1941 Burma Air

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Lieutenant Colonel
Apr 1, 2004
I've read Burma: The Forgotten War by Jon Latimer and it's an excellent piece of reading. So much so, I've started reading it once again to find out more about bits and pieces the book had to skip over.

I wish to know more indepth about the early part of the Burma war in the air, the first three months to be precise. This will be asking a lot. Currently I have;
113th Sqn. Blenheims based at Toungoo: (What Mark Blenheims they were would be appreciated)
45th Sqn. (What did they have and where were they based?)
17th Sqn. Hurricane IIA (Where were they based?)

267 Group I know had three squadrons of Hurricane but I don't know who they were and I don't know what else 267 Group had, I would like to know.

135th Sqn. Hurricane IIA (Where were they based?)
28th. RAF Sqn. Lysanders (Based?)
2nd IAF Sqn. Lysanders (Based?)

Any other squadrons anyone knows about who were present in the first three months, I would like to know as well as the information of those mentioned.

Also, I would like this confirming and what aircraft they were; over Rangoon from 23rd - 29th January 1942 the Japanese received a shock at the hands of the RAF and AVG, they lost 17 planes lost and 10 badly damaged, the AVG lost 2 and the RAF lost 10.
Again, what machines were lost and what squadrons were they from?

And finally, on the 25th Chennault requested reinforcements for the RAF...not soon after 30 Hurricane Is arrived for 3 Squadrons, which ones?

I know that was a lot but any little bit of information would help a lot! Thanks in advance.

Oh yeah, and RL I'm expecting you to know... :lol: 8)
Alright, I've got 45th Squadron equipped with Blenheims and based at Toungoo. 17th Sqn. were at Rangoon with 135th Sqn. 28th RAF and 2nd IAF were both at Lahore...but the rest I would still like.
The two Blenheim squadrons were equipped with MkIV planes. There were probably some IVF in 45 sqn.
No 113 received Hurricanes at the end of 1943 and Thunderbolts in 1945.
No. 45 got Vengeances at the end of 1942 and Mosquitoes in 1944.

It's the first time I hear about 267 Group. I know that there were groups numbered 221-226 in that period.

I have only info about raid on 24th of january: RAF Hurricane and AVG P-40 shot down 5 out of 6 Ki-21 Sally and 3 out of 20 Ki-27 Nate fighters.

During january RAf sent to Rangoon an unspecified Hurricane squadron, and AVG 13 P-40. IJA used almost only Ki-27 for raids, because Ki-21 were too vulnerable.

Possibly that unspecified Hurricane squadron was 17th Squadron with Hurricane IIA? I read 30 Hurricane I arrived in Rangoon for three squadrons but I don't know which ones.

Were any Allied aircraft lost on 24th Jan.?

Thanks for the information.
Sorry, I have no further information about 24th january.

I have an OOB of sept. 1942, if you are interested.

From 'Fighter Squadrons of the RAF' by John Rawlings (1976):

'[17 Squadron (with Hurricane IIa's)] ... continued to work from various Scottish bases until October 1941, when it moved to Catterick to prepare for overseas. By January 1942 it was based at Mingaladon outside Rangoon and was operational the next the next month with a detatchment at Akyab endeavouring to repluse the Japanese raids. The score began to mount as Army 97's fell to the squadron's Hurrricanes. In March, while at Lashio, the squadron was cut off by the advancing Japanese and returned to India by any means available. By August, it was operational again...'

It would seem that the squadron was de-facto disbanded for the period March-August 1942.
I will continue to research the other fighter squadrons mentioned, but unfortunately my equivalent 'bombers' volume seems to have gone missing (Grrrr!).

