Arjan Singh

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Marshal of the Indian Air Force
Arjan Singh
DFC
Marshal of Indian Air Force Arjan Singh.gif
Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh and (right) the ceremonial baton
Born (1919-04-15)15 April 1919
Lyallpur, Punjab, British India
(now Faisalabad, Pakistan)
Died 16 September 2017(2017-09-16) (aged 98)
New Delhi, India
Allegiance  British India (1938–1947)
 India (from 1947)
Service/branch  Indian Air Force (1938-1947)
 Indian Air Force (1947-1970, 2002-2017)[a]
Years of service 1938–1970
2002–2017[b]
Rank Marshal of the IAF.svg Marshal of the Air Force
Commands held No. 1 Squadron IAF
Ambala Air Force Station
Western Command
VCAS
Battles/wars World War II
Indo-Pakistani War of 1947
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Awards

Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC (15 April 1919 – 16 September 2017) was an Indian Air Force marshal who served as Chief of the Air Staff from 1964 to 1969. For his distinguished service in commanding the IAF during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan and in 1966 became the first IAF officer to be promoted to air chief marshal.[1] After retiring from the IAF, he served as a diplomat, politician and advisor to the Indian government. He was Lieutenant Governor of Delhi from 1989 to 1990. In 2002, he became the first and only officer of the Indian Air Force to be promoted to five-star rank as Marshal of the Indian Air Force, equal to the army rank of Field Marshal.[2]

Early and personal life[edit]

Arjan Singh as a flight lieutenant with a group Indian pilots from No.1 Squadron standing by a Hawker Hurricane IIc. L to R : Ibrahim, Homi Ratnagar, Arjan Singh, Henry and Murcot. World War II.
Arjan Singh, C.O. of No. 1 Squadron IAF, being handed command during World War II.

Singh was born on 15 Apr 1919 in Lyallpur, Punjab (now known as Faisalabad, Pakistan), in what was then British India, into a Sikh family [3] The British had built a network of canals across the Punjab in the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century, and had encouraged farmers to settle there and cultivate the land. Arjan Singh's family had been among those which had settled there after being allotted agricultural land by the administration. They had also joined the armed forces, in keeping with community traditions, and Arjan Singh was the fourth generation of his family to join the British Indian armed forces.[4]

His father was a Lance Daffadar in the Hodson's Horse at the time of his birth, and retired as a full Risaldar in the Cavalry, serving for a time as ADC to a Division Commander.[5] Arjan Singh's grandfather Risaldar Major Hukam Singh served in the Guides Cavalry between 1883 and 1917,[5] and his great-grandfather, Naib Risaldar Sultana Singh, was among the first two generations of the Guides Cavalry enlisted in 1854; he was martyred during the Afghan campaign of 1879.[4] Thus, after three generations of men serving in the lower and middle ranks of the army, Arjan Singh was to become the first member of his family to become a commissioned officer.

In 1948, Singh married Teji Singh, a lady of his own community and similar family background, in a match arranged by their families in the usual Indian manner. They were married for 63 years before her death in April 2011. In 1949 their first daughter Amrita was born. Three years later her brother Arvind Singh was born and the youngest Asha, followed another three years later.[6] A niece is actress Mandira Bedi; Teji Singh was her maternal aunt.[7]

Early military career[edit]

Uniform of Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh at Air Force Museum in Delhi

Singh was educated at Montgomery, British India (now in Pakistan) and later entered the RAF College Cranwell in 1938 and was commissioned as a pilot officer in December 1939. In 1943, he was promoted to acting squadron leader and became the commander of No. 1 Squadron.[4]

Singh led No. 1 Squadron, Indian Air Force into combat during the Arakan Campaign in 1944.[8] He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in June 1944:[9]

Acting Squadron Leader Arjan Singh (IND/1577), Indian Air Force, No. 1 (I. A. F) Squadron

This officer has completed very (sic) many operational missions involving flights over difficult country, often in bad weather. He has displayed outstanding leadership, great skill and courage, qualities which have been reflected in the high morale and efficiency of the squadron which has won much success.

Singh almost faced a court-martial in February 1945 when he tried to raise the morale of a trainee pilot (later rumored to be the future Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh) by conducting a low level air pass over a house in Kerala.[8] In his defence, he insisted that such tricks were needed for every cadet to be a fighter pilot.[8] Later that year, he commanded the Indian Air Force Exhibition Flight.[10] As part of the celebrations for Independence Day on 15 August 1947, Singh, by then a wing commander and acting group captain, led the first fly-past of RIAF aircraft over the Red Fort in Delhi.[11]

Commands held[edit]

Flag of the Marshal of Indian Air Force
U.S. President Barack Obama greets Singh in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan during India's republic day parade, 2015.

