Air route UK to India Dec.1943

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Rattler, May 23, 2020.

  1. Rattler

    Rattler Junior Member


    I am researching a S.O.E. officer who, after training in the UK, was sent to India and attached to Force 136.

    His record states:

    4 Dec 1943: "Will leave for India soon".

    24 Dec. 1943: " Left UK for India"

    Can anyone suggest the likely air itinerary he would have undertaken at this stage of the war?

    Can a Moderator please put this query in the most suitable Forum.

    Thanks and regards

  2. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    May I ask, HOW do you know he went by AIR......does his records mention it?? Or is it possible we went by Convoy to the Middle East and then by Air to India. Do you know what date he “arrived” in India??

    Just looking for more clues that may help us give you more information
  3. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Last edited: May 23, 2020
  4. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Examples of Air Routes by BOAC to India, Africa, Middle East and Australia




    But of course he may have used Military Aircraft.....
  5. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Or he could have gone the route through North America and then back???

  6. Temujin

    Temujin Member

  7. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    There was also a flying boat route from Alexandria via the lakes near Habbaniyeh, Bahrain (often an overnight stop) to Bombay. I've spoken with people who could still remember the Shorts stopping at Bahrain (sadly I doubt that any of these guys are still around now).
  8. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    There might have been a short cut for the associated Transport Command depending on the war risk.The following were well known staging posts in the war and post war era...the Habbeniyah staging post being not available after the Iraq revolution in 1958.Postwar,the former Italian airfield at Castel Benito (RAF Idris) was was available from late 1943 for Allied use.

    UK to RAF Gib

    RAF Gib to Malta RAF Luqa

    Malta (RAF Luqu) to the Cairo airfields

    Cairo airfields to RAF Habbeniyah

    RAF Habbeniyah to RAF Mauripur (Karachi ) then Northern India now Pakistan

    RAF Mauripur on to the many RAF airfields situated in India.
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  9. hutt

    hutt Member

    Although not directly linked and post war, I have attached for interest some pages from one of the Operation Dodge (Air20-6670) diaries listing a few of the routes that were being flown and numbers carried on Dodge and Refuge to and from India and Italy.The variety of routes that were being flown caught my eye when looking for details of how my father had returned from Italy in November 45 DSC01599.JPG DSC01608.JPG
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  10. Rattler

    Rattler Junior Member


    Firstly my thanks for your consideration and rapid responses to my question.

    Termujin -- to clarify: there is a note dated 20 October 1943 in his S.O.E. record (at the Nat. Arch.) that he was expected "UK to India by AIR" (the latter word AIR being in capital letters). Hence I put the word Air in my question.

    The next entry in his record is dated 14 January 1944 ie 17 days after he departed UK, it states: HQ UT SECTION - Attached Force 136 at HQ in Meerut. On 20 January 1944 he was "Appointed Conducting Officer".

    By coincidence the officer concerned had very good connections in Freetown Sierra Leone in that he had worked there in the colonial civil service from mid 1940 to mid 1943
    Harry and Robert -- those routes you indicate have merit based on shorter distance (but greater risk as far as Cairo).

    I have just ordered the book "SOE in the Far East" by Charles Cruikshank which may shed some light on itineraries undertaken at different time points of the war. I will post accordingly if useful info is found..

    The nature of SOE work and missions did not lend itself to (subsequent helpful) narrative and clarity on service records.

  11. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The route I have described was originally based on that proven by a Sunderland in 1938 which flew from Britain to Singapore via Gibraltar, Malta, Alexandria, Habbaniyah, Bahrain, Karachi, Gwalior, Calcutta, Rangoon, and Mergui
    By mid war permanent stop over facilities were established in Bahrain
  12. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Sunderland never served in Transport Command and during the war the priority for the
    Sunderland was to serve in Coastal Command.Postwar it is recorded that a Sunderland was routed through Bahrain to Singapore but I would not associate flying boat staging through Habbeniyah.

