Hardit Singh Malik: First Indian to become an officer in any of the world’s air forces

Last Modified: Tue Apr 19 2016 14:18:05 GMT+0530 (India Standard Time)
  • 19
    Hardit Singh Malik's age when war broke out in WW1. A promising student (he would graduate with honours from Balliol, Oxford) he had a history of sporting prowess with a blue for golf, and no less than five appearances for first-class cricket in 1914.
  • 1916
    Joined the French Red Cross, and served in France after his applications were repeatedly denied by the British.
  • 1917
    Was selected to the join the Royal Air Force, after his tutor at Oxford met with General David Henderson, Head of the Royal Flying Corps., asking how it was that an Indian could be accepted for a commission by the French Air Force but not the British. Malik thus became the first Indian to join any of the world’s air forces.
  • 400
    Number of bullet holes the plane that he flew during a ‘terrific fight’ against the most fearsome of the war’s fliers, the squadron of Manfred von Richtofen – the ‘Red Baron’. Mallik was one of two survivors and spent months in hospital. Despite continuing to be troubled by the bullets lodged in his leg, Mailk was posted to a new squadron at Biggin Hill, responsible for defending London from the threat of Zeppelin and bomber attacks.
  • 1949
    Was appointed India’s Ambassador and remained in that role until his retirement in 1956. Prior to this role and after the war, he was appointed Prime Minister of Patiala (later part of Punjab); met with Jinnah to discuss whether or not Sikhs would join Pakistan; and was appointed by Nehru as India’s first High Commissioner to Canada.