While KGF is renown as the land of gold. Very few know that it is also the place where a squadron of the Royal Air Force (RAF) was born. The Squadron also went on a bombing mission to
and this was during the second World War. Burma
The Squadron was stationed in the Bombay Camp Cricket ground in KGF. The cricket grounds is one of the most familiar landmarks of KGF and the origin of cricket in and around KGF can be traced to the ground sometime in 1880.
The Bombay Camp Cricket Ground was the name of the fairly large open space in Oorgaum. It was just behind the first grade college and close to the diary.
During the world war, the British converted the ground into an airfield. It was christined as Kolar Gold Fields Air Fields. The 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit was stationed here at this airfield. Conversion Units and Operational Conversion Units (OCU) were training units of the RAF. With the introduction of the new heavy bombers, the 4-engined Short Stirling, Avro Lancaster and Handley Page Halifax, into service, the RAF introduced these units in late 1941. Their main aim was to qualify crews trained on medium bombers to operate the heavy bombers prior to assignment to an Operational Training Unit to gain experience before final posting to the operational squadrons.
1673 (Heavy) Conversion Unit was formed at Salboni (
India) in October 1943 and moved to Kolar ( ) in May 1944. This unit was later converted into No. 358 Squadron, India on November 8, 1944. The squadron was part of the Heavy Bomber unit flying the Consolidated Liberator bombers. Bombay
Thus, Kolar has the distinction of giving birth to 358 Squadron. Sixteen Liberators arrived in Kolar and crew training began.
The original crew were mainly from the 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU). It was thus a Bomber and Special duties squadron flying with South East Asia Command from 1944 to 1945.
It flew its first and only bombing mission on January 13, 1945 when eight aircraft dropped bombs on supply dumps in
Mandalay and . Shortly, thereafter, it was assigned to Special Duties (SD) and shifted to Jessore on February 10, 1945 near Rangoon, Burma Calcutta in Bengal. It dropped agents and supplies behind the enemy lines, and after VJ day, supplies to Prisoner of War (POW) camps and to resistance groups in Japanese-held territory. After the Japanese surrender the squadron then dropped supplies to POW camps and repatriated released prisoners. It was disbanded on November 21, 1945 at Bishnapur.
The Motto of the squadron was “Alere flamman” ("To feed the flame") and the badge was an arm embowed, holding in the hand a torch.
Coming back to the temporary airfield, it was large enough to easily accommodate four large twin engined Liberators. The facilities at the airfield was minimal and it had a few sheds.
Later, the airfield was used as an training camp for air raid volunteer corps of KGF. After the second world war ended, the air field was abandoned and today there is no trace of it. As far as the grounds go, John Taylor and Company, which operated the gold mines, once again set up a cricket ground there.