I was at Salbani from 1944 to 1945 initially as a second pilot and finished our tour (300 hours/30 trips) as the ‘skipper’. We were a normal sized Liberator crew of eleven consisting of four Australians (RAAF) and seven British ‘types’ (RAF).
We were accommodated in three separate huts with the erstwhile paddy fields. Suspect we were too busy and pre-occupied with the desire to survive to become involved in any problems which would generate arguments.
I was a W/O for the duration of the tour, interviewed on the squadron for a commission which I obtained on returning to Australia.
We bombed key Japanese held positions in Burma and Thailand - first operational flight 23rd December 1944 – last operational flight 29th July 1945. We encountered ack-ack eleven times, enemy fighters four times. We raided Rangoon five times and Bangkok four times. We completed our tour without any major mishaps. We were ‘holed’ a few times.
A few days after we left the squadron the new aircraft, which we had tested, was loaded with rice and took off to deliver the rice to POWs at Changi. It crashed on take-off due to a flap malfunction. My second pilot (F/S Stan Holland) and the remaining members of the made up crew were killed or died later from the injuries they received – (KN781/L, which crashed on the 14th September 1945, captain F/O E.F. Adams, second pilot F/S S.R. Holland).
Our food was fairly routine – we survived without the need to raise complaints. Our medical needs were well cared for – I only caught dengue fever. We attended the regular ‘picture shows’ which afforded us a break from time to time.
We Australians formed a soccer team to compete in the squadron competition and played quite well – the RAF fellows reluctantly agreed. We also played cricket which was relaxing and of value for our physical health levels.
Our leave time was taken at Calcutta – the Anzac Club an RAAF establishment. We also went to the foot hills in the Himalayas and Colombo. Our overall attitudes/behaviour was exemplary – none of us was the recipient of disciplinary action.
We as a crew were proud to be active members of 355 Squadron, RAF.