The Fledgling Years - Wg Cdr C H L Digby


-Those who have served in the Indian Air Force have made their marks in different ways. Some are remembered for being great pilots, of course, and some for being great commanders. A few are remembered for being effective administrators, or technical wizards, or for doing other unglamorous but valuable work outside public view. This is the story of a man whose major contribution - notwithstanding some highly effective episodes of squadron service and command - may have been in flying instruction, teaching others that fundamental Air Force skill. Here, then, is an encounter with one of the IAF's pioneer QFIs:

Wing Commander Cecil "Digger" Digby, IAF (Retd), a veteran of service from the 1940s to the 1960s, graciously spent a few hours with me recently, on a chilly but crisp autumn day, in a pub named for a British naval hero - not a bad venue, all things considered, at which to sit and talk about service in the Indian Air Force. Some of the snippets in the following account came from Squadron Leader Ian S ("Locky") Loughran, VM (Retd), himself at one time a flight commander within a squadron commanded by Wg Cdr Digby. Captain Loughran had organised this meeting, sat by, and as so often in meetings with veterans, occasionally interposed with some of the detail that Wg Cdr Digby had overlooked, or was too modest to recount until prompted.

The picture that emerges is that of an officer who held a ringside seat and many insights, into events and personalities of exciting periods in the service's history. And just by the way, a wealth of flying experience - there are not many desk-bound jobs in his IAF service record. An old-fashioned sort of air force career, you might say. But say it with thanks, if you do.


Early years:

Cecil Hugh Lawrence Digby was born in Mangalore in 1925. His father was in the Customs service.

He grew up in Bombay, and went to school at St Mary's. While he was still a youngster the family visited Juhu, and he overheard an English-accented lady inquiring about "the next plane to Karachi", in plummy tones that he clearly remembers vividly - some seventy years later he mimics them with great relish, sitting across the table in an English pub. That day at Juhu, he says, "was the first time I saw aeroplanes."

In 1943 he joined St Xavier's College, in the same city, but this was the time of the Quit India movement. College schedules were regularly disrupted, the college was often closed, and when the opportunity to join the Air Force came up he abandoned his college course. He is good-humoured about it, and describes himself as a "college drop-out" - but it actually had severe consequences later; he could not go on a Test Pilots' course he had hoped for, because holding a university degree was a requirement.

Cecil Digby tried to join the IAF at 17, which was below even the reduced wartime minimum of 171/2 years. His status as a student was not an obstacle at the time; he got past the initial stages, and was asked to produce evidence of his educational qualifications. The only documentary evidence of educational qualification he had at the time was his Senior Cambridge school-leaving certificate - but that bore his date of birth. Someone spotted it, worked out that he was under-age, and that was that. "Go back and grow up."

IAF entry and training:

The young Cecil Digby finally got into the Air Force in January 1944. Initial ground training was at the Initial Training Wing (ITW) in Poona (now Pune), which was housed in the Parsi Orphanage. "It was a huge place," he recalls. "Lovely - it had everything we didn't have later in service, like bathtubs and showers."

One of Digby's course-mates, and a great friend, was David Greenhorn, whom Digby recalls as "an excellent lightweight boxer, very fast on his feet and very quick with his punches, which used to come in from all directions." He particularly remembers David Greenhorn being sent into the ring for a demonstration bout with a British Army sergeant, a boxing instructor in Poona. "They were only supposed to spar," Digby writes, "but I think that the Army chap felt a bit put out with Dave's superior ability, especially in front of a large British Army gathering, and he deliberately floored Dave twice. On rising up from the second fall Dave cut up the sergeant so badly that the match had to be stopped and the sergeant carried out of the ring."

Ab initio training

He then went to Secunderabad for initial flying training on Tiger Moths. The instructors were mostly RAF, and Digby remembers that "some were prejudiced", against Indians. Digby's assigned instructor was a wartime reserve officer called Clumec. He was not a pilot by profession, but a planter, who had "flown a bit" before the war. At that stage of the war the beleaguered RAF would appear to have been happy to accept anyone who could execute a take-off and landing, for commissions (and even instructional duties) in India. "He was a 'book' instructor", Digby says. "He had never flown anything but Tiger Moths."

Clumec was initially not satisfied with Flight Cadet Digby's progress, and sent him to the Flight Commander for a test. The Flight Commander, a regular RAF officer, tested Digby and, clearly satisfied, promptly sent him solo.

