New Delhi: Two Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) squadrons with origins in India 67 years ago are returning to their roots here beginning Friday to renew ties with the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The RCAF units had till recently battled the Taliban forces in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
The squadrons — RCAF 435(T) and 436(T) — were both raised in India during World War II and had fought alongside the then Royal Indian Air Force units during operations against the Japanese in the China-India-Burma war theatre. “A delegation from the RCAF 435(T) and 436(T) squadrons, which were both formed in India, and participated in joint Canada-India operations during World War II, will visit India from November 18 to 20 to commemorate their historic ties with India,” a Canadian high commission release said Thursday, adding, “The RCAF delegation will meet with IAF officers for a professional exchange and attend a ceremony of remembrance at the Delhi War Cemetery, where Canadian military personnel, including 16 RCAF aircrew, are interred.”
The 436(T) squadron and its state-of-the-art CC-130J Hercules military cargo plane are on their way back to Canada after completing duty in Kandahar.
The aircraft will land at the Air Force Station, Palam here and then fly on to Canada.
“We are honoured to be here in New Delhi to recognise and commemorate our squadron’s historical links with India,” 436(T) squadron’s commander officer Lieutenant Colonel Colin Keiver said in the release, adding, “India was where the squadron was formed as a Tactical Air Transport unit and where it conducted its first operational missions as an RCAF squadron. It is fitting that it returns from its most recent and significant mission through the place where it began 67 years ago.”
The 435(T) and 436(T) squadrons were formed in India in 1944 as part of the Combat Cargo Task Force responsible for the re-supply of Allied Forces in the China-Burma-India theatre. Flying the C-47 then, the units operated in the Imphal area and southwards towards Mandalay and beyond until Aug 14, 1945.
During this period, the aircraft carried out significant air drop missions to re-supply Allied troops as well as several paratroop missions including the airdrop of the Indian Airborne Division in May 1945 to support the capture of Elephant Point outside of Rangoon.
The drop was so successful that the division’s commanding general remarked, “This is the first operation I know of in this war in which paratroopers have been dropped 100 per cent accurately.”
From January to August 1945, the 436(T) squadron flew over 32,000 hours and delivered over 29,000 tons of supplies and 15,000 troops, casualties and passengers. The squadron regularly led all Allied transport squadrons in theatre for hours flown, tonnage delivered and percentage of completed sorties.
The squadron’s official motto is ‘Onus Portamus’ (We Carry the Load) and its unofficial motto ‘Canucks Unlimited’. The squadron crest, which features an elephant, was born in India.