No. 65 Squadron (RAF) during the Second World War
Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books
No.65 Squadron had a varied wartime career, which included participation in the Battle of Britain, a period spent practising deck landings and spells as a figher-bomber squadron in Normandy and as daylight bomber escorts.
The squadron converted to the Spitfire in March 1939. A spell at Kirton-in-Lindsey almost perfectly overlapped with the fighting at Dunkirk, but the squadron had returned to the south coast in time to take part in the first part of the Battle of Britain.
The squadron moved to Scotland in late August 1940, and remained there until November. The squadron played a limited part in the early offensive sweeps over France, beginning operations in January 1941 but moving to Lincolnshire in the following month. This didn't entirely end the squadron's participation in these raids, but did mean that the short-legged Spitfires had to stage through airfields closer to the south coast.
In October 1941 the squadron converted to the Spitfire V and moved south to Westhampnett. It remained in the south for the next year, using its new Spitfires on low level attacks on German transport links in France.
In October 1942 the squadron returned to Scotland, where in January 1943 it practised deck-landings on the training carrier HMS Argus. This was followed by short spell in Cornwall (March-May 1943) where the squadron performed a mix of bomber escort and standard fighter patrol duties.
In the following month the squadron joined the Second Tactical Air Force, the RAF's contribution to the close air support forces required for the upcoming invasion of Europe. In December the squadron converted to the Mustang III (its longer range made the Mustang a better ground attack aircraft than the Spitfire, allowing it to linger for longer over the battlefield). In the months before D-Day No.65 Squadron took part in the intensive air war against German targets all across France, before on 25 June becoming one of the earliest RAF squadrons to move to Normandy.
In September 1944 the squadron was withdrawn from the continent and moved to East Anglia. With the Luftwaffe virtually defeated Bomber Command was able to return to daylight bombing, and the long range Mustang was needed to escort the heavy bombers over Germany.
After four months in East Anglia No.65 Squadron moved to Scotland yet again, this time to provide long range fighter escort for the strike wings operating against German shipping off the coasts of Norway and Denmark.
March 1939-March 1941: Supermarine Spitfire I
March-October 1941: Supermarine Spitfire IIA and IIB
October 1941-August 1943: Supermarine SpitfireVB and VC
August 1943-January 1944: Supermarine Spitfire IX
December 1943-March 1945: North American Mustang III
March-May 1946: North American Mustang IV
August 1934-October 1939: Hornchurch
October 1939-March 1940: Northolt
March-May 1940: Hornchurch
May-June 1940: Kirton-in-Lindsey
June-August 1940: Hornchurch
August-November 1940: Turnhouse
November 1940-February 1941: Tangmere
February-October 1941: Kirton-in-Lindsey
October-December 1941: Westhampnett
December 1941-April 1942: Debden
April-June 1942: Great Sampford
June 1942: Debden
June 1942: Martlesham Heath
June 1942: Great Sampford
June-July 1942: Hawkinge
July 1942: Great Sampford
July-August 1942: Gravesend
August 1942: Eastchurch
August-September 1942: Gravesend
September-October 1942: Drem
October 1942: Lympne
October-December 1942: Drem
December 1942-January 1943: Arbroath
January 1943: Machrihanish
January-March 1943: Drem (East Lothian)
March-May 1943: Perranporth (Cornwall)
May 1943: Fairlop (nr London)
May-July 1943: Selsey
July-October 1943: Kingsnorth
October 1943: Ashford
October 1943: Gatwick
October 1943-April 1944: Gravesend
April-May 1944: Ford
May-June 1944: Funtington
June 1944: Ford
June-July 1944: B.7 Martragny
July-September 1944: B.12 Ellon
September 1944: B.40 Beauvais
September 1944: B.60 Grimbergen
September-October 1944: Matlask
October 1944-January 1945: Andrews Field
January 1945: Peterhead
January-February 1945: Banff
February-May 1945: Peterhead
May 1945: Andrews Field
May-September 1945: Bentwaters
Squadron Codes: FZ, YT
Fighter Command: 1939-43
2nd Tactical Air Force: 1943-44
Bomber Escort: 1944-45
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No 256 squadron originally formed in June 1918 for coastal patrols of the coast of north-east England it disbanded at the end of June 1919. In late November 1940 No 256 re-formed at Catterick as a night fighter squdron with Defiants, operating over south-west England by February 1941. In March 1941 it moved north to defend Merseyside, acquiring Hurricanes. Beaufighters arrived in May 1942 the squadron trasferred to southern England and converted to Mosquitoes. In October 1943 the squadron moved to Malta and in April 1944 it moved to Algeria, absorbing the Spitfires of the Gibraltar Defence Flight in May. It moved to Sardinia in August 1944, to Italy in September 1944, flying intruder flights over the Balkans until the end of the war.
- RAF Catterick, Yorkshire from 23rd November 1940 (re-formed. Defiant I)
- RAF Pembrey, Camarthenshire from the 4th January 1941
- RAF Colerne, Wiltshire from the 6th February 1941
- RAF Squire's Gate, Lancashire from the 26th March 1941 (Defiant II, Beaufighter If)
- RAF Woodvale, Lancashire from the 1st June 1942 (Beaufighter VIf)
- RAF Ford, Sussex from the 24th April 1943 (Mosquito XII)
- RAF Woodvale, Lancashire from 25th August 1943
- Luqa, Malta from the 25th September 1943
- Algeria from April 1944
- Sardinia from August 1944
- Italy from September 1944
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The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (40052) Flight Lieutenant John Kennedy, No. 238 Squadron RAF, Second World War.
