(1944) Having completed the set Sylabus of advanced flying training at R.F.U. "Poona" India, I was (together with a Sgt Keating) posted as replacement pilots to 152 .Hyderabad sqdn. (Fighters) who reported to be in the "Imphal" area of Burma. We were flown in by "Beechcraft" aircraft from "Commila" Arakan India, who was diverted to a landing strip at a place called "Tama" in the "Kabaw" valley in Burma, where we were met by the Adjatant and escorted to the C.O. "Major Hoffe" S.A.A.F. (The previous C.O. S/Ldr Bruce Ingram D.F.C had been killed a short time before) who welcomed us and briefed us, then allocated us to our flights,
I to "B" flight and Keating to "A" flight, my flight comdr being F/Lt Mike Jones D.F.C. who without mincing words told me that I would act as No 2 to a W/O Jimmy Chuck but that from time to time act as No 2 to himself when he would assess me each week with either a Black "0" or a Red "X" placed in his book & should the "X"s outweigh the "0" at the end of the month I would be "Off" the sqdn. (Keating went 3 weeks later, posted back to "L.5s" spotter planes.)
I made it !! in spite of one altercation when he gave me a right going over even to taking his cao off & throwing it on the ground & jumping on it !!, in front of everyone !!, I stood my ground & reminded him that I had not been briefed for the trip & therefor I did'nt feel I should be held fully responsible, where-upon like a real man he calmed down and appologised in front of all concered. That took a real man !! & we finished up "Good Friends" & respected each other, I thought the world of him. I flew with Mike many times & he gave me so much confidence, I'd have gone anywhere with him. However, my No.1. Jimmy Chuck had to return to U/K on compassionate grounds, so, I was made No.1. & I enjoyed it.!!. I was also allocated to Test fly replacement aircraft for "B" Flight, M.Jones briefed me O.K. but after sorting it all out (the first time) up to 32,000 Ft I cooled off & went into a dive, but, looking out for aileron flutter, I forgot to check my speed---- way over permissable with the result that I was buffeted to & fro & my head was hitting the canopy (bruised head for 2-3 weeks) painfull to combe, & I found I could'nt pull the stick back !!, to climb out, then at 5,000 ft I tried the trimming tab wheel,------it worked slowly at first but enabled me to use the stick & I finished up starting to climb at 1,500 ft & sailed 2/3rds across "Thailand" on the way to the China sea before me. I had more colours in my knickers than "Jacobs Coat" !!, so with everything up to the "Gate" I bloody soon got back to base. Mike debreied me, but that night he looked me up & said , I've worked out your airspeed & gone through & rectified it & found True Airspeed you Crazy Bastard, --- you were around the speed of sound (the barrier). My old friend Len Smith (Frightend of nothing) tried it that afternoon & swore he'd never try it again !!. And so it went on & on, Major Hoffe was posted back to Tangmere U/K for a fighter leadres course, & a S/Ldr Garry Kerr took over, ( and with respect to S/Ldr Kerr) not to every ones pleasure.
However, life carried on with patrols, escorts, attacking the marshaling yards at Mandalay, bombing the oilfields at Yen & Yong on the Irrawady etc etc, quite an hectic life, & gradualy I became accepted as one of the Sqdn especialy the comradship with W/O Partridge R.A.A.F. (Birdy)--- mad as a march hat & an advert for anybodies Booze !!. carried out several escorts for "Lord Louie Mountbatten" as one of a set group led by F/O Len Smith. I recall on one occasion scheduled to meet L/Mouutbattens silver Dakota at "Whites Cutting" coming from the Arakan at 05.00 Hrs to escort to "H.Q" up near the Chinese border. Got there & waited to no avail, Smithy decided to head for destination, H.Q.-----Lo & behold there was the silver D.C. landed !!. It was the first & only time I heard smithy swear !!, when out of a nearby tent Lord Mountbatton appeared, he came straight up to Smithy & appologised for the upset & explained ----we were early so I told the pilot to carry on, so it was my fault, we should have waited !!. That was a real mans Leadership, & after Smithy accepted the issue Lord "M" shook hands with us all.
