View Full Version : Waziristan 1940-411 Awards - Last such campaign ?

15th December 2013, 21:11
The London Gazette of 17 December 1942 reported numerous awards (land and air) for 1940-41 operations in Waziristan. These were probably among the last (if not the very last) British campaigns in what was known as the “Northwest Frontier”. Air awards for operations between 25 May 1940 and 30 September 1941 were as follows:

DSO - G/C William Verson Lewis Spendlove
MBE - WO William Thomas Allen
DFC - S/L Eric William Tremlett, S/L Richard Delwyn William, S/L Aspy Merwan Engineer (IAF)
DFM - Sergeant Henry Leonard Roberts

In addition, the following were Mentioned in Despatches:

A/C J.C. Russell, DSO
G/C W.V.L. Spendlove
G/C A.F. McKenna
S/L T.L. Howell
S/L A.M. Engineer (IAF)
S/L K. Mukerjee (IAF)
F/L K.R. Butler
F/L M.K. Janjua (IAF)
F/O P.J.A. Byers
FS R.C. Fordham
FS B.F.H. Simpson
Sergeant E.A. Fairbrother
Sergeant J.S. Falvey
Sergeant K. Singh (IAF)
LAC G.A. Farish
LAC N. Johnston
LAC W.V. Jones

Citations for the major awards (from PRO files) were as follows:

ALLEN, William Thomas, Warrant Officer (350543, Royal Air Force) - Station Peshwar but attached to No.1 Squadron, Indian Air Force, No.1 Indian Group, Kohat - Member, Order of the British Empire - awarded as per London Gazette dated 17 December 1942. Recommendation by W/C A.F. McKenna (Commanding Officer, Station Peshwar) in Air 2/9607 (courtesy Tom Thorne);

This Non-Commissioned Officer has worked unceasingly all through the summer under the handicap of limited workshop facilities and with practically no NCOs of experience to take responsibility off his shoulders. Throughout the months of June and July 1941, and also before this period when operational commitments were just as heavy and exacting, his unremitting work, personal supervision and example, and his devotion to duty, kept the standard of aircraft maintenance high, and were in no small measure responsible for the success of operations in the Tochi Valley during the summer of 1941.

To this, Air Commodore J.C. Russell (Air Officer Commanding, No.1 Indian Group) added:

I endorse the recommendation. This NCO has been attached for duty with the IAF as a technical instructor since March 1939, and has done much to maintain a high standard of technical and training efficiency within the units. His conscientious devotion to duty merits official recognition.

ENGINEER, Aspy Merwan, A/S/L (Ind 1554, Royal Indian Air Force) - No.1 Squadron, No.1 Indian Group, Kohat - Distinguished Flying Cross - awarded as per London Gazette dated 17 December 1942. Recommendation in Air 2/9607 (courtesy Tom Thorne); raised 30 May 1941; Flight Lieutenant when drafted.

On the night of 17th May 1941, instructions were issued by No.1 Group Headquarters for immediate action to be taken against a lashkar, if found, which was reported to be in the mountainous Bazai area. The order arrived late in the evening; nevertheless Flight Lieutenant Engineer on his own initiative decided to try and locate the lashkar, which he eventually did in the dark by the light of their camp fires. He took bombing action in the neighbourhood of these fires, inflicting casualties. In order to carry out this task successfully he had to come down low into valleys amongst mountains 10,000 feet high, at great personal risk both to himself and Pilot Officer Printhipal Singh who accompanied him on the sortie in formation.

On the night of the 18th/19th May 1941, an XX call was received from Boya Scout Post that the post was being shelled by two guns and an attack by tribesmen on the post was in progress. Flight Lieutenant Engineer flew with his Flight in an attack on the hostiles which lasted until dawn. The example and encouragement shown to his Flight by this officer deserves special mention.

The above signed by W/C A.F. McKenna, commanding Station Peshwar. The following is appended by Air Commodore J.C. Russell, No.1 Indian Group:

The first sortie on the night of the 18th/19th May 1941 was made by W/C McKenna, who was in operational control. I do not consider, however, that this detracts materially from the example and encouragement afforded by F/L Engineer to his flight when, after the first sortie had been made, he and the other pilots followed on in succession until dawn.

This night action was highly successful, the lashkar being dispersed with loss. A message was in fact received by the Political Agent from the local Maliks requesting him to hold a jirga immediately. On a previous occasion, the 17th August 1940, F/L Engineer distinguished himself when cooperating with the Tochi Scouts during an attack on Tappi village, by the prompt and accurate action which he took in close support of the Scouts, in ejecting hostiles from cover while ground troops were advancing on the village. Flight Lieutenant Engineer has shown initiative in operations and his leadership and example to Indian Air Force crews of aircraft under his command, when acting under hostile fire in close support of ground troops, have been commendable.

