Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Photos from the Frontier

Flight Sergeant J.S.Robinson (Middle Row Centre)
I was looking through some family photos yesterday and came across my grandfather's interwar RAF collection, many of which are of his time on the North West Frontier in the late 1930's. My grandfather, on my mothers side, joined the RAF as an apprentice metal rigger in the mid 1920's and worked his way up to flight seargeant by the time he was sent out to India.

As you can see, he flew two seater Hawker Hart light bombers in B Flight of No39 Squadron whilst posted to Risalpur in what is now Pakistan. He spent most of his time there flying ground attack and leaflet dropping sorties over Waziristan, as part of the campaign to crush the rebellion being stirred up by the Wali of Swat and the Fakir of Ipi (someone should've mentioned the names, don't you think?)

In his memoirs and in conversations that we had before he died he described the various things that he got up to, most of which ended in fairly narrow escapes from imminent death. These included WW1 vintage cooper bombs dropping off while his aircraft taxied along the airstrip, being shot at by Pathan tribesmen armed with jezails and being marooned in the middle of nowhere for several days armed only with a Very pistol and a stiff upper lip.

I really should post some extracts from his memoirs here as they're very colourful and interesting to read, especially with the photos alongside. I'll see if I can find my copy when I get back home. In the meantime, I'll copy some more of the photos and post them here. There aren't that many but they're definately worth a look if you're interested.

It's also ironic that the modern incarnation of No39 Squadron is now flying unmanned drones over exactly the same bit of Waziristan that my grandfather flew over himself eighty plus years ago. I don't think the current UAV pilots will be wearing pith helmets and bombay bloomers though?


  1. Fascinating stuff!

    Had your grandfather been shot down when he was marooned or had it been mechanical failure??

  2. Absolutely fascinating - and a great photo too - if you can post more with memoirs extracts that would be brilliant!

    But the Fakir of Ipi - sounds like a name from 'Carry on up the Khyber'....

  3. Some information on the Fakir of Ipi from that paragon of web sites: