Arjan Singh

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For the conservationist, see Billy Arjan Singh.
Marshal of the Indian Air Force
Arjan Singh
Marshal if Indian Air Force.gif
Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh and (right) the ceremonial baton
Born (1919-04-15) 15 April 1919 (age 96)
Lyallpur, Punjab, British India, (now Faisalabad, Pakistan)
Allegiance  British India
Service/branch  Indian Air Force
Years of service 1938–1969
Rank Marshal of the IAF.svg Marshal of the Air Force
Commands held No. 1 Squadron IAF
Ambala Air Force Station
Western Command
Battles/wars World War II
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Awards Padma Vibhushan
Distinguished Flying Cross

Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC (Punjabi: ਅਰਜਨ ਸਿੰਘ) (born 15 April 1919) is the only officer of the Indian Air Force to be promoted to five-star rank, equal to a Field Marshal, to which he was promoted in 2002.[2] He was born in the Punjab town of Lyallpur, British India (now Faisalabad, Pakistan), into an Aulakh family. His father was Risaldar Darbara Singh of the Hodson's Horse who had served in Gallipoli during the First World War and was wounded in Burma during World War II and retired from the Army in 1943.[3] With the death of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw in June 2008, he is the only living Indian military officer with a five-star rank.

Early life and tough career[edit]

Arjan Singh was born on 15 April 1919 in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad, Pakistan) in the Punjab in what was then British India in a distinguished military family. His father was a Naik in the Hodson's Horse at the time of his birth, and retied as a full Risaldar of the Cavalry, serving for a time as ADC to a Division Commander, and his grandfather was Risaldar Major Hukam Singh, of the Guides Cavalry between 1883 and 1917. His great-grandfather was Naib Risaldar Sultana Singh, among the first two generations of the Guides Cavalry who enlisted in 1854, served with distinction in the 1857 war and was martyred during the Afghan campaign of 1879. Arjan Singh was educated at Montgomery, British India (now in Pakistan). He entered the RAF College Cranwell in 1938 and was commissioned as a pilot officer in December 1939. As a distinguished graduate of the RAF College, Singh's portrait is now to be found on the walls of the College's west staircase.

Singh led No. 1 Squadron, Indian Air Force into command during the Arakan Campaign in 1944. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1944, and commanded the Indian Air Force Exhibition Flight in 1945. Singh almost faced a court-martial in February 1945 when he tried to raise the morale of an trainee pilot ( later rumoured to be future Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh) by conducting a low level air pass over a house in Kerala, but he insisted that such tricks are needed for every cadet to be a fighter pilot.

Career and commands held[edit]

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

He was Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), from 1 August 1964 to 15 July 1969, and was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1965. He also became the first Air Chief Marshal of the Indian Air Force when, in recognition of the Air Force’s contribution in the 1965 war, the rank of the Chief of Air Staff was upgraded to that of Air Chief Marshal. After he retired in 1969 at the age of 50, he was appointed the Indian Ambassador to Switzerland in 1971. He concurrently served as the Ambassador to the Vatican. He was appointed High Commissioner to Kenya in 1974. He was a member of the National Commission for Minorities, Government of India from 1975-1981. He was the Lt. Governor of Delhi from Dec 1989 - Dec 1990 and was made Marshal of the Air Force in January, 2002.[2]

Career highlights[edit]

At the homage of Ex-president APJ Abdul Kalam[edit]

Ninety-six-year-old Marshal of the Indian Air Force, Arjan Singh, who is wheelchair bound, was also 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 the Palam Airport. He paid his last respects to late Dr Kalam at Palam airport on Tuesday, July 28. [4]

President Obama greets Arjan Singh, Marshal of the Indian Air Force, at the At Home Reception on the Central Lawn of Mughal Garden in New Delhi.


  1. ^ Indian military officers of five-star rank hold their rank for life, and are considered to be serving officers until their deaths.
  2. ^ a b Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC
  3. ^ Roopinder Singh (2002). Arjan Singh: Marshal of The Indian Air Force. Rupa & Co. ISBN 81-7167-938-2. 
  4. ^ Summary of Service Record

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Aspy Engineer
Chief of the Air Staff (India)
Succeeded by
Pratap Chandra Lal
Political offices
Preceded by
Romesh Bhandari
Lieutenant Governor of Delhi
Succeeded by
Markandey Singh