Memories of Koggala Beach


Squadron 191 RAF was stationed in India on anti-sub patrol – that was my squadron.

Although I was hired to spot submarines the only thin I ever saw was water.

The water, mind you, was beautiful.

We lived in marquis tents only several hundred feet from the water front.  Even though the water was fantastic, we preferred to swim in the pool at one of the “exclusive clubs” RAF members were granted membership to.

Why did we not swim in the river?  Well, across the river was a pitch of burning ghats.  A ghat is a series of steps that lead down to the Red River.  A departed loved one would be placed on a float  in the river and then the entire vessel was set afire to cremate the body.  It was a very reverent service.  I could never get over the image of that cremation as the body – when it burned – would contract and sit up.  This is not one of my favorite memories.

It was hot there.  When we landed in Bombay on Christmas Day it was 105 degrees.  We sweat a lot and since we’d lose a lot of salt, we had to take salt tablets or a tablespoon of salt dissolved in water.  You’d just add salt to your water glass from a cruet – since salt shakers didn’t shake well in the humidity.

We also had to take methyl quine to protect ourselves against malaria.  These were little yellow pills.  When you sweat, the yellow would come out your body into your clothing.  Our socks quickly turned yellow.

There was once a tornado that came through and sucked up several of our aircraft.  We were able to salvage the auxiliary power units (AVUs) from the sunken Catalinas so that everyone had their own generating units.  We used these units to help light our tents.

We had to be pretty handy in those days and able to improvise.  Catalinas, the craft we so loved, truly “lit up our lives”.

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