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India and Burma

Operations in India and Burma 1943 to 1945

In 2001 Eveline Marsh-Collis made a wonderful contribution to the later history of 211 Squadron. With the help of her family, her late husband’s photo album (with its rich collection of photographs), and a typed report recording the Squadron’s operations from 1943 to 1945 were made available to me for use on this site, through Adrian Fryatt, son of 211 Squadron armourer the late Jim Fryatt.

The origins of the history so carefully preserved over the years by Desmond Marsh-Collis and his family came to light in late 2003, when the late Peter Spooner recognized the typed report as his own, as explained on their pages. Thanks are also due to Dennis Spencer DFC who by an accident of transcription came briefly to be identified as “Peter Spooner”!

In the presentation that follows, the text is as it first appeared on site, with my corrections of spelling, apparent transcription errors and added comments in the usual style [thus]. Thanks to Peter Spooner, a number of dated and briefly identified operational photographs from his personal collection are now included at appropriate points in the narrative. For these I have drafted rather fuller captions, compiled from a range of sources, including the Operations Record Book (ORB) where a number of these images are also to be found. Peter passed away in September 2008.

TWO HUNDRED AND ELEVEN SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE
August 1943 to December 1945

1943
Two Hundred and Eleven Squadron was founded originally in 1918. A record of its service in the Middle East, Crete and Java has been published by the Air Ministry [a tantalizing hint at an account yet to come to light]. The following is a brief history of the present Unit since its inception at Phaphamau near Allahabad on August 14th 1943, Beaufighters X's replacing Blenheim V's.

From October 1943 to August 1944 the Commanding Officer was W/Cdr PE Meagher DSO DFC. In November, the Squadron moved to Ranchi, Bihar to carry out its pre-operational training. The Flight Commanders began to experiment with Rocket Projectiles [RP] using a modified Blenheim Reflector Sights as the correct RP gun sight was then unavailable in SEAC. On November 24th, five Beaus demonstrated low level air tactics to a nearby Sikh regiment. The training programme consisted of lectures on evasion and the military situation in Burma, low level navigation, RP firing, Army co-operation and Army strikes on the airfield. The Army was impressed by the accuracy and penetration of armour piercing rockets. During training there were 5 major accidents killing 4 pilots and 2 navigators.

1944
Advancing to Silchar after Xmas, the Squadron commenced operations on January 8th 1944. During the next 3 weeks, it attacked 9 locomotives, damaged several bridges and blitzed the Jap-held village of Tanga with HE rockets. Summarising the first operational months, the CO wrote “until the Squadron is able to operate from Advanced Bases which will bring within range the Andaman Isles and Bangkok, RP attacks are likely to be less economical than cannon attacks”. In 42 sorties, the Squadron lost one Beaufighter which flew into a blind valley. The navigator was shot in the crashed aircraft by Jap soldiers and it is reported the pilot died of dysentery in the Rangoon Jail. [sic, conflates the loss of two Beaufighters and their crews:
LZ114 ‘P’ on 13 January and of L130 ‘S’ on 22 January.]

During the last week of January, the Squadron moved to Bhatpara. To welcome the Air Party was the Ranchi charwallah sitting patiently at one end of the runway. The Supreme Allied Commander, Lord Louis Mountbatten visited the Squadron on February 8th. The first operation from Bhatpara was a coastal reconnaissance to Pagoda Point. This was also used as a consumption test anticipating the long range offensives of April 1944. Acknowledging the accuracy of the Jap ground defences, the Squadron began to evolve its operational policy. It was decided that Rhubarbs by single aircraft, rather than formations were preferable as transport targets rarely justified the use of more than one aircraft, which was less vulnerable to Ack-Ack fire. Normally, patrols were flown at tree top height. Low level navigation in this theatre was a new science and the Squadron was able to develop its own technique. The Japanese Air Force and the difficulty of locating small transports on Burma's primitive roads encouraged navigators to look out of the office window.

On February 15th the CO was intercepted by 4 Oscars. He retaliated with a salvo of rockets which missed and destroyed 2 of the bandits with his cannon. Altogether 21 Oscars were encountered on that date. Another Beaufighter was hit by heavy Ack-Ack at Padaung. After the navigator had baled out, the pilot landed successfully in the paddy fields. This crew was recovered from Rangoon Jail following the “Dracula” operation of May 2nd 1945.

In February a moving train was derailed when hit by a pair of 60lb rockets. A formation RP strike on the Mandalay Marshalling Yards, with intense opposition, was reported by Third TAF as “A Great Success”. The difficulty of maintaining height on one engine was proved by 2 losses, both being the result of enemy action. Once an aircraft had crossed the Arakan Hills and descended into Central Burma engine failure was disastrous. Following some intensive practice at Bhatpara a successful strike on 3 airfields of the Rangoon Group Zayatkwin, Hlegu, and Hmawbi, initiated and planned by the Squadron was carried out on March 6th. The formation of 6 Beaus which participated was intercepted by many aircraft of Japanese Air Force never the less, it destroyed or damaged 6 aircraft, against the loss of one. There was another airfield strike on March 19th but neither Meiktila nor Amsekan produced so many targets as Rangoon. One Army 01 [an “Oscar” - Nakajima Ki 43 Hayabusa] was destroyed and a bomber trying low level evasion struck a hill.