Long after Digby, and several other pupils, had graduated from Tiger Moths nominally under Clumec's instruction, and moved on to more advanced types, Clumec himself was actually sent to convert to Harvards! There must have been a sense of embarrassment somewhere, among the senior officers who allocated personnel to flying training at the time.

"But many of the instructors were good RAF pilots too," Digby hastens to add. Some of the best among them were operational pilots, supposedly on a "rest" tour after the rigours of a front-line tour in Burma. They were referred to as 'Q' instructors. Digby recalls that they had no great teaching techniques, and had not undergone anything like a QFI course - but they were, for the most part, experienced and personally good fliers. "You just had to follow them."

"We didn't have instructors," Digby amplifies later. "We had demonstrators."

With about 60 hours on Tiger Moths, Digby was commissioned. Pilot Officer CHL Digby then went to the Advanced Flying School (AFS), Ambala for advanced flying training on North American T-6 Harvards.

- Digby as a newly commissioned Pilot Officer.

Advanced Flying:

Pt Off Digby's room-mate at AFS Ambala was Pilot Officer Wilbur McNeill, later another of the top rung of IAF pilots, and destined to raise one of the first Hunter squadrons for the IAF. His and McNeill's was the 26th Course. The course also included Rashid "Richard" Khan and FS "Camel" Hussein, later to achieve air rank in the Pakistan Air Force.

"The Pakistanis" - by which he means those in service who opted for Pakistan on partition - "were all smashing fellows," Digby says. "Proper officers," Loughran adds. They both say this soberly, acknowledging qualities with complete lack of prejudice - but also with not the slightest doubt about their own choices at the time.

While Digby was at Ambala, a batch of Indian cadets came back from Canada. They were all highly disgruntled by what they felt was prejudiced treatment while they were there. The RAF staff at Ambala were "put out", Digby says with a grin. Partly for this reason 26th Course did not have a formal wings parade, that goose-bump-inducing event at which wings are awarded to newly-fledged pilots. Wings were simply given out in the Mess.

Harvard IIb FS-953 is representative of the type that equipped the SFTS at Ambala. This particular aircraft went to No.1 Indian Group at Peshawar. Photo Copyright : Peter Riley via Flypast Magazine -

On completion of the Advanced course Digby and his course-mates, still in Ambala, were simply given Hurricanes and told to fly. Digby recalls that he "tried to do the same as in a Harvard - a stall turn. And the prop stopped." He went into a tail-slide followed by an incipient spin, but luckily, after what must have been a few hairy moments, the prop restarted. This was yet another symptom of the lack of a proper instructional infrastructure - the catch phrase at the time, it would seem, was "Just go and fly". There seems to have been an assumption that natural selection would weed out the unfit and the incompetent, and never mind the costs.

Operational Training:

The next formal step in training was at the famous 151 Operational Training Unit (151 OTU) in Peshawar, on Hawker Hurricanes. "They were pretty clapped-out Hurricanes," Digby confirms cheerfully that India was at the tail end of a rather extended supply chain, certainly for Hurricanes. "The fabric used to tear off, in high-speed manoeuvres!"

At the OTU, McNeill and Digby were once sent up with two instructors and told to try and shake them off. Digby put his Hurricane into a dive, and found he could not pull out - "Probably, the entire tail surface must have reversed," he says. He eventually pulled out with no more than a few thousand feet to spare. When he landed, he says, the instructor "took a running kick at me."

Certainly at both Ambala and Peshawar, Digby's experience was that the group that mixed least with other nationalities and races was not in fact the British - it was the South Africans. "There were quite a few in India, at that time."

Nevertheless, Digby seems to have enjoyed his time at OTU. He and his course were flying reasonably modern, high-performance types for the day. Both the Bouche brothers were there at the same time. He recalls, with animation, "We would do cross-over turns at low level, practically between the trees!"

As part of the course, they would practice night firing and bombing on the range, lit by goosenecks. It sounds almost incredible now, but again, the instructors would simply say, "Follow me", or "Follow what I do", and with no further briefing than that, lead a stream of ten or twelve aircraft into the air and on a bombing run.

Another of Digby's course-mates, Pilot Officer Andrew Brown "Andy" Wiseman, once strafed a set of lights on the range, but had clearly targeted the wrong lights - on landing, he got a phone call informing him that he had shot up a police station!

