First Indian fighter pilot for Royal Flying Corps will be immortalised in statue to remember the thousands of Sikhs who fought for Britain and its allies in WWI.
The statue of the first Indian to fly as a pilot with the Royal Flying Corps - the precursor of the RAF - is to be created in Southampton city centre to mark the 'lost history' of ethnic minorities fighting for Britain and the allies. The statue is to be created by artist Luke Perry and it's planned to be installed by April 2023.
Group Captain Hardit Singh Malik, an Indian civil servant and diplomat after becoming a pilot, became known as the 'Flying Hobgoblin' because he wore a specially designed helmet that fitted over his turban. By the end of the First World War, he was credited with two kills during aerial combat. Of the four Indians who flew with the RFC and RAF in the conflict, he was one of two who survived.
He flew with 28 Squadron RFC and served on the Western Front in October 1917, flying a Sopwith Camel biplane on combat missions across France and Italy. Group Captain Malik was one of around 130,000 Sikhs who took part in the conflict, according to the Sikh Memorial Fund.
On 26 October, after shooting down a German aircraft, he was wounded and crash-landed behind Allied lines - his aircraft was found to have suffered more than 450 hits.
Luke Perry said: 'Monuments such as this are a vital part of the fight for equal representation. These artworks are long overdue thanks and recognition to the communities from around the world who have supported Britain in its past and continue to do so in vital roles, not just in the armed forces, but our health care and every aspect of modern life. We are a beautiful and diverse nation; our artworks, as with all things, should reflect this.'
Alan Mercel-Sanca, director of the UK Nepal Friendship Society, said: 'This much-needed memorial will have truly national level educational and significance for the 21st century multicultural and diverse communities of Britain. Hardit Singh Malik was not just the first Sikh community member and BAME pilot, but a major UK level pioneer for our BAME communities as his story involved successfully challenging the racial exclusion notions of the day with his appointment as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps.'
'History will judge that Malik was a true giant in what he achieved in regard to ending race-related segregationist perspectives and practices in our British armed forces in the First World War era.'
Lord Rami Ranger, chairman of the British Sikh Association said: 'I am truly overwhelmed by the striking beauty and power of this exceptional design of the memorial, which captures the spirit and endeavour of this great RAF fighter pilot, Hardit Singh Malik, so well.'
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