Considering the skillful dispersal of Jap aircraft, it seemed that fighter strikes helped by the Beau's silent approach, were more effective than bombing airfields. By then the Squadron was concentrating on offensive patrols on roads, railways and waterways. Many of these Rhubarbs were apparently unproductive, but their cumulative effect on the Japs slender communications is well known. The toll of locomotives or motor transport mounted steadily. During the operational period, the Squadron carried out Convoy Escorts, PSR searches, Army close support, photographic reconnaissance and struck marshalling yards, docks and spot targets, dropping Nickels [leaflet dropping via the flare chute] as a side line. Jack of all trades and master of more than one. In March it lost 6 aircraft from an average strength of 14.

Following a Jap offensive in the Imphal Kohima Sector and the operation of British troops in North Burma a detachment of 13 aircraft advanced to Nazir on the NAF Peninsula, whence it operated from April 2nd to April 11th. Nazir lacked night flying facilities so Ramu was used for the first night operations. It was found that navigation and cannon attacks presented no especial difficulties, during the moon period although the Japs took advantage of local bad weather and drove their transports without lights. To patrol the Burma-Siam Railway and strafe Chiengmai airfield special long range belly tanks which the Squadron had been experimenting with for several months were used. Returning to Bhatpara on April 11th the Squadron scored many successes on the roads and railways between Kalewa and Lashio. In April the number of sorties increased to 108 with an average duration of 4 hours 10 minutes. After a productive rail patrol on April 28th the CO lost his section of 4 aircraft in thick haze. He was jumped by 4 aircraft but destroyed one and damaged another. During the dogfight, the other Oscars collided presumably an unintentional form of Hari-Kiri. The CO’s aircraft was itself damaged but returned safely.

May was an exceptionally busy month due to an intensive effort before the monsoon set in. During the last week of May the entire Squadron moved to Feni where it was accommodated by 177 Squadron until the latter's withdrawal to Ranchi. Operations never ceased. 48 hours after the last aircraft left Bhatpara the strip was made unserviceable by heavy rain. On May 28th, one Beaufighter was shot down by P51s.

To many crews, June presented their first experience of the “worst flying conditions in the world”. Naturally without meteorological forecasts, the number of abortives increased but a daily scale of 4 operations was maintained. “Parni” [water] in the petrol and technical equipment was a source of trouble largely overcome by excellent servicing. On the night of June 2nd, one aircraft returning from abortive patrol attempted to land at Chittagong in adverse weather and crashed into the sea. It is believed the pilot mistook the lights of a hospital ship for the flare path. The Navigator was picked up but the pilot and the passenger F/O Bishop the Intelligence Officer drowned. The loss of three crews and the withdrawal of 177 Squadron threw more work on to the remainder of the Squadron. On one occasion the ten available crews flew 20 sorties in 24 hours. The highlight of June was an attack on the Mandalay waterfront while many MT vehicles added to the game bag.

To Chiringa in the first week of July the Squadron made its fifth move under adverse weather. On the Feni-Chiringa Road 4 bridges collapsed and a similar misfortune held up stores which had been shipped to Cox's Bazaar. Rations, water and petrol were ferried across flooded rivers in Kistus and Sampans. The airmen accepted these difficulties philosophically and the move was immortalised in a monologue by Cpl. Bond of the Rockettes Concert Party in “My kit’s at Cox's Bazaar”. Operations ceased only for 48 hours. In July the Squadron attacked what is probably a command record of 47 locos and 75 MT vehicles.

Strafing Thazi Junction on August 5th F/Sgt Leach pilot was wounded in the chest and shoulder. with the help of his navigator F/O J.D. Callaghan, he returned safely to Chiringa and made a perfect landing. The Squadron celebrated its first anniversary with an informal party. The date did not coincide however, with the explosion of the Pyrotechnic Stores at the end of August. On August 19th W/Cdr PE Meagher DSO, DFC, was posted to 901 Wing at Chiringa, the command of 211 Squadron being assumed by S/Ldr. JSR Muller-Rowland DSO, DFC, and Bar.

Hit by LMG fire from Thanyazat Railway station on August 27th, one aircraft ditched off Green Island. This crew was also recovered from Rangoon. The paucity of targets in August was ascribed to recent successes apparently damaged locomotives were being replaced, while Jap transport drivers were being more cautious. contributory factors were the return of 177 Squadron and the restrictions of operations to North Burma. The Japanese withdrawal from Tamu and Imphal released Ack-Ack guns for the defence of Railways and other objectives.

