RAF pays tribute to Mahinder Singh Pujji

RAF tribute to Second World War Sikh pilot on anniversary of his death

RAF pays tribute to Mahinder Singh Pujji

The Royal Air Force has paid tribute to the one of the first Indian Sikh pilots to volunteer with the service during the Second World War.

The 10th anniversary of Mahinder Singh Pujji’s death was marked on Friday 18 September, with a small ceremony at a statue dedicated to him in The Grove, Gravesend, Kent.

The ceremony was led by Air Commodore Shaun Harris, and he was joined by Squadron Leader Amir Khan and WO Balbir Flora MBE.

Air Cdr Harris said, having marked the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the 75th anniversary of VE and VJ Day, "it is only right we pause to remember the sacrifices of all those who served".

"Mahinder campaigned tirelessly to highlight the role of Sikhs in the Armed Forces during World War Two, a proud contribution that continues today," he said.

"It's a reminder of how individuals from all backgrounds and communities united to preserve the freedoms we enjoy.

"Then, as now, the Royal Air Force's strength comes from the quality and diversity of our people.

"Mahinder's legacy of courage and tolerance is one we are committed to protecting and honouring."

Sqn Ldr Amir Khan, Sgt Shiv Chand, Air Commodore Shaun Harris and WO Balbir Singh Flora MBE at the memorial of Squadron Leader Mhinder Singh Pujji
The service took place at the statue dedicated to the pilot and was led by Air Commodore Harris (Picture: MOD).

Squadron Leader Pujji volunteered for the RAF in 1940 and served in all three of the Second World War's major theatres.

He was among 24 personnel who became the first Indians to be accepted into the RAF.

Sqn Ldr Pujji flew combat operations in Spitfires and Hurricanes in Europe, Africa, and Asia, serving with 6, 43 and 258 Squadron.

He was shot down three times, but returned to battle each time and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry in Burma (now Myanmar).

WO Balbir Flora, who knew Sqn Ldr Pujji, said it was a "great honour" to attend the "service to remember one of the greatest".

"I was proud to be a part of today's wreath laying and to be able to pay my personal respects on the 10th anniversary of his passing," he said.

After the war, Sqn Ldr Pujji became an air traffic controller before spending his final years in Gravesend, where he passed away on 18 September 2010, aged 92.

Cover image: The memorial of Second World War fighter pilot, Squadron Leader Mahinder Singh Pujji, as the RAF pays tribute on the 10th anniversary of his death (Picture: MOD).