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Chapter 11 - Controllers Training Unit Calcutta

With the collapse of Hong Kong, Singapore, the Adman Islands and Mandalay, all between 25 Dec 41 and 1 May 42, Air Headquarters Far East ceased to exist and Air Headquarters India took over command. The few RDF personnel who had managed to escape the Malayan debacle were withdrawn to India and units and equipment in transit were diverted where they could be saved, and sent to India and Sri Lanka. To give some indication of the requirement to train controllers in-situ mention should be made of the requirements of the India Command. The surveillance plan for India was issued in Sep 42 and laid down the following requirements for surveillance radars:

High cover from 250 miles east of Calcutta around the coastline to about 100 miles north of Cochin.

High cover from 100 miles north to 100 miles south of Bombay.

High cover from about 50 miles northwest to 100 miles southeast of Karachi and low cover in the area of Calcutta, Madras, Cochin, Bombay and Karachi.

The total estimated requirements of equipment for India Command, including Ceylon, Addu Atoll and offensives in Assam were for 256 radar units. They were divided as follows:

1. Transportable Radar Units (TRU) 19

2. Mobile Radar Units (MRU) 63

3. Chain Overseas Low (COL) 56

4. Light Warning Sets (LWS) 70

5. Intermediate GCI 4

6. Mobile GCI 44

The majority of early radar equipments installed in India were of the transportable or mobile type. At certain key points, however, installations were later made permanent and the mobile equipments were either used for standby-purposes or released for use elsewhere. Approval was obtained in Sep 42 for the erection of 180ft steel towers for COL stations on permanent sites (similar to the towers used for the Type 54 radar in UK). By Nov 42, 53 radar sites had been installed and Filter Rooms established at Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Imphal and Comilla. By the end of 1942 the system of plotting and reporting the tracks of enemy aircraft was on the way to full development.

Formation Order 295 was issued establishing the Controllers' Training Unit at AHQ Bengal with effect from 1 Dec 42 (India Establishment 629). The CO was to be Sqn Ldr E J Smart. One month earlier the Unit had already commenced training its first course using the serial number "Course 2"

The Calcutta School was also the first to introduce a Chief Instructor who was not the CO. Smart was given Acting Wg Cdr rank as CO and J C Bulleyment was promoted to Acting Sqn Ldr as Chief Instructor. Wg Cdr Smart was mentioned in Despatches in the King's Birthday Honours List of 1943.

Controllers' Training Unit Calcutta provided courses for:

1. Controllers and Deputy Controllers

2. Clerks SD (Ops)

3. Clerks SD (Filter)

4. WAC (I) (Ops)

5. WAC (I) (Filter)

6. WAC (I) (AA)

All the pupils on these courses had taken part in active operations. Some of the nationalities of the women trained included: British, American, Anglo-Indian, Indian, Anglo-Burmese and Polish.

The year 1943 saw rapid progress being made with the siting and installation of ground radar equipment. In April, 12 months after radar cover was first established in India, there were 52 units in India and 16 units in Ceylon. Thirty-five of these provided cover for high-flying a/c and 33 for low cover. The chief concentrations were in the Calcutta area, where 36 radar stations were operational.

The Unit closed on 1 Aug 43 but, sadly, there is no indication as to how many controllers were trained by the unit. It was not all bad news; Wg Cdr Smart was posted to Air Headquarters India and appointed to the acting rank of Group Captain. As I recall, he had been a sqn ldr twenty months earlier!

The question on most peoples minds may be, "Did the training of Controllers in India prove beneficial towards the war effort?" As the operational record gives little or no indication of the value of this training I can only quote from an article published in the first issue of the erudite Air Defence Battle Command and Control Museum News Letter located at RAF Neatishead.