The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (40052) Flight Lieutenant John Kennedy, No. 238 Squadron RAF, Second World War.
40052 Flight Lieutenant John Kennedy, No. 238 Squadron RAF
KIA 13 July 1940
Story delivered 15 September 2016
Today we remember and pay tribute to Flight Lieutenant John Kennedy, who was the first Australian pilot killed in the Battle of Britain during the Second World War.
John Connolly Kennedy was born in 1917, one of two children of John and Frances Kennedy of Dulwich Hill in Sydney. He attended St Charles’ School, becoming a champion gymnast and swimmer at Waverly College and playing in its First XV. He later studied accounting at night school, but soon realised that a desk job had little appeal for him and joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1936. Known as “Jack” during his time in the air force, he commenced a cadetship as a pilot at No. 1 Flying Training School at Point Cook in Victoria, and received his flight wings a month after his 20th birthday.
In 1937 Kennedy was accepted for a Short Service Commission in the Royal Air Force. After proceeding to England and completing an advanced training course, he was posted to No. 65 (Fighter) Squadron RAF in March 1939, flying the outdated Gloster Gladiator biplane before the squadron was re-equipped with the sleek and powerful Supermarine Spitfire.
By the time Britain went to war in September 1939, Kennedy was a skilled pilot in a British front-line fighter squadron. Over the following months pilots from No. 65 Squadron flew operations over France during what was known as “the Phoney War”, during which they made no contact with German aircraft. The squadron then conducted convoy patrols in the English Channel. Kennedy transferred to the RAF’s newly formed No. 238 Squadron in May 1940, flying Hawker Hurricane fighters and protecting southern England from German air attack.
Once France had fallen to German forces in 1940, Adolf Hitler issued instructions to prepare for a sea-borne landing on Britain. Air superiority was vital to launching a flotilla in the English Channel, and the battle-hardened pilots of the Luftwaffe began an aerial assault that ultimately became known as the Battle of Britain. Each day between July and October 1940 British and German aircraft clashed in the skies above England. British radar stations, airfields, and ports were repeatedly hit, while British aircraft were set upon by large sweeps of Messerschmitt fighters.
Kennedy carried out a number of sorties as a flight leader during the Battle of Britain, on one occasion attacking a Junkers Ju-88 heavy fighter over Winchester. During this exchange Kennedy’s Hurricane was damaged, but he managed to land safely back at the squadron’s airfield at Middle Wallop. He carried out a further 14 top-cover, interception, and convoy escort sorties over the next few weeks as British targets across southern England were bombed and strafed.
On the afternoon of 13 July 1940 Kennedy’s squadron intercepted two bombers over Portland Harbour preparing for a sweep of Messerschmitt fighters. Kennedy led his flight in an attack on the two bombers and opened fire at close range, killing the German gunner and damaging the enemy’s aircraft. However, Kennedy’s Hurricane began to lose height and crashed into high tension cables and burst into flames. Kennedy was killed in the collision.
Aged 23, he was buried at Warmwell (Holy Trinity) Churchyard. A small epitaph written by his grieving family appears on his headstone: “In memory of our dear son and brother … who gave his life in the Battle of Britain”.
Flight Lieutenant John Kennedy was the first of ten Australians killed during the Battle of Britain. He was among the airmen referred to by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in his powerful tribute to the men of RAF Fighter Command: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”.
His name is also listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 others from the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection. Kennedy is standing third from the right.
This is just one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Flight Lieutenant John Kennedy, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.
RAF Display, 1934
Roger Hudson describes advances in British military aviation technology in the years before the Second World War.
It had been subject to endless delays and, when finished, was a disappointment to the Air Ministry and to its designer, R.J. Mitchell, who was trying to meet the specification issued by the Air Ministry in 1931 for an all-metal plane mounting four machine guns, capable of 195 mph minimum at 15,000 feet and with a minimum ceiling of 28,000 feet. Little of the experience he had gained from streamlining Supermarine’s series of Schneider Trophy float planes (the last could reach 400 mph) had gone into it, perhaps because Mitchell had major surgery in 1933 and its Rolls-Royce engine was inadequate. The contract specification was to go to the Gloster Gladiator, last of the RAF’s biplanes, which first flew in September 1934, but the Air Ministry did not lose faith in Mitchell, who went back to the drawing board to design the Spitfire. Sydney Camm, the Hawker designer who had produced the Fury fighter and the Hart bomber, of which the Demon was a modification, was also in the running at this time, but without Air Ministry backing. Only when he came back in September 1934 with his design for a 300-mph retractable-undercarriage monoplane powered by Rolls-Royce’s new Merlin engine did the Ministry order a prototype, the Hurricane, which finally flew in November 1935. The Hurricane’s simple wood-and-fabric construction and use of many components from Hawker’s recent biplanes, meant that it could be produced in numbers from 1937 on, while the more sophisticated Spitfire took longer. The Hurricane’s thicker wings could also accommodate with ease the eight machine guns which it was decided in August 1934 were required.
