Category Archives: Air force fighters of my time : Syed Mohd. Saleh Uddin

Air force fighters of my time : Syed Mohd. Saleh Uddin

Air force fighters of my time: a memoir

Syed Mohd. Saleh Uddin

(The writer served in the PAF, BAF and Bangladesh Army Education Corps till 1986 (retired as SWO) and finally retired from the Rampura Ekramunnessa Degree College as an Assistant professor in 2012.)

I went on retirement from Rampura Ekramunnessa Degree College in 2012. My job in the College of Aviation Technology, National Institute Engineering and Technology, Heritage International College of Aviation is still fresh in my mind. I am indebted to Dr. Shah Abdur Rahim as he has given chance to translate works of foreign writers in his project. So, most of the time, I keep myself busy with my project jobs. My granddaughter Tanisha is very proud for her Nanu bhai’s work. She talked about me to his school friends Faiza, Adriha, Aroni, Disha, Nazifa, Alif, Megha, Prapti, Ryan, Iftifhar, Safhin, Mridul, Ramim, Ishiq, Banna, Kashfi, Joyner, Ishan, Hisham, Anam, Ayan, Manam, Myesha, Raghib, Adib, Yamena, Ryna, Nyla, Tapore, Topore etc. In the school once they gathered around me. They are the representatives of children of this time. But their dreams and the dreams of children of our time were basically same. In our time when children were asked what will you be? The smart answer was from many, “I shall be a pilot.” There was no time to think about ability. Now also many answer the same. I go back to my Primary school life.

It was 1960. Construction works of the General Assembly Bhaban was going on. The name of my school was Dhaka Farm Primary School. Nearby there was Rajdhani High School and a Clinic of the Agricultural department and few quarters of the Government Agricultural Farm staffs. As my father was an employee of veterinary department, I was authorised to be treated in that clinic. Near it there was a big pond full of Lotus, water Lily, and other marshy land flowers. Sometimes white and red water Lily danced together in gentle breeze. Not far there was a big Tamerlane tree where our Buddhu uncle sold us foods. His processed Tamerlane fruits with salt and chilly, baked ground nut and chilly hot pulse were very dear to us. The Buddha uncle was very dear to the students too. His shaved head with only a few hairs (tiky) back attracted our special but respectful attention. He was also guardians of some the students. Most probably he was from the Monipuri worker who took this profession in his old age. Many students were from Monipuri ethnic group who were the children of the Monipuri workers. We all were happy there.

With the instruction of the Central Government of Pakistan from Islamabad East Pakistan Government expedited the construction works. Soon they liked to see the job completed for the meetings of the assembly. The Bhaban site was in the farm of the Government. Around it and our school there was vast vacant land when crops were harvested. The school authority was alarmed, soon school Bhabans should be vacated for left over buildings construction of the assembly area. However, it was not our problem. So, in the winter we were very happy since around us in the vast field there was no crop. However, in the seasons that vacant land became agriculture ground where maize, paddy, wheat, barley and cotton were cultivated for research. In the winter our happiness knew no bound. Vacant land around our school became dry grass field. Only few pieces of land near Agriculture college and dairy farm there were tomato and kukri (a type of vegetables) garden. In the dry grassy land we played. We ran after frightened hare. In the winter there was no fear of snake, though there especially Cobra was seen crawling in the harvested field and water snake in the marshy paddy field and canals in other seasons where little children used to catch fish. In my boy hood time to time I heard my father is working in the Tejgaon Diary farm or Poultry farm or Mirpur zoo or in his Head office. Actually, now I understand from his head office time to time he was sent to those places as he was a veterinary field assistant. So, his help was required for the treatments of animals and animal husbandry.

