Challange and Response

Challange and Response

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Source: TKS’ Tales

Moments passed. The raid was over. It was time to sound the ‘All Clear’ and get on with the next task. After all, the war had just started a few hours ago and none of us knew how long it would take for us to prevail over the enemy. Of course there was not an iota of doubt in any one’s mind that we shall prevail.

I had to first find out the extent of damage sustained. Mentally I knew that two B-57s have off loaded their bombs on us; that would be eight bombs. I also knew that I had heard only four explosions. I therefore had to find out not only what damage those four explosions had caused, I also had to find out whether the other four were merely duds or were those delayed explosion stuff waiting to hamper our repair work. I told Gopal to hold the fort, took my Jeep and drove out on to the runway.

From the BADC dugout, I drove to the centre of the runway. After a few yards, I found the remains of a 500 Lb Bomb that had broken open. Only a small piece was lying on the runway along with little bits of unexploded charge. The piece seemed to be a part of the middle of the bomb. There was no trace of the tail or the nose section. I drove towards one end of the runway, zigzagging to throw my headlight beam and see the state of the runway. A couple of hundred meters down I found a heap of mud on the runway. It was really a huge heap of mud. The source of the mud was not difficult to find. There was a bomb crater just off the shoulder of the runway; the explosion had thrown all that mountain of mud on the concrete. I tried to assess whether any unevenness has been caused to the runway’s surface by the blast. I could not really assess the situation as the surface was covered by mud excavated by the bomb. Just as I was about to move up, a repair party arrived. It had a bulldozer, and it began its work immediately.

I could see some activity at the end of the runway. When I reached there I found that there was a bomb crater on the concrete over-run. A repair party had already started its work. It had its full complement of repair machinery such as bulldozers, concrete mixers, road rollers and other such implements. I met Groupie Gole near the crater. He asked me to inspect the full length of the runway once again.

On my way back I saw a few more pieces of the broken bomb, but a cleaning party was already there looking after the job.  About 400 meters after the bomb crater on the shoulder of the runway; I found another heap of mud. The amount of mud was less than the previous instance, but it was still substantial. I looked for a crater on the shoulder and found one about 25 meters from the edge of the runway. Further down, there was another instance of mud on the runway and a bomb crater about 30 to 40 meters away from the edge. So, that catered for the four explosions heard. The second aircraft had done all this damage. How about the bombs from the first aircraft? I had clearly heard three or four thuds when the first drop took place. Where were his bombs?  I then remembered the broken pieces I had seen on the runway. Well, that piece would account for only one bomb, a dud. I had to account for three others that might be lurking somewhere with delay-fuses! It was clearly something to be concerned about. No other bomb was however found on or near about the runway. I returned to the BADC.

I was confronted by a six-foot something hulk of a DSC jawan at the top of the BADC dugout entrance and was greeted with a smart salute. I stopped and enquired as to what the matter was. I was told that when this gent had gone for his routine patrol after the bombs had dropped, he found a ‘something’ lying just off his patrol path. Since it could be something important he had picked it up and had brought it here to show it to me. I was curious. What is it? Where have you placed it? – The answer was straight forward. ‘I have kept it very carefully downstairs next to your chair’. I descended the stairs tailed by this faithful chap. There it is sir. He pointed out to the treasure that he had deposited. How should I express it? I froze? / My blood turned to ice? / I was dumbfounded? / All of the above? What the guy had brought down to the heart of my BADC was the tail section of a fractured bomb complete with an unexploded fuse and a few lumps of explosives yet to fall off from the casing! The ‘thing’ was quite large and would have easily weighed more than 30 kilos. I certainly would have had difficulty in picking it up if that became necessary. Very gently I told my faithful giant that this ‘thing’ was not suitable for keeping here. It needs to be picked up gently, taken out at least a hundred meters away and placed on the far side of a large tree that existed there. Care had to be taken while placing it on the ground. It was not to be dropped or rolled or be allowed to slide along a slope. He took in all the instructions calmly, picked up the object effortlessly and walked out. I came out behind him and watched him disappear behind the tree. ‘After placing it on the ground mark it out with stones so that no one stumbles over it by mistake’, I shouted after him. Then I came back into the BADC.

My gentle giant reported back to me within minutes. He had placed the object as instructed and had marked it with stones. He was somewhat apologetic; he had no access to any ‘Choona – Geru’ to make the markings prominent. I thanked him profusely and asked him to go back to his post. I now had to get hold of someone to sand-bag the damn object. As I was considering how to get that job done, Bandyopadhyaya came running in. ‘We need all the manpower available immediately’ he panted. ‘MES’s bulldozers are fully occupied in filling the hole on the over run and in clearing the debris from the runway into the crater on the shoulder. It cannot start on the job of clearing the mud from the runway at the other two spots till this job is done. We cannot wait that long if we want to meet our TOTs tomorrow. We shall have to move all that debris manually by hand if necessary.’ I had to act immediately. I asked him to take all the troops and airmen on ground defence duties and call out a hundred non-technical airmen on rest schedule. ‘But what will you do about providing these men with brooms and shovels?’ I asked him. Bando rushed out saying that he will manage it somehow. Someone called out about a track appearing on the screen and I got busy with my routine at the BADC. It was closing on to one O’clock in the morning of 4th Dec 71. Somewhere at the back of my mind there was an element of unease, about some job remaining undone, incomplete, unaccounted for.