And so we carried on moving from strip to strip as cover for the Army Boys who really had a tough time !!, and it was then that I was on patrol with P/O Vickers & was returning to base (Low on Fuel) when I noticed some anti/aircraft bursts down below, on reporting it to "Vic we then saw 5 Jap fighters attacking our troops crossing the river, "Vic" said come on "Lofty" lets get stuck in, so that we did ,----- I hung behind "Vic" a little to protect his rear & a good job I did ,---one little sod spun around behind him so "Jappo" was perfect for me, ---- he did'nt get home. The rest scattered & although we had some action we could'nt chase them back to Rangoon, so we returned to Thedaw, both "Vic" & I scored with one sharing. My first taste !!, 2 days later Feb 19th Scramble to intercept "Oscas" fighters south of Mandalay, 4 attacks made but was having trouble with engine cutting out, & no radio, C.O. advised me by signals to return to base, & assigned W/O Banks to escort me, some 150-200 Mls with a range of mountains 11000 ft & losing height, however, with the use of a converted fuel injection button & the wobble pump, I dropped the 90 gl overload tank, scraped over the hills & made it into the valley strip on a dead engine. Made me grateful that my training instructor taught me dead/stick landins. The C.O. of No 11 Sqdn helped me out & gave me a cigarette, & said said, I could'nt have landed my Hurricane like that, ---- I was quite chuffed !!, I came to understand from Mike that the S/Qdn C.O of 11 saw Garry Kerr our C.O. & suggested some recognition of my efforts should be forthcoming, but it was accepted & ignored, however. that sort of thing never worried me, I was too glad to have made it !!, I might add, my right hand palm was a mess of blisters from the woble pump action !!.
I recall that I flew quite often with F/Lt M. jones covering Dakota supply Drops, & one that stands out in my mind, was, on returning to base, Mike called me up & said "Lofty" lets give them a beat up, so, close in. So I tucked my port wing inside of his, about 4-5 ft from his cockpit, & down we went, we hit the end of the strip----realy low, & shot through -- past the C/Os control van below it's height & the C/O had shot out of the door onto the step & bloody near jumped off in surprise !! "Oh Boy", did we get a ROLLICKING !!. Later on Mike looked me up & said "it's alright Lofty He's calmed down" But he was not well pleased, still, it gave the ground-staff a Buzz! after all, they did'nt have much to laugh about what with the heat, monsson rain, scorpions, snakes, lizzards, mozzies & all & sundry, how they kept up the high standard that they did, I will never know !!, I was always grateful for their expertise!!. On the subject of Beatups. I recall another occasion I was scheduled to do another Air Test (Replacement A/C) & my engine fitter "Smithy" said, when you come back give us a beat up "Lofty", if you can, (he was very fond of his aircraft & I always had more fuel left than any of the others ). So, on my return, the strip looked clear so I gave it the Gun & hit the end of the strip Low, tipped it over on it's back & went from one end to the other inverted, then, climbed away before rolling out. Came in to land & taxied in only to be met by W/Cdr Mc. Kinley, I had'nt seen his pale Blue Spit parked in dispersal. the conversation went something like, we don't mind you killing yourself, it's the A/C that we need, ********** "Another Rollicking". still, Smithy was estatic !! -----thats my A/C!!. I must say, as Pilots we were only as good as our Groundstaff, ------ and we had the best !! that is why we could put more aircraft up daily than the other Squadrons. Our boys had been together, ----- some since N. Ireland & worked as a team. I (like all the rest was foe ever grateful to their skill.
