The Great Warbird Auction 1976
Courtesy: Mr. Peter Arnold, Key Mags Forum
An interesting document that resurfaced from the personal archives of Mr. Peter Arnold is this Tender document for sale of obsolete aircraft in the Indian Air Force. Towards the end of 1975, this letter was sent by the Under Secretary to the Government of India, offering several airframes and aircraft engines and parts for sale.
The covering letter invites sealed bids for ‘obsolete aircraft and equipmement’ to be submitted to Maj Gen P H Alfred, AVSM, Officer on Special Duty to the Ministry of Defence. The last date for the bids was corrected to 29the February 1976.
It is Page two that lists the numbers and the types of aircraft up for grabs. The aircraft being auctioned were:
Harvards : 56
Mystere IVa : 35
Vampire FB52 : 42
Vampire T55 : 40
Liberator : 5
Spitfire : 4
Ouragan : 38
Tempest II : 11
Rolls Royce Goblins : 248
Verdun (Mystere) : 34
Nene (Ouragan) : 116
P & W 1340 (Harvard) : 79
There were tons of spares to accompany the above lots of aircraft and engines. Spares sometimes meant semi-partial aircraft – as Peter writes:
“At one base we went to it was wall to wall Harvards. There were new Harvard wings and centre sections still in the makers packing. Either Gwalior of Kanpur, I can’t remember. At that time it just was not economic to buy and ship a Harvard baring in mind an airworthy Spitfire at this time was £35k plus. I believe that in the main the engines were chopped out of the Harvards and shipped back to the US for use in an ‘Ag’ aircraft. “
For those who had bid for the aircraft from the west, the prize were the four Spitfires offered by the auction. Even though as many as 11 Tempest II airframes were also being given off, Interest in the Tempest II at that point of time was minimal, according to Peter.
“Even at that time, the second ever Indian purchase/recovery visit, the first being Norman Gaar with Spitfires PM627 and ML417, the Tempests were of only modest interest. The Seafury had a value of less than half a Spitfire at that time. So were the Poona Tempest colour photos part of the original 11 said to be at Halwara – pass?
At Kanpur, they had a line up side by side of some 25 odd Griffon 65 engines just resting with their lower cases in the soft sandy soil. Not for sale and strictly no photographs. What a missed opportunity.
These aircraft and parts were scattered quite widely across India and it was difficult to keep the Indian Air Force and Government bods focused on access to the Spitfires up for tender and the security clearances required.
Tempests and other bits had to take second place to fit inspecting the Spitfires in to the available time window. We were also pushing for access to a reported Hurricane at Patna and possibly another, without success, although I did stumble upon a Harvard fuselage and centre section with a pair of adjacent Hurricane outers on a little side trip endeavour on the way to Dehra Dun. Doug Arnold finally recovered these at a later date.”
Those were certainly some interesting times! Anyone care to update on those Griffon engines at Kanpur?