The Great Delusion

At the midnight hour of 15 August 1947 South Asia was bathed in darkness. If they were awake, most citizens in the newly independent dominions of India and Pakistan saw in the transfer of sovereignty by candle flame or paraffin lamp, without electricity able to power a wireless. From the parliament buildings in New Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru announced India’s awakening ‘to life and freedom’. But Nehru’s speech was heard by a fraction of India’s population. More than 80% of the people in the two countries which had just achieved independence lived in the countryside, and all but 1,500 (0.2%) of India’s half a million villages had no power.

 The British left India a society of extremes. In pockets amid poverty South Asia was prosperous and modern. In the fifty years before 1947, cities had grown fast, British India going from one to six settlements with more than a million people. In India, 31.5 million (out of 370 million) people lived in settlements with a population of more than 100,000. These cities had electric streetlights and modern typewriters, railway stations and buses as well as slums and open drains. In the mid-1930s, 200,000 cars drove on the streets of India, every one imported from Europe or Japan. Bengal had one of the oldest Automobile Associations in the world. India had the highest rate of road accidents. University departments worked at the cutting edge of international science. By 1947, India was one of a small number of countries which conducted research in nuclear physics.

The Second World War was a good time for some. Businesses boomed as shortages in every sector of the economy needed to be filled at any price. Rampant inflation was good for people living in the countryside able to tap the profits of production. This was boom time for rich peasants in places like Mysore and Punjab, where there were few agricultural labourers whose income would rise slower than the cost of living. But people paid in fixed wages suffered. Field labourers, factory workers and middle-class government employees all faced massively higher prices but no increase to income. Despite big industrial profits, one economist estimated that industrial wages fell by 30% during the war. Agricultural labourers who did not own the land they worked on fared even worse. For many it was a struggle to survive. Roughly the same amount of food was grown as in 1940, but the population was a fifth larger. Famine and serious scarcity had recently returned to parts of the subcontinent. The average new-born could expect to live only thirty-two years. In 1947, life for the vast majority of citizens in South Asia was rural, hard and short.

 Despite the century- long effort to control the natural environment, millions were vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the seasons and the landscape. Two years after partition the 27-year-old Pakistani writer Syed Waliullah wrote a description of rural Bengal in these years of chaos, emphasizing the brutal effects of nature on people’s lives. From a family of minor government officials, Waliullah grew up during the depression in a village near Chittagong, before studying in the small town of Mymensingh and then Calcutta University. At partition he chose Pakistan and became a news editor on Pakistan Radio. He novel Lal Shalu (translated later as Tree Without Roots) described the collapse of social norms in rural Bengal during the years of famine and war, and was brutally unsentimental about life in the countryside. Waliullah was writing about a region which had once been one of India’s most productive places. His home district was where the East India Company had hoped to conquer in the 1680s to profit from local agriculture and trade. By 1947, it was home to a struggling population left exposed to storms, floods and drought. To survive, land needed to be ploughed and reploughed to the point of exhaustion with ‘no rest, no peace and what is worse, no nourishment, at least not from the ravenous ones who suck it dry.

 Waliullah described a rootless society in constant motion. Millions searched for something to eat or a place to make their home. People were ruled by ‘a great restlessness’, yet ‘go hungry and starve’. Everyone dreamed of ‘leaving their homes’. But the rivers, the trains, the paths were all crammed full of people on the same search. ‘They sweat, and they swear, they solemnly pray for the infliction of God’s curse on their neighbours and then they pray, equally solemnly for their own safety,’ Waliullah wrote. The political institutions which might have protected the vulnerable had long broken down. The forces which once ensured the poor were looked after had long collapsed. This was a description of a chaotic society in which everyone sought a refuge or an enclave just to survive.

Enclaves

India’s later British rulers and their post- imperial chroniclers liked to propagate the view that imperial rule in India was a systematic form of power driven by coherent ideas. ‘The Raj’ is a phrase which embodies a certain kind of authoritarian high-mindedness. On television or in fiction it is now associated with unbending, stiff-lipped men capable of imposing their visions of order and hierarchy and on an otherwise chaotic society. Historians of empire spend much of their time discussing those visions, tracing the British belief in the inferiority of the Indian society, their rhetoric about ‘civilization’ and ‘development ‘, their arguments about property and the rule of law. Too often the context of those visions is absent, and texts are read with no reference to the situation they were written in. In reality, the British proclaimed their strength and purpose when their authority seemed the most fragile. In fact, British power in India was exercised sporadically. It was driven by a succession of short-term visceral passions. It did not have a systematic vision of peace and stability, nor a way of working able to produce order. It created chaos.

 Rather than a coherent political vision, British rule in India was based on a peculiar form of power. Fearful and prickly from the start, the British saw themselves as virtuous but embattled conquerors whose capacity to act was continually under attack. From the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, they found it difficult to trust anyone outside the areas they controlled. Their response to challenge was to retreat or attack rather than to negotiate. The result was an anxious, paranoid regime. The British state was desperate to control the spaces where Europeans lived. Elsewhere it insisted on formal submission to the image of British authority. But it did not create alliances with its subjects, nor build institutions that secured good living standards. The British were concerned to maintain the fiction of absolute sovereignty rather than to exercise any real power.

 The result was that the British left South Asia a fragmented society. In theory, they transferred authority to new governments which possessed the power to protect everyone in the territories they ruled. In reality they left an uneven mess of enclaves and ghettoes, in which people were divided from each other by a jumble of different authorities, institutions and economic forces. The political institutions which the British left protected some people; institutions nationalists had built supported a few more. But most people were left unprotected from whoever or whatever forces had the greatest clout in mid-twentieth century South Asia, whether the weather, rapacious landlords, or powerful local political bosses. The British empire’s greatest legacy was to create some of the most disjointed and chaotically ruled societies in the world.

 To start with, the British transferred supreme authority to more than two states. When they announced their rapid timetable for departure in June 1947, the British declared that their supreme authority over India’s 565 ‘native states’ would simply lapse. By the date of partition, only 114 of these half-independent regimes had been cajoled into joining the Union of India and none to join Pakistan. For a brief period after August 1947 the world’s list of independent sovereign regimes was swelled by hundreds of new absolute monarchies. Amir Khan’s old principality of Tonk, with 2,500 square miles and 300,000 people, was formally independent for seven months until its Nawab signed up for his state to be incorporated into the Indian state of Rajasthan.

 A few of these autonomous monarchies tried to resist the subcontinent’s new political geography. Kashmir in the far north stayed independent for two months, until its Hindu Maharaja decided to take his Muslim-majority province into the Union of India and sparked the first war between India and Pakistan. Travancore in the south-west briefly declared its intention to ‘recover’ independence.

Last of all was Hyderabad, the largest native state ‘situated in India’s belly’, as the minister in charge of state integration Vallabhbhai Patel put it. This Muslim monarchy was still a massive sovereign enclave a year after partition, intent on maintaining its independence from India and Pakistan. In the spring and summer of 1948, the Nizam’s regime was fighting against a massive communist insurgency and Congress activists. The conflict drove tens of thousands of refugees into makeshift camps set up in neighbouring territories.

 The new independent Indian government invaded in September 1948. Its aim was to dissolve the enclave of Hyderabad into the national Indian state, abolishing monarchical power by forcing it to accept the supposedly undivided sovereignty of the Indian people. But the Nizam’s resistance led to four days of war and a communal massacre, as more than 50,000 Muslim supporters of the Hyderabad regime were killed by the army and Hindu soldiers.

 Hyderabad began its life in free and democratic India under military rule, with 17,550 of its citizens imprisoned by the invading army. The ensuing peace was caused by the prospect of elections, by the fact that the subjects of Hyderabad had become voting citizens of a new nation. Without conciliation, ‘those who are down and out and full of fear’ might vote against the Congress at the polls. As a result, leaders in New Delhi decided that those ‘who sinned so grievously’ needed to be forgiven.’

 Between the two new sovereign states of India and Pakistan, powers were incompletely defined, and borders were not well demarcated. Passports took years to emerge; to begin with it was unclear who was entitled to which, and what should be written on their pages. The responsibilities of the two legal systems were not well understood. Well into the 1950s, judges in Calcutta were writing to Pakistani citizens explaining that they were not entitled to sue in an Indian court. Many did not realize the creation of two states meant claims for lost property across India and Pakistan’s new frontiers now needed to be handled by diplomats not lawyers.

 Some people were simply stranded by partition. Nineteen forty-seven left some of South Asia’s poorest people living in enclaves along the northern border between the Indian state of West Bengal and first Pakistan and then Bangladesh. One hundred and seventy-three small islands of land were entirely enclosed by the territory of a neighbouring state. The confused boundaries of the two states in northern Bengal date back to poorly defined peace treaties between the Mughal Empire and its far neighbours in the early 1700s; one story says that the enclaves were used as stakes in chess games between north-east India’s regional kings. Until a deal was finally struck in 2015, the enclaves’ 80,000 people were immobile and stateless, with no electricity and very few public amenities.

 These border territories are a rare case of enclaves making people worse off. Mostly, enclaves are used as they were under the British Raj to protect the powerful and wealthy from the rest of society. Post-imperial South Asia is still dotted with spaces where better living conditions are protected against poorer people living outside.

 The urban map of the independent subcontinent was speckled with military cantonments, for example. Here, large swathes of often green and spacious land are divided off and protected from the city beyond by soldiers, remaining centres of military power in the midst of ostensibly democratic societies. Cantonments were first carved out by the British to create places where European military and civil officers could live without fear of a potentially insurgent population. Since 1947 these have become cities within cities, offering a feeling of order for middle-class civilians as well as for the army and and government. Army-ruled enclaves make up large areas of the centre of many South Asian cities: Lahore, Dhaka, Kanpur, Bangalore, Hyderabad. Added together, the area of India’s cantonments would today make up a city bigger than India’s most populous city, Mumbai. They remain more or less under military rule. The cantonment of Secunderabad in Hyderabad, which Indian soldiers fought to control in 1948, is one of the biggest. The majority of its population of more than 200,000 are civilians. Even though recent reforms mean half of its board are now elected, the army’s commanding officer is still in overall charge. Residents complain that only roads in areas where soldiers live are maintained to a pristine standard.

 In less heavily militarized places, middle-class South Asians use this imperial model of separation and defence to partition themselves from the ‘chaos’ and ‘dysfunction’ believed to rule the rest of society. Middle-class refugees from Pakistan settled in well-organized ‘colonies’ in Delhi, where living standards have been protected by community associations and, increasingly, security guards. Many public and private institutions follow the British-era pattern of putting residences and workplaces in isolated compounds. Universities, research institutes and large corporations provide accommodation as well as supporting a social life for their employees. These institutions foster a sense of common purpose, but they also reproduce the imperial idea that home is somewhere distant from the place people reside. Within the heavily guarded spaces of South Asia’s bureaucracy, business and media, elites have cultivated their own exclusive communities, creating social norms which separate themselves from the rest of society.

 Recently, these enclaves have been privatized and take physical form in private gated communities, where the capacity to pay for the property is the sole criterion for entrance. These new forts (some even with mock crenelations) are scattered around the fringes of South Asia’s quickest growing cities: Bangalore, Pune, Lahore, Delhi. Money buys an idea of safety and defence by providing closed-circuit cameras and security guards.

 Gated communities are often marketed to lure expatriates back to the subcontinent with a safe, luxurious lifestyle. They have, for the most part, dropped any reference to the subcontinent’s history in the seventy years since independence, creating distance between the green, pristine, generic forms inside and the supposedly characteristic South Asian mess outside. ‘It’s not like Pakistan, it’s like a new country. You can get everything,’ said a manual worker interviewed in 2013 who commutes to Bahria Town on the edge of Islamabad. Anuraag Chowfla, an architect who has planned some of the largest communities in India, reports that he ‘sometimes jokes with the developer that now you should design your own flag and passport’.

 Popular Sovereignty

The enclaves of well-defended prosperity which pepper India, Pakistan and Bangladesh exist in defiance of the idea supposed to justify the exercise of political power throughout the subcontinent: popular sovereignty.

 Almost to a man, the British thought their sovereignty in the subcontinent originated with the violence of conquest. The difference between legitimate authority and violence was blurred; the fact of domination needed no other justification than its capacity to exercise brute force. But the imperial state’s story about conquest was contested by Indian commentators, who argued that power should and could only be exercised with the consent of the people being ruled.

 From Sayyid Mahmood to M.K. Gandhi to B.R. Ambedkar, critics argued that the Indian people not the European army were sovereign. The British only governed because Indians let them, and that meant Britain had obligations to the people it ruled.

 First used to try to persuade India’s foreign rulers to govern in partnership with the people they ruled, the idea of popular sovereignty became the Indian basis for Indian nationalism’s effort to evict the British from power. This principle marked the difference, for both India and Pakistan, between the sovereignty of the empire’s conquest state and the post-imperial regime. For Jinnah and Nehru alike, it was the people, not a party, an elite or a state, which had the authority to rule once the British disappeared. In contrast to British attitudes which they argued emphasized division and hierarchy, nationalists thought the people of their respective nations possessed a single voice or soul. There was a vision, no room for endless enclaves or imperial demarcations. Popular sovereignty means the state’s power needed to be exercised evenly, for the sake of all sections of society.

 From long before independence and partition, these ideas of popular sovereignty drove the practical process of institution building. The belief that power should be exercised by the people not a distant, violent state drove Indians to create schools, universities, banks, volunteer organizations, even businesses: when the City of London failed to invest in his steel business, Dorabji Tata appealed to the Indian people for capital. But before the end of the Second World War Indian institution-building was blocked by the coercive anxieties of the British regime. Independence allowed the energies of South Asia’s institution builders to be unblocked and dispersed. In the name of democracy and popular political power, newly independent India and Pakistan created education and community uplift programmes, invested in science and technical education, built heavy industrial plants, founded new colleges and universities and dug hundreds of thousands of tube wells. As far as their limited capacity allowed South Asia’s new states helped coordinate the expansion of production and the improvement of living standards. The path to economic development was fraught, fiercely contested and often patchy – but growth happened.

 Compared to the stagnant chaos of the last years of British rule, living standards improved. In the first decade and a half after independence, agriculture became more productive. Much more land was cultivated. Thousands of new factories were built. Industrial output expanded. Middle-class jobs in service industries and the public sector grew more rapidly.

 South Asia’s growth occurred while its societies avoided the catastrophic social upheaval which happened elsewhere. The organizations which ruled post-imperial India and Pakistan were committed to the reconstruction of their societies without violent revolution. Living through the turbulent years of partition, their leaders emphasized growth through stability rather than dramatic social upheaval, and more or less achieved it. In practice, this emphasis on consensus entrenched elite hierarchies. In India there was no major challenge to the dominance of upper castes until the 1970s. In Pakistan, the military and bureaucracy retained the upper hand.

 This consensual approach was widely condemned from the late 1960s for allowing unaccountable elites to dominate. But it allowed stability to follow the turmoil of war and partition and supported a period of relatively prosperity. South Asia did not take a dramatically different path from other non-communist post-war societies where the idea of popular sovereignty was combined with the effort by pre-war elites to retain power. The greatest contrast was between South Asia’s aristocratic democracies and the revolutionary upheaval in China. In the 1950s revolutionary China was living through the world’s most devastating famine, which caused the death of at least twenty million. In the subcontinent, living standards improved as India and Pakistan’s economies increased at a respectable 4%. Not as quick as recent decades, this was only very slightly lower than the contemporary ‘miracle’ of France. It was only exceeded in Asia by Cold War societies artificially stimulated by the United States such as South Korea and Taiwan.

 South Asia’s post-imperial choice of consensus and stability stopped civil war and prevented socially catastrophic upheaval. But it meant that, in the seventy years since independence, ideas of democracy, citizenship and popular sovereignty have not been strong enough to overcome the chaotic legacy of imperial geography. Democracy has forced governments to ensure that the poor survive; citizens have demanded the right to receive enough food to live from their governments. But democracy has not created a common public realm in which people from different social groups have a sense they can shape society as a whole. Instead, advantage is gained as different groups claim they have a right to access the prosperous enclaves which offer wealth and power. Different castes improve their position by claiming they are entitled to government jobs or seats in parliament. Used for dramatically different purposes, with much greater ambition, ideas about what the state is capable of doing have changed little since the days of the Raj. Governments rule by classification and division; poverty, for example, is a bureaucratic category which separates the poor from the rest of society. Governments claim to be able to act on their own, often without dialogue. They are poor at acting in concert with others.

 The result is that people mitigate their poverty the same way they did seventy or a hundred years ago; through their restlessness and migration, by bringing themselves near to the prosperous enclaves of South Asia’s highly uneven economic landscape. In many parts of the subcontinent now, it is impossible for a family of rural workers to make ends meet unless they have a child earning in the city. Despite two generations of popular sovereignty, South Asia’s societies retain one characteristic from the days of the Raj which has endured long after the end of imperial rule. Famine and the most extreme forms of poverty have largely gone. But most people are still very poorly paid for a day’s work.

 Labour Saving Devices

In 1947, the 28,000 Britons who returned home after the evaporation of British sovereignty in South Asia arrived to a society on the verge of an economic boom. Britain in 1947 had been badly bombed. It only managed to stave off bankruptcy with austerity and loans from the United States. But by contrast with India and Pakistan, people in Britain who earned their living through manual work had relatively good living conditions. The collapse of Britain’s empire in India happened at the same time as a quick increase in wages and living standards.

 ‘Old Indians’ who returned home experienced this difference in the difficulty of employing servants. Officials and their wives complained about fighting for a seat on the London Underground or bus, about the boredom of being relatively young with little to do, about the weather; but above all about the cost of labour. After living in households that teemed with staff, the families of ex-officials could rarely afford to employ more than a single maid, sometimes not even that. The manuals which guided returned officers about how to live back in England suggested the purchase of labour-saving devices. Women had no choice but to do housework.

 The disparity between living standards in British-conquered India and metropolitan Britain had many causes.  The most important, though, was the different way these two societies were ruled. Living standards were so much better in Britain in 1947 for a simple reason: labour had a stake in the direction of British society it did not have in South Asia under British rule.