    The Sunderland you are referring to was No 230 Squadron's Sunderlands which were taken on charge in the summer of 1938 and went on to the Singapore station at Seletar. The route was not proven for any purpose but was also the route that the Singapore 111 would have also made when the squadron was issued with the Singapore and flew to Seletar in January 1937 from Pembroke Dock after being based in Alexandria from October 1935.By early May 1940,the Squadron with its Sunderlands moved to Alexandria to operate in the Med and later operated in the Indian Ocean (I would say the quoted route, Calcutta to Rangoon is misleading and should be Rangoon to Calcutta.)

    The fall of Singapore,the Malayan peninsula and Hong Kong cut off these routes.India was obviously used as a base to protect India from the Japanese and recover Burma from the many RAF airfields in the Ganges basin around Calcutta and to support the Chinese against the Japanese..Any use of a Sunderland would be restricted to water courses as staging posts as against the Transport Command aircraft use of the Dakota,Liberator,Stirling and York on airfields or airstrips in an emergency.

    The route I have described was well trodden by RAF transport aircraft.After the liberation of France,RAF Gib could be bypassed and the route to the UK was to overfly France. This was the route taken from staging through Malta en route home by Bomber Command aircraft on detachment from Shallufa,(north of Suez in the Canal Zone.)

    RAF Transport Command had as many as 200 staging posts for their logistical role during the war.
    Last edited: May 24, 2020
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  13. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Harry Ree writes:
    Before WW2 Habbaniya did serve as a flying boat facility, presumably on the lake rather than the River Euphrates:
    During WW2 and after the Iraqi war:
    From: RAF Habbaniya - Wikipedia

    Better still the Habbiniya Association have a long documentary, with a section on flights by flying boats and WW2 use:

    There was a RAF flying boat facility @ Basra, Iraq; although I have no information on Ww2 use it was used post-war.
  14. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Christine Jennings in Robbie: The Life of Sir Robert Jennings describes his flight out to India in 1943 to take up 2nd in Command of a new ISTD (an inter services intelligence operation established by the Director of Naval Intelligence). He travelled from Poole by flying boat via Gibraltar, an island off Tunisa, Cairo and Habbaniya. There was an army garrison at the lake at Habbaniya which he described as "very fed up"
    Last edited: May 24, 2020
  15. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

  16. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    No the Sunderland I am referring to was one of the first prototypes
  17. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    In 1942 BOAC acquired six Sunderland IIIs which were converted to mail planes but also with very basic passenger accommodation for six passengers, these were dedicated to the Nigerian and Indian service. The Indian service continued to use Habbaniya. Further Sunderland IIIs were acquired and converted this time able to carry 24 passengers - 16 with sleeping berths and with the victories on N Africa and Allied progress in the Med Theatre the route readjusted closer to that proven for the Sunderland in 1938 and already partly used by the Empire class boats - see my earlier post. By 1945 BOAC had more than 20 boats serving India. By this time they were officially named as Hythes but still generally referred to as Sunderlands.
  18. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    "Ocean Sentinel The Short Sunderland" by John F Hamlin has a chapter on civilian operated Sunderlands. BOAC operated some on loan from the RAF in 1940/41. Then in 1942 Transport Command arranged for a batch of 6 Mk.III (JM660-665) to be modified for their use. 18 more were transferred between Sept 1943 and Aug 1944. Services with them to Lagos, Nigeria began on 1 March 1943. From Oct 1943 these switched to the Poole (Hamworthy) to Karachi route which was then extended to Calcutta from 10th May 1944.

    The route was Poole, Gibraltar, Djerba (Tunisia), Cairo, Lake Habbaniya (Iraq), Bahrein, Jiwani (western Pakistan then part of India), Karachi, Gwailor (in the middle of India) and finally Calcutta.

    Post-war the Sunderlands continued to be used on routes from Poole.
  19. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The boats were going to Calcutta as early as 1943. Robert Jennings's flight took him that far by Sunderland (see my earlier post). Gwailor was a quasi independent princely state with a large lake.
  20. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    As I noted the service to Karachi started in Oct 1943, the exact date given being 25th of that month.

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