The efforts of these designers might have been in vain had there not been a major change of climate in Whitehall at this period. When Stanley Baldwin made a speech in 1932 claiming ‘the bomber will always get through’, he was only echoing the orthodox ‘Trenchard Doctrine’ that the RAF should concentrate on bomber attacks on enemy terrain and not waste much effort on fighter defence. Luckily Neville Chamberlain, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Sir Thomas Inskip, Defence Coordination Minister, saw the light and forced through the fighter squadron expansion scheme in July 1934, just when the League of Nations disarmament talks collapsed and not long before Gӧring revealed that Germany had created an air force in direct contravention of the Versailles Treaty. Churchill’s contribution to all this was unhelpful: he thought that a two-seater fighter with a gunner in a turret located behind the pilot who could then fire at planes ‘on the beam’ to either side, was the key. A number of Demons were fitted with turrets without satisfactory results, but this did not prevent the development of the Boulton Paul Defiant, with no forward armament but a power-driven four-gun turret capable of firing in any direction. It became a sitting duck for the Luftwaffe in 1940.
Pilot Officer Sayanapuram Duraiswamy ThyagarajanDetails Category: Veterans Project - Interviews, Profiles and Memoirs Last Updated: Friday, 09 October 2009 14:15 Written by David McMahon Hits: 4868
|Two months before his fatal sortie - The members of 263 Squadron pose for a 'Sqn Portrait' in June 1944, with "Tiger" taking the position on the Typhoon's engine cowl.|
There was a strangely persistent — but entirely appropriate — French influence through the short life, sudden death and 62-year interim following the burial of Pilot Officer Sayana Puram Duraiswamy Thyagarajan, a Royal Air Force officer killed in World War II.
He grew up in Pondicherry, India, where the early colonial influence was so strong that the French tricolour only came down for the last time on October 31, 1950, four years before France officially handed over the territory to the now-independent nation. And he was on a mission over France on August 25, 1944, when he was shot down. It is a significant date, for it was the very day that Paris was liberated and General Charles de Gaulle led the victory parade down the Champs Elysees.
He was buried in the little village of La Lande St. Léger in Normandy, where his Typhoon fighter crash-landed. For six decades, his grave has been tended by locals in the area, which is 65 kilometres north-west of Evreux. Now he is to be honoured with a special plaque, to be unveiled near his resting place on June 2 next year, in the presence of the Indian ambassador to France and ex-RAF World War II veterans. My interest in this amazing story was kindled by an email forwarded to me 10 days ago by Jagan Pillarisetti, The original email was from Bertrand Goucovitch, the secretary of the Association pour le Souvenir des Ailes de la Victoire in Normandy. The association wanted to find out if the Indian pilot had any surviving blood relatives who could possibly be present at the unveiling of the plaque.
Who was this pilot, who spent his childhood on French soil in India, who fought in a British uniform for the liberation of France and who died in rural France on a day of pride and celebration in Paris?
The CO Flt Lt Geofferey B Warnes is second left and the Adjutant , F/L EC Owens is at first left . Other pilots in the Squadron are Canadian, Austarlian and West Indian.
He was known simply as Tiger, not surprisingly. It was — and still is — a logical nickname for a fellow whose name would have been unpronounceable in wartime, pre-multicultural Britain. To his fellow officers at 263 Squadron, Thyagarajan would simply have been Tiger Rajan.
His resting place is unique in many respects. As Bertrand pointed out to me in a rapid exchange of emails, his gravestone is uncommon because it has an inscription in three languages — Hindi, English and French. And his burial spot, near the south wall and the small entrance gate, is the only serviceman’s grave in the cemetery. It is a strange distinction in France, where thousands of military remains (many of them dug up and re-interred) are meticulously recorded and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Thanks to Bertrand’s efforts, we were able to get a first-hand account of Tiger’s last moments.
He was flying a Hawker Typhoon, a gutsy aircraft used in a low-level attack role. Generally armed with rockets to complement its wing-mounted cannons, the sturdy Typhoon was crucial to the Allies’ ground attack strategy. It is thought that Tiger’s mission was to attack an armoured column and while details are sketchy, it seems his aircraft was heavily hit by hostile fire.
Rob Bowater writes that according to surviving members of the Squadron, prior to the war he took part in the Salt Marches with Mahatma Gandhi. But it is thought to be unlikely.
Thyagarajan, still a Sergeant with a Hawker Typhoon of 263 Squadron. He returned to the squadron and served from January 1944 till 25th August 1944 when he was killed.
Claude Roussel was only 13 years old when he watched Tiger’s stricken Typhoon hit the ground. He said the pilot had tried to force-land the fighter. "He hit a row of poplar trees and the aircraft flipped upside down, blowing up in an orchard. When the village priest went to the crash site, British soldiers had retrieved the pilot’s body and were burying him on the scene as the village was liberated by the Allies only the day before. The priest stopped the soldiers and said that the pilot should instead be properly honoured by being buried in the churchyard nearby."
No. 65 Squadron (RAF): Second World War - History
The association of the Royal Air Force with Masirah Island began in April 1933, with the arrival of a party of RAF officers who had come to survey the island with a view to using it as a site for a transit airfield, fuel dump, and seaplane anchorage.
Early in 1931 Flt Lt R L Ragg (later Air Vice Marshal) landed his 'Rangoon' flying boat near Umm Rasays and, to quote from a recent letter ". we went ashore in a rubber dinghy under cover of our machine guns while the Sheikh and his braves came down to the beach to meet us and the old men, women and children retired behind the village among the hillocks. But eventually we made friends with the aid of a few bags of rice - and before my tour at Basra was finished two hard working years later we had established a petrol dump and cleared a landing strip for 'Wapiti' aircraft".
