December 3, 2022

The Units

Fifteen units of the IAF had the pleasure of operating the Spitfire. These were Nos 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16 Fighter and No 1 PR Squadron (later 101 Squadron) and No 1 AFS(India) (Advanced Flying School (India) and No 2 FTS (Flying Training School).

No 1 Squadron (Tigers) : Formed 01.4.43 at Drigh Rd with Wapiti IIa for Army Co-op then Hart, Audax and Lysander. Converted to Fighter unit with Hurricane Mks I and IIb from Sep 44. With Spitfire LF VIIIc from Nov 45 at Kohat. Samungli 02 Apr 46, then Yelahanka 18 Jun 46. Detachment at Miranshah from 27 Oct 45 to 7 Apr 46 and again from 27 Mar 47 with few FR XIVe. Reduced to 8 from 16 MkVIII from 15 May 47 and moved to Peshawar. Re equipped Tempest F.II Jul 47 and assets transferred to RPAF 15 Aug 47. Re-raised in 1951 by renumbering No.15 Squadron on 26 Jan 1953. Flew Vampires, Mysteres and MiG-21s. Today flying Mirage 2000 H/TH.

1 Squadron pilots ‘scramble’ and ‘brief’ for a photo shoot at Samungli in 1946. Note SEAC bands still applied to their Mk VIIIe s. The pilots are Haider, Thandi, Zahid, Phillip, Beg, Subia, Mendoza and Aziz.

 

No 2 Squadron (Winged Arrows) : Formed 1.4.41 at Peshawar with Wapiti IIa for army co –op, then Lysander from 24 Nov 41. Converted to Tac R role with Hurricane IIb from 7 Sep 42 then Spitfire LF VIIIc from Jan 46 at Kohat. Samungli from 9 Nov 46 then Poona 10 Feb 47. Manned detachments at Miranshah from 2 Apr 46 to 6 Jun 46 then Aug 46. Reduced to 8 from 16 Mk VIII 31 May 47. Re equipped F/FR XVIIIe Dec 48 till Oct 53. Currently flying MiG 27 ML.

A No 2 Squadron LF VIIIc in the post war silver scheme in Indian markings. Thisaircraft (almost certainly MT 915, Merlin 66) was taken on charge by the RAF on 15.11.44 and arrived India on 4.2.45. Reflected in RIAF India census of 5.46, taken on charge by 2 Squadron from 20.1.46 till 4.47. Retd RAF and struck off charge on 31.7.47. Its IAF service is unknown.
Another view of a 2 Squadron F VIII in SEAC scheme but with type ‘D’ Indian roundels and single letter ID. The serial is a mystery as no ‘NT —‘ existed and no VIIIs existed in any T—- serials.

No 3 Squadron (Cobras): Formed 1.10.41 as FR unit at Peshawar with Audax I. Converted to FB role with Hurricane IIc from Nov 43. With 16 LF VIIIc from Nov 45 at Risalpur and at Kolar from 2 Jan 46. Re equipped with Tempest F.II from Sep 47. Currently flying MiG 21 Bison (Bis Upgrade).

A 3 Squadron MkVIII in SEAC markings but no White ID bands (onlyaircraft in theater would have these applied) rests at Peshawar. Note white spinner with a colored tip (red?)

No 4 Squadron (Oorials): Formed 1 Feb 42 as Tac R unit at Peshawar with Lysander II. Then Hurricane IIc for FGA from Aug 43. Spitfire LF VIIIc from Jun 45 at Yelahanka. Some F/FR XIVe from Jan 46 to Mar 46. Embarked for Japan on 6 Mar 46 as part of Commonwealth occupation forces, based Iwakuni from 31 Mar 46 with F/FR XIVe and Miho (Hiroshima) from 6 May 46. Returned to India 19 Jul 47 leaving all aircraft in Japan. Re equipped Kanpur/Chakeri on Tempest F.II. Today Flying MiG 21 Bis.

No 4 Squadron RIAF embark HMS Vengeance for trip to Japan end Mar 46. One FR Mk XIVe wears the serial RN 202? And the other MV2–. Theseaircraft sport the RAF ‘C’ type roundel whilst many other 4 Squadronaircraft sported both the silver and camouflage schemes with the SEAC Blue and Sky Blue roundel but no white ID bands in Japan.