Once again, we carried on with patrols etc, etc, until the Army drove them back & took "Rangoon" where on 16th June, Lord M. had a flypast & parade, we had tried twice to get to "Mingaladon" Airfield Rangoon but were turned back by severe storms, until, as stated, June 16th the C.O. S/Ldr Kerr led 4. officers in box, & I led 4 N.C.O.s, we formed up over the "Swe Dagon" with heavy low cloud as I recall, but we managed to carry it out under the cloud base. We were complimented on the quality of formation by Lord. M. & I have his telegram saying so given to me ny S/Ldr Kerr. Following which the boys flew back to base, although, I had to stay behind for a couple of days so that my aircraft had some attention to the overload tank, following which, I returned to base really low on my own!!. July 21st . We all flew down to "Toungoo" a bloody awful strip with water on the runway as well as rolled up landing material in amongst it, it was reported that some 5000 Japs were pushing through "Toungoo" from the "Shan Hills" from the East, to guide 4--5000 of their troops trapped behind us, back out to the "Shan States", it was all very spartan with rain & floods to operate under. However, July 21st I & my No 2 & F/O Meredith & his No 2 were set to assist the Army pinned down near "Toungoo", we were to be directed by V.C.P. unfortunately, my No 2's aircraft packed up & also "Merries" No 2. So Merrie & I teamed up together & found the hill & village, & between decided to criss-cross the bashas----give it a few minutes & bash the centre,. This we did & saw the Army Boys push forward, we had set the Bashas alight, & with a final attack left for base "Toungoo" total time according to my log book 35 Mins. That night around 19.30 hrs the C.O. congratulated us & gave me a signal from the Army Comm saying thank you congrats 700 counted to time of origin-- what a day !!. July 22nd. I returned to base "Thedaw" with aircraft "A" to acquire a replacement, where my F/Lt Commander Mike Jones met me & was briefed etc, & then said "Lofty" thats your lot !! you have done your stint-- I've got you posted back to Egypt as an airfightinf instructor at "Faid" O.T.U. & he would'nt take no for my plea to stay, saying " If anything happened to you in these last few days I woudnt live with myself, so, that was that !! (He knew I had a girlfriend in Cairo, but it transpired that she had injured her back climbing over a wall on V.E. night, & was sent back to U/K !!) just my luck, "If "Betty Grable" had been my mother I'd have been a "Bottle fed baby" !!
In a matter of days, Lord M's Silver D.C. landed special to pick me up & put me on my next assignment. Where, back in Egypt Aug 25th the war packed up & I finished up flying with rest with 32 Sqn in Palastine (Israel) , which I enjoyed, though, I must say, I could not have wished for a better Sqdn than 152 Hyderabad. Sqdn Ldr Garry Kerr wrote me a very nice farewell in my log book but I understood that he was'nt very happy that Mike Jones had acted on his behalf & in his absence to arrange my posting. And to show this, made poor old Mike fly down to Singapore so that his return to U/K was delayed !! that was'nt fair !! So there it is, I have many happy memmories I'm glad I lived them.
Is'nt it amazing one always remembers the good times & invariably forgets the bad ones !!
As previously stated ( By Ray Johnson) we had in the armament section a couple of 12. Bore shotguns, basicaly for Aircrew Deflection Practice, these were used after heavier shot was arranged. In consequence thereafter the armaments N.C.O. W/O Skevington in arrangement with myself came up with the idea that we go out and see if we could bag a few pidgeon, (we found that there were approx 7 variaties) the best being the "Imperial" which was the size of our pheasant at home, also, we came across a type of jungle chicken known to the tribes as "Schu". Bearing in mind that we did'nt have fresh meat it would give us a rare treat. So on my off shifts on odd aternoons we went forth----- the intrepid hunters, of course, we never thought about pockets of Japs that could have knocked us off !!. It turned out that "Skev" at one time poached the Duke of Bedfords estate, ---- & I back in the 30's poached the Duke of Norfolks here in Sussex, ---- so we were called the two poachers !!, & the cooks were kept going with shot birds !!.
It was at one of these forays that we (at "Skevs" suggestion) took along Ray Johnson, & after walking quite away along jungle tracks & alongside a "Chaung" (Stream) I saw a fair sized Python (10!-6ins) swimming, well, we shot & killed it whereupon some local tribes appeared & got quite excited & with a pointed bamboo pushed through the head , --- dragged it in the water back to their camp, whereupon, they skinned it for us & put the rest in the cooking pot !!. It was at this stage that we looked around & found poor old "Ray" had scarpered, both "Skev" & I were worried in case he could'nt find his way back--- but on our return we were pleased to see that he had. However after the skinning we continued with our further shooting, & on returning through the camp we were invited to partake of the cooking pot, (Snake) well, we did & it was super !! we dug in with our hands & had a good skoff, it was like chicken !! with a multitude of thank you's we returned to base.
The skin was cured by "Skev", & after a period of time, he was set to return to U/K---- & offered me 1/2 the skin, it was beautiful with lovelly colours, but I asked what he would do with it & he said ---- keep it & give the wife a handbag, so I said keep the rest & make it a pair of shoes as well. So I have always hoped that is what transpired !!.
That was a truly memorable occasion for me.
With Many Thanks & Memories "LOFTY" Unsted. 20th October 2005
"Operation Flying 247.40 hours. Sorties. 165."
Sadly Passed away on The 30th May 07
R.I.P Old Friend we’re Going To Miss You.
© 152(Hyderabad) F Squadron 1939-1967. All Rights Reserved.