John O'quino

Chabua Airfield and Fishing in Assam

Roy Church


Roy Church worked in Assam tea estates over 1959-67, after three years in the British Army. He is married and his eldest son was born at Panitola Central Hospital, Dibrugarh in 1965. For the last 20 years he has travelled extensively in the Central Himalaya leading groups of friends.

Editor’s note: This story initially appeared on It has been edited for this website.


I was garden assistant at Dikom Tea Estate in Dibrugarh district when Indian Air Force (IAF) Squadron Leader John O’quino arrived in the 1960s to reopen the Chabua airfield.

This airstrip had been unused since it had been abandoned by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) at the end of WWII. During the War, USAAF had used it to undertake what was called ‘flying the hump’– a high altitude military aerial supply route from Assam, across northern Burma, to Yunnan province in southwestern China. The airfield had no buildings, and the jungle had grown prolifically through cracks in the concrete runway. Readers who have spent time in Assam will recall that the Americans not only built a concrete runway but also concreted the main Dibrugarh-Tinsukia highway 37. It was the only place for miles around where you could ‘put your foot down'.

Subscribe to RSS - John O'quino