"1942 and 1943 were mainly used by the Japanese to consolidate their conquests in Burma and the Malaysian peninsular. The relative inactivity of the Japanese allowed the whole coast of India and Ceylon to become covered with an early warning network. Once the first chain of coastal defence stations was complete, opportunity was taken to fill in gaps in cover and to render permanent the more important temporary sites. Air activity from Japanese airfields in Burma at this period was largely confined to reconnaissance raids and small attacks of "nuisance" value, though one or two fairly heavy bombing attacks were made in an attempt to damage port installations in Calcutta. The radar stations in India never saw the activity on the same scale as did the Chain Home stations in Britain, but their task was nevertheless a formidable one, as the same never-ceasing watch had to be kept on the cathode ray tubes under adverse climatic conditions. During the monsoon season observer posts and radar stations in outlying districts became completely cut off for long periods.

The first raids of consequence, apart from the early raids on Ceylon, were made at night in Dec 42 on the Calcutta area when adequate radar information was given by the surveillance system. In Nov 43, enemy air activity increased, and a series of raids were made on Chittagong, Agartala and Imphal with a raid by 60 aircraft on Calcutta in December. During this time Spitfire fighter aircraft, which had only recently arrived in the Command, were operational for the first time with very successful results. The integrated radar surveillance system, put together in a very short period of time, went on to play an important role in turning the tide on the Japanese."

The School and The Control and Reporting Bulletin

Once again research into this history showed the real benefit of documents like the C&R Bulletin. Headquarters at 11/18 Group have a complete set of the Bulletins from issue one and the information available in relation to all Fighter Control matters is extremely comprehensive, well worth a look for anyone who attempts a history of the Branch!

The first C&R Bulletin was produced by the Control and Reporting Examination Team (Trappers) on the 1st Jan 1963 and the introduction ran:

"Why doesn't someone tell us something about it?" A phrase one is constantly hearing, and with some justification as far as Control and Reporting is concerned. The past few years have seen radical changes in C&R, the tempo of change shows no sign of slackening and one of the consequences is that the personnel involved - officers of the Fighter Control Branch and NCOs and airmen of Trade Group 12 in particular - must be more knowledgeable and versatile than ever before. Unfortunately, information about C&R (and especially recent changes) has been difficult to obtain as most of the publications have become obsolete and security has been severe...."

Justification for the publication and a good, solid reason for it to continue.

Issue 2 opens up one of those subjects that has been of constant debate within Fighter Control, but see the reasons first promulgated in April 1963:

"Changes in the operational function of Air Defence:

a. The Warning Role. To provide sufficient warning of an impending air attack to enable the nuclear armed forces based in the UK to strike back.

b. The Anti Intrusion Role. To preserve in peacetime the integrity of the UK airspace and its approaches.

c. The Overseas Reinforcement Role. To provide a mobile strategic reserve of fighters and SAM to prevent, or if it occurs, to prosecute a limited war.

d. The Air Defence of Great Britain Role. In global war to defend the main deterrent area as effectively as the limited numbers, the deployment and facilities provided to fulfil the tasks listed at sub-paras a, b, and c above will allow.

As a result of these changes, the emphasis in training within the command has been switched from loose to close control"

Those were the days!

HISTORY OF THE SFC

CHRONOLOGY

DATE EVENT
10 June 1940 Controllers' Training Unit formed at HQ Fighter Command utilising the old operations room at RAF Northolt.
5 January 1941 Controllers' Training Unit opened at "Woodlands",Clamp Hill, Stanmore
1 January 1946 Controllers' Training Unit relocated at RAF Rudloe Manor.
1 January 1947 Unit renamed Fighter Command School of Control and Reporting (FCS of C&R)
1 February 1948 FCS of C&R transferred to RAF Middle Wallop.
1 January 1951 Renamed Control and Reporting School (S of C&R).
30 September 1957 S of C&R disestablished and the former Fighter Control Squadron transferred to RAF Hope Cove and renamed School of Fighter Control (S of FC).
April 1958 School crest, authorised by HM the Queen, was presented to the S of FC.
31 October 1958 S of FC moved to RAF Sopley.
18 April 1960 S of FC disbanded.
January 1964 S of FC re-activated and based as a lodger unit at the Satellite Radar Station (SRS), RAF Bawdsey and assumed its original title of School of Control and Reporting.
1 March 1965 First course for foreign nationals since the School was reconstituted was run for 10 officers of the Royal Jordanian Air Force.
1 October 1968 School of Control and Reporting changes name yet again to School of Fighter Control (S of FC).
31 October 1974 S of FC relocated at RAF West Drayton.
1979 Branch split into two specialisations
11 November 1985 Systems officer training transferred to RAF Boulmer as an independent unit, parented by RAF Boulmer, but subordinate to S of FC RAF West Drayton.
17 February 1986 SFC became an independent unit remaining at RAF West Drayton.
8 August 1989 Air Commodore Joan Hopkins laid the first concrete pile for the new SFC building at RAF Boulmer.
18 June 1990 S of FC located at RAF Boulmer....... "permanently", remainder of School at RAF West Drayton becomes a detachment.
11 October 1990 The new SFC was officially opened by Her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland.
20 June 91 S of FC detachment at RAF West Drayton closed down.
25 April 1994 The Dowding Centre, an addition to the School, was opened by Her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland.

