- Title: RED ROAD AIRSTRIP, CALCUTTA [Allocated Title]
- Film Number: ABY 110
- Other titles: ROYAL AIR FORCE OPERATIONS IN SOUTH EAST ASIA DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR [Allocated Series Title]
- Summary: Scenes of RAF fighter aircraft operating from an improvised airstrip on the Red Road in central Calcutta, Bengal Province, India.
- Description: Reel 1: Medium shot showing a tent, a look-out post up a tree, and two parked vehicles. One of the vehicles is an ambulance, the other the airstrip's crash tender. Looking up the bamboo ladder to the look-out post; an airman, stripped to the waist, climbs up. A small sign by the tent reads 'Flying Control'; men hurry out as a tram rolls past in the background. Men get into the parked vehicles. A Spitfire Mk VIII being serviced and sprayed (probably with paint but not clear) in a walled dispersal bay. Close-up of an airman spraying the starboard leading edge. Airman working on the cockpit. The aircraft with its cowling removed; a spire, possibly the minaret of a mosque, can be seen in the background. Close-up of the engine. A ground crewman at work with the portside radio access hatch open; he is joined by an officer. An armourer opens a panel on the upper surface of the port wing and opens the top cover of one of the aircraft's machine guns. Aircraft at dispersal; camera pans right showing a Tiger Moth biplane, a Spitfire and Hawker Hurricanes in dispersal bays as a lorry drives towards camera. An equestrian statue with a wrecker lorry parked next to it. A statue of Sir Henry Hardinge (First Viscount Hardinge, Governor-General of India July 1844 - January 1848). A Hawker Hurricane Mk IIC being serviced. A pilot boards the aircraft. Close-up of the pilot in the cockpit; he gives a thumbs-up. A ground crewman connects a cable from a battery trolley to a socket on the aircraft. The propeller starts to turn. Hurricane with propeller spinning and the battery trolley is rolled away. The chocks are pulled away and the aircraft (Hurricane IIC LD492 'S') taxis off. A road with civilian and military traffic; the camera pans right to show Hurricane 'S' taxiing close by. The aircraft on take-off run. A photo-reconnaissance Spitfire P.R Mk XI PA959 'K' taking off, followed by a second Spitfire. Spitfire P.R Mk XI PL768 'A' with its flaps down coming in to land; the pilot has to make a steep turn on final approach. PA959 'K' landing. Aircraft overhead. More Spitfires landing; Spitfire 'P' and 'L' pass the camera. Aerial footage; six Spitfires airborne and in close formation make a left turn. Six Spitfires, two abreast, in line astern. Aerial view of Howrah Bridge over the River Hooghly (also spelled Hugli/Hoogli). Reel 2: Aerial footage of three Spitfires. Aerial view of Howrah Bridge; Howrah Railway Station and a variety of rivercraft are visible. Mobile ground shot from a taxiing aircraft as Spitfire 'P' taxis to dispersal. Spitfire 'L' taxiing. Air-to-air footage of six Spitfires against cloud. Ground footage, possibly taken at Alipore airfield. A sign by the side of a runway reads 'No Crossing'. An RAF Consolidated Liberator heavy bomber, probably of RAF 356 Squadron (based on white 'X' on tail fin), passes. Aerial views of Howrah Bridge, Alipore airfield, and an aircraft coming in to land. Five Spitfires pass under camera (camera plane probably a Liberator). Spitfires shot against the ground and cloud. Low-level aerial footage over Chowringhee, Calcutta's main road, on final approach to Red Road airstrip. Trams, motor vehicles and pedestrians on the street below. Second approach from slightly different angle. Two war memorials; one similar in size and shape to the Cenotaph on Whitehall, the second a statue of a steel-helmeted soldier standing with his head bowed and his rifle reversed. Closer shot; tilt up to the statue. Equestrian statue of Field Marshal Lord Roberts (First Earl Roberts of Kandahar). Aerial view of naval barrage balloons aloft over the Hooghly river at Howrah. A tram running along a road. Low over a road. View of Chowringhee. View of the Red Road airstrip. Aerial view of the imposing Victoria Memorial. Aerial view over Calcutta.
- Access Conditions: IWM Attribution: © IWM
- Featured Period: 1939-1945
- Production Date: 1944-06-24
- Production Country: GB
- Production Details: Air Ministry, Directorate of Public Relations (Production sponsor) Royal Air Force Film Production Unit (Production company) Hughes, H R (Production individual) Layzell, R G (Production individual)
- Personalities, Units and Organisations: Royal Air Force, 681 Squadron (regiment/service) Royal Air Force, 356 Squadron (regiment/service)
- Keywords: Alipore, North East, India (geography) Calcutta, North East India, India (geography) Fighter operations, Air operations over Burma, Burma 1942-1945, Second World War (event) Bomber operations, Air operations over Burma, Burma 1942-1945, Second World War (event) Royal Air Force 1939-1945 (theme) Far East 1939-1945 (theme) India 1939-1945 (theme)
- Physical Characteristics: Colour format: B&W Sound format: Silent
- Technical Details: Format: 35mm Number of items/reels/tapes: 2 Footage: 1784 ft; Running time: 20 minutes
- Notes: Spitfires probably of RAF 681 Squadron, based at Alipore airfield, Calcutta. Dopesheet refers to this airstrip being used operationally in 1942 as an improvised response to the Japanese air threat against Calcutta. However, this film is clearly non-operational footage as by this date Allied air superiority over India was effectively unchallenged. Use of photo-reconnaissance aircraft for filming would also seem to confirm the non-operational nature of this film. Both ground and aerial footage of landing aircraft clearly demonstrate the questionable suitability of a road such as this for use as an airstrip. Aircraft were forced to make steep descents over a built-up area with a sharp turn on final approach. They would then have to chop the throttle to avoid overrunning through a bamboo barricade and into a busy road. Further, the camber of the road meant aircraft were forced to land exactly on the centreline to avoid ground looping into the marble balustrades on each side. In all it would seem clear that the use of this road as an airstrip was primarily motivated by civilian morale-raising than operational effectiveness. Parts of this film appear, in an edited form with sound, in the RAF's in-house newsreel 'The Gen' No. 17. See related items.
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Related IWM Collections Objects:
GEN 17 (THE GEN NO 17 [Main Title])