My father, OD Agnihotri was born in 1922. He served with the Royal Indian Air Force from 1943 to 1946, flew operations against the Japanese during the Second World War. Then served a stint with the Civil airlines before taking up an assignment with the Indian Railways.
Presented in these pages are photographs and memorabilia from his collection. These were well cared for and obviously meant a lot to him. A number of the photographs do not leave any clues. My father was not somebody who talked about himself and we grew up respecting this and did never pry into his life. Wish we had! An extremely quiet, reserved but charismatic family figure…his photographs/stuff are scattered all over – my sister’s place, our ancestral house, his sister’s place etc..
A good number of those photographs are now featured on these pages. I hope that these photographs will re-kindle memories from some of the veterans or their families and more details would flow in that would enable us to know more about Fg Offr OD Agnihotri and the many unnamed and unsung individuals who feature in these photographs.
|c.1941, Allahabad University. Wearing the Corporal stripes as part of the UTC
My father did his B.Sc from Allahabad University and he was part of the University Training Corps. According to my mother, the photograph was taken when he was in his final year B.Sc. (Allahabad University). He was part of the ‘UTC'(?). There is a medal too.
He joined the Air Force in 1942 and underwent training for about an year. According to his service number, his date of commission was probably 28th March 1943. He was either in the 14th Pilots Course or the 15th Course. Other possible coursemates in his batch may include ‘Creamy’ Blunt, who won a VrC in the 47-48 Ops and Khemendra Nath Kak who later got the DFC.
|c.1942, ‘The Types who passed ITW Lahore’ – Flight Cadets of the 14th (or 15th) Pilots Course at the Initial Training Wing, Lahore. OD Agnihotri is second from right in the second row from top.
|c.1942, ITW Lahore – OD Agnihotri is third from right on the top row.
After commissioning, He served with No.22 Anti Aircraft Co-Operation Flight at Drigh Road. He moved to one of their flights at Katni (Mehgaon) and served there for a couple of years. He was then selected for Hurricane Conversion training and went to No.151 OTU at Risalpur. He then joined up with No.2 Squadron at Kohat, which was then under Sqn Ldr Kanwar Jaswant Singh. There is a photograph of the whole squadron at Kohat during a visit of Air Vice Marshal Vincent to Kohat AFS, which was then commanded by Wg Cdr Subroto Mukerjee.
When No.2 Squadron moved to the Burma Front in November 1944, My father was one of them. He flew several recce missions in ‘A’ Flight under Flt Lt Ratnagar. the photographs from this period testify to the harsh conditions and environment in which the pilots flew their missions. On atleast one of these sorties, my father came back with a damaged Hurricane.
After completion of the tour, No.2 Squadron moved back to Kohat towards the second half of 1945. They also converted to the Spitfire VIIIs after this movement. Obviously my father loved the Spitfire – he had one of these aircraft marked as ‘my beloved’ in the photos from this period.
About this time, my father seems to have served as a staff officer on the base under Wing Cdr Aspy Engineer. Several photographs from that phase are reproduced in this page.
|This photograph of a Defiant is from OD Agnihotri’s collection and was framed in glass and mounted on the wall. Though the author always believed that the pilot looked like his father, its possible that this is a stock RAF photograph of the aircraft.
On demobilisation in 1946, he joined Air Service of India (later IAC), as a pilot. Less than an year later, he was called on to operate to and from Srinagar, flying arms, ammunition and military personnel during the 1947-48 Kashmir Operations.
Soon afterwards, he joined the Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS), in 1948 as a War Service candidate.
|Other Non-Indian Air Force photographs from the albums show a Blenheim Mk IV, a Handley page Hampden and wartime cutaway drawings of fighters like the Spitfire and Hurricane.
His love of flying never left him even after he joined the Railways. He joined the Auxiliary Air Force when it was first formed in India and was a regular member of the Delhi Squadron.
In 1957, He was one of the only two Auxillary Air Force pilots selected to fly Harvard aircraft in the flypast over Janpath on January 26. I remember this very clearly because we were all waiting for him to fly over our heads and his name to be announced. But we were puzzled when his aircraft did not come. Later we found that his aircraft (Harvard), had caught fire immediately after take-off over heavily populated area of New Delhi, i.e., Ashoka Hotel and Chanakyapuri.
My father was able to flyback and make a wheels down force-landing at Palam. This not only saved the aircraft but also helped to pinpoint the technical fault due to which the fire had ignited.
For this action, my father was felicitated and given a special letter of appreciation by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Subroto Mukherjee. In his letter, the Air chief said
“Flg. Offr. Agnihotri, with commendable presence of mind carried out all the vital actions and made a sucessful wheels down forced landing. In carrying out this emergency landing, the officer displayed good airmanship and saved a valuable aircraft from being damaged. For this performance, Flg Offr Agnihotri is to be commended”.
At that time, my father was the senior commercial officer with Norther Railways. Later on, While working as the Divisional Superintendent of Bikaner, He worked with the IAF during the Chinese Aggression. He was still in service when he died in 1980. At the time of his death he had just finished his tenure as GM, Northern Railway and taken over as Principal, Railway Staff College.
Presented in the following links are over a 100 photographs from his collection – taken around the Second World War, and a few from his stint in the Auxillary Air Force. There are also several professionally taken photographs of artifacts from his time in service.
|Early Years – Training
|Kohat ’44 with No.2 Squadron
No.2 Squadron – Portraits
|No.2 Sqn – Camp Akyab and Ramree Island
|Back to Kohat in 1946
|Air Services India
|Auxillary Air Force