On arrival at Umm Rasys, Flt Lt Ragg, Fg Off Sarel and Fg Off Crosbie went ashore and attempted to persuade the natives to convey petrol and oil from the petrol store to the beach as had been arranged in the agreement drawn up on 16 November 1932 with Sheikh Khamis bin Hilal. This, however, they refused to do, demanding one Maria Theresa for the transportation of every eight tins (The price agreed on with the Sheikh had been one anna for every two tins).
Petrol and oil was therefore transported by the officers and crew of the S-1433 from the petrol store to the beach, from where the boatmen caretaker employed by Salim bin Said was persuaded to convey it to S-1433.
The petrol and oil had been carefully stowed in the store-house but several tins of petrol were leaking. The conveying of 70 tins of aviation fuel and 3 drums of oil from the storehouse to the flying boat and the refuelling took 3½ hours, no assistance whatever being obtained from the natives, who became almost truculent until the Sheikh himself arrived about 1½ hours after refuelling had started.
Although the Sheikh was friendly he did not order the services of the natives. In the absence of the interpreter it was a little difficult to discuss the situation, but it was understood that the Sheikh was perplexed as to the method of payment for the labour. It was impressed upon him, however, that by noon the following day 70 tins of petrol were required on the beach with the 'houri' ready to take it off to the flying boat as soon as she had anchored.
Fg Off Crosbie walked over the landing ground and reported that in his opinion it was suitable for Walitis but that care should be exercised and the northern end should be used as far as possible owing to the bare sand-stone surface of the southern end.
By now the island was being used as a fuel store for aircraft of the Royal Air Force and of Imperial Airways flying between Aden and India. The first Royal Air Force aircraft to land on the strip were a flight of Wapitis, which were flown from Iraq and which navigated from old Admiralty charts of the coast.
It is interesting to note that the present Sheikh is the same Sheikh Khamis bin Hilal mentioned by Flt Lt Ragg.
The old airstrip is marked on present charts but nothing is left of the installation now but a single large building which bears above the door the inscription 'RAF 1936'. The area is still clear and could still be used for light aircraft.
Five miles up the coast, past Sur Masirah and just south of Umm Rasays, a few derelict buildings and a still serviceable concrete slipway betray the location of the flying boat base which grew up in the early years of the war to follow.
In 1933 Wapitis and Heyfords were based at the strip near Sur Masirah and in 1935 a move was made to prepare the flying boat anchorage further north. In 1942 a new area altogether was being prepared on the site of the present camp near Ra's Hilf and eventually the old bases were abandoned.
The new base was developed and brought into use as an advanced landing ground for the Bisley (Blenheim Mark 5) aircraft of No 244 Squadron, engaged in maritime reconnaissance in the Persian Gulf for the protection of the oil route. Also in 1942, in October, Catalina flying boats of No 413 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force began using the old anchorage at Umm Rasays for long range maritime patrols over the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman, where U-boat activity was causing some concern.
In addition to the flying units, there was No 33 RAF Staging Post which came to Masirah in 1942 as a detachment from No 3 (Middle East) Ferry Control Unit. The main task of the unit was to facilitate the passage of aircraft using the southern reinforcement route to India. The Americans also set up a similar, but smaller, unit to handle the flow of their own aircraft to India.
By now there were several RAF units on the island with various functions and so, in 1943, an RAF Station, under the control of HQ PAIFORCE, was formed to co-ordinate the administration and domestic services. A few months later control of the new station passed to HQ British Forces Aden.
On its formation on 2 April 1943, RAF Masirah consisted of the Bisley detachment of No 244 Squadron, a detachment of No 212 Squadron, replacing that of No 413 Squadron at Umm Rasays and No 33 Staging Post. There was also an RAF Airfield Construction Team, and a flight each of the RAF Regiment and the RAF Levies for station defence and security.
In December 1942 No 212 Squadron had been formed at Korangi Creek, Karachi with 9 Catalina aircraft, under the command of Wg Cdr R T Gething, AFC. The squadron commenced convoy escort duties and anti U-boat patrols in the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman and maintained a detachment at Umm Rasays. Owing to poor communication with No 255 Group, Balgalore the Umm Rasays detachment was very much on its own and generally co-operated with No 205 Group with whom communications were established through the Intelligence Officer at Masirah Airfield. Rations were brought in by the Squadron's own aircraft and water and fuel was brought in from Muscat by dhow.
Sortie reports were dropped at Masirah airfield before the aircraft landed at Umm Rasays.
In July 1943 a Catalina aircraft landed in the Arabian Sea to pick up the crew of an American ship sunk by a U-boat. The aircraft was badly damaged by the heavy swell and the crew were picked up by the ship's lifeboat which was finally beached at Masirah.
Late in 1943 one of the Bislay aircraft of No 244 Squadron, with another aircraft sank a U-boat in the Gulf of 0man. This sinking was confirmed by the fact that one survivor swam 28 miles to shore, near Muscat.
Until the end of the war in 1945 there were few changes in the Station's role. The Catalinas occasionally had detachments at Dubai and Bahrein and on one occasion an aircraft was detailed to convey a representative of the Sultan with an armed bodyguard and cases of gold bullion to Gwadar on the coast of Baluchistan, which was then part of the Sultan's domain, to pay various government officers. Jiweni on the Iran border was also used for both land and sea aircraft. It had been used previously as a staging post for the Imperial Airways aircraft Operations continued and in early 1944 the whole of No 244 Squadron, now re-equipped with Wellingtons, was moved to the island. No 212 Squadron detachment had been reinforced in September 1943 by aircraft by No 321 (Netherlands) Squadron, whose Catalinas joined with No 244 Squadron's Wellingtons in convoy escort duties and anti-submarine patrols.
