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  #1  
Old 18-03-2017, 23:06
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Default Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

Colleagues:

I am currently researching a chappie who served in the RN as a Radio Mechanic (Air) during the Second World War.

I have attached an excerpt from his service record. I am intrigued by the note marked by the red asterisk in the middle of the image: "long period building and operating advanced jungle naval airfields".

I wonder whether or not the notation refers to service ashore in Burma? His record shows him posted to HM Ships Lanka and Bherunda at the time, (see the red asterisk to the left). The former (Lanka) was the "Victory" of the Eastern Fleet -- meaning a posting there could mean, in reality, just about anything. Bherunda was an RN Air Station in Colombo (Ceylon/Sri Lanka).

My point: I wonder if this chappie's (nominal) postings to Lanka and/or Bherunda entailed a stint (ie., "long period") in Burma "building and operating advanced jungle naval airfields"?

Did the FAA have any shore-based airfields in the "jungles" of S/E Asia?

Any thoughts or leads gratefully received.

Cheers,

Glen,
In Our Dominion of the North
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Smith, H.W. - Gen - Extract from Svc File.jpg (111.3 KB, 21 views)
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  #2  
Old 19-03-2017, 21:23
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Default Re: Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

They did, try searching MONAB (MObile Naval Air Bases), and look here for info.

Jim
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  #3  
Old 20-03-2017, 10:37
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Default Re: Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

Thanks, Jim. I appreciate the heads-up. I was not aware of MONABs. A fascinating read.

I shall have to reach-out to the moderator of the site, however, since all the MONABs it has documented seem to have gone to Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, starting in late-1944, straight from the UK, in support of the British Pacific Fleet.

In other words, at first blush, they don't really seem to dovetail with my chappie's service in Ceylon and the Eastern Fleet in Indian Ocean/Burma theatre from mid-1942 onward. (Besides, since MONAB I through X all seem to have been formal units, one would assume that an assignment with such a unit would be formally indicated in one's service record.)

Nevertheless, a great site, for which I am grateful to have been alerted.

Cheers,

Glen,
In Our Dominion of the North
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Old 20-03-2017, 13:31
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Default Re: Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

Do you have a version of his record which shows the dates that he served on his various ships/establishments?

Jim
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  #5  
Old 20-03-2017, 14:51
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Default Re: Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

Sure, Jim. (Thanks for your continued interest.)

As I read it, (see attached), it says:
1942 Jan: Formidable (carrier with Eastern Fleet);
1942 April: Lanka (Shore Establishment, Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka));
1942 Oct: Ukussa (see: http://www.royalnavyresearcharchive....m#.WM_1kdJzbL8 )
1944 May: Bheruda (just for a few days before being transferred back to UK to serve in Daedalus)
I had initially thought (ie., after reading the MONABs website) that perhaps his claim to "building and operating advanced jungle naval airfields" occurred after he left the Eastern Fleet; that is, after his return to the UK. But I also see from the MONABs website that these units departed from HMS Flycatcher... a unit in which my chappie is not recorded as having served.

So, as I see it, one is most likely looking at one of the following scenarios:
a) while serving at Ukussa (Oct’42 until May ’44) he was detached to North Eastern India/Burma to help build land-based airfields for the FAA; (perhaps in support of the Arakan Campaigns of 1943-44?);

b) he is over-stating (?) the work he did in Ceylon at Ukussa in establishing it as an RN Air Station (for it’s in the suburbs of Colombo… hardly the “jungle”);

c) he was involved in the construction/operation of other RNAS’s in Ceylon, which were, in fact, in “the jungle”;

d) he’s outright lying.
I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and rule-out “d)” ; and “b)” seems a bit far-fetched for anyone reviewing his record… which leaves “a)” or “c)” as the most likely scenarios (given current information/knowledge).

As always any additional thoughts grateful appreciated.

Cheers,

Glen,
In Our Dominion of the North
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Smith's RN Service File - Extract April 41 - July 46.jpg (139.7 KB, 9 views)
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  #6  
Old 20-03-2017, 19:27
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Default Re: Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

Glen, I noticed on the list of ships two mentioned HMCS Warrior and
Magnificent, had a godfather in Warrior and my Dad was navigating officer in Maggie 1952-53, I have a good picture of Maggie broadside view if you want it.

Clive
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  #7  
Old 20-03-2017, 20:57
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Default Re: Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

Its interesting that the record says Lanka (RNAS), yet the Fleet Air Arm Naval Air Station site does not have a RNAS Lanka listed. However, RNAS Katukurunda, Ceylon. Commissioned 15.10.1942, after which date his record has him at Ukussa. it is feasible therefore, that he was involved with commissioning RNAS Katurunda while at Lanka, with the RNAS being listed as his place of work - between June and October 1942?