- "They were pretty clapped out..." Hurricane IV KZ225 in an overall silver dope scheme with '49' code letters at Peshawar. This is most likely with 151 OTU.Photo Copyright : Peter Riley via Flypast Magazine

The course was not without tragedy. Almost at the end of the course, on 3rd May 1945, Digby's friend Pilot Officer David Greenhorn, who had been with him at every stage of training, was killed while carrying out air-to-air firing practice in a Hurricane. Interestingly, it would seem the reason for the crash was never divulged, supposedly in the interest of preserving morale - years later, Digby would write, "We think he spun in from about 5,000 ft while carrying out a tight evasive turn."

Digby and his batchmates completed the course at Peshawar in May 1945. He was posted to No 4 Squadron, Royal Indian Air Force, in June that year. He and his course were thus just too late to see action during World War Two.

Digby was not to know it then, but many of his future years of service were to be devoted to addressing some of the training lacunae he himself had experienced at first hand, in learning to fly. But all that was in the future; for now, he was all caught up in the excitement of his first squadron posting. And No 4 Squadron was certainly going places.

IAF Service:

No 4 Squadron, RIAF, had served with distinction in Burma during World War 2 and had only returned to India in April 1945. It had just begun conversion in June from Hurricanes to Spitfires, initially Mk VIII variants. It was then operating out of Yelahanka near Bangalore, the modern-day venue of the Aero-India series of air shows. The Commanding Officer was Squadron Leader D Boyd-Berry, RAF. At the time the squadron had one flight manned by RAF personnel, and the other manned by the RIAF. The respective Flight Commanders were Flight Lieutenants "Mickey" Finn and Nur Khan (later CAS of the Pakistan Air Force).

The unit was Indianised in August 1945 under the command of Squadron Leader Ehrlich W Pinto, one of the small number of Indian aircrew who had served in Europe; and the RAF personnel departed. Unfortunately Sqn Ldr Pinto fell seriously ill in January 1946, and command of the unit was taken over by Squadron Leader Jagdev Chandra, a pre-war regular and operationally-experienced IAF pilot, unassuming-looking but with a reputation that preceded him. Flight Lieutenant "Shippy" Shipurkar was now the second Flight Commander. The Squadron Adjutant was Flight Lieutenant John Rollo (later a Wing Commander with the PAF and Station Commander Chaklala).

- Sqn Ldr Jagdev Chandra, CO No 4 Squadron RIAF

"Half my Peshawar course came with me to No 4", Digby says, including his coursemates FS Hussein and Andy Wiseman. Other pilots with the squadron, who were to achieve distinction later, included:

  • Neville Gill, whose father was a colleague of Digby's father, and who had flown in action with the squadron in Burma;
  • Toric Zachariah, later CO of No 7 Squadron during the '65 war;
  • Don Michael, later a long-serving instructor at several IAF flying training establishments, and also at the NDA; and later still OC Flying at Palam during Exercise SHIKSHA;
  • Harish "Horace" Saigal; and
  • Janmast Afridi, later PAF.
- 'A' Flight Office, Yelahanka, c late 1945. Flt Lt Nur Khan at board. Others in picture include Digby, FS Hussein, Toric Zachariah, Neville Gill, Andy Wiseman

No 4 Squadron was then in the process of converting again, to a higher mark of Spitfires, the Griffon-engined low-backed Mk XIV variant. Its Hurricanes, which it had ferried back from Burma, were intended to be scrapped. RAF personnel in Bangalore were systematically stripping the old Hurricanes of useful equipment, particularly their radios - in many cases not to return to service, but to sell for their own profit. Looting as an end-of-war phenomenon, it has to be said, did not begin in Iraq.

Japan, 1946

Imagine a coalition air force consisting of American, Australian, British and Indian fighter squadrons, operating from airbases close to a city devastated by nuclear strike, patrolling the seas around the Korean peninsula. This is not a fictional scenario from the latest Humphrey Hawksley or Tom Clancy techno-thriller - it was actually happening, 57 years ago.

In early 1946 No 4 Squadron, Royal Indian Air Force, was selected to go to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces. The selected contingent numbered 40 officers, of whom 25 were pilots. Seven of those 25 were the new Pilot Officers.

It was decided that the squadron would ferry its aircraft from Bangalore to Cochin (now Kochi), where they would embark for the voyage on a Royal Navy aircraft-carrier. The squadron was told that they would not have to land on the carrier - their aircraft would be loaded on - but they might have to take off from the carrier when they reached Japan. They therefore fitted wingtip extensions onto their aircraft (which were otherwise clipped-wing variants), and developed wooden pegs to hold the flaps in a suitable position for short take-offs. They practised short take-offs, until they could all take off within 200 yards.