    Attack on Pyinmana Railway Junction
    Attack on Pyinmana Railway Junction
    Toungoo-Mandalay railway 12 August 1944 (RAF official via Peter Spooner)
    [As we have seen, photographs both official and personal were shared freely. This and the following aerial camera photographs are from Peter Spooner’s collection. Matching the pencil notes on the back of each photo with the 211 Squadron Operations Record Book entries provides a slightly fuller account. On this occasion six 211 Squadron Beaufighters were tasked to attack the railway yards and then proceed on individual patrols. P/O FT Gamlin and W/O BB
    Mearns in Beaufighter Z-Zebra failed to return from this operation. The pair reported engine trouble by VHF radio and forced-landing into captivity. Fortunately, both survived.]

September was marked by a long shipping strike in the Gulf of Martaban when the Squadron destroyed or damaged 14 vessels including 2 gun boats approx. 5,000 tons [see also W/O James Oblein’s narrative]. On September 12th Air Marshal Coryton commanding 3rd TAF visited Chiringa and congratulated the Squadron on its successes. One aircraft ditched near Elephant Point. The crew was picked up 24 hours later by an ASR launch with air cover. The Jap Air Force appeared occasionally but from then on its opposition decreased, dwindling completely at the close of the Burma campaign. A survey of adjudicated claims reveals that 211 Squadron destroyed 5 bombers and 11 fighters and damaged 5 bombers and 4 fighters excluding 2 probables during the operational period. It was proved on several occasions that during low deck level and jettisoning its rockets a Beau could outstrip the Japanese fighters.

S/Ldr JSR Muller-Rowland DSO, DFC & Bar was repatriated in October. His place was taken by S/Ldr HE Martineau who had joined the Squadron in September after a tour of operations in the Middle East. The scarcity of worthwhile targets persisted. The destruction of several river steamers enlivened offensive patrols of the Bassein Delta. While the Squadron Tiger Moth was dropping newspapers to local Army Units on November Ilth its propeller fell off. The light machine force-landed in the Chittagong Jungle. It was 2 days before the pilot and the passenger walked into Chiringa.

    RMColes
    Rodney Coles c1938 (Coles family collection)
    [Born in Great Tew, Oxfordshire in 1917, the son of Martha May and Oscar Thomas Coles. Rodney joined the RAF just before World War II. After a tour in Coastal Command, he was posted to Canada where he was associated with retrieving aircraft from Seattle to Canada under arcane lend-lease arrangements. Coles and his Nav/W F/O RS Painter in Beaufighter
    NE540 ‘Z’ failed to return from the 18 October 1944 strike on Mingaladon. Posted missing, they are commemorated on the Singapore Memorial.]

    Chiengrai-Lampang road patrol 10 November 1944
    Chiengrai-Lampang road patrol 10 November 1944 (RAF official via Peter Spooner)
    [Four 211 Squadron Beaufighters patrolled the road, attacking motor transport, steam rollers and other road traffic. All returned safely to Chiringa. Closer examination shows that the bridge in left middle ground has already been destroyed and the small hut on the edge of the river vegetation just this side of the bridge is damaged. A solitary figure stands below the road embankment near a drain.]

November and December were more productive months due especially to the exploration of new roads in the Chiengmai Sector [sic: province SW of and adjoining Chiengrai]. On a moon patrol the first locomotive for 2 months was severely damaged with 60lb rockets. F46 cameras began to be used although the photographic section was handicapped by the provision of second rate film and 8 inch rather than 5 inch lenses. Previously G45 cine guns had been tried unsuccessfully. When 27 Squadron came to Chiringa, the Squadron began to regularly have operational stand downs. An RP range on Sandip Island was used extensively. Later the Squadron scored its first success against the newly developed truck locomotive. One aircraft discovered 6 of them at Bhir Ferry fired 4 and damaged two that remained.

    28 November 1944 Gulf of Martaban
    28 November 1944 Gulf of Martaban (RAF official via Peter Spooner)
    [On the afternoon of 28 November, F/Sgt Bell and F/Sgt Smith carried out a shipping reconnaissance of the Gulf from Kyonda to Salween estuary, attacking a number of barges, returning safely.]

During an air test on December 17th an aircraft spiralled into the ground. Although the scene of the crash was less than 5 miles from Chiringa, it was several hours before a rescue party in kisties could reach them. The pilot and WEM had been killed instantaneously.

    Bell Lawrence
    211 Squadron casualties (Einboden collection via Elizabeth Kaegi)
    [The 17 December search party included Deputy Flight Commander F/O EL
    Wood, the Squadron padre S/Ldr McCulloch and Squadron MO, S/Ldr John “Doc” Watson, who found the wreckage of Beaufighter LZ343. During an air test of the aircraft’s radio equipment, it was seen to spiral into the ground 4 or 5 miles West of Chiringa. The pilot, 1334151 F/Sgt AA Bell, and Wireless Mechanic 574199 Sgt WJ Lawrence did not survive. They were given a Christian burial at the scene the next day. This photograph from F/Lt TM Einboden’s collection is thought to be of that event].

Christmas '44 was set in the mould of tradition including a comic football match between the Officers and Senior NCO's a meeting of the “Salvation Army” (Sister Anna, Parker and Wagstaff cut up rough) and an elaborate dinner outside the airmen’s mess. Over the football pitch an L5 dropped Xmas cards. For the holiday each section made and operated its own bar. Many airmen described this as “their best Service Christmas”. For three crews December 25th was business as usual.