I was then studying in class two, so a little boy. In the walking distance there was PAF Base Dhaka. It was civil airport also. Both International and Local flights were operated from there. I did not know all these but sound of aircrafts drew my attention. Sometimes in the Tiffin time of the school I ran towards the runway with other boys. They climbed a dune there, I followed them too. Few also used to go there in search of torn big balloons of the weather department. Others were busy plucking ‘Anoy’ and ‘Guji’ fruits there. There were other unknown wild fruits plants. Very brave of them cached ‘Bhomra’(a type of big bug). They did very inhumane thing when they tore one of Bhomra’s leg and entered a long Moina throne on it. To escape from that poisonous throne the poor Bhomra started flying. At that time the throne was tied with a thread. So, it used to move around failing to escape. It used to hurt me. Few climbed the high bushy tillas (artificial small hill) and struggle to climb the top. Those were used as shelter of the Air Force fighter aircrafts. During the Second World War for war purpose these were made to save the aircrafts from the enemy attack. We simply heard the sound but we did not know what were the aircrafts were there. But I now at my old age I can tell you their names. Those were DHC-2 Beaver of plant protection department of Pakistan Government, F-86 Sabre of PAF, and Hiller UH-212 helicopter of Army Aviation etc. Besides, so far I remember there were few monoplane and biplane of world war-2 vintage. Their names cannot be traced now. However in British India RAF, IAF and RIAF time to time added fighters as Wapiti, Spitfire, Tempest, Thunderbolt, Mosquito, Hurricanes etc aircrafts in their fighter squadrons. During that time in their Bomber squadrons there were Canberra and Mistier etc aircrafts. Then its transport aircraft was Dakota. So, names of the abandoned aircraft I cannot tell you now. However, from school at that time a glider was also seen flying. Now I know those used to fly with trainee pilot. Our senior brother Shahan bhai used to tell us story of old bi and mono planes what were left somewhere near the airstrip. But I was in doubt about them. At that time there were few trainers of the Flying club.

Grandma told us the story of construction of airport. She was mentally wounded because like many others she had to quit their home of Dainodda. It was acquired by the British Government to make military airport. My grandpa was a humble Imam of local mosque. So, this also hurt him to leave home. However, Grandma was proud as his son (my father) who got job under an American Air Force detachment where he served till the war was over. But again her heart had wound because my father had to live his job after a military vehicle accident before 1947. He was provided the job of veterinary department when he was posted to Ali Pur, Dwar near Bhutan border, now in India. It was not far from Darjeeling. After the independence of 1947 he was re posted to Domer, now is in our land. For his job my father was happy and talked various stories of his time. In his time in the Alipur Dwar there lived Saotals. He told their stories, about culture of his Saotals neighbours, their habits etc. Well to do Saotals had Bull pull cart. Once, one such person took my father in his cart to carry him for the treatment of his sick cow.

In my primary also there was a locality in Dhaka farm for Saotals. As the agriculture worker they were collected from various place of British Bengal. In a piece of land near the Government farm near a canal they constructed their huts not away from Indira road. At the one side of the road there were rows of ‘Kattly’ (local name) plants and a plum garden. Those were there for research purpose. From the fibre of the Kattly plant in the western country where Jute was not available ropes were used to mend. In the branches of plum trees the ‘Lakha’ a type of ‘microbe’ was cultured for the research. ‘Lakha’ is used to prepare chemical which is used to make shoe black and other things. Later these research projects were shifted from there and in that place present T&T building exists with honour. Though Agriculture research area was shifted but ‘Khamar Bari’ and other agriculture and animal husbandry related head office and research centres, Bangladesh Agriculture Research council etc are still around. The old Indira road is still there but agriculture fields for research and horticulture garden abolished instead there is Monik Mian Avenue till the Farm gate. In our time adjacent to the Indira road the agriculture research area existed and in between there was a long created bush of ‘Sheura trees’ (local name) from Farm gate to ‘Bakul’ (local tree famous for its nice scented flowers when dried) tola. Over the bush there were creepers and herbs that made cushion what was very dear to primary students like me. We sat over it and enjoyed immense pleasures from the nature by shaking the bush up and down. In the other side of the Indira road there was a big row of tall Palm olin trees. Under those school children with other boys and girls used to collect its fruit to eat its nut. Saotals and other aborigines’ children were also seen collecting fruits, fire wood and leaves especially leaves from the Devdaro. There were Monipuri ethnic groups also. Their children were good looking. During our time their children played with others when their mothers were busy in plucking ground nuts or working in the paddy fields. Their games were also working like their mothers.