This officer has always taken his full share of risk and responsibility and has been an excellent example to his subordinates. It is considered that his initiative and efforts merit recognition.

ROBERTS, Leonard Henry, Sergeant (563468, Royal Air Force) - No.28 Squadron (Kohat), No.1 Indian Group, Kohat - Distinguished Flying Medal - awarded as per London Gazette dated 17 December 1942. Recommendation in Air 2/9607 (courtesy Tom Thorne); raised 1 May 1941; Leading Aircraftman when drafted.

This airman has been engaged in operational flying since March 1939. He has done 500 hours as an air gunner of which at least 300 hours have been on operations. Owing to the shortage of W/T Air Gunners, this airman has continued as an air gunner while at the same time carrying out aircraft ground crew duties. His Commanding Officer reports that he his keenness and ability, both on the ground and in the air, have been outstanding.

On 12th November 1940, Leading Aircraftman Roberts was air gunner in an action when aircraft covering fire enabled picquets of the Devon Regiment to withdraw from a hazardous position, and the experienced manner of his rear gun work largely contributed to the success of this operation. His Commanding Officer reports that on numerous other occasions this airman has distinguished himself in close support, displaying skill and tenacity of the highest order.

SPENDLOVE, William Vernon Lewis, G/C - No.1 (Indian) Group - Distinguished Service Order - awarded as per London Gazette dated 17 December 1942, "in recognition of gallant and distinguished service with the Royal Air Force during the operations in Waziristan." Promoted Flight Lieutenant, 27 January 1935. Posted to No.608 (Bomber) Squadron, Thornaby, 26 February 1935. As Squadron Leader, to No.11 (Bomber) Squadron, Risalpur, to command, 30 July 1938. Recommendation from Public Record Office Air 2/9607.

Wing Commander Spendlove has since March 1940 been the officer in operational command of the Royal Air Force units carrying out the duty of watch and ward on the Frontier. His duties have included direct contact and cooperation with the General Officer Commanding Waziristan District, the Resident in Waziristan and with forces of Scouts, Constabulary and Police. He has played an important part in al operations on the Frontier during that period.

It is noteworthy that throughout the whole of these operations Wing Commander Spendlove carried on with the normal flying duties of an operational pilot, taking his share of duty with other crews of aircraft. During the period under review he has flown 75 hours in operational flying.

This officer’s example of leadership, personal initiative and sound judgement imbued the crews of aircraft with keenness and enthusiasm at a period when encouragement was much needed, particularly in the operational role of close support to ground forces - an action usually taken under considerable rifle fire. This officer’s personal knowledge of the country and the initiative he has displayed in flying duties in Frontier warfare have been to a great extent responsible for the improvements which have been made in bringing about more effective cooperation between the air and ground forces.

Apart from the splendid example he has shown this officer has carried out the following determined and effective attacks which earned the praise of Army authorities:

On the 14th February 1941, the day the 6th/5th Mahratta Light Infantry engaged the Khushali Gang on the Isha Hill, this officer took very effective action against the gang on the slopes between the crest of the hill and Tappi village, when he caught the gang in a hollow with one or two bombs and caused several casualties. The Commanding Officer of the Battalion has placed it on record that he was anxious for the safety of his troops until Wing Commander Spendlove arrived and completely turned the tables on the enemy. In the words of the Commanding Officer of the Battalion:-

“The prompt and effective assistance rendered by the Royal Air Force (the first aircraft was over the area in ten minutes of the receipt by them of the XX call) turned what might have been a nasty situation for us into what was a nasty little knock to the hostiles.”

The action taken by Wing Commander Spendlove dispersed two hostile gangs at a critical moment when hostiles were beginning to gather on hearing of the action in progress, and the opposition encountered would have been greatly intensified had the engagement been prolonged, as it certainly would have been but for the prompt and effective action taken by this officer.

Individual action by Wing Commander Spendlove during the operations about Tauda China was of a high order of efficiency and was a splendid example to his junior officers. He has also been largely responsible for the organisation and coordination of surprise attacks on the Faqir of Ipi in Gorwkht, the results of which have attained the objective of disturbing the Faqir’s normal routine of anti-government propaganda.

TREMLETT, Eric Wilmot, S/L (39042, Royal Air Force) - No.20 Squadron, No.1 Indian Group, Kohat - Distinguished Flying Cross - awarded as per London Gazette dated 17 December 1942. Recommendation in Air 2/9607 (courtesy Tom Thorne); Flight Lieutenant when drafted.

This officer’s total operational flying time on the Frontier amounts to 225 hours. During the period under review his operational flying times were in excess of 167 hours. Throughout the Tappi Operations (Waziristan, 13th to 21st August 1940) he took a prominent part, causing casualties on groups of hostiles in rice fields while he was acting in close support of the encircling military. This officer’s determined and effective attacks earned the praise of the General Officer Commanding Razcol. During this operation anti-aircraft fire from the tribesmen was intense and accurate, but this in no way deterred Flight Lieutenant Tremlett from forcing home his attacks at very low altitudes. The success achieved in the rapid encirclement of the villages by ground troops was mainly due to the effective action of this officer. His determination and initiative are deserving of recognition.

