Latitude 12°54'20"N Longitude 80°07'10"E

OPENED Transferred from R.A.F. June 1944


COMMISSIONED 01 July 1944 (with a nucleus party only)


PAID OFF 01 December 1945


CLOSED 31 December 1945


DISPOSAL Returned to R.A.F.
C.O. Captain M.M.S. Munday, D.S.C., R.N.
FUNCTION Accommodation and facilities for disembarked squadrons,

British & U.S. Torpedo facilities (No. 5 M.A.T.M.U.).

F.R.U. and communications squadron.

Double Class 'B' Aircraft Maintenance Yard.


ADDRESS R.N. Air Station,



S. India


LOCALITY The R.N. Air Station lies 13 miles SW. of Madras and one mile SSE. of Tambaram village.

St. Thomas Mount lies 7 miles NE.


LANDMARKS The Madras - Triohinopoly railway lines and main road, running SW. from Madras, pass within ¾ mile W. of the airfield.


ROAD AND RAIL ACCESS Access by road to Tambaram, where a metalled road runs NE. to Madras, distant 16 miles (R), and SW. to Triohinopoly.

Tambaram railway station ¼ miles (R) N. of the airfield, on the Southern India Madras - Triohinopoly line.


CONTROL Control Building on W. side of landing area, W. of runway intersection..


ELEVATION 90' above M.S.L.


RUNWAYS One, Bitumen on consolidated stone foundation; all weather.

05/23 QDM. 048°-228° .... 1600 x 50 yds. 

12/30 QDM. 124°-304° .... 1200 x 50 yds. 


TRACKS 40' taxi tracks run along either side of the runway, and  connect to hangars, hard standings and workshops.
OBSTRUCTIONS Navigation Scattered hills on all sides, greatest elevation of 440' distant 1¾ miles NNW. and 367' distant 3½ miles S.
Circuit Hill (563') and hill (349') lying 2,000 yds. WSW. and SSW. respectively, from the SW rend of runway 05/23.
Approach The approach to runway 05.23 on QDM. 048° lies over slightly rising ground between the two hill mentioned as circuit obstructions.


APPROACH Mean QDM. of safe approach sector 270°


WIND INDICATOR Two windsocks, one N. and S. sides of landing area, respectively.
HOMING - VISUAL By day - None.
By night - Landmark beacon on airfield will be available.
Beacons - YG, YJ and type 251MS projected.
APPROACH - VISUAL By day - None.
By night -  Airfield lighting (Naval).
APPROACH - RADIO 938 and Mobile 2573, projected.


COMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT M/F & H/F 8 transmitters, 8 receivers.
VH/F 3 transmitters, 3 receivers.


GROUND RADAR Fighter Direction using G.C.I. and Interrogator, and Fighter Direction using low and medium power Radar set with Interrogator.


ACCOMMODATION Living quarters in camp on NE. corner of the airfield (under construction). W.R.N.S. at present accommodated in requisitioned buildings in an adjacent village.



Officers: 247
Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings: 4658
W.R.N.S.  Officers:, Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings; 139
Asiatics: 1500
Police: 170
ARMOURIES To accommodate 6 squadrons (under construction).


COMPASS BASE Two, diameter 70'.


DISPERSAL Control Tower apron 150 x 27 yds. Torpedo apron 150 x 27 yds.18 aircraft standings, 13 standard and 5 of 100' diameter.

5 standings 20 x 30 yds. (instead of squadron hangars projected.)


HANGARS Squadron hangars dispersed around the taxi tracks on either side of the runways. Storage hangars area SW. of runway 03/23.


Number /Type Size Door Height Door Width
9 Squadron 70' x 90' 19' 70'
3 Squadron  60' x 80'  17' 55'
16 Storage 70' x 90'  19' 70'
1 Storage 25' x 90' 26' 90'

(1) The original layout, as shown on Plate No. 23, provided for a greater number of hangars than quoted above. Details are not at present available of the exact position of those hangars which have been constructed.

(2) Aircraft Maintenance Yard hangars are not included.


MEDICAL Sick bay on E. side of airfield, near living quarters. Sick Quarters on SE. corner of airfield.


METEOROLOGICAL Full service by Naval personnel.


FUEL AND OIL Aviation - Three installations under construction with total capacity 72,000 gallons.

87 and 100 Octane and unleaded 84.5 Octane.

