Hurricane Tales

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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.

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.

Joining the Air Force

I joined the Air Force with an incorrect name. I was not christened MPO. It so happened that when I got the forms to apply for admission to the IAF I left them on my desk in my room at St Xavier’s Calcutta). At the time I had a girl friend in Burma named Paddy. Whilst I was out of my room one of my good friends snuck into my room. Seeing the forms on my desk he took it upon himself to fill them in for me. To my horror I saw he had added Paddy’s initial in the middle of M and O. I was not going back to Fort William to get fresh forms as I felt they would think me nuts for not being able to fill in simple forms without making mistakes!! So I submitted them with MPO and as a result was stuck with the extra P through my Air Force career!! However, after coming to OZ, I dropped the P.

Our course (18th) reported to Lahore but we were there only to bekitted out and left for Bombay. The course picture was taken ineither Beach Candy in Bombay or at the Parsee Orphanage in Poona.

Diggy Barrett was in my course, the 18th. He was one of those who went to Canada to finish his flying training. Our course was not the only one from which cadets went to Canada. The 17th and 19th courses also sent those who volunteered. I was glad many years later that I had not gone to Canada. As a result I saw action in Burma. In Australia any Commonwealth personnel who saw action in WW2 is classified as a War veteran. As such when I retired, I was awarded a War Veteran’s pension more than what the British gave to people like David Bouche (from the same course – but went to Canada).

- Course Picture of 18 PIC from the Initial Training Wing.
c 1943,  ITW Bombay. Flt Cdt Micky Blake (holding sword of honour) , Flt Cdt AW Barrett (Holding the Flight Championship Trophy), Flt Lt Hussey (the CO of ITW) and Flt Cdt Singha (with the Subjects prize). On the ground is Sgt George who is the senior NCO incharge at ITW. -

Posting to No.42 RAF

After finishing OTU on Hurricanes we were sent to Ranchi to do a course at Specialised Low Attack Instructor School (SLAIS).

On completion of this course, three of us, Hank Datta, Bolshie Misra and I were posted to No 42 RAF Squadron by error. No 42 was based at a place called Tulihal in the Imphal Valley. The other two went on to join the unit a day ahead of me. When I arrived at the squadron, there was no sign of either Hank or Bolshie. The CO told me that as they were Hindus, he felt they would not be able to feed them. I told him that I was also an IAF guy so he had better send me back also. To this he said that I wasn’t going anywhere!! They were short of pilots and they made a major mistake by sending two great pilots back.

No. 42 Squadron Hurries were meant mainly for bombing missions. They had additional bullet proofing armour and had only two 303 guns, no cannon. They could carry two 500 lb bombs. I can’t remember whether the Mk 2 Hurries in 3 Squadron could carry 500 lb bombs as they had four 20 mm cannon added to their load..

Hurricane down!

On 14th August 1944, we were on a sortie of Hurricanes to attack a target on the Chindwin River. We had crossed the Burma border when I noticed splashes on the dashboard and the engine temp rising. I called the leader and informed him that I had a glycol leak. He told me to jettison my bombs and return to base. Since I was not sure that I would make base and I was not keen on bailing out over the densest forest that I had ever seen, I made for a village called Tamu. I knew there was a grass strip in the vicinity of Tamu.

As luck would have it, the moment I got to the airstrip, the engine seized. I then proceeded to land on the airstrip. I had to belly land the aircraft as it was the monsoon period and the airstrip was most likely water-bound. Landing wheels down would have been dicey. On landing I got out and ran into the jungle. However the undergrowth was taller than me. As a result, I was forced to walk on the road leading to Tamu, which was a few miles away. I was armed with a sten gun, a pistol and a kukhri. I have never been so scared in my life.

The army had taken Tamu but had not reached the airstrip. On my hike I passed a two-man Jap tank, which had been knocked out. But I was not interested in investigating it!! When I finally arrived on the outskirts of Tamu, I was stopped by a West African soldier who was on guard duty on the road. He must have been surprised to see me coming out of the wrong side, for he lined me up with his rifle. I did not know how to address him, and all I could think of yelling was SAMBO!!! Not very politically correct these days!!