They also collaborated with a Marine Craft Unit established at Umm Rasats to provide an air/sea rescue organisation which saved the lives of ditched aircrew and on several occasions helped to rescue the survivors of torpedoed ships.
When the war ended the station was still structurally simple. It was known to the airmen as Petrol Tin Island as most of the buildings were made of flattened petrol drums. When EVT (Educational and Vocational Training) was introduced several of the airmen were taught bricklaying by a corporal service policeman and learned enough to take over a partly derelict building and convert it into a rather smart Station Sick Quarters.
In late 1945 there were Dakotas and a twin engined Beechcraft flown by the Station Commander at Masirah, together with a Warwick aircraft, modified by having the bomb bay removed and an Air-Sea Rescue Dinghy inserted. This was used with the two high speed launches based at Umm Rasays. Station strength was then about 100, commanded by a Squadron Leader.
No 244 Squadron was disbanded and the detached Catalinas were withdrawn, to be replaced by a detachment of Warwicks of No 234 Squadron for air/sea rescue duties. The American staging post was abandoned and then taken over by the Royal Air Force. No 33 RAF Staging Post continued to operate until March 1946 and was heavily involved with the large numbers of aircraft and troops returning from the Far East theatre.
The main functions of RAF Masirah during the immediate post-war period was to provide staging and radio beacon facilities for aircraft operating in the Persian Gulf area and others using the far eastern route through Muharraq. From 1946 to 1947 the D/F station on the island was operated by personnel of BOAC. The airfield continued in use, mainly by aircraft of the Middle Eastern airlines, with Dakotas of Indian Overseas Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines arriving two or three times a month.
Little of interest occurred at Masirah during the ten years from 1947 to 1956. For much of this period the SS VELH0 arrived as the supply ship and a typical entry in the diary reads "at 0830 on Sunday 6 April 1952 the six month supply ship the SS VELHO, anchored 300 yds off the jetty. Unloading commenced half an hour later and was completed by midday on the 8th. Facilities available for the operation were, the Unit Air Sea Rescue Launch and a large motor boat brought up by the VELHO plus a dozen locally hired sailing dhows, one Coles crane, the diesel engine train, five 3-ton trucks, and abundant supply of labour comprising RAF airmen, Aden Protectorate Levies and native technicians and coolies. The principal items offloaded were the No 2 Squadron Aden protectorate levies, 330 sheep and goats, six months' supply of hay, six months' dry rations for approximately 180 men and 40 tons of AMDGW stores. Backloading began at 1400 hours and by 1700 hours was completed. This comprised 203 empty POL drums and the remainder of the dry rations brought by the VELH0 on its previous visit. At 0600 on the 10th the ship left for Salalah".
Brigands, Valettas, Yorks and Lancasters made brief transit stops and in March 1953 there were 72 aircraft movements during the month, the breakdown being RAF Khormaksar Comm Sqn 20, other RAF 32, civil 20. In 1951 and 1952 a series of photographic sorties were made by a U.S. Navy Liberator.
The Royal Air Force's role on Masirah began to build up again when, on 10th February 1956 a flight of Venom F 134's of No 8 Squadron was received, the first jet aircraft to stage through the base.
During the period April 1959 Shackletons of No 37 Squadron operated through Masirah, dropping 1000lb bombs in the Jebel Akhdar area where the Imam's rebellion against the Sultan was centred.
The heavy rain which falls on Masirah from time to time caused the runway to become unserviceable in December 1957, in January 1958, in April 1960 and in April 1961.
In June 1960, an RAF Canberra on a ferry flight with an Australian crew made a successful emergency landing at Masirah. At this time there occurred the first ever strike by the islanders for a pay increase, although altercations over payment had taken place as far back as 1933.
On 10 October 1960 with a station strength of 2 officers, 7 SNCOs and 51 airmen, evidence that RAF Masirah was to grow in size came when the station became self-accounting. 1961 had seen the arrival of NAAFI on the station and one month later very heavy rain cut off all electric power and the runway was unusable for four days. Radio communications were cut for eight hours and there was six inches of water in the Airmen's kitchen. In January 1961 four go-Karts arrived on the island and active competition began. In July five Javelins in transit to Singapore passed through.
From 1942 up to 1961 the airfield possessed a single 6000ft sand runway which was orientated close to the prevailing winds on 07/25. However, the heavy rains had, on occasions, flooded this runway and by the end of 1961 a runway 7000ft long was completed on heading 01/19. This runway had four concrete hardstandings and there were concrete turning areas at each end. This runway had its limitations and in 1962 a new 9000ft asphalt runway was built on heading 35/17. This is the main runway in use today and the old sand runway is a secondary runway. On 20 December 1962 the AOC in his Canberra was the first person to take off using the whole of the new runway length. The 01/19 runway has disappeared although the old hardstandings and the broken-up slabs of the runway ends can still be seen near BERS and the 25 yard range.
In 1962 RAF Masirah received and turned round a Comet 4C the first largest jet aircraft to use the facilities. By this time the station strength was 6 officers, 18 SNCOs and 94 airmen. In June of that year the first of the new type of Argosy transports commenced the route trials for the Middle East for this type of aircraft and staged through Masirah. In September seven Hunter aircraft of No 8 Squadron carried out the first jet fighter night landings at Masirah.
