The Flying Sikh: The Story of a WW1 Fighter Pilot Flying Officer Hardit Singh Malik
The Flying Sikh tells the unique story of the only Sikh airman to fly with the RFC and the RAF during the First World War. It is the remarkable account of one man's struggle to enlist, against discrimination, and then his service as a fighter pilot over the battlefields of Flanders. This book represents the only detailed study of an Indian national enlisting in Britain's armed forces during the First World War.
It is an account of India's role in the war; the rise of Indian nationalism and the challenges of Indians to take up the status of a commissioned officer in His Majesty's Armed Forces. Malik started his new life in Britain as a fourteen-year-old public school boy, who progressed to Balliol College, Oxford, before attempting to join the Royal Flying Corps after graduation with friends from university, but was denied a commission. Keen to participate in the war, he served with the French Red Cross in 1916 as an ambulance driver and then offered his services to the French air force.
Ultimately, one of his Oxford tutors wrote on Malik's behalf to General David Henderson, the former head of the RFC, and secured Malik a cadetship. Above all though, it is the story of a man who was a county cricketer who played for Sussex and Oxford University, an outstanding golfer and fighter pilot who fought over Passchendaele in the autumn of 1917. Being a devout Sikh, he wore a specially designed flying helmet that fitted over his turban. Malik claimed two kills until he was shot down, crashing unconscious to the ground behind Allied lines.
His Sopwith Camel was riddled with over 400 bullet holes. Malik was only one of a small number of Indian nationals who served with the RAF during the war. In later life, Malik became the first Indian High Commissioner to Canada, and then served as the Indian Ambassador to France.
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