Recorder editor Michael Adkins celebrates our wartime Indian allies

PUBLISHED: 09:00 15 February 2017 | UPDATED: 09:44 15 February 2017


The role of Indian soldiers and fighter pilots in the First and Second World Wars is a fascinating subject.

The Minhaj-ul-Quran Educational Centre in Forest Gate is quite right to highlight this crucial ally of our country - a part often overlooked in wartime history.

Without the support of foreign fighters, particularly from India, the outcome of both the First and Second World Wars could have been very different. I bet there are not many people who realise how pivitol their unwavering support has been but I’ve heard it first hand. I had the pleasure to meet, interview and attend functions on several occasions with Squadron Leader Mohinder Singh Pujji DFC when I started my career as a journalist in Gravesend, Kent.

Sadly he has since passed away but I look back fondly at the times I chatted candidly with him about his heroics as a fighter pilot in the Second World War.

As one of the first Indian Sikh pilots to volunteer for the Royal Air Force in the Second World War, he signed up in search of adventure but soon fell in love with the country he later made his home.

Britain was suffering heavy loses in the skies and began advertising abroad for pilots to join the RAF in 1940 - a job advert which in all but words basically said fight for us and probably die for us.

During the course of the war he saw comrades die, rescued lost American troops with daring manoeuvre’s and made headlines as he refused to remove his turban while flying his missions.

In 1941 he flew hurricanes as he defended our coastlines when Hitler ordered the bombing of London.

He survived crashes and flew missions in Britain, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Burma.

After the war he became a champion air race pilot before settling in Britain. His statue now stands proudly in Gravesend - a true hero of mine.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Newham Recorder. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Newham Recorder