No 6 Squadron (Dragons): Formed 1.12.42 at Trichinapoly with Hurricane IIb for Tac R. Converted to Spitfire LF VIIIc and F/FR XIVe from Nov 45 at Kohat (also had few PR.XI). Ranchi from 10 Jan 46 disbanding on 30 Apr 47. Reformed next day at Mauripur (Karachi) as Dakota unit. Ceased to exist on 15 Aug 47 pending formation as PAF unit. Later reformed as IAF Liberator unit. This unit had the honour of being commanded by Squadron Ldr JC Varma DFC (1.8.46 to 11.1.47), the only other Indian (sources state that Flt Lt MS Pujji whilst with 43 Squadron RAF flying the Spifire Mk Vc claimed two Bf 109s destroyed and one probable over Europe in 1943) to bring down an enemy aircraft in WW II (a JAAF Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Oscar) flown by Cpl Tsuneo Nabeta of the 204th Sentai on 15.2.44 over Taung Bazaar). Currently flying Jaguar M.

No 7 Squadron (Bison, later Battle Axes): Formed 1.12.42 at Vizagapatnam with Vengeance I, later III. Hurrican IIc from Nov 44. Converted to Spitfire F/FR XIVe (also some LF VIIIc and PR XI) from Dec 45 to Mar 46 at Gwalior. Then Kohat, Miranshah and Risalpur on 30 Apr 47. Re equipped with Tempest F II at Agra from May 47. However re equipped with Spitfires (due spares problems with Tempest) which served till early 49 alongside Vampires and took part in Kashmir operations in 47/48. Currently flying Mirage 2000 H/TH.


No 8 Squadron (The Eighth Pursoot): This was the only IAF squadron to be equipped with Spitfires and fly them in action during WW2. Also formed 1.12.42 with 7 Squadron at Trichinapoly with Vengeance I and III. Spitfire LF VIIIc from Jul 44 at Samungli. Operated four Mk V/Trop in Nov 44 from Amarda Road pathfinding for Allied P-51s and P-47s. Nidania from 29 Dec 44 and Baigachi from 23 Feb 45. Flew operations from ‘George’ strip south of Cox Bazaar from 3.1.45. Two flights operated from Akyab forward strip carrying out patrols along the beachs and covered the landing of the 26 Indian Div at Ramree island. Embarked for Rangoon 19 Jul 45. Took over 16 Spitfires VIIIs from 607 Squadron RAF at Mingaladon. Carried out “cab-rank” patrols with one 500 lb bomb alongside RAF Thunderbolts against Japanese forces escaping west of the Rangoon-Toungoo Rd. Spitfires also dropped supplies to the Burmese guerillas of force 136 behind enemy lines. The last operational sortie by a RIAF Spitfire was on 13.8.45 when a lone aircraft dropped supplies to a small groups of V-Force men in the Kyaukki area. 8 Squadron Spitfires escorted the two Japanese aircraft transporting Lt Gen Numata from Elephant Point to Mingaladon outside Rangoon to sign the instrument of surrender. The Squadron returned to India 24 Jan 46 then Trichinopoly with F/FR XIVe on 4 Feb 46. Moved to Kolar and re equipped with Tempest FII from Oct 46. last Spitfire left behind on moving to Poona on 13 May 47. Currently flying MiG 21 FL.

A Spitfire FR XIVe clipped wing MV 364 ‘A’ of 8 Squadron at Kolar in 1946. Note the SEAC markings with ‘D’ type roundel in Indian Colours. The exact date when Indian markings were applied is not known. However, this appears to have occurred around mid-1946.

No 9 Squadron (Wolf pack): Formed 3.1.44 at Lahore with Hurricane IIc. Converted to LF VIIIc from May 45 at Baigachi. Then to Ranchi Oct 45 and to Hmawbi /Rangoon in Nov 45 with some F/FR XIVe. Back to Willingdon in Jan 46 and Gwalior in Feb. Totally re equipped with F/FR XIVe , moved to Peshawar in Mar 46 and Bhopal on 14 Jan 47. Reduced to 8 XIVs and then re equipped with Tempest F II and transferred to RPAF on 15 Aug 47. Re raised as an RIAF unit in 1948 on F/FR XVIIIe and served until Oct 53. Currently flying Mig 27 ML.

