Our Stalwarts

Marshal of the Air Force 
Arjan Singh DFC
Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh DFC, known for his Professional Competence, Leadership and Strategic vision, is a colossus in the IAF.
Arjan Singh was born on 15 April 1919 and since his early days as a student, he has been an achiever. An ace swimmer, he held an all-India record in free style swimming in one mile and half mile events. Arjan Singh was 19 years of age when he was selected for training at RAF Cranwell in 1938. He topped the course among his batch of Indian Cadets He was the vice captain of swimming, athletics and hockey teams during his training at Royal Air Force College Cranwell.
For displaying outstanding leadership, great skill and courage in Burma Campaign during World War II. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1944.
Beginning Aug 1945, Wg Cdr Arjan Singh was selected to undergo the RAF Staff college at Bracknell in the UK.
On 15 Aug 1947, he had the unique honour of leading the flypast of over a hundred IAF aircraft over the Red Fort and on the same day, he assumed the command of Air Force Station, Ambala in the rank of Group Captain.
In addition to the high standards of Arjan Singh set in flying and training, he stabilised the administration, with a fair hand and enabled it to recover from the triple shock of demobilisation, partition of the country and the Air Force, and communal riots of unprecedented scale.

In 1949, Air Commodore Arjan Singh took over as the Air Officer Commanding of Operational command, which later came to be known as Western Air Command. Arjan Singh had the distinction of having the longest tenure as the AOC of Operation Command, from 1949-1952 and again from 1957-1961. Promoted to Air Vice Marshal, he was the AOC-in-C of Operation command. Towards the end of the 1962 war, he was appointed the DCAS and became the VCAS in 1963. He was the overall commander of the joint air training exercises “Shiksha” held between the IAF, RAF and RAAF thus laying the foundation of acquisition of new RADAR systems for IAF and training of IAF officers in USA for advanced gunnery course. He was also instrumental in planning and setting up of Armament Training Wing at Jamnagar, and later the Air Force Academy in 1967.
As Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Arjan Singh led the IAF in the 1965 War against Pakistan, wherein the IAF was able to blunt the Pakistani armoured thrust at Chamb, gained air superiority over the PAF and helped the Indian Army score Strategic victories.
Arjan Singh was awarded the Padma Vibhushan for leading Indian Air Force during 1965 war. Subsequently, in recognition of the Air Force’s contribution in the war, the rank of CAS was upgraded to that of Air Chief Marshal and Arjan Singh became the first Air Chief Marshal of the Indian Air Force. On completion of five years as the Chief of the Air Staff in two ranks, Arjan Singh retired on 16 Jul 1969.
In his career, Arjan Singh flew more than 60 different types of aircraft ranging from Pre World War II era bi planes to the supersonic MIG-21. He flew his first solo on MIG-21 as Chief of the Air Staff and remained a flyer to the end of his tenure in the IAF, visiting forward squadrons & units and flying with them.
In 1971, Arjan Singh was appointed as India’s Ambassador to Switzerland. Three years later, he was appointed as the country’s High Commissioner to Kenya. He also served as a member of the minorities commission in 1978 and later, as the Chairman of Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, an Institute of great repute, which he served with great distinction till 1983. In 1989, he was appointed the Lt Governor of Delhi.
Arjan Singh has remained a source of inspiration to fellow Indians and Officers. His simple formula for success is summed up in a few words by him.
Firstly, you should be thorough in your profession of everyone;Secondly, complete the job at hand to the satisfaction of everyone;Thirdly, you must have implicit faith in your subordinates;And fourthly, your efforts should always be honest and sincere.YB Chavan, Defence minister of India during the 1965 war described him as the jewel of a person, quietly efficient and firm, unexcitable but a very able leader.
After retiring from the IAF, Arjan Singh remained active and supportive of various causes for the welfare of air force veterans. Towards this end, he set up a trust in 2004 by contributing Twenty million rupees from his personal wealth to it.
On 17 April 2007, Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, wrote to Arjan Singh and honoured him as Marshal of the Air Force and mentioned that the nation looked up to him as a source of continuing inspiration, wisdom and strength to the Indian Armed Forces.
Marshal of the IAF Arjan Singh passed away on 16 Sep 2017. His dynamic personality, professional competence, honesty of purpose in his service to the IAF and the country truly sets him apart as a leader and an icon of the Indian Air Force.
Wg Cdr KK ‘Jumbo’ Majumdar DFC
BORN: 06 SEP 1913 | DIED: 17 FEB 1945
The Indian Air Force has the distinction of producing an officer whose name featured among the best pilots of all Allied Forces by the end of the Second World War. Wg Cdr KK ‘Jumbo’ Majumdar DFC was born at Calcutta on 06 Sep 1913. In Dec 1933, Majumdar graduated from the Royal Flying College and the illustrious career in the Air Force beckoned him. In Nov 1934 Pilot Officer KK Majumdar was posted to No. 1 Sqn of the IAF at Drigh Road, Karachi where he displayed sound leadership and daring performance.  Majumdar was awarded with Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and thus became the first IAF Pilot to be awarded this honour.  On 17 February 1945 Jumbo died in an accident at Walton near Lahore while performing complicated turns during an air show. 

