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Defender of Pakistan"Commander Leslie"

Discussion in 'Pakistan Air Force' started by Devil Soul, Nov 18, 2012.

  1. Devil Soul

    Devil Soul ELITE MEMBER

    Jun 28, 2010
    +46 / 27,636 / -1
    Soldiers of Pakistan. Men of honour. Defenders of the motherland. They are aplenty, as are their stories. Each story unique, each man precious, each one a hero. But some of them stand out even among the multitude of heroes. Mervyn Lesley Middlecoat was one such hero — a martyr. a patriot, a non-Muslim defender of the land of the pure.:pakistan:

    Defender of Pakistan
    By Azam MairajPublished: November 11, 2012
    It is almost symbolic how this story begins. The war hero Mervyn Lesley Middlecoat was born aboard a train as it stopped in Ludhiyana while travelling to Lahore from Delhi on a warm July morning in 1940. This was to be his destiny: to move from one point in time to another; to shuttle between one expedition and another.

    The fourth child of Percy and Daisy Middlecoat, he never had the chance to know his father, an Anglo-Indian railway officer, who passed away when little Mervyn was only two years old.

    Lahore was Mervyn’s home now, and he received his early education at Saint Anthony School and joined the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) after graduation. Very early on, he started to shine bright among his contemporaries. As he passed out of his 16th General Duty Pilot (GDP) Course in 1954, he won the Best Performance Trophy in ground subjects — an honour for any cadet.

    An officer and a gentleman, Mervyn also set the bar high when it came to moral standards. He was a fearless warrior but was soft spoken when it came to personal interactions, and had good conversational abilities. Milestones were to follow.

    On September 27, 1957, young Mervyn married Jane, the daughter of a Christian Anglo-Indian family from Karachi. The couple was popular and happening, known for being attractive, cultured and well-liked throughout the PAF. They were often chosen as hosts, alongside the Air Chief, for the official guests of the Air Force. An addition to this storybook family came when, on October 21, 1959, a daughter named Leslie Ann Middlecoat was born to the couple. Six short years later, war broke out.

    The 1965 war was a difficult time for the young nation. It not only brought us face to face with our greatest fears, but it also brought to the surface the palpable presence of heroes whom Madam Noor Jehan dubbed “humaray watan ke sajeelay jawano” in her morale-boosting songs. Mervyn, then Flight Lieutenant (better known as Commander Lesley), was deployed at Masroor Base, Karachi at the onset of the hostilities.

    It didn’t take long for the war to come home. When the Indian Air Force attacked Karachi, the PAF sent F-86 Sabre aircrafts to defend the skies.

    True to form, Mervyn was flying one of those aircrafts. In the dogfight that followed, Mervyn shot down two enemy aircrafts, a feat for which he came to be known as the ‘Defender of Karachi’.

    He was then deployed at Mushaf Air Base, Lahore, where he was given the command of Squadron 9. During the three-week war, he kept his squadron’s spirits high with the firm conviction of a commander who leads from the front.

    He performed an impressive series of seventeen ‘Air Sorties’ and three ‘Photo Reconnaissance’ missions. At the end of the war, he was awarded the richly deserved “Sitara-e-Jurat” for his bravery and professional leadership.

    But bias and bigotry does not spare even heroes and patriots. In 1967, while Mervyn was deployed at Sargodha Air Base, his 8-year-old daughter Leslie was rehearsing for a debate competition in her school about ‘Love for the Country’. As she spoke, another child stood up and said: “This country is ours, not yours!” These six words struck little Leslie like a bombshell. Ours? Yours? Didn’t Pakistan belong to all those who loved her?

    She slapped the child hard. “How dare you say this is not my country?” she shouted at the boy who had interrupted her so rudely.

    As a child born to fierce patriots, she had always heard her parents expressing their love for the country. Once, Jane had suggested to Mervyn that they move abroad, saying: “All your siblings and my family have emigrated, and we are alone in this country. Maybe we should also think about this.”

    To this, Mervyn had replied firmly: “Listen, this is my country; I was born here; my ancestors are buried here. I have spent my life defending my country; perhaps I will sacrifice my life for this country one day as well. I am not going anywhere.” No wonder then that when Leslie heard that child, it shocked her into tears of rage that continued to fall even as she returned home. “This is my country,” were the words she kept repeating like a mantra.

    In the afternoon when Mervyn got back home from work, his wife told him about Leslie’s traumatic day. He tried consoling his 8-year-old daughter as best as he could: “Listen my child, don’t quarrel with such people; rather forgive them and make your own morals and character so high that their voice does not disturb you, and that your energy does not get consumed in these petty matters.

    Secondly, this is our country. Look at the flag of Pakistan — this green part belongs to your friend, who was beaten by you, and that white part is yours, which is connected with the pole through which this flag is hoisted. Therefore, we should continue to hold on to this white part firmly, so that the green part would continue to remain hoisted in free air.”

