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My First Air Battle — 03 September, 1965

By Gp Capt Manna Murdeshwar (Retd)

At the end of August 65, the Pakistani Army made a concerted effort with troops and tanks to snap the vital road link to Jammu from Pathankot, hoping thereby to cut off Kashmir from India itself. Disconcerted by this manoeuvre and unable to face the onslaught, the Indian Army asked the Indian Air Force to interclude.

Not quite able to estimate the Pakistani intentions, Headquarters Western Air Command, (HQ WAC), in their collective wisdom, deployed a Squadron of aged Vampires based at Pathankot and tasked them to neutralize the menacingly advancing enemy troops and armour. Baying for blood, the Pakistani Sabres counter attacked these malevolent Vampires. The morale of the Indian Air Force came crashing down when four Vampires were shot down on the very day that they were called upon to play their role.

HQ WAC now shuddered into an alert mode as if someone had cracked the whip. Gnats, stationed for ORP duties at Ambala and Halwara (23 Sqn dett had moved from Ambala, with, Siki,. Pathania, Kitcha and Gill) were now asked to bare their fangs. The Ambala ‘ four’ that were named later, were Johnny Greene, AJS Sandhu, Trevor Keelor and me. Thus there were a total of six of us from 23 Squadron, and two from 2 Squadron comprising the two detachments who were ordered to move into Pathankot for a “Hum kuch kar dikhayenge” move.

It was at last light when our detachment of 4 Gnats cruised in from Ambala to shore their bets. The base was agog with everyone running around like headless chickens, filled with their own importance, but not knowing what exactly they had to do! The Officers’ Mess was over- crowded and the only things that seemed to suffice were eggs!!

Filled with a sense of mission and primed by months of “Day Fighter Leader’s Combat” training under Johnny Greene, all of us went into a huddle with some of the Base Commanders, to plan the task of drawing out the Sabres and shooting down at least one of them..
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