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Old 9th December 2020, 23:09
boro006 boro006 is offline
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Sqn Ldr. Tom Rosser DFC Photo Reconnaissance, Burma

From The Daily Telegraph 11 November.

Squadron Leader Tom Rosser, who has died aged 100, flew 60 missions in his unarmed Spitfire taking photographs over Burma, and was awarded the DFC.

He arrived in India in the spring of 1942 and joined 79 Squadron, flying the Hurricane. Towards the end of the year, No 3 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (soon to become 681 Squadron) began receiving Spitfires. Rosser had flown the fighter during his time in England, and he promptly volunteered to join the new unit.

Flying from an airfield near Calcutta, the Spitfires roamed over most of Burma, parts of Thailand and sometimes to the Andaman Islands. During these flights – often more than four hours in duration – Rosser photographed enemy airfields, railways and other lines of communication, including river traffic.

Early in 1943, the first sortie was flown over Rangoon, 500 miles from the squadron’s airfield. Rosser flew the second and third of these operations, and his photographs, taken from 30,000 feet, were made into a mosaic and used for mapping purposes. This required extremely precise flying.

He also flew at low level, using an oblique mounted camera (pointed sideways rather than vertically) to take photographs for the Army, and he made numerous sorties to Mandalay. It was during these types of missions that he came under heavy attack from anti-aircraft fire.

The Spitfires often flew to the limit of their range, and Rosser and his fellow pilots feared engine failure and the violence of the monsoon more than pursuit by enemy fighters. Over Rangoon anti-aircraft fire was a major threat. Rosser recalled that they had no navigation aids apart from the aircraft’s radio.

Compass courses were flown over the jungle-clad Arakan range, and then pinpoints – landmarks – identified by map-reading over the Chindwin River and the Irrawaddy. If there was cloud on the return journey, Rosser normally made a generous time allowance to clear the hills, before descending over the flat ground beyond, hoping to pick up a visual fix.

The air commander in India described the development of the photographic reconnaissance organisation as a “notable feature of the period”, and went on to say: “No 681 Squadron operated magnificently during the whole of the monsoon period of 1943.”

The noted air historian Hilary St George Saunders wrote in his history of the RAF that “the hazards of flying in the monsoon were the worst that had so far been encountered by man in his conquest of the air, and of them all, the greatest was that created by the cumulonimbus cloud, which towered to over 30,000 feet.”

Rosser remained with 681 Squadron until May 1944. The citation for his DFC commented on his “outstanding operational record” and described him as “an exceptional flight commander who was an inspiration to all in his flight”.

At the end of his time in Burma, Rosser left for the Middle East to command the photographic reconnaissance training flight of 74 Operational Training Unit based in Palestine, where he remained for a year.

After a period in Egypt he returned to England, having been overseas for almost four years. He had hoped to remain in the RAF but slight colour-blindness thwarted his attempts.
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Old 10th December 2020, 01:18
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Teresa Maria Teresa Maria is offline
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Re: Sqn Ldr. Tom Rosser DFC Photo Reconnaissance, Burma

May he rest in peace.
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