Veterans Project - Interviews, Profiles and Memoirs

The WW2 Veterans Project : WWII Veteran Encounters, Profiles and Memoirs started off in earnest in 2002 when between a small group of like minded enthusiasts, an effort was made to locate and interview WW2 veterans of the Indian Air Force.  With the dwindling number of veterans every passing year, the effort continues in terms of family members writing profiles of their loved ones who took part in the war - and in keeping their memories alive.

Pilot Officer Phillipos - Accounts Branch Officer in WW2

Wg Cdr A Phillipos  3033 GD(P) was commissioned as an Accounts Branch Officer in 1944.  He recently turned 100 years old and was felicitated by the Air Force Records Office in Bangalore. In this short article, he writes about his introduction to service life under the British.

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I was a Japanese Prisoner of War

Towards the end of November 1944, No.2 Squadron IAF moved from Kohat to Mambur airstrip on the Burma Front to take part in the operations against the Japanese. Within a day of the operations starting, On 2nd December 1944, Flying Officer K V Nair failed to return from a sortie. His Hurricane aircraft, LA316 was seen force-landing near a Chaung 15 miles NE of Akyab. Nair was seen clmbing out of the aircraft but his  fate remained a mystery till about five months later when he was one of the Prisoners of War liberated from the Rangoon Jail.  Nair would give the following account of the period he spent as as a POW under the Japanese.

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We are getting Spitfires! - Gp Capt George Philip

 This is the second part of the recollections of Gp Capt CGI Philip. The first part covers his IAF training, and his first tour of ops with No 8 Squadron on Vultee Vengeances. This part will cover his second tour with the same squadron, flying Spitfires. As before, Gp Capt Philip's words, we believe, convey a unique sense of those unique times, and we have retained them for much of this article.

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"Then Whose Battle Was It?" - Sqn Ldr M S Pujji

Squadron Leader Mahender Singh Pujji was in fact one of the first batch of 24 Indian 'A' licence holders to be accepted for service in the Air Force early during the Second World War. He received a Volunteer Reserve commission, trained with the Royal Air Force, and was awarded RAF wings. He flew in a combat role from emblematic RAF stations in the British Isles such as Kenley (one of the three main fighter stations defending London; and the operating base of "Sailor" Malan, Johnny Johnson, and earlier, of Douglas Bader), putting his life on the line to defend the British mainland; and flew in some of the Allies' first offensive operations over Occupied France. He later flew briefly in the North African theatre, as well as extensively in the China / Burma / India theatre (and in the NWFP)

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Air Marshal Mohan Swaroop Chaturvedi

This is a short summary of the career of Air Marshal Mohan Swaroop Chaturvedi (IND/1592). It chronicles his service to the nation from a young Observer who fought in the Northwest Provinces and in Burma, through his invaluable role as a Strategist who built the foundations of a strong and successful Air Force, using his able leadership capabilities in many different roles

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Memories Of No.8 Squadron, IAF

In the winter of 1980-81, Wg Cdr Joseph Thomas,  CO of 106 Squadron took a detachment to Tezpur where his friend, Wg Cdr Manjit Singh Sekhon was commanding 8 Squadron. 8 SQuadron was preparing for its colour presentation and were updating their archival material. When Wg Cdr Thomas mentioned that his father, Sqn Ldr T J Thomas (Retd) had served in 8 squadron from the time of its formation through service in the Burma front and till they moved to Quetta, Manjit Sekhon immediately wanted Sqn Ldr T J Thomas to write about his experiences in 8 Squadron. Sqn Ldr Thomas was then 66 years old and he put pen to paper to record his memoirs from WW2. The result was sent to 8 Squadron who made a typescript and incorporated it in their history folder. The account is now reproduced on this page, courtesy of Wg Cdr Joseph Thomas, who retains the original manuscript. The memoirs offer a rare insight into the life of an airman during those tumultuous times. It offers a view into  the difficult circumstances under which the ground crews operated. We concentrate too often on officers memoirs, and in the process miss out on potential contributions from other ranks. This article goes a small way into changing that.

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Hurricane Tales

MPO "Micky" Blake hailed from Bangalore in present day Karnataka. He was born 20 Mar 1923 and was commissioned (IND/2630) at the age of 20 in the Indian Air Force on  27 Sep 1943.  Blake served with No.42 Squadron RAF and  No. 3 Squadron IAF during the Second World War. Recently, Gp Capt Kapil Bhargava got Gp Capt Blake to pen down some  of his memorable experiences from the Second World War. Presented here in the own words of Gp Capt Micky Blake is the story of one of his 'unforgettable' sorties.

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My Days With The I.A.F (1940-48)

VSC Bonarjee was born in  Calcutta on the 27th January 1917. He was the third child and only son in a Bengali Christian family.  After graduation, He was commissioned in the Indian Air Force in 1940 in the 4th Course as an Observer (IND/1623) and saw action in Burma. He obtained his release as a Wing Commander to join the Indian Administrative Service in 1948.  He retired from the I.A.S   in 1975, worked for two international organizations till 1989 and lived with his family at Kalyani near Calcutta. In 1997, his friends convinced him to write down his memoirs which were published in the form of a book by Dr Arabinda Dey.  He passed away in 2001. The Account on this page is derived from that book - with the kind permission of Dr. Vernon Bonarjee, his son.

