An abandoned British airfield at Joypur jungle

The plan was to finish the breakfast, pack and leave the Joypur resort after a three-day sojourn. We had experienced the nature’s glory which was well sustained by the lesser mortals.  All were happy with the travel exhaustion. A faint thread of sadness prevailed too as we had to head back home. In a matter of hours, the car would put miles behind us from this cornucopia of greenness and bliss. The harsh cemented behemoths, of glass and metal structures of the city, will soon make us wear the mantle of androids who would animate under orders and lead a dreary life…Well, the destiny had plans of its own. 

The resort manager who was away during our stay returned. A smiling, pot-bellied outspoken person inquired about our stay. We nodded with a smile when he banged the table and asked us Have you seen the airfield…? “Airfield!, what about it..”, the three of us, die-hard aircraft lovers beamed with joy.

The manager informed that about thirteen miles due north-west, there existed an old British made airfield of second world war within the forest cover. 

He did not get a chance to finish his sentence. 

The Swift's front tires were all set to touch the seventy-two years old tarmac of the Royal Air Force airfield. Excitement knew no bounds at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
The Swift’s front tires were all set to touch the seventy-two years old tarmac of the Royal Air Force airfield. Excitement knew no bounds

The three vehicles, a Toyota Innova, and two Swifts roared their engines as we bolted out of the resort and took a left turn and headed for the abandoned air station.

At about eight kilometres towards Bishnupur, we left the state highway 02 and bounded over the red lateritic soil of the land. 

The road to the airfield was uneven, dusty and remote. The dense jungle made us think that an elephant may be seen grazing, we pressed on with a prospect of encountering one at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
The road to the airfield was uneven, dusty and remote. The dense jungle made us think that an elephant may be seen grazing, we pressed on with a prospect of encountering one

There was no road, a clearing among the woods that crossed a level crossing and meandered its way deeper into the greener pastures. Are we in for a bigger surprise of seeing wild animals? Excitement numbed my senses and I eased the right leg off the accelerator. 

The Innova led the brigade throwing a pall of reddish dust in front. Our smaller cars ran in its wake.

A team of nine-headed first and we followed the leader. Turn back or make adjustments at the slightest danger at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
A team of nine-headed first and we followed the leader. Turn back or make adjustments at the slightest danger

Remember, we were daring to drive into the wild territory. Animals had the right of way, and not us. The road climbed and fell. Dried upstream bed ran across the path which had created short gorges and the Swift bounced as we crossed them. 

The forest was so deep at this point, that the horizon had obliterated itself.

Left hand holding the steering, my right hand pushed out of the window to catch slightest of any movement ahead in Jypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
Left hand holding the steering, my right hand pushed out of the window to catch slightest of any movement ahead

The sound of the crunch of tires over the loose gravel and stones were enveloped by copper colored dust was a spectacle to remember. Passing woods fascinated us. Kept a sharp eye behind us if anything other than a car followed us.

The road was quite narrow to make any J-turn, in case of an exigency.

We were alone now. The black hump in the distance was not an animal but the shadows cast by the trees at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
We were alone now. The black hump in the distance was not an animal but the shadows cast by the trees

About fifteen minutes into the drive, the road started to become narrow and at a place, it disappeared altogether. We now had no tracks to follow.  

Driving through the thin line that lay ahead we reached a sharp right turn which brought us on a high mound of hard mud ridges. 

The road disappearing among the trees. We were on our own at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
The road disappearing among the trees. We were on our own

We saw a man-made structure, a hut. Good! So there were humans around. We can approach them for directions. The Google did not work and started recalculating, our onboard technology was a mute spectator.

A lone mud house was all that we could see among the dense jungle on Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
A single mud house was all that we could see among the dense jungle

We heard the beat of a motorcycle engine. We had company. The leading Innova exchanged pleasantries with the rider and he most graciously accepted our request to show us the airfield. Our initial excitement was back. We had a guide to fall back on.

And, suddenly, the forest receded away and we screeched to a halt on hard man made road. We had reached the airfield.

The first glimpse of the British built airfield at Joypur jungle by Gautam Lahiri
The first glimpse of the British built airfield

The tarmac was so brilliantly built that even today, the robust surface can easily take the pounding of an Airbus A320 and assist in landing and take off.

We were awe struck at the engineering and the quality of the materials used. 

