Spitfire Singh: A True Life of Relentless Adventure of Harjinder Singh
By Edwards Mike
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the honour and integrity of their Air Force meant an uphill battle against bigotry, difficult conditions of work and outdated equipment.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.His life is best summed up in a letter from England written in 1959 by Air Vice Marshal Sir Cecil Bouchier KBE, CB, DFC who had worked with Harjinder early on in his military career: ‘Yours must be the most romantic career of any man, in any service, anywhere in the world’. Thus the only ‘disgrace’ to emerge from this book is how Harjinder’s story could remain untold for so long.