M/T - 6.000 gallons (78 Octane).
Oil -  8.000 gallons. types held: 472 (B) type 1 and 3. 472 (C) type 1.  IntevaRed Band 1AA 745.
TEST BASE Aircraft radar base under construction.


TEST BUTT Test Butt suitable for cannon and 25 yd. range under construction..


WORKSHOPS Double Maintenance Yard under construction.





Air to air

"Covelong" distant 12 miles - 150°

Danger area 5 miles square, no part within 3 miles of coast.

A-B and O-D lines.

Air to ground and R. p. Firing "Elliot's Beach" distant 10 miles 160°

6 A. to G. targets in two lines.

4 Dummy tank R.P. targets.

1 Dive R.P. target.

Live and practice bombing "Chembarambakkam Tank" distant 7 miles - 330°

Circular danger area of 1,600 yds. radius from triangular moored target.

Max. height of release - 1,000' Live, 4.000 Practice.

Max weight of bomb - 500 lbs.

Practice bombing "Sonallyr forest" distant 7 miles - 140°

Projected. Circular danger area of 550 yds. radius from triangular target ith three concentric circles.

Max height of release - 4,000'.

Assault training

"Sonallyr" distant 8½ miles - 150°

Projected. Danger area 7,ooo yds. x 4,00 yds. Written off tanks, M/T, aircraft. etc., to be used as targets.

Information taken from CB 4368 B. Admiralty Handbook of Naval Air Stations Aug. 45



List of first and second line squadrons, station flight and other flying units based at this location

722 Fleet Requirements Unit

Formed here 01.09.44. Squadron HQ at Tambaram with three detached flights operating out of RAF Juhu (X Flt), RAF Vixagapatam (Y Flt), and RN Air Sect Cochin (Z Flt). Disbanded at Tambaram 24.10.45.

Equipped initially with 12 Martinet T.T.1.A Walrus, a Reliant. and possibly some Swordfish and Wildcats were added.

729 Instrument Flying Training Squadron

Moved here from RNARY Coimbatore 07.06.45. Moved to RNAS Puttalam 20.07.45.

Equipped with Harvard IIIs and Oxfords.

742 RN Air Transport Squadron

A detachment (?) operated here from RNAMY Coimbatore 21.09.44 to 01.02.45 when the entire squadron relocated to RNAS Sulur.

Equipped with Expeditors

757 Fighter Pool Squadron & Operational Training Unit

Moved here from RNAS Puttalam 15.07.45. Moved top RNAS Katukurunda 12.11.45.

Equipped with Corsair, Hellcat, Wildcat and Seafire.

804 Single Seat Fighter Squadron

Moved here from RNAS Colombo 21.03.45 Moved to RNAS Trincomalee 19.04.45.

Disembarked from HMS AMEER 23 - 27.06.45

Disembarked from HMS AMEER 12 - 19.07.45.

Equipped with Hellcat IIs.

8896 Single Seat Fighter Squadron

Disembarked from HMS AMEER 12.05.45.

Moved to RNAS Trincomalee 30.05.45

Moved here from RNAS Trincomalee 05.06.45

Embarked in HMS EMPRESS 10.06.45

Equipped with 24 Hellcat IIs.

1846 Single Seat Fighter Squadron

Disembarked from HMS COLOSSUS 10.06.45

Re-embarked in HMS COLOSSUS 10.07.45

Equipped with 18 Corsair IV

1850 Single Seat Fighter Squadron

Disembarked from HMS VENGEANCE 11.06.45

Re-embarked in HMS VENGEANCE 01.07.45

Equipped with 24 Corsair IV

1851 Single Seat Fighter Squadron

Disembarked from HMS VENERABLE 07.06.45

Re-embarked in HMS VENERABLE 03.07.45

Equipped with 24 Corsair IV



Tambaram airfield dates back to 1942 when work commenced to construct an airfield for the R.A.F. with two runways covering an expanse of about 1400 acres. No use appears to have been made of the station by the R.A.F. and it had been agreed, at some time in 1943, that the station would be transferred to Admiralty charge1 for use as a naval Air Station and development into a Double Aircraft Maintenance Yard. The exact date of transfer is unclear but the RN was using the station from as early as February 1944 when it appears in official records as RN Aircraft Repair Yard Tambaram and at least 5 aircraft were on site during this month 2.

