Their willingness to pay any price to uphold the honour and integrity of their Air Force meant an uphill battle against bigotry, difficult conditions of work and outdated equipment. However, showing tremendous fortitude, Harjinder and his men took the fight to the enemy and rose splendidly to the occasion. Be it the formidable Japanese, the mighty Germans or the resolute tribal warriors none could break the spirit of these airborne Indians.
It is a story of relentless adventure, journeying from the scrublands of the North Western Frontier, to the jungles of Burma, to the UK on the eve of D Day and to the corridors of power in an independent India. The resourcefulness of the Indians and their sheer skill and determination meant that they could overcome the myriad of challenges thrown at them, much to the surprise and dismay of some officers of the Raj.
It is a story of mutual respect forged and strengthened across lines of religion, caste, creed and race, as the Indian's undeniable courage and resilience won even the hearts and minds of their British counterparts and one man was the center of it all.
Harjinder's is a life of intense friendship, of great ingenuity and of hard-work and dedication, interspersed with the humor and merriment that is ever present in the military environment. It was a bottom to top career for the lowly Hawai Sepoy who went on to become one of the top officers of the IAF. He is credited with the endeavor to make the Indian Air force self-reliant and designed, built and test flew two different aircraft to prove his point. He was one of the driving forces behind making the Indian Air Force the 4th largest in the world, an astonishing feat given the twin challenges of nation building and partition.
Thus the only 'disgrace' to emerge from this book is how Harjinder's story could remain untold for so long.
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About the Author
Air Marshal Harjinder Singh would have been proud of Mike Edwards when, in 2007, he 'entered' a military hangar in Delhi and discovered a forgotten, Aladdin's cave of historic aircraft. The Indian Air Force (IAF) took his ideas and appointed him Chief Adviser to the IAF Vintage Flight that he had resurrected. Five years later, live on TV, he was flying a newly restored biplane at the Indian Air Force Day parade. Two months after that event, he was awarded the MBE for Anglo-Indian relations and services to aviation by HM Queen Elizabeth II.
Mike was born into aviation; his father, Marcus, was a Royal Navy fighter pilot. When Marcus went on to lead the Rothmans aerobatic team, the world's first full time civilian team, Mike virtually grew up in an aircraft cockpit.
In 1986, Mike joined the RAF after A-levels at Brynteg Comprehensive School in South Wales. Post RAF, he lived and worked in Germany, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan before joining British Airways in 1995.Mike lives 100 paces away from Winston Churchill's grave in Bladon, Oxfordshire, with his wife and two daughters.
Table of Contents
Training to be a Sepoy
Eating off the floor
Death comes to visit. Death comes to stay
The North West Frontier Province
The World is at War
New Aircraft but old prejudices
The fighting retreat
To India: To England: To Jail?
Spreading Wings. Clipping Wings
Independence! But at what cost?
Kindred spirit or dangerous Liaison?
Reuniting old friends
Epilogue: The Greatest Disgrace?