Wednesday 15 May 2013

When airplanes from the land of gold bombed Mandalay and Rangoon

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 Burma and this was during the second World War.
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 (India) in May 1944. This unit was later converted into No. 358 Squadron, Bombay on November 8, 1944. The squadron was part of the Heavy Bomber unit flying the Consolidated Liberator bombers.
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 Rangoon, Burma. Shortly, thereafter, it was assigned to Special Duties (SD) and shifted to Jessore on February 10, 1945 near 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.         


  1. An excellent read again...
    didnt think that RAF Kolar was in KGF proper..and that too..operated Lancasters and B-24s..

    Both my grandfathers and my wife's Paternal Grandfather where in the AF(I).. (Auxiliary Force of India) during the paternal GF was in the Madras Guards and Maternal GF was in the Bangalore Rifle Volunteers (BRV)..he (MGF) and his unit were deployed in the POW camp in Kolar where Italian POWs were held..he said that they wore white t-shirt and shorts with a Black Diamond on their back and made very nice musical instruments out of old buckets etc..two of them even tried to escape by sitting on the train copplers and try to make it to bombay..however they were picked up at shimoga and brought wife's PGF was in the KGF Battalion probably deployed at RAF Kolar..if u have any more info on RAF Kolar, the POW camps, AF(I), KGF etc..please do post.. thanks


    1. Thanks for the additional information. It will help us compile details of world war activities in and around Bangalore. As of now, we are working on PoW camps in and around Bangalore. We have already published one post-How a Nazi escaped from Bangalore.