In January 1953 the RT Hon Hugh Fraser, Secretary of State for Air, had presented the newly approved station badge at a short parade ceremony. The badge bearing the emblem of a Loggerhead Turtle and the motto in Arabic, "The reliance is on oneself" sums up very well the unique quality of the station.
The station was involved in regular operational exercises between 1963 and 1965. In January 1965 the first personnel of No 198 Signals Unit were attached to RAF Masirah and in March of the same year the new Airmen's Club was opened. During the following month a shooting incident occurred when rifle shots were fired at a police landrover, hitting the windscreen and narrowly missing the driver. It was thought to have come from a party of Pakistanis in a motorised fishing fleet who had been surprised by the arrival of the vehicle. The month of September saw the start of preparations for mounting Operation ZENON - an exercise concerned with the Evacuation of British Nationals from Pakistan because of the state of war between that country and India. Two LST's and HMS Jaguar plus 5 Argosy aircraft arrived. After much preparation involving many hours of overtime the operation was called off.
In December 1963 the tanker "British Birch" had discharged fuel via the new submarine pipeline to the Bulk Fuel Installation. This ship was followed by the "Clyde Prospector".
In 1964, as a result of a £3 million scheme, a complete new camp was built at Masirah. Present -day facilities resulting from this include good airmen's accommodation and messes, a new NAAFI shop, the Astra Cinema, the salt water swimming pool, the jetty and the hardstanding known as South Pan. North Pan was built much later, in July 1970.
Some interesting domestic changes took place at this time and we are indebted to Adan Mahammed Abdi, the LOE General Office clerk who came to Masirah in 1957 from Aden, having originally grown up in the old Italian Somaililand, for much of this information.
Up to 1964 the Americans had occupied the seaplane base at Umm Rasays, but their HQ was in the building now occupied by the trader Khimji Ramdas. These buildings were shared with the B0AC staff. The Americans had their own water distillation plant adjacent to the British plant which was housed in the building known as the Giraffe House.
Before the distillation plants were built, fresh water was brought by tanker from Basra and stored in a large open tank behind the present PSD site and brought to the camp area by bowser. Water was also taken to the seaplane base by tanker or barge.
The 2ft guage railway had been built in 1943 as a joint British/American venture under the direction of a British engineer, primarily to carry stores and especially vast quantities of fuel in 33 gallon drums to the camp area. At the time of its building it was the only railway operating in the Arabian Peninsula, the old Mecca to Damascus railway never having recovered from the depredations of T E Lawrence and his raiders in the First World war.
The drums of fuel were dumped on the beach anywhere between the Wali camp and BERS and for this reason the railway extended out to the site which in 1965 became the Diplomatic Wireless Station, later the British Eastern Relay Station.
The siting of many of the station services was changed and what is now the NAAFI Bulk Store was the Sergeants' Mess, cinema and NAAFI shop. The Crazy Horse club was the Airmen's Mess, and Supply Flight was the Ration Supply Depot. The Travaux Club, now the MMG canteen was the Officers' Mess and the Regiment Flight was SHQ, Flying Control and the Met Office.
Sick quarters was in the building now called Block 49, used as accommodation by some of the Met Office staff, but perhaps the oddest history belongs to the Tailor's shop. This was the HQ of the RAF Levies recruited in Aden and was also the gaol.
From this time the development of the camp was gradual and steady and as the importance of Masirah grew, partly as a staging post and partly as a link with CENTO, and as Masirah moved geographically closer to Cyprus, and UK as jet aircraft took over, so the tasks became more orthodox and more involved with those of the RAF in the Gulf and Aden, in the Mediterranean and in UK.
In March 1955 there were 619 air movements, the bulk of these being produced on a two week detachment by Hunters of No 8 Squadron from Khormaksar. In addition Hunters of No 208 Squadron visited as well as Pembrokes, Argosies, Canberras, Dakotas, Beverleys and Britannias. At this time station strength was 7 Officers, 20 SNCOs and 122 airmen. In the August 623 passengers were handled with 265,000lb freight.
In May 1966 considerable repair work was carried out on the jetty and on the distillation plant where corrosion of some of the copper tubing had resulted from excessive acidity in a solution used in the process.
In June a Vulcan B2 arrived, the first visit by a V bomber for a long time.
In July a serious attempt was made to establish Expedition Training and the formation of a Desert Rescue Team.
In August 1966 Operation ALOE, the withdrawal of British forces from Zambia took place. Between 23 Aug and 5 Sep the ATC tower was open for 279 hours including nine full 24 hour periods without a break, 128 aircraft movements were recorded, 1329 passengers and crew were handled, 80,000lb of freight and mail were handled and PSD issued 103,425 gallons of aviation fuel.
In November there was a grave shortage of fresh water, which was only provided for two hours each day. Showers and baths were converted to salt water.
In the same month Victor tankers and Lightning Mk 3's of No 5 Squadron arrived on Exercise HORWICH.
In March 1967 equipment began arriving for the building of the Diplomatic Wireless Station at the north tip of the island. This was occasioned by the project to move the transmitter from Perim in the Red Sea. In the same month the new Education Centre was reappointed after refurbishing by MPBW.