    L5 Sentinel over the 211 Squadron football match, Chiringa, Christmas 1944
    211 Squadron football match, Chiringa, Christmas 1944 (RAF official via Peter Spooner)
    [The Squadron’s 1944 Christmas hijinks included the football match pictured above. An “air drop” by Stinson L5 Sentinel was laid on for the occasion, with aerial delivery of Christmas cards accompanied by a traditional RAF silliness: flour bombs. “Casualties” were stretchered off the field, for revival by further refreshment. About 100 Stinson Model 76 L5 Sentinels were delivered to the India/Burma theatre for use in the AOP role and as a “run-about”, being able to carry a stretcher case for example.]

Sgt Mess Christmas 1994Sergeants Mess Menu Christmas 1944 (Watts collection)
[Among the names present, reading signatures from top to bottom: Sgts Lowcock, Morrell, Donaldson-Davidson (twice!) Watling, Wilson, Smith, Groom, Heywood and Dickinson. This habit of signing menus at festive occasions continued for a good many years post-war, but is less often seen today.

Following the reduction from 300 hours to 200 hours for an operational tour, in November seven fresh crews has been posted into the Squadron in anticipation of pending departures of experienced men. Apparently among the new arrivals were the Canadian P/O JM Copeland RCAF J6611 and his Nav/W F/Sgt Donald Donaldson-Davidson RAFVR 1045219. Together they flew at least 6 sorties from 12 November, on several occasions as one of a pair with F/O GD Vardigans and F/Sgt DA Spencer.

Donaldson-Davidson was born in 1923 and joined the RAF on turning 18 in 1941. He continued in the RAF post-war, appointed to a permanent commission in 1953, followed by a stint as Radar Weapons Instructor at the Lightning Conversion Unit, RAF Coltishall in 1959. Awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air in the 1964 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Donaldson-Davidson retired a Squadron Leader in 1972. A varied career on Civvy Street drew him in later life to community service work, from which he finally retired at the age of 80, passing away aged 88 in April 2011.]

1945
At the beginning of the New Year all pilots, 2 navigators and 30 airmen were detached to Ranchi to try out the new PP [RP?] sight. This was the Squadron's longest stand down during the operational period - 12 days. Although it operated for two thirds of January, the Squadron made 107 sorties. These included some Army Co-operation in the Kaladan, blitzing and straffing lights and dropping empty gin bottles, psychological warfare. On instructions from the VCP several gun positions were attacked. Towards the end of this period the bombline closed in so tightly that it was almost impossible for twin engine aircraft safely to attack especially on black nights. Nevertheless the Army described the close support as “Very satisfactory”. As a sequel a Japanese rifle was presented to the Squadron by a West African Regiment.

    [As an operational “rest” for Beaufighter Navigators, Visual Control Post duties were not popular. Dennis Spencer recalled the task in these terms:
    “Someone on the ground with RT equipment directs supporting allied aircraft where to fire on Japanese-held positions that are holding up the advance of army units. Courses were held at Ranchi to train personnel to man such posts. Early in 1945 the tide of war was changing and allied forces were pushing their way back over the Chin Hills. There was a demand for such personnel and some tour-expired aircrew, particularly Navigator/W's, were being posted to Ranchi for their six month rest (!!!) period. As you can imagine this was not very popular both because the job was dangerous and conditions in the field with an advancing Army unit were arduous.” ]

W/Cdr RCO Lovelock DFC assumed command of the Squadron on January 10th shortly before the detachment returned from Ranchi. Although eligible for repatriation, S/Ldr HE Martineau elected to complete his tour.

On February 15th Grp Cpt Tomalin DFC AFC commanding No. 901 Wing carried out an operation with the Squadron. A record 128 sorties was set up producing attack on 9 locomotives and 63 MT vehicles.

    The Rocketeers March 1945
    The Rocketeers March 1945 (Peter Spooner)
    In March, the Rocketeers Concert Party presented their tenth review “Further round the Bend” in Chiringa's new “Beaumont”, reputed to be the finest cinema in the Arakan. Owing to the scarcity of ENSA shows the Squadron has always been responsible for its own entertainment. In the early days the most popular was “ITBA”, a fortnightly review series.

As an aircraft was attacking a train on the Mandalay Mokpalin railway all its controls except the ailerons were shot away. The crew baled out over Ramree Island and spent an eerie night in the Mangrove swamps before they reached a nearby army camp.

7211 Servicing Echelon was formed in April '45. To the airmen it was a new name for an old Unit. As the Echelon has moved ever since with its aircraft it has been possible to retain “Squadron Spirit”. To ensure the continued liaison of officers and men, one officer was delegated to each of the airmen’s bashas.

On April 11th, one aircraft was shot up in the Bassein Delta. It returned safely to base where the crew baled out [see also the account of JS Mitchell DFC]. The abandoned aircraft, although trimmed to fly out to sea, circled Chiringa for one and a half hours before its engines cut out and it crashed at the foot of the Arakan Hills.