On the 17th December 1940, when an emergency called was received, this officer assisted in covering the withdrawal of a picquet from Tatcheo Hill near Razmak which was being encircled by hostiles. It has substantially been confirmed that the determination and initiative shown by this officer and Flight Lieutenant Williams on the occasion in question saved the picquet from being cut off and almost certain disaster.

This officer is one of the two pilots concerned in the operation on the right back of the Tochi River near Miranshaw on the 1st February 1941, when, in the course of very accurate air action covering the withdrawal of the Tochi Scouts, the notorious Shodi Khel and other minor leaders were killed in a bombing attack.

Wing Commander Spendlove, the officer in day to day operational control of these operations, comments on this officer as follows:

“This officer has continued his high standard of air action and his rapid appreciation of a situation and accurate action thereafter were several times the subject of comment or congratulatory signal from ground forces.”

WILLIAMS, Richard Delwyn, A/S/L (39835, Royal Air Force) - No.28 Squadron, No.1 Indian Group, Kohat - Distinguished Flying Cross - awarded as per London Gazette dated 17 December 1942. Recommendation in Air 2/9607 (courtesy Tom Thorne); Flight Lieutenant when drafted.

This officer has to his credit a total of 379 hours 40 minutes operational flying on the Frontier, day flying, and 12 hours 15 minutes night flying. During the period under review his operational flying time exceeds 194 hours.

On the 12th November 1940, Flight Lieutenant Williams was one of three pilots who answered emergency calls from the Devon Regiment which was engaged on road picquet duties on the Razmak-Bannu road. Until the arrival of the aircraft the ground troops, who had been heavily engaged, could not withdraw. The energetic and well-directed attacks delivered by this officer, assisted by the other pilots, enabled the withdrawal to take place. The officer i/c ground troops reported that but for this action it would not have been possible for these troops to withdraw without heavy loss.

On 7th December 1940, this officer covered the withdrawal of picquets of Bazcol, which were heavily engaged near Taxuda China Camp. The skilful and determined action which he took on this occasion, although hampered by gun stoppages, earned the praise of the ground forces, as did the accuracy of the information which this officer conveyed to Column Headquarters throughout the operation.

On 17th December 1940, this officer answered an emergency call from road picquet troops at Tatchoo Hill near Razmak. The picquet was being encircled by hostiles and was in imminent danger of being cut off, but this officer’s skilful appreciation enabled him, although the hostiles wete obscured by thick shrub, to initiate effective action, which was pressed home with great determination. It has since been confirmed that this action saved the picquet from being cut off, and almost certain disaster. Flight Lieutenant Williams received a personal letter of thanks from the Commander of the Company involved in the incident.

On numerous occasions this officer’s well directed support and covering fire and his accurate reconnaissance reports have been the subject of praise and his cooperation has been consistently outstanding.

16th December 2013, 04:58
Hugh , thanks for sharing those citations.

The citation for Aspy Engineer is something that has been missing in Indian records. The IAF Book of record "Courage and Devotion to Duty (http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/IAF/Books/Reviews/815-Courage-and-Devotion.html)" - provides details of all the two dozen DFCs that the Indian Air Force had got in WW2. But misses the citation for Aspy Engineer. Thanks for filling in the gap.

A M Engineer was actually at that time with no.2 squadron. but pending reciept of aircraft was attached to No.1 Squadron. He was earlier Mentioned in Dispatches in 1937 .

Also some additional notes of the Indian personnel mentioned

S/L A.M. Engineer (IAF) - Became Chief of Air Staff 1960-63
S/L K. Mukerjee (IAF) - Actually "S" instead of "K". Subroto Mukerjee became first Indian Chief of Air Staff (1953-59 - suceeded by A M Engineer). he died in harness
F/L M.K. Janjua (IAF) - Went to Pakistan Air Force. was senior most officer in PAF - due to become air chief, but was implicated in a coup attempt and was removed
Sergeant K. Singh (IAF) - Got commissioned later on and retired as a Wing Commander. His son retired as a Lt Colonel from the Indian Army . His Grandson was a Sergeant in the US Army and unfortunately died in Iraq on the front line.

Also details of the sorties for the 17-18-19 May 1941, taken from Peshawar ORB

http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries/var/resizes/members/1941-5-17.JPG?m=1387170091 (http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries/var/albums/members/1941-5-17.JPG?m=1387170087)

No ORB survives for the IAF Squadrons from that time - so this is the only available record. (Perhaps 1 Indian Group has the details too - I cannot confirm)