Night Intruder: A Personal Tribute To The Canberra

A 35 Squadron veteran writes about his personal experiences with the Canberra - and the 1971 War!

Mixed formation B.66, T.54 and B(I)58

There she was in her cool camouflage colours standing on the tarmac in the hot June morning sun. This was a lot different from the simple balsa-wood Vampire that I was used to. The array of dials, switches, gauges, warning lights, levers, buttons and knobs inside the cockpit on the instrument panel was mind boggling. Everything looked terribly complicated. As I squeezed my diminutive frame through the side entrance to climb into the Mk 1C ejection seat, I could not help feeling that this aircraft was designed for tall pilots and short navigators. True to tradition our IAF settled for just the opposite for reasons best known to the powers that be.

For an ex-fighter jockey with 1500 hrs behind him, the Canberra was quite a change. Old habits died hard. I was ready to taxi out on one engine on my first dual check. I was sarcastically reminded that on this aircraft you had TWO engines to worry about. Conversion was not exactly a hair-raising experience, and that maneuverability of the T4 trainer surprised you. When you took the B-58 Bomber on the first trip, the power of the engines was most impressive. The aircraft gave the feel of a thoroughbred. Once you got used to the heave-ho stick pressures it was love at first sight. It handled like a dream at all heights.

The Canberra force was the punch of the nation - the vanguard of the Deep Strike Force. Aircrews were fed from both the Fighter and transport streams. One took a little time to settle down in the crew room. Fighter boys were always gassing about who got whom in a tail chase sortie, while the transport kingpins were usually relating horror stories about landing at some remote ALG in some godforsaken place in bad weather. Navigators were perpetually buried under maps, charts, almanacs, FLIPS etc. to take sides in any argument. You could also spot the difference on the tarmac. A transport chap would usually meander along in a most unflappable manner, while a fighter chap would be tearing around as if his tail was on fire. Soon you steeled down and reconciled to each others hang-ups. Crew Room jabber was lively, and with a full house, and on bad weather days, casualties from "friendly fire" were high.

For former single-engine fighter types it was also a novel experience to fly with a crew member - your navigator! They came in all shapes and sizes. Some were dark and handsome. Others were short, fat and gruesome. Some were bald bawdy beer guzzlers while others were cute and cuddly vegetarian teddy bears. All, without fail came clutching a well-worn leather bag close to their chest - the contents of which was always a mystery! Its stuffing varied with the temperament of its owners. Besides the mandatory maps, charts (nautical, aero-nautical, astronomical, astrological???), FLIPS, call signs, authentication tables, instrument box, pencils, rubbers, rulers etc you could also find toilet paper, packs of cards, address books (girls!?!), telephone book (Bookies), moldy cigarettes, non-functional lighters, chewing tobacco, snuff, pan-masala, rabbit's foot and condoms (unused). Reading material (if any) varied from the earliest in philosophy - to the latest in pornography!!! Your navigator soon became your Bosom Buddy - a friend, philosopher and guide. A bonding which lasted a lifetime! If you vibed well, you could be sharing intimate details of your love life with him on long-long high level cross-country sorties (often over three hours duration), while listening to sentimental music, high above the clouds. Pilot-navigation receded into the background and you settled happily for navigator-navigation and its associated perks. All pilots were expected to run around for ATC/ADC clearance for all sorties, and everyone happily complied.

The handling characteristics of the aircraft were excellent. Your own confidence level rose exponentially as you gained experience. Occasionally, you were tempted to put the aircraft through its paces. On such occasions, your crew-cooperation was put to test, as some navigators were apprehensive about the aircraft as well as the pilot's capabilities. My navigator (during conversion phase) was an ex night-fighter veteran. We got along like a house on fire from the first sortie. He was crazy as a coot, but a good level headed professional. He was a big loose article in the cockpit, but 'g' forces during maneuvers always gave him orgiastic pleasures! We landed in the same squadron after conversion and clicked as a team together. We were privileged to share many unforgettable experiences together for the next six years.

After clocking a reasonable number of hours, it was time for night conversion. Three days before the full moon, you were taken up in a T4 for general handling and then endless series of circuits and bumps - initially on two engines and then on single engine. My navigator suffered in silence in the back seat while I got the correct perspective of the flare path at check height. Finally, on a full moon night I was launched in a B(I)58. I took off in a light drizzle, in pitch darkness, as the moon was obscured by a passing cloud at the auspicious moment, but as it was 30 degrees above the horizon as per the Book, nobody noticed! Everybody believed that whatever went up usually came down in one piece - especially the Canberra!

