The An-12 in the bombing role - 2

This page of comments by Wing Commander Reggie Rufus is in response to Squadron Leader Dinky Augier's Article on the An-12 in the Bombing Role. The comments were originally sent to Squadron Leader Augier and are being presented here with slight modifications. During the 1965 War, Wg Cdr Rufus was the Commanding Officer of No.25 Squadron flying the An-12s and based at Chandigarh, which was a major transport base. Also flying the An-12s at Chandigarh was No.44 Squadron, and there was quite a bit of 'friendly rivalry' between both, the references of which will be found in the following account.


This is all about the start of the An-12 Bombing Quintet, Dinky's Account of that fortnight is quite exhaustive, however I am giving the details as they pertain to me.

The day that late P S Michael phoned me at Sector 8 that the war was on I was just about able to call my driver back and return to the airfield. All 25 Squadron aircraft were refuelled and ready to go but Gp Capt Ghadiok insisted that Tom1 with No.44 Sqn's aircraft were to taxy out first. In the mean time the Weather had closed in on Central India and Gp Capt Purshotam and Gocal2 could not make up their minds as to where the AN 12s were to rendezvous, eventually it was decided that Kanpur was the place. (This was the weather front that Sqn Ldr Augier flew through).

No. 44 aircraft were refuelled and began to taxy out I was in for another shock. Ghadi felt lonely and had me stay put to keep him company and to Air Test Six unserviceable AN 12s. I thought it was the unkindest cut of all. At 0420 hours on the following morning I was too tired to stay on at the airport. Sandy Sen's Appa (External Starting Unit) had gone off the rails and so he was the last aircraft to get to Kanpur. This was a blessing in disguise as he was now first in the queue at Kanpur. He took his No. 25 formation at low level to Nagpur , so round one was won by 25 Sqn, no offence to the members of 44!.

Meanwhile I had despatched two unrated Captains with no Instrument Rating to Nagpur, Puru was tearing his hair out to recall them but they were not in RT contact so they too dived through a hole in the clouds and all but the CO 25 were greeted by Air Commodore Moolgavkar at Nagpur.

My first sortie was to Poona to pick up those guns and come to Chandigarh.I never got to Nagpur in the 65 War. On landing at Chandigarh Richard's (Gp Capt Ghadiok) station wagon was waiting to pick me up. He greeted me with the news that I had been selected to lead a five aircraft formation for a bombing run into Pak. I told him I would lead as long as the other four were equally divided between 25 and 44. It is only after this narrative of Dinky Augier that I realised that he had to be in that formation. I was totally unaware that all these trials had been conducted by Sqn Ldr Augier as early as May 65. I must say that the Security of No.44 Sqn was 'A-One'!.

Anyway I chose the two pilots who were in Chandigarh and I got Dinky and PK Datta. The narrative by Dinky is correct upto Kanpur but the hold up was not the An-12s facing each other, When Pakistan made that Crescent attack led by my course mate Mohammed Zafar Masud and we lost 18 aircraft on the ground, then Dilbagh(late) landed in a Mig at Chakeri and I got into a conversation with him and he put me in the picture because all aircraft were being diverted to Chakeri. There was a Red Alert over PALAM, We were given the go ahead but a while after take off we had to return to Chakeri. This delayed our arrival at Palam and Kaori Singha (Anand's brother) who was the Command Armament Officer told me that loading the bombs would take time. I went for briefing to Command Headquarters and there Rajaram3,Gocal and Puru the Pilot were in a huddle.

The sortie was very much on but the late arrival had put our return from Sargodha in peril as it would be daylight after the Bombing Sortie. I in the meantime was with Bomber Harris (Susu4). I told him that this was a positive suicide mission, We had never flown in formation by day and here you were asking five Captains to fly low level by night. His answer was "Come on Reg all this is is a Supply Drop Sortie".

Well the rest of it is well documented by Dinky, however the question of being scared never came into the conversation I never saw or heard anyone else but Puru the Pilot and once again their choice of where to put our five aircraft. I had suggested we sleep under the aircraft wings till dawn, but this suggestion was shot down as another Red Alert was anticipated over Palam, so after much haggling they left the choice to me outside the radius of action of the Pak Bombers. Hakimpet was my choice because of my rapport wth PVS Ram. I trust Dinky was happy for that fortnight. We had made our Peace with Our Maker that's how scared I was.

In closing I would like to tell that I never went to Delhi for any other briefing. It was all telephonic; The late NB Menon was to stay south of the Kishenganga and we five North. We five on AN 12s and he on the Canberras at a minimum height 50 ft and no Nav Lights. The Deccan Herald declared us as Pak Bombers and Hyderabad/Secunderabad populace had been scared totally .

The memories of our route to Leh took me back to those fascinating flights. I like the description and nostalgia for the Rohtang Pass. I think the name of the DZ before Leh is wrong, either it was Dras or was there a DZ established after I left Chandigarh,5

Another incident I do not recall is my navigators turning point when Dinky was looking into my cockpit. Time has passed and we all do some really dicey and stupid things but without a 25/44 bias , I would like to know the name of the navigator because I dont remember who was mine since I dont have my log book here. 6


 

Notes:

1. Wg Cdr Tom Lionel Anderson VrC, CO of No.44 Squadron

2. Air Cmde K Gocal was the SASO of Western Air Command.

3. Air Vice Marshal R Rajaram DFC, the AOC-in-C Western Air Command

4. Gp Capt Surinder Singh, whose idea it was to try the An-12 as a Bomber

5. Sqn Ldr Augier's Logbook mentions it as Stakna for the night drops.

6. Sqn Ldr Augier has communicated to Wg Cdr Rufus the name of the Navigator, who will however remain unnamed here!


 

Copyright © 2002 Wing Commander (Retd) RA Rufus. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Wing Commander (Retd) RA Rufus is prohibited.