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Library Reference Number: 189

Let’s Go to the Bazaar

Ted Bracken, Scottish Saltire Branch, ACA.

Pilot Ted Bracken served with the RAF in the Far East during World War Two flying Dakotas and including thirty-four flights into China over the 'Hump' as described in his story, 'Don’t Give Me the Hump' – see library reference 157.

It was 1944, and although Ted was a member of 52 Squadron based at Dum Dum near Calcutta, all his operational flying had naturally been carried out over the border into Burma and beyond. At last, it looked as if the Allies were beginning to see the end of the long struggle against the Japanese and Ted may have been thinking of gifts to take back home to UK. In the following account describing the final stages of the war in Burma, Ted gives a ‘tongue in cheek’ account of looking for the elusive Bazaar.

The 'Forgotten Army' and equally 'Forgotten Air Force' were beginning to chance their arms in retaking ground lost in 1941, and this included a push down the Arakan, and where airfields were being enlarged in that area.

My first trip down the coast was to the being-upgraded airfield at Cox’s Bazaar and my hopes were to pick up some bargains at the Bazaar. Approaching the airfield it seemed like McAlpine must have moved his building firm from the UK to Cox’s. Thousands of Indian workmen with enough machinery to build another Heathrow were to be seen from the air as we approached. Instructions from the Control Tower told us to circuit the field until some space was made for a landing. After two circuits, there was a call to land which meant we still had to dodge a few hazards but no Bazaar was found!

A few days later, we were listed for the same trip and had to approach Cox’s from the West over the sea as the weather over the hills East of the airfield was poor. It afforded a sharply contrasting view of the airfield and area compared to the previous visit. Not a soul could be seen on the airfield although the machinery was cleared from the runway. Another difference was the high number of aircraft milling about a mile out to sea and at a low altitude. The opportunity to land was taken but on our finals an unusual thing happened.

Suddenly, on our starboard side, a fighter aircraft appeared to be in a hurry and whizzed past at least twice as fast as our Dakota. This was followed by a second fighter on our port side, and then quickly followed by two more. I had now identified these aircraft as US ‘Lightnings’ from the twin booms and bt the time we landed, we were ushered into a bomb shelter and to the sound of the American planes taking off having been swiftly rearmed and refuelled in that short time.

The story was that the Americans had attacked a number of Japanese aircraft and the battle was still going on! Having jumped the queue to rearm and refuel, they were dashing off again to rejoin the fray. It was suggested that the setting up of radar by Air Units further south had given some warning of a possible Japanese air raid and this could have been directed on Cox’s Bazaar.

The only civilian we came across was the chai-wallah who supplied us with his super chai. This fortified us so well that we ran to our aircraft and speedily took off, hoping no further Lightnings were headed towards us and no Zeros lying in wait. Needless to say, we were disappointed to find there was no actual bazaar at this airfield.

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