Over a Century of Comradeship in the Air

A Proud son of Rawalpindi

The first Indian, or indeed Asian, to procure aeroplanes was the then-young Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, who was following aviation developments with keen interest. The Maharaja sent his chief engineer to Europe for an on-the-spot study and then ordered three aeroplanes, including a Bleriot monoplane and Farman biplanes. These aeroplanes arrived in the Punjab in December 1910. However, the very first Indian to fly, join the Royal Flying Corps, get his wings, go into aerial combat on the Western Front, shoot down German fighters and himself be seriously wounded in the air, was an outstanding personality: Sardar Hardit Singh Malik.

Sports Prowess

Born on 23 November, 1892 in a distinguished Sikh family of Rawalpindi in the Punjab (pre-partition India), Hardit Singh was educated at an English Public School (Eastborne College), from where he went to Balliol College at Oxford. Graduating with honours, his scholastic achievements were matched by his sports prowess, getting his blues in cricket and golf. When the Great War broke out in 1914, he was at his second year at Oxford and practically all his British colleagues volunteered to join the fighting services.

Personal Flying Helmet

Following a personal interview with General Henderson, who was commanding the Royal Flying Corps (“RFC”), Hardit Singh joined the RFC as a cadet at Aldershot early in 1917, the first Sikh and Indian in any flying service in the world. A specially designed flying helmet was worn by Hardit Singh over his turban. Hardit Singh was selected for fighters and went “solo” in a Caudron after just two-and-a-half hours instruction. He was posted to Filton, near Bristol, flying the Avro 504, the BE 2C, the Sopwith Pup, the Nieuport and finally the Sopwith Camel, the most advanced fighter at this time.

Initiated

At Filton, RFC pilots were taught combat tactics, including the famous Immelmann Turn. Hardit Singh got his wings in under a month. Posted to No.28 Squadron and equipped with the Camel, the formation soon flew out to St. Omer in France, then to an airfield in Flanders near the village of Droglandt. Here, Lt. Hardit Singh Malik first met the new Commanding Officer, the legendary Major William G. Barkar, who had come from Canada as a cavalryman in 1915, joined the RFC in 1916, and flown two-seaters and fighters, becoming an ace many times over. Barkar was considered the greatest all-round pilot of World War One, and he personally initiated Hardit Singh into the art and science of aerial combat, leading him into the first actions, including those against the legendary “Red Baron”, Manfred von Richthofen’s Staffel.

London Defence

 In one major dogfight, with over a hundred British and German fighters scrapping over the battle lines, Hardit Singh shot down his first German Fokker. He went on to notch another eight aerial victories in the weeks ahead, before he himself was wounded in action, but survived in amazing circumstances. After months in hospital, Hardit Singh rejoined the service, now renamed as the Royal Air Force, flying the Bristol Fighter, probably the best fighter of the war, with No.141 Squadron at Biggin Hill, a specialist unit created for defending London from raiding Zeppelins and Botha bombers.

As described then,”One of the first to be posted to the new squadron was Lieutenant Hardit Singh Malik, a Sikh from Rawalpindi .. a keen cricketer and golfer, Malik was one of the most popular officers at Biggin Hill. He staunchly refused to part with his turban and somehow managed to fit over it an outsized flying helmet, earning the affectionate nickname of “Flying Hobgoblin” from the ground crews. Besides Malik the Sikh, the original fighter pilots of Biggin Hill included men from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Rhodesia, Argentina, as well as the United Kingdom”.

Civil Servant

After the armistice, Hardit Singh was posted to another Squadron, No.11, at Nivelles near Brussels, before he finally returned home after the War, a hero in his own right. Hardit Singh Malik was to later join the prestigious Indian Civil Service. As a postscript, this remarkable man’s chequered career included assignments as Trade Commissioner in London, Hamburg, Washington and Ottawa. He became Prime Minister of Patiala State and then, Indian High Commissioner to Canada; still later, he was named Ambassador to France. After retirement in 1956, he returned to his first love, golf, becoming India’s finest player ever, even with two German bullets still embedded in his leg.

