With tribute to:

Martin Spirit

James Paul

Co-written by:

David Carter

Britain's Small Wars

The preservation of British Military History

India 1945-1948

"Sunset on the Raj"

159 Squadron Operations in India 1946

In October 1945, 159 Squadron moved to the airfield at Salbani, west of Calcutta, in India with its Consolidated Liberator Mk VIIIs.

Rice dropping operations were carried out from the last week of January, by a detachment that flew four sorties every day from Pegu and each aircraft flew three sorties per day. The crew were normally relieved after two weeks on this detachment.

On 12th February, Squadron leader R. Y. Williams assumed command of 159 Squadron when Wing Commander R. L. Bows DFC & Bar was posted to 288 Group.

On 22nd February 1946, three aircraft were ordered to Santa Cruz, where they were to land at Napur and load with the 500lb bombs and the nose and tail turrets were supplied with ammunition. Their mission was to attack and sink the ships of the Royal Indian Navy in Bombay Harbour if they did not surrender. Fortunately, they did surrender so the mission was unnecessary.

Civil disturbances in Calcutta and the local areas were a possibility, so the officers were ordered to carry revolvers at all times but the order was rescinded as the situation in Calcutta stabilized.

On 26th February, the last rice dropping missions were completed from Pegu. Liberators of 159 Squadron flew 257 rice dropping sorties in 24 days during February, flying for 285.15 hours and dropping 755,000lbs of rice.

On 27th February 1946, a Liberator was detached to Sookerating detachment as a flying control unit to the rice dropping Dakotas based at the former USAAF base, which were dropping rice to the villages and frontier posts in northern Burma.

Flying was reduced to a minimum for training due to the detachment of ground crew to Pegu and elsewhere.

159 Squadron was disbanded on 1st June 1946.

BSW would like to thank Robert Quirk for providing us with scans of 159 Squadron's records held by the PRO, which made this article possible.