 The disparity was clear during the Second World War, when social differences widened in India but narrowed in the UK. The war did not cause Britain’s class divisions to crumble nor did it invent the welfare state. For long after 1945, Britain was a highly militarized, class-ridden, fiercely hierarchical society. But union membership increased, social benefits expanded, women were enticed from their homes to armament factories with relatively good pay as well as the chance to contribute to the war effort.

 During the war, labour was a vital interest in the accommodation which had shaped the direction of Britain’s polity. It did not run Britain. But unlike India, organized labour had a seat at the table. Britain’s foremost trade union organizer, Ernest Bevin, was Minister for Labour in Winston Churchill’s cabinet. The involvement of labour helped the creation of the national military-industrial complex which transformed the British state into such an effective fighting force during the Second World War. But it also created the conditions for the sustained economic growth which lasted until the mid-1960s. The loss of India did not mark the beginning of Britain’s decline but the start of an economic boom.

 In the years when the men who governed British India were uncomfortably adjusting themselves to life after empire, Britain’s high-technology, highly industrialized factories spun out quickly increasing quantity of export goods. British exports grew from £16 billion in 1948 to £2.8 billion in 1954 and then £3.8 billion in 1960. (£61 billion in 2016 prices). In 1950 Britain had a 24.6 per cent share of the world’s manufactured goods (compared to the USA’s 26.6 per cent), with 52 per cent share of world motor vehicle exports.

 Demand for British goods came from across the world. To buy them, Britain relied most on the now long self-governing ‘white’ empire. In the 1950s Australia was the UK’s largest trading partner. But the Commonwealth took less than half of British exports in total, with a demand from the United States and Western Europe growing the quickest. By contrast empire in India left little economic legacy. Exports to India and Pakistan were comparatively tiny. In the middle of the twentieth century, Britain’s prosperity relied on the relative productivity of its well-paid workforce, not on global imperial power.

 The coincidence of Britain’s economic prosperity with imperial decline shows how disconnected British India had been from the main currents of British life. For much of its existence, Britain’s empire in India contributed little of value to Britain itself. English merchants had initially been interested in the subcontinent as a source of commercial gain; the East India Company’s first wars were fought to defend the factories and forts it thought it needed to make a profit. But imperial power quickly created its own logic, which had little to do with economics.

 The exception occurred during the twentieth century’s two world wars. But then India was only turned into a source of Britain’s global power by corroding the basis of imperial power in the subcontinent itself. The First World War was followed by the first phase of India-wide mass nationalist agitation. Britain’s financing of India’s role in the Second World War cracked the Raj for good, pushing British rule into a final phase of famine and violence.

 Outside these destructive, aberrant moments, British rule was sustained by an elite whose lives were focused on nothing more than the survival of Britain’s sovereignty in the subcontinent. For them, the logic of empire was circular; the purpose of imperial power was to do nothing more than maintain imperial power, and with it their pensions and sense of personal authority. That logic aroused passionate commitment from British India’s white ruling class. But it meant that once the Union flag had been hauled down from the last citadels of British sovereignty there was nothing to do but pack up and go home.

 From a financial or strategic point of view there were good reasons why the British might have stayed on. By 1947, there were few business interests in India. But Asia still mattered to Britain. Commercial interests existed in Malaya and Singapore, and Australia was still a vital trading partner. The public rhetoric of empire claimed that the job of officials was to maintain ‘good governance’, and that still needed to be sustained in order to prevent the subcontinent falling under communist rule. The subcontinent’s states had borders which needed protecting from malign powers. Both India and Pakistan were concerned to maintain a stable, centralized form of government in the midst of the crises of the late 1949s, so they offered those who chose to stay good terms.

 A few did stay. Fifty civil servants and senior police officers and a few more soldiers were hired on temporary contracts by the Pakistani Government. They made up one third of Pakistan’s civil service until the early 1950s. The country’s mint, railways, telegraph, army and civil service college remained under British control, the latter until the 1960s. A handful of civil servants remained in the Republic of India, together with dozens of soldiers and European businessmen. Kanpur’s textile factories were owned by a British capitalist until the early 1960s, for example.

 But given Britain’s long history of involvement in India, these numbers were tiny. Remarkably few stayed on. Out of 608 European ICS officers working in India in December 1946, only 429 were still in India on the day of independence; sixty-two were left by the end of 1947, no more than fifteen by 1952, only three of those in the Republic of India. Those few who stayed took jobs which the transfer of power altered the least. Officers in charge of border districts were less likely to quit. Men working in revenue collection were also most likely to stay. The last bureaucrat to leave India was J.W. Orr, who retired from his position of Inspector for Customs and Excise in Delhi at the age of forty-five in 1955, to become director of a gold mining firm. Compared to the last days of other empires, the British left the subcontinent quickly and completely.

 Coming Back Home

This quick departure helps us to see what British rule in India was about. British officers and soldiers were in India to maintain sovereignty. Once that had gone there was no point staying on. ‘No longer . . . serving under the ultimate control of the Parliament of their own country’, as one government officer put it, remaining in the subcontinent was seen as pointless, even possibly risky. The government’s ‘absolute priority’ was to ensure a quick and safe return for its European staff. Five thousand British civilians were shipped back at a rate of 1,000 a month. Twenty-two thousand eight hundred soldiers, mostly wartime conscripts, took only a few more months to return home.

 Officers returning home had two options. They could take up pensionable opportunities in ‘another civil service’ with a grant of £500 (equivalent to £17,470 in 2016 prices). Or they were given a ‘severance allowance’ equivalent to full pay to the usual retirement age of sixty with the prospect of a good pension afterwards.

 ‘Old Indians’ who did not take other jobs could maintain the same living standards as dentists or doctors without having to work, but the vast majority put their experience in the machinery of administration to work. Many were employed by other branches of Britain’s bureaucracy, the large number becoming diplomats or officials in Britain’s African Empire, quickly moving to other places where their job was to look after another outpost of British sovereignty overseas. Nineteen out of the sixty-one ICS men who took part in a study in the 1970s joined either the foreign or colonial service; ten becoming civil servants in the UK. One of two became farmers or businessmen. Whatever role they took up, most of these men, used to exercising governmental power, found a small realm of administrative life to dominate. If they did not become civil servants they became college bursars or school administrators, managed lobby groups or became town clerks or local councillors.

 For these men, British rule in India had been about the Viceroy and the Union flag. It involved absolute control over a network of citadels and enclaves large enough to give them a delusory sense that they had real authority. It was also about the theoretical capacity of the British state to act without needing to negotiate with other powers. Sharing power was anathema; working for another regime impossible. As the Punjab officer Edward Wakefield wrote when courted by both the Indian and Pakistani governments to stay, ‘I had spent my life in the service of the Crown and did not feel disposed to serve another master.’

 By 1947, British power was understood by talking about ‘duty’, ‘responsibility’ and ‘service’, words that conveyed the trappings of sovereignty rather than any real kind of authority. If these were impossible in India, if the slim possibility of power required too many messy compromises, there were plenty of other spheres where it could be exercised. The British state did not give up the idea of ruling Africa until the late 1950s. And there was Britain itself.

 In the United Kingdom, the collapse of British power in India was marked by remarkable little stress or anxiety. The point, again, is that empire in India was not about influence or interest, but about sovereignty. When the British left India there was little lament about the loss of markets or prospect of reduced profits. The fact that the Union flag no longer flew was embarrassing, but even those parts of Britain’s political hierarchy most attached to it quickly adjusted. The most important legacy of the empire was not the British desire to control other lands. It was the peculiar form of power which British rule embodied in India and that, after 1947, was transported home.

 The strongest British support for British rule in India existed in the Conservative Party, but even Conservative politicians adjusted to the end of the Raj quickly. Many were former ICS or army officers or had relatives who had served in the subcontinent. When they thought about India they tended to use a romantic conception of British sovereignty rather than a realistic assessment of Britain’s power in the world. While negotiations were going on in India, most of them doggedly resisted the unravelling of British sovereignty. But when it’s passing was obvious, they accepted the demise of British power quickly. There was no interest in influence, in ‘informal empire’ as some historians have called it, if there was to be no Union flag.

 By 1947 the upper ranks of the Conservative Party thought Britain had no interest in remaining in India. Winston Churchill noted that ‘modern air squadrons are worth more than overseas territories’. When he visited in January 1947, Harold Macmillan was told by the Indian representative of his family publishing firm that a rapid transfer of power to the Congress would be good for profits, particularly if the new government invested in schools and universities. But to begin with, both men fervently resisted the way in which the Labour Government ‘allowed British administration to run down’, particularly fighting the renunciation of sovereignty over the princely states. Macmillan’s worry was that retreat would leave ‘absolute chaos’. Early in 1947, he argued that national serviceman should be sent to reimpose British power.

 By May 1947, Churchill, Macmillan and the rest of the Conservative leadership were willing to support the Labour Government’s bill to transfer power to two independent dominions in the subcontinent. By then, the prospect of retaining sovereign power in India had gone. The only choice was rapid retreat. The Tory high command’s decision to acknowledge independence brought anger from local Conservative associations, many sending motions to the 1947 annual conference affirming that they were still ‘the great imperial party’. But even rank and file Conservatives recognized that retreat was inevitable. There were other bastions of British sovereignty which needed protecting.

 This quick volte- face on India had the greatest impact on the career perhaps the most important post-war Conservative politician not to become Prime Minister, Enoch Powell. Powell was a romantic conservative, a man who saw violence as potentially virtuous, and who believed in the importance of constructing myths about power in order to maintain order and civilized life. He spent three years as a fellow in classics at Trinity College, Cambridge, eighteen months as Professor of Greek at the University of Sydney and then enlisted in the army in the first months of the Second World War. Desperate to fight, he was continually frustrated by being appointed to a succession of jobs planning and organizing the war effort. Between 1943 and 1946 he spent two and half years working in military intelligence in Delhi. He ended his army career writing the last report into the post-war shape of the Indian military, suggesting, unrealistically, the army increase its proportion of white officers,

 In February 1946 Powell was offered the chance to stay on as head of the Indian army’s college for training Indian officers. But at thirty-four he too decided to quit India. Anxious about the imminent prospect of a handover of power, he thought London, Parliament and the. Conservative Party would be the most effective place to campaign for the continuance of British rule.

 In the summer of 1946, while British institutions were collapsing throughout the subcontinent, Brigadier Powell wrote a report for the Conservative Party explaining how the British could reconquer the Indian subcontinent. Then, as through the rest of his career, his concern was to stave off chaos and anarchy. Powell saw uniform, united sovereign power as the only way to prevent it. ‘The forces of disorder are endemic,’ he wrote in May 1946. Indians would ‘look to British order as a welcome salvation from chaos and strife’, he imagined. ‘India’, Powell believed, ‘would need direct British control of one kind or another for at least 50 years more.’

 These fantasies meant Enoch Powell was one of the few Britons to be shaken by independence of India and Pakistan in 1947. Reportedly he walked all night through the streets of London in a state of disbelief when he heard that a transfer of sovereignty had been announced. But Powell quickly, famously, reconciled himself to the sudden collapse of imperial sovereignty. Once British power in India was gone, he recognized empire was over and castigated the idea of a Commonwealth of independent nations as a meaningless fraud.

 Powell could relatively easily reconcile himself to post-imperial Britain because he was not interested in spreading British culture or civilization overseas. Unlike America’s global power, Powell argued, the British had no ‘missionary enterprise’ of making everyone like them. What mattered was the British state retaining its sovereign power to command and not be commanded. The important fact was not the power Britain had over other places but that it ruled itself, and was a haven of civilization and order against the chaos which Powell thought raged elsewhere.

 Powell’s imperial conception of Britain’s unitary, absolute sovereign power influenced his lifelong opposition to both the European Economic Community and to the alliance with the United States. It also shaped his approach to race and immigration in the UK. Enoch Powell was the most famous opponent of Asian and Caribbean migration to Britain after the Second World War. His was a conception of England as a culturally and racially homogeneous society, an idea which belied the realities of post-imperial Britain. His idea of a single community with a unitary undivided will drew from his experience of the enclaves of British power in India. Like British officers within the nineteenth-and early twentieth century Government of India, Powell always thought unity was necessary to prevent anarchy. Like them, he believed order relied on the existence of a homogenous group which could act consistently, and which was bound together by common race, a common set of myths and a willingness to make sacrifices for the ‘generation interest.’ The united power of the English state had once extended throughout the world. Looking back later in life, Powell saw that the idea of British power over India was a fantasy. ‘The Raj’ itself, he said, ‘was a mirage’, a belief in British authority in India his ‘grand delusion’. Since 1947 Britain’s claim to sovereignty has shrunk back to encompass just Britain itself. ‘It was’, he said when looking back on these years of ‘colonial disentanglements’ twenty years later, ‘as if the nation and the monarchy had come back home again.’ Enoch Powell’s nationalism repatriated his logic of imperial sovereignty to the narrower confines of ‘home’.

 The idea of strong, consistent, effective British power in India was indeed a delusion. From the start of Britain’s presence in the subcontinent, Britains were fractious and anxious, governed by chaotic passions as much as the rational effort to calculate their advantage. The British were driven by profit and the desire for a secure income; but their anxieties often led them to behave in ways which undermined their own interests. Pax Britannica only existed in the safe havens British India’s small number of European administrators created for themselves. Otherwise, the idea of British rule as a source of peace, order and secure property rights was a fantasy, projected by anxious administrators to persuade themselves and their British public they were in the right. In practice, British actions prolonged and fostered chaos far more than they cultivated security and prosperity.

 But the grand delusion is not just that British India was not what its propagandists claimed to be. It is that absolute sovereignty is ever an effective form of power. Power, as the German-American philosopher Hannah Arendt argued, is the experience of ‘action in concert’, the remarkable achievement of many different wills acting together. The British in India were capable of deploying violence, also of shaping the material world; they certainly had an impact. But they never created real power in this sense. The history of British rule in India shows how, in the long term, the desire to establish a unitary and absolute form of power is self-defeating. Obsessed with only their position and security, British officials were never the political leaders of the Indian subcontinent. British administrators could not shape South Asian society in their own interests let alone for its own good. Two hundred years of government in India could not even create a secure foundation for their rule. Constantly made vulnerable by the chaos they themselves helped to create, the British who conquered India were always one step away from defeat and humiliation.

 In Britain now, traces of empire are few and far between. Politicians and foreign office officials are embarrassed to mention the years of conquest and domination when they discuss the UK’s relationship with the subcontinent. Statues to imperial heroes can still be found in urban centres, with Curzon’s figure of Clive perhaps the nearest sculpture to the centre of British executive power at #10 Downing Street, and Sir Henry Havelock and Sir Charles Napier just up the road in Trafalgar Square. But the British public are more likely to see these figures as the object of bewilderment than support or anger. When people suggest they might be removed, no one defends empire. Instead critics are challenged for ‘doing Britain down’, for wanting to undermine Britain’s sovereignty over itself in the name of foreign interests and ideas, it is as if Enoch Powell’s efforts to make the ‘ nation and the monarch . . .  come back home’ have been successful. Wherever it is invoked, the idea of Britain’s absolute sovereign control over anything, including just itself, conveys a sense of the country as embattled and isolated, surrounded by chaotic forces it cannot deal with, imbued with the idea it can only survive by building defensive walls to protect and defend itself. As in India, it is an idea based on delusion. In fact, Britain has never done anything alone. The history of Britain itself has been shaped by global trade, and by friendship and conflict beyond the places its empire dominated. Britain itself is made up of different interests, towns and counties and identities; it has been most successful when authority has been exercised far from Westminster, and then coordinated by an inclusive form of political leadership. In practice the absolute sovereignty of the monarch and Parliament is not the same thing as effective power. There are better ways Britain can engage with itself and with the world.

 Colonel’s Retreat

Powell shared with most recent historians the idea that Britain’s empire was a coherent force in the world. In the last few decades, for radical critics of global capitalism and defenders of global Western power alike, the history of Britain’s empire in India has become a metaphor and a political football.

In the process empire is seen to represent a straightforward set of ideas about global domination which have endured from the days of the Raj to the present day. This book has challenged myths of imperial purpose and power propagated on both the political left and the right. Looking at empire from the bottom-up, through the real lives of its functionaries and subjects, we see how imperial power was rarely exercised to put grand purposes into practice. Its operations were driven instead by narrow interests and visceral passions, most importantly the desire to maintain British sovereign institutions in India for its own sake. That desire created structures and institutions in the subcontinent as well as those thousands of cemeteries which mark the resting place of Britons who died and were buried in Indian soil. But it left no purpose, culture or ideology.

 But in the last decade India has seen the emergence of a new attitude towards the imperial past. Many statues have been uncovered and washed; the grass around them has been cut, and their sites have been added to India’s tourist maps. Old imperial monuments have been cleaned and renovated. Throughout India, British-era buildings have been opened up as resorts for the delight of India’s middle-class. The chaos and fragility of British rule are passed over. For Indian consumers British rule is associated with ‘colonial’ style of solid wood, high ceilings and leather armchairs, which evoke escape from India’s fraught present into ‘old world charm’, power and luxury.

 For some, then, British rule seems to represent a form of power that newly connects to the ambitions of a modern, outward-looking global India. For others it denotes a systematic form of oppression, a site of devastating cultural and economic oppression. In either case British memorials can be assimilated into stories about the exercise of political power in the past running up to the present. In the process, British rule has become an almost infinitely manipulable set of images and symbols, few of which connect back to the realities of British power.

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A Life Well Spent On All Counts

The Testament of Mr. Jinnah 1876-1948 

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Cigar in hand, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah looking on quizzically as he was being photographed at the Cecil Hotel, Simla, in 1944. | Photo: National Archives Islamabad

After seven decades, how many of the problems Jinnah defined at Pakistan’s birth have yet been resolved?

On August 11, 1947, when Mohammad Ali Jinnah addressed the first democratically elected Constituent Assembly of his newly independent nation, he told Pakistan’s political leaders that

the first duty of government” was to maintain “law and order … so that the life, property, and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the state.”