Sardar Hardit Singh lived till he was 91, passing away on 31 October 1985.


 

 

 

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RBL Advert having a global impact

This article appeared in one of the American PR magazines this week, once again demonstrating, TRBL is amongst the best in supporting remembrance of the fallen.

60,083 British soldiers fell at Passchendaele, the notoriously bloody battle whose 100th anniversary is being commemorated in 2017. “Every Pin Tells a Tale” is Geometry UK’s new work for the Royal British Legion created to generate income to support all member of the British Armed forces, veterans, and their families.

To commemorate the fallen heroes at Passchendaele, The Legion has created a limited edition of brass poppy pins. Each pin is made from British artillery shell fuses found on the battlefield, each pin contains earth from the fields. Every pin commemorates the life of each the 60,083 soldiers who fell -helping their stories to live on. The evocative imagery reflected in the pin tells the story of John Sutherland who was just 23 when he fought and died in the batter. He is one of the 60,083 stories that each Poppy Pin remembers.

Integrated advertisment created by Geometry Global, United Kingdom for The Royal British Legion, within the category: Public Interest, NGO.


 

Could you have an unclaimed Service pension?

If you served after April 1975, you could have a preserved pension. AFPS 75 pensions earned before April 2005 are payable when you are 60 years old, but you won’t receive it automatically – you have to make a claim. Initially, personnel had to serve for five years and be at least 26 years old to qualify for a pension. From April 1988, this reduced to two years paid service from age 18, or age 21 for Officers.

Preserved Pension

The amount you receive depends on when, and for how long you served. If you left service in April 1978 with a preserved pension of £800, you would now have a preserved pension of over £4,000 and a preserved pension lump sum of over £12,000. If you left service in April 1982 with a preserved pension of £1,100, you would now have a preserved pension of about £3,500 and a preserved pension lump sum of almost £10,500.

Annual Pension Increase

Even if you only served for a short time, it’s still worth making a claim. This is because the value of a preserved pension increases annually with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) from age 55, and you may be eligible for a tax-free lump sum when you claim.The amount of money you receive could make a real difference to everyday life. The Forces Pension Society can give further assistance with claiming your pension.

 For more information on support available to veterans use this link Veterans Gateway Website


 

Plaque unveiled in memory of historic aircraft landing

A special plaque was unveiled near Scapa beach earlier today, Wednesday, celebrating 100 years since Edwin Dunning landed an aircraft on a moving ship, in Scapa Flow. On 2 August 1917, Squadron Commander Dunning landed a Sopwith Pup biplane on HMS Furious in Scapa Flow, in what has proved to be a landmark moment in aviation history.

Poignant

Today’s ceremony was also somewhat poignant, as Dunning tragically died a week after first completing the feat when, attempting his third repeat landing, his aircraft lost power, made a hard landing and was swept overboard by strong winds. Dunning was knocked unconscious and died. The plaque was unveiled during a ceremony held just after 11.30am this morning, by Rear Admiral Fleet Air Arm Keith Blount, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Aviation, Amphibious Capability and Carriers), who said he was “honoured and privileged”.

Well-attended

During the well-attended ceremony there were a number of readings and prayers, as well as two flyovers from a single Royal Navy Hawk T Mk 1 aircraft. On its second run, the jet made a pass in landing configuration, with wheels and wing flaps extended. As late as yesterday evening, it was announced that the navy’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, would also be paying a visit to Scapa Flow. The massive vessel remained in the flow for the majority of the ceremony.

The memorial plaque being unveiled by Rear Admiral Keith Blount earlier today.

New Chapter

Shortly after the ceremony Rear Admiral Blount commented: “It is a very poignant day in the history of the Fleet Air Arm, the Royal Navy, and, of course Orkney.

“Today doesn’t only mark the 100-year event of Squadron Commander Dunning’s landing, it was also extremely moving to see the next generation of aircraft carrier sailing on sea trials in the bay — that starts a new chapter in maritime aviation.

