Tag Archives: Battle Axe

Memorable Moments – 1: In 1963 With the Battle Axe

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On our journey from Childhood to OLd Age, we constantly interact with people. Some of them we meet and interact with over long periods time, our dear ones, our friends and also those who are not so friendly. Yet, there are others whom we meet only once or twice but cannot ever forget them. I have already penned one such story about a person named Pistumlal. I however have a clutch of stories about similar persons I cannot ever forget even though I do not know or remember their names! I will attempt to narrate one such incident today.

It was a cloudy day late in 1963. I was about to finish my tenure of duty with the Battle Axe as its adjutant. I had been posted to the Panthers who were, like the Battle Axe, located at Ambala. I was in the process of clearing out from one unit and moving to the other. I was to move to my new unit in a day or two. I had some paper work to attend to. It was late in the afternoon. The flight offices were closed. We were then operating off the Green Fields dispersal off tented accommodation. A couple of gangs were working in the technical area. I was in the Adjutant’s tent. The afternoon was busy for me as it was lonely at the same time. My work was suddenly interrupted by some commotion and the sound of people running. I put my files aside and came out of my tent to inquire what the matter was.

The scene that greeted me was quite confusing. There was some commotion around a Hunter aircraft parked outside a blast pen for last flight servicing. A young airman was hanging along the fuselage next to the cockpit ladder. His head was inside the cockpit, his hands were hanging by his side, and his feet were off the ladder. It seemed that the canopy had closed on his neck and he had passed out through suffocation. One airman was supporting his legs to prevent his neck from snapping. One sergeant of armament trade came running to disconnect the canopy from outside. As I looked on, the young technician was brought down. He was unconscious as he lay on a canopy cover spread on the ground as his emergency bed. I ran back to the adjutant’s tent to arrange medical support. At that part of the evening, the fire-rescue-ambulance support were not on an alert state. Flying had stopped some time earlier; every one was on ‘stand easy’. To get an ambulance to reach the spot took some time, and every second of that wait seemed like an eternity.

We ultimately reached the military hospital. Doctors took charge of the situation. The young airman was saved.

Unnoticed through this turmoil, one airman knelt next to the unconscious body of the stricken airman and continuously gave him artificial respiration. He performed this task continuously for about forty five minutes. This lad was not medically trained. He just happened to be around the spot of the incident as an electrician on duty. He had just been a Boy Scout in his school days and had been instructed on emergency help for respiratory problems. But for his dedicated intervention, the technician caught by the canopy would not have survived.

I left the unit a few days later. Ajit (Peter) Rawley took over the duties of being the Adjutant to Battle Axe One from me. About a week later, I asked Peter about the welfare of the stricken airman and about some Service Recognition for the lad whohad kept his friend alive. I was happy to learn that the technician was doing well. He had been discharged from the hospital. He was given some leave and he had gone home with his father who had come to take him home. I was also happy to learn that the young man who had provided respiratory support had been recommended for a Vayu Sena Medal. The sad part of the story is that this recommendation was reduced to a CAS’s commendation by the Command HQ and was further diluted to a letter of appreciation of the station commander by the Air HQ.

I have forgotten the name of this airman. Even his face is now obscure in my memory. I however remember the incident and I hold that man in high respect for his dedicated support to his comrade.

 

Acting Like Santa

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The tale begins on a March morning in 1967. I had settled down as a member of the air staff in the Head Quarters of the Western Air Command. We were still operating from the Hutments that had housed the erstwhile Operational Command of the Air Force from the time it was formed in 1948. (That spot is now occupied by Terminal 1A of the IGI Airport.) I had a little cubical in that double storied temporary structure as the ‘Operations I’ of the WAC, a post that was filled by a Squadron Leader on those days. Read the rest of this entry

Puzzlement in 1962

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22nd October 1962 in Ambala started as a typical north Indian morning. Overnight drizzles followed by a low overcast. Very little chance of any meaningful flying activity surely, but the morning had to start with the customary ‘Met Briefing’. Ambala was at that time a very busy fighter station. With Seven (Battle Axes) and Twenty Seven (Flaming Arrows) squadrons flying Hunter Mark56 and Twenty Three (Panthers) and Two (Arrows) flying Gnat Mk 1, the skies above Ambala were full of aircraft through the morning hours on most days when the weather permitted such activity. The base was being commanded by Group Captain CG Deveshar, our old CI from Hakimpet days Read the rest of this entry

Looking for Sri Dharma Vira

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It was a long week end.  The monsoon had arrived over the Punjab. The weather was atrocious.   It had been raining incessantly for most of the past seven days.    Flying had stopped.   Most of us were in a holiday mood.  But alas I was the Duty Officer for the week.   Most of the telephone lines were down because of the heavy rain.   I was therefore not even comfortable staying home and consuming tea/pakoda, some thing that my dear wife Leena was good at supplying.    By about ten in the morning, I went to the Station HQ and settled in.   I was the senior flight commander of 23 Squadron (the Panthers) and I was then preparing for my staff college entrance examination.   Such a morning was ideal for immersing oneself in books and magazines, and I was ready to do just that.  Read the rest of this entry

Hari Om Sharma

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 The situation in Ladakh was tense.  The time was early summer of 1962.   The Chinese were publishing new maps every other day, pushing forward their claims on our territory.    We were not in a position to man the border in strength.   Krishna Menon, our new Raksha Mantri, had opted for a ‘Forward Posture’ in the sector.  Read the rest of this entry