    There was never a dull moment in the life of this war hero. Prior to the 1971 war, Mervyn was the Commanding Officer of the 26 Squadron, deployed at Peshawar Base before going on a deputation to Jordan. When war broke out once again, he left this attractive post and returned to Pakistan to fight alongside his comrades.

    Early in the war, the PAF high command devised a plan to take out the Indian Air Force’s radar capability by attacking the heavily defended Jamnagar airbase. Of the six pilots selected for this near-impossible mission, one was Mervyn, who now held the rank of Wing Commander. On 12 December 1971, a day after he returned to Pakistan, Operation: Amritsar Radar was launched.

    When Mervyn, together with his colleagues, was busy strafing aircrafts of the Indian Air Force at the base, they were set upon by IAF MiGs. Forced to abort the mission, Mervyn narrowly avoided two incoming missiles by lowering his altitude and increasing his speed. But when his aircraft was near the Gulf of Kutch, a third missile hit him.

    According to Flight Lieutenant Bharat Bhoshan Soni, the pilot who shot him down, Mervyn managed to eject from the aircraft and fell into the sea below. Soni radioed for a rescue team, but by the time they got there, Commander Lesley was nowhere to be found and was declared ‘Missing in Action’.

    Upon his martyrdom, he was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat for the second time. His widow also received a personal letter from King Hussain of Jordan, praising Mervyn for his heroic services. He wrote, “Sister, the passing away of the Shaheed is not only the loss of you and Pakistan, but also mine. It is my wish that when he is buried, his body will be wrapped up in Pakistan’s flag, but the flag of my country Jordan must be placed below his head.” His daughter, the indomitable Leslie, still has this letter in her possession, guarding it like a precious treasure.

    For five long years, this martyr’s wife and daughter waited for him at 57/II, Khyber Road, the home they shared with Mervyn at the Peshawar base, in hope and anticipation of his miraculous return. They would make sure that his clothes were ironed and his slipper was placed in front of the bathroom — as if he would walk through the door any minute.

    But he did not return, and after years of fruitless waiting, his loyal wife passed away on June 27, 2011. Their daughter Leslie recalls that whenever her relatives would call and insist that she move abroad with her daughter, her reply would always be the same: “This is my country.”

    As for Leslie, she has never forgotten the words her father spoke to her when she was eight. “I cannot leave my country,” she says to this day.

    “I must uphold the pole which hoists the white part of Pakistan’s flag, so that the green part can continue to remain high in free air till the end of time.”

    Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, November 11th, 2012.
    Like Express Tribune Magazine on Facebook and follow at @ETribuneMag
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  2. Viper0011.

    Viper0011. SENIOR MEMBER

    Jul 15, 2011
    +45 / 9,770 / -19
    United States
    United States
    A very touchy story of a brave and patriot officer who lost his life for the love of his country. I read these courageous examples and you learn that the world has a huge quantity of good people too. And that, above all, there are people who'll give their lives to save their nation. Such heroes be Pakistani, American or Russian uniforms, need to be saluted and respected. A humble hats off to the fine officer who not only gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country, but also upheld the true meaning of his country's flag and what he and his country stands for. Sad to see where it has gone over the decades since this event!!
  3. pak-marine

    pak-marine ELITE MEMBER

    May 3, 2009
    +6 / 9,244 / -23
    good the 8 year old slapped the kid , this should be the attitude of minorities .. no point being afraid of people who live in fear
  4. fatman17


    Apr 24, 2007
    +52 / 28,887 / -0
    great pakistani patriot:pakistan:
  5. Windjammer

    Windjammer ELITE MEMBER

    Nov 9, 2009
    +136 / 98,094 / -3
    United Kingdom

    Found this interesting article on the legendary Air warrior.

    Wg. Cdr. Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat who was on deputation in Jordan, was recalled by the PAF HQ to resume air operations from the south, with immediate effect. As soon as he arrived at Mauripur he joined the session where new missions were planned for the next day. One of them included a harassing strike on Jamnagar Air Base. The mission profile was selected as lo-hi-lo with a provision of single strafing pass on the airfield targeting preferably exposed aircraft on ORP or any other target of opportunity. Intel confirmed the presence of MiG-21FL as the premier air defence fighter of IAF and the Starfighter pilots had practiced such missions by judging the scramble timing of MiG-21 as two minutes (from the ADA siren till take off). A precise low level approach on the main runway, pull up for a gun attack and strafe the targets was what was required and PAF pilots were confident that they would get the IAF MiGs on runway when they would be in their take off roll.

