UK honours sole Indian aviator who survived World War I

London, Nov 9: The UK government on Thursday announced plans for a series of statues to go up at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) here to honour the sacrifices made by over 3 million Commonwealth soldiers, sailors, airmen and labour corps who served in World War I, including from India. The campaign, part of an initiative by the armed forces charity ‘There But Not There’, involves the installation of three six-foot figures of World War I soldiers in the FCO to represent the contribution of Commonwealth servicemen from Asia, Asia, the Caribbean, Australasia and Canada. Among them is Hardutt Singh Malik, the first Indian to fly with the British Royal Flying Corps.
“Nearly 2 million Indian servicemen served in the First World War, Malik initially failed to qualify for the Corps but went on to be the sole Indian aviator to emerge alive from the war,” the FCO said in a statement.
Over 9 million servicemen died in Great War, including nearly 1 million from the Commonwealth, as they helped secure the victory for the Allied Forces – Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the US. Among the three symbolic figures at the FCO is that of Ghanaian soldier Alhaji Grunshi, the first soldier in British service to fire a shot in war, and Francis Pegahmagabow, a Canadian expert marksman and scout who was awarded the Military Medal three times.
‘There But Not There’ – launched in February – is raising money for a range of military and mental health charities and aims to place a representative figure for as many names on local war memorials around the country to mark the centenary commemoration of the end of the 1914-1918 war. “It is fitting that in the centenary year of the First World War we honour the immense contribution of our Commonwealth soldiers. Their bravery was key to securing the Allied victory,” said UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. (Agencies)