No. 1 Squadron (IAF): Second World War

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No.1 Squadron, IAF, was the only squadron of the Indian Air Force to be formed before the outbreak of the Second World War, and served as an army co-operation squadron then as a fighter-bomber squadron over Burma.

The squadron was officially formed on 1 April 1933, at which time there were only enough Indian personnel to form a single flight (most qualified men preferred to join the more prestigious army). A second flight was added in April 1936 and a third in June 1938, but the three flights operated separately until November 1941. During this period the squadron spent most of its time operating on the North West Frontier, although after the outbreak of the war in Europe one flight moved to Karachi to fly coastal patrols.

In August 1941 the Indian Air Force was loaned 48 Westland Lysanders, and in November No.1 Squadron, IAF, came together at Drigh Road, where it officially received the new aircraft (on 7 November they were transferred to the Indian Air Force).

The squadron had just taken its Lysanders to the North West Frontier when the Japanese attacked. Every aircraft was now needed in Malaya and Burma but a shortage of air gunners, who were not needed for policing operations, meant that No.1 SQuadron was not ready for service until 1 February 1942, when it moved to its war station at Toungoo. That night the airfield was bombed, but No.1 SQuadron didn't suffer any losses. Two days later the squadron's commanding officer dropped some bombs on the Japanese airfield at Mae-Haugsuam (Siam), and on 4 February the entire squadron followed. DUring the rest of the campaign in Burma the squadron flew a mix of army co-operation missions and bombing missions, all to support the army retreating towards India.

Eventually the Japanese advance forced the squadron back to Magwe. During the summer of 1942 the Lysanders were replaced with Hawker Hurricanes, and between September 1942 and April 1943 the squadron took part of the fighter defence of the east coast of India.

Between April 1943 and February 1944 the squadron was based on the North West Frontier, where it received Hurricane fighter-bombers. THe squadron returned to Burma just in time to take part in the siege of Imphal. During this battle the inboard starboard cannon was replaced with a camera, and the squadron flew reconnaissance flights over the battle field, directing assaults on Japanese positions.

No.1 SQuadron, IAF, spent the next year operating as a fighter-bomber squadron over Burma, supporting the Allied armies as they began the re-conquest of the country. On 31 March 1945 the squadron was withdrawn from the front line, and transferred to the North West Frontier. In November 1945, after the Japanese surrender, the squadron converted to the Spitfire, which it kept until the summer of 1947 when it received the Hawker Tempest.

After the partition of India No.1 Squadron was to join the Royal Pakistan Air Force, and in preparation for this move it was officially disbanded on 15 August 1947.

Aircraft
April 1933-November 1941: Westland Wapiti IIA
June 1939-November 1941: Hawker Hart
November 1941-September 1942: Westland Lysander II
September 1942-April 1943: Hawker Hurricane I
April 1943-March 1946: Hawker Hurricane IIB and IIC
September 1943-January 1944: Hawker Audax I
November 1945-August 1947: Supermarine Spitfire VIII
March-August 1947: Supermarine Spitfire XIV
July-August 1947: Hawker Tempest II

Location

A Flight
April 1933-April 1936: Drigh Road
April-November 1936: Peshawar
November 1936-February 1937: Chaklala
February 1937: Drigh Road
February-August 1937: Peshawar
August-November 1937: Miranshah
November 1937-January 1938: Peshawar
January-June 1938: Hyderabad
June-July 1938: Miranshah
July 1938-March 1939: Ambala (full squadron to September 1938)
March-June 1939: Miranshah
August 1939-November 1941: Drigh Road

B Flight
April 1933-January 1937: Drigh Road
January-February 1937: Bangalore
February 1937-January 1938: Drigh Road
January-June 1938: Bangalore
June 1938-July 1940: Ambala
July-September 1940: Miranshah

C Flight
June 1938: Drigh Road
June-September 1938: Ambala
September-November 1938: Miranshah
June 1940-November 1941: Fort Sandeman

Combined Squadron
November 1941-February 1942: Calcutta (ground crews)
February 1942: Toungoo
February-March 1942: Mingaladon
March 1942: Magwe
March-April 1942: Secunderabad
April-September 1942: Santa Cruz
September-December 1942: Trichinopoly
December 1942: Arkonam
December 1942-January 1943: Trichinopoly
January-April 1943: Bairagarh
     February-March 1943: Chharra
April-June 1943: Risalpur
June 1943-February 1944: Kohat
February 1944: Kan
February 1944-March 1945: Sinthe
March-April 1945: Moving to North West Frontier Province
April 1945-April 1946: Kohat
April 1946-August 1946: Samungli

Squadron Codes: sss

Groups
July 1944: No.170 Wing, No.221 Group, Third Tactical Air Force, Eastern Air Command

Books

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (9 November 2009), No. 1 Squadron (IAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/IAF/1_wwII.html

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