221 Squadron - Flt Lt Des Peter's Collection

221 Squadron, IAF "Valiants"

Shortly after the Indo China War of 1962, a decision was taken to convert the Auxillary Air Force squadrons of 'weekend' flyers to regular IAF Squadrons. These units were to form the training organisations where young pilot graduates of the Air Force Academy and Jet Training Wing would be sent for operational training.

Des Peters joined the Auxiliary Air Force in September 1956. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer and underwent flying training on Tiger Moth and Texan T6G airdraft with 53 (Madras) Squadron stationed at Meenambakam and later at Tambaram. 

He qualified as a pilot in December 1958 . Due to various circumstances, the squadron did not convert to Vampires till 1961, therefore normal fighter flying was conducted using Texan T6Gs. 

Shortly after converting to the Vampire, Des left the AAF in February 1962 to fly Auster aircraft for a British Tea Company in Assam. During the Chinese invasion in November 1962, Des remained on duty, flying the company Chairman and other key executives through the length and breadth of the Assam valley in order to maintain control of the tea gardens; the majority of Mgmt Executives had been forced to evacuate the area. It was a period of intense flying activity both by day and night. 

Des was recalled to the Indian Air force following the Chinese invasion, and flew Vampires with 55 Auxiliary Air Force squadron based in Barrackpore. It was at this time that the Indian Air Force amalgamated it's five Auxiliary squadrons into two regular fighter or bomber squadrons, hence 220 and 221 squadrons ( both flying Vampires), came into being at Poona and Barrackpore respectively. These squadrons were primarily involved in training newly graduated pilots to "fully ops" status. In January 1964, 221 Squadron moved to Kalaikunda, sharing the base with No. 24 (Vampires), No. 14 (Hunters), and No. 16 (Canberras). 

Des left the Indian Air Force with the rank of Flight Lieutenant in December 1964, to pursue a career in Civil Aviation, flying DC3s for a charter company engaged in supply dropping and other interesting missions in the North Eastern borders of India. By this time he had flown several hundred hours on Vampires and was Flight Commander A Flight in 221 squadron prior to his release.

His professional flying career came to an end when he migrated to Australia in August 1968. He is now retired in Sydney, Australia and can be contacted thru his This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Auxiliary Air Force squadrons formed during the mid to late 50s in chronological order were:

51 (Delhi )
52 (Bombay)
53 (Madras)
54 (Allahabad)
55 (Calcutta)
56 (Bubaneshwar)

Squadron Leader Narinder Chatrath 3959 GD(P) - CO, 221 Squadron - at work. During the 1971 war, Chatrath led 17 Squadron flying Hawker Hunters and earned a Vir Chakra for shooting down a F-86 Sabre over Dacca.

221 Squadron at Kalaikunda in 1963. The two rows of standing pilots are all Pilot Officer rank.

Top Row L to R: Puji, ?, AR D'Costa, P. Kumar, Sawhney, Grewal, AR Ghandhi, Tyagi.
Middle Row L to R: Mukherjee, Ravish Malhotra, Michael MacMahon, Russel Montes, Ayre, Jeff D'Souza, Alok Roy, TJ Asthana, Mukherjee.
Front Row L to R: F/O R La Feurcher, F/O Des Peters, F/L PK Banerjee, S/L N Chatrath (CO), F/L RC Kohli, F/O N Chakravarty.

Flight Lieutenant Des Peters in a Vampire T.55 at Kalaikunda in 1964.

Pilots of 221 Squadron at a casual group photo session. Note the camouflage paint on the walls of the buildings.

Standing L to R: BG Ray, Sawhney, Tyagi, ?,?, R Montes, Michael Macmahon, Ravish Malhotra, Lafeurcher, 

Sitting: AR Gandhi 

BG Ray, Mukherjee, Alok Roy, Lafeurcher, Des Peters and  R Montes (sitting on ground). Note the Vampire drop tanks and main tyres.

Tyagi and Macmahon take their turn sitting on the ground while A R Gandhi, ?,?, Lafeurcher, BG Ray (standing behind on top), Sawhney (standing behind on top), Ravish Malhotra, Montes stand behind. Malhotra was to later train for the Indo-Soviet Space Mission as a standby to Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma and received the Kirti Chakra.

Lafeurcher, ?, Grewal, Goraya (dark glasses), Shergill (white helmet) at the pilot crew room.  Sitting on the steps are Sen, Des and  unidentified.

Michael Mac Mohan, Russel Montes and BG Ray during their detachment to Nellis Air Force Base (USAF) for training on F-86 Sabres.

At Kalaikunda again. Sharing the base with the Hunters of 14 Squadron.

Laurie Periera, 84 F(P), at Kalaikunda in 1964.