Singh was Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), from 1 August 1964 to 15 July 1969, and was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1965.[12] When appointed as Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force, he was just about 45.[13] He has been the only Chief of the Air Staff to have headed the Air Force for five years as opposed to the regular tenure of two and a half to three years.[10]

Singh also became the first Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force to be upgraded to the rank of Air Chief Marshal from the rank of Air Marshal in recognition of his Air Force’s contribution in the 1965 war.[13] He took retirement from his services in 1970 at the age of 50.[10]

Diplomatic and political career[edit]

In 1971, after his retirement, Singh was appointed as the Indian Ambassador to Switzerland and Vatican serving concurrently.[14] He was also appointed as the High Commissioner to Kenya from 1974 to 1977. Subsequently, he served as a member of the National Commission for Minorities and The Government of India from 1975 to 1981.[14] He was the Lt. Governor of Delhi from December 1989 to December 1990 and was made Marshal of the Air Force in January, 2002.[15]

Later life and death[edit]

Singh's health declined in his final years, and he frequently made references to growing old and the passing away of many of his friends.[16] In July 2015, then aged 96 and using a wheelchair due to a temporary indisposition, he was among the many dignitaries to lay a wreath at the base of the coffin carrying the mortal remains of former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at Palam Airport.[17] He paid his last respects to President Kalam at Palam Airport on 28 July.[17] He remained active even at 98, continuing to take tea and to play golf twice a week at the Delhi Golf Club.[7][16]

Singh suffered a cardiac arrest at his New Delhi residence in the early morning of 16 September 2017 and was rushed to the Army Hospital, Research and Referral, in New Delhi, where his condition was stated to be critical.[18] He died at 7:47 p.m. (IST) that evening.[13] After his passing, his body was returned to his home at 7A Kautilya Marg in New Delhi, where numerous visitors and dignitaries offered their respects, including President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the three service chiefs of the Indian Armed Forces.[19] Accorded a state funeral by the Indian government, he was cremated at Brar Square in New Delhi on 18 September with full military honours, including a military flypast by IAF fighter jets and helicopters.[20]

IAF career highlights[edit]

Year Event Rank
1938 Entered RAF College Cranwell as a Flight Cadet
23 December 1939 Commissioned in Royal Air Force as a Pilot Officer[21]
UK-Air-OF1B.svg
9 May 1941 Flying Officer
UK-Air-OF1A.svg
15 May 1942 Flight Lieutenant
UK-Air-OF2.svg
September 1943 (Acting) Squadron Leader[22]
UK-Air-OF3.svg
2 June 1944 Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross
UK-Air-OF3.svg
February 1945 (Acting) Wing Commander, Royal Indian Air Force[22]
UK-Air-OF4.svg
1 January 1947 (Acting) Wing Commander, Royal Indian Air Force, Air Force Station, Kohat[22]
UK-Air-OF4.svg
16 August 1947 (Acting) Group Captain, Royal Indian Air Force, Air Force Station, Ambala[22]
UK-Air-OF5.svg
15 August 1948 Wing Commander, Royal Indian Air Force[22]
UK-Air-OF4.svg
16 August 1948 (Acting) Group Captain, Royal Indian Air Force, Director, Training, Air Headquarters[22]
UK-Air-OF5.svg
1949 (Acting) Group Captain, Royal Indian Air Force, Director, Training, Air Headquarters[22]
UK-Air-OF5.svg
12 December 1950 (Acting) Air Commodore, Indian Air Force AOC, Operational Command[22]
Air Commodore of IAF.png
1 October 1955 Air Commodore, AOC Western Air Command, Delhi[22]
Air Commodore of IAF.png
1 May 1958 (Acting) Air Vice Marshal, AOC-in-C Western Air Command, Delhi[22]
Air Vice Marshal of IAF.png
16 June 1960 Air Vice Marshal[22]
Air Vice Marshal of IAF.png
1 January 1961 Air Vice Marshal, Air Officer in Charge of Administration, Air HQ[22]
Air Vice Marshal of IAF.png
1 January 1963 Deputy Chief of Air Staff[22]
Air Vice Marshal of IAF.png
5 August 1963 Vice Chief of the Air Staff (India)[22]
Air Vice Marshal of IAF.png
1 August 1964 Chief of Air Staff (India) (Acting Air Marshal)[22]
Air Marshal of IAF.png
1 December 1964 Chief of Air Staff (India) (confirmed in rank as Air Marshal)[22]
Air Marshal of IAF.png
15 January 1966 Chief of Air Staff rank upgraded to Air Chief Marshal; appointed Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee[22]
Air Chief Marshal of IAF.png
16 January 1970 Retired from Indian Air Force
Air Chief Marshal of IAF.png
26 January 2002 Marshal of the Indian Air Force
Marshal of the IAF.svg