Air Cmde Mehar Singh
BORN: 20 MAR 1915 | DIED: 11 MAR 1952

Air Cmde Mehar Singh was born in the district of Lyallpur on 20 Mar 1915.  Mehar Singh was attracted by the idea of flying at a very young age which led him to join Royal Air Force College Cranwell, England in 1934, and soon Mehar Singh earned the respect of his fellow airmen with his flying skills.  Formally known as Baba Mehar Singh, he earned an image of a strict disciplinarian amongst his subordinates, but also looked after them with a lot of care and affection.  As a 29 years old Squadron Commander he was awarded Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for effective leadership and personal bravery.  Out of his many achievements, the mission led by Baba Mehar Singh carrying the first contingent of Indian Army in a Dakota aircraft to Srinagar in 1948 is the most memorable.  Baba Mehar Singh retired in 1948 from the IAF. His life was cut short when he died in an air crash on 11 Mar 1952.

Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee
BORN: 05 MAR 1911 | DIED: 08 NOV 1960
Subroto Mukerjee was the youngest child of a close-knit and well known Bengali family.  At the age of 18, he was one of the first six Indian boys selected to undergo two years of flying training at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell.  On 08 October, 1932 he was one of the six Indian Cadets who received their commission.  He became the first Indian to command a Flight, a Squadron, a Station, and finally, the Service itself.  He participated in NWFP Operation in 1942 and was Mentioned-in-Dispatches.  In Jun 1945 he was awarded with ‘Order of the British Empire’ (Military Division).  He took over as Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Air Force in 1954.  He passed away in 1960
Fg Offr Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon
BORN: 17 JUL 1943 | DIED: 14 DEC 1971
Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was born on 17 Jul 1943 in the village of Rurka in Ludhiana District, Punjab.  He was the son of Hony Flight Lieutenant Tarlochan Singh Sekhon.  He was commissioned into the flying branch of the Indian Air Force on 04 Jun 1967. He was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military decoration, in recognition of his lone defence of Srinagar Air Base flying a Gnat against Sabres during a Pakistani air raid in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.

AVM Harjinder Singh
BORN: 04 FEB 1909 | DIED: 06 SEP 1971
Harjinder Singh joined the Indian Air Force (IAF) as a Hawai Sepoy (Air Soldier), a rank lower than that of a soldier. He was commissioned into the Royal Air Force on 03 Sep 1942. One of his many initiatives was the construction of an aircraft at IAF Station Kanpur in early 1958.  He was an engineering genius who had a vision ahead of his time. He rose to the rank of Air Vice Marshal and became the first Commander-in-Chief of the prestigious Maintenance Command at Kanpur. He passed away untimely on 06 Sep 1971.

Air Chief Marshal PC Lal

Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal was born in December 1916 at Allahabad, in a family of lawyers. He had an early interest in aviation, and became the youngest Indian to earn Amateur Pilot’s Licence at the age of 17, in January 1934.The outbreak of war in 1939 resulted in the expansion of Royal Indian Air Force and all those with pilots’ licenses were invited to join up. Thence began his glorious journey in the Indian Air Force. He served the IAF from 1939 until his retirement in 1973. During his illustrious career, he commanded No. 7 Sqn (in the Burma campaign), was AOC-in-C of HQ Western Air Command, Managing Director and Chairman of HAL, the VCAS and the Chief of Air Staff during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.  After his retirement from the IAF, he served as the Joint Chairman of Indian Airlines and Air India till 1980.   Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal passed away in 1982.

