Special Heli Borne Ops - Sylhet and Meghna

 

14-15 Dec 71

In the evening on 13th Dec, when we returned from Narsinghdi to Agartala, I was ordered to plan for the biggest SHBO next day from Daudkandy to Baidya Bazar and deliver 23 Div to the southern suburb of Dacca. By then the Indian army and Mitro Bahini had already reached Tongi in the north, and Demra area in South east. They had started shelling Paki army garrison in Dacca. A recce in an Alouette helicopter was carried out to locate open fields at Daudkandy and Baidya Bazar.

10 Z331Narsingdi

11 ArtyGunsOffloaded

13 Behl Gun

We had 12 Mi-4 helicopters and positioned ourselves at Daudkandi at 0730 on 14 Dec to take 23 Div troops and their load to Baidya Bazar. However, due to marshy terrain and exhaustion, the first lot of troops arrived at only around 1030 hrs. 12 helicopters and its crew sat and fretted for three hours at Daudkandi, deep within enemy lines, with each minute appearing like an hour.

We had made three groups of 4 helicopters each. The first group was called Black, second one was called Red and third one was called Green – no idea why we did that. Must have sounded like a good idea at the time.

Between 1100 and 1630 we did a total of 79 sorties crossing the Meghna river at its widest part, and carried 810 troops and 22,650 kgs of load from Daudkandi and Baidyabazar, a distance of about 25 km. Daudkandi is 66 km, south west of Agartala. Baidya Bazar is north of Narayanganj, southern outskirt of Dacca. A large part of 23 Div personnel crossed by boats. We carried the rest with their stores and guns which had been left behind.

On 15 Dec 71, early morning, before a cease fire came into effect, we used 7 helicopters and continued our airlift of the stragglers of 23 Div from Daudkandi to Baidya Bazar. We did 43 sorties and carried 402 troops and 16,650 kgs of load.

Between 14 & 15 Dec, we had ferried a total of 1212 troops and 89,300 kgs load of 23 Div from Daudkandy to Baidya Bazar in 122 sorties flying total of 62.20 hours. Army Engineers with 23 Div had managed to capture ferries and country boats. While we did the quick hops across effortlessly, we could see troops of 23 Div laboriously crossing the mighty Meghna flood plains struggling up steam. During this combined operation, on receipt of an SoS from army, we sent one helicopter to carry vital equipment and ammunition to Narsingdi as well as evacuate serious casualties.

Another helicopter – Z-640, on its way to Kumbhigram for servicing had a transmission failure just six miles short of Kumbhigram. They forced landed short of Khumbhigram. The air crew escaped unhurt and helicopter was recovered later.


TOTAL HELICOPTER AIR LIFT BY Mi--4s Add Table

 

TOTAL HELICOPTER AIR LIFT BY Mi-4s

FOUR CONTINUOUS (24 X 7) SHBOs 7- 15 DEC 1971

Sector

Troops Air Lifted Forward

Load (kg)

Lifted

Sorties

Hrs Flown

Kalura to Sylhet

649

13,000

113

66:15

Brahmanbaria to Raipura

1,286

12,530

57

33:50

Brahmanbaria to Narsingdi

1,570

1,00,650

166

152:05

Daudkandi to Baidyabazar

2,408

73,230

129

64:20

TOTAL

6,011 (+)

2, 02,810 (+)

465

316’:30”

 

Notes

  1. Sorties / Hrs above do not include Cas-evac & misc communication sorties flown (it is only for SHBOs). For 110 HU alone total additional (approx.) for Casevac from battle fields 61 sorties / 93’:05”. There were also large numbers of Alouettes of 112 / 115 Hus, and Mi-4s of 105/111 HUs, who did these tasks too more often, about  which I have no record.
  2. The load indicated does not include the weight of ‘Troops’. Army ORBs show a much higher number including around 3000 odd Mitrobahini unarmed pioneers, able bodied young men recruited from refugee camps. They were not included in load tables. No manifests were made during SHBOs, due to vagrancies of war26.
  3. The figures are modest and approx, as noted by me in my pocket diary, as reported by the pilots daily in after action briefings as well as Adjutants / Despatch coordinators of army units. In reality we actually had to fly more sorties  daily, than my daily flight planning figures, to ensure that we did not leave anyone or anything behind.
  4. Perhaps 20% of those taken forward were returned to field hospitals as casualties (max 4/5 GR from Sylhet, and 4 Grds, 10 Bihar, 18 Rajput from Narsingdi). Number of sorties flown for cas-evac from other battlefields in IV Corps sector, from mid Sep to mid Dec 71, also not included in the table.