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Air Force Reminiscinces

AVM  S N Goyal 1560 GD(P) was the seventeenth Indian Officer to be trained in Cranwell.  After serving with No.1 Squadron in his early years, he was the tenth in seniority among the IAF Officers at the outbreak of the war. He commanded No.1 Squadron briefly in 1943. AVM Goyal is a recipient of the MBE.

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Air Marshal Aspy Engineer's Recollections

In 1992, the then CAS Air Chief Marshal N C Suri requested many of the surviving senior veterans of the Indian Air Force to write down their memoirs or recollections for the purpose of publishing them in a commemorative 50th Anniversary History. Air Marshal Aspy Engineer responded to the personal request of the CAS and penned down his recollections in nine pages of hand written notes. The account was never used in any publication, but thankfully the preserved notes are in the collection of Cyrus Engineer, Aspy's son. Recently Mrs Farida Singh, daughter of Jungoo Engineer procured the papers as well as several  photographs from the collection and very kindly provided them here for our website with the permission of the family

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Lysanders to Hurricanes : Air Commodore H S Ratnagar

When No.1 Squadron, Indian Air Force went into operations in February 1942 against the Japanese in Burma, it carried the hopes and future growth prospects of the Indian Air Force with it. Other than the little that is on the record about Sqn Ldr Majumdar, who was to perish in a crash a few years later, not much is known about the other officers and men who were to be the 'First in the Burma Skies'. We present a series of profiles of the personnel who were on the original team of the Tigers, No 1 Squadron, as they were being built up. The first in series of these articles is a profile of Air Commodore Homi Shapurji Ratnagar, who saw two tours of ops on the Burma Front, and is now (in 2003) 83 years old and settled in Hyderabad.

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Wing Commmander Alfred Anthony (2824/GD(P))

Alfred Anthony joined up to serve in the Indian Air Force at the height of World War Two. He was part of the 21st Pilots Course that commenced its training at Initial Training Wing, Poona in July 1943. After completing the initial training Alfred arrived at the No.1 Elementary Flying Training School at Begumpet on 31 October 1943. Three months of flying training on the De Havilland Tigermoth followed before Alfred was commissioned in the Indian Air Force on 31 January 1944 with service number IND/2824. He was just 26 at that time.

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By the old Moulmein Pagoda - Gp Capt George Philip

A WW2 veteran of service on the Burma Front, Gp Capt CGI Philip was actually born in Burma, and had strong family connections to that country even before the War.  Jagan interviewed him in April 2004 and in November 2005, while building Bharat-Rakshak's oral archive. Gp Capt Philip's words, we believe, convey a unique sense of those unique times. We have therefore retained his own words, for much of this article, which covers his early days in the Indian Air Force training on dive bombers and flying his first tour of operations with No.8 Squadron on the Vultee Vengeance.

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A Tiger pilot remembers - Air Marshal Y V Malse

Air Marshal Yeshwant Malse, who saw two tours of ops on the Burma Front. His story will be told in three parts: the first covers his Second World War experiences, the second will be on his command of No 12 Squadron in the 1950s, and the final part will cover his various assignments as a senior officer. The meeting with Air Marshal Malse and Mrs Malse took place at his residence 'Yerandvana' in Pune. When Gp Capt AG Bewoor, one of our website's ardent supporters , called him up to find out if he would be able to spend time with us for an interview, Air Marshal Malse graciously agreed. As he himself admitted, Air Marshal Malse was never a person with a keenness to keep a historical record , but since he knew we were coming, he made sure that we would have access to his documents and his old log books! We spent about two hours enjoying the hospitality of the Malses and reliving history throughout that time.

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A Flying Start - Training To Be A Pilot - Capt M Balan

This series of articles and photo albums chronicles the experiences of Muthukumarasami Balan, who joined the Indian Air Force in 1944 to take part in the Second World War.  After undergoing training at Begumpet, Ambala and Peshawar, he was posted to No.6 Squadron and subsequently No.4 Squadron. It was with No.4 Squadron that he went to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. This was just the beginning of a long career in aviation - that would last over four decades! 

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Air Cmde Nanu Shitoley DFC

Nanu Shitoley was kind enough to share his time and hospitality with me one evening in January 2004, thanks to a meeting fixed up by my old family friend and his neighbour, Dincey Muncherjee [IAF transports, who later flew 747-400's for Air India and S'Pore Airlines]. As I walked down the road from my place in Colaba to his, I was terrified at the prospect of reaching later than the appointed hour of 7pm - an extra huff and a wheezy puff ensured that I just made it ! What followed was an hour and a half of the story of a fascinating life, including the sortie to Tamu I have semi-fictionalised at this link [which epitomizes the sheer grit and determination which earned him his DFC]. Alas, his log book is lost [as are photographs], and with it, details of the 300 hours of operational flying which he did in Burma, at the end of which he received his well-earned DFC. What follows is based upon his memory, supplemented, in parts, by extracts from the Official History of the IAF in the Second World War….

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