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Netaji's clothes 'were on fire', British website quotes survivor

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  10 Jan 2016 12:00 AM GMT

New light on fatal plane crash

London, Jan 9: A British website, set up to catalogue the last days of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, has released what it claims are eyewitness accounts of the day he was reportedly killed in a plane crash in Taiwan on August 18, 1945.

The latest set of documents quote several people who were reportedly involved in the matter related to the accident as well as two British intelligence reports that revisited the crash site to establish the facts. The full text of the account is reproduced below:

Early in the morning on 18 August 1945, a Japanese Air Force bomber took off from Tourane in Viet m with Subhas Bose and 12 or 13 other passengers and crew. Also on board was Lt Gen Tsumasa Shidei of the Japanese Army. The planned flight path was Heito-Taipei-Dairen-Tokyo.

The 3-member Netaji Inquiry Committee, instituted by the Government of India in 1956 and headed by Major General Shah waz Khan of Bose's Indian tiol Army (I), was told, since "the weather was perfect and the engines (of the aircraft) worked smoothly" the pilot decided to overfly Heito and proceed straight to Taipei, arriving there late morning or early afternoon.

Major Taro Kono, a Japanese Air Staff Officer and one of the passengers, stated to the Committee: "I noticed that the engine on the left side of the plane was not functioning properly. I, therefore, went inside the plane and after examining the engine inside, I found it to be working all right." He added the accompanying engineer "also tested the engine and certified its air-worthiness".

Captain kamura alias Yamamoto, who was the ground engineer in charge of maintence at the airport, concurred with Major Kono "that the engine of the left side was defective". He added the pilot told him "it was a brand new engine". He went on to say: "After slowing down the engine, he (the pilot) adjusted it for about 5 minutes. The engine was tested twice by Major Takizawa (the pilot). After being adjusted, I satisfied myself that the condition of the engine was all right. Major Takizawa also agreed with me that there was nothing wrong with the engine."

However, no sooner the aircraft was airborne, there was, according to Col Habib ur Rahman, Bose's ADC and a co-passenger, a loud explosion. He described it as "a noise like a cannon shot".

Capt kamura, who was watching from the ground, said: "Immediately on taking off, the plane tilted to its left side and I saw something fall down from the plane, which I later found was the propeller." He also maintained that the maximum height gained by the aircraft was 30-40 metres.

Capt kamura estimated "the plane crashed about 100 metres beyond the concrete runway" and immediately caught fire in the front portion.

Col Rahman's recounted: "Netaji turned towards me. I said 'Aagey Say Nikaleay, Pichey Say Rasta hin Hai'. (Please get out through the front; there is no way in the rear.) We could not get through the entrance door as it was all blocked and jammed by packages and other things. So Netaji got out through the fire; actually he rushed through the fire. I followed him through the same flames."

He continued: "The moment I got out, I saw him about 10 yards ahead of me, standing, looking in the opposite direction to mine towards the west. His clothes were on fire. I rushed and I experienced great difficulty in unfastening his bush-shirt belt. His trousers were not so much on fire and it was not necessary to take them off." (Col Rahman was in woollen uniform, whereas Bose was in cotton khakis, which, it was assessed, caught fire more easily.)

Col Rahman went on: "I laid him down on the ground and noticed a very deep cut on his head, probably on the left side. His face had been scorched by heat and his hair had also caught fire and singed."

He further rrated: "Netaji enquired from me in Hindustani: Aap Ko Ziada To hin Lagi?" (Hope you have not been hurt badly.) I replied, I feel that I will be all right'. About himself he said that he felt that he would not survive."

Bose added: "Jab Apney Mulk Wapis Jayen To Mulki Bhaiyon Ko Bata Ki Mein Akhri Dam Tak Mulk Ki Azadi Ke Liyay Larta Raha Hoon; Woh Jangi Azadi Ko Jari Rakhen. Hindustan Zaroor Azad Hoga, Oos Ko Koi Gulam hin Rakh Sakta." (When you go back to the country, tell the people that up to the last I have been fighting for the liberation of my country; they should continue to struggle, and I am sure India will be free before long. Nobody can keep India in bondage now.)

Lt Col Shiro Nonogaki, who was on the flight, said: "When I first saw Netaji after the plane crash, he was standing somewhere near the left tip of the left wing of the plane. His clothes were on fire and his assistant was trying to take off his coat."

He surmised: "Since Netaji was sitting very near the petrol tank, he was splashed all over with petrol. It seemed that all his body was on fire."

There were variations in the details provided by Col Rahman, Lt Col Nonogaki, Major Kono and Captain kamura and others. They were giving evidence 11 years after the accident. But in essence they were unimous on the fact of the crash; and on Bose suffering severe burns and injuries as a consequence.

He was rushed to the nearby nmon Military Hospital in a critical condition.

In September 1945, British authorities in India sent intelligence teams comprising of Messrs Finney and Davies, H K Roy and K P De to Bangkok, Saigon and Taipei to enquire about the whereabouts of Bose and, if possible, to arrest him. They, instead, returned with the story of the crash.

In May 1946, Lt Col J G Figgess was tasked by Military Intelligence under Lord Louis Mountbatten, commander of the British Forces in South East Asia, to further investigate the matter. He separately interviewed six Japanese military officers, including two of the passengers, and ratified the story of the crash.

In August 1946, Harin Shah of India's Free Press Jourl newspaper visited Taipei, delved into the matter and came up with the same conclusion.

What happened after Bose was admitted to hospital will be posted on 16 January next, the website stated.

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