New and Old

“Today has seen a great combination of the new and old, but I do wonder what Squadron Commander Dunning would have thought had he been able to look out and see the Queen Elizabeth there, because it was he who so genuinely sowed the seed for what could be possible in launching aircraft at sea.

“Those of us in the Fleet Air Arm that are still proud to serve are standing on the shoulders of giants, and Dunning was one of the greats, there is no questions about that.”


 

 

Lady racer Muriel, heroine of Passchendaele

“Feisty” suffragette Muriel Thompson saved hundreds of lives at Passchendaele with her ambulance after becoming one of the first women permitted to serve in the British Army. As one of Britain’s first female racing drivers, daredevil Muriel Thompson was used to hurtling round the track at break-neck speeds. But nothing could prepare the feisty Scot for the horrors she would face as an ambulance driver on the Western Front during World War I.

Wasteful Suffering

Muriel, of Aberdeen , joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) in 1915. And in 1917 she made history when she became one of the first women permitted to serve in the British Army . The book describes the conflict through the eyes of 103 fallen casualties and survivors – one for every day of the bloody campaign, which raged near the town of Passchendaele in Belgium from July 31 to November 10, 1917. Alexandra said: “Passchendaele was the Third Battle of Ypres and one of the muddiest and bloodiest battles of World War I. “It became synonymous with wasteful suffering as the third stage was doomed to failure from the outset but the generals and politicians would not listen to reason. “More than 275,000 British soldiers lost their lives in the muddy trenches of Flanders Fields in yet another World War I example of lions being led by donkeys. “The number of casualties would have been a lot higher if it weren’t for the bravery of women such as Muriel Thompson – one of the feistiest people I have ever had the pleasure to write about.”

Suffrage Advocate

Alexandra, who was helped in her research by fellow historians Andrew Holmes and Jonathan Dyer, admits that if any woman could survive the horrors of the Western Front, it was Muriel. The 32-year-old said: “She was one of Britain’s first female racing drivers, helping to found the Automobile Racing Club at Brooklands, where she won the first ever women’s race in 1908 in her brother’s car Pobble. Muriel had no fear, scorning goggles as ‘far too hideous’ and occasionally participating in races where the drivers were blindfolded. “As a devoted advocate of women’s suffrage, she also chauffeured Emmeline Pankhurst but this was tame work for such a daredevil and, when the war broke out, she was one of the first to join the FANY as an ambulance driver.”

Muriel Decorated

Alexandra, who has appeared on TV history documentaries, added: “The British Army did not admit females until 1917 so, before then, Muriel served at the Belgian military hospital at Lamarck. “In March 1915, she was decorated with the Order of Leopold II by Belgian King Albert for bravery under fire. She became second-in-command of the Calais Convoy in late 1915 and spent the rest of the war driving ambulances and improving conditions for the wounded on the Western Front.

Mentioned in Despatches

Alexandra explains, “Shortly before the start of Passchendaele, during which the convoy would work non-stop, Muriel was mentioned in despatches. “She was responsible for ferrying the casualties from the Front to the ships that would take them back to England. She would be forever haunted by the screams of her patients, whose injuries were beyond horrific. “Muriel also endured bombing raids and constant ground strafing but she took it all in her stride. She is now one of my favourite war heroes.”

Military Medal

In early 1918, the adventurous Aberdonian took command of a newly established convoy at St Omer and she was awarded a military medal and the French Croix de Guerre for evacuating the wounded during air raids. She returned to London in September 1918 and, following a short period of rest, became a recruiting officer for the women’s branch of the RAF. She retired from the FANY in 1922 and died in 1939. The suffragette came into her own during the Battle of Passchendaele, when she helped to save the lives of hundreds of injured soldiers, ferrying them from the front line to the field hospitals .