As a slightly irrelavant aside and with no criticism intended, may I point out that RAF squadrons are always referred to (by the RAF, anyway) simply by the bare squadron number, not as in a progression (hence 17, not 17th). In addition (even more irrelevantly) members of a squadron are always 'on', not 'in' a squadron - don't ask me why!
From 'Fighter Squadrons of the RAF' by John Rawlings:

[135 Squadron] ... was formed at Baginton on 15th of August 1941, with Hurricanes and became operational at Honiley on 3rd October, flying its first defensive scramble that same day. However, the squadron was always intended for overseas and went to Burma the following month, arriving in the middle of January 1942.
Due to lack of aircarft the squadron personnel at first flew with 17 Squadron and on the 29th the CO and Pilot Officer Storey both destroyed an Army 97 each while with No. 17.
No. 135's first operational sortie as a squadron was on 3rd February, escorting a Blenheim bombing raid and these became regular features of the squadron's routine. It was also flying daily scrambles in the defence of Rangoon.
In March, the squadron was forced to retire first to Akyab and then to Calcutta...'

I've spotted the reference in the first post on the topic to '267 Group' and I wonder whether there's a confusion caused be the transposition of 'Wing' ad 'Group' in US and British usage. '267 Wing' could easily be a hastily organised and numbered operational grouping of aircraft in much the same way as happened in Malta. It might never have received 'official' blessing and in any case effectively ceased to exist before the Air Ministry clerk responsible had got his tea properly stirred!
I've tried to find more infomation on the squadrons other than 17 and 135, but all I can get is pretty bland stuff. 45 Squadron changed its role from fighter to 'heavy bombers' in 1921 and served as such in the Middle and Far East throughout the war before changing back to the fighter role with Hornets in 1952. At the time of the invasion of Burma it had Blenheims - almost certainly B Mk IVs, since the B I was well out of use by then.
It's much the same with 113, which is simply reported as 'in Burma, evacuated to Calcutta in March '42'.
28 was certainly equipped with Lysanders, but it hadn't had them long, transferring from Audaxes in September, 1941 (?!). It, too, was 'evacuated to Calcutta'.
I've nothing at all on the Indian Air force unit, I'm afraid, nor on the third Hurricane squadron, though there's some confusion about 5 and 146, which were certainly in theatre, but who seemed to swap both identities and aircraft (Buffalos and Mohawks, among other things), with one report putting 146 in Burma in May, 1942. Sounds hairy.

For extra reading, I can suggest both John Masters and George McDonald Fraser, who were both there (on the ground); I'm reading 'Safely Quartered Out Here' by the latter at this moment. You might also try 'Air Battle of Imphal' by Norman Franks (ISBN 0-7-13-0552-3), which gives a good account of Spitfires (Mk VIII) against Ki43s over a prolonged period; it was by no means one-sided.
Thanks! I write the squadrons like that out of force of habit, I don't actually say it like that or my dad would beat me to death. :lol:
In september 1942 the RAF was organized in 5 groups.
221 Group: Calcutta
34, 60, 113 sqn Asanol, Blenheim IV
215 Panaweshwar, Wellington IC
62, 353 Dum Dum Hudson II
20, 28 Ranchi, Lysander

224 Group, Calcutta
67, 136, 607 Alipore, Hurricane II
135 Dum Dum "
146, 615 Jessore "
5 Dinjan, Mohawk IV

225 Group (maritime) Bangalore

222 Group, Ceylon
9 squadrons, Hurricane, Catalina, Belheim, Beaufort

223 Group, Peshawar (Pakistan)

Does anyone know anything about the 231 (Bomber) Group which...I have conflicting reports of; Some say it had B-24s and arrived in November, 1942 to AHQ(I) and others say it was formed on the 13th of December, 1943... :confused:
I had a better look at my info about CBI theater in 1942.

The following USAAF units arrived at Karachi during march 1942, and enterd to combat between june and october 1942:
9th and 436th BS(H) with B-17 (7th BG), later plus 492 and 493 BS B-24 (jan. 43)
11th 22d BS(M) with B-25 (341st BG), later + 490th and 491st BS (jan. 43)
25th, 26th, 16th FS with P-40 (51st FG).

