England to Cairo
to India
[ map ]

On 6 November we flew a Liberator to Lyneham, Wiltshire, in southern England, and stayed there until 20 November at which time we went to Portreath (Land's End). At 9.35 p.m. on 21 November 1942 we left for Egypt again. This time it was a direct flight via the Bay of Biscay, over southern France, Sardinia, and Sicily to Egypt. After flying 12 hours, 35 minutes, we landed in Mersa Matruh, west of El Alamein. The next day we flew to Cairo. In Salbani we became part of RAF 159 Squadron, a heavy bomber squadron flying Liberators. The RAF flew an improved model of the Liberator and according to William Green, Famous Bombers of the Second World War, "This, the Liberator II, equipped Nos. 159 and 160 Squadrons which became the first bomber units to operate this type of aircraft."

B-24 Liberator Bomber in flight.
photo: B-24

Side view of the B-24 Liberator Bomber in flight.
photo: B-24 (side)

The battle of El Alamein had been won by the Allies in October 1942 and now there was a more pressing need for planes in India, to participate in the Burma campaign against the Japanese. In view of this we were ordered to fly to India. We left Cairo on 25 November and flew to Habbaniyah, on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq, in 4 hours, 5 minutes. The following day we flew to Karachi, now in Pakistan, in 8 hours, 50 minutes and then on 2 December to Salbani in 7 hours, 20 minutes. Salbani is about 60 miles west of Calcutta and a few miles north of Kharagpur. Because of the airplane's large, transparent nose, where the navigator's section was located, the navigator had a broad view of the area over which he was flying. It was an ideal location from which to navigate. The squadron had a very limited number of aircraft, spare parts were not easily available, and billeting facilities were far from luxurious.

During the course of time I had been promoted Warrant Officer. Appendix A lists the equivalencies between the ranks presently used by the Canadian Forces and those used by the RCAF prior to 1967. On 159 Squadron there were only two of us with that rank. The other one was an Englishman in charge of the ground crew servicing the aircraft and he had many years of service. Because of my limited number of years of service compared to his, I was apprehensive as to how I would be accepted. My apprehension didn't last long and I got along with everyone. Some time later Jack Portch joined this squadron and was part of some of the "ops" to be mentioned later.

B-24 Liberator Bomber, RAF, 159 Squadron, Salbani, India.
photo: B-24, RAF

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