BN Surendra, one of the Indian DFC awardees, brought a case of Scotch to the squadron the night before they were due to ferry their aircraft to Cochin. It was 1st April, Air Force Day, and an occasion for celebration; and the pilots may have, ill-advisedly, sat up and finished Surendra's gift.

Pilots and aircraft set out for Cochin the next day, 2nd April. The first section of four aircraft was led by Flying Officer WR Dani flying NH795. On approaching to land at Cochin, which had a short runway with grass on the approach, he hit telegraph wires and overturned. He survived the crash, but suffered glycol burns and could not travel with the rest of the squadron to Japan. (WR Dani was later to command No 5 Squadron when they converted to Canberras, and to retire after a distinguished career as an Air Vice Marshal.)

At Cochin, there was a batch of brand-new Vought Corsairs, American-built carrier-borne fighters that had been provided to the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm under Lend-Lease. They were so new that they still had brown-paper coverings on their instruments; but as they were Lend-Lease aircraft, they were required to be scrapped, now that the war was over. Again, RAF and FAA personnel were surreptitiously and systematically stripping them of their radios. The RAF Station Commander caught on, and announced a general amnesty if all the stolen radios were returned and placed "outside my office by tomorrow morning." Whatever the alternative it can't have been pleasant; Digby recalls that most of the radios were in fact returned by the deadline.

- Boarding HMS Vengeance, the Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier that was to take No.4 Squadron to Japan.

Ironically, the Corsairs were disposed of, in keeping with the requirements of Lend-Lease, not long afterwards. 30 of them, together with FAA Types as Corsairs and Helldats, were actually loaded onto the same aircraft carrier as No 4 Squadron, and were simply pushed overboard once the ship had reached deep water.

At Cochin, Digby and his squadron mates also had their first sight of the aircraft-carrier that was to take them to Japan, HMS Vengeance (Pennant No R71). It was a Colossus-class fleet carrier of 17,000 tons displacement (roughly the same size as the INS Vikrant, although belonging to an earlier period). Her captain, Digby recalls, had served at the Battle of the River Plate.

The squadron's Spitfires were wheeled to the dockside jetty by road, and loaded onto the carrier by crane.

When the squadron personnel formed up to board the ship, they came up against a piquant little matter of naval protocol - in the Navy officers do not carry their own bags aboard. The RN had assumed that the embarking squadron's airmen would carry the bags aboard, but the RIAF airmen, most of whom were highly-educated technical personnel, refused to carry the officers' luggage. (They had the full support of their officers in this position.) The ship's company eventually sent a number of ratings to carry the officers' bags aboard.

- -
Loading Spitfires aboard HMS Vengeance shortly after leaving Cochin. Notice the FAA Avenger on the deck.

After departing Cochin, the ship stopped for three or four days at Singapore, to load two RAF Spitfire squadrons which had previously moved from Burma to Malaya, and a British Army AOP Flight. The two RAF Spitfire squadrons were Nos 11 (a long-serving India-based unit) and 17 (commanded around that time by Squadron Leader JH "Ginger" Lacey, the top-scoring Battle of Britain pilot; also with a record of service in India).

- Sqn Ldr Chandra addressing the squadron on the flight deck

Most of the squadron's officers and men went ashore at Singapore. Travel was relatively relaxed and informal at that time, and it does not seem that there were any restrictions on going ashore, relating to visas or other travel documentation. For many of the younger among the squadron personnel, it may have been the first time they were setting foot on soil that was not Indian.

Flt Lt Shipurkar, one of the Flight Commanders, literally missed the boat at Singapore - he didn't get back on board the ship before sailing time. The ship had to send a boat back just for him.

During the voyage, hockey matches were organised on the flight deck between the ship's company and the RIAF personnel. "Great stuff!!" Digby comments with feeling, looking at the photographs. "Why, were they rough?" I asked. "Absolute goondas!!" Digby twinkled across the table.

- -
Hockey on the flight deck - "Absolute Goondas!"

The voyage took two weeks, from Cochin to Iwakuni, on the Japanese island of Kyushu. The weather became distinctly rougher, as they approached Japan. They arrived at Iwakuni on 23 April 1946.

