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“First Sikh Fighter Pilot” Statue in UK to memorize the died black and ethnic soldiers of world wars

TBL web desk

The design for the statue of Sikh fighter pilot of World War One, Hardit Singh Malik has been approved for a new memorial to be erected in the England port city of Southampton in memory of the black and ethnic minority service personnel who lost their lives in the two world wars.

Hardit Singh Malik was renowned as the first from the Indian subcontinent to fly as a pilot with the Royal Flying Corps – the precursor to the RAF. He was born in 1894 in Rawalpindi in West Punjab. After the war, he served as an Indian civil servant and diplomat, becoming the first Indian High Commissioner to Canada and later Indian Ambassador to France.

He first arrived in the UK in 1908 as a 14-year-old to Balliol College at the University of Oxford and went on to become a member of the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. As a first turbaned pilot in forces, he is called as “Flying Sikh”.

While commenting about the statue, sculptor Luke Perry said this would represent “real history”. This memorial is set to be almost 17ft high in length and most probably will be installed by April 2023.

His mother was a devout Sikh. did her best to ensure her son was strongly attached to the faith. Instead, she preferred to guide him towards a non-materialistic life of spiritually and service. It was this strong sense of faith that would stay with him when he was away from home for long periods among foreign people and cultures. When he was given a steel bracelet, or ‘kara’, by a Sikh holy man, he wore it throughout his flying service in World War 1.

He served on the Western Front flying a Sopwith Camel on combat missions across France and Italy.

He was one of only two British India pilots to survive the war, despite being wounded and crash-landing behind enemy lines in October 1917 when his aircraft was found to have been hit more than 450 times.

More than 1.2 million fighters from British administered India fought and 70,000 died during World War One, although only four became pilots.

Mr Perry said: “Malik is wonderful person to be able to represent. Being part of the movement of recognition of our past is so exciting and vindicating.”

One Community Hampshire and Dorset (OCHD) and the Southampton Council of Gurdwaras have campaigned for the statue to mark the “lost history” of ethnic minorities fighting for Britain and the allies.

Pritheepal Singh, OCHD director, said he was “absolutely delighted” with the final design.

“It testifies to the major contribution our Sikh and broader ethnic minority communities have made to our country, as we live in such a vibrant multicultural society here in Southampton.”

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