Soul of the Indian Defence and valiant hero of 1965, Marshal of IAF Arjan Singh passes away
Source : NewsBharatiDate : 17-Sep-2017
New Delhi, September 17: The guiding man and the sole Marshal of the Indian Air Force, Arjan Singh passed away at the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital on Saturday evening, hours after he was admitted there following a cardiac arrest. He was 98.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited Arjan Singh in hospital on Saturday, mourned his death. “We remember his outstanding service to the nation,” he said. President Kovind offered condolences to his family and called him ‘a great air warrior’. Public figures mourned his death and remembered him by sharing glimpses of his earlier life on Twitter.
Traversing back to his earlier life, Arjan Singh was an officer who shaped the IAF in its early years as well as during some of its most difficult junctures, Arjan Singh had the honour of leading the fly-past of more than a hundred IAF aircraft over the Red Fort on India’s first Independence Day, August 15, 1947. In 2002, on the occasion of Republic Day, he was granted the honorary rank of Marshal, the highest military rank attainable, which before him only two Army chiefs, K M Carriappa and Sam Manekshaw, had achieved.
Arjan Singh was born on 15 April 1919, in Lyalpur of undivided Punjab. He completed his education from Montgomery. In 1938 when he got selected for the Empire Pilot training course at RAF Cranwell, he was still in college and was only 19 years old. Officer posted in Karachi, he participated in operations against the tribals in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).
The highlights of his early career were the two operational tenures on the Burma Front during the Second World War, first as a Pilot Officer with Tigers Squadron and subsequently as the Commander of the same Squadron. As a consummate Squadron Commander, flying Hurricane fighters in defence of Imphal in 1944, beseiged by the Japanese, he had displayed masterly leadership. In an unprecedented step, the then Supreme Allied Commander of the South East Asian Command, Lord Mountbatten, had personally awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross on the battlefield for his leadership and performance in defeating the Japanese.
On 01 August 1964, Arjan Singh took over as the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) in the rank of Air Marshal. Arjan Singh was the first Air Chief who kept his flying category till his CAS rank. Having flown over 60 different types of aircraft from Pre-Second World War era biplanes to the more contemporary Gnats & Vampires, he had also flown in transports like the Super Constellation.
A testing time came in September 1965 when Pakistan launched Operation Grand Slam, in which an armoured thrust targeted the vital town of Akhnur, he was summoned into the Defence Minister's office with a request for air support. When asked how quickly the IAF will be ready for operations,he replied with his characteristic nonchalance,"...in an hour". And true to his word, the Air Force struck the Pakistani offensive in an hour. He led the IAF through the war showing unparalleled leadership.
For his meritorious services during the 1965 Indo-Pak War, Arjan Singh was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan. On January 15, 1966, he became the first officer of the IAF to be promoted to the rank of Air Chief Marshal, at par with a General. He continued to serve the country in various capacities even after retirement in July 1969. In 1971, he was made India’s Ambassador to Switzerland and in 1974, the High Commissioner to Kenya. He also served as a member of the Minorities Commission and as the Lt Governor of Delhi.