Their “second duty,” he continued, was to prevent and punish

“bribery and corruption. That really is a poison. We must put that down … as soon as possible.” Another “curse,” he added, “was black-marketing … a colossal crime against society, in our distressed condition, when we constantly face shortage of food.”
“If we want to make this great state of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor … If you will work … together in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make. You are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state … We are all citizens and equal citizens of one state.”

Mohammad Ali Jinnah devoted the last two decades of his life to the relentless struggle to realize his brilliant and beautiful dream of an independent state of Pakistan, born just 70 years ago out of the Muslim majority regions of partitioned British India.

Sent to London by his father to study business management, young Jinnah’s fascination with politics was ignited by the Congress Party’s president Dadabhai Naoroji, a Parsi whose campaign in the British parliament, demanding liberty, equality and justice for all Indians, lured Jinnah to work hard for him, helping Congress’s ‘Grand Old Man’ win his seat by only three votes, after which he was called ‘Mr. Narrow-Majority’.

Jinnah joined the Congress as Dadabhai’s secretary, and enrolled in the City of London’s Lincoln’s Inn, deciding to study law instead of business. His portrait still hangs in that Inn’s hall, its only Asian-born barrister to become governor general of a Commonwealth nation. After he returned to India, Jinnah also joined the Muslim League, brilliantly drafting the Lucknow Pact in l9l6, which was adopted by both the Congress and the Muslim League, as their post-World War I demand for Dominion status in Britain’s Commonwealth.

He launched his singularly successful career as a barrister in Bombay, rather than in his smaller birthplace, Karachi, which was destined to become Pakistan’s first capital. Before the end of the War, Jinnah ‘s negotiating skills and wise moderation earned him the sobriquet, ‘Best Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity’. Throughout World War I, both Jinnah and Gandhi had supported the British cause, as did the Indian princes. Brave Muslims of Punjab were recruited to help hold the Maginot Line in France, and to fight and die in Mesopotamia. Congress and the League had hoped that such loyal service would be rewarded with freedom at the end of the War, or at least the promise of Dominion status. Instead, India was forced to accept martial ‘law’ regulations, extended indefinitely, and a brutal massacre of unarmed Sikh peasants in Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh, leaving 400 innocents dead and over 1,200 wounded.

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Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Miss Fatima Jinnah enjoying a boat ride, possibly in Dhaka, in the early 1940s. Standing on the left [wearing sherwani] is Khawaja Nazimuddin, who was at the time the Premier of Bengal. | Photo: The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad (PID)
Jinnah immediately resigned from the prestigious ‘Muslim seat’ from Bombay he’d been elected to on the Governor General’s Council, arguing that the

fundamental principles of justice have been uprooted and the constitutional rights of the people have been violated at a time when there is no real danger to the state, by an over-fretful and incompetent bureaucracy which is neither responsible to the people nor in touch with real public opinion”.

Gandhi launched his first nationwide Satyagraha in response to Britain’s post-War ‘black acts’ and the Punjab murders. Jinnah, on his part, tried unsuccessfully to caution him against inciting Congress’s masses, who cheered the Mahatma’s revolutionary calls to boycott everything British, including all imported cotton goods from Britain’s midlands, and every British school as well as all commercial and legal institutions.

Jinnah cautioned Gandhi that his movement would lead to greater violence and disaster, but Gandhi insisted that non-violence (Ahimsa) was sacred to him, and Jinnah was booed out of Congress’s largest meeting for calling their Great Soul – Mahatma Gandhi – “Mister” Gandhi. Jinnah felt obliged to resign from Congress, and returned to London to live, and practise law, in Hampstead with his sister, Fatima, and teen-aged daughter Dina. But soon Liaquat Ali Khan and other League stalwarts convinced him to return to India to revitalise the Muslim League, over which he would preside for the rest of his life.

“We must stand on our own inherent strength … It is no use blaming others,” Jinnah told the League in Karachi. “It is no use expecting our enemies to behave differently.”

To young Muslims who complained to him about the behaviour of inept League leaders, Jinnah replied, as he might admonish today’s youth: “It is your organisation … no use keeping out and finding faults with it. Come in, and … put it right.”

Faced with Congress’s revolutionary movement, from which most Muslim leaders were alienated, the British tried to win back mass support by holding provincial elections in 1937, devolving regional powers to popularly elected cabinets. Nehru campaigned most vigorously nationwide and led Congress to victory in seven of the 11 British Provinces. Jinnah’s Muslim League, however, faced with a number of competing Muslim regional parties, failed to capture even a single Province with a Muslim majority.

Young Nehru’s heady victory increased his arrogance and contempt for Jinnah, to whom he replied when Jinnah suggested joint cabinets for India’s large multi-ethnic provinces. “Line up!” Jawaharlal shouted. “There are only two parties” left in India, “Congress and the British”. Jinnah insisted, however, that there was a “Third Party; the Muslims!”

“Unless the parties learn to respect and fear each other,” Jinnah told the League, “there is no solid ground for any settlement. We have to organise our people, to build up the Muslim masses for a better world and for their immediate uplift, social and economic, and we have to formulate plans of a constructive and ameliorative character, to give immediate relief from the poverty and wretchedness from which they are suffering.”
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Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah with Khawaja Nazimuddin during the former’s visit to Dhaka in April, 1948. | Photo: The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad (PID)

Jinnah never again attempted to convince Nehru to agree to Congress-League cabinets, no longer wishing to link the League to Congress’s lumbering bullock-cart of a Party, insisting that the Congress

has now killed every hope of Hindu-Muslim settlement in the right royal fashion of Fascism … We Muslims want no gifts … no concessions. We Muslims of India have made up our mind to secure full rights, but we shall have them as rights … The Congress is nothing but a Hindu body.”

In Lucknow, in December 1937, wearing his black astrakhan Jinnah cap and long dark sherwani, instead of a British barrister’s suit, Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader) Jinnah presided over his League, assembled in the Raja of Mahmudabad’s garden.

Your foremost duty is to formulate a constructive programme of work for the people’s welfare … Equip yourselves as trained and disciplined soldiers. Create the feeling … of comradeship amongst yourselves. Work loyally, honestly and for the cause of your people and your country. No individual or people can achieve anything without industry, suffering and sacrifice. There are forces which may bully you, tyrannize over you … But it is by going through this crucible of the fire of persecution which may be levelled against you … that a nation will emerge, worthy of its past glory and history, and will live to make the future history greater and more glorious. Eighty millions of Musalmans in India have nothing to fear. They have their destiny in their hands, and as a well-knit, solid, organised, united force can face any danger to its united front and wishes.”

Throughout 1938 and 1939 Jinnah devoted himself to building the strength of the League, advancing it from a few thousand members at Lucknow to half-a-million by March, l940, when the League held its greatest meeting, demanding the creation of Pakistan, in the beautiful imperial Mughal Gardens of Punjab’s mighty capital.

“The Musalmans are a nation,”

Jinnah announced.

“The problem of India is not of an inter-communal character, but manifestly of an international one, and it must be treated as such.” To “secure the peace and happiness of the people of this subcontinent,” Jinnah added, the British must divide India into “autonomous national states.” 

Pakistan was not mentioned in his speech, however, and every member of the press asked him the next day if he meant one or two new states, since Bengal’s Muslim leader, Fazlul Huq, had chaired the resolutions’ committee that proposed partition the day before Jinnah spoke.

Jinnah knew by then that his lungs were fatally afflicted with cigarette smoke, coughing up blood. He couldn’t wait for Congress and the British to agree to the birth of what later became Bangladesh. So he insisted that his League meant one Pakistan, though divided by a thousand miles of North India.

When the last British Viceroy, ‘Dickie’ Mountbatten, urged Jinnah to accept him as joint governor general of Pakistan as well as of independent India, the job Nehru offered Mountbatten, Jinnah refused, never charmed by the Royal Mountbattens, as was Nehru, insisting on serving himself as Pakistan’s governor general.

After seven decades, how many of the problems Jinnah defined at Pakistan’s birth have as yet been resolved? And of late senseless terrorist murders have been added to Pakistan’s list of dreadful crimes against its innocent, impoverished people, helpless women and children, as well as devout Muslims bent in their prayers even inside the most beautiful mosques of Karachi, Quetta, Lahore and elsewhere.

Jinnah worked tirelessly for Pakistan to become a great nation basking in the sunshine and joy of freedom, enriched by citizens of every faith – Parsis and Hindus, Christians and Jews, as well as Muslims of every sect – all working together, harmoniously helping each other to build this Land of the Pure into one of the world’s strongest, wisest, richest countries. That was what the Great Leader dreamed his nation could and would become long before Pakistan’s birth.

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Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah smiling as he was welcomed at the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Karachi in 1947. | Photo: The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad (PID)

 It would never be easy, he knew, yet Jinnah tried his best to remind his followers of what they needed to do, shortly before Pakistan’s birth, when he had little more than one year left to breathe, losing more blood every day from his diseased lungs.

Often asked by disciples, “What are we fighting for? What are we aiming at?”, Jinnah replied:

It is not theocracy – not for a theocratic state. Religion is there, and religion is dear to us. All the worldly goods are nothing to us when we talk of religion, but there are other things which are very vital – our social life, our economic life …We Muslims have got everything … brains, intelligence, capacity and courage – virtues that nations must possess … But two things are lacking, and I want you to concentrate your attention on these.
One thing is that foreign domination from without and Hindu domination here, particularly in our economic life, has caused a certain degeneration of these virtues in us. We have lost the fullness of our noble character. And what is character? The highest sense of honour and the highest sense of integrity, conviction, incorruptibility, readiness at any time to efface oneself for the collective good of the nation.”

His legacy of wisdom was worthy of the Quaid-i-Azam, who lived a life honouring justice and fair play. Every Pakistani must remember that Jinnah’s fearless integrity would never sanction any terrorist murder, nor the violent abuse of any man, woman or child in his noble Land of the Pure.

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Feature Image: Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah autographs his portrait at a reception held in Karachi in December 1947. | Photo: The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad (PID) 

A life well spent on all counts by Stanley Wolpert. The writer is a historian and a well-known biographer, among others, of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Al Jinnah.

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THE MEDIA GROUP

 

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PUBLISHING PARTNER

HBL has been an indelible part of the nation’s fabric since independence, enabling the dreams of millions of Pakistanis. At HBL, we salute the dreamers and dedicate the nation’s 70th anniversary to you. Jahan Khwab, Wahan HBL

 

Douglas Bader

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Squadron Leader Douglas Bader c.1940

Featured image: Bader in 1955

Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader, CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, FRAeS, DL (21 February 1910 – 5 September 1982) was a Royal Air Force (RAF) flying ace during the Second World War. He was credited with 22 aerial victories, four shared victories, six probables, one shared probable and 11 enemy aircraft damaged

Bader joined the RAF in 1928, and was commissioned in 1930. In December 1931, while attempting some aerobatics, he crashed and lost both his legs. Having been on the brink of death, he recovered, retook flight training, passed his check flights and then requested reactivation as a pilot. Although there were no regulations applicable to his situation, he was retired against his will on medical grounds.

After the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, however, Douglas Bader returned to the RAF and was accepted as a pilot. He scored his first victories over Dunkirk during the Battle of France in 1940. He then took part in the Battle of Britain and became a friend and supporter of Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory and his “Big Wing” experiments.

In August 1941, Bader bailed out over German-occupied France and was captured. Soon afterward, he met and was befriended by Adolf Galland, a prominent German fighter ace. Despite his disability, Bader made many escape attempts and was eventually sent to the prisoner of war camp at Colditz Castle. He remained there until April 1945 when the camp was liberated by the First United States Army.

Bader left the RAF permanently in February 1946 and resumed his career in the oil industry. During the 1950s, a book and a film, Reach for the Sky, chronicled his life and RAF career to the end of the Second World War. Bader campaigned for the disabled and in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 1976 was appointed a Knight Bachelor “for services to disabled people “and continued to fly until ill health forced him to stop in 1979. Three years later, at the age of 72, Bader died on 5 September 1982, after a heart attack.

Early years, childhood and education

Bader was born on 21 February 1910 in St John’s Wood, London, the second son of Frederick Roberts Bader, a civil engineer, and his wife Jessie Scott MacKenzie. His first two years were spent with McCann relatives in the Isle of Man while his father, accompanied by Bader’s mother and older brother Frederick (named after his father but called ‘Derick’ to distinguish the two), returned to his work in India after the birth of his son. At the age of two, Bader joined his parents in India for a year; however, when his father resigned from his job in 1913 the family moved back to London, and settled in Kew. Bader’s father saw action in the First World War in the Royal Engineers, and was wounded in action in 1917. He remained in France after the war, where, having attained the rank of major, he died in 1922 of complications from those wounds in a hospital in Saint-Omer, the same area where Bader would bail out and be captured in 1941.

Bader’s mother remarried shortly thereafter to the Reverend Ernest William Hobbs. Bader was subsequently brought up in the rectory of the village of Sprotborough, near Doncaster, West Riding of Yorkshire.  Bader’s aggressive energy found a new lease of life at St Edward’s School, where he received his secondary education. During his time there, he thrived at sports. Bader played rugby and often enjoyed physical battles with bigger and older opponents. Bader’s sporting interests continued into his military service. He was selected for the Royal Air Force cricket team, to play a first-class match against the Army at the Oval in July 1931. He scored 65 and 1. In August, he played in a two-day game against the Royal Navy. He played cricket in a German prisoner of war camp after his capture in 1941, despite his later disability.

In mid-1923, Bader, at the age of 13, was introduced to an Avro 504 during a school holiday trip to visit his aunt, Hazel, who was marrying RAF Flight Lieutenant Cyril Burge, adjutant at RAF Cranwell. Although he enjoyed the visit and took an interest in aviation, he showed no signs of becoming a keen pilot. Still very sports minded, an interest which dominated Bader’s formative years, he took less of an interest in his studies. Bader received guidance from Warden Kendall and, with Kendall’s encouragement, he excelled at his studies and was later accepted as a cadet at RAF Cranwell. Soon afterwards, he was offered a place at Oxford University, but turned it down as he preferred Cambridge University.

His mother refused to allow Bader to attend Cambridge in December 1927, claiming she could not afford the fees.  A master at St. Edwards, a Mr. Dingwall, helped pay these fees in part. Due to his new connection with Cyril Burge, Bader learned of the six annual prize cadetships offered by RAF Cranwell each year. Out of hundreds of applicants, he finished fifth. He left St Edward’s in early 1928, aged 18.

Joining the RAF

In 1928, Bader joined the RAF as an officer cadet at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in rural Lincolnshire. He continued to excel at sports, and added hockey and boxing to his repertoire. Motorcycling was tolerated at Cranwell, though cadets usually took part in banned activities such as speeding, pillion racing and buying and racing motorcars.

On 13 September 1928, Bader took his first flight with his instructor Flying Officer W. J. “Pissy” Pearson in an Avro 504.  After just 11 hours and 15 minutes of flight time, he flew his first solo, on 19 February 1929.

Bader competed for the “Sword of Honour” award at the end of his two-year course, but lost to Patrick Coote, his nearest rival.  On 26 July 1930, Bader was commissioned as a pilot officer into No. 23 Squadron RAF based at Kenley, Surrey. Flying Gloster Gamecocks and soon after, Bristol Bulldogs, Bader became a daredevil while training there, often flying illegal and dangerous stunts. While very fast for its time, the Bulldog had directional stability problems at low speeds, which made such stunts exceptionally dangerous. Strict orders were issued forbidding unauthorised aerobatics below 2,000 feet (610 m). Douglas took this as an unnecessary safety rule rather than an order to be obeyed. After one training flight at the gunnery range, Bader achieved only a 38 percent hit rate on a target. Receiving jibes from a rival squadron (No. 25 Squadron RAF), Bader took off to perform aerobatics and show off his skill. It was against regulations, and seven out of 23 accidents caused by ignoring regulations had proven fatal. The CO of No. 25 Squadron remarked that he would order Bader to face a court-martial if Bader was in his unit. The COs of Bader’s unit, Harry Day and Henry Wollett, gave the pilots more latitude, although Day encouraged them to recognise their own limits.

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Bader, Fl.Lt. Harry Day and Fl.Off. Geoffrey Stephenson during training for the 1932 Hendon airshow, with a Gloster Gamecock

No. 23 Squadron had won the Hendon Air Show “pairs” event in 1929 and 1930. In 1931 Bader, teamed with Harry Day, successfully defended the squadron’s title in the spring that year. In late 1931, Bader undertook training for the 1932 Hendon Air Show, hoping to win a second consecutive title.  Two pilots had been killed attempting aerobatics. The pilots were warned not to practise these manoeuvres under 2,000 feet (610 m) and to keep above 500 feet (150 m) always.

Nevertheless, on 14 December 1931, while visiting Reading Aero Club, he attempted some low-flying aerobatics at Woodley Airfield in a Bulldog Mk. IIA, K1676, of 23 Squadron, apparently on a dare. His aircraft crashed when the tip of the left wing touched the ground. Bader was rushed to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, where, in the hands of the prominent surgeon J. Leonard Joyce (1882–1939), both his legs were amputated — one above and one below the knee. Bader made the following laconic entry in his logbook after the crash: Crashed slow-rolling near ground. Bad show. — Douglas Bader

In 1932, after a long convalescence, throughout which he needed morphine for pain relief, Bader was transferred to the hospital at RAF Uxbridge and fought hard to regain his former abilities after he was given a new pair of artificial legs. In time, his agonising and determined efforts paid off, and he could drive a specially modified car, play golf, and even dance. During his convalescence there, he met and fell in love with Thelma Edwards, a waitress at a tea room called the Pantiles on the A30 London Road in Bagshot, Surrey.

Bader got his chance to prove that he could still fly when, in June 1932, Air Under-Secretary Philip Sassoon arranged for him to take up an Avro 504, which he piloted competently. A subsequent medical examination proved him fit for active service, but in April 1933 he was notified that the RAF had decided to reverse the decision because this situation was not covered by King’s Regulations. In May, Bader was invalided out of the RAF, took an office job with the Asiatic Petroleum Company (now Shell) and, on 5 October 1933, married Thelma Edwards.