In June Operation HYDRAULIC took place with 13 Lightnings F6 of No 74 (Tiger) Squadron together with Victor tankers, going through to Tengah. Temporary Rotary Hydraulic Arrester Gear was installed and used successfully.
In September 1967 the Radio Sonde project came into operation and the first ascent was monitored.
In November the final evacuation from Aden took place, but Masirah was only slightly involved.
In December Carrier Task Force 318 arrived and 600 Royal Marine Commandos set up Camp and night flying by Buccaneers, Sea Vixens, Gannets and Wessex aircraft took place.
In July 1968 a Defence White Paper announced that Masirah would be retained after the withdrawal of British forces from the Gulf and Far East in 1971.
On 1 November 1968 RAF Salalah ceased to be an independent command and became RAF Detachment Salalah. The Station Commander at Masirah was promoted to acting Wing Commander.
In March 1968 the first ISLAND RANGER Vulcans from Akrotiri arrived, together with the first Lightning detachment. Six Lightnings of No 23 Squadron remained for six days, carrying out routine flying.
At this time Mr Edward Heath MP, then leader of HM Opposition, paid a flying visit to the station en route from Sharjah to Salalah. In the half hour he was on the ground he visited the jetty, PSD and Boat Club.
In January 1970 1.61 inches of rain fell on the 12th and 17th, damaging the airfield lighting and putting the sand runway out of action for a month.
In March 1970 the runway 07/25 was extended to 7300ft and again there was heavy rain. 1.1 inches fell during one night and flooded the sand runway again.
At this time the station strength was 12 officers, 56 SNCOs and 185 airmen.
In June there was heavy rain. An inch of rain fell overnight again flooding the sand runway. In July 0.75 inches of rain fell in one day. In August the NDE aerial was blown down in a thunderstorm when two inches of rain fell.
In October, Water Sports Club members completed a sail round the island in two 0spreys accompanied by a safety boat. The trip took two days and was supported by a land party and a three tonner. Distance cover was 120 miles.
On 19 December 1970 a new Wali Sheikh Ahmen bin Hamoud was installed. He remained until March 1974.
In January 1971 because of the failure of a charter aircraft HM the Sultan of Oman and his retinue were carried from Masirah to Salalah in an Argosy aircraft sharing the hold with the cargo.
In March it was announced that Masirah was to come under the command of HQ NEAF. It had been assumed that when HQAF Gulf was disbanded, HQ ASC would assume the responsibility.
In July 1971 a donkey fence around the airfield was completed at a cost of £20,000. Meanwhile the main runway was being resurfaced. During the month a PIA Boeing 707 landed, followed later by a DC 6 of Trans Mediterranean Airlines. These were maiden visits! In this month the first scheduled Hercules flight from Lyneham arrived also.
In August the Bulk Fuel Storage was increased, in some cases by jacking up the tanks and welding an extension to the bottom.
By 0ctober runway resurfacing was completed, the first Nimrod arrived and No 46 Squadron Andover detachment was flying regular schedules to Salalah, Muscat and Dubai.
By November Masirah had become a major staging post and a new Operations Centre was functioning. The aircraft carrier HMS EAGLE and the Commando Carrier HMS ALBION were operating off the island and there were 328 aircraft turnarounds at Masirah with 22 aircraft types handled over the period.
The Masirah State Railway had become unusable by this time and it was nearly 18 months before it was put back into use.
There was the heaviest rainfall since 1956 when 4 inches fell on 20 December.
On 21 December 0peration HAMISH arranged for the airlifting of over 900 British Nationals from West Pakistan because of the increasing friction between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir Issue. Eight Hercules of No 30 Squadron detached to Masirah carried out the operation.
In March 1972 there was an upgrading of Masirah with the arrival of a new Station Commander, Group Captain C P Donovan. In the same month a Hercules and an Andover carrying the Station Desert Rescue Team was committed at short notice to search for a Sterling Airways Caravelle aircraft which had crashed near Dubai. All 112 persons had been killed in the accident while the aircraft had been on the approach.
In May 1972 100 new posts were established on the unit. In May also the BBC Forces Chance Quiz Team visited the station and were beaten by a team led by the Station Commander.
In July full fresh water facilities became available again with a significant fall in the incidence of skin disease..
In October, Exercises PEDIGREE, PALE JADE and GHOST TRAIL were carried out with Vulcans, Victors and Phantoms from Coningsby putting great strain on the station, already supporting 30 personnel of No 51 Squadron RAF Regiment who were carrying out trials on the Clelland Range, a name derived from Chf Tech Clelland of the Station Armoury who did most of the work siting the range.
In January 1973 a very large number of surplus 1000lb bombs were disposed of and underwater blasting for the extension of the submarine fuel pipeline were began by Mothercat, the contractors for DOE.
The Phase 3 Masirah Development got under way to provide, amongst other things, a 91 single-room airman's block with ablutions, a single officers' block and 4 suites and 5 single rooms, an air conditioned block for aircrew with 10 single rooms, SNCO accommodation with 14 single room facility, an extension to the SQH and Part 1 Works Project Team temporary Portakabin accommodation.
In July one inch of rain fell over a period of 2 days.
During the year the DWS had changed its name to British Eastern Relay Station and was beaming BBC programmes at 1½ megawatts to the Far East and East Africa and in June the Mission to Military Garrisons canteen and shop was opened by Dorothy Cook and Grace McShane in premises which had previously been the Travaux Club and before that the Officers' Mess.