Many stories I heard from my Grandma about the construction of Tejgaon airport. Then she saw black soldiers while they were in cross-country walk or run. She lived with my grandpa there. My grandfather was very respectable person in the area as he was a religious teacher of the local children. I cannot remember any memory of my grandpa Syed Elahi Newaz because when he died I was mere a breast feed child. My father Syed Shahadot Hossain sometimes told us about his life in the American Air force as a civilian employee when I was a high school student. He talked about his other friend Mohiuddin of that unit who became an airman after the independence of 1947. I heard he was a freedom fighter of liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971 and retired from the BAF as the Base Warrant Officer of BAF Base Dhaka (Pl. Visit navigationtalk. word press.com to know more). Father also talked about aircrafts of that time what is now not in my memory. Before and after 1965 India Pakistan war I saw many Sabres were flying over Tejgaon Airport were climbing, diving and flying in different formation. I cannot remember the year when Bombers of PAF was flying over Tejgaon airport. Most probably they were brought from a base of Karachi for an exercise or on 14 August the independent day of Pakistan or 23 March the national day of Pakistan where there were march past of the soldiers including fly past of the PAF aircrafts. The Ghost like those black coloured bombers were disappeared from the sky of Dhaka after few days. That means they went back to their base in the West Pakistan after the specific purpose was over. Most probably they were B-57 bombers built in USA. At that time Indian Air force had Canberra bomber what was actually resembles B-57 but was built in the Aeroplane factories of Great Britain.

After my high school, I was lucky enough to join the PAF as a technical airman in 1969. I was proud because I got chance to work in an Air force as my father worked in an Air force during the Second World war and could give at least sweats for his motherland though under British rule. After repatriation, in the BAF Base Dhaka I joined the no-3 squadron. There I worked in the Aircraft of the liberation war DHC-3 Otter, Aircraft of the Bangu Bandhu Balaka, a VIP aircraft named Antonov -24 and in Antonov -26 a military paratrooper aircraft. In my leisure time I entered the jungle in between the runway and tarmac area to search my boyhood. Nostalgia of the past surrounded me. Still in jungles there were big monitors almost like Komodo dragon & groups of monkeys were living. Still ‘Anoy’ and other berry plants were there. These were the food of monkeys. Big birds Hurri Chacha were around. In my boyhood Anoy was my dear fruit. At the time back from my primary school in the season I entered the bush about 100 yards behind of my father head office. It was a red building at the western side of present Khamar Bari near farm gate. In front of that building there was a row of Devdaro (pine) whose leaves were familiar for cooking in the woven and a Kheioor(date palm) Bagan (orchard). Now also these are existing but of new plantation after 1971. There were a row of high palm trees (Palm Olin) near the bush. Time to time school children used to go there in search of palm fruits dropped by birds after they had eaten outer oily portion. Children broke the fruit to eat its nut. Test of its nut was like coconut. Nearby there were probably few ‘Rita’ trees or other trees whose fruits were like ‘Rita’ and were dear to goats. Rita fruits could be used as detergent materials of woollen cloths after process. I feel about ‘ Anoy’. It could be an economic fruit. Its leaf was bit bigger than our plum tree. This to agriculturist may not be tree but shrub. However, its harvest was wonderful like bunch of grape. Its test was nice. I am not an agriculturist. I do not know whether that fruit is of berry group or of other group. I left the problem to them to find out its species and its economic possibility. But to me it was the place where my grandfather resided, my father played, he discharged his duty as a civilian in the American Air Force and I worked in the BAF as an airman. I left this story for future when also my little breast feed granddaughter LIAYNA will be matured enough to know about our time.