Return to RAF

With increasing tensions in Europe in 1937–1939, Bader repeatedly requested that the Air Ministry give him a posting and he was finally invited to a selection board meeting at Adastral House in Kingsway. Bader was disappointed to learn that it was only “ground jobs” that were being offered. It appeared that he would be refused a flying position;  but Air Vice Marshal Halahan, commandant of RAF Cranwell in Bader’s days there, personally endorsed him and asked the Central Flying School, Upavon, to assess his capabilities.

On 14 October 1939, the Central Flying School requested Bader report for flight tests on 18 October. He did not wait; driving down the next morning, Bader undertook refresher courses.  Despite reluctance on the part of the establishment to allow him to apply for an A.1.B. (full flying category status), his persistent efforts paid off.  Bader regained a medical categorisation for operational flying at the end of November 1939 and was posted to the Central Flying School for a refresher course on modern types of aircraft. On 27 November, eight years after his accident, Bader flew solo again in an Avro Tutor; once airborne, he could not resist the temptation to turn the biplane upside down at 600 feet (180 m) inside the circuit area. Bader subsequently progressed through the Fairey Battle and Miles Master (the last training stage before flying Spitfires and Hurricanes).

Second World War

Phoney war

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Squadron Leader D R S Bader, DSO, DFC. (1940) by Eric Kennington

In January 1940, Bader was posted to No. 19 Squadron based at RAF Duxford near Cambridge, where, at 29, he was older than most of his fellow pilots. Squadron Leader Geoffrey Stephenson, a close friend from his Cranwell days, was the commanding officer, and it was here that Bader got his first glimpse of a Spitfire. It was thought that Bader’s success as a fighter pilot was partly because of his having no legs; pilots pulling high “g-forces” in combat turns often “blacked out” as the flow of blood from the brain drained to other parts of the body, usually the legs. As Bader had no legs he could remain conscious longer, and thus had an advantage over more able-bodied opponents.

Between February and May 1940 Bader practised formation flying, air tactics, and undertook flights over sea convoys. Bader found opposition to his ideas about aerial combat. He favoured using the sun and altitude to ambush the enemy, but the RAF did not share his opinions. Official orders/doctrine dictated that pilots should fly line-astern and attack singly. Despite this being at odds with his preferred tactics, Bader obeyed orders, and his skill saw him rapidly promoted to section leader.

During this time, Bader crashed a Spitfire on take-off. He had forgotten to switch the propeller pitch from coarse to fine, and the aircraft careened down the runway at 80 mph, ultimately crashing. Despite a head wound, Bader got into another Spitfire for a second attempt. Leigh-Mallory made Bader a flight commander of No. 222 Squadron RAF a few weeks later which also meant an advance from flying officer to flight lieutenant.

Battle of France

Bader had his first taste of combat with No. 222 Squadron RAF, which was based at RAF Duxford and commanded by another old friend of his, Squadron Leader “Tubby” Mermagen. On 10 May the Wehrmacht invaded Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. The campaigns went badly for the Western Allies and soon they were evacuating from Dunkirk during the battle for the port. RAF Squadrons were ordered to provide air supremacy for the Royal Navy during Operation Dynamo.

  • While patrolling the coast near Dunkirk on 1 June 1940 at around 3,000 feet (910 m), Bader happened upon a Messerschmitt Bf 109 in front of him, flying in the same direction and at approximately the same speed. He believed that the German must have been a novice, taking no evasive action even though it took more than one burst of gunfire to shoot him down. Bader was also credited with a Messerschmitt Bf 110 damaged, despite claiming five victories in that dogfight.
  • In the next patrol Bader was credited with a Heinkel He 111 damaged. On 4 June 1940, his encounter with a Dornier Do 17, which was attacking Allied shipping, involved a near collision while he was firing at the aircraft’s rear gunner during a high-speed pass.

Shortly after Bader joined 222 Squadron, it moved to RAF Kirton in Lindsey, just south of the Humber.

After flying operations over Dunkirk, Bader was posted to command No. 242 Squadron RAF as acting squadron leader on 28 June 1940, a Hawker Hurricane unit based at RAF Coltishall, mainly made up of Canadians who had suffered high losses in the Battle of France and had low morale. Despite initial resistance to their new commanding officer, the pilots were soon won over by Bader’s strong personality and perseverance, especially in cutting through red tape to make the squadron operational again. Bader transformed 242 Squadron back into an effective fighting unit. Upon the formation of No. 12 Group RAF, 242 Squadron was assigned to the Group while based at RAF Duxford. No. 242 Squadron only became fully operational on 9 July 1940.

Battle of Britain

DB4
Bader sitting on his Hurricane, as commanding officer of No.242 Squadron after the Battle of France

After the French campaign, the RAF prepared for the coming Battle of Britain in which the Luftwaffe intended to achieve air supremacy. Once attained, the Germans would attempt to launch Operation Sea Lion, the code name for an invasion of Britain. The battle officially began on 10 July 1940.

  • On 11 July, Bader scored his first victory with his new squadron. The cloud base was down to just 600 feet while drizzle and mist covered most of the sky, and forward visibility was down to just 2,000 yards. Bader was alone on patrol, and was soon directed toward an enemy aircraft flying north up the Norfolk coast. Spotting the aircraft at 600 yards, Bader recognised it as a Dornier Do 17, and after he closed to 250 yards its rear gunner opened fire. Bader continued his attack and fired two bursts into the bomber before it vanished into cloud. The Dornier, which crashed into the sea off Cromer, was later confirmed by a member of the Royal Observer Corps.
  • On 21 August, a similar engagement took place. This time, a Dornier went into the sea off Great Yarmouth and again the Observer Corps confirmed the claim. There were no survivors.

Later in the month, Bader scored a further two victories over Messerschmitt Bf 110s.

  • On 30 August 1940, No. 242 Squadron was moved to Duxford again and found itself in the thick of the fighting. On this date, the squadron claimed 10 enemy aircraft, Bader scoring two victories against Bf 110s. Other squadrons were involved, and it was impossible to verify which RAF units were responsible for the damage on the enemy.
  • On 7 September, two more Bf 110s were shot down, but in the same engagement Bader was badly hit by a Messerschmitt Bf 109. Bader almost baled out, but recovered the Hurricane. Other pilots witnessed one of Bader’s victims crash.
  • On 7 September, Bader claimed two Bf 109s shot down, followed by a Junkers Ju 88.
  • On 9 September, Bader claimed another Dornier. During the same mission, he attacked a He 111 only to discover he was out of ammunition. Enraged, he thought about ramming it and slicing off the rudder with his propeller, but turned away when he regained his composure.

On 14 September, Bader was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his combat leadership.

  • On 15 September, known as the Battle of Britain Day, Bader damaged a Do 17 and a Ju 88, while destroying another Do 17 in the afternoon. Bader flew several missions that day, which involved heavy air combat. The original combat report states that he destroyed one enemy aircraft, claimed no probable, but did claim several damaged. The Dornier’s gunner attempted to bail out, but his parachute was caught on the tail wheel and he died when the aircraft crashed into the Thames Estuary. Further detail suggests Bader took pity on the gunner and “tried to kill him to put him out of his misery”.
  • Another Do 17 and a Ju 88 were claimed on 18 September. A Bf 109 was claimed on 27 September. Bader was gazetted on 1 October 1940. On 24 September, he had been promoted to the war substantive rank of flight lieutenant.
As a friend and supporter of his 12 Group commander, Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Bader joined him as an active exponent of the controversial “Big Wing” theory which provoked much debate in the RAF during the battle. Bader was an outspoken critic of the careful “husbanding” tactics being used by Air Vice Marshal Keith Park, the commander of 11 Group. Park was supported by Fighter Command Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the overall commander. Bader vociferously campaigned for an aggressive policy of assembling large formations of defensive fighters north of London ready to inflict maximum damage on the massed German bomber formations as they flew over South-East England. As the Battle progressed, Bader often found himself at the head of a composite wing of fighters consisting of up to five squadrons, known as the “Duxford Wing”. Achievements of the Big Wing were hard to quantify, as the large formations often took too long to form up, over claimed victories, and too often did not provide timely support of the over-committed 11 Group. The episode probably contributed to the departure of Park, who was replaced with Leigh-Mallory in November 1940, and Dowding. While it is not known whether Mallory and Bader were aware that the claims of the RAF and Big Wings were exaggerated, they certainly tried to use them as a potent tool with which to remove Park and Dowding from command and pursue the Big Wing tactic.  After the war, Bader insisted that both he and Leigh-Mallory wanted the Big Wing tactic enacted in 12 Group only. They both believed, according to Bader, that it was impractical to use it in 11 Group, as the command was located too close to the enemy and would not have enough time to assemble.

RAF ace Johnnie Johnson offered a balanced view of Bader and the Big Wing:

Douglas was all for the Big Wings to counter the German formation[s]. I think there was room for both tactics – the Big Wings and the small squadrons. It might well have been fatal had Park always tried to get his squadrons into “Balbos”, for not only would they have taken longer to get to their height, but sixty or seventy packed climbing fighters could have been seen for miles and would have been sitting ducks for higher 109s. Also, nothing would have pleased Göring more than for his 109s to pounce on large numbers of RAF fighters. Indeed, Adolf Galland and Werner Mölders complained about the elusiveness of Fighter Command and Park’s brilliance was that by refusing to concentrate his force he preserved it throughout the battle. This does not mean, as Bader pointed out at the time, that two or three Balbos from 10 and 12 Groups, gaining height beyond the range of the 109s, would not have played a terrific part in the fighting.

During the Battle of Britain, Bader used three Hawker Hurricanes. The first was P3061, in which he scored six air victories. The second aircraft was unknown, but Bader did score one victory and two damaged in it on 9 September. The third was V7467, in which he destroyed four more and added one probable and two damaged by the end of September. The machine was lost on 1 September 1941 while on a training exercise.

On 12 December 1940, Bader was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his services during the Battle of Britain. His unit, No. 242 Squadron, had claimed 62 aerial victories.  Bader was gazetted on 7 January 1941. By this time, he was an acting squadron leader.

Wing Leader

On 18 March 1941, Bader was promoted to acting wing commander and became one of the first “wing leaders”. Stationed at Tangmere with 145, 610 and 616 Squadrons under his command, Bader led his wing of Spitfires on sweeps and “Circus” operations (medium bomber escort) over north-western Europe throughout the summer campaign. These were missions combining bombers and fighters designed to lure out and tie down German Luftwaffe fighter units that might otherwise serve on the Russian front. One of the wing leader’s “perks” was permission to have his initials marked on his aircraft as personal identification, thus “D-B” was painted on the side of Bader’s Spitfire. These letters gave rise to his radio call-sign “Dogsbody”.

During 1941 his wing was re-equipped with Spitfire VBs, which had two Hispano 20 mm cannon and four .303 machine guns. Bader flew a Mk VA equipped with eight .303 machine guns, as he insisted that these guns were more effective against fighter opposition. His tactics required a close-in approach in which he felt the lower calibre weapons had a more devastating effect. At the time, RAF trials with wing-mounted cannons had also revealed many shortcomings that precluded a widespread acceptance of the armament.

Bader’s combat missions were mainly fought against Bf 109s over France and the Channel.

  • On 7 May 1941, he shot down one Bf 109 and claimed another as a probable victory. The German formation belonged to Jagdgeschwader 26 (Fighter Wing 26), which on that date was led in action by German ace Adolf Galland, and was also when Galland claimed his 68th victory. Bader and Galland met again 94 days later.
  • On 21 June 1941, Bader shot down a Bf 109E off the coast near Desvres. His victory was witnessed by two other pilots who saw a Bf 109 crash and the German pilot bail out.
  • On 25 June 1941 Bader shot down two more Bf 109Fs. The first was shot down between 11:58 and 13:35 off the coast of Gravelines; the pilot bailed out. In the same action he shared in the destruction of another Bf 109F. The second Bf 109 was shot down in the afternoon.

The following month was more successful for Bader.

  • On 2 July 1941, he was awarded the bar to his DSO. Later that day he claimed one Bf 109 destroyed and another damaged.
  • On 4 July, Bader fired on a Bf 109E which slowed down so much that he nearly collided with it. Squadron Leader Burton saw the entire combat and noted the Bf 109 “fell away in a sloppy fashion”, “as though the pilot had been hit”. It was marked as a probable.
  • On 6 July, another Bf 109 was shot down and the pilot bailed out. This victory was witnessed by Pilot Officers Johnnie Johnson and Alan Smith (Bader’s usual wingman).
  • On 9 July, Bader claimed one probable and one damaged, both trailing coolant or oil.
  • On 10 July Bader claimed a Bf 109 (and one damaged) over Bethune. Later, Bader destroyed a Bf 109E which blew up south of, or over, Calais.
  • On 12 July, Bader found further success, shooting down one Bf 109 and damaging three others between Bethune and St Omer. Bader was again gazetted on 15 July.
  • On 23 July, Bader claimed another Bf 109 damaged and possibly destroyed, even though the action resulted in two Bf 109s destroyed. The other was shot down by Squadron Leader Burton. Bader did not see his Bf 109 crash, so he claimed it as a damaged only, despite the fact pilots of No. 242 Squadron RAF saw two Bf 109s crash

Bader had been pushing for more sorties to fly in late 1941 but his Wing was tired. He was intent on adding to his score, which, according to the CO of No. 616 Squadron RAF Billy Burton, brought the other pilots and mood in his wing to a near-mutinous state. Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Bader’s immediate superior as OC No. 11 Group, Fighter Command, relented and allowed Bader to continue frequent missions over France even though his score of 20 and the accompanying strain evident on his features obliged Leigh-Mallory to consider his withdrawal from operations. Ultimately, Leigh-Mallory did not want to upset his star pilot, and did not invoke any restrictions.

Last combat

Between 24 March and 9 August 1941, Bader flew 62 fighter sweeps over France.

  • On 9 August 1941, Bader was flying a Spitfire Mk VA serial W3185 “D-B” on an offensive patrol over the French coast, looking for Messerschmitt Bf 109s from Abbeville or Wissant without his trusted wingman Alan Smith. Smith, who was described by fellow pilot Johnnie Johnson as “leechlike” and the “perfect number two”, was unable to fly on that day due to a head cold, so was in London being fitted for a new uniform ready for his officer commission. It is possible that this may have been a contributing factor as to how events unfolded. Just after Bader’s section of four aircraft crossed the coast, 12 Bf 109s were spotted flying in formation approximately 2,000 to 3,000 feet (600 to 900 metres) below them and travelling in the same direction. Bader dived on them too fast and too steeply to be able to aim and fire his guns, and barely avoided colliding with one of them. He levelled out at 24,000 feet (7,300 metres) to find that he was now alone, separated from his section, and was considering whether to return home when he spotted three pairs of Bf 109s a couple of miles in front of him. He dropped down below them and closed before destroying one of them with a short burst of fire from close range. Bader was just opening fire on a second Bf 109, which trailed white smoke and dropped down, when he noticed the two on his left turning towards him. At this point he decided it would be better to return home; however, making the mistake of banking away from them, Bader believed he had a mid-air collision with the second of the two Bf 109s on his right that were continuing straight ahead. Bader’s fuselage, tail and fin were gone from behind him, and he lost height rapidly at what he estimated to be 400 mph (640 km/hr) in a slow spin. He jettisoned the cockpit canopy, released his harness pin, and the air rushing past the open cockpit started to suck him out, but his prosthetic leg was trapped. Part way out of the cockpit and still attached to his aircraft, Bader fell for some time before he released his parachute, at which point the leg’s retaining strap snapped under the strain and he was pulled free.  A Bf 109 flew by some 50 yards away as he neared the ground at around 4,000 feet (1,200 metres).

Controversy over cause

Although Bader believed for years that he had collided in midair with a Bf 109, two other possibilities have later been put forward; that he was shot down by a German Bf 109, or alternatively that he may have been a victim of friendly fire.  Recent research shows no Bf 109 was lost to a collision that day, and there is also doubt that a German pilot was responsible for shooting him down. Feldwebel Max Meyer of II./Jagdgeschwader 26 flying a Bf 109 had claimed him shot down that morning and according to Luftwaffe records a Leutnant Kosse of 5./JG 26 and Meyer, of 6./JG 26 were the only German pilots to claim a victory that day. Furthermore, Meyer mentioned that he had followed the downed Spitfire and watched the pilot bail out, something which seems to match this passage in Bader’s memoirs:

I was floating in the sunshine above broken, white cloud … I heard an aeroplane just after I passed through. A Bf 109 flew past.

The quest to find Bader’s Spitfire, W3185, shed light on the demise of another famous wartime ace, Wilhelm Balthasar, Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 2, who was killed in action on 3 July 1941 when his Bf 109F crashed into Ferme Goset, Wittes, France. It was recovered in March 2004. Later, in the summer 2004, a further aircraft was discovered in Widdebrouch. It was found to be that of a Bf 109F, flown by Unteroffizier Albert Schlager of JG 26, who was reported missing during Bader’s last combat on 9 August 1941. A brief glimpse of hope was discovered later, when a Spitfire wreck was found. Inside was a flying helmet with the letters “DB” written on the top. It was later identified as a Spitfire IX, owing to the findings of a 20mm cannon (which Bader’s Spitfire did not have), and ammunition dated as 1943.

Bader’s aircraft was not found. It is likely that it came down at Mont Dupil Farm near the French village of Blaringhem, possibly near Desprez sawmill. A French witness, Jacques Taffin, saw the Spitfire disintegrating as it came down. He thought it had been hit by anti-aircraft fire, but none was active in the area. There were also no Spitfire remains in the area. The lack of any remains was not surprising, owing to the Spitfire breaking up on its descent. Historians have also been misled as to the whereabouts of the Spitfire because of a mistake in the book Reach for the Sky, in which Bader stated his leg had been dug out from the wreckage but was damaged, indicating a definite crash site. Bader’s leg had been found in an open field.