Awards and decorations[edit]

Padma Vibhushan
General Service Medal 1947
Samar Seva Star
Raksha Medal
Sainya Seva Medal
Indian Independence Medal
Distinguished Flying Cross
1939–1945 Star
Burma Star
War Medal 1939–1945
India Service Medal

Air Force Station Arjan Singh[edit]

On 14 April 2016 at an event to mark the Marshal's 97th birthday, the then Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha announced that Indian Air Force base at Panagarh in West Bengal will be named after MIAF Arjan Singh in honor of his service, and will be called Air Force Station Arjan Singh from then.[26][25][27]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Indian military officers of five-star rank hold their rank for life, and are considered to be serving officers until their deaths.
  2. ^ Indian military officers of five-star rank hold their rank for life, and are considered to be serving officers until their deaths.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Only Marshal of IAF, hero of 1965, Arjan Singh shaped the force". The Indian Express. 17 September 2017. Archived from the original on 17 September 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  2. ^ Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC Archived 7 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Article in The Tribune Archived 17 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ a b c "Timeline of the life of IAF Marshal Arjan Singh". The Indian Express. 16 September 2017. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Air Marshal Arjan Singh dies at 98". The Statesmen. 16 September 2017. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  6. ^ Singh, Roopinder (2002). Arjan Singh: Marshal of the Indian Air Force. India: Rupa & Co ,India. pp. Chapter 4. ISBN 978-8171679386.
  7. ^ a b "Mandira Bedi remembers uncle Arjan Singh: Even at 98, he used to play golf twice a week". The Hindustan Times. 17 September 2017. Archived from the original on 17 September 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  8. ^ a b c "Arjan Singh, Indian Air Force Marshall and War Hero, Dies at 98". Loksatta. 16 September 2017. Archived from the original on 6 October 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  9. ^ "No. 36542". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 May 1944. p. 2534.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Arjan Singh: an epitome of military leadership". Manorma Online. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  11. ^ "Both of us were part of first flypast over Red Fort on August 15, 1947: Air Marshal Randhir Singh reminisces about Arjan Singh". The Indian Express. 17 September 2017. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  12. ^ "Arjan Singh, Marshal of Indian Air Force, Dies At 98". NDTV. 16 September 2017. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  13. ^ a b c "Arjan Singh, Marshal of Indian Air Force, passes away". The Times of India. 16 September 2017. Archived from the original on 17 September 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Arjan Singh, Marshal of the Indian Air Force and key figure in 1965 Pak war, dies at 98". Hindustan Times. 16 September 2017. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  15. ^ A Many Splendoured Career Archived 25 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ a b Singh, Roopinder (1 September 2002). "ARJAN SINGH, DFC MARSHAL OF THE INDIAN AIR FORCE". Rupa & Co ,India.
  17. ^ a b Summary of Service Record Archived 19 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ "Arjan Singh, Marshal of the Indian Air Force, critically ill, PM Modi visits him at Army R&R hospital". The Indian Express. 16 September 2017. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  19. ^ "State funeral for Arjan Singh; flag to fly at half mast in Delhi". The Hindu. 17 September 2017. Archived from the original on 8 October 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  20. ^ "Marshal Arjan Singh cremated with military honours". The Hindu. 18 September 2017. Archived from the original on 3 October 2017. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  21. ^ The Air Force List: October 1940. HM Stationery Office. 1940. p. 702.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh". Bharat Rakshak. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  23. ^ "President Pranab Mukherjee honours Arjan Singh, others on golden jubilee of 1965 war triumph". India.com. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  24. ^ a b "Meet Marshal Arjan Singh, Who Made IAF A Nightmare For The Enemies And Guardian Of Our Skies". Storypick. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  25. ^ a b "Bengal air base named after Arjan Singh". The Tribune. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  26. ^ a b Sudhi Ranjan Sen. "India's Oldest Serving Soldier, Marshal Of Air Force, Gets Rare Honour". NDTV. Archived from the original on 15 April 2016. Retrieved 15 April 2016. To honour India's oldest serving soldier, Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh - who turned 97 on Thursday...
  27. ^ "Panagarh airbase to be renamed after Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh". ANI News. Archived from the original on 17 April 2016. Retrieved 15 April 2016.hero

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Aspy Engineer
Chief of the Air Staff (India)
1964–1969
Succeeded by
Pratap Chandra Lal
Preceded by
Aspy Engineer
Vice Chief of the Air Staff (India)
1963–1964
Succeeded by
Pratap Chandra Lal
Political offices
Preceded by
Romesh Bhandari
Lieutenant Governor of Delhi
1989–1990
Succeeded by
Markandey Singh