The sole Marshall of the Indian Air Force, Arjan Singh, passed away at the age of 98 in New Delhi on September 16, 2017. War hero Marshall Arjan Singh, who led the Indian Air Force during the 1965 Indo-Pak conflict was the only officer of Indian Air force to be promoted to a five-star rank, which is equal to a Field Marshall in the Army. He had flown more than 60 different types of aircraft, and led a fledgling IAF in the 1965 war when he was just 46 years old.
Born on April 15, 1919, in Lyallpur (Pakistan), his father, grandfather, great-grandfather all served in the cavalry. He joined the RAF College, Cranwell in 1938 and was commissioned as Pilot Officer in December, 1939.
Arjan Singh led No.1 squadron, IAF into combat during the Akaran Campaign in 1944. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1944 by Lord Louis Mountbatten for his bravery in defending the Imphal Valley and he also commanded the IAF Exhibition Flight in 1945.
He almost faced a Court Marshal in February 1945 when he tried to raise the morale of a trainee pilot by conducting a low-level air pass over a house in Kerala. In his defense, he insisted that such tricks were needed for every cadet to be a fighter pilot. He was awarded Padma Vibhushan for the vigorous action of IAF in 1965 against Pakistani aircrafts who launched an armored attack on Village Akhnoor (J&K).
Arjan Singh was the Air Force Chief from August 1, 1964, until July 15, 1969. After retirement, he was made Ambassador to Switzerland in 1971 and concurrently served as Ambassador to the Vatican and proved to be a successful diplomatic for the country. In 1974, he was appointed a High Commissioner to Kenya and was a member of Minorities Commission in 1980. He also served as Lt.Governor of Delhi in 1989. In January 2002, he was made Marshall of IAF.
On April 14, 2016 at an event to mark the Marshall’s 97th birthday, the then Chief Of Air Staff, Air Marshall Anup 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.
Arjan Singh’s contributions to the nation would forever remain etched in the history. With his demise, India has lost a great son of the soil, who always remained at the forefront to defend the country’s borders from the external invasions on the one hand and to uphold the supreme traditions and glory of the armed forces on the other. His contribution to the air force during World War II and during the 1965 Indo-Pak war was unparalleled. May his soul, rest in peace.
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