CHIEF INSTRUCTORS/OFFICERS COMMANDING S of FC 1940-1998

DATES INCUMBENT

Jun 40 - Jun 41 Sqn Ldr R G Hart

Jun 41 - Dec 42 A/Sqn Ldr / Wg Cdr J R T Bradford

Dec 42 - Apr 44 Wg Cdr G F Anderson

Apr 44 - Apr 46 Wg Cdr R G H Adams

Apr 46 - Oct 46 Wg Cdr M G F Pedley

Oct 46 - May 48 Sqn Ldr J D (Dudley) Ford

May 48 - Nov 48 Sqn Ldr J H T (Pick) Pickering

Nov 48 - Feb 50 Sqn Ldr (Dan) Neilson

Feb 50 - Jan 52 Sqn Ldr G H A (Geoff) Newman

Jan 52 - Apr 55 Sqn Ldr W H (Bill) Pope (CI)

Oct 52 - Aug 54 Wg Cdr F J Trollope (OC)

Aug 54 - Jul 57 Wg Cdr L Parr (OC)

Apr 55 - Sep 57 Sqn Ldr D R (Doug) Wilson (CI)

Jul 57 - Sep 57 Sqn Ldr F R (Frank) Pusey (CI)

Jul 57 - Sep 57 (Middle Wallop) Wg Cdr F J (Frank) Mundy (OC)

Sep 57 - Sep 58 Sqn Ldr F R Pusey (CI)

Sep 57 - Sep 58 (Hope Cove) Wg Cdr F J Mundy (OC)

Apr 64 - Apr 66 Sqn Ldr N F (Mike) Smith

Apr 66 - Dec 67 Sqn Ldr L C (Les) Akehurst

Dec 67 - Sep 69 Sqn Ldr R A (Bob) Beardsley

Sep 69 - Nov 71 Sqn Ldr B (Barrie) Palmer

Nov 71 - Nov 74 Sqn Ldr F W (Freddie) Flowers

Nov 74 - Aug 75 Sqn Ldr R B (Dick) Bridges

Aug 75 - Jun 76 Sqn Ldr M ( Michael ) Moore

Jun 76 - Oct 77 Sqn Ldr D G (Dave) Bartle

Oct 77 - Sep 79 Sqn Ldr I D (Ian) Glasspool

Sep 79 - Oct 81 Sqn Ldr P A (Pat) Gallanders

Oct 81 - Feb 83 Sqn Ldr B E (Brian) Rogers

Feb 83 - May 83 Sqn Ldr P (Pete) Singleton

May 83 - Jun 90 Wg Cdr D G (Dave) Bartle

Jun 90 - Jan 91 Wg Cdr E R (Ted) Ward

Jan 91 - Apr 92 Wg Cdr M J (Mike) Good

Apr 92 - Nov 93 Wg Cdr S J (Steve) Colwill

Nov 93 - Jan 96 Wg Cdr A O (Al) Connarty

Jan 96 - Dec 97 Wg Cdr B E (Brian) Rogers

Dec 97 - ?????? Wg Cdr J (John) Leckey

Continue to the Conclusion ......