551 42-93619 KG684 X X
VP 901 C-47A-DK 12258 42-108841 FZ673 X X
VP 902 C-47A-DL 9326 42-23464 FD858 X X
VP 903 C-47B-DK 25300 43-48039 KG756 X X
VP 905 C-47A-DK 12581 42-92746 KG469 X X  First Landing in Srinagar with KL Bhatia 27 Oct 47
VP 910 C-47A-DK 13039 42-93158 KG556
VP 911 C-47A-DK 13163 42-93270 KG571 X
VP 912 C-47A-DK 12144 42-92353 FZ589 X
VP 914 C-47A-DK 12183   FZ627 X X  "O" Ac shelled at Poonch 21 Mar 48 W/C KL Bhatia
VP 917 C-47A-DK 13567 42-93634 KG700 X  "T"
VP 919 C-47B-DK 25305 43-48044 KG761 X
VP 924 C-47A-DL 9495 43-23633 FD877 X  "H"
VT-CHJ HJ 206 C-47 13829 43-48013 KG730  X
VT-CCB HJ 207 C-47B-DK 25475 43-48214 KG798 X
VT-CHI HJ 208 C-47A-DK 13555 42-93623 KG688 X Ex-Jupiter AW
VT-ATY HJ 205 C-47A-DK 13714 42-93766 X X

 

Civilian Operators

While an accurate survey of the civilian aircraft used in the airlift has not been made till date, it is possible to collect a few details based on photographs, film clips and other information.  This section will be updated at a later date.

Timeline:  

27 Oct 47 Three Dakotas of 12 Sqn took off from Wellingdon airfield (Safdarjung) at 0500 hours for Srinagar signalling start of the IAF operations in the 1947-48 War. Before the end of the day, 28 Dakota sorties are flown (including 6 civilian sorties).  Operational Order issued to 1 Sikh:
Flight A from Willingdon, due to take off at 0500 hrs, included 6 civil Dakotas (to transport a coy of 1 Sikh).
Flight B from Palam would also leave at 0500 hrs, comprising 3 RIAF Dakotas (ferrying the 1 Sikh's Tac HQ).
Flight C from Palam was scheduled for 1100 hrs comprising 8 Dakotas (Patiala Mountain Battery)
Flight D also from Palam would follow at 1300 hrs comprising 11 Dakotas (second coy of 1 Sikh).
The civil Dakotas were to carry 15 men plus 500 lbs while the RIAF Dakotas had a capacity of 17 men along with the additional 500 lbs. 'Men' included personal arms, equipment and bedrolls.
31 Oct 47 Dakota MA965 of 12 Sqn goes missing in a valley NE of Srinagar at around 15000 feet altitude. Aircraft believed to have been in a forced landing. Flt Lt CJ Mendoza with four crew members, along with 22 passengers from Ambala perish in cold weather. The wreckage and remains of the crew and passengers is not located till many months later.
09 Nov 47 Pandit Nehru visits Srinagar in IAF Dakota. Mehar Singh flies in Maharaja Hari Singh from Jammu.
12 Dec 47 Dakota of 12 Sqn lands at Poonch. flown by Fg Offr Des Pushong, Menon, Roy and WO Nanu
13 Dec 47 A section of a 4 FF (Hazara) Mountain Battery airlifted into Poonch by 12 Sqn Dakotas. Flown by Des Pushong and Lal Singh Grewal
15 Mar 48 Dakota "M" (HJ 20?), piloted by Wg Cdr Shiv Dev Singh nosed over landing on the grass strip in Jammu
17 Mar 48 Dakota (VP 924) crewed by Wg Cdr K L Bhatia, Fg Offr D Pushong, Flt Lt Dordi, W/O Hill carries out Night bombing sortie over Poonch. Six 250lb bombs dropped.
21 Mar 48 Three Dakotas of 12 Squadron flew with 25 Pounder guns as Cargo into Poonch. Led by Air Cmde Mehar Singh in a Harvard along with Maj Gen Kalwant Singh. The first Dakota flown by Wg Cdr KL Bhatia was hit by gunfire as soon as it landed at Poonch . Aircraft (VP 924) written off. Operation postponed.
21 Mar 48 Four Dakotas of 12 Squadron took off at Dusk and landed at Poonch in the night. Air Cmde Mehar Singh landed the first Dakota.
23 Mar 48 Dakota (VP 912) crewed by Wg Cdr K L Bhatia, Flt Lt L S Grewal, Fg Offr Barua, P/O Gill with AVM Subroto Mukerjee carries out Night bombing sortie over Poonch. Twelve 250lb bombs dropped.
24 May 48 Dakota of 12 Sqn landed at Leh airfield at 11554 feet altitude by Air Cmde Mehar Singh. Passengers include Maj Gen Thimayya.
19 Jun 48 Fg Offr D Barty lands Dakota on small airstrip to evacuate casualities at Poonch.
19 Aug 48 Dakota crewed by Flt Lt Ghadiok and Flt Lt Grewal carries out a bombing sortie over Murree. 12 bombs dropped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Links:

1. View the Gallery Dakota Operations (No.12 Squadron and others)  

2. Vir Chakra awards to pilots of 12 Squadron

This page is mostly based on the entries in the logbook of late Gp Capt K L Bhatia VrC.  Our Thanks to Mr. Ranjeet Bhatia for providing access to the same. Additional Information is from Air Marshal Bharat Kumar's book "An Incredible War" and from various photographs of that era.