The CO of the Africans told me that when they took the village they counted about 800 dead Japs. I was very surprised as two other squadrons and mine had bombed Tamu for three days and I had not seen even one Jap. There was a journalist covering the capture of Tamu. He was returning to Imphal and gave me a lift back to my squadron. The looks on the faces of my squadron comrades when I walked into the Mess were one of amazement! I don’t think they expected to see me again so soon!!

When we finally took the airstrip, the Squadron sent a party to inspect my aircraft .They brought back my parachute and a glove they thought was mine. It actually was a Jap glove which had Japanese writing on it. I must have got out just in time!!

ORB Entry in 42 Squadron RAF showing Micky Blake’s eventful sortie in Hurricane II LD488

With 3 Squadron

When I arrived in 3 Squadron, apart from the CO, I think I was the only one who had seen Ops. Yet in my logbook I was described as Certified U/T Pilot!

The photograph below was taken at a Grass Strip outside Kohat. For some reason, No. 3 Sqdn used to go to this strip called Dhoda for night flying. I could never understand why the Cobras had to do this as Kohat was a perfectly good airstrip. The picture shows Flying Officer Jacobs (Jake) and myself, before the squadron went to Burma.

Fg Offrs Jacobs (Jake) and Micky Blake with Hurricane ‘Fifinella’ of  3 Sqn at Dhoda before departure to Burma -

We both shared the Hurricane [Fifinella as Jake named her]. All the art work on Fifi was done by Jake.!! Those days pilots were teamed in pairs and were allotted an aircraft to share. They normally flew in their own aircraft unless it was on inspection. Even as late as 1947 this was the normal practice. In 3 Sqdn I was given a Tempest [Queenie] as my personal aircraft with my own fitter and rigger. It is a pity this system did not continue

As far as I can remember (the CO) Prithipal Singh was killed at the end of Dec 44, as the Squadron took off on 11 Jan 45.   Shivdev Singh was the CO of the Squadron later on. He was one of the few who had spent time with RAF  Bomber Command in the European theatre. I will never forget Shivdev boring us at Mess meetings on the finer points of ditching a Stirling!! Not that there was the slightest chance of any of us ever flying a Stirling!! It would be more to the point if he told us how to ditch a Hurricane!

We went via Lahore, Delhi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Gaya, Alipore, Comilla and Bawli Bazaar. Why we took so many stops I can’t understand. We did not have an airborne support ground crew with us. Our ground crew had gone well ahead of us by train, so I can only presume we took our time so that they would be there to receive us. All our stops had RAF ground crews looking after us.

3Sqn-1944.jpg (39356 bytes) Micky Blake (Standing fourth from right) with rest of No.3 Squadron IAF during their move to the Burma Front in January 1945. The CO is Sqn Ldr Shivdev Singh.

Pathan Bearers

We were put up in Bashas ie huts made from bamboo. It was better than the tents we were housed in in Akyab. When I arrived in 3 Squadron in Aug 44. it was the norm that the Aabdar in the Mess was the Boss of all our bearers. He was the one who decided who would be your bearer! Anyway he deputed an elderly bearer to work for me [we will call him Abdul] .One day Dhatigara came and told me that I should sack Abdul as he had threatened to kill Dhati. I queried Abdul as to why he wanted to do in Dhati, he informed that Dhati had abused him. I was aware that Dhati had a foul mouth. As such I told Dhati that he had no right to abuse my employee.

The Pathan servants considered themselves equal to the Sahibs and did not take kindly to being abused. As such, I refused to sack Abdul. Those days our bearers stood behind us at meals. At dinner one night I asked Abdul to get me the tomato sauce. He went looking for it and saw another officer had it and was just about to help himself to the sauce. Before he could, Abdul grabbed it from him and gave it to me!! This did not go down well with the officer!! The next morning the Aabdar informed me that he had sacked Abdul and that my new bearer was Jabbar!

