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The Flying Sikh (Hardback)

The Story of a WW1 Fighter Pilot – Flying Officer Hardit Singh Malik 

Aviation > Royal Air Force Aviation > WWI Military > Biographies P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > Social History P&S History > Social Science & Culture > Politics WWI > By Year > 1914 WWI > By Year > 1915 WWI > By Year > 1916 WWI > By Year > 1917 WWI > By Year > 1918

By Stephen Barker, Foreword by Shashi Tharoor
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 25 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399083294
Published: 4th May 2022


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The Flying Sikh tells the unique story of the only Sikh airman to fly with the RFC and the RAF during the First World War. It is the remarkable account of one man’s struggle to enlist, against discrimination, and then his service as a fighter pilot over the battlefields of Flanders.

This book represents the only detailed study of an Indian national enlisting in Britain’s armed forces during the First World War. It is an account of India’s role in the war; the rise of Indian nationalism and the challenges of Indians to take up the status of a commissioned officer in His Majesty’s Armed Forces.

Malik started his new life in Britain as a fourteen-year-old public school boy, who progressed to Balliol College, Oxford, before attempting to join the Royal Flying Corps after graduation with friends from university, but was denied a commission. Keen to participate in the war, he served with the French Red Cross in 1916 as an ambulance driver and then offered his services to the French air force. Ultimately, one of his Oxford tutors wrote on Malik’s behalf to General David Henderson, the former head of the RFC, and secured Malik a cadetship

Above all though, it is the story of a man who was a county cricketer who played for Sussex and Oxford University, an outstanding golfer and fighter pilot who fought over Passchendaele in the autumn of 1917. Being a devout Sikh, he wore a specially designed flying helmet that fitted over his turban.

Malik claimed two kills until he was shot down, crashing unconscious to the ground behind Allied lines. His Sopwith Camel was riddled with over 400 bullet holes. Malik was only one of a small number of Indian nationals who served with the RAF during the war.

In later life, Malik became the first Indian High Commissioner to Canada, and then served as the Indian Ambassador to France.

Military historians will enjoy this biography as will readers of modern Indian history.

Read the Full Review Here

Beating Tsundoku

The flying Sikh tells the story of Hardit Singh Malik, one of the very few India nationals to fly with the RFC.

Hardit Singh Malik deserves a place in history. This book depicts him as a shining example of somebody who has worked hard to fit in to a different world, who was tolerant of others with different values than his own and above all as somebody who knew no boundaries.

The book itself is well written. The author obviously has a genuine interest in the subject and this shows throughout the narrative. I found the book a fascinating insight into the life of a man that I had very little knowledge of until I picked up this book.

Highly recommended.

Great War IPMS Newsletter, Cher Ami - December 2022

As Featured in.
October 2022 Edition.

Stand To! The Western Front Association

"Camel enthusiasts will no doubt find reading the book well worth the effort."

Cross and Cockade

The Flying Sikh: The Story of a WW 1 Fighter Pilot - Flying Officer Hardit Singh