Air Chief Marshal Om Prakash Mehra

Air Chief Marshal Om Prakash Mehra was born on 19 Jan 1919 at Lahore. He finished schooling at the Central Model School in 1933 and joined Government College University, Lahore. After a short spell of flying Tiger Moths at the Northern India Flying Club, Walton, he joined the RIAF as Pilot Officer on 30 Nov 1940. During his stint in the IAF, he commanded the prestigious 1 Sqn and served as Commandant, Elementary Flying Training School at Ambala. In 1963 he took over as AOC-in-C Maintenance Command, in which capacity he served during the 1965 war. He served as Deputy Chief of Air Staff before taking over as Chairman Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. On 15 Jan 1973 he took over as the Chief of Air Staff, succeeding Air Chief Marshal PC Lal. He was a recipient of Padma Vibhushan and went on to serve as Governor of Maharashtra (1980) and later, as Governor of Rajasthan (1982)
Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh

Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh was born on 10 March 1926 at Gurdaspur District, Punjab. He was commissioned in the RIAF as a pilot in 1944. His operational flying career spanned from the Spitfire to raising the first MiG-21 Sqn in India. He had earlier made the first official “Supersonic Bang” over India in New Delhi when the Mystere IV-A was showcased for a public demonstration. He commanded 2 Sqn, flying Spitfire XVIII and 1 Sqn, flying the Mystere IV-A and also Air Force Base Lohegaon. He held the appointment of AOC-in-C Western Air Command before he took over as the Chief of the Air Staff from 1981 to 1984. After retirement, he went on to serve as India’s Ambassador to Brazil from 1985 to 1987. He passed away in February 2001.

Air Chief Marshal Idris Hasan Latif


Air Chief Marshal Idris Hassan Latif was born on 09 June 1923 at Hyderabad. He was educated at the prestigious Nizam College, Hyderabad. He was commissioned into the RIAF in 1942 and took part in the Burma Campaign on the Arakan Front during World War-II. He served as the Air Attaché at the Indian Embassy in Washington DC and held the dual responsibility of Air Attaché to the Indian High Commissioner's office in Canada.  In his stint with the IAF, he held key appointments of ACAS (Plans), AOA, AOC-in-C Central Air Command and Maintenance Command, VCAS and was appointed Chief of the Air Staff in 1978. After retirement from the IAF, he served as Governor of Maharashtra and as Indian ambassador to France. He passed away on 27 June 2008. 

Air Chief Marshal Katre


Air Chief Marshal Lakshman Madhav Katre was born on 26 Jan 1927 in Madras. He was commissioned on 09 Apr 1945 and started his illustrious career in the IAF as a Pilot Officer in 1 Sqn. Later on, he commanded 17 Sqn and 7 Sqn. He served as Commandant, Air Force Academy, Dundigal, where he expanded the facilities to cater for the training of Ground Duty branches and reoriented the flying activity for advanced training on jet aircraft. He served as AOC-in-C Eastern Air Command and subsequently, AOC-in-C Western Air Command. He took over as Chief of Air Staff on 04 Sep 1984. He passed away untimely on 01 Jul 85 while still in harness.

Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma


Wg Cdr Rakesh Sharma was born on 13 Jan 1949 at Patiala Punjab, and was schooled at St. George’s Grammar School, Abid Road Hyderabad.  He was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a Pilot Officer in 1970.  Wg Cdr Rakesh Sharma, then a Squadron Leader embarked on a historic mission in 1984 as part of a joint space program between the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Soviet Intercosmos space program. He spent eight days in space aboard the Salyut 7 space station.  Launched along with two Soviet Cosmonauts aboard Soyuz T-11 on 03 Apr 1984 was 35 year old Rakesh Sharma.  He was conferred with the honour of ‘Hero of Soviet Union’ upon his return from space.  The Government of India conferred on him its highest peacetime gallantry award, the Ashoka Chakra.
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