As months passed we slowly adapted to our Night Intruder role. Night sorties overtook our day sorties. We would be changing into overalls when others were packing up. Night flying was cool, comforting, and free from turbulence and the menace of birds. Taking off for a dusk strike and climbing away into a setting sun was an exhilarating experience. As you climbed into the sunset, you could see the approaching darkness devour the daylight below. Some fabulous technicolour sunsets were an unforgettable sight when seen from heights of 10 km or above.

Night flying however took its toll. There were cases of experienced pilots dropping out, as they felt uncomfortable at high altitudes, especially in hazy moonlight conditions. The B(I)58 cockpit was not very well designed. The control column obscured your basic instruments. You had to learn to look around the offending obstruction to monitor you heading on the G4B compass. The fuel gauges were on the right side and indicated quantity in pounds in individual tanks. Those weak in elementary maths (like me) called out the readings in five tanks for the navigator who helpfully totaled it for you. All this involved moving your head up and down, and from side to side. This would create butterflies in your stomach, especially if you happened to be inside a cloud (IMC) and if your head movements were jerky. DISORIENTATION leading to VERTIGO was a real danger and even very experienced pilots admitted that it crept up on you when you least expected it.

Once on a sortie at Lohegaon Range I was running in at low level for a First Run Attack (FRA) in hazy half-moon conditions. At seven nautical miles from the target I was to pull up to 10,000 feet for a practice bombing pass. As the range was just next to the airfield complex, I wanted to ensure I was at the correct distance for safety. As I commenced the pull-up I looked to the right! Suddenly the stars above and the lights below seemed to merge and before I could figure out which was which I was on my back completing a barrel roll. My navigator realized my plight and yelled 'Wings level' to get me on instruments, and we recovered with about 500 feet between us and terra ferma. We quietly joined circuit without dropping our bombs, landed and slinked back to the crew room on wobbly knees. That night, I signed a contract to guarantee my navigator for a lifetime supply of beer. The agreement is still valid today.

The normal obstacle course of the 'Fully Ops' syllabus was completed without too many hiccups or heartburns. However we got stuck when it came to 'BLUE STUDY' bombing. This was all about using super-secret bombing equipment which was a little ahead of its time. You could achieve smart bomb levels of accuracy on the range with ordinary stupid bombs. This depended on two ground beacons, which were usually AOG rendering the airborne equipment impotent. By the time some egg head at Air HQ decided to waive off this requirement, two years had passed. Finally, the day dawned when we were stamped 'Fully Ops', much to the relief of the CO. The consumption of beer on weekends took an upward turn as our tribe increased and proliferated.

We had two operational Flight Commanders who usually planned double details on Friday nights. The first detail was launched and recovered before midnight, and the second after midnight. This usually ended with a pre-dawn raid over base/range. Four or more Canberras streaking overhead with their bomb-doors open at low level and then rejoining circuit in formation at 0400 hrs always rattled the neighbourhood and torpedoed a number of family planning programmes. This was always followed by an RV at the Bar where Bernard and John (May peace be upon them) always positioned the bottles of soda, cigarettes etc to avoid being pulled out at 0330 hrs. All consumption was on an Honour Code basis and nobody ever complained. The sorties carried on till the wee hours and we usually adjourned at daybreak for a long weekend. This was long before the five-day week was introduced in the Air Force.

The 'Fully Ops' ticket was a license to kill. You were shunted off to far-flung places on detachments during exercises. On one such detachment at NAL, a few spotted deer were knocked off on the last day, courtesy the GLO, (Shades of Salman Khan?!!). NAL was a Care & Maintenance Unit in those days. Refrigeration facilities at the base were non-existent. As the summer sun was at its peak in mid May, the only way to save the meat was to fly it back to base. Our bomb racks were replaced with luggage carriers and they were stuffed with the kills. Aircraft flew back at 55,000 feet to deep-freeze the precious cargo at -50° C. Chefs say that deer meat tastes out of this world when cooked after 24 hours. I can vouch for that.

