Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC, Padma Vibhushan awardee (Punjabi: ਅਰਜਨ ਸਿੰਘ) (born 15 Apr 1919 as Arjan Singh Aulakh) is the only officer of the Indian Air Force to be promoted to five-star rank, equal to a Field Marshal, to which he was promoted in 2002. He was born in the Punjab town of Lyallpur, British India (now Faisalabad, Pakistan). With the death of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw in June 2008, he is the only living Indian military officer with a five-star rank.
|Marshal of the Indian Air Force
Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh and (right) the ceremonial baton
|Born||15 April 1919
Lyallpur, Punjab, British India
(now Faisalabad, Pakistan)
|Allegiance||British India (1938-1947)
India (from 1947)
|Service/branch||Indian Air Force|
|Years of service||1938–1969
|Rank||Marshal of the Air Force|
|Commands held||No. 1 Squadron IAF
Ambala Air Force Station
|Battles/wars||World War II
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
General Service Medal 1947
Samar Seva Star
Sainya Seva Medal
Indian Independence Medal
Distinguished Flying Cross
War Medal 1939–1945
India Service Medal
Early life and career
Arjan Singh was born on 15 Apr 1919 in Lyallpur, Punjab (now Faisalabad, Pakistan), what was then British India in a distinguished military family. His father was a Lance Daffadar in the Hodson’s Horse at the time of his birth, and retired as a full Risaldar of the Cavalry, serving for a time as ADC to a Division Commander. His grandfather Risaldar Major Hukam Singh belonged to the Guides Cavalry between 1883 and 1917. His great-grandfather, Naib Risaldar Sultana Singh was among the first two generations of the Guides Cavalry enlisted in 1854, he was martyred during the Afghan campaign of 1879. Arjan Singh was educated at Montgomery, British India (now in Pakistan). He entered the RAF College Cranwell in 1938 and was commissioned as a pilot officer in December 1939. As a distinguished graduate of the RAF College, Singh’s portrait is now to be found on the walls of the College’s west staircase.
Singh led No. 1 Squadron, Indian Air Force into combat during the Arakan Campaign in 1944. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1944, and commanded the Indian Air Force Exhibition Flight in 1945. Singh almost faced a court-martial in February 1945 when he tried to raise the morale of a trainee pilot (later rumored to be the future Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh) by conducting a low level air pass over a house in Kerala. In his defence, he insisted that such tricks were needed for every cadet to be a fighter pilot.
He was Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), from 1 August 1964 to 15 July 1969, and was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1965. He also became the first Air Chief Marshal of the Indian Air Force to be upgraded to the position of Air Chief Marshal from the rank of Chief of the Air Staff in recognition of his Air Force’s contribution in the 1965 war. He took retirement from his services in 1969 at the age of 50. In 1971 (after his retirement) he was appointed as the Indian Ambassador to Switzerland. He concurrently served as the Ambassador to the Vatican. He was also appointed as the High Commissioner to Kenya in 1974. He has also remained a member of the National Commission for Minorities and The Government of India (from 1975-1981). He was the Lt. Governor of Delhi from Dec 1989 – Dec 1990 and was made Marshal of the Air Force in January, 2002.
IAF career highlights
|1938||Entered RAF College Cranwell as a Flight Cadet|
|23 December 1939||Commissioned in Royal Air Force as a Pilot Officer|
|9 May 1941||Flying Officer|
|15 May 1942||Flight Lieutenant|
|1944||(Acting) Squadron Leader|
|2 June 1944||Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross|
|1947||Wing Commander, Royal Indian Air Force, Air Force Station, Ambala|
|1948||Group Captain, Director, Training, Air Headquarters|
|1949||(Acting) Air Commodore, Indian Air Force AOC, Operational Command|
|2 January 1955||Air Commodore, AOC Western Air Command, Delhi|
|19 December 1959||Air Vice Marshal|
|1961||Air Vice Marshal, Air Officer in Charge of Administration, Air HQ|
|1963||Deputy Chief of Air Staff and subsequently Vice Chief of the Air Staff (India)|
|1 August 1964||Chief of Air Staff (India) (Air Marshal)|
|26 January 1966||Chief of Air Staff rank upgraded to that of an Air Chief Marshal; appointed Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee|
|15 July 1969||Retired from Indian Air Force|
|26 January 2002||Marshal of the Indian Air Force|
Paying homage to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam
Ninety-six-year-old Arjan Singh who was wheelchair bound on that day due to temporary indisposition, was also among the many dignitaries to lay a wreath at the base of the coffin carrying the mortal remains of former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at the Palam Airport. He paid his last respects to late Dr Kalam at Palam Airport on Tuesday, July 28.
Air Force Station Arjan Singh
On 14 April 2016 at an event to mark the Marshal’s 97th birthday, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha announced that Indian Air Force base at Panagarh in West Bengal will be named after MIAF Arjan Singh in honor of his service, and will be called Air Force Station Arjan Singh from then.
Awards and Decorations