    The squadron conducted a similar mission against Utterlai, the same day, when Wg. Cdr. Arif Iqbal and Squadron Leader Amanullah struck Utterlai and destroyed/damaged two HF-24 Marut aircraft. Their timing was so perfect that the MiGs never had time to scramble, and when they did, the Starfighters had already left the area after bagging two kills.

    Challenging the Indian MiGs was a challenge itself by the Starfighters, as PAF pilots had flown them against the Mirage-IIIE and F-6 (MiG-19) in DACT and knew that in turning dogfights even a brick could do better. Within PAF it was assessed that F-104 was inferior in all flight regimes by the increasingly numerous MiG-21s with the Indian Air Force but superior to the Su-7s, also inducted by IAF. Especially in a close in fight the Starfighter was considered to be out matched by the MiG-21 given its superior manoeuvrability and similar speed and acceleration. PAF’s F-104 tactics made use of aircraft’s high speed to hit targets quickly, ideally using AIM-9B Sidewinder, and quickly egressing. Turning with more nimble fighters was not considered advisable. Under these conditions if PAF F-104 succeeds in destroying a MiG-21 it would be a morale booster for the squadron as well as the Southern Air Command.

    The Indians on the other hand were quite annoyed on their MiGs reaction time at Utterlai and Group Captain Pete Wilson, Station Commander of Jamnagar Airbase had issued a warning to the detachment of the MiG-21 at his base that if anyone cannot scramble in less than 2 minutes can leave the base and go back. The IAF pilots at Jamnagar practiced hard to scramble in less than 2 minutes and succeeded. The Indian station commander anticipated a PAF attack after the Utterlai strike. He was sure that PAF will attempt a similar daylight raid on his base and he was keeping his fingers crossed as he knew that he will be facing a major challenge. Coming in a long way to attack a fully alert enemy base is not a simple task and Wilson knew that if his boys falter in the final crucial seconds the PAF pilots would achieve their task.

    Following the successful strike against Utterlai, Wg. Cdr. Middlecoat worked on his mission profile along with Sqn. Ldr. Tariq Habib.
    They had to fly ~ 500 km from their base towards Jamnagar Airfield at low level i.e. below 250 ft AGL.
    As soon as they neared their target they had to pull up to 2-3000 feet with target offset to their right by 2-3 miles in order to line up for their strafing runs.
    Once in line they had to attack on the aircraft on the runway/taxiway with a single pass each.
    Exiting at high speed and low level.

    Both pilots had conducted similar mission in training exercises and as demonstrated by Wg. Cdr. Arif Iqbal and Sqn. Ldr. Amanullah earlier against Utterlai, PAF was qualified to conduct such blitz strike operations.

    The day was 12th December 1971 when both the F-104As took off and set their course towards Jamnagar Base at low level. Skimming the Arabian Sea, both Starfighters approached undetected till they crossed the Saurashtra sea coast. They were picked by Indian MOUs and Middlecoat knew that he had exactly one minute left to carry out his mission. Close to the target the formation pulled-up to 2-3000 feet with target offset to their right by 2-3 miles in order to line up for their strafing runs. For some reason Middlecoat banked to the left while target was on the right. Habib gave him a call to correct this. Repositioning for the strafing run resulted in formation spending another minute or two near the target area.

    This mistake was enough for the Indian MiG-21FLs to get airborne and take their CAP positions. While they were taking off Middlecoat was at that time correcting his course while Tariq Habib had identified an aircraft on the ORP of Runway 24 and dived in. A carefull aim and the enemy aircraft was on fire after receiving a long burst of the Starfighter’s gatling gun. As per the mission profile Habib pulled up after completing his strafing run and set his course back home.

    Meanwhile Middlecoat had caught a MiG-21 out in the open. He dropped his speed and dived hard right towards the MiG firing his gun. The enemy aircraft burst up in flames. Suddenly he spotted two MiG-21FLs diving for him and instantly turned right to shake off the attackers, levelling off at 100 ft AGL on the runway. The pursuing MiG also broke inside the Starfighters turn and closed in. Caught in an awkward position, Middlecoat could neither pull up nor conducted a defensive break as that would bring him in the firing range of the MiG. He engaged reheat and dashed towards the south at low level.


    Attack profiles of both Starfighters, with explosions indicating the points where both aircraft attacked. The red lines indicates the Indian MiGs intercept pattern.

    Both the MiG-21s were focussed on Middlecoat’s F-104 Starfighter. The lead MiG-21FL flown by Sqn. Ldr. Guni Sehgal, closed in to get a positive missile tone. As he got a positive tone and was about to press his missile firing button, his wingman Flt. Lt. Bharat Bhushan Soni overtook him at an amazing speed and was dead set on Middlecoat’s Starfighter. All this was happening in milliseconds at a very high speed and Guni was unable to stop himself in firing the missile. He yelled on his R/T, “Bops, Soni has come right in front of me, I have pressed the missile firing button”. The missile streaked straight at Soni’s MiG but later deflected at the sun’s reflection in the Arabian Sea. As soon as Soni saw a missile going past his aircraft he stammered on his R/T, “Firing Red at me……….. Missile has missed.”

