28/11/2017
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Spitfire Singh

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Despite their heroics during World War I, the British officers of the Royal Air Force did not believe that pilots from India were capable of waging war from the air. They were considered inferior, and the fledgling Indian Air Force (IAF) was equipped with outdated machines and forced to operate in impossible working conditions.

Harjinder Singh, a determined orphan, entered this military world in mid-1930s as a lowly sepoy, and yet thanks to his courage, determination and sheer skill, he enjoyed a meteoric rise over three decades of service, becoming one of the leading figures of the IAF – a thrilling career that spanned World War II, Indian independence and the carnage of Partition.

Using an extensive collection of personal diaries, notes and letters with a thread of humour throughout, Spitfire Singh unleashes this untold story – one of mutual respect forged and strengthened across lines of religion, caste, creed and race.

Harjinder Singh’s life was one of relentless adventure, from the scrublands of the North Western Frontier and battling the Japanese in the Burmese jungle in outdated equipment, to UK on the eve of D-Day and the corridors of power in an independent India.

A highly skilled engineer, Singh designed, built and test flew two different aircraft, and rebuilt two bomber squadrons from scrap, all to prove that the IAF could become self-sufficient. His efforts and stubborn refusal to quit helped make the IAF the 4th largest in the world, an astonishing feat given the twin challenges of nation-building and partition.

Spitfire Singh is available in paperback format for £12.99 from Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-9-3861-4161-3.

 

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