The catering remained at an extraordinary high standard and a series of hard-working and able catering officers ensured that morale remained at a level which had become exemplary throughout the service, almost as a tradition.
Bulk meat and dry goods were coming in on the supply Vessels BACCHUS and HEBE during the winter shipping seasons and an almost daily supply run by the Hercules aircraft of No 70 Squadron brought in fruit and vegetables from Cyprus. Masirah's home baked bread and the Barracuda steaks and cray fish were legendary.
Wing Commander Bill Lawrence, Command Catering Officer for NEAF in 1973 tells us something of Masirah's supply problems. "In the mid-1940s, according to Air Vice Marshal Brian Young, until recently CG RAF Regiment and CO in 1944, the food had been good but monotonous" and that "someone sent a box of cabbages from UK in a transmitting aircraft, when one was available".
In these days the Dhofar and the plain at Salalah were very fertile and fresh local vegetables were shipped to British troops in Mesopotamia and some got to Masirah.
In 1958 RAF Masirah was one of the "Route Stations" supplied with food from the RAF Supplies Depot, Aden. Dry rations, and live goats for the Moslems came by sea in LSLs with considerable losses through pilferage and death among the goats. Fresh and frozen rations came by air, in Beverly aircraft, if space was available. Bearing in mind that the fresh vegetables had originally travelled by air from Eritrea to Aden, were sorted, then flown in Beverleys from Aden, via RAF Riyan and RAF Salalah, it will be acknowledged that their quality was at best indifferent despite ingenious methods of packing. In 1967, with the imminent withdrawal from Aden, the food sources changed to Sharjah, though the supply systems and quality of goods changed little as all the fresh fruit and vegetables had to be imported from Lebanon into Sharjah initially.
In July 1971 drastic changes occurred. The supply depot at Sharjah closed down and Masirah increased in size to cope with an expanding station and a supply commitment to Salalah. The Dickensian bakery at Masirah increased production from 50 to 400 loaves a day in a few weeks. By far the greatest impact on the 'customer' was the regular twice-weekly supply of fresh fruit and vegetables direct from Cyprus. The new system had the enormous advantage of direct flights from the producing country, packed in custom-built boxes and with first priority payload availability on aircraft, none of the previous systems had enjoyed any of these advantages. Food supply at Masirah further expanded with the production of ice cream and mechanically reconstituted milk.
|5 June 1944||Wing Commander B P Young OBE|
|18 July 1945||Flight Lieutenant D Usher|
|26 August 1945||Squadron Leader H C Bownas|
|8 December 1945||Squadron Leader J Cartwright|
|30 April 1946||Flight Lieutenant F Clark|
|17 August 1946||Flying Officer Nielson|
|23 November 1946||Flying Officer J K Marsh|
|25 July 1947||Flying Officer A E Burton|
|12 September 1947||Flying Officer K J Wallace|
|5 May 1948||Flight Lieutenant J L Bulmer|
|23 July 1948||Flying Officer D R Hinton|
|13 April 1949||Squadron Leader W H Jones|
|5 November 1949||Flight Lieutenant P H Drabble|
|26 January 1950||Flight Lieutenant R T Johns DFC|
|22 June 1950||Flight Lieutenant R W Murphy|
|15 July 1950||Flight Lieutenant J V E P Carter|
|10 February 1951||Flight Lieutenant J L Goldby DFC|
|8 September 1951||Flight Lieutenant C C MacGillivray|
|10 February 1952||Flight Lieutenant A L Matthew|
|1 August 1952||Flight Lieutenant O G Williams|
|22 January 1953||Flying Officer D Graham|
|7 March 1953||Flight Lieutenant E J Forbes|
|21 September 1953||Flight Lieutenant T H James|
|23 February 1954||Flying Officer F Stokes|
|29 August 1954||Flying Officer T Bate|
|12 April 1955||Flying Officer A F W Keeley|
|21 0ctober 1955||Flying Officer F E W Hambly|
|14 Aprl 1956||Flying Officer W R Price|
|11 December 1956||Flying Officer J A Lamb|
|9 May 1957||Flight Lieutenant J D Payling|
|12 October 1957||Flight Lieutenant T N Paddon|
|22 December 1957||Flight Lieutenant E I Owen|
|9 June 1958||Flight Lieutenant R C A Kerry DFM|
|3 January 1959||Flight Lieutenant P J Hudson|
|29 June 1959||Flight Lieutenant M C Nush|
|18 June 1960||Squadron Leader A G L Higgins|
|3 June 1961||Squadron Leader J McLeod|
|11 July 1962||Squadron Leader R C Parker|
|4 June 1963||Squadron Leader R L T Polgreen|
|15 December 1964||Squadron Leader J Sweet|
|26 March 1965||Wing Commander K W McKenzie DFC AFC|
|4 May 1965||Squadron Leader H Armitage|
|3 May 1966||Squadron Leader D Bish|
|15 March 1967||Squadron Leader R J Spiers|
|24 March 1968||Squadron Leader R F Grattan|
|10 April 1969||Wing Commander G H Cunningham|
|10 May 1970||Wing Commander W K Sewell MBE|
|14 June 1971||Wing Commander E M Higson|
|18 March 1972||Group Captain C P Donovan|
|8 December 1972||Group Captain L C Swalwell|
|18 August 1973||Group Captain F D G Clark OBE BA|
|20 July 1974||Group Captain R K Hepburn|
|15 0ctober 1975||Group Captain J Byard|