Ferrying Vampires From Indonesia

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In late February 1963 when I was a Wing Commander commanding No.20 Squdn on Hunters at Palam, I was given the task of taking delivery of five Vampire T55 aircraft from the Indonesian Air Force. The Indian Air Force at this time was on a high state of alert on the Eastern Front where operations were in progress between the ground forces of INDIA & CHINA.

The Indian Air Force was rapidly expanding and we were in need of more VampireT55 aircraft (the trainer version of the single seater Vampire known as the Vampire T11 in the RAF).

Having made our initial preparations, which included detailed planning of our route and briefings on both normal and emergency procedures (the pilots having been selected from different squadrons in Western Air Command) and accompanied by our own airmen for providing the necessary technical support, we left Barrack pore for Jakarta In a Dakota aircraft of No.11 Squadron commanded by Wg.Cdr.Tikoo Sen. The flight to Jakarta took a few days, and on arrival we were looked after by our Embassy.

From an earlier photo dating from the 1950s, then Sqn Ldr David Bouche’ (Standing front row 2nd from Left)  was the CO of No.10 Squadron flying the Vampire Night Fighters at Palam along with other aircrew of the Sqauadron. Left most is Flt lt AL Bajaj and behind him is Flt Lt CV Gole.

The Vampire T55 aircraft had to be collected from Hussein airfield just outside Bandung. During our stay we were well looked after by officers of the Indonesian Air Force. They were very hospitable and invited us to their homes. Inflation was high and the country was going through difficult times.

Our technical staff carried out all the necessary checks on the aircraft, assisted by technicians of the Indonesian Air Force. The aircraft were in good condition and after the necessary air tests, including tests to ensure that the drop tanks were functioning, we made preparations for our return flight. The South East Monsoon was already active over the islands and the runway at Hussein airfield was sometimes waterlogged with some pot holes which had to be carefully avoided. With droptanks the range of the Vampire T55 flying at 30,000 ft was approximately 800 n.m.in still air. Bearing in mind that we had no navigational aids and the weather conditions prevailing, our range was for practical purposes a lot less. We planned to take off as early as possible in the morning to take advantage of good weather. The dates have been extracted from my log book.

We departed Bandung on 6th March. Our route out of Indonesia was to the north via a safety corridor avoiding large prohibited and danger areas. Our first stop was Changi (Singapore). The RAF were still operating at Changi – mainly transport aircraft. The following day we left for Butterworth (Penang). Violent thunderstorms struck the airfield after we landed.

Vampire Line Up [BY601, BY606, BY604] The eight Vampires ferried from Indonesia are  seen parked at Changi Airport at Singapore.

View Photo Album: Plane Spotting at Changi by David Taylor

Vampire BY601 parked at Changi. The aircraft had commenced the move from the Indonesian Bandung airfield earlier in the day.

View Photo Album: Plane Spotting at Changi by David Taylor

Vampire T-55 [BY601] in March 1963

The Royal Australian Air Force was operating at Butterworth with Sabre aircraft (F.86) A very clean and impressive set up! I specially remember the hanger floors – you could have eaten off them. I also remember being told by one of the RAAF officers that the Station Commander would be very upset if we scorched the grass when starting up. (Sometimes the Vampire had a wet start and the tail had to be held down by airmen to drain the excess fuel before attempting a re-light – the flames from the exhaust would exit the jet pipe and scorch the grass verge on the side of the apron).

We left Butterworth on the 9th March and headed across the Malayan peninsular to Bangkok. We landed at a military airfield (Don Maung) and were met by our Embassy staff. As our airmen had a long working day, catching up in the Dakota, I decided to let them have the opportunity of seeing the place, by staying an extra day.

Our route then took us to Rangoon. We landed at Mingladon airfield which I visited in 1945 after the Japanese surrender. I was at the time flying Spitfires with No.9 Squadron. I remember No.8 Squadron was based at Mingladon at the time and their Flight Commander was Flt.Lt. Ranjan Dutt (Later to become Director of Operations at Air HQ).

The aircraft had behaved exceedingly well, thanks to the excellent servicing by our airmen. Our next port of call was Chittagong (Then East Pakistan) – now Bangladesh. The weather was excellent on leaving Rangoon but as we flew north one could see a large build up of cumulonimbus clouds ahead. This area bordering the Bay of Bengal is well known for these large storms. The weather conditions deteriorated rapidly and we had to divert to Akyab. I had operated out of this airfield during World War II on Hurricanes with No.9 Squadron. The place had not changed and everything looked the same, almost twenty years later. No refuelling facilities were available and we had to get jet fuel flown to us on C119G aircraft (Packets) based at the time in Agra. The Captain of one of the Packets was Sqn.Ldr. Dodo Pushong – later Air India. We were sure glad to see them.

After a three day stay at Akyab we finally left for Barrackpore via Chittagong – the following day we delivered the aircraft to No.1BRD Kanpur.

Editors Note: Eight Vampire T.55s were ferried in from Indonesia by Air Commodore Bouche’ and his fellow pilots.  The aircraft were numbered BY601-608 in Indian Service.

Copyright © AIR COMMODORE DAVID BOUCHÉ. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of AIR COMMODORE DAVID BOUCHÉis prohibited.


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