Lt. Hardutt Singh Malik
First Indian to Fly into Combat with the Royal Flying Corps (B.1894)
Born on 22 November 1894, Hardutt Singh Malik became the first Indian to fly into combat with the Royal Flying Corps. Indeed it was he who made it possible for Indians to commission into the RFC. Malik was still a student at Oxford when the War broke out in 1914. After finishing his studies he decided to try and sign up for the RFC like many of his friends. Malik was unfortunately denied a commission by the RFC.
So Malik decided to approach the French Air Corps instead, who responded favorably. Malik’s tutor at Oxford thought is absolutely scandalous that the RFC should refuse commission to a subject of the Empire while the French were willing to oblige. He took it upon himself to write to General Henderson, a friend and then head of the RFC, pleading Malik’s case. As a result Malik was offered a cadetship with the RFC. He reported to No.1 Armament School on 5th April 1917, and was commissioned into No.26 Squadron on 22nd June 1917.
Malik’s days with No.62 Squadron were relatively uneventful. It was not until he transferred to No.28 Squadron that Malik went into action. Malik was fortunate in having as his flight commander none other than the Canadian ace, Major William Barker, VC. Malik saw plenty of action over France and Italy during the winter of 1917. During this period Malik, notched up two kills. He was also quite lucky to get away with a few bullet wounds in his right leg in the midst of this intense fighting.
Malik became the only Indian aviator to survive the First World War. After the war he joined the Indian Civil Service and later the Indian Foreign Service. Malik eventually served as Indian Ambassador to France. And as long as he lived, Malik proudly carried the remnants of the bullets firmly embedded in his leg.