In my PAF life I was trained in RTS, PAF Kohat and SOA, PAF Korangi Creek, Karachi. Then I was posted to PAF Base Sargodha. Their main operational fighter was F-6 (Mig-19). There were few F-104 Star Fighters what were abandoned that time. In this Base trainer aircraft was T-37. KAMAN H- 43B helicopter was its rescue helicopter. PAF base Masroor, Karachi and PAF Base Peshawar were then other operational air base. So far I know at that time PAF bombers B-57 (if my memory is not weak) based at PAF Base Masroor in Karachi. PAF had T-33 and T-37 aircrafts for fighter pilots training. Its pilot training academy was in PAF Base Risalpur. In 1971, people of the East Pakistan started liberation war against its Pakistani counterpart. So, all the Bengali airmen in the Pakistani Air force Bases made captive and taken to the stranded camp. Many airmen absconded & joined liberation war and by them Bangladesh Air Force was established. From remote Bannu few tried to escape. Before sending to Bannu even in PAF Base Sargodha SAC Tofazzol Bhai expressed his plan to flee. So, he has collected map and compass etc. But from operational unit soon airmen were sent to Koeta, Risalpur etc Bases then again to stranded camp Bannu fort, Miranshah fort and Bannu Cantonment where airmen and soldiers of other arms were stranded. In the camp local hawkers and even tribal Pathan smugglers had free access. I could collect old tribal dress and few Afghani ( Afghan Currency) from a local vegetable hawker. He helped to get a guide, but later he informed the guide lost his courage. So, I along with Jalal got bus. Unto Peshawar none doubted us. We got the bus of Landi Kotal in the way of Torkham to cross Dorand line but at the bus stand of Landi Kotal near Kissakhani Bazaar (if my memory is not weak) we were apprehended. Our journey to Kabul was stopped and via Khyber agency we were back to Air force authority. However, we will never forget the good manner of director Khyber agency (If you are still alive my salute to you, if you are death may Allah give you a good abode in the Janna (heaven)!). With permission of air force escorts he accompanied us unto Field Intelligent Unit of PAF Peshawar. Probably he thought about our misfortune in the way.

In the PAF cell of Kohat we got Tofazzol Bhai. He told that he tried to flee with LAC Shahid. Lone agent of Pakistan was happy as he could catch at least one deserted airman. We three were punished in PAF Kohat and then again sent to Bannu. By this time Pakistan Government took decision to Shift stranded camps from Afghan border like Bannu. After liberation of Bangladesh stranded airmen were sent to PAF Base Chasma, Mianwali. Here our great leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was also captive. After sending him back to Bangladesh from this desert camp captive airmen were sent there from various stranded camps. This camp was made for the French Engineers who came to make Chasma Barrage. This camp was in Punjab. So, this camp was far away from the any border.

In this camp airmen had bitter experience. At the mid night they had fall in the ground. To avoid absconding they took this step. At that time we had no way except counting the stars of clear night of the desert. But we saw also birds flying towards the barrage. In 1973 by December all the airmen were repatriated from Pakistan via Karachi and joined the BAF.I served in the Defence forces of Bangladesh till 1986 when I was retired from the Bangladesh Army Education Corps. By this time many aircrafts of BAF flew in the air of Bangladesh and retired like me from the Air force after discharging their duty nicely. The list of retired BAF aircraft is as follows:

Retired[edit]

List of BAF obsolete and retired aircraft:[5][6]

Aircraft

Origin

Role

Versions

No. of Units

Notes

Image

F-7 Air Guard China

Multirole combat aircraft

MB

10

Retired in favor of more capableF-7BGI.
Fouga CM.170 Magister France

Jet Trainer

8[7]

Retired in favor of more capableAero L-39 Albatros.
North American F-86 Sabre USA

Fighter aircraft

F40

8

Surrendered by Pakistan Air Force.
Douglas Dakota USA

Military transport aircraft

1

Ex Indian Air Force.
de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter Canada

Military transport aircraft

1

Ex Indian Air Force.  
Aérospatiale Alouette III France

Utility helicopter

1

Ex Indian Air Force.
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 USSR

Fighter aircraft

MF

12

 
Mil Mi-8 USSR

Transport Helicopter

8

 
Shenyang J-5 China

Interceptor aircraft

8

 
Shenyang JJ-5 China

Interceptor aircraft

3

 
Agusta-Bell 205 Italy

Transport Helicopter

2

Ex Imperial Iranian Air Force.
Antonov An-24 USSR

Military transport aircraft

V

1

V.I.P Transport. Known asBalaka.
Antonov An-26 USSR

Military transport aircraft

2

 
Shenyang J-6 China

Operational conversion unit

28

 
Westland Wessex United Kingdom

Transport helicopter

5

2

Former Royal Navy helicopters donated by the United Kingdom in 1973  

(Courtesy:Above list is taken from the Wikipedia)

Day by day Bangladesh Air Force is becoming powerful. It is getting newer aircrafts. The under constructed Bhaban of 1960 is now world famous construction designed by Lo-Kan is the Sangshad Bhaban of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is proud of it. Now in the sky over it BAF latest fighters are seen flying. Big BAF C-130 paratrooper flies by it with kingly pride. In other memoir or an article idea about those will be given.