Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Amarda Road Crash Memorial Service held at Rasgovindpur Airstrip

Rasgovindpur: A memorial service was held at the Amarda Road Airstrip today for the fourteen airmen who had died in a crash here on the 26th of July 1945. War historian Anil Dhir, Gandhian Aditya Patnaik, Social Activist Dr. Biswajit Mohanty and the Staff of the Gandhi Eye Hospital at Rangamatia, locals including school children paid homage to the dead airmen who have been forgotten in history. Wreaths were laid for each of the dead airmen.

Very few people know that the skies of Odisha had seen the crash of two aircraft which has collided against each other and resulted in the deaths of 14 airmen. On the 26th of July 1945 two British Royal Air Force B-24 Liberator four-engine bombers collided at low altitude. The aircrafts were based at the Amarda Road airfield and were part of a six-plane contingent from the Air Fighting Training Unit engaged in a formation flying exercise. Fourteen airmen – the crews of the two aircraft died in the crash. They were of nationalities- six British, three American, one each Canadian, Dutch, New Zea-lander, Australian and one Indian.

The Rasgovindpur Airstrip had a short but secret illustrious history which has never been made public. It had the longest runway in Asia, more than 3.5 km long. The total runways, taxiways, aprons, etc. were more than 60 km. Today all is forgotten, no details of the activities that happened here between 1943 and 1945 exist, not even in government and military records. The station came into existence during the war as a forward airfield against the Japanese conquest of Burma. The large strip served its purpose well as a landing ground for planes and also as a training space for special bombing missions. The Amarda Road airstrip, as it was called in war terminology, spreads across an area of nearly 900 acres. Built in the 1940’s at a cost of Rs 3 Crores, it was eventually abandoned after the war. It was named as the Amarda Road Airfield due to the nearby Amarda Road railway station.
28/07/18 Orissa Diary
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