Whilst we take our 3-week break, it provides us with the opportunity to look back at more of the historical significance of our route thus far:
Bahrain itself is a group of 33 islands situated in the Arabian Gulf, off the east coast of Saudi Arabia. RAF history with Bahrain dates back to 1924. With its perceived strategic importance, the RAF established RAF Bahrain on 22 May 1943 as part of RAF Iraq Command. In 1963 it was renamed RAF Muharraq and was finally closed on 15 December 1971. The UK has enjoyed a long-standing defence relationship with Bahrain, and it was enjoyed as a restful stop for out team! Furthermore, in 2016 the Royal Navy opened a new Navy Support Facility in Manama, confirming the UK commitment to the Gulf and Bahrain
The RAF has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the UAE. Notably, a war memorial was erected in Dhadnah, Fujairah, to commemorate an RAF serviceman, Sergeant Billy Donnelly, who died in February 1943 when his Wellington number crashed there during the Second World War. Furthermore, in Sharjah stands the Al Mahatta Museum, the UAE’s only aviation museum, which was part of the RAF base in Sharjah from early in the Second World War until 1971.
On 15 January 2013, 906 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) was stood up in the UAE, tasked with the provision of support to air transport links between the UK and deployed operations in Afghanistan, as well as logistic support to deployed forces.
In 1939 the first Fairey Long Range Monoplane, J9479, reached Karachi from RAF Cranwell, after just over 50 hours in the air. After their departure had been delayed for several days due to weather, Sqn Ldr A.G. Jones-Williams and Flt Lt N.H. Jenkins set off for Bangalore, attempting a long distance record. Strong headwinds forced them to land in Karachi, however, and the flight was short of the record.
As well as this early example of long-distance flights by the Royal Air Force, Jinnah Airport was used extensively by the USAF in WW2, and today it is Pakistan’s busiest international airport.
Nagpur was commissioned for the RFC/RAF in WWI and used by the Royal Air Force in WWII.
Chittagong was used by several squadrons from the RAF Third Tactical Air Force during WW2, in operations including the Battles of Kohima and Imphal, both major turning points in the war. Not far to the north is the Kohima War Cemetary, where a memorial bears the words of the Kohima Epitaph:
“When you go home, tell them of us and say,
“For your tomorrow, we gave our today.””
To the south-east lie the final resting places of many of the RAF ‘Missing’ and their aircraft, lost over Burma while serving with the RAF Far East Command, airmen of the so-called ‘Forgotten Air Force’.
Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok, was the birthplace of the Royal Thai Air Force. It spent the war under Japanese control, before a brief occupation by the RAF and then the USAF before becoming a commercial airport.
The RAF operated from Butterworth from 1941 to 1957 where they handed control over to RAAF who operated from there during the Cold War. In addition, the RAF provided support during the Malayan Emergency and also used the base as a stopoff when transiting to other RAF bases in the Far East region. The RAAF closed Base Butterworth on 30 June 1988, however it is now operational under the RMAF.
Christmas Island is the flattish tip of a seabed 4200m volcano, not connected to any other landmass, but certainly a fantastic rest-stop for our team whilst en route to mainland Australia. Christmas Island formed a notable history during WW2 known as the Battle of Christmas Island.
Christmas Island was under British control, important due to its strategic control location for the East Indian ocean and also its source of phosphates which were important for Japanese industry. A garrison of a British Officer, four soldiers and 27 Indians plus one naval gun were installed 1941 – 2. After the occupation of Java, Japanese Imperial General Headquarters issued orders for “Operation X” to invade Christmas Island. Due to a mutiny by Indian soldiers against the British soldiers, the Japanese troops were then able to occupy Christmas Island without resistance. On 31st March the Japanese bombed the radio station and landed a construction battalion of 850 men to occupy the island and resume phosphate mining for Japanese industry.
HMS Rother then re-occupied the Island in October 1945 and later the island was transferred to Australia via Singapore.