Just when you think you knew everything about Indian Origin personnel in the Royal Air Force, one stumbles upon yet another instance of ‘Indians in the RAF’. This is Krishna Dandeker , a DFC Awardee from the Second World War. Krishna Dandeker earned his DFC as an Air Gunner with the RAF Bomber Command. To cap this story, he had another brother – Arjun Dandeker who also happened to serve in the RAF in the Second World War!
The story of the Dandeker Brothers starts in 1883, with the birth of Parasharam Vishvanath Dandekar in Nagpur. Not much is known about Parsharam’s family. It is left to speculation that he came from an affluent family, for at the age of 17 he made the voyage to England in 1900 and arrived at Birmingham. Perhaps he came to study, or maybe he remained in search of a vocation, what is clear is that he never returned to India. He settled in England and made the country his home. Then he did something unusual. He fell in love and married an english lady – Mabel Floretta Eveline Barnard. In the early 1900s , a native of India marrying an english lady in England was unheard of, and then it is left to wonder what may have transpired at the time of marriage.
Mabel Dandeker gave birth to a son at Aston in 1918, and he was named Krishna. He was followed by the birth of a second son, who was aptly named Arjun. (The choice of names for Krishna and Arjuna is explained here )
Krishna Dandeker joined the RAF and trained as flight crew, qualifying as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner. He was soon flying with No.51 Squadron RAF.
On 29 Sept 41 , He was on a bombing operation in WhitleyZ9144, piloted by Plt Offr Potter (Crew Plt Offr Potter, Towsey, Sgt Wootton, Sgt Brandshaw, Sgt Dandeker. ) . The Aircraft took off at 1847 and attacked Stettin. The Starboard engine cut over the target area and bombs fell on edge of town .
The aircraft returned to England and crew baled out near Catfoss due to petrol shortage. Potter crash landed at Catfoss 0515. All the crew were recovered including Dandeker – who however broke his ankle on his descent.
This bale-out would have made Krishna Dandeker a member of the Catterpillar Club.
After recovering from the injury, Dandeker returned to ops in March 1942.
A notable sortie followed in August 1942. Dandeker was a W.Op-AG aboard No.51 Sqn Whitley Z9144:MH-O (The same aircraft that he baled out from!), which attacked and damaged the German U-Boat U-256, on 31 August, 1942.
The crew included:
68187 F/L (Pilot) Edward O’Connor TANDY
R/67735 F/Sgt (2nd Pilot) Lawrence O’Neill WEAKLEY RCAF (later KIA)
1167255 Sgt (Obs.) William John MUSSON
930293 Sgt (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Krishna DANDEKER
754978 Sgt (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Eric Victor John PURNELL
1193714 Sgt (Air Gnr.) Robert George SHARLAND (later KIA)
The ORB excerpt from National Archives is shown below:
Six months later, Krishna Dandeker got commissioned on 6 Jan 1943 as a Pilot Officer in the RAF.
In June 1943, his DFC was gazetted for his service with 51 Squadron. The citation while not published, can be read via a press release:
“This officer has participated in bombing and anti-submarine patrols. On returning from his first operational sortie he had to leave his aircraft by parachute while over the United Kingdom and broke his ankle. Although out of action for four months as a result of his hazardous experience, P/O Dandeker’s enthusiasm for operational flying remained undiminished, and he completed a long and praiseworthy tour of operations. “
Krishna Dandeker stayed on in the RAF after the war. He became a Flight Lieutenant on 4th Jan. 1951. He went on to attain the rank of Wing Commander before retiring on his own request on 1st Jun. 1972.
Peter Davies on RAFcommands recalls:
“Sqn Ldr K Dandeker posted to HQ 38 Gp Odiham as Gp Sigs O as A/Wg Cdr 1 Nov 65. When I joined 38 Gp he would probably have been titled G Elect Eng. G Elect Eng amongst other things had, under his control, the RAF Tactical Communications Wing (TCW). In TCW there was an Airhead Comms Sqn, within ACS was a small Flight that looked after Tac ATC and Mobile Met Unit comms. This is where I came across him!! Promoted full Wg Cdr 1 Jul 67. ”
Arjun Dandeker joined the RAF with service number 1377849 and was commissioned on 3rd April 1944 with Officer Service Number 177755
Personal Details of Krishna and Arjun Dandeker
Their father Parasharam Vishvanath DANDEKER, born about 1883 in Nagpur, India. Came to the UK (Birmingham) in about 1900 and never returned. His grandfather was Vishvanath DANDEKER, died before 1915.
The Dandekar brothers actually married sisters Yvette and Yvonne ..in 1943
Krishna DANDEKER married Yvette Camille Nellie BOGAERT
Arjun DANDEKER married Yvonne Margaret Florentina BOGAERT
Chris Dandeker, Arjun’s son notes of the Bogaerts:
“The Bogaert connection was as important as the Dandeker one. Krishna and Arjun married two sisters- Yvette and Yvonne who were half English and half Belgian. Their father Camille Bogaert came to England I think around 1914 to escape the German invasion of Belgium as the first step in the First World War. While I hardly knew grandfather Dandeker who was looked after by the Krishna side of the family as he got older, and Mabel died before I had any sense of her existence, the Bogaerts were key in my side of the family. We were close and shared the same accommodation when we were youngsters. It is strange to report that I only have a blurred image of grandfather Dandeker, no image of Mabel as she died so young, yet a rich texture of memories of Camille Bogaert and his wife Molly (my mother’s parents). In short the Dandeker family of my generation was born of Empire (India).and imperial.war the European conflagration of 1914”
Arjun DANDEKER died in 1992 in UK .
Krishna DANDEKER died in 2012 in Cyprus ( http://www.mundia.com/in/Person/53671211/13551790091 )
A family photo of the Dandekers along with the Bogaerts is below:
Krishna Dandeker : http://www.rafcommands.com/database/awards/details.php?qname=DANDEKER&qnum=138834
Arjun Dandeker : http://www.rafcommands.com/database/awards/details.php?qname=DANDEKER&qnum=177755
Thanks to Peter Davies , Nick Dandeker (Arjun Dandeker’s son) and Chris Dandeker (Arjun’s son)
© Jagan Pillarisetti
Original Research carried out in 2014, Additional information added in 2023