Sardar Arjan Singh: Epitome of a military leader and Sole Marshal of IAF


Sardar Arjan Singh, an icon of India’s military and the only Marshal of the Indian Air Force (IAF), passed away at the age of 98 years following a cardiac arrest. He was Chief of Air Staff of the IAF from 1964 to 1969. He was conferred with the rank of Marshal of the IAF (equivalent to the Field Marshal of the Army), on the Republic Day of 2002. Before Sardar Arjan Singh, only two Army chiefs, Sam Manekshaw and K.M. Carriappa had achieved this rank.

Early Life and Education and Military Career:

Sardar Arjan Singh was born on 15 April 1919, in Lyallpur (present Faisalabad, Pakistan). He completed his education from Montgomery (present Sahiwal, Pakistan), followed by the Government College in Lahore. He entered the Royal AirForce (RAF), College Cranwell, on 23 December 1939, at the age of 19 years, and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer with ‘A’ Flight at Drigh Road, Karachi.

Two operational tenures of Sardar Arjan Singh on the Burma Front during World War II, Pilot Officer with No.1 Squadron “Tigers” and Commander of the same Squadron in 1944, are outstanding landmarks of his enviable IAF career. He was granted the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) recognising his leadership and gallantry in the air, making him the first Indian pilot to be honoured by the Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia.

On 15th August 1947, he achieved the honour of leading a fly-past of more than hundred IAF aircraft over the Red Fort in Delhi, India. On August 1, 1964, Air Marshal Arjan Singh took over as the third Indian Chief of Air Staff of the IAF. He served as the Indian Air Force chief from August 1964 to 1969. He was elevated to the rank of IAF Chief Marshal on January 15, 1966.

He led the IAF in the India-Pakistan war held in the year 1965. He was also honoured with the Padma Vibhushan for his sagacious leadership of the IAF during the 1965 India-Pakistan war.

He retired from his services in August 1969. After his retirement from IAF, he was appointed as Ambassador of India to Switzerland, High Commissioner to Kenya, and served as Lieutenant Governor of New Delhi from 1989 to 1990.

A few events from the Timeline of Sardar Arjan Singh’s Life

  • August 1969: Sardar Arjan Singh retired from the Indian Air Force (IAF) after serving for a period of three decades.
  • In 1971, he was appointed as India’s Ambassador to Switzerland.
  • In the year 1974, he was appointed as Indian High Commissioner to Kenya.
  • In 2002, he was conferred with the rank of the Marshal of the Indian Air Force, becoming the first and the only Indian Air Force officer with ‘Five Star’ rank.

Briefing Up

The career graph of Air Chief Marshal Sardar Arjan Singh is an inspiration, a motivation and he remains an icon for present IAF officers and the subsequent generation.

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