The Republic Day was another annual event where all three Squadrons sent their detachments to AGRA. It was a gathering of Eagles. This was long before the oil crunch and the Parade was followed by a fly-past by anything up to 150-200 aircraft, of all types. Twenty Canberras in five boxes of four each, neatly tucked-in, were always a majestic sight over Rajpath. After take off, we loitered for 45 minutes at RV to let six AN-12s pass over India Gate before making our appearance ahead of the fighter formations. Keeping position in a sky churned up by six AN-12s just ahead of you required blood, sweat, and tears. Thanks to the inherent stability of the aircraft we always stuck together over the dais. We operated with tip tanks. Ours was the last box as we would set course direct for home after crossing the National Stadium. We would commence climbing to return to Pune direct in tactical formation, flying above all traffic at 40,000 feet. For years the public admired the magnificent spectacle of twenty Canberras thundering over Rajpath in box formation. Little did they know that the last box had their bomb bays stuffed with rice bags, dalmoth, pethas, leather goods, cane furniture, brassware and tons of green vegetables procured the day before. These were all produce of the local market, which were in great demand in Pune. In the days before the advent of TV, our ladies at base would monitor our progress on AIR (All India Radio) commentary and move out to congregate at the squadron tarmac once they heard that we had over flown the saluting dais. Home coming heroes got a good reception and the ladies got their goodies and groceries.

The Fire Power demonstration at Tilpat/Pokharan was another annual event. Some whiz kid at WAC (Western Air Command)  had calculated that if four Canberras were strung out in loose line astern, three lengths apart, and came over the Range at 6,000 feet AGL and released their bomb load together, it was possible for the last aircraft to track in on target before the first bomb dropped by the first aircraft exploded in the target area. Since dignitaries were to witness this grand spectacle of 32,000 lbs of HE (High Explosive)  obliterate one target in one god almighty bang, there was no room for error. For the junior most tail-end Charlie coming in last with three aircraft ahead of him, it was a Hobson's choice. Either you maintained position in formation or listened to your navigator's bombing commentary on the final run. Trying to do both was a hilarious experience. The Brass desired bigger bangs for the buck every year and they usually got it. All because of the collective prayers of four psychic navigators!

The flight safety record of the Canberra would put many of today's hi-tech fail-safe aircraft to shame. Incidents and accidents were very few and far between. There were some nasty bird hits as we roamed all over North India as well as South India, at low level by day and night. The aircraft attracted birds but usually got you back in one piece even after sustaining severe damage. There was one occasion where the aircraft hit a blue bull on take off. The nose perspex was smashed, nose wheel sheared off and the emergency door jammed. How both crew (well-fed six-foot Jat Sikhs) squeezed out of a small opening unscathed, remains a mystery till today. On another occasion the port undercarriage got stuck. The pilot carried out a kisser landing (at night) on the starboard wheel and held the left wing up as long as possible before dropping it gently on the runway. The aircraft was back on line in two days after the usual checks and a minor paint job. Both airframe and engines were solid and well matched. Chronic problems were conspicuous by their absence. Although twin-engine insurance was a boon, the margin for error on single engine was small. This was the only vice the aircraft had, and if you forgot this fact you usually paid a terrible price. I was an eye-witness to one unfortunate accident at Agra. A young u/t pilot under conversion was making a final approach on a clear calm morning on both engines. He had over turned on finals and was unsteady at 500 feet. He could not line up with the runway but decided to continue with the approach. He crossed the threshold at high speed, checked high and chopped throttle. At this late stage, he realized his mistake. He decided to go around! In panic he yanked the nose up 30 degrees and bashed open both throttles. The starboard engine picked up. The port engine didn't. The aircraft cart wheeled in slow motion and paused on top for a second at zero speed, as if to reprimand the errant pilot, before taking its final plunge to disintegrate in a ball of fire. Mercifully, accidents such as this were extremely rare.

War Clouds gather

I had joined the Force in the mid 60s. I had already been through the Indo-Pak War in the Eastern Sector in 1965 as a fighter pilot. We were unprepared at that time. As a result, we were mostly at the receiving end. We lost quite a few aircraft on the ground as well as a few friends. For some strange reason we never really hit back in the East. That rage rankled in our bellies. When things started to go wrong in early 1971, we had this gut feeling that the day of reckoning was near. It was time for some long outstanding accounts to be settled. From March 1971 onwards, we sat in huddles drawing long lines on maps and squinting at fuel graphs. We studied Target Folders and went through Intelligence Reports. Technicians checked and re-checked bombing circuits and other on-board equipment. We familiarized with our staging bases and carried out short landings on diversionary airfields. We shifted to blast pens and operated from dispersed locations. To break the monotony, as well as combine business with pleasure, we went through dingy drills at the Station Swimming Pool. By November, we were raring to go.