    Flt. Lt. I.J.S. Boparai who was acting as a Killer Control knew the fact that if he relayed the true information to Soni that he has survived a near fracticide would un-nerve him and Soni might give up his chase of the Starfighter. He then told Soni that the F-104 have deployed IR Flares and at the same time ordered Guni to hold fire and provide cover to Soni. Determined to bag a kill, Soni got a positive missile tone and fired his K-13 Atoll missile at the F-104. Middlecoat observed a bright flash from the MiG-21 coming straight towards him. Instinctively he broke right in a high G 90° turn, engaging full afterburners for maximum energy. This manoeuvre was enough to evade the early generation IR missile but Soni also broke right and was closing in fast. As the MiG-21 could sustain a tighter turn than the Starfighter he rapidly closed in.

    Middlecoat immediately told Tariq that a missile has fired upon him and asked him to provide him cover. Tariq who was above 500 ft AGL quickly responded and repositioned himself to clear Middlecoat’s tail. Soon he spotted Middlecoat’s Starfighter but due to the dilemma of high speed combat was unable to spot any Indian fighter in the vicinity. Meanwhile Middlecoat looked in his mirror and waited to counter the MiG’s next move. As soon as the MiG came in an attacking position, he again broke hard towards his right anticipating another missile launch. But this time anticipating this move, Soni also broke into the turn of Middlecoat’s Starfighter and fired a two second burst of his 23mm gun. With bright flashes all around the Starfighter, the aircraft started to get out of control. Middlecoat tried to pull the aircraft but the controls didn’t responded and his aircraft started its descent spiralling towards the sea. “I’ve been hit” shouted Middlecoat on his R/T, “I’m going to eject’. Tariq inquired if he could make it to overland but he replied in the negative. He then saw the painful scene of Middlecoat ejecting and the Starfighter going into the water while inverted.

    Meanwhile the Indian Killer Control ordered Soni to ‘Return to Base’ and asked Guni to orbit overhead. As soon as Soni pulled up, Tariq caught sight of him. As he pulled up to convert behind the MiG-21 his auto-pitch control malfunctioned and the aircraft nose started oscillating. After disengaging the APC Habib safely exited from the area. Meanwhile Guni did’nt noticed Tariq’s Starfighter as he was busy in observing Middlecoat. He noticed that Middlecoat has neither separated from his ejection seat nor he has waved to the orbiting MiG after ejection. An ejection at a speed of more than 950km/hr and at a very low level can prove near fatal at times and it was assumed that Middlecoat has been injured in this process. Guni was replaced by an orbiting Hunter which tried its best to communicate with Middlecoat but never got any response. Since there was no boat in the area, nor IAF could muster any heliborne search, Middlecoat according to the Indian accounts was not rescued and his fate remains unknown till to date. He has been declared missing in action.

    Sqn. Ldr. Tariq Habib was safely recovered at Mauripur. After detailed discussion with him it was declared that the status of this mission is ‘incomplete’ as both Starfighters strafed the airfield. While Tariq’s Starfighter strafed at what was later confirmed as a decoy, the result of Middlecoat’s strafing has never been confirmed.

    Everyone was shocked at the loss of Middlecoat, but had to digest it as it was part of the war. One small mistake by our pilots allowed the Indians to scramble their jets and take advantage in the first supersonic air combat of this region.

    It shall be noted that the Starfighters never had any fuel for an air to air combat, thus the Indians had dual advantage of operating a better fighter against handicapped PAF strike aircraft.

    From Air Cdre. ® I.J.S. Boparai’s account, it has been confirmed that Middlecoat’s Starfighter slowed down in its attack as he spotted a MiG-21 on the ORP. There are many myths and untold facts of the 1965 and 1971 war which after a lapse of 30-40 years came in the public domain. In this specific combat there are two questions which are needed to be answered.

    1. It is still to be verified by the Indians that did Middlecoat completed his attack on the MiG-21 parked on ORP, before he himself was attacked by the two MiG-21s which were airborne to intercept the Starfighters or did he fled after spotting the MiGs? If Middlecoat has succeeded in destroying the Mig-21 on the ground then this mission can be remembered as a success with both sides loosing an aircraft each.

    2. We still do not know the fate of Wg. Cdr. M. L. Middlecoat. Did he perish during the ejection, was he rescued via a Jamnagar based SAR Helicopter and taken POW.

    Whatever is the truth, the Indians knows it and it is the request from the people of Pakistan that do answer these two questions on the basis of reality and not on false pride (which forces one to hide the truth).