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 (1919-05-15) 15 May 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

IND Padma Vibhushan BAR.pngPadma Vibhushan
India General Service Medal 1947.svgGeneral Service Medal 1947
IND Samar Seva Star Ribbon.svgSamar Seva Star
IND Raksha Medal Ribbon.svgRaksha Medal
IND Sainya Seva Medal Ribbon.svgSainya Seva Medal
Indian Independence medal 1947.svgIndian Independence Medal
United Kingdom Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svgDistinguished Flying Cross
Ribbon - 1939-45 Star.png1939–1945 Star
Ribbon - Burma Star.pngBurma Star
Ribbon - War Medal.pngWar Medal 1939–1945

Ribbon India Service Medal.pngIndia Service Medal

Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC (Punjabi: ਅਰਜਨ ਸਿੰਘ) (born 15 May 1919 as Arjan Singh Aulakh) 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 career[edit]

Arjan Singh was born on 15 May 1919 in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad, Pakistan) in the Punjab in what was then British India in a distinguished military family. His father was a Lance Daffadar in the Hodson's Horse at the time of his birth, and retired 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.

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.[4]

Career highlights[edit]

1938 Entered RAF College Cranwell as a Flight Cadet
23 December 1939 Commissioned in Royal Air Force as a Pilot Officer
9 May 1941 Flying Officer
15 May 1942 Flight Lieutenant
1944 (Acting) Squadron Leader
2 June 1944 Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross
1947 Wing Commander, Royal Indian Air Force, Air Force Station, Ambala
1948 Group Captain, Director, Training, Air Headquarters
1949 (Acting) Air Commodore, Indian Air Force AOC, Operational Command
2 January 1955 Air Commodore, AOC Western Air Command, Delhi
19 December 1959 Air Vice Marshal
1961 Air Vice Marshal, Air Officer in Charge of Administration, Air HQ
1963 Deputy Chief of Air Staff and subsequently Vice Chief of the Air Staff (India)
1 August 1964 Chief of Air Staff (India) (Air Marshal)
30 October 1965 Padma Vibhushan
26 January 1966 Chief of Air Staff rank upgraded to that of an Air Chief Marshal; appointed Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee
15 July 1969 Retired from Indian Air Force
1971 Ambassador to Switzerland and the Holy See
1974 High Commissioner to Kenya
1989 Lieutenant Governor of Delhi
26 January 2002 Marshal of the Indian Air Force

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

Ninety-six-year-old Marshal of the Indian Air Force, Arjan Singh, who was wheelchair bound on that day due to temporary indisposition, 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. [5]

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. Marshal of the Indian Air Force accompanied by Wing Commander Mohan Rana Staff Officer to Marshal of the Air Force.

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



  1. ^ Indian military officers of five-star rank hold their rank for life, and are considered to be serving officers until their deaths.
  2. ^ 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. ^ A Many Splendoured Career
  5. ^ Summary of Service Record
  6. ^ Photo

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