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A Canberra B(I)58 belonging to the author's parent unit - No.35 Squadron "The Rapiers"

The Bomber Force was initially divided into two groups. One to take on targets in Southern Pakistan and another for targets in Northern Pakistan, POK and East Pakistan. I was to be in the first Task Force and was standing by on two fronts in Pune. My son rolled off the assembly line on 25 Oct 71. I was asked to temporarily relieve a pilot at Agra where we maintained a four aircraft detachment since March. I went to relieve him on 25 Nov 71. When I landed at Agra I realized that the balloon was all set to go up. I could not inform my wife as to why I had to stay back. She never forgave me for that. I did the next best thing. I asked for my 1 Bore DBBL (Double Barrel Breech Loader) Gun and my transistor to be sent across. I knew I was in for a long stay. Being a Bomber Babe she got the message.

3rd December 1971 was a full moon night. The Bad Guys did not disappoint us. They came on schedule. The suspense was finally over. We had gone for an evening walk. When we returned, we were told to report directly to Ops Room. Our base at Avantipur had been attacked at dusk and we were now at War. If they hadn't attacked us that night, we would have gone in on 4th December. We had our orders! They did us a big favour! We got going as per plan and I taxied out at 1900 hrs. Three aircraft were behind me. All loaded up but with minimum fuel. We were to top up at our staging base at Ambala. I was about to line up when a PAF B-57 came calling. I give the PAF pilot full marks. He made a shallow-glide pass with his guns blazing while dropping six bombs on the runway. The full moon was behind him just on the horizon. Unfortunately the runway was camofoulaged. He planted his bombs like buttons on what he THOUGHT was the runway. The grass had just been cut on the shoulders and in the moonlight it was more prominent than the runway. All his bombs missed by just 10 yards. Only one bomb landed on the intersection of 05/23 throwing up some debris on one lane. I didn't wait for him to make a second pass. I got airborne and headed for Ambala. At Ambala we had to orbit as the airfield was under attack. Three of us landed, refueled and received our mission orders. The fourth aircraft got diverted to Chandigarh! It was carrying our pack dinner! We were destined to launch on our first Mission on an empty stomach!

Our TOT got revised and re-revised. I finally taxied out from a pen at 0200 hrs in total blackout conditions. We had practiced for months and in spite of all this excitement, everything till now was all a routine. The runway lights were off. I lined up and did my final checks and waited for 'GREEN'. Then the lights come on slowly from the opposite end. It was an unforgettable moment! A scene out of a sci-fi movie. This was it! D-Day! H-Hour! For a fleeting moment, I paused to reflect. I asked to roll in a calm voice, but my throat was dry. With a silent prayer I opened throttles. The twin engines rumbled in response. I released brakes and the aircraft lurched forward. I rolled as the Tower wished me luck. I rotated at 165 kts and turned gently on a westerly heading. My target was 300 nm inside PAKISTAN. It was payback time - at last.

On the first night, our Planning cell pundits simply forgot that there was a difference between IST and PST. We maintained our TOT but much to our discomfort we found that dawn was breaking when still 100 nm on the wrong side of the IB. Our best defense was darkness. When exposed to daylight, we could only descend to tree-top level and belt at 450 kts on the return leg. This planning error proved fatal for a B(I)66 and a B(I)58 that night. While it was not clear what really happened, chances are both aircraft (from Agra) went into sand dunes in Rajasthan, when chased by enemy fighters. A few others had close shaves. One pilot reported a brilliant flash behind him and his aircraft yawed viciously to the right. He thought he had been hit by an AA missile. He landed at Sirsa on asymmetric power. After checks on landing he found a piece of metallic wire on his fin. He had inadvertently flown under a power line. That night we also lost one Canberra from JBCU. He was a confirmed kill downed near Sakesar by a PAF Mirage III.

Our Squadron had selected a cluster of airfields and the Dockyard area of Karachi for special treatment. Eight Canberras carried out a coordinated multi directional attack to plaster the complex. Bombs hit the oil storage area and fires lit up the place. Our fire-brand CO, seeing the fireworks display below, broke R/T silence, orbited at height over the target area to direct the oncoming raiders to plant their bombs. It was almost a Range Exercise. He had some pre-partition accounts to settle and made the most of it. BBC reported next morning the "Waves of Canberra bombers escorted by Hunter fighters devastated Karachi' but the truth is we never operated with escorts. The fighters got the leftovers next morning.

