September 18, 2017: Today India bid its final adieu to the nation’s oldest serving soldier Marshal Arjan Singh, with full state honors. Died at the age of 98, Singh was a military legend, whose illustrious career spoke volumes about his bravery and contribution to the Indian Air Force. Singh was the only Air Force officer to be promoted to five-star rank and was a vital figure in making IAF the fourth biggest in the world.
Born to a military family, on April 15, 1919, Singh joined Indian Air Force in 1938 at the young age of 19; and at the age of just 44, he took over as the chief of a young IAF in 1964. A year later, after taking up the charge as IAF Chief, Singh valiantly led the young air force team in the 1965 Indo-Pak war. His profound knowledge about air force was visible in the 1965 war and proved beneficial for the IAF to regain its stature after the 1962 debacle. Y B Chavan, the then Defence Minister wrote, “Air Marshal Arjan Singh is a jewel of a person, quite efficient and firm; unexcitable but a very able leader.”
In his career spanning over three decades and after that as well, Arjan Singh won many awards and accolades. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan for his contributions in the 1965 Indo-Pak War. He was the first Indian pilot to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) by the Supreme Allied Commander of South East Asia. In addition to this, West Bengal’s Air Force base at Panagarh was renamed as Air Force Station Arjan Singh in honor of him. Another highlight of his flying career was that he was leading the fly-past over the Red Fort on the morning of August 15, 1947, when India got independence.
Singh retired in 1969 and went on to accept the Ambassadorship of Switzerland. Later, he became Indian High Commissioner in Kenya in 1974. He has also served as India’s Ambassador to the Vatican and became Lieutenant Governor of Delhi after returning to India.
In his last three years, Arjan Singh’s health started to give up, but his zest for life and service to the nation did not stop. A dynamic personality, an excellent leader, and a man of courage, Arjan Singh in every way was and will remain India’s legendary ‘War Hero’.
Air Force Marshal Arjan Singh- 15 April 1919- 16 September 2017