Prisoner of war

DB6
Colditz Castle in April 1945. Bader was a prisoner here for nearly three years

The Germans treated Bader with great respect. When he bailed out, Bader’s right prosthetic leg became trapped in the aircraft, and he escaped only when the leg’s retaining straps snapped after he pulled the ripcord on his parachute. General Adolf Galland notified the British of his damaged leg and offered them safe passage to drop off a replacement. Hermann Göring himself gave the green light for the operation. The British responded on 19 August 1941 with the “Leg Operation” — an RAF bomber could drop a new prosthetic leg by parachute to St Omer, a Luftwaffe base in occupied France, as part of Circus 81 involving six Bristol Blenheims and a sizeable fighter escort. The Germans were less impressed when, task done, the bombers proceeded on to their bombing mission to Gosnay Power Station near Bethune, although bad weather prevented the target being attacked. Galland stated in an interview that the aircraft dropped the leg after bombing Galland’s airfield. Galland did not meet Bader again until summer 1945, when he, Günther Rall and Hans-Ulrich Rudel arrived at RAF Tangmere as prisoners of war. Bader, according to Rall, personally arranged for Rudel, a fellow amputee, to be fitted with an artificial leg.

Bader escaped from the hospital where he was recovering by tying together many sheets. Initially the “rope” did not reach the ground; with the help of another patient, he slid the sheet from under the comatose New Zealand pilot, Bill Russell of No. 485 Squadron, who had had his arm amputated the day before. Russell’s bed was then moved to the window to act as an anchor. A French maid at the St. Omer hospital attempted to get in touch with British agents to enable Douglas to escape back to Britain. She later brought a letter from a peasant couple (a Mr. and Mrs. Hiecques), who promised to shelter him outside St. Omer until he could be passed further down the line. Until then, their son would wait outside the hospital every night until there was a chance of escape. Eventually, he escaped out of a window. The plan worked initially. Bader completed the long walk to the safe house despite wearing a British uniform. Unfortunately for him, the plan was betrayed by another woman at the hospital. He hid in the garden when a German staff car arrived at the house, but was found later. Bader denied that the couple had known he was there. They, along with the French woman at the hospital, were sent for forced labour in Germany. The couple survived. After the war, French authorities sentenced the woman informer to 20 years in prison.

Over the next few years, Bader made himself a thorn in the side of the Germans. He often practised what the RAF personnel called “goon-baiting”. He considered it his duty to cause as much trouble to the enemy as possible, much of which included escape attempts. He made so many escape attempts that the Germans threatened to take away his legs. In August 1942, Bader escaped with Johnny Palmer and three others from the camp at Stalag Luft III B in Sagan. Unluckily, a Luftwaffe officer of Jagdgeschwader 26 was in the area. Keen to meet the Tangmere wing leader, he dropped by to see Bader, but when he knocked on his door, there was no answer. Soon the alarm was raised, and a few days later, Bader was recaptured. During the escape attempt, the Germans produced a poster of Bader and Palmer asking for information. It described Bader’s disability and said he “walks well with stick”. Twenty years later, Bader was sent a copy of it by a Belgian civilian prisoner, who had worked in a Gestapo office in Leipzig. Bader found this amusing, as he had never used a stick.  He was finally dispatched to the “escape-proof” Colditz Castle Oflag IV-C on 18 August 1942, where he remained until 15 April 1945 when it was liberated by the First United States Army.

Last years in the RAF

After his return to Britain, Bader was given the honour of leading a victory flypast of 300 aircraft over London in June 1945. On 1 July, he was promoted to temporary wing commander. Soon after, Bader was looking for a post in the RAF. Air Marshal Richard Atcherley, a former Schneider Trophy pilot, was commanding the Central Fighter Establishment at Tangmere. He and Bader had been junior officers at Kenley in 1930, while serving in No. 23 Squadron RAF. Bader was given the post of the Fighter Leader’s School commanding officer. He received a promotion to war substantive wing commander on 1 December and soon after was promoted to temporary group captain.

Unfortunately for Bader, fighter aircraft’s roles had now grown significantly and he spent most of his time instructing on ground attack and co-operation with ground forces. Also, Bader did not get on with the newer generation of squadron leaders who considered him to be “out of date“. In the end, Air Marshal James Robb offered Bader a role commanding the North Weald sector of No. 11 Group RAF, an organisation steeped in Fighter Command and Battle of Britain history.  It is likely Bader would have stayed in the RAF for some time had his mentor Leigh-Mallory not been killed in an air crash in November 1944, such was the respect and influence he held over Bader, but Bader’s enthusiasm for continued service in the RAF waned.  On 21 July 1946, Bader retired from the RAF with the rank of group captain to take a job at Royal Dutch Shell.

Post-war career

Bader considered politics, and standing as a Member of Parliament for his home constituency in the House of Commons. He despised how the three main political parties used war veterans for their own political ends. Instead, he resolved to join Shell. His decision was not motivated by money, but a willingness to repay a debt. Shell had been ready to take him on, aged 23, after his accident.  He spent most of his time abroad flying around in a company-owned Percival Proctor and later a Miles Gemini. On one mission, between 15 August and 16 September 1946, Bader was sent on a public relations mission for Shell around Europe and North Africa with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) General James Doolittle.

Bader became Managing Director of Shell Aircraft until he retired in 1969. He travelled to every major country outside the Communist world, becoming internationally famous and a popular after-dinner speaker on aviation matters. In 1975, he spoke at the funeral of Keith Park.

Personality

Bader’s controversial traits were touched upon by Brickhill in the book Reach for the Sky. “He is a somewhat ‘difficult’ person,” Brickhill told (Sir) Billy Collins, head of his publishing house William Collins and Sons, after spending over a year talking to him.  Nevertheless, Bader was received as a legendary figure by the wider public, who closely identified him as a leader of The Few in the Battle of Britain. Bader also wrote the foreword to Hans-Ulrich Rudel’s biography Stuka Pilot. Even when it emerged that Rudel was a fervent supporter of the Nazi Party, Bader said that prior knowledge would not have changed his mind about his contribution.

Personal life

Bader’s first wife, Thelma, developed throat cancer in 1967. Aware that her survival was unlikely, the two spent as much time with each other as possible. Thelma was a smoker, and although she stopped smoking, it did not save her. After a long battle, she died on 24 January 1971.  Bader married Joan Murray (née Hipkiss) on 3 January 1973. They spent the remainder of their lives in the village of Marlston, Berkshire. Joan was the daughter of a steel tycoon.  Bader campaigned vigorously for people with disabilities and set an example of how to overcome a disability. In June 1976, Bader was knighted for his services to disabled people. Actor John Mills and Air Vice-Marshal Neil Cameron attended the ceremony.

Other awards followed. Bader maintained his interest in aviation, and in 1977 he was made a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He also received a Doctorate of Science from Queen’s University Belfast. Bader was also busy acting as a consultant to Aircraft Equipment International at Ascot, Berkshire. Bader’s health was in decline in the 1970s, and he soon gave up flying altogether. On 4 June 1979, Bader flew his Beech 95 Travelair for the last time, the aircraft having been gifted to him on his retirement from Shell. He had recorded 5,744 hours and 25 minutes flying time. Bader’s friend Adolf Galland followed Bader into retirement soon afterwards for the same reasons.

His workload was exhausting for a legless man with a worsening heart condition. On 5 September 1982, after a dinner honouring Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris at the Guildhall, at which he spoke, Bader died of a heart attack while being driven through Chiswick, west London, on his way home.

Among the many dignitaries and personalities at his funeral was Adolf Galland. Galland and Douglas Bader had shared a friendship that spanned more than 42 years since their first meeting in France. Although Galland was on a business trip to California, he made sure to attend the memorial service held for Bader at the St Clement Danes Church in the Strand.

Peter Tory wrote in his London Diary newspaper column:
Certainly Bader, had he been present, would have instantly recognised the stranger in the dark raincoat. Stomping over to his side, he would have banged him on the back and bellowed: “Bloody good show, glad you could come!”— Peter Tory

Tributes

Douglas Bader House in Fairford is now the headquarters for the RAF Charitable Trust

A biography about Douglas Bader by Paul Brickhill, Reach for the Sky, was published in 1954. Some 172,000 copies were sold in the first few months alone. The feature film of the same title was released in 1956, starring Kenneth More as Bader, topping the box office in Britain that year.

Honours and awards

  • 1 October 1940 – Acting Squadron Leader Bader (26151) is appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order:
    This officer had displayed, gallantry and leadership of the highest order. During three recent engagements, he has led his squadron with such skill and ability that thirty-three enemy aircraft have been destroyed. During these engagements Squadron Leader Bader had added to his previous successes by destroying six enemy aircraft
  • London Gazette: 7 January 1941 – Acting Squadron Leader Bader, DSO (26151), No. 242 Squadron is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross:
    Squadron Leader Bader has continued to lead his squadron and wing with the utmost gallantry on all occasions. He has now destroyed a total of ten hostile aircraft and damaged several more.
  • London Gazette: 15 July 1941 – Acting Wing Commander Bader, DSO, DFC (26151) is awarded a bar to the Distinguished Service Order:
    This officer has led his wing on a series of consistently successful sorties over enemy territory during the past three months. His high qualities of leadership and courage have been an inspiration to all. Wing Commander Bader has destroyed 15 hostile aircraft.
  • London Gazette: 9 September 1941 – Acting Wing Commander Bader, DSO, DFC (26151) is awarded a bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:
    The fearless pilot has recently added a further four enemy aircraft to his previous successes; in addition he has probably destroyed another four and damaged five hostile aircraft. By his fine leadership and high courage Wing Commander Bader has inspired the wing on every occasion.
  • London Gazette: 2 January 1956 – Group Captain Bader, DSO, DFC is appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to the disabled.
  • 12 June 1976 – Group Captain Bader, CBE, DSO, DFC is made a Knight Bachelor for services to disabled people.

Combat credos

Bader attributed his success to the belief in the three basic rules, shared by the German ace Erich Hartmann:

  • If you had the height, you controlled the battle.
  • If you came out of the sun, the enemy could not see you.
  • If you held your fire until you were very close, you seldom missed.

 

DB5
Douglas Bader by Cuthbert Orde, March 1941
  • Nickname(s): Dogsbody
  • Born: 21 February 1910, St John’s Wood, London
  • Died: 5 September 1982 (aged 72) Chiswick, London
  • Allegiance: United Kingdom
  • Service/branch Royal Air Force
  • Years of service 1928–1933; 1939–1946
  • Rank: Group Captain
  • Service number 26151

Commands held

  • Tangmere Wing
  • Duxford Wing
  • 242 Squadron

Battles/wars

  • Second World War
  • Battle of France
  • Battle of Dunkirk
  • Operation Dynamo
  • Battle of Britain
  • Adlertag
  • The Hardest Day
  • Battle of Britain Day
  • The Blitz
  • Channel Front (POW)

Awards

  • Knight Bachelor
  • Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • Distinguished Service Order & Bar
  • Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar
  • Mentioned in Dispatches

Other work

  • Aviation consultant
  • Disabled activist

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Air Aces

Pilots of the warring nations in WWII who are acknowledged as aces, i.e., they have shot down opponent aircraft in a number which accords them the title.


Russia

 

101_2797101_2803101_2814101_2815101_2820101_2833 (1)

 

British

 

squadron-leader-andrew-mckenzie-raf-8-killswing-commander-douglas-ian-benham-raf-11-killswing-commander-geoffrey-page-raf-5-killswing-commander-peter-brothers-raf-11-killswing-commander-roland-beam-raf-10-kills

 

300px-ray_flying_legends_2005-1de-havilland-mosquitohurricane-3lancastersea-fury

  • Wing Commander Peter Brothers, RAF, 15 victories
  • Wing Commander Douglas Ian Benham, RAF, 11+ victories
  • Wing Commander Roland Beam, RAF, 10 victories
  • Squadron Leader Andrew McKenzie, RAF, 8+ victories
  • Wing Commander Geoffrey Page, RAF, 5 victories

American

 

capt-clayton-gross-usaaf-6-killscapt-donald-gentile-usaaf-21-killscapt-george-chandler-usaaf-5-killscapt-gerald-brown-usaaf-5-killsgabbylt-butch-varis-us-navy-7-killslt-col-john-mitchell-usaaf-16-killsmajor-james-goodson-usaaf-15-killsmajor-walker-bud-mahurin-usaaf-24-killsmajor-walter-beckam-usaaf-18-kills

 

 

 

  • Lt. Col. Francis “Gabby” Gabreski, USAAF, 28 victories
  • Capt. Joe Foss, USMC, 26 victories
  • Major Walker “Bud” Mahurin, USAAF, 24+ victories
  • Capt. Donald Gentile, USAAF, 21+ victories
  • Capt. Ken Walsh, US Marine Corps, 21 victories
  • Major Walter Beckam, USAAF, 18 victories
  • Lt. Col. John Mitchell, USAAF, 16 victories
  • Major James Goodson,USAAF, 15 victories
  • Capt. Jack Ilfrey, USAAF, 8 victories
  • Capt. Butch Varis, US Navy, 7+ victories
  • Capt. Clayton Gross, USAAF, 6 victories

 

French

 

georges-guynemere-wwi
Georges Guynemere

Pierre Clostermann

While serving with No. 341 Squadron RAF (right)

Pierre Henri Clostermann ((28 February 1921 – 22 March 2006) was a French flying ace, author, engineer, politician, and sporting fisherman. Over his flying career he was awarded the Grand-Croix of the French Légion d’Honneur, French Croix de Guerre, DSO, DFC and bar (United Kingdom), Distinguished Service Cross (USA), Silver Star (USA), and the Air Medal (USA).

Early life

Clostermann was born in Curitiba, Brazil, into a French diplomatic family. He was the only son of Madeleine Carlier from Lorraine and Jacques Clostermann from Alsace. After receiving flying tuition from German pilot Karl Benitz (died in 1943, Russia), he completed his secondary education in France and gained his private pilot’s licence in 1937.

Wartime service

On the outbreak of war, the French authorities refused his application for service, so he travelled to Los Angeles to become a commercial pilot, studying at the California Institute of Technology. Clostermann joined the Free French Air Force in Britain in March 1942.

After training at RAF Cranwell and 61 OTU, Clostermann, a sergeant pilot, was posted in January 1943 to No. 341 Squadron RAF (known to the Free French as Groupe de Chasse n° 3/2 “Alsace”), flying the Supermarine Spitfire.

Spitfires 1943–44

He scored his first two victories on 27 July 1943, destroying two Focke-Wulf Fw 190s over France. With 33 recorded victories to his name, he received at only 24 years of age, a Commendation by General Charles de Gaulle, who called him

“France’s First Fighter”.

While serving in Lincolnshire, Pierre met and married Lydia Jeanne Starbuck at St Denys Church in Sleaford.

In October 1943, Clostermann was commissioned and assigned to No. 602 Squadron RAF, remaining with the unit for the next ten months. He flew a variety of missions including fighter sweeps, bomber escorts, high-altitude interdiction over the Royal Navy’s Scapa Flow base, and strafing or dive-bombing attacks on V-1 launch sites on the French coast. Clostermann served through D-Day and was one of the first Free French pilots to land on French soil, at temporary airstrip B-11, near Longues-sur-Mer, Normandy on 18 June 1944, touching French soil for the first time in more than four years. Clostermann was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross shortly afterwards, after which he was reassigned to French Air Force Headquarters.

Tempests 1945

In December 1944, Clostermann returned to the front line on secondment to the RAF as a supernumerary flight lieutenant. Clostermann joined No. 274 Squadron RAF flying the new Hawker Tempest Mk V. In an aircraft which he dubbed Le Grand Charles, Clostermann flew an intensive and highly successful round of fighter sweeps, airfield attacks, “rat scramble” interceptions of Messerschmitt 262 jet fighters, and rail interdiction missions over northern Germany over the next two months.

In March 1945, Clostermann briefly served with No. 56 Squadron before a transfer to No. 3 Squadron. On 24 March 1945, he was wounded in the leg by German flak and after belly-landing his badly damaged aircraft, he was hospitalized for a week. From 8  April he was commander of “A” Flight, No. 3 Squadron RAF. Clostermann was awarded a bar to his DFC for his successful tour of duty. He had to bail out for the first time on 12 May 1945, when during a victory fly-past, another Tempest collided with his aircraft, and because of this horrific collision the four planes of his flight went down, with three pilots dying. Clostermann’s parachute opened just a few yards above the ground. Clostermann continued operations with No. 122 Wing RAF until he left the military altogether on 27 July 1945 with the rank of wing commander.

In his 432 sorties, Clostermann was credited officially with 33 victories (19 solo, 14 shared, most of them against fighters) and five “probables”, with eight more “damaged”. He also claimed 225 motor vehicles destroyed, 72 locomotives, five tanks, and two E-boats (fast torpedo boats). Many references credit him with 29 to 33 victories, although these probably include his “ground” kills of enemy aircraft. Recent, more detailed analysis of his combat reports and squadron accounts indicate that his true score was 11 destroyed, with possibly another seven, for a total of 15–18 victories.

Postwar

Clostermann wrote a very successful book, The Big Show (Le Grand Cirque), on his experiences in the war. One of the very first post-war fighter pilot memoirs, its various editions have sold over two and a half million copies. William Faulkner commented that this is the finest aviation book to come out of World War II. The book was reprinted, in expanded form, in both paperback and hardcover editions in 2004. He also wrote Flames in the Sky (Feu du Ciel) (1957), a collection of heroic air combat exploits from both Allied and Axis sides.

After the war, Clostermann continued his career as an engineer, participating in the creation of Reims Aviation, supporting the Max Holste Broussard prototype, acting as a representative for Cessna, and working for Renault. In parallel, Clostermann had a successful political career, serving eight terms as a député (Member of Parliament) in the French National Assembly between 1946 and 1969.

He also briefly re-enlisted in the Armée de l’Air in 1956–57 to fly ground attack missions during the Algerian War. He subsequently wrote a novel based on his experiences there, entitled “Leo 25 Airborne”.

During the 1982 Falklands War between Argentina and the UK, Clostermann praised Argentine pilots for their courage. Because of this perceived “betrayal” of the RAF, Clostermann attracted hostility from parts of the English press. He also attracted controversy in France for his vehement anti-war stance in the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War.