That night the INDIAN NAVY had planned on doing some bashing of its own. In a daring attack, their Missile Boats sank and damaged at least three major warships of PN at Karachi Harbour. It was a real Diwali. Thanks to their hi-fi PR, they hogged all the headlines next morning. Our Bomber Boys got a passing mention. The fires lit by our bombs raged out of control for the next ten days and proved to be a beacon on subsequent visits. We lost one aircraft that night. Its bombs were seen on target, but after that, it lost contact - just disappeared. The crew were declared missing.

The Squadron at Gorakhpur was also doing their patriotic bit on both fronts. They had the interdictor version which could carry a variety of rockets and bombs besides a gun pack. They left their calling cards at Skardu and Gilgit where the Pakis least expected them, particularly at night. Some of their aces had also trained with the "Shit bomb'. This was a container filled with jelly which hardened as lumps on a runway making quite a mess. The catch was you had to make an accurate pass on the centerline at a critical drop height of 30 feet. This was a tall order even in ideal conditions. Only the Boss could drop that night. He reported AA fire was going over him on his final run in. The second mission failed as the pilot could not line up properly. The canister landed outside the target. The third mission was called off as daybreak made the mission too risky.

After a week, we had settled down to a routine. We would get airborne from Agra after sunset for our staging bases. One aircraft would head for Jodhpur, one for Ambala or Chandigarh for the Northern Area Targets. One for Gauhati or Kalaikunda for business in the East. Perhaps one from Agra direct with special load of 4000 lbs HE for a special mission. From there, we would be launched and recovered either at another base or at home base by dawn. Our forays across the border became routine, almost boring. The PAF interceptors never made their presence felt. We stopped skimming the tree tops and chugged at 1000 feet AGL at 300 kts while inside enemy territory. Some AD controllers had itchy fingers and SAGW Units (particularly SAM II Units deployed outside Ambala, Adampur and Halwara) went on red alert whenever they saw incoming blips on their western sector. After one or two close shaves, we decided to minimize risk by exiting via J&K or Himachal to return to Agra. Once everybody had landed, we would adjourn for a "speshull paan' at our favorite shop outside the Guard Room before dispersing for a well deserved nap.

By the second week, Indian Army columns were closing in on Dacca. All air effort was now being concentrated in the East. Fighters were operating from dawn to dusk while we went in at night. All air opposition in the East had been neutralized and we roamed the skies at will. However over-confidence cost us a B(I) 58 on the last day. One Canberra pilot decided to carry out a shallow glide bombing attack on Tezgaon airfield which was defended by 64 LAA guns. He was torn apart by deadly Chinese multi-barreled ZU-23s which were lethal up to 3000 feet. It was an avoidable loss.

On 16th December 71, we were relaxing at base after breakfast. Four aircraft had just returned after a dawn raid on Kurmitola. We got orders to repeat the mission at 1600 hrs. We planned to go direct to target (800 nm away) at medium height, descend short of IP, and return via Kalaikunda. It was my 14th mission of the war. As this was considered to be a milk run, a rookie navigator, keen to contribute to the war effort, was detailed. By the 14th day, most of us were sleep-walking. Fatigue was catching up. I took off at 1500 hrs, climbed on an easterly heading to 25,000 feet, set the autopilot, told the navigator to wake me up at Rajshahi and went to sleep. After a refreshing 30 minutes nap, I woke up to find our descent point completely overcast. We turned on dead reckoning and began a descent IMC. We broke cloud at 4000 feet over Dacca city. We had drifted 30 nm to the starboard of track. We turned northwards to home on to our target, and inadvertently over flew Tezgaon. I realized my mistake when bright orange streaks flashed by very close to the aircraft. We were in and out of cloud at 4000 feet and black puffs of smoke seemed to appear all around us. There was a big black cloud of smoke ahead which reduced the visibility further. We thought the previous raiders had hit a jackpot. We didn't realize that one of our boys from Gorakhpur had gone down a few minutes ahead of us.

