KOLKATA, 20 FEB: The prestigious Red Road of Kolkata which is at present meticulously maintained by the state PWD has a rich history. Even today, Red Road is the pride of Kolkata, property maintained, well lit and row of trees on both sides. Moreover, we have two memorials one War Memorial in Eastern Command near the Maidan end of Red Road and Police Memorial on Chowringhee end of Red Road.
Red Road which is synonymous with Parade Road on Republic Day and Independence Day also served as a runaway for fighter aircrafts during World War II.
In recent years, Indian Air Force fighter aircrafts have practiced landings on expressways in various parts of the country but it turns out the feat not so novel.
During World War II, the fighter aircrafts of the allied forces used Red Road of Kolkata as a runaway in the Maidan stretch.
To strengthen Indian’s defences against the Japanese, particularly in Kolkata, the then British government had used Red Road as runaway for fighter aircrafts.
As the Japanese overran British colonies in South and South East Asia and threatened to invade India especially Kolkata, airfields came into being all around the city.
The most famous and visible of these air strips is 1100 section of the Red Road between Chowringhee and the Maidan.
According to a document dating from War, “It was not an easy strip to operate due to the camber of the road surface and the ornamental balustrades that flanked the roads on both sides. So, apart from occasional mishaps, the pilots used to enjoy the restaurants lining on Chowringhee as their ready room. But the sight of the fighters operating from the heart of the city did much to improve the morale of the citizens,” the document stated.
The Japanese threatened to bombard at the then Calcutta and few air attacks were carried out by Japanese Air Force.
The Japanese aircrafts were operated from Burma. To prevent damage of Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, it was camouflaged with greyish black paint.
The allied forces launched “Over the Humps” from bases that are already prepared but most from semi prepared runaways. Many of these runaways still exit indifferent parts of West Bengal. The operations were done to help the Chinese forces of Chiang Ki Shek against the Japanese. The Red Road stretch was operational from 1943.
It is learnt that the Royal Air Force fighters used to put at the then Great Eastern hotel and enjoyed their meals at Firpo hotel on Chowringhee.
Image Courtesy@Grp Captain Ramesh Das
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