Poignancy

Brave Muriel’s incredible story features in broadcaster and author Alexandra Churchill’s new book, Passchendaele: 103 Days in Hell, written to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle. Alexandra hopes the poignancy of the soldiers’ personal tragedies and the heroics of people like Muriel will remind us and future generations of the sacrifices made by ordinary men and women. The historian, who wrote a similar book about the Somme, said: “I’m hoping my books will show the human impact of battles that wiped out hundreds of thousands of British men, leaving their families heartbroken and Britain bereft of a whole generation.

“Passchendaele was a particularly terrible battle as the men were not only fighting the enemy, they were battling the mud of Flanders. “Hundreds drowned in the trenches and many died where they fell as stretcher bearers could not make it to them across the quagmire.” Alexandra, who is presenting Sky News’s coverage of tomorrow’s centenary, admits, as with all the campaigns, the Scots played a huge part. She added: “The bravery and heroism of the Scots at Passchendaele became apparent early on in my research and their stories are some of the most heartbreaking and uplifting in the book.”


 

Passchendaele alive for generations

Virtual reality technology means the First World War could be the first conflict to be kept fresh in the public consciousness, the historian Dan Snow has suggested, as the Royal British Legion launched a high-tech immersive view of Passchendaele. Advances in technology could revolutionise military history and keep alive the immediacy of the trenches and Western Front for generations to come.

Over the Top

The television presenter and historian spoke as the legion unveiled six virtual reality experiences taking the viewer back to Passchendaele to mark the centenary of one of the most notorious battles of the war. The six films aimed at a younger generation unlikely to read military history, show the battle, trenches and participants in full 360 degree view and can be downloaded onto standard video game headsets. Historians have used archive photographs, film and testimony to recreate the battle that caused 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German casualties. The films even allow the viewer an indication of what it was like to go over the top.

Something Different

Mr Snow, who helped create the content, said: “We have got a big experiment on our hands here. Every other war that we have fought as humans has drifted into obscurity as eye witnesses have passed away. “With the First World War, we have got the chance of doing something different. We can keep it fresh. “It will be interesting to see whether my kids find the First World War as distant as I find the Battle of Agincourt, or will the immediacy of it be maintained because we have got this technology.“It’s about taking the images and giving it the full treatment of 2017, which is immersive which is a whole step above sitting on your bottom watching television.” “These sets have primarily been used by gamers so far, but I think history has the most to gain from these.”

Crucial Tool

Bill Hunt, a Chelsea Pensioner who spent 25 years in the Royal Horse Guards, on Tuesday became one of the first members of the public to try out the new films. The 83-year-old told the Telegraph :“It was a little bit misty and a little bit out of focus, but I could see the hedgerows and the star shells.” “I could have been there, lying in a field.” Mr Hunt, who reached the rank of warrant officer and served in Cyprus, Germany and Hong Kong, said it was crucial to teach the younger generation about the horrors of the First World War. He said: “They know so little about history these days, let alone the First and Second World Wars.”

The legion also has 1,000 cardboard headsets on offer that can be fitted with mobile phones to create makeshift virtual reality sets. The virtual reality displays can be downloaded from the legion’s website.


 

Legion Human Flight Team flying high this Summer

Jump4Heroes are The Royal British Legion Extreme Human Flight Team.  As serving and former members of the Army they felt it appropriate to support charities that help the Armed Forces. They aim to do this by both fund raising and increasing public awareness of the charities and their plight. This is achieved by taking calculated risks and carrying out extreme projects, normally related to parachuting, canopy flight or BASE jumping.  

Featuring in the National Press, demonstrating their skills, wingsuit proximity BASE jumping, flying the St George’s Flag in freefall, having BASE jumped from the Eiger and being apprehended by armed police who confused them for UFOs, amongst other things. The Team were part of the World Record BASE jumping attempt from the KL Tower in Malaysia and hold a countless supply of National level medals.

What they do is extreme.  But their risks are calculated; they are professionals and plan to be around for a long time undertaking such extreme projects.  Please check out this video as a great example of what they do. Jump 4 Heroes Website


 

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