Tributes and honours: on 6 June 2004, a road in Longues-sur-Mer, near temporary airstrip B-11, was named after Clostermann.

French decorations

Grand Croix de la Légion d’Honneur; Compagnon de l’Ordre de la Libération – 21 January 1946; Médaille Militaire; Croix de Guerre 1939-45, with 19 citations including 17 to the level of the army (palms) and 2 stars; Croix de la Valeur Militaire with 2 citations; Médaille de la Résistance with rosette; Médaille de l’Aéronautique; Médaille Commémorative des Opérations de Sécurité et de Maintien de l’Ordre; Insigne des blessés militaires; Médaille commémorative des services volontaires dans la France libre; Médaille commémorative de la guerre 1939–1945; 

Foreign orders and decorations

 Grand Officer of the Nichan Iftikhar (Tunisia); Commander of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite (Morocco); Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (Vatican); Croix de guerre (Belgium); Distinguished Service Order or DSO (United Kingdom); Distinguished Flying Cross or DFC (United Kingdom) with bar (United Kingdom) – Well known as DFC and bar; Distinguished Service Cross (USA)Silver Star (USA)Air Medal (USA)Santos-Dumont Merit Medal (Brazil)

——————————————————————————————————————————

 

RM1
René Mouchotte and Sqn Ldr “Jack” Charles at RAF Biggin Hill in May 1943

Commandant René Mouchotte DFC (21 August 1914 – 27 August 1943) was a World War II pilot of the French Air Force, who escaped from Vichy French–controlled Oran to join the Free French forces. Serving with RAF Fighter Command, he rose to command a fighter wing before being shot down and killed on 27 August 1943.

Born into a wealthy family on 21 August 1914 in Paris, Mouchotte began his military service in October 1935 with the French Air Force at Istres, where he was promoted to corporal (April 1936), master corporal (March 1937) and sergeant (April 1937); he qualified as a pilot in February 1937. In January 1939, he transferred to the reserve and resumed civilian life. Recalled in September 1939, he was posted to training establishments at Salon-de-Provence and Avord as a flying instructor. Despite several requests to join a fighter squadron, he was transferred to Oran in May 1940 for a conversion course to twin-engined aircraft. After the Armistice, the pilots on the base were ordered not to escape to join the Free French and the aircraft were placed under armed guard. Despite this, Mouchotte and five comrades (including Henry Lafont) escaped in a twin-engined Caudron Goéland aircraft, only to find that the controls for the variable-pitch propellers had been disabled, making the take-off hazardous. However they did manage to land in Gibraltar and later transferred to the Free French armed trawler, Président Houduce and sailed to England.

In Britain

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Hurricanes of 615 Squadron land at RAF Northolt in November 1940

After arriving in Britain Mouchotte trained at RAF Old Sarum and RAF Sutton Bridge on Hawker Hurricanes, before being posted to No. 615 Squadron RAF at RAF Northolt in northwest London. He carried out his first operational sortie on 11 October 1940. The squadron moved to RAF Kenley in December 1940 and in August 1941 Mouchotte participated in the shooting-down of a Junkers 88. In November 1941 he transferred to RAF Turnhouse, where the Free French No. 340 Squadron RAF was training on Spitfires; he became a flight commander in February 1942 and subsequently squadron commander of No. 65 Squadron RAF, the first RAF squadron to be commanded by a non-Commonwealth officer. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 1 September 1942.

Finally he took command of No. 341 Squadron RAF (Groupe de Chasse n° 3/2 “Alsace”) with the Biggin Hill Wing. On 15 May 1943, S/L ‘Jack’ Charles (611 squadron) and Mouchotte both destroyed a Fw 190 of I./JG 2, as the Biggin Hill Wing’s 999th and 1,000th kill claim.

He was shot down and killed in combat with Fw 190s of JG 2 during Ramrod S.8, escorting Flying Fortresses on the first daylight raid to Blockhaus d’Éperlecques in the Pas de Calais on 27 August 1943. His body was later washed ashore on 3 September and was buried in Middelkerke, Belgium. After the War in 1949, his body was exhumed, repatriated and buried in the family tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris on 3 November after a memorial service with full military honours conducted at Les Invalides in Paris.

He had accumulated some 1,748 flying hours, including 408 operational hours flying 382 war sorties. He had claimed two aircraft destroyed (with a further one “shared”), one “probable” and one damaged.

German

12529_10152326199576701_7435841505229164606_n13982_10152326178356701_8847103088706952765_n10455058_10152326182516701_5752663014123400017_n10557450_10152326184281701_2953713942176288009_n10647227_10152326205986701_3601152906146113656_n10649789_10152326173206701_6866606696200348524_n10653849_10152326180056701_5586122016192369861_n10696259_10152326204661701_517879451494325570_n

  • Major Erich Hartmann, 352 victories
  • Major Gunther Rall,  275 victories
  • Col. Johannes “Mackie” Steinhoff 176 victories
  • Lt. Col. Dietrich Hrabak, 125 victories
  • Major Walter Krupinski, 107 victories
  • General Major Adolf Galland, 104 victories
  • Major Wolfgang Spate, 99 victories
  • Lt. Col. Hans-Joachim Jabs, 50 victories
  • Major Fritz Losigkeit

 

Walter Nowotny

 

WN
Walter Nowotny 
  • Born  7 December 1920, Gmünd, Austria
  • Died  8 November 1944 (aged 23), Hesepe, Nazi Germany
  • Buried: Zentralfriedhof Vienna
  • Allegiance: Nazi Germany
  • Service/branch: Luftwaffe
  • Years of service: 1939–44
  • Rank Major
  • Service number NSDAP 6,382,781
  • Unit   JG 54, JG 101 and Kommando Nowotny

Commands held: /JG 54, JG 101, Kommando Nowotny

Battles/wars

  • World War II
  • Operation Barbarossa
  • Eastern Front
  • Defense of the Reich

Awards: Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds

 Walter Nowotny (7 December 1920 – 8 November 1944) was an Austrian-born fighter ace of the Luftwaffe in World War II. He is credited with 258 aerial victories—that is, 258 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft—in 442 combat missions. Nowotny achieved 255 of these victories on the Eastern Front and three while flying one of the first jet fighters, the Messerschmitt Me 262, in the Defense of the Reich. He scored most of his victories in the Focke-Wulf  Fw 190, and approximately 50 in the Messerschmitt Bf 109.[1]

Nowotny joined the Luftwaffe in 1939 and completed his fighter pilot training in 1941, after which he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 54 “Grünherz” (JG 54) on the Eastern Front. Nowotny was the first pilot to achieve 250 victories – 194 in 1943 alone – earning him the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds) on 19 October 1943. For propaganda reasons, he was ordered to cease operational flying.

Reinstated to front-line service in September 1944, Nowotny tested and developed tactics for the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. He was credited with three victories in this aircraft type before being killed in a crash following combat with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighters on 8 November 1944. After his death, the first operational jet fighter wing, Jagdgeschwader 7“Nowotny”, was named in his honour.

Luftwaffe career

Nowotny’s military basic training began at the 2. Flieger-Ausbildungsregiment 62 in Quedlinburg (1 October 1939 – 15 November 1939) and continued at the Luftkriegschule 5 in Breslau-Schöngarten (16 November 1939 – 30 June 1940). He was promoted to FahnenjunkerGefreiten on 1 March 1940 and shortly afterwards, on 1 April 1940, to Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier. On 1 July 1940, Notwotny was promoted again, to the rank of Fähnrich. He completed his pilot training and received the Pilot Badge on 19 August 1940. Nowotny also trained as a fighter pilot at the Jagdfliegerschule 5 in Wien-Schwechat (1 August 1940 – 15 November 1940), the same school that Hans-Joachim Marseille had attended one year earlier. One of his teachers at the Jagdfliegerschule 5 was the Austro-Hungarian World War I ace Julius Arigi. Here Nowotny befriended Karl Schnörrer and Paul Galland, the younger brother of General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland. After graduation from the Jagdfliegerschule 5, Nowotny was transferred to the I./Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe Merseburg on 16 November 1940, flying fighter cover for the Leuna industrial works.

 With Jagdgeschwader 54

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Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-4 JG 54

Nowotny was posted to the Ergänzungsstaffel (Training/Supplement Squadron) of Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54) on 1 December 1940. JG 54 at the time was under the command of Major Hannes Trautloft. Nowotny was transferred again, this time to the 9th Staffel of JG 54 (9./JG 54), the so-called Teufelsstaffel (Devils’ Squadron) where he was further trained by veterans from the front line (23 February 1941 – 25 March 1941). From 25 March 1941 to 10 March 1942, Notwotny flew with the Stabsstaffel of the Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe JG 54 where he was promoted to Leutnant on 1 April 1941, effective as of 1 February 1941.

Nowotny flew a Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-7 “White 2” on his 24th operational mission on 19 July 1941 and claimed his first two enemy aircraft, both Polikarpov I-153 biplanes of Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily (VVS—Military Air Forces) KBF’s 12 OIAE/61 BAB, over Saaremaa. He was shot down in the same engagement by Aleksandr Avdeyev, also in a Polikarpov I-153. According to Soviet archives, no Soviet aircraft was lost in the engagement. Nowotny spent three days in a dinghy in the Gulf of Riga – on one occasion almost being run down by a Soviet destroyer – until finally being washed ashore on the Latvian coast.

Nowotny quickly recovered from his ordeal and on 31 July claimed a Beriev MBR-2 flying boat north-west of Saaremaa and an Ilyushin DB-3 bomber south of the island. For the rest of his combat career, Nowotny always wore the trousers (German: Abschußhose roughly “shoot down pants” sometimes also referred to as “victory pants”) that he had worn during those three days in the Gulf of Riga – with one exception, his last sortie, at Achmer on 8 November 1944, when he was killed flying the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.

In 1942, Nowotny increased his tally of victories and claimed his 30th and 31st kills on 11 July over the Wolchow bridgehead, which earned him the Luftwaffe Honor Goblet on 14 July 1942. Nowotny shot down a further five aircraft on a single day (32nd – 36th victories) on 20 July and seven (48th – 54th victories) on 2 August. After having downed three enemy aircraft on 11 August, Leutnant Nowotny carried out three victory passes over the airfield, despite having sustained combat damage to his own Bf 109 “Black 1”. In the subsequent landing, his aircraft somersaulted and he sustained moderate injuries. Walter Nowotny was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on 4 September, after 56 aerial victories. The Knight’s Cross earned him a home leave to Vienna. Here, the brothers Hubert and Walter met for the last time before Hubert was killed at Stalingrad.[3][16] LeutnantNowotny was made Staffelkapitän of 1./JG 54 on 25 October, replacing Oberleutnant Heinz Lange.

In January 1943, JG 54 started converting to the agile Focke-Wulf 190 fighter. With the new aircraft, Nowotny scored at an unprecedented “kill” rate, often averaging more than two planes a day for weeks on end. As of 1 February 1943, Nowotny, Karl Schnörrer, – Nowotny’s wingman since late 1942 – Anton Döbele and Rudolf Rademacher, formed a team known as the “chain of devils” (Teufelskette) or the Nowotny Schwarm, which during the course of the war was credited with 524 combined kills, making them the most successful team in the Luftwaffe.

Nowotny scored his 69th to 72nd victory on 16 March. He reached the century mark on 5 June 1943, on his 344th combat mission. He was the 42nd Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark. By 24 June, he would accumulate a further 24 victories increasing his total to 124. On 21 August, Nowotny was made Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 54. In August alone, he shot down 49 aircraft – a number matched exactly by Jagdgeschwader 52‘s (JG 52) Erich Hartmann – bringing Nowotny’s total to 161  victories. On 1 September, he scored ten victories in two sorties, which took his tally to 183. Seventy-two hours later, that number had risen to 189, earning him the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 8 September. The award was to be personally presented by the FührerAdolf Hitler, on 22 September 1943. However, by this date Nowotny had claimed his double century (200) on 8 September, and, on 15 September, his 215th victory, making him the highest-scoring pilot in the Luftwaffe to that time. Two Lavochkin La-5s and a Yakovlev Yak-9 on 17 September brought his score to 218 victories, earning him Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords on 22 September 1943. The planned “Oakleaves” (Eichenlaub) presentation thus became a Swords (Schwerter) ceremony.[25]

 Diamonds

Nowotny was promoted to Hauptmann on 21 September 1943, effective as of 1 October, following his 225th victory. On 14 October 1943, he became the first pilot to reach 250 victories, following his 442 combat missions. Nowotny was celebrating this feat in the Ria Bar in Vilna when he received a phone call from Hitler himself, announcing that he had been awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, making him the eighth of 27 men to be so honored.

The Brillanten (Diamonds) were presented by Hitler at the Wolfsschanze, near Kętrzyn (German: Rastenburg) on 19 October 1943. Nowotny immediately went on a short vacation to Vienna before returning to his front-line unit. On 29 October 1943, Nowotny presented the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross to Oberfeldwebel Otto Kittel. In the days following, Nowotny flew as wingman to Karl Schnörrer, helping him accumulate further victories. On 11 November, Anton Döbele was killed when he rammed an Il-2 Sturmovik. The next day, 12 November 1943, Schnörrer was severely injured after bailing out at low altitude. Schnörrer was replaced as Nowotny’s wingman by Unteroffizier Ernst Richter. With Richter, Nowotny claimed his final two aerial victories on the Eastern Front on 15 November 1943. In total, Nowotny had claimed 255 confirmed kills plus a further 50 unconfirmed, before he was taken off combat duty.

Nowotny was sent on a propaganda tour in Germany, which included the presentation of the Knight’s Cross of the War Merit Cross to the railroad engineer August Kindervater on 7 December 1943 – Nowotny’s 23rd birthday. Shortly before Christmas, he visited the Focke-Wulf production site at Bad Eilsen, where he was met by Professor Kurt Tank. The mayor of Vienna, Dipl.-Ing. Hanns Blaschke awarded Nowotny the city’s ring of honor on 11 January 1944, the presentation taking place a week later. It was a token that Nowotny accepted reluctantly, feeling that he did not deserve it. His next official visit was the Büromaschinenfabrik (office machinery factory) at Zella-Mehlis, before he briefly returned to Jagdgeschwader 54. Nowotny was made Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 101 (JG 101) and commander of the Jagdfliegerschule 1, a Luftwaffe fighter pilot training school at Pau in southern France, in April 1944.

 Kommando Nowotny and death

WN3
Me 262 A, 25 April 1945

In September 1944, Nowotny was made commander of a specialist unit dubbed Kommando Nowotny, flying the newly developed Messerschmitt Me 262 out of airfields near Osnabrück. The unit not only had to contend with the enemy, but also with working through the ‘teething’ phase of the Me 262 and developing the tactics appropriate for a jet unit. On 7 October, Nowotny downed a B-24 Liberator bomber, his first aerial victory on the Western Front.

Generals Alfred Keller and Adolf Galland had scheduled an inspection at Achmer for the afternoon of 7 November 1944. Galland had already visited Kommando Nowotny several times and was deeply concerned over the high attrition rate and meager success achieved by the Me 262. After inspecting the two airfields at Achmer and Hesepe, he stayed in the Penterknapp barracks discussing the problems of the past few weeks. Several pilots openly expressed their doubts as to the readiness of the Me 262 for combat operations.

The next morning, 8 November 1944, the Generals arrived again at Nowotny’s command post and Keller declared that the aces of the past years had become cowards and that the Luftwaffe had lost its fighting spirit. Shortly after, news reached the command post of a large bomber formation approaching.

Two Rotten of Me 262 were prepared for take-off, Erich Büttner and Franz Schall at Hesepe, and Nowotny and Günther Wegmann at Achmer. At first only Schall and Wegmann managed to take off because Büttner had a punctured tire during taxiing and Nowotny’s turbines initially refused to start. With some delay, Nowotny took off and engaged the enemy on his own, Schall and Wegmann having since retired from the action after sustaining battle damage. Nowotny radioed that he had downed a B-24 Liberator and a P-51 Mustang before he reported one engine failing and made one final garbled transmission containing the word “burning”. Helmut Lennartz recalled:

“I remember Nowotny’s crash very well. Feldwebel Gossler, a radio operator with our unit, had set up a radio on the airfield. Over this set I and many others listened to the radio communications with Nowotny’s aircraft. His last words were, “I’m on fire” or “it’s on fire”. The words were slightly garbled.

It remains unclear whether Nowotny was killed due to engine failure or whether he was shot down by United States Army Air Forces(USAAF) Captain Ernest Fiebelkorn (20th Fighter Group) and 1st Lieutenant Edward “Buddy” Haydon (357th Fighter Group) east of Hesepe. In recent years, United States military historians proposed that Nowotny’s victor may have been P-51D pilot Lieutenant Richard W. Stevens of the 364th Fighter Group. Many witnesses observed Nowotny’s Me 262 A-1a Werk Nummer 110 400 (factory number) “White 8” dive vertically out of the clouds and crash at Epe, 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) east of Hesepe. The Wehrmacht announced his death on 9 November 1944 in the daily Wehrmachtbericht.

 

Japan

 

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101_2692101_26911

 

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org for some photographa

Great Airmen Administrators

 

  1. Air Marshal Malik Nur Khan (1923-2011) by Jagan Pillarisetti , Flight Lieutenant with 4 Squadron, 1945
  2. Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding Commander-in-Chief. Fighter Command Royal Air Force

NK1

“Much has been written about Air Marshal Malik Nur Khan, who recently passed away in Pakistan on the 15th of December 2011. Pages and pages of tributes have been written about his days as the Chief of Pakistan Air Force during the 1965 War with India — and rightly so. It is to Nur Khan’s credit (and to his predecessor) that the Pakistani Air Force did well in that war, managing to hold its own against a larger adversary. But very little has been written about Nur Khan from his early days when he was part of the undivided Indian Air Force — and about his time after retirement from the Pakistan Air Force and as the Governor of West Pakistan.