Jabbar went with me to Burma and was with me in Madras when we came out of Burma. One day before going to work I told him to go to the local durzie and pick up the uniforms I had ordered. On returning for lunch I asked Jabbar if he had picked up the uniforms. In a very angry answer he informed that they were not ready. I didn’t think much about it till the durzie came in the evening with my uniforms. He asked me never to send Jabbar to him in future. On enquiring why, he said that Jabbar was so angry the uniforms were not ready that he proceeded to give him [the durzie] a hammering!!

That’s the sort of guys the Pathans are! I must say though, if they worked for you they would probably die for you.

Asghar Khan, American Visitors

I will always remember Asghar Khan he was the Flt/Cdr of No 9 Sqdn. In a nearby airfield was an American Squadron equipped with Lightnings [the twin boom] fighters. They made the mistake of calling our Hurricanes peashooters!! Asghar invited them to a dogfight. This took place over the base. There were two of them against Asghar by himself .It was a delight to watch as he got on their tails and there was nothing they could do to shake him off. They were a very subdued pair of USAF pilots when the landed!!

I remember both a Liberator and a Mustang that landed at our airstrip in Akyab. The Liberator was an RAF one. I can never forget the sight of the ball gunner lying in a pool of blood . I think he had been shot in the head. I don’t remember the Mustang being black. As far as I remember he was able to get airborne quite soon. Yes, they seemed to be permitted to smoke whilst airborne!

US aircrews were terrible at aircraft recognition during WW2. On one occasion they attacked either 7 or 8 Sqdn’s Vultee Vengances and killed an air gunner by the name of Ball. He was the brother of one of my classmates in a school in Burma. There was no need for this attack on the Vengances as all allied aircraft had broad white bands on the wings besides the Vengances were basically US aircraft.

I had an incident with a Lightning. I was on my way to Cox’s Bazaar from Akyab to have some aerial photos processed when I suddenly saw a Lightning about 200 yards on my starboard. Knowing of the attack on the Vengances I was prepared to have to take him on. Luckily he realised I was friendly!!

Bakshi – IO

One night in Akyab we had an air raid warning so about six of us jumped into the slit trench that was next to my tent. We had a Sikh Intelligence officer called Bakshi. Seeing us in the trench he called out to us “My Gad Ya what is wrang with you. Are you scared of the Japs”. Stupidly we all got out of the trench and sat on its edge.

A few minutes later an ack ack gun fired behind us. In the scramble to get back into the trench, Bakshi was in first and we all landed on top of him!! He wasn’t very pleased with us!!

Another story about Bakshi! He was quite rotund. He was debriefing us after a sortie. The first one to be debriefed was Randhir Singh [known as Singhs Lair]. Randhir usually saw things no one else saw. He was patiently telling Bakshi all the things he had seen. I can still see Bakshi — he took off his glasses looked at Randhir and said in a loud voice, “Randhira you saw f— bloody all!!!”  Pardon my French but I was there and I will never forget the look of disbelief on Randhir’s face!

Members of No.3 Squadron on Akyab Beach. L to R: John Mack, Brian Stidston, Reggie David, Pundalik Pawar, Micky Blake, Lloyd-Fonceca (as Lloyd was known till he dropped ‘Fonceca’). On the ground is Hank Datta. We were all rather skinny except for Hank!

Jock Lloyd was my course but as far as I can remember he did not come to the SLAIS course. I am not sure where he went after OTU because he did not join us when we went to SLAIS. He only joined 3 Sqdn when we were in Akyab not long before we were brought back to India. Brian Stidson, Cazalet , Frankie Francis, Hector Beale were the others who joined us in Akyab

After Independence, MPO Blake served with and  saw action with No.8 Squadron in the Jammu and Kashmir Operations of 1947-48. He was awarded the Vir Chakra during that time.  Later in his career, he flew the first Vampire fighters in the IAF. He also commanded No.7 Squadron and in 1961 was involved in Operations against the Portugese in the Liberation of Diu.

Gp Capt MPO Blake VrC now retired, lives in Sydney, Australia.

Copyright ©GP CAPT MPO BLAKE. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of GP CAPT MPO BLAKE is prohibited.

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