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Saturday, March 17, 2012


Sometime back I bought at eBay auction some rare photographs (large 8" x 10”) of Victoria Memorial painted BLACK.
 In 1943 during WWII, Japanese were bombing Calcutta.  To prevent damage to Memorial from air raids bombing, it was camouflaged by painting black. A number of gas filled blimps (looked like mini Zeppelins) were tethered on  floating bouys  from river Hooghly  to prevent enemy planes diving low to to hit the hurriedly opened the new Howrah Bridge in 1943.

In this picture of Kidderpore Bridge one can see several blimps flying over ganges

Photography of landmarks was prohibited and was strictly enforced.

These photographs were taken by U.S.Army photographers Frank Bond and Frank Kagal in late 1943

I vividly remember the black painted Victoria Memorial in 1943 when going to St. Thomas School in Kidderpore (the class was held inside the Church as the entire school bldg., hostel and compound was requisitioned by the Military, sans Church)

I was then residing at 111 Central Avenue, opposite School of Tropical Medicine and walked to Esplanade Terminus to take the 2 paisa tram to Kidderpore. The Tram track in those days was diverted thru middle of Maidan, all the way to near Victoria Memorial where it turned right near lover’s lane and closely followed the edges of picket fence of Race Course.

The Hospital Street was lined with Fighter planes in thatch roof Hangars made from Cattle feed straw. 

The Red Road was converted into Air Strip Runway and fenced from maidan side.


  1. Very nice pictures. An attempt of the British to create a replica of Taj Mahal in the honour of the Queen, the Victoria Memorial is an imposing monument of glittering white marble in an oasis of green. Recognized as the symbol of Kolkata, this monument houses a museum displaying British memorabilia and knick knacks from the time of the Raj. Check out all about Victoria Memorial.

  2. Thank you for the amazing post on the construction of Victoria Memorial, Kolkata. It is now a museum which also has a collection of rare and antiquarian books.It is a tourist destination under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture. Explore Victoria Memorial timings for more details.

  3. Dear Mr Gupta,

    I am writing to you on behalf of Roli Books.
    Roli Books is a four-decade-old publishing house based in New Delhi which specialises in art and finely illustrated picture books.

    We are in the process of putting together a volume on the finest, most interesting and rare images of Calcutta/ Kolkata sourced from private and public collection from all over the world. We would like to include the images shared in this post in our collection.

    We would be grateful if you could please share your email address with us to take this forward.

    My contact details are

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Thank you.

    Best regards,

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