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 Post subject: Royal Air Force - in Ceylon
 Post Posted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:57 pm 

Joined: Fri Aug 12, 2005 12:54 pm
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Royal Air Force - in Ceylon

" Kankesanturai airfield will shortly be meeting the same fate as the jungle airstrips of Sigirya, Minneriya and Vavuniya where only the skeletons of aircraft are reminders of those key bases from which the air war from Ceylon was fought. Where practicable, buildings erected for the RAF under the exigencies of war are being used for Government schemes. But the runways, which bore the Liberators and Hurricanes in the hectic days of 1942/1945, are rapidly reverting to jungle.

Two squadrons which remain at Kankesanturai, Nos. 203 and 160, are now completing their last commitment to the Far East, the evacuation of RAF personnel from the Cocos Islands, and are preparing to leave for home."
- Ceylon Times - 1946


Both squadrons earned outstanding records in offensive operations with the Indian Ocean Air Force and were closely identified with the defence of the Island.

No.160 Liberator Squadron has as its emblem the Lion of Ceylon and the motto 'Api soya paraghamu' - 'We seek and strike' - a slogan particularly applicable during the phase of anti-shipping strikes, U-boat patrols and mine laying.

When, towards the end of 1944, the submarine menace in the Indian Ocean was mastered and the Royal Navy and RAF controlled the approaches to the East, No.222 Group operating over the largest battle area in the world, had planned the next attack on enemy shipping lanes.

To No.160 Squadron was allotted the task of minelaying

During a period of four months nearly a thousand mines were laid in enemy waters off the Malay Peninsula, the Kra Isthmus and the Dutch East Indies.


Distance was the salient feature of the air war from Ceylon bases. Sorties of an average of twenty hours in the air - became almost a routine occurrence after aircrews had been carefully "nursed up" on shorter flights of, say, 2750 miles, until they could tackle, with confidence, a 3400 miles trip. To Malaya and back to Ceylon is equivalent to crossing the Atlantic one and a half times.

The longest flight during this period of operations was one of over twenty-one hours under appalling weather conditions to lay mines in the waters off Singapore. The operation was most successfully led by Wing Commander John N.Stacey, who was awarded the D.S.O. for his part in the raid.


March 1945, was a record month for the squadron with a total of 1000 operational flying hours. In six days 250 mines, weighing a total 25,000 lbs., were carried. The long distance record was again broken. The squadron's photographic reconnaissance flight, under the direct control of HQ Air Command, was covering a larger area than ever before.

On June 15,1945, No.160 Squadron began supply- dropping to the guerrilla armies which had been trained by British Officers and NCO's to harass the enemy in Burma, Malaya, French Indo-China and Siam.

The existence of this force, which was prepared to strike and re-conquer Malaya when the Japanese surrendered, was one of the best kept operational secrets of the war in the East. It was dependent upon air-dropping for arms, equipment, food and reinforcements, and the task of keeping it supplied from bases in Ceylon was formidable.


After the surrender came operation "Birdcage" - the dropping of leaflets with instructions to Japanese forces, natives, prisoners of war and internees, and operation "Mastiff" when Ceylon based squadrons brought aid to Allied POW's sending down to them medical and administrative personnel and urgently needed supplies.

No.160 Squadron moved up to Kankesanturai in November 1945, a detachment having gone on to the Cocos Islands to take part in operations over Java. Then began the ferrying flights with mail, freight and personnel due for repatriation from Cocos to Ceylon. (Reporter or other author not named)

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