    Railway attack 7 April 1945 near Sop Moi
    Railway attack 7 April 1945 near Sop Moi (RAF official via Peter Spooner)
    [The successful sortie of F/Lt PN Smith and W/O Webber in F-Freddie. The neg has been damaged by heat, the emulsion crazed.]

The word Tavoy became synonymous with maximum endurance where the Squadron made several long patrols of the Ye-Tavoy road and coast. The record flight was 7 hours 45 minutes. During the second fortnight of April an extensive search was made for 6 motor torpedo boats which had been reported by Intelligence to be hidden near Thongira. A Beaufighter of 211 Squadron located the boats in a dried Chaung resulting in a combined strike with 177, 110 and 22 Squadrons. It was revealed later than 4 of the boats were destroyed.

The Commanding Officer was able to forecast the Dracula operation and the real enthusiasm of the ground crews to ensure top line serviceability proved that the Echelon was still part of the Squadron team. On April 30th an aircraft of this Squadron patrolling the Rangoon Waterfront flew across the centre of the town and photographed the jail on the roof of which was painted “Japs Gone”.

    [Sic: afternoon of 1 May in the Squadron’s formal records of operations; and mis-recalled as 2 May by 211 Squadron pilot the late F/O Anthony Montague Browne, who took the photograph, a copy of which is seen in Nav/W W/O Ron Kemp’s account.

    Other well-known aerial shots show the other signs, “British Here” and “Extract Digit”, as long recorded by Rangoon Rats Lionel Hudson, Harvey Besley and others, one such being this print, kept among his memorabilia by the late Jim Oblein:

    Rangoon extract digit
    Rangoon Jail May 1945 (Oblein collection)
    Extract digit, indeed. No marginal notes on this image. Date: perhaps 1 May, but possibly 2 May or later, as
    discussed in Ron Kemp’s narrative.

    Jim Oblein’s own account of the adventures of the FEPoW group marched from Rangoon Jail by the Japanese shortly before liberation is another story altogether.]

On “D” day May 2nd [standard service operational usage: D Day and H Hour are the appointed day and time for any operation, not just the 6 June 1944 Overlord Normandy landings], despite extremely adverse weather which turned back one formation, 7 aircraft of 211 Squadron blitzed empty gun emplacements on the banks of the Rangoon River. The Paratroop VCP assessed that no further assistance was required. In fact Dracula drew very little blood, but it was nevertheless the climax of 17 operational months.

Among the prisoners of war for whom the fall of Rangoon spelt freedom, were 13 members of 211 Squadron, 8 of them completely healthy flew to Comilla where they were visited by the O/C 901 wing and F/O GE Smith the Squadron Intelligence Officer. From their stories, the fate of several other missing crews was determined, 4 men died in captivity. The Squadron arranged a big celebration at Chiringa but the ex-prisoners were unable to attend. Shortly afterwards they were repatriated. During the next week, the Squadron harassed the remnants of the Japanese Army in the Bassein Delta flying its last sortie on VE Day.

It was then stood down and its Beaufighters distributed among the other Squadrons of 901 Wing. In 17 months the Squadron had destroyed 25 aircraft, 223 locomotives and 612 motor transports. It is impossible to summarise the prodigious numbers of river and coastal craft installations, military Barracks and other objectives which were attacked. 1790 sorties made up a total of 7425 operational flying hours.

The original intention was the Squadron should withdraw to Trichinopoly for its conversion to Mosquito FB VI. But after the advance Air Party had left Chiringa on May 3rd the location was changed suddenly to Yelahanka near Bangalore. The inability to secure a troop train held up the move for 2 weeks.

    Hurricane damage to 211 Squadron quarters, Chiringa May 1945

    Hurricane damage to 211 Squadron quarters, Chiringa May 1945

    Hurricane damage to 211 Squadron quarters, Chiringa May 1945 (P Spooner)

On the night of May 14th a cyclone demolished 40% of the domestic camp. Fortunately there were no casualties, in fact, the incident was accepted with remarkably good humour. The sun rose on a scene of devastation. Some NCO's occupied their Mess, other made habitable the remains of their Bashas. Approximately 80 airmen were transferred to a disused Toc H club on the Arakan Road which they converted into what closely resembled a rest camp. The main party left Chittagong on May 25th. There is no need to describe the accommodation of Indian troop trains.

After an uncomfortable but comparatively uneventful journey of 6 days, the party reached Yelahanka. In June the conversions programme arranged by 1672 CU covered all aspects of the Mosquito FB VI. Bombing, Navigation Tactics, Maintenance & Instructions. Air Exercises included single engine flying, low level cross country flights, air to air combat, fighter affiliation with Spitfires of No.4 RIAF Squadron and a dummy operation. During a fighter affiliation exercise on June 29th, a Mosquito crashed and exploded in the heart of a nearby native village killing its crew and 38 civilians. It was then laid down that affiliation exercises were not be carried out below 5,000 ft. Two days later the Squadron participated in an Air Display at Yelahanka, before a large Military audience. During an exhibition of co-ordinated aircraft flying one of them crashed and disintegrated in the target area.