Royal Naval Air Station Tambaram commissioned as H.M.S. VALLURU on July 1st 1944 The description in official records changed from to Aircraft Maintenance Yard from this date The first unit to arrive was No. 722 Fleet Requirements Unit which formed here on September 1st with 12 Martinet T.T.1 Target Tugs. Squadron HQ was at Tambaram while three detached flights operated out of RAF Juhu (X Flt), RAF Vizagapatam (Y Flt), and RN Air Sect Cochin (Z Flt) to provide for local requirements. A detachment of Beech Expeditors (number not known) from No. 742 RN Air Transport Squadron began operations from the station beginning on September 21st, making regular communications flights to other stations in Southern India; the main squadron HQ was at RNAMY Coimbatore.

The first front-line unit to visit the station was 804 Squadron which arrived from RNAS Colombo with its Hellcat fighters on March 21st 1945. Their stay was only a short one however, the squadron moved to RNAS Trincomalee on April 19th. On May 12th a second Hellcat squadron arrived, No. 896 Squadron which disembarked from the escort carrier HMS AMEER for a short training period; at the end of the month it made a round trip flight to RNAS Trincomalee, arriving back on June 5th. 896 finally depart to embark in the escort carrier HMS EMPRESS on June 10th.

The start of June 1945 brought the first Corsair squadrons to Tambaram, these were part of the carrier air groups aboard the first of the new Colossus class light Fleet Carriers which had arrived on the East Indies station on route to the Pacific; the squadrons were put ashore to continue working-up before sailing to join the British Pacific Fleet. First to arrive was 1851 squadron (24 Corsair IVs) which disembarked from HMS VENERABLE on the 7th, followed by 1845 (18 Corsair IVs) from HMS COLOSSUS on the 10th, and finally 1850 (24 Corsair IVs) from HMS VENGEANCE on the 11th. These squadrons were to make extensive use of the live firing ranges in the area to hone their combat skills. The Hellcats of 804 now operating aboard HMS AMEER made a short stop over 23rd - 27th June, possibly to re-equip. A further training squadron also arrived in June, 729 Instrument Flying Training Squadron equipped with Harvard IIIs and Oxfords moved here from RNARY Coimbatore on June 7th.

At the start of July 1945 the Corsair squadrons began returning to their carriers, 1850 flew out to HMS VENGEANCE on the 1st, followed by 1851 returning to HMS VENERABLE on the 3rd, and 1845 rejoining HMS COLOSSUS on the 10th. 804 made a final short stop over, disembarking from HMS AMEER 12 - 19th July; this was to be the last use made of the station be a front-line unit.

A new unit arrived on the station on the July when 15th No. 757 Fighter Pool Squadron, a fighter OTU ( Operational Training Unit) moved here from RNAS Puttalam. This unit operated all fighter types operated by the RN carrier forces operating with the East Indies and British Pacific Fleets, namely Corsair, Hellcat, Wildcat and Seafires, providing continuing flying training, gunnery and bombing practice and deck landings with training carriers. 729 IFTU moved to RNAS Puttalam on July 20th, leaving only 757 fighter OTU and the martinetts of 722 FRU operating from the station.

After the Japanese surrender on August 15th the station was no longer required and all building work on the Aircraft Maintenance Yard was suspended. 722 FRU was disbanded at Tambaram on October 24th and 757 OTu moved to RNAS Katukurunda on November 12th. H.M.S. VALLURU was paid off on December 1st 1945, a retard party remained on site until the 31st when the station officially closed. It was returned to RAF control in 1946.




1. Appears in the December 1943 edition of the Navy List  as 'RNAS Tambaram' under control of Rear Admiral, Royal Naval Air Station, Indian Ocean. No entry for ship name parent unit.

2. Albacore L7096, Avenger N842, Martinett EM525, Swordfish LS235 and Tiger Moth LR236
recorded as on site February 1944.



Click here for a list of Primary sources

Additional sources:

Confidential Admiralty Fleet Orders:

2573/43 transfer from R.A.F.

1466/44 Commissioning



Admiralty Fleet Order

6290/43 Mentioned as an RNARY in B.R. 377 (B) reference to spares carried for Barracuda aircraft types.

5794/44 First mention of RNAMY

7323/45 Paying off


National Archive material:

ADM 1/13516 COMMONWEALTH OF NATIONS (21): RAF airfield, Tambaram, Madras, taken over as RN air station



Photographs from the collection of the late Leslie Howlett, kindly supplied by his daughter Mrs. Kay Morgan.









Location map and airfield plan go here


Cleaned up versions will appear later


View Larger Map



Click to see gallery of images relating to RNAS Tambaram





 © 2013 Tony Drury


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