Nur Khan was a highly respected and regarded officer within the IAF before partition. Originally a product of the Royal Indian Military College (now Rashtriya Indian Military College), he was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a Pilot Officer on 6 Jan 1941. Those were still the days when entrants were given commission on the date they reported to the IAF. He belonged to the 6th Pilots Course (PC). 6 PC was unique in that it had other Muslim officers who later formed the backbone of the new PAF. There was Pilot Officer Asghar Khan, who due to his Army service had seniority, and there was M Akhtar and M.M. A. Cheema, all of who would rise to senior positions in the PAF.

After training at the Initial Training Wing at Lahore till May 41, Nur Khan reported for flying training at the Flying Training School in Ambala, completing his flying syllabus by late November 1941. During this time he was flying types like the Westland Wapiti, Hawker Hart and Hawker Audax biplane aircraft.

His first posting after training was to No.3 Squadron at Kohat in December 1941, then equipped with Hawker Audaxes. Over the following year, he would fly proscription sorties in the Miranshah area, dropping leaflets, flying road opening sorties, occasionally undertaking punitive bombing against villages. In October 1942, he was promoted to Flying Officer, along with Asghar, Cheema and Akhtar who happened to be with the same Squadron as well. Nur Khan stayed with 3 Squadron till mid 1943 at which point he may have been posted for Vengeance Conversion at the Operational Training Unit in Peshawar.

With Flt Cdr Henry Runganadhan: On 8th May 1944, he reported to No.7 Squadron which was at that time operating the Vultee Vengeance Dive bomber under Sqn Ldr Hem Chaudhary. Nur Khan was put in ‘B’ Flight then under the command of Flt Lt Erlic Pinto. (As a matter of interest – the other flight commander in the Squadron was none other than P C Lal, who would go on to command the IAF in 1971). Nur Khan flew his first dive bombing sorties two days later on the 10th. Over the next month Nur Khan flew several missions. However his time on the Burma Front lasted just about a month when the movement orders for 7 Squadron came through. By 12th June 1944, the Squadron found itself relocated to Charra. During this time Nur Khan took over the role of the Squadron Sports Officer. In November 1944, the Squadron converted to the Hurricane fighter bomber. Towards the end of January 1945, Nur Khan was posted to No.9 Squadron, which was then on Hurricanes on the Burma Front.

It was here that Nur Khan honed his flying skills and soon made himself quite famous, sometimes bordering on being a reckless showoff! Air Chief Marshal Idris Latif, who served in 9 Squadron, remembers that Nur Khan would show off landing approaches in a Hurricane – while inverted! This involved approaching the runway for landing in inverted position, then at the right moment lower the undercarriage (which in this case would open upwards) and then do a last minute roll before flare out and touch down. Handling a Hurricane in such a regime required utmost confidence and handling skills. One can easily deduce that Nur Khan was a flying “hog”, never losing an opportunity to fly a new type of aircraft. Even in his last years in the PAF, he ensured that he was upto speed on all new aircraft being inducted, flying such types as the F-6 and the Mirage III.

After less than six months with 9 Squadron, Nur Khan earned his promotion to Flt Lt Rank and was posted to No 4 Squadron RIAF in June 1945. No.4 Squadron was at Yelahanka flying the Spitfire VIII under the command of Sqn Ldr Boyd-Berry. No.4 soon moved to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in early 1946. In one of the first display flights over Japan, Nur Khan led a formation of Ten Spitfires in the shape of a “4”. His stint as a Flight Commander lasted about 18 months and in November 1946, Nur Khan transferred to the HQ BCAIR (The Air component of the BCOF) as a Staff Officer in the rank of Sqn Ldr. When the Indian component of BCOF wound up in Japan, Independence was around the corner. It was a natural decision for Nur Khan to opt for the Pakistan Air Force.

The rest of his career with the PAF and his long stint with the PIA had been well chronicled, as is his role as PAF chief during the 1965 war with India. Some points however are worth recounting.

When Nur Khan took over command of the PAF in July 1965, he had but two weeks’ notice about the launch of Operation Gibraltar. He would say later that his staff reacted with disbelief and he was himself perturbed and shocked hearing about the plan from the Army Chief. But he went about “doing as he was told”. He got himself immersed in the business of fighting a war which had flared up as Nur Khan expected. The PAF did well in the war, enough to actually save the Pakistani Army from disaster many times. But the writing was on the wall: Pakistan was ill-equipped to fight a long term war, and Ayub Khan very wisely accepted the ceasefire when it was offered.

The relatively good performance of the PAF masked the actual truth about how close the Pakistan Army had come to running out of gas while fighting. Subsequent chest thumping and propaganda completely overshadowed any effort to take an unbiased and impartial look into how the war was conducted. Nur Khan himself would lament later that an opportunity was lost by not conducting an impartial study. He opined that many things that went wrong later on would have been avoided if there had been a serious study conducted by the Pakistanis.

Nur Khan remained PAF chief well into 1968, and would have served more if not for the transfer of power to General Yahya Khan of the Pakistan Army. Yahya imposed Martial Law and offered Nur Khan the Governorship of West Pakistan. Nur Khan bought into the theory that military rule and martial law was good for the country and took up the offer as the Deputy Martial Law Administrator. Since he could not hold two offices at the same time, Nur Khan resigned his post as the Chief of the PAF and went on to serve six months as the Governor of West Pakistan before resigning in early 1970. If it hadn’t been for the Martial law and the offer of Governorship, he may well have been the air chief during the 71 war (Going by the fact his predecessor served six years at the helm). More importantly he may have had given some sane advice that would have prevented the Pakistani Army from self imploding in 1971.

But from another perspective, it was better for Nur Khan to have retired earlier as he left public service with his stock and reputation still intact. The debacle of 1971 rendered quite a a battering to his successor Air Marshal Rahim Khan.

Perhaps the results of the 1971 war had reshaped Nur Khan’s views on the earlier conflicts. He had come to arrive at the belief that the Pakistani Army chiefs were the root of the problems that Pakistan had faced throughout. He became a strong proponent of the fact that it was Pakistan which instigated the 1965 war and India was merely defending itself (which runs contrary to the thought process of many Pakistanis). In an interview, when prodded if the conflict of 65 was a

“decisive class of arms between Hinduism and Islam”,

Nur Khan shot down the idea with a curt

“I do not believe there were any ideological compulsions behind the war”.

His recent interviews with Dawn TV (available on YouTube) re-iterate these viewpoints again and again. One could not but wish that Nur Khan’s views percolate down to the history lessons that common Pakistani students study, which would result in less hostility between the two nations.

While I never knew Nur Khan directly, several IAF officers have expressed high opinions about him over time. Air Chief Marshal Idris Latif’s comment on his flying skills has been mentioned earlier in this column. Another officer Air Marshal S Raghavendran, who retired as Vice Chief, recently wrote that Nur Khan was one of the two of the greatest pilots & commanders of the undivided Indian Air Force that they lost to partition. The other being Asghar Khan who was also well regarded by the veterans of that time. Such respect from officers of the opposing air force does not come easy.”

Jagan Pillarisetti is a historian of the Indian Air Force.  He is a well-known voice on military aviation and its history, is the co-author of The India Pakistan Air War Of 1965, a seminal work for which he was awarded a Commendation by the Chief of Air Staff in 2007. Jagan is based in the United States. He wrote this obituary exclusively for Livefist on request.

 

Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding C. in C. Fighter Command Royal Air Force

 

D1

“Taedat caeli convexa tueri” (It becomes dispiriting constantly to watch the arch of heavens) Virgil, Aenid, Book IV

“A difficult man, a self-opinionated man, a most determined man, and a man who knew more than anybody, about all aspects of aerial warfare.’
Gen. Sir Frederick Pile G.C.B., D.S.O., M.C. (G.O.C. in C. Anti Aircraft Command 1939-45) of Dowding

As the eldest child of the school’s headmaster, Hugh Dowding was expected to set an example of duty, manners, patriotism and industry. Like his father, he went to Winchester, a public school reputed to produce inscrutable intellectuals. In 1899 he entered the Royal Military Academy, but in response to the crisis of the Boer War, the course was shortened to one year. Hugh Dowding went to Woolwich but failed to get the exam results necessary for a commission in the Royal Engineers. He had to be content with gunnery. Second Lieutenant Dowding of the Garrison Artillery graduated but never fought the Boers. Instead he served in Gibraltar, Ceylon, Hong Kong and with the Mountain Artillery in India.

Although Dowding’s concern for the fighter pilots was central to every decision he made, he seldom met them or talked with them, believing that the presence of the C.in C. would merely provide an extra burden for them. But in an attractive aspect of the reserved man’s character that his staunchest supporters should be low-ranking subordinates who worked at his HQ, including his personal assistants, and his office staff.

He was to confront Churchill in such a way that he made an enemy of him, and so was deprived of Churchill’s aid at a time when he desperately needed it. The freedom Dowding gave his commanders, and the high morale of his pilots, were the two greatest contributions to victory. Ironically it was the same two factors that brought Dowding’s downfall. Dowding was an enigmatic man. His inability to make intimate friends will probably keep him so and if he remains so there can be little doubt that that is exactly what he wished.

But Dowding was no paragon. Too often he resorted to caustic comments when a kind word of advice would have produced the same or better results. Dowding was indifferent to the boardroom politics of higher office, impatient and abrasive to men who failed to understand his reasoning. He delegated authority readily and seldom interfered with subordinates he trusted. Not unreasonably—but unrealistically—he expected the same treatment by the men in the Ministry.

One of worst set-backs suffered by the pre-war RAF was the repeated refusal of Mackenzie King, the Canadian Prime Minister—from 1935 onwards—even to discuss the Empire Air training Scheme. By denying the British Government a chance even to submit their proposals, he was able to claim later that no peacetime training scheme was ever suggested to him. Australia and New Zealand responded warmly.

The Battle of Britain, although small in scale compared with the later fighting, was nevertheless one of the decisive battles of the Second World War. It converted American opinion to a belief that the British, given help, might win. In military terms, the battle proved that Britain was a secure base, from which the USA could fight Germany. More importantly, but less accurately, it convinced America that air-power was the decisive weapon with which to do it. The US Ambassador in London—Joe Kennedy, the father of the man who became President—had little faith in Britain’s ability to survive, and he didn’t’ mind who knew it.  The British Foreign Office heard that Kennedy had summoned neutral journalists to a press conference in order to tell them that Hitler would be in London by August 15. Such behavior infuriated the Foreign Office officials—but there was little they could do about him. To get a second opinion, Roosevelt sent another Irish American to Britain. “Wild Bill” Donovan was ostensibly in England to study the extent of German espionage and the nature of British counter-measures. In fact, he was to report to Roosevelt Britain’s chance of survival.”

By courtesy of Wikipedia. org

 

Mohammad Asghar Khan

220px-Air_Marshal_Asghar_Khan

Air Marshall Mohammad Asghar Khan (1921- ) First Pakistani Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Air Force (1957-65 )

Asghar Khan was born on January 17, 1921. He is Pakistan’s veteran aviation historian, peace activist, and retired military figure; a three star air marshal who served as the first non-white commander in chief of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) from 1957 until resigning in 1965,  prior to the start of the air operations of the PAF during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.

Early life and World War II

Mohammad Asghar Khan was born in JammuKashmir and Jammu (princely state) in British Indian Empire on 17 January 1921. His father was Brigadier Thakur Rahmatullah Khan, an officer of the Jammu & Kashmir State Forces. He and all his brothers, except one, later joined the armed forces of Pakistan.

After attending the Aitchison College at Lahore, he obtained a place at the Prince of Wales’s Royal Indian Military College in 1933, and joined the Indian Military Academy in 1939. Initially, Asghar Khan was commissioned into the Indian Army as a Second Lieutenant, starting his active duty from the Royal Deccan Horse in December 1940. However this was short-lived, as he was attached to the newly established Indian Air Force in 1940, joining the No. 9 Squadron of the Indian Air Force. In 1944, Asghar Khan assumed the command his unit and commanded the aerial missions of No. 9 Squadron in Burma. He took active participation in Burma Campaign 1944–1945, directing and commanding aerial operations against the Imperial Japan.

After World War II, he was sent to United Kingdom where he joined the RAF Staff College at Bracknell, and completed a staff course. Later, he joined the Joint Service Defence College where he gained B.Sc. in military ethics after submitting his thesis on actions involving the Joint Services. He conducted his post-graduate research and studies from Imperial Defence College where he was awarded M.Sc. in Military administration by the college faculty.

Upon his return, Asghar Khan was most-senior officer in the Royal Indian Air Force. He was also the first Royal Indian Air Force officer to fly a jet fighter aircraft—a Gloster Meteor— whilst doing a fighter leader’s course in UK in 1946

  • He became first commandant of Pakistan Air Force Academy in 1947
  • First to head the Directorate-General for Air Operations (DGAO) in 1950.
  • In 1957, he became the youngest to-date and first non-white Air Force commander-in-chief of PAF.

His tenure as air chief saw the extensive modernization of the PAF, in both technical and military equipment, and after resigning in 1965, he was not consulted by President Ayub Khan prior to launch of Operation Gibraltar. On retirement from the air force, Asghar Khan became president of the civilian national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) which he led until 1968.

c-in-c-asghar-khan-awarding-gliding-wings-to-safi-mustafa-356-tempest1

C-in-C Asghar Khan awarding Gliding wings to Safi Mustafa* 356 Tempest House, PAF Public School Sargodha 1961(?)

*Flight Lt. Syed Safi Mustafa, (martyred), Sitara Jurat, East Pakistan,1971

 Personal life: Asghar Khan was married to Ms. Amina Shamsie in 1946 and they had five children, Nasreen, Shereen, Saira, Omar (deceased) and Ali Asghar Khan. He has also authored 13 books, among them:

 Selected books-English

  • (1969) Khan, Asghar. Pakistan at the Cross Roads. Karachi: Ferozsons. OCLC 116825.
  • (1979). The First Round, Indo-Pakistan War 1965. Sahibabad: Vikas. ISBN 0-7069-0978-X.
  •  (1983). Generals in Politics. New Delhi: Vikas. ISBN 0-7069-2215-8.
  •  (1985). The Lighter side of the Power Game. Lahore: Jang Publishers. OCLC 15107608.
  •  (2005). We’ve Learnt Nothing from History. Karachi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-597883-8.
  •  (2008). My Political Struggle. Karachi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-547620-0.
  •  (2009). Milestones in a Political Journey. Islamabad: Dost Publications. ISBN 978-9694963556.

Selected Books-Urdu

  • Khan, Ashghar (1985). Sada-i-Hosh (in Urdu). Lahore: Jang Publishers. OCLC 14214332.
  • (1998). Chehray nahi Nizam ko Badlo (in Urdu). Islamabad: Dost Publications. ISBN 978-9694960401.
  • (1999). Islam – Jamhooriat aur Pakistan (in Urdu). Islamabad: Dost Publications. ISBN 978-9694960852.
  • (1999). Ye Batain Hakim Logon Ki (in Urdu). Islamabad: Dost Publications. ISBN 978-9694960876.

Founding Independence Movement: after leaving the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Asghar Khan criticized and blamed President Ayub Khan and Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for the 1965 war with India, and later, he turned the criticism towards General Yahya Khan for the 1971 debacle, which resulted in the breakup of Pakistan; Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League had won the election, but had not been allowed to form the government.  In protest in January 1969, Asghar Khan relinquished awards of ‘Hilal-i-Pakistan’ and ‘Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam’ against repressive policies of Field Marshal Ayub Khan.

During the Bangladesh war of secession, Asghar Khan did support East-Pakistanis (Bengalis) morally, alleging that West-Pakistan under Bhutto had deprived them from their political and economic rights. He also demanded power to be handed over to the people of East Pakistan. In 1972, after Bhutto was made president, Asghar Khan accused Bhutto for the break-up, later noting that:

“We are living virtually under one party state…. The outstanding feature is suppression.

In 1970, Asghar Khan founded the Tehrik-e-Istiqlal, initially a centrist secular party. He criticized Bhutto on numerous occasions, holding him responsible for tyranny during the 1970 elections. However, he, and his party failed to score any big hits during the 1970 parliamentary elections, failing to secure any seats in the parliament.

 Peace activism: Besides political activism, Asghar Khan has been engaged in peace activism. On various occasion, he called for normalization of Indo-Pakistan relations.  He also renounced the nuclear tests operations conducted by Pakistan, targeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif move for making that move. In 2011 he maintained that:

In the last over 60 years, India has never attacked Pakistan, as it cannot afford it. Indians know well, if Pakistan is destroyed, they will be the next target… It was made our problem that one day India would invade us. But we did so four times and the first attack was on Kashmir, where Maharaja was not prepared to accede to India for he wanted to join Pakistan and waited for this for 21 days. Indian forces came to East-Pakistan when people were being slaughtered there. Moreover, again at Kargil, Indian never mounted an assault…

Asghar Khan also blamed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for Balochistan conflict and the East-Pakistan war, terming it: “inflexible attitude” of Bhutto. Commenting of his political collapse, Asghar Khan accused the civil society for his failure, and marked that: “the majority in Pakistan voted for the (corrupt) politicians, as they also wanted their job done by “hook or by crook.”

He was designated a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, and conferred with the Gold Medal by the Human Rights Commission and Jinnah Award by the Jinnah Society for the cause of democracy. After years of founding the Independence Movement, Asghar Khan merged his party with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, led by cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, in January 2012.

Activism in national politics–Tehrik-e-Istiqlal: During Bhutto’s rule from 1971 to 1977, Air Marshal Asghar Khan played a major role in opposition to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. During the 1977 elections, he allied his party, the Tehreek-i-Istiqlal with the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) against the People’s Party. It was during this period that he and his party faced frequent attacks by Pakistan People’s Party supporters and from the brutal paramilitary Federal Security Force. He was imprisoned in Kot Lakhpat and Sahiwal prisons from March to June 1977.

He contested two seats, one from Karachi and the other from Abbottabad; despite alleged rigging by the PPP, Asghar Khan was elected by a huge margin from both seats. The PNA rejected the election results as rigged and launched a nationwide agitation against them (results). Asghar Khan resigned from both National Assembly seats as a mark of protest against massive rigging in the elections.