What greeted us was no Flight attendant or pilot officer but a lone buffalo happily grazing in solitude. Showed its anger by a bellow on the British airfield at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
What greeted us was no Flight attendant or pilot officer but a lone buffalo happily grazing in solitude. Showed its anger by a bellow 

The airfield was large and was about two kilometres long.  Perhaps it flew Supermarine Spitfires or Hawker Hurricanes.

This was not made for large aircraft. There were patches of vegetation where the tarmac had given way to the soil beneath.

The British airfield was built on an East-West corridor, which meant that this airstrip experiences wind flow in this direction. So, the pilots faced the wind while take offs and landings at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
The airfield was built on an East-West corridor, which meant that this airstrip experiences wind flow in this direction. So, the pilots faced the wind while take offs and landings

Imagine, we were standing on an abandoned airfield. What kinds of aircraft flew in those days. The area may have been busy with young flying officers, air traffic controller, radars. All gone now. What is left is the land on which the fighters and transport aircraft landed and took off.For some fleeting moments we thought to be in two Spitfire fighters and a DC-3, Dakota.

We lined up our vehicles and made a dash towards the farthest end, as much we could drive and then spread off to stop and make a U-turn. All that we did not have were polyhedral wings attached to our vehicles of the second wold war airplanes.

We were ready to take off - The Swifts acted as Spitfires and the Innova as the DC-3. The lone bike, acted as the despatch rider of the second world war that had brought the news of the sorties we had to make over the enemy territory at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
We were ready to take off – The Swifts acted as Spitfires and the Innova as the DC-3. The lone bike, acted as the dispatch rider of the second world war that had brought the news of the sorties we had to make over the enemy territory

We stopped after our childish rounds to see what else lay in store.

The broken solitary watch tower that in those days had sentries perhaps guarding the British airfield at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
The broken solitary watch tower that in those days had sentries perhaps guarding the airfield. 

After making a turn, we stopped to catch the all round view from atop the tower. The jungle was intimidating with its thick scattered growth.

The view from the old watch tower. Rows of sal trees lined the sides. The flying team could be seen on the airfield ready to launch a strike as soon as the radio crackled at British airfield at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
The view from the old watch tower. Rows of sal trees lined the sides. The flying team could be seen on the airfield ready to launch a strike as soon as the radio crackled

The tarmac and the taxiway merged all into one. This was definitely the main runway which the fighters used for take off.

Interestingly, there was no other structure that was visible. 

The pilot's view from the cockpit before the take off run. Our excitement was at its zenith as we explored the airfield from every angle we could at British airfield at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
The pilot’s view from the cockpit before the take off run. Our excitement was at its zenith as we explored the airfield from every angle we could

Let me present you now the car based flying crew who made it this far..

The gentlemen flying team after taxing the aircraft without wings,  one of the DC-3s' can be seen in the background at British airfield at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
The gentlemen flying team after taxing the aircraft without wings,  one of the boxy DC-3s’ can be seen in the background

The ladies flying team who pitched in as pilots in case the main flying force diminished.

They also responded to the logistic support calls of the grounds team.

The ladies flying team who usually flew the DC-3 transporters and also doubled up as logistics experts at British airfield at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
The ladies flying team who usually flew the DC-3 transporters and also doubled up as logistics experts 🙂

We spent about two hours, on the old airfield and kept on thinking about the conditions under which the the RAF (Royal Airforce ) operated.  What aircraft they flew? Surely, trucks and CJ Jeeps may have been driven all over the area. All gone now and what is left is the virtual canvas with paintings that came from our memories.

I, felt very nostalgic, as the place made me remember the “Commando” classics that I used to read in my child hood days… I will still read them if I can get my hands on them. Having had an incredible time of adventure, pure fun with friends, we set our course ten degrees East to head back home. As I climbed back into my Swift,

I looked at the watch tower or the ATC (air traffic controller), requesting permission to take off. The four cylinder engine burst into life.

The sun had changed its position to west which meant, the night was not far away at British airfield at Joypur jungle, Bankura by Gautam Lahiri
The sun had changed its position to west which meant, the night was not far away

The three cars made its way out of the historic airfield, sailed smoothly on the seventy years old concrete air field, with a coat of bygone dust. Turning right as the convoy hit the State highway 02, the vehicles gunned their engines.

Six hours of drive and the windshield view of the British airfield was replaced by the looming structure of the second Hooghly bridge over the river Ganges. We had reached Kolkata.

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