11th BS and 16th FS went soon to China to form the China air task force in july 1942, along with 23d FG (74, 75 and 76 FS with P-40) based at Kunming.

Indian air force:
No. 1 and 2 sqns.: Lysander, and Hurricane from june and september 1942.
No 3 : Audax
No.4 : Lysander from february 1942.
I don't know when the started combat operations or their bases.

IJAAF units.
March, 20th 1942:
Ki-27: 1,11,50,77 groups
Ki-43: 64
Ki-15/48: 8
Ki-21: 12,98
Ki-30: 31

Ki-44: 47 squadron
Ki-46: 51 "
Ki-51: 70 "

By july 1943 several units were retired, the only left were the following:
From Ki-27 to Ki-43-I: 50 (1 and 11 were to go to Rabaul)
Ki-43-I: 64 (? not sure)
Ki-46/48: 8
Ki-21: 12,14,98

I have further infos about IJAAF, like locations etc. Do you need them?

Yeah, they'd be great. You're being a great help, thanks. 8)
The 231 group existed for sure on 13th december 1943, when the air command South East Asia was estabilished. It formed the strategic air forces with the 7th Bomb. Group of 10th USAAF. Anyway I don't know if it was estabilished the year before.
I really don't think that in dec. 1942 RAF had Liberator bombers in CBI theater as main bomber. Wellington was the main one. Liberators arrived in number only in 1944-45.

It didn't say large numbers. 231 Group conducted a raid against Japanese transport links, and it only used 8 B-24s - so I doubt it's large numbers. I contacted the author and he's told me about this great book that's just come out. "A Bloody Shambles Vol.3" all about the Burma Air from April 1942 - September 1945...I'm going to get it, I think it'll answer all my questions.
Here you are the additional informations about IJAAF units on 20th march 1942:
5th air division (Burma and Thailand):

Sentai no./Base/ac strength:
50 Mingaladon, 17 Ki-27
8 " ,12 Ki-15+ 32 Ki-48
64 Cheingmai, 15 Ki-43-I
12 Lampang, 31 Ki-21
77 Maubin, 35 Ki-27
98 Nakorn Sawan 35 Ki-21
1 and 11 Pegu, 15+15 Ki-27
31 Muolmein, 25 Ki-30
47 chutai (squadron IIRC) Pegu, 4 Ki-44
51 ch. Mingaladon, 5 Ki-46+ 5 Ki-15
70 ch. Lampang, 2 Ki-51 + 9 light recce a/c

Plan_D, if you know where are these locations, please tell me. I don't know if they are in Burma or Thailand.

The 1st of April ald IJN a/c started combat operations in Burma. They were 18 G3M (Genzan kokutai) and 18 A6M2 of 22th Air flotilla.
Some H6K (Toko kokutai) were based on Andaman is. On the same days the carriers Akagi, Hiryu, Soryu Shokaku and Zuikaku raided the indian

Ocean, and the light carrier Ryujo the bay of Bengal.

Their air groups were about 18 A6M2, 18 D3A1, 27 B5N2 for Akagi, 18,18,18 each Hiryu and Soryu, and 18,27,27 each Shokaku and Zuikaku.

About RAF bombers
The first operational were no 99 and 215 With Wellington IC in april-june 1942. They received Wellington X during 1943 and Liberators in sept. 1944.
Later arrived no 159 (bomb) and 160 (ASW) with Liberators II/III in nov.1942, and feb. 1943.
no 203 was equipped with Wellington XIII (ASW) at the end of 1943 and B-24 (bombers) in october 1944.
Then arrived new squadrons with B-24:
200 (ASW/Bomb) 3/44
354 (ASW) 8/43
355 (Bomb) 11/43
356 (") 7/44
357 (Special) B-24/Hudsons
358 (Bomb) 1/45

At the end the 231 Group was composed by sqns 99,159,215,355-358, all with B-24 (except no.357 special duties).

This list is probably not 100% complete but gives a good idea of the RAF bomber strength.


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