Wg Cdr KK ‘Jumbo’ Majumdar DFC
Indian Air Force has the distinction of producing an officer whose name, at end of the Second World War was included among the best pilots of all Allied Forces. Wg Cdr KK ‘Jumbo’ Majumdar DFC was born at Calcutta on 06 Sep 1913. In Dec 1933, Majumdar graduated from Royal Flying College which beckoned an illustrious career in the Air Force. In Nov 1934 Pilot Officer KK Majumdar was posted to No. 1 Sqn of the IAF at Drigh Road Karachi for his leadership and daring performance. Majumdar was awarded with Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and thus become the first IAF Pilot to be awarded this honour. On 17 Feb 45 Jumbo died an accident at Walton near Lahore while performing complicated turns during and air show.
Air Cmde Mehar Singh
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 in which lead 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 often them with 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 at Srinagar is the most memorable. Baba Mehar Singh retired in 1948 from the IAF but this great journey was cut short when he died in an air crash on 11 Mar 1952.
Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee
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 commissions. 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’ (Millitary Division). He took over as Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Air Force in the year 1954. He passed away in the year 1960.
Fg Offr Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon
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 Indian Air Force on 04 Jun 1967 as a Flying Officer. He was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military decoration, in recognition of his lone defence of Srinagar Air Base against a Pakistani air raid during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.
AVM Harjinder Singh
Harjinder Singh joined the Indian Air Froce (IAF) as a Hawai Sepoy (Air Soldier), a rank lower than that of a soldier. He got commissioned in 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 Sep1971.
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 and pilot with the Indian Air Force 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, and spent eight days in space aboard the Salyut 7 space station. Launched along with two Soviet Cosmonauts aboard Soyuz T-11 on the 3 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 its highest gallantry award (during peace time.), the Ashoka Chakra on him and the other two Russian members of his mission.
Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal
Pratap Chandra Lal was born in December 1917 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 a glorious journey in the Indian Air Force. He served the IAF from 1939 until his retirement in 1973. During his illustrious career, he served as CO of No. 7 Sqn (in the Burma campaign), 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 Feburary 2001.