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Thread: Potential uses for the Harvard and Fairchild Argus aircraft in SEAC.

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    Default Potential uses for the Harvard and Fairchild Argus aircraft in SEAC.

    A recent communication from RAF AHB concerning my late father's Record of Service states, with regard to No. 14 Ferry Control Unit at Agartala, that the aircraft involved with this unit were "Harvard and Argus aircraft".


    Lake's "Flying Units of the RAF" lists the a/c types flown by 14FU as Dakota III, Thunderbolt II, Expeditor II, Hurricane IIC, Spitfire VIII and Tiger Moth II.


    From what I can glean, the Harvard and Argus were used primarily for training purposes. Can anyone shed light on the potential uses of the Harvard and Fairchild Argus aircraft in SEAC, with particularly regard to their use in the Burma campaign between April and August 1945.


    Thanks in advance,
    Steve (CCHudson)

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    Default Re: Potential uses for the Harvard and Fairchild Argus aircraft in SEAC.

    Steve,

    Harvards were used as Squadron hack aircraft (Eg a Squadron of Hurricanes having a Harvard for hack duties) , Communication Aircraft (Group Comm Flt, Stn Comm Flt,) and as training aircraft at training establishments in SEAC (1 SFTS, 151 / 152 OTUs etc).

    http://www.rafcommands.com/database/...t=TY&crdb=SEAC this link shows Harvard Losses in SEAC, gives you an idea of what the ac were doing.


    Tony Broadhurst is our Argus expert and I will let him speak on this!

    -Jagan

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    Default Re: Potential uses for the Harvard and Fairchild Argus aircraft in SEAC.

    Thanks Jagan, that is very helpful.

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    Default Re: Potential uses for the Harvard and Fairchild Argus aircraft in SEAC.

    Steve,
    The four seat Fairchild Argus was acquired through the Lease-Lend programme for air taxi duties with the A.T.A. in the U.K. and for RAF communications duties in the Middle and Far East.

    "Communications aircraft" should not be confused with an aircraft equipped for specialist radio communications. They were simply passenger/light transport aircraft used to enable personnel to commute from airfield to airfield. This might include everything from someone requiring urgent medical attention, conveying a Squadron or Station C/O to the local HQ, conveying airmen to a transport hub or personnel depot for a posting, to the regular mail runs. A variety of aircraft were used for this role in South East Asia including the numerous DH Moth variants, Argus, Proctor, Expeditor and Anson - in addition to suitable retired operational aircraft. As a relatively comfortable four seater equipped for night and instrument flying the Argus was very useful and required less fuel and other resources than the larger twin-engined types. The comfort was much reduced however in the turbulent air of the monsoon season and frequently in such conditions the heavier Beech Expeditor often used instead.

    I do not have any records of No.14 Ferry Unit. As far as I can tell the network of SEAC Ferry Units, Ferry Control Units and Staging Posts were the means of ferrying and distributing aircraft from such as Maintenance Units and Repair Depots to their assigned units.
    Some years ago I copied a few pages from a couple of SEAC Staging Post ORBs in an attempt to discover the movements of Fairchild Cornell trainers within the Indian sub-continent. Looking at them again to day I can see the variety of types handled reflected the many Allied aircraft assigned to SEAC/ACSEA.

    Drawing on my observations of A.T.A. use of the Argus in the U.K. I suggest they are parallels that might have applied to their use by the RAF Ferry Units in India. A ferry pilot delivers his aircraft to the station required but then has to return to his base, or perhaps pick up another aircraft from a different location. The railways were crowded and with poor road connections the most efficient answer was often for him to be picked up by one of his colleagues in such as a Harvard or Argus.

    I would be interested as to whether this appears to be the case but perhaps you do not have a log book to assist.

    As regards training, it might be that a few Argus sorties are related to a pilot being checked to ensure his instrument flying qualifications were up-to-date, but I suspect a Harvard would be a more suitable means.

    Hope this of some help, Tony Broadhurst
    Last edited by Freshman; 14th April 2021 at 12:52.

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    Default Re: Potential uses for the Harvard and Fairchild Argus aircraft in SEAC.

    Had a look through the logbook of a navigator assigned to a ferry unit, then 202 Staging Post at Drigh Road. Following delivery of aircraft around India etc (ranging from Liberators down to Tiger Moths), there are three methods of return to base that came be seen. First is use of an RAF transport - often 353 Sqn which effectively ran an internal airline service in India through 1944 to 1946, but sometimes cadging a lift on something else eg Stirlings flying trooping missions to India etc. Second method was similar but using civilian air transport - eg BOAC Ensigns and flying boats, Tata Air Lines and ANA. Third seems to have been rail transport as logbook had gaps between delivery of one aircraft at a destination and then starting the delivery of another from Drigh Road.

    At no point we’re small aircraft used to return him to base. Given the long distances often flown to delivery aircraft, the use of small single engine types would not have been effective, especially given the paucity of navigation tools. I suspect the Harvard’s on strength would primarily have been for use in various training aspects of the ferry units pilots for the periods when there was little delivery activity. The Argus would just have been used for comms flights. Other units made use of Harvards and similar to collect spare parts from depots and also quite often to obtain supplies of food and drink from locations.

    Simon

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    Default Re: Potential uses for the Harvard and Fairchild Argus aircraft in SEAC.

    Thank you for that Simon, a useful insight form another point of view. So No Argus serials in your Nav's logbook?
    Freshman

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    Default Re: Potential uses for the Harvard and Fairchild Argus aircraft in SEAC.

    Many thanks for these interesting updates.


    I have managed to find a couple of references to the RAF's use for Harvards in Burma and they appear to confirm that Jagan's suggestions are absolutely correct.


    a. 152 Squadron in used the squadron's Harvard aircraft for return flights between Sinthe and Calcutta on 'grog runs', fetching crates of Indian Gin, Rum and Mixers. This would be a round trip of about 1700 miles. (Reminiscences of pilot John Vickers)


    b. No 3 R.F.U. (Refresher Flying Unit) at Poona used the Harvard for "familiarization to countryside and aircraft type". ('A Pilot's View' by RAF pilot Eric Clegg).


    With regard to the Fairchild Argus, Tony's information on the typical usages of the a/c in SEAC was also very useful.


    I was particularly interested in the conflicting views expressed by Tony and Simon on the likelihood of the Harvard and Argus being used to return ferry pilots to base. Not having my father's logbook, I am forced to rely on what I can recall of our chats concerning his service.


    I know for a fact that my father did make good use of the rail system in returning to base after ferry flights, and believe that he was also able to use his Ferry Unit paperwork to obtain flights back to base on both RAF and civilian aircraft, as suggested by Simon.


    I believe that during his time with 22 Ferry Control Unit and (possibly) with 9 Ferry Unit, there was also a dedicated Hudson flight which was used for returning ferry pilots.


    I can see how Simon's suggestions would work during my fathers period when he was involved in the ferrying of a/c around India with 22FC and 9FU, but by April 1945, 14FU was based in Agartala (and soon had detachments in Akyab and Dabaing). I would have thought that after a/c were ferried to forward aerodromes in Burma, return of pilots using the rail system or civilian air transport would no longer be a viable option.


    Perhaps the smaller size of the Harvard and Argus may have been beneficial when returning ferry pilots from smaller forward airfields, as suggested by Tony?

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