No 10 Squadron (Daggers): Formed 20 Feb 44 at Lahore with Hurricane IIc. Converted to Spitfire LF VIIc from May 45 at Yelahanka (six LF VIIIc from 17 Squadron RAF). Moved to Kajamalai/ Trichinapoly May 45 and then to Ulunderpet in Nov 45. Then to Hmawbi on 22 Nov 45 and back to Baigachi and Barrackpore on 15 Feb 46. Finally to Chakeri on 15 may 47 to convert to Tempest MkIIs. Currently flying MiG 27 ML.

No 12 Squadron (Camels): Formed 1.12.45 with LF VIIIc at Kohat. To Risalpur on 28 Jan 46 and Bairagarh on 23 Jun 46, converting to Dakotas from Aug 46. Currently flying AN-32.

No 14 Squadron (Fighting Bulls): Formed 15 Aug 51 with F/FR XVIIIe at Ambala. To Barrackpore in 52 and back to Halwara in 57. Became last piston engined front line unit of the IAF. Converted to Hunters in 1957. Currently flying Jaguar S.

A No 14 Squadron FR Mk XVIIIe lies with a broken back after overshooting the Runway at Halwara. Note the black tail band (also wing tips) applied to all Spitfires and Tempests at that time

No 15 Squadron (Flying Lancers): Formed 20 Aug 51 at Ambala as PR unit with PR Mk XI. Disbanded Jan 53. Re raised, Currently Mig 21 Bis unit.

No 16 Squadron (Cobras); Formed in 1951 with F/FR XVIIIe. Ceased to operate Spitfires in 1954. Currently operating Jaguar S.

No 101 Squadron (Falcons): Formed as No 1 PR Flt in Jan 48 at Jammu with FR XVIIIe and then with PR XIX from 49. Disbanded 1958. Re raised in 1968 on Su-7s, currently flying MiG 21 M in PR role.

Advanced Flying School (India): Formed 1 Apr 46 from No 1 (Indian) Advanced Flying Unit, No 1 Service Flying Traing School and No 151 OTU at Ambala and absorbed into RIAF on 1 Jun 47. Flew LF VIIIc, F/Fr XIVe and XVIIIe and finally T.IX from 1949 to 57.

A FR Mk XIVe of the AFS (India) Ambala in the post ‘chakra’ markings hastily applied over the earlier type ‘C’ roundel. Most Spitfires in the training role carried a double digit ID numeral under the cockpit.

Spitfire FR XIVe NH 786 of the SFTS RIAF Ambala seen at Peshawar during 1946. It was written off on 2.8.46 when the engine failed during aerobatics and the aircraft was force landed 12 miles east of Ambala Plt Offr SMS Haque being injured.

Spit-AmbConv.jpg (24223 bytes) Flight Cadets pose with a Spitfire FR XVIIIe at Ambala. Photo Courtesy : Wg Cdr IM Chopra (Retd) via Gp Capt Kapil Bhargava

No 2 Flying Training school (FTS): Formed at Jodhpur, temporarily used T.IXs from 1949 to 57.

Spit-InderChopra.jpg (15995 bytes)
Wg Cdr Don Michael and his pupils at Advanced Flying School Hakimpet. Plt Offr (later Air Mshl) Prithi Singh is on his left. Note the white band on the black spinner of this Mk XVIIIe with zero length rocket rails. Plt Offr (later Wg Cdr Retd, Chief test Pilot then Chairman HAL) IM Chopra poses by an Mk XVIII. Note white spinner with black (??) roundels. Photo Courtesy : Wg Cdr IM Chopra (Retd) via Gp Capt Kapil Bhargava Flight Cadet Peter Maynard Wilson (later Air Cmde Retd, PVSM and VrC) with a Spitfire Mk XVIII at AFS Ambala. Photo Courtesy : Air Cmde Peter Wilson (Retd) via K Sree Kumar

* Phrase inscribed on the Silver Trophy presented to the Royal Air Force by Supermarine and Rolls Royce, implying that the old soldier is retiring finally after doing its duty in war.

Acknowledgements: I would wish to thank the following people without whose research, love for the IAF and the Spitfire and support, this article would not be possible, in no particular order they are:

Helmut Terbeck, Harry van Der Meer , Ray Sturtivant , Peter Arnold, Phil camp, Simon Watson, Pushpinder Singh, Jagan Pillarisetti and my father.

Wherever possible the Original Copyright owners of the photographs have been contacted and permission taken for. Most of the Spitfire Survivor's 'Before Restoration' photographs are from Mr. Peter Arnold's collection.

All the photographs on this page are hosted on "www.bharat-rakshak.com". This article originally appeared on that website.

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