- Deteriorating weather
On board HMS Vengeance, Officers' Wardroom.   Mid front is Cecil Digby, immediately to his left "Horace" Saigal, followed by Rampal, and Jeff Carlton.  The rest are RN officers. J-Work_Small.jpg (30069 bytes)

On making landfall in Japan, in the event, it was decided that the Spitfires would not attempt to take off from the carrier, because the deck was too crowded, with the three fighter squadrons and the AOP Flight. The aircraft were unloaded and taken ashore by barge.

The Spitfires then had to be de-inhibited - the squadron's technicians had to work long hours to do so.

Again there was no briefing or familiarisation, on the layout of their new airfield, or anything like that - they were simply sent straight out to fly. And this in a foreign country!

The squadron flew for a short period from Iwakuni, their port of landfall. On 7 May 1946 they moved to Miho, 90 miles to the north-east and situated on the West Coast of the main Japanese island of Honshu, which was to be their base for the rest of their stay.

Pt Offr Digby in a Spitfire XVIII -

From Miho, it was actually possible to fly to Korean airspace - the distance was just about 200 miles - and they would often do so. One of their primary tasks was in fact to patrol the seas between Japan and Korea, and interdict smugglers and illegal migrants originating from Korea. Japan was at the time (and still remains) highly sensitive about illegal Korean migrants.

Two squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force, equipped with North American P-51 Mustangs, used to come to Miho periodically for range work. Digby does not remember the squadron numbers, but the Australian fighter squadrons which served with the Occupation Force in Japan were 76, 77 and 82 Squadrons, RAAF. (77 Squadron RAAF was to remain at, and fly out of, Iwakuni, up to and right through the Korean War.)

The Australians appear to have got along well with the Indians. The RIAF had a mess separate from the RAF, although within the same building. The RAAF personnel were billeted in the RAF mess, but (in a sign, possibly, that their palates were already somewhat ahead of the curve) chose to eat and spend their spare time in the adjacent Indian mess. "Good fliers", Digby says of them, "but rough." He remembers that one of their Flight Commanders was named Hank Costain, and that some of the personnel composed a rude song about him, which began, "Costain / Is drunk again"!  (Author's Note: We see this as an example of the rough humour of the Australians, not as a comment on later Wg Cdr Costain)

The Mustangs used to do mass formation take-offs. The Spitfires were restricted to taking off in staggered pairs. There were sound technical reasons for this, but it must have rankled!

The RIAF Spitfires, like most RIAF aircraft in the immediate post-WW2 period, were in a natural metal finish. The RAF Spitfires were in camouflage finish. "The Japanese just loved our aircraft", Digby says; they would polish and polish them lovingly till they shone!

Most of the squadron's personnel stayed on throughout their stay in Japan. The CO, Sqn Ldr Chandra, handed over to Sqn Ldr Minoo Merwan Engineer, DFC, and returned to India as part of the normal rotation of command, before the end of the year. Pt Off Wiseman returned to India because of the loss of his mother.

Sqn Ldr Engineer was by nature reserved, but would sometimes let his hair down and join in the junior officers' escapades. Digby was at the receiving end of one such. He used to attend a Catholic church in the nearby village. On Christmas Eve 1946, he went for Midnight Mass, and took a Catholic airman from the MT Section along with him. Probably knowing that Digby would be away for an extended period that night, Sqn Ldr Engineer led a group of the squadron boys in an episode of horse-play, during which they threw Digby's personal effects out of his room and into the snow.

- L to R: Laurie Elkins, Tony Suares, Balan Dandapani, Cecil Digby, Unid'd signals officer.
From left Rampal, FS Hussain, Jeff Carlton, Balan
- Plt Offr Digby checks out the nuances of firing a Lee Enfield Rifle At the local shooting range in Miho.  The imposing-looking standing figure is an RAF Armoury Sergeant

Digby says gleefully, "I got my own back during the New Year's Eve party!" He and Anthony "Tony" (aka "Sue") Suares were good friends, and during the party they stole into Sqn Ldr Engineer's room and threw his entire bed out of the top floor window. For years afterwards, Engineer was convinced that this deed had been perpetrated by Flt Lt Shipurkar, who was somewhat the worse for his liquid intake of the evening, at the time. (Suares was later to receive a Vir Chakra in Kashmir, a bar to the VrC while flying for the UN in the Congo, serve as CO of No 5 Squadron, and retire as an Air Commodore.)

The squadron spent the entire winter of 1946/47 in Miho. It is not generally realised how cold the Japanese winters can be; and Miho was snow-bound for three months during the winter. Some far-seeing RIAF Logistics officer had ensured that the RIAF brought along chains for the wheels of their MT vehicles. As it turned out, the RAF hadn't! Digby and some of the squadron personnel had the opportunity to try their hands out at skiing, on nearby slopes.