This fireworks display and crazy chatter on RT dumbfounded my navigator. His observation still rings in my ears - "I say they are SHOOTING at us'. My response is unprintable. I had two aircraft behind me, and all of us were milling around over the airfield in and out of cloud! We decided to return the compliment at Tezgaon but in this excitement the navigator forgot to put the nose safety switch ON!! We made a dummy pass. I told the boys behind me to step up while I turned reciprocal to clear my bombs in a second pass. The now familiar jerk of 8000 lbs HE leaving the aircraft was reassuring. I hope Gen Niazi got my calling card. I think he did. On our way back to base, we tuned in to AIR on the radio compass. The announcer was yelling "Dacca has fallen!' When we landed and taxied back to the pen, our ground crew were ready, waiting for us with Patiala pegs of neat RUM. The taste of victory was really heady. They had surrendered unconditionally. WE HAD WON!! That evening, at 1800 hrs our PM announced "DACCA WAS NOW THE FREE CAPITAL OF A FREE COUNTRY'. History had been made and we had contributed our mite. We were on top of the world. It was a great feeling to see INDIA on the pinnacle of victory. But we were dead, dead tired. All limits of human endurance had been crossed. We had no energy left to be a part of the Victory Celebrations. We hit the sack and slept for the next 48 hours.

An ode to the Canberra

"And they flew in the still of darkness Very very low.
A pilot and navigator were somewhere ahead of them,
Just two minutes ahead.
Another couple was somewhere behind them,
Just two minutes behind.
Surprisingly, they were trained to see
In the pitch darkness.
Their minds were preoccupied with a single aim,
To be at the right place at the right time."

The truth had to be told finally. A few days later we had the immense satisfaction to hear Gen YAHYA KHAN broadcast over Radio PAK in a slurring voice _ "HAMARI POORBIE ELAKA ME SHIKASTH HUI!! (PAUSE) LEKIN PASHCMI ELAKEME HAMARI BAHADUR JAWANO NE DUSKMAN KO MUTOOD JAWAB DIA (LONG PAUSE) INSHAHALLAH - JEET HAMARI HOOGI!!'. The speech faded away in a long series of hiccups!! Maybe with a bottle of JACK DANIEL under his belt, he was not feeling too bright.

We remained on readiness for another two months. When the two armies finally disengaged, it was time to wind up and return to home base. Bomb carriers were replaced with luggage carriers and these were filled with this, that and the other. My aircraft was the last to return. I came overhead and did a low level pass at 420 kts to announce my homecoming. I was about to pull up for a Victory Roll when I remembered that I had a belly full of rice bags, vegetables, shoes and assorted knick-knacks inside and I settled for a wing over followed by a "SPITFIRE' approach for the benefit of the reception committee. Soon after was launched a 12 aircraft Victory Flypast in RAPIER Formation. This was photographed by the 13th aircraft above. It was displayed in our Museum as a remembrance. I am the joker in the pack in the centre, who is hemmed in by all aces in the steel fist of the RAPIER! Tourists visiting Agra must never forget to visit 106 Squadrons Museum where ancient relics of old fossils of by-gone age are carefully preserved.

Fifty three years after its first flight, the Canberra is still flying. The men who handled it both in the air and on the ground still swear by it. For generations, pilots, navigators and technicians who had the privilege of associating with the aircraft, it was a life long love affair. It demanded and commanded respect. It was very forgiving. It got you home in one piece no matter what the mission. Many versions of this aircraft still equip a number of Air Forces, and with updated gadgetry, it still delivers in the 21st century. It has taken part in every conflict in all parts of the globe since the Korean War. In May 99, a Canberra PR 57 was hit by a Stinger SA missile but managed to land at Srinagar on single engine. Those Bad Guys may do their worst but the Canberra can still cock a snoot at them.

On 23rd February 2003, a Bomber Bash was organized by 106 Squadron, the last surviving unit equipped with Canberras at AGRA. It was a pleasure to see the Canberra parked in all its majesty on the familiar tarmac, ready to roll. It had been relegated to a peace time role of target towing and assorted odd jobs. It is not ready yet to be consigned to the dustbin of history. The cockpit still has the same musty smell. You wriggled inside, sweated profusely under the bubble canopy, and remembered times when those metal buckles of the straps burnt through your overalls and reddened your skin in 70° C temperature. Nobody complained then. Nobody complains even now. Many grey haired veterans were there to pay their tributes to this magnificent flying machine. When it came to the crunch, it's the man-machine combination that matters, and in this field the Canberra was a clear winner. Our generation owes it a debt of gratitude. Let the new generations pay homage.

Reproduced here with the author's permission

Copyright  Wg Cdr Anil Ghosh (Retd). All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Wg Cdr Anil Ghosh (Retd) is prohibited.