Serving in India 1942 to 1946 – My father-in-law’s time with Squadron 159 (Part 1)

My father-in-law is on the left.

For four years during World War II, my father-in-law served in RAF Squadron 159 in India.

We knew very little about this period of his life until the death of my mother-in-law in 2004. Soon after this he began to talk more about his experiences, firstly travelling aboard ship and being in India for four long years in various locations.

He also produced some black and white photographs in regard to his service, some of which I have included here for illustration in these several pieces.

It became a fairly common trait among servicemen on all sides after that war, and also post the Great War of 1914-18, to be reticent about their time in service, especially about describing more traumatic events. It must be remembered that back then there was little in the way of counselling after experiencing such action.

The B-24 Consolidated Liberator.

It must be said, however, that my father-in-law didn’t see active service during that time, arriving on the subcontinent at the age of twenty one. He was part of the ground crew, a critically important role for missions. They had been sent onto India in the first half of the year, before the arrival of the aircraft; the plane of choice for the long distance raids eastwards was the B-24 Consolidated Liberator, a four engine bomber produced in the United States.

The reason for the deployment of this squadron (among others) was to defend the then British Empire from Japanese incursions into south east Asia, threatening Burma and even India itself. India was strategically well placed for such operations to halt and repel this advance.


Copyright Francis 2022

Poem ‘Hurricane’s Grave’

Hurricane’s Grave

A copse can be an intimate
friend. Most days he roamed there, always
finding something to love, a life of
reasonable expectation.
Late winter was a favourite time; tree tops
took on reddish hues and
there were further signs other
than snowdrops
and blue tits’ brighter songs, of the
burgeoning spring

Today was different. Large boots
had been this way,
their wearer, like
a stump line of grey, stood
barely seen by an old fence, through straight
saplings in sunlight.
He approached the figure, which seemed
to dissipate like mist in the sun, something
he’d mistaken for form
and life

But it was more than
a notion that had led him there. The fence
overlooked a rolling field, familiar lumps
and bumps of pasture unchanged
for decades,
where lords in their demesnes might
still rule for all he knew.
He leant on the fence, it
gave way in his hand. A piece of torn
grey cloth freed from a nail, flopped to
the damp ground.
He held it,
felt its old thick weave— like a uniform

He pondered the scene in front
of him, gave space to wartime tales,
the remembered lumps and
bumps which might easily hide a
hurricane’s grave

image and poem © copyright david f. barker 2012

* The Hurricane here, is a British WWII fighter plane