From Yelahanka it was impossible for everyone to have leave owing to the limited accommodation at the nearby Hill stations. Unfortunately the withdrawal from the Arakan was by no means a rest. The conversion programme was fairly intensive. Ultimately all airmen were sent on leave. At the beginning of July 6 Dominion pilots were grounded prior to their withdrawal from SEAC. Since its inception, the Squadron has had a complement of Canadian and Australian crews and the final dissolution of this partnership was regretted.

    Beau at StTMt 72
    Beaufighter, St Thomas Mount July 1945 (Winton collection)
    The old and the new. An anonymous Beaufighter taxiing. In the distance, left, a line up of equally anonymous, all-silver doped Mosquitoes that had taken over from it.

On July 11th the Squadron shifted to St Thomas Mount, Madras, rejoining HQ 901 Wing then at Cholavram. It was intended to take part in the invasion of Malaya landing at Port Swettenham during September. The training continued at St Thomas Mount, in addition everyone attended a short ground defence course.

11 Squadron RAF, St Thomas Mount, July 1945
211 Squadron RAF, St Thomas Mount, July 1945 (RAF official via Peter Spooner)

    [A fine shot if a little soft at high resolution. It is plain that many of the Squadron aircrew are in the second row, seated. Several others can be seen in the third row, standing, others still squat in the front row. The pilots flying badges can be seen quite well, though the single wing of the Nav/Ws is harder to spot. It is possible that this shot is in fact at Yelahanka some time in May or June 1945.

    Aircrew identifiable in the seated (2nd) row:
    16th from left: a pilot, possibly F/Lt EL
    Wood, though his tour had completed in April.
    20th from left certainly F/Lt and Acting S/Ldr FM
    Bruckshaw, who had been made Flight Commander in mid-April at Yelahanka. Here he seems here to be in the central seat customarily taken by the senior officer on the day.
    2nd from the far right is certainly W/O Alfie
    Wythe, looking pretty dour.

    In the front row, 12th from the left, is W/O Tom Taylor (pilot), next to him and 13th from the left is W/O Harry Morrell (Nav/W). The Squadron dachshund, 6th from the right, is possibly F/Lt Pete Smith DFC’s “Puggles” mentioned by Monty Walters.]

    Sqdn mess  Madras 72
    Squadron Mess, Madras cJuly 1945 (Winton collection)
    St Thomas Mount, in other words, then on the South-Eastern outskirts of the great city now known as Chennai.

For the VJ celebrations [on 17 August], the Squadron threw in its hand with the Station, producing a celebration which was strongly reminiscent of Christmas (or any of the rare occasions where beer is free) .In many ways its members received the news phlegmatically. On August 20th Mosquitoes helped to carry out a victory flypast.

    Madras Victory Flypast 20 August 1945
    Madras Victory Flypast 20 August 1945 (RAF official via P Spooner)
    [A variety of aircraft took past in the flypast, and F/Lt Spooner provided a radio-style commentary.]

After several false alarms Operation Bibber was laid down, the Squadron preparing to occupy Don Muang Airfield, Bangkok. At the end of August when W/Cdr. RCO Lovelock DFC was posted to No 901 Wing, W/Cdr DL Harvey formerly of 27 Squadron, became the Commanding Officer. September was an unsatisfactory month. To conserve the aircraft “hours” flying was restricted to air test. During the last week 7211 SE boarded 3 LSTs and set course for Rangoon, where apparently without reason the Sea Party had to change ship. The Echelon reached Bangkok four weeks after leaving Madras. Apart from the disorganisation at Rangoon, the voyage was uneventful, food and accommodation being quite satisfactory. Meanwhile the aircraft were serviced by 7045 and 7082 Echelons who moved from Cholavram to the Mount. It was discovered at the last moment that Don Muang 1300 yard runway was unsuitable for the regular operation of Mosquitoes. After negotiation with Air HQ Burma the Air Party advanced to Akyab, where it carried out a brief training programme mainly formation flying.

At Don Muang, the airmen worked hard to straighten out the camp but had adequate opportunities for sports and recreation. The hope that W/Cdr Meagher DSO DFC expressed in January '44 had been fulfilled, Bangkok within range!! There was a regular air service between Don Muang and Akyab done by Mosquitoes. On November 18th Air Marshal Saunders of Air HQ Burma recommended the disbandment of No. 211 Squadron. In view of the limited servicing facilities at Akyab, the Air Party entered Don Muang on November 26th and 27th, a 300 yard overshoot having been almost completed. At the end of November a reprieve was received from the Supremo who declared that No. 211 Squadron should remain at Don Muang for prestige purposes.

The Squadron finally disbanded on March 15th due mainly to unserviceability of Mosquitoes, caused by extremes of climate. All aircraft were flown away to Selatar and personnel were posted to various units of Burma Command.