- Digby and some of the squadron personnel had the opportunity to try their hands out at skiing, on nearby slopes.



J-Standing_Small.jpg (19037 bytes)

Spring returned, and with it better weather, Japanese cherry blossoms, and occasional visitors. As is known, the only fatal accident suffered by the squadron in Japan occurred on 11 June 1947, when Flying Officers GS Sekhon and JA Martin (flying TX979 and SM925 respectively) appear to have flown into high ground while on patrol between Miho and Hiroshima.

The squadron remained based in Miho, Japan from May 1946 till July 1947. By the end of their stay command had changed hands again, to Squadron Leader Maurice "Chuchu" Barker.

Shortly before they were due to leave Japan, the squadron was asked by the Americans, at short notice, to participate in their Fourth of July celebrations. By the time the Americans' request was received, all 20 of the remaining aircraft had already been inhibited for possible transport. The airmen had to de-inhibit a dozen-odd aircraft within 24 hours. This was no mean achievement. When the airmen had finished, the pilots just did one check each - they had absolute faith in the airmen.

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For the flypast, the squadron flew to Kisarazu, just outside Tokyo. "We had cartridge starters", Digby shrugs confidently, so no ground support was required.

On the day of the actual flypast, 4th July 1947, there were many aircraft taxiing and in the air. As was true throughout the war, Spitfires tend to overheat very quickly when their engines are running on the ground, and need to get airborne as quickly as possible after the engine has been started. Stuck in the line of aircraft awaiting permission on the crowded taxiways, one of the squadron's aircraft overheated beyond the safe limit. The pilot, Fg Off Anthony, sensibly didn't attempt to take off at all (there would probably have been a reserve aircraft or two among those taking off, so such a decision would not have left a gap in the planned formation), but he didn't advise his intentions on the R/T. After returning from the flypast the rest of the squadron organised a search party for him, and eventually found him, feet up and none the worse, in the parking bay with his Spitfire.

On their return flight from Kisarazu the CO, Sqn Ldr Barker, called over the R/T that his aircraft was giving trouble. Digby was flying as No 2, and Sqn Ldr Barker ordered him to take over the lead. Barker then left the formation and landed at a diversion airfield in Osaka. Digby was at the time still just a Pilot Officer, and there were many far more experienced pilots in the formation. One of them, "Sue" Suares, left the formation, went to the coast and followed the coastline back to their base. (Otherwise, there was a risk having to let down through cloud, behind a formation leader he probably considered inexperienced in that role.)

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In late July 1947, when the time came for the squadron to leave Japan, the personnel went by the troopship HMS Devonshire which bought them back to Madras. Their Spitfires were not brought back to India - Digby believed they were simply abandoned in Japan. Wg Cdr Don Michael, another veteran of service with the squadron in the same period, tells us that the Spitfires were transferred, in what was probably treated as a book transfer of assets between two Commonwealth cost centres, to one of the Australian units there at the time.

The book "Spitfire International" mentions that a number of the aircraft that were on the strength of No 4 Squadron, RIAF were Struck-Off Charge in March 1948:
SM916 SM923 SM924
SM925 RN219 TX975
TX977 TX979 TX986
TZ145 TZ165 MV250
NH746 NH803 NH809
NH871 NH879 NH931

Source: Spitfire International, History of the Indian Air Force 1933-1947 , Wg Cdr Digby's Logbook. Aircraft in Red were lost in the accident of Martin and Sekhon.

Among the trophies that the squadron brought back from Japan is an example of the Yokosuka Ohka kamikaze aircraft, now on display at the Indian Air Force Museum in Delhi.

The two RAF squadrons that had come to Japan with No 4 Squadron were both disbanded at the end of their period of service in Japan. Both re-formed later; 17 Squadron only after many decades of number-plate existence. 11 Squadron RAF today operates Tornado F3s; 17 Squadron RAF is today the Eurofighter Typhoon Operational Evaluation Unit.


Miho today is a Japan Air Self-Defence Force base, home to 3 Yuso Kokutai (3 Tactical Airlift Wing), operating Kawasaki C-1 and NAMC YS-11 (Japanese-built Avro 748) tactical transports. As the JASDF aircrew execute their circuits, and the groundcrews their servicing routines, one wonders if they remember the Australian, British, and Indian personnel who operated from the same base, nearly six decades ago..