Jim
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Old 20-03-2017, 23:57
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Default Re: Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

Thanks Clive. That's very kind of you, but I have several nice photos already of Maggie.

Cheers,
Glen,
In Our Dominion of the North

PS: Did you notice the reference in his service record to "HMCS Stadacona, (R.N. Section Namao, Alberta)", Aug '46 to April '47. I can only assume he was doing some cold weather experimentation with radios.
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Old 21-03-2017, 00:09
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Default Re: Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

Thanks again for your thoughts, Jim. I appreciate your time.

For what it's worth, my interpretation:
- HMS Lanka was the HQ ship cum shore establishment cum accounting ship for the Eastern Fleet;

- as a result, seeing in one's record that a sailor was posted to Lanka is akin to seeing one was posted to "Victory" or "Vivid" back in the UK... ie., he could, in fact, be doing almost anything, and not be anywhere near the nominal stone frigate "HMS Lanka";

- in this case, although he was on the books of Lanka, I assume that almost from day one he was at RNAS/HMS Ukussa;

-whether or not such service entailed building jungle airfields... I don't think anyone can say at this point.
Cheers,
and thanks again for your insights,

Glen,
In Our Dominion of the North
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  #10  
Old 21-03-2017, 08:02
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Default Re: Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ceylon-Medals View Post
Thanks again for your thoughts, Jim. I appreciate your time.

For what it's worth, my interpretation:
- HMS Lanka was the HQ ship cum shore establishment cum accounting ship for the Eastern Fleet;

- as a result, seeing in one's record that a sailor was posted to Lanka is akin to seeing one was posted to "Victory" or "Vivid" back in the UK... ie., he could, in fact, be doing almost anything, and not be anywhere near the nominal stone frigate "HMS Lanka";

- in this case, although he was on the books of Lanka, I assume that almost from day one he was at RNAS/HMS Ukussa;

-whether or not such service entailed building jungle airfields... I don't think anyone can say at this point.
Cheers,
and thanks again for your insights,

Glen,
In Our Dominion of the North
Whilst he may not have been laying runways, etc., from his trade I presume he was providing the infrastructure, such as communications equipment, etc.
I have seen two versions of service records for naval ratings- the official version such as you posted, and a version compiled from victualling records, which shows where they were eating their meals, etc. Perhaps a record compiled from the latter may hold the answer?

Jim
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Old 21-03-2017, 13:57
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Default Re: Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbryce1437 View Post
I have seen two versions of service records for naval ratings- the official version such as you posted, and a version compiled from victualling records, which shows where they were eating their meals, etc. Perhaps a record compiled from the latter may hold the answer?
Wow Jim, that is intriguing.

Do you happen to know if these victualing records are relatively accessible? .. or was it just a lucky coincidence that you have this for your chappie?

Cheers,

Glen,
In Our Dominion of the North
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Old 21-03-2017, 14:09
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Default Re: Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

I think the answer may lie in the fact that HMS Ukussa is the name of RNAS Katukurunda - which was the parent station for RNAS Puttalam (HMS Rajaliya).

Quote:
Tall palm trees and jungle surround the airfield, but flying gaps have been cut in the approaches to the runway.
http://www.royalnavyresearcharchive....m#.WNFAq7iLRD8

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  #13  
Old 21-03-2017, 14:25
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Default Re: Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ceylon-Medals View Post
Wow Jim, that is intriguing.

Do you happen to know if these victualing records are relatively accessible? .. or was it just a lucky coincidence that you have this for your chappie?

Cheers,

Glen,
In Our Dominion of the North
Hello Glen, I believe you have to apply for them and pay the £30 fee. Not sure if the address etc., is:

Navy Command Headquarters
MP 1-4, Leach Building
Whale Island
PORTSMOUTH
PO2 8BY
Telephone [MOD]: +44 (0)2392 628695

So it may be worth giving the phone number a ring to see if it is possible.

If you have a look at the records posted on this thread, you will see examples of both types of records for the same rating.

Jim
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  #14  
Old 22-03-2017, 13:06
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Default Re: Fleet Air Arm "Jungle Airfields" - Burma?

Thanks Gentlemen:

Both are good leads.

I had largely dismissed Puttalam as a possibility, since it's now part of the urban sprawl of Colombo; and even back in the 1940s, it was my understanding that the airport (which is the current international airport for Sri Lanka) wasn't located in "the jungle", but rather in amongst a rather manicured coconut planation.

That said, it is hardly unreasonable to think that to an English city-boy such a "manicured coconut plantation" could seem to him as "the jungle".

Although I was aware of the possibly of applying for RN WWII service records, I have never done so, and as a result, was unfamiliar with the possibilities of a "victualing record"... which I now see could indeed help in unravelling this mystery. Thanks, once again, for that.

Cheers,

Glen,
In Our Dominion of the North
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