Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh: Brave World War II pilot flies into oblivion

An admirer recalling the heroic feats of B. Ramachandra Rao, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service, in Ongole.

An admirer recalling the heroic feats of B. Ramachandra Rao, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service, in Ongole. | Photo Credit: KOMMURI SRINIVAS

Britain had promised to give independence to India once World War II was over, and sought its cooperation in fighting the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan. This was the driving force for a band of Indian youth to join the armed forces then during the war, one of them being Flying Officer B. Ramachandra Rao, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), who hailed from Ongole in Andhra Pradesh.

Incidentally, Ramachandra Rao was born in Madras (now Chennai) on September 22, 1914, and was given the nickname of Emden as it was on that very day that the Madras harbour and its landmark lighthouse were bombarded by the German submarine SMS Emden during the beginning of World War 1, recalls his son B. Ravi.

The incident had inspired Ramachandra Rao to pursue a career in the then Royal Indian Air Force which he joined in 1941 after graduating from Madras University. He was commissioned into the No. 1 Squadron (the ‘Flying Tigers’) and served in Karachi, Peshawar and the Northwest Frontier Province, among other places, and thwarted the Japanese advance into India. As World War II progressed and the Japanese threat to eastern India via Burma (now Myanmar) grew, he moved with his squadron to the Burma front in 1944 where they were stationed at Imphal, and served under noted Marshall of the IAF Arjan Singh.

Ramachandra Rao got due recognition for his service in the form of DFC decorations and Mentioned-in-Dispatches recognitions for this service on the Burma front supporting the Army’s 17th and 2nd Infantry Divisions. For his dogged pursuits and tireless enthusiasm, he earned the nickname of ‘air hog’ in his squadron. Unfortunately, he did not live to see India win independence from British rule as he was killed in Allahabad in an air crash on April 8, 1946 while he was on temporary duty training a pilot on a civilian aircraft.

Except for a dilapidated house of his on the Railway Station Road in Ongole, there is little to perpetuate the memory of the daring pilot. It is high time a suitable memorial is set up on the premises for the current generation to drawn inspiration from the heroic acts of such unsung heroes, feel his admirers in the town at a time when the country is celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

There was a proposal to name the road leading to the railway station after Ramachandra Rao, but it did not see the light of day. A bust could also be erected at the junction close to his ancestral house to mark the 75th anniversary of Indian independence, locals opined.

While stationed in Karachi in 1942, Flg. Offr Rao had married the daughter of a prominent Andhra-origin journalist, nationalist and freedom fighter of the day, Kotamraju Punnaiah, editor of the leading Karachi daily the ‘Sindh Observer’, who hailed from Chirala. Flg. Offr Rao was the son of late Bollineni Kotlingam Naidu and B. Vanajakshi of Enekapadu village near Ongole, and the elder brother of the late Dr. B.V.L. Narayana, former MLA, and B. Krupa Rao, and late Lavu Lakshmikantamma.


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Printable version | Aug 5, 2022 8:51:50 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/brave-world-war-ii-pilot-flies-into-oblivion/article65731679.ece