Supporting martial law: While imprisoned, Asghar Khan wrote a much-criticized letter to the leadership of Defence Forces, asking them to renounce their support for the “illegal regime of Bhutto”, and asked the military leadership to “differentiate between a “lawful and an unlawful” command… and save Pakistan”. This letter is considered by the historians as instrumental in encouraging the advent of the far-right Zia regime. However in a television show, Asghar Khan strongly defended his letter. According to him “nowhere in the letter had he asked for the military to take over”, and he had written it in response to a news story that he had read in which a army major had shot a civilian showing him the “V sign”. After the overthrow of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government by the military in the summer of 1977, Asghar Khan was offered a cabinet post by General Zia-ul-Haq, which he refused to join, and withdrew from the PNA after a growing split between the various parties.

 Political activism: After successfully calling for Bhutto’s “judicial murder”, Asghar Khan decided to take on the far-right regime of General Zia-ul-Haq who had announced general elections in 1979. The Tehrik-e-Istiqlal became the most favorite party and benefited with large number of high-profile civilian political figures, including:

  • Nawaz Sharif
  • Khurshid Kasuri
  • Aitzaz Ahsan
  • Rashid Ahmad
  • Javed Hashmi
  • Akbar Bugti
  • Mushahid Hussain
  • Nadir Pervez
  • Gohar Ayub Khan
  • Zafar Ali Shah
  • Ahmed Raza Kasuri
  • Sher Afgan Niazi
  • Manzoor Wattoo
  • Syeda Abida Hussain
  • Syed Fakhar Imam

and many others. These members left Asghar Khan under Nawaz Sharif who founded the largest conservative party, the Pakistan Muslim League (N). However, at the last moment, General Zia-ul-Haq indefinitely postponed the elections, ordering the arrests of Asghar Khan who remained under house arrest for more than five years.

In 1983, Asghar Khan decided to join the left-wing alliance, the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) led by Benazir Bhutto but was detained by the government. He was kept under house arrest at his Abbotabad residence from 16/10/1979 to 2/10/1984, and was named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. With decline in public approval in 1986, Asghar Khan left the MRD, as a result of which many of the Tehrik’s members resigned in protest. He boycotted the non-partisan elections held in 1985. However, Asghar Khan and his party took full part in 1988 parliamentary elections. But this time, he was accused by Pakistan Peoples Party for having called for Bhutto’s death sentence and the martial law, which Asghar Khan failed to justify.

His party members disintegrated and allied with conservative Nawaz Sharif, a major setback for his career. His public rating plummeted and he faced complete annihilation in 1988 elections. He conceded defeat but again contested in the 1990 parliamentary elections from Lahore. He was once again defeated. Briefly retiring from active politics in the late 1990s, his party faced another one of its many splits. Since 1990, Asghar Khan has not held a significant position in politics.

 Collapse and merging with Pakistan Movement for Justice: As he grew older, he handed over his small party to his equally capable son Omar Asghar Khan, who had for a while joined the military government of General Pervaiz Musharraf, and became minister of Ministry of Environment. After his son’s resignation from the cabinet, he (son Omer) took over Tehrik-e-Istiqlal and subsequently merged it with assorted other non-governmental organization and formed a new party called National Democratic Party, an event which caused another split in the party. Both Independence Movement and National Democratic Party suffered major shock and setback when Omar Asghar Khan was murdered in Karachi on 25/6/2001 prior to the elections. An inquiry into his death was ordered b y the Sindh High Court and despite repeated requests, it was never started.

In a historic press conference on 12/12/2011, Asghar Khan announced his full support to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Imran Khan.  He praised Imran Khan for his struggle and endorsed him as the only hope left for the survival of Pakistan. This endorsement came at a crucial time for Imran Khan, when many tainted politicians were joining his party. After announcing his party’s support for PTI, Asghar Khan resigned as President of Tehreek-e-Istiqlal and left the future of his party in the hands of his workers. Contrary to many media reports, Asghar Khan never joined PTI.

Asghar Khan اصغر خان

Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Air Force In office: 23 July 1957 – 22 July 1965
Presidents Iskander Mirza; Ayub Khan
Preceded by AVM Arthur McDonald
Succeeded by Air Marshal Nur Khan
President of Pakistan International Airlines In office: 20 August 1965 – 31 November 1968
 

Chairman of the Tehrik-e-Istiqlal

In office: 29 June 1970 – 12 December 2011; merged with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Imran Khan
Personal details
Born Mohammad Asghar Khan
17 January 1921 (age 95) JammuKashmirBritish Indian Empire
Citizenship British Subject (1921-1947)
Pakistan (1947-)
Political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf
Other political
affiliations
Tehrik-e-Istiqlal
Children Nasreen Asghar Khan
Shereen Asghar Khan Omar Asghar Khan

Ali Asghar Khan

Residence Abbottabad
Alma mater Royal Air Force College
Indian Military Academy
Occupation Administrator; Politician
Profession Fighter pilot
Religion Islam
Military service
Nickname(s) Night Flyer
Allegiance United Kingdom
Pakistan
Service/branch Royal Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
Years of service 1940-1965
Rank Air Marshal (Lieutenant-General
Unit No. 9 Squadron Griffins
Commands Pakistan Air Force Academy
No. 1 Stryker GroupPeshawar AFB Directorate-General for the Air Operations (DGAO)

Precision Engineering Complex

Assistant Chief of Air Staff

Battles/Wars World War IIBritish War in BurmaIndo-Pakistani War of 1947
 Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

 

 

Admiral Graf Spee

Admiral Graf Spee was a Deutschland-class heavy cruiser which served with the Kriegsmarine during World War IL. The vessel was named after Admiral Maximilian von Spee, commander of the East Asia Squadron that fought the battles of Coronel and the Falkland Islands, where he was killed in action, in World War I.

graf_spee_fahrten

She was ordered by the Reichsmarine from the Reichsmarinewerft shipyard in Wilhelmshaven. Her keel was laid on 1 October 1932, and the ship was launched on 30 June 1934; at her launching, she was christened by the daughter of Admiral Maximilian von Spee, the ship’s namesake. The ship was completed slightly over a year and a half, and commissioned into the German fleet on 6 January 1936. She was nominally under the 10,000 long tons (10,000 t) limitation on warship size imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, though with a full load displacement of 16,020 long tons (16,280 t), this was significantly exceeded. Armed with six 28 cm (11 in) guns in two triple gun turrets, Admiral Graf Spee and her sisters were designed to outgun any cruiser fast enough to catch them. Their top speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph) left only the few battle cruisers in the Anglo-French navies fast enough and powerful enough to sink them.

Admiral Graf Spee spent the first three months of her career conducting extensive sea trials to ready the ship for service. The ship’s first commander was Kapitän KzS Conrad Patzig; he was replaced in 1937 by Walter Warzecha. After joining the fleet, she became the flagship of the German Navy.

  • In the summer of 1936, following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, she deployed to the Atlantic to participate in non-intervention patrols off the Republican-held coast of Spain.
  • Between August 1936 and May 1937, the ship conducted three patrols off Spain.
  • On the return voyage from Spain, Admiral Graf Spee stopped in Great Britain to represent Germany in the Coronation Review on May 20 at Spithead for King George VI.
  • After the conclusion of the Review, Admiral Graf Spee returned to Spain for a fourth non-intervention patrol.
  • Following fleet manoeuvres and a brief visit to Sweden,
  • The ship conducted a fifth and final patrol in February 1938.

In 1938, KzS Hans Langsdorff took command of the vessel; she conducted a series of goodwill visits to various foreign ports throughout the year. These included cruises into the Atlantic, where she stopped in Tangier and Vigo. She also participated in extensive fleet manoeuvres in German waters. She was part of the celebrations for the reintegration of the port of Memel into Germany, and a fleet review in honour of Admiral Miklós Horthy, the Regent of Hungary. Between 18 April and 17 May 1939, she conducted another cruise into the Atlantic, stopping in the ports of Ceuta and Lisbon. On 21 August 1939, Admiral Graf Spee departed Wilhelmshaven, bound for the South Atlantic.

World War II: following the outbreak of war between Germany and the Allies in September 1939, Adolf Hitler ordered the German Navy to begin commerce raiding against Allied merchant traffic. Hitler nevertheless delayed issuing the order until it became clear that Britain would not countenance a peace treaty following the conquest of Poland. The Admiral Graf Spee was instructed to strictly adhere to prize rules, which required raiders to stop and search ships for contraband before sinking them, and to ensure that their crews are safely evacuated. Langsdorff was ordered to avoid combat, even with inferior opponents, and to frequently change position. On 1 September, the cruiser rendezvoused with her supply ship Altmark southwest of the Canary Islands. While replenishing his fuel supplies, Langsdorff ordered superfluous equipment transferred to the Altmark; this included several of the ship’s boats, flammable paint, and two of her ten 2 cm anti-aircraft guns, which were installed on the tanker.

On 11 September, while still transferring supplies from Altmark, Admiral Graf Spee’s Arado floatplane spotted the British heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland approaching the two German ships. Langsdorff ordered both vessels to depart at high speed, successfully evading the British cruiser. On 26 September, the ship finally received orders authorizing attacks on Allied merchant shipping. Four days later Admiral Graf Spee’s Arado located Booth Steam Ship Co’s cargo ship Clement off the coast of Brazil. The cargo ship transmitted an “RRR” signal, “I am under attack by a raider” before the cruiser ordered her to stop.

Admiral Graf Spee took Clement’s captain and chief engineer prisoner but let the rest of her crew to abandon ship in the lifeboats. The cruiser then fired 30 rounds from her 28 cm and 15 cm guns and two torpedoes at the cargo ship, which broke up and sank. Langsdorff ordered a distress signal sent to the naval station in Pernambuco to ensure the rescue of the ship’s crew. The British Admiralty immediately issued a warning to merchant shipping that a German surface raider was in the area. The British crew later reached the Brazilian coast in their lifeboats.

On 5 October, the British and French navies formed eight groups to hunt down Admiral Graf Spee in the South Atlantic. The British aircraft carriers HMS Hermes, Eagle, and Ark Royal, the French aircraft carrier Béarn, the British battlecruiser Renown, and French battleships Dunkerque and Strasbourg, and 16 cruisers were committed to the hunt. Force G, commanded by Commodore Henry Harwood and assigned to the east coast of South America, comprised the cruisers Cumberland and Exeter. Force G was reinforced by the light cruisers Ajax and Achilles; Harwood detached Cumberland to patrol the area off the Falkland Islands while his other three cruisers patrolled off the River Plate.

  • On the same day as the formation of the Anglo-French hunter groups, Admiral Graf Spee captured the steamer Newton Beech. Two days later, she encountered and sank the merchant ship Ashlea.
  • On 8 October, the following day, she sank Newton Beech, which Langsdorff had been using to house prisoners. Newton Beech was too slow to keep up with Admiral Graf Spee, and so the prisoners were transferred to the cruiser.
  • On 10 October, she captured the steamer Huntsman, the captain of which had not sent a distress signal until the last minute, as he had mistakenly identified Admiral Graf Spee as a French warship. Unable to accommodate the crew from Huntsman, Admiral Graf Spee sent the ship to a rendezvous location with a prize crew.
  • On 15 October, Admiral Graf Spee rendezvoused with Altmark to refuel and transfer prisoners; the following morning, the prize Huntsman joined the two ships. The prisoners aboard Huntsman were transferred to Altmark and Langsdorff then sank Huntsman on the night of 17 October.
  • On 22 October, Admiral Graf Spee encountered and sank the steamer Trevanion. At the end of October, Langsdorff sailed his ship into the Indian Ocean south of Madagascar. The purpose of that foray was to divert Allied warships away from the South Atlantic, and to confuse the Allies about his intentions.
  • By this time, Admiral Graf Spee had cruised for almost 30,000 nautical miles (56,000 km; 35,000 mi) and needed an engine overhaul.
  • On 15 November, the ship sank the tanker Africa Shell, and the following day, she stopped an unidentified Dutch steamer, though did not sink her.
  • Admiral Graf Spee returned to the Atlantic between 17 and 26 November to refuel from Altmark. While replenishing supplies, the crew of Admiral Graf Spee built a dummy gun turret on her bridge and erected a dummy second funnel behind the aircraft catapult to alter her silhouette significantly in a bid to confuse allied shipping as to her true identity.
  • Admiral Graf Spee’s Arado floatplane located the merchant ship Doric Star: Langsdorff fired a shot across her bow to stop the ship. Doric Star was able to send out a distress signal before she was sunk, which prompted Harwood to take his three cruisers to the mouth of the River Plate, which he estimated would be Langsdorff’s next target.
  • On the night of 5 December, Admiral Graf Spee sank the steamer Tairoa. The next day, she met with Altmark and transferred 140 prisoners from Doric Star and Tairoa.
  • Admiral Graf Spee encountered her last victim on the evening of 7 December: the freighter Streonshalh. The prize crew recovered secret documents containing shipping route information.
  • Based on that information, Langsdorff decided to head for the seas off Montevideo. On 12 December, the ship’s Arado196 broke down and could not be repaired, depriving Graf Spee of her aerial reconnaissance. The ship’s disguise was removed, so it would not hinder the ship in battle.

Battle of the River Plate

  • At 05:30 on the morning of 13 December 1939, lookouts spotted a pair of masts off the ship’s starboard bow. Langsdorff assumed this to be the escort for a convoy mentioned in the documents recovered from Tairoa.
  • At 05:52, however, the ship was identified as HMS Exeter; she was accompanied by a pair of smaller warships, initially thought to be destroyers but quickly identified as Leander-class cruisers. Langsdorff decided not to flee from the British ships, and so ordered his ship to battle stations and to close at maximum speed.
  • At 06:08, the British spotted Admiral Graf Spee; Commodore Harwood divided his forces up to split the fire of Admiral Graf Spee’s 28 cm guns. The German ship opened fire with her main battery at Exeter and her secondary guns at the flagship Ajax at 06:17.
  • At 06:20, Exeter returned fire, followed by Ajax at 06:21 and Achilles at 06:24. In the span of thirty minutes, Admiral Graf Spee had hit Exeter three times, disabling her two forward turrets, destroying her bridge and her aircraft catapult, and starting major fires. Ajax and Achilles moved closer to Admiral Graf Spee to relieve the pressure on Exeter. Langsdorff thought the two light cruisers were making a torpedo attack, and turned away under a smokescreen.
  • The respite allowed Exeter to withdraw from the action; by now, only one of her gun turrets was still in action, and she had suffered 61 dead and 23 wounded crew members.
  • At around 07:00, Exeter returned to the engagement, firing from her stern turret. Admiral Graf Spee fired on her again, scored more hits, and forced Exeter to withdraw again, this time with a list to port.
  • At 07:25, Admiral Graf Spee scored a hit on Ajax that disabled her aft turrets. Both sides broke off the action, Admiral Graf Spee retreating into the River Plate estuary, while Harwood’s battered cruisers remained outside to observe any possible breakout attempts. In the course of the engagement, Admiral Graf Spee had been hit approximately 70 times; 36 men were killed and 60 more were wounded, including Langsdorff, who had been wounded twice by splinters while standing on the open bridge.

 

graf_spee_scuttled

Scuttling in Montevideo: as a result of battle damage and casualties, Langsdorff decided to put into Montevideo, where repairs could be effected and the wounded men could be evacuated from the ship. Most of the hits scored by the British cruisers caused only minor structural and superficial damage but the oil purification plant, which was required to prepare the diesel fuel for the engines, was destroyed. Her desalination plant and galley were also destroyed, which would have increased the difficulty of a return to Germany. A hit in the bow would also have negatively affected her seaworthiness in the heavy seas of the North Atlantic. Admiral Graf Spee had fired much of her ammunition in the engagement with Harwood’s cruisers. After arriving in port, the wounded crewmen were taken to local hospitals and the dead were buried with full military honours. Captive Allied seamen still aboard the ship were released. Repairs necessary to make the ship seaworthy were expected to take up to two weeks.

British naval intelligence worked to convince Langsdorff that vastly superior forces were concentrating to destroy his ship, if he attempted to break out of the harbour. The Admiralty broadcast a series of signals, on frequencies known to be intercepted by German intelligence. The closest heavy units—the carrier Ark Royal and battlecruiser Renown—were some 2,500 nm (4,600 km; 2,900 mi) away, much too far to intervene in the situation. Believing the British reports, Langsdorff discussed his options with commanders in Berlin. These were either to break out and seek refuge in Buenos Aires, where the Argentine government would intern the ship, or to scuttle the ship in the Plate estuary.

Langsdorff was unwilling to risk the lives of his crew, so he decided to scuttle the ship. He knew that although Uruguay was neutral, the government was on friendly terms with Britain and if he allowed his ship to be interned, the Uruguayan Navy would allow British intelligence officers access to the ship. Under Article 17 of the Hague Convention, neutrality restrictions limited Admiral Graf Spee to a period of 72 hours for repairs in Montevideo, before she would be interned for the duration of the war.On 17 December 1939, Langsdorff ordered the destruction of all important equipment aboard the ship. The  ship’s remaining ammunition supply was dispersed throughout the ship, in preparation for scuttling.

On 18 December, the ship, with only Langsdorff and 40 other men aboard, moved into the outer roadstead to be scuttled. A crowd of 20,000 watched as the scuttling charges were set; the crew was taken off by an Argentine tug and the ship was scuttled at 20:55. The multiple explosions from the munitions sent jets of flame high into the air and created a large cloud of smoke that obscured the ship which burned in the shallow water for the next two days.

On 20 December, in his room in a Buenos Aires hotel, Langsdorff shot himself in full dress uniform and lying on the ship’s battle ensign. In late January 1940, the neutral American cruiser USS Helena arrived in Montevideo and the crew was permitted to visit the wreck of Admiral Graf Spee. The Americans met the German crewmen, who were still in Montevideo. In the aftermath of the scuttling, the ship’s crew were taken to Argentina, where they were interned for the remainder of the war.

Photo by Imperial War Museum staff – This is photograph HU 3285 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 6307-02), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5097614

By S. W. Roskill – The War at Sea 1939–1945, Chapter VI, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6344759

By courtesy Wikipedia.org