Casualties No 211 Squadron

Place, date

Name

 

Remarks

Phaphamau

 

 

 

1 Nov 1943

1331765 F/Sgt Oliver

Pilot

Killed in flying accident

 

1318887 Sgt Small

Navigator/W

 "

Poona

 

 

 

13 Nov 1943
[sic: 5 Nov]

656508 Sgt Russ

Pilot

Killed in flying accident

Ranchi

 

 

 

18 Dec 1943
[sic: 15 Dec]

972098 F/Sgt Grant

Pilot

Killed in flying accident

 

11522466 Sgt Rendall
[sic 1152466 Sgt Bendall]

Navigator/W

 " [died of injuries received, 17 Dec]

25 Dec 1943
[sic: 27 Dec]

CAN J8141 F/O Edgar [sic F/L Edgar]

Pilot

Killed in flying accident

Silchar

 

 

 

13 Jan 1944

126159 F/O Bovier

Pilot

Missing on ops: died Rangoon, dysentery

 

1451252 Sgt Anderson

Navigator/W

Shot in plane on ground

22 Jan 1944

1279499 [F/]Sgt Seeley

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1322044 Sgt Small [sic PG Short]

Navigator/W

 "

Bhatpara

 

 

 

[15 Feb 1944]

128590 F/O AJ Sharpe

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1381981 F/Sgt Pottinger

Navigator/W

Released from Rangoon Jail

16 Feb 1944

R1076969 W/O Thompson
[sic
Thomson]

Pilot

Injured

24 Feb 1944

778767 F/Sgt Donaldson

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1042107 F/Sgt Bewsher

Navigator/W

 "

6 Mar 1944

A404741 F/O Fuller

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1396062 Sgt Cook

Navigator/W

 "

8 Mar 1944

121527 F/O JF Luing

Pilot

Missing from ops
died Rangoon Jail

 

136061 F/O White

Navigator/W

Died Rangoon Jail ???

11 Mar 1944

CAN J86437 P/O Depew

Pilot

Missing believed killed

 

1198789 F/Sgt Woolley

Navigator/W

 "

[14 Mar 1944

CAN J12883 F/O Cruickshank

Pilot

Missing from ops]

 

[134713 F/O McKenzie

Navigator/W

 "]

24 Mar 1944

CAN R118406 W/O Adamson [J85700 P/O]

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1288253 F/Sgt Moss

Navigator/W

 "

27 Mar 1944

CAN J16291 F/O Waddell

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

136062 F/O Woodall

Navigator/W

 "

17 Apr 1944

1463571 F/Sgt Chambers

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1580895 Sgt Lovell

Navigator/W

18 Apr 1944

1048291 F/Sgt Carr

Pilot

Killed in fllying accident, Ranchi

 

1078671 F/Sgt Clelland

Navigator/W

 "

29 Apr 1944

1213620 F/Sgt Davies

Pilot

Missing from ops believed killed

 

1072498 F/Sgt Gilmore

Navigator/W

 "

6 May 1944

1369740 F/Sgt Bell

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1497952 F/Sgt Nash

Navigator/W

[Killed]

7 May 1944

R109174 W/O Hall
[J86974 P/O Hall]

Pilot

Missing. Shot resisting capture

 

1082323 F/Sgt Parker
[176397 P/O JG Parker]

Navigator/W

Missing. Died Rangoon Jail - Dysentery and cholera

28 May 1944

A401785 W/O Goddard

Pilot

Missing from ops - shot down by P51s

 

1233069 W/O Boon

Navigator/W

 "

Feni

 

 

 

3 Jun 1944

116427 F/Lt Lockyer

Pilot

Killed

 

113344 F/O Bishop

IO

Missing believed drowned

 

1264075 F/Sgt McCormick

Navigator/W

Injured

9 Jun 1944

1334131 F/Sgt Reavill

Pilot

Injured

11 Jun 1944

J14842 F/O Jackson

Pilot

Missing & believed killed

 

1535804 F/Sgt Jones

Navigator/W

 "

13 Jun 1944

J12845 F/Lt Haarenson
[sic:
Haakenson]

Pilot

Missing, released Rangoon Jail

 

1321315 F/Sgt Ferguson

Navigator/W

 "

Chiringa

 

 

 

27 Jul 1944

1235518 F/Sgt Williams

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1522557 F/Sgt Gollop

Navigator/W

 "

1 Aug 1944

R127519 W/O Vaughan [P/O J88656]

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1139861 F/Sgt Lightfoot

Navigator/W

 "

6 Aug 1944

990198 F/Sgt Leach

Pilot

Injured

12 Aug 1944

175399 P/O [Frederick Thomas] Gamlin

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1550874 W/O Mcarns
[sic: BB “Barney”
Mearns]

Navigator/W

Released from Rangoon Jail

27 Aug 1944

CAN J16295 F/O Cuddy

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1338070 W/O Tomlinson

Navigator/W

Released from Rangoon Jail

14 Sep 1944

1270380 W/O England

Pilot

Missing from ops

[sic: 24 Sep]

1318859 W/O Blanell [sic: Blaxall]

Navigator/W

 "

27 Sep 1944

15148 F/O Shippin

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1602241 F/Sgt Oblein

Navigator/W

Released from Rangoon Jail

14 Oct 1944

1436658 F/Sgt Hipperson

Pilot

Missing believed killed

 

1585463 F/Sgt Harvey

Navigator/W

 "

18 Oct 1944

41553 F/Lt Coles

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

152568 F/O Painter

Navigator/W

11 Dec 1944

CAN J26409 F/O Barlow

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1418377 F/Sgt Quaintenance
[sic Quaintance]

Navigator/W

 "

17 Dec 1944

1334151 F/Sgt Bell

Pilot

Killed in flying accident

 

574199 Sgt Lawrence

WEM

"

13 Jan 1945

121532 S/Ldr RN Dagnall

Pilot`

Missing from ops

 

152683 F/O Stenning

Navigator/W

 "

7/8 Feb 1945

R168763 F/Sgt Fitzpatrick

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

1548317 F/Sgt Lock

Navigator/W

 "

10 Feb 1945

1395676 F/Sgt Purnell

Pilot

Missing from ops

[sic 9 Feb]

1801903 F/Sgt Grimsdell

Navigator/W

 "

12 Feb 1945

990198 W/O Leach

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

138079 F/O Callaghan

Navigator/W

Released from Rangoon [Jail]

7 May 1945

187554 F/O Anderson

Pilot

Missing from ops

 

187915 F/O Davies

Navigator/W

 "

Bangalore

 

 

 

29 May 1945

1432334 W/O Lowcock

Pilot

Killed in a flying accident

[sic: 29 Jun]

1575737 W/O Wilkes

Pilot

"

2 Jul 1945

1455066 W/O Webster

Pilot

Killed in a flying accident

 

1550365 F/Sgt Hopes

Navigator/W

"

[13 Dec 1945

F/O SF Dunnett

Pilot

Killed in flying accident]


[Note: In those cases where it has been possible to compile a personal narrative, links are provided in the usual way. Brief details of each loss are linked under Remarks, above.]

In February 1950, S/Ldr JSR Muller-Rowland died in a flying accident at Bletchley [DH108 test flying].

Honours and Awards No 211 Squadron
[See
Gallantry awards for gazettal citation and/or recommendation details]

Distinguished Service Order
W/Cdr P
Meagher DFC 34072 Pilot
S/Ldr
Muller-Rowland DFC and Bar 103497 "

Distinguished Flying Cross
W/Cdr
Meagher 34072 Pilot
S/Ldr
Stacey RAAF 406372 Pilot
S/Ldr
Martineau 42862 Pilot
S/Ldr Smith 124791 Pilot
F/Lt
Mitchell 151972 Pilot
F/Lt Parker 151380 Nav W
F/O Stevens 151116 Pilot
F/O Vardigans 151222 Pilot
F/O Slayman 1322377 Pilot [sic: JW Stayman]
F/O Montague
Browne 150441 Pilot
F/O Moffatt Can J1630 Pilot [sic: J16307 F/O LG
Moffat RCAF. No trace of DFC found to date.]
P/O Bigg 190295 Pilot [sic: A Begg]
P/O Lacey 188633 Nav W
P/O MacDonald 176291 Pilot
P/O
O’Mara RCAF J85701 Pilot
W/O Spooner 1600179 Nav W [sic: Dennis
Spencer 1600179]
W/O Freeman 1576519 Nav/W
W/O
Manderson 1370853 Nav/W
W/O Hopkins 963996 Nav/W

Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
S/Ldr JSJ Muller-Rowland DSO DFC 103497 Pilot

Distinguished Flying Medal
W/O AB
Wythe 1370853 Pilot
F/Sgt SR Gilley 1321801 Nav W

Mentioned in despatches
F/Sgt CA Lambert 702156 F 2E
F/Sgt S Teague 359212 CWF
F/Lt DL Flint EO
[sic: No DL Flint is shown in any Air Force List of Officers from 1943 to 1945, one DA Flint being the only likely match among those Mentioned in despatches. F/O DA Flint 51241, an Engineer of the Technical Branch, had been so awarded as 569902 Flight Sergeant DA Flint in the London Gazette of 8 January 1943 (p44), presumably for work in 1942: that is, apparently during the period when 211 Squadron had ceased to be.

Donald Albert Flint was commissioned in 1943 and advanced to Flying Officer in January 1944. He remained in the RAF post-war, the London Gazette recording his progress. Granted a permanent commission in 1948 as Flight Lieutenant in the Technical Branch, he was promoted Squadron Leader in 1954 and Wing Commander in 1961. DA Flint AMBIM 51241 rose to Group Captain in the Engineer Branch in January 1970—a career of considerable achievement. Further searches of the (sometimes still intractable) Gazette found no trace of a second war-time Mention, nor of his retirement.

 

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Site created 15 Apr 2001, last updated 2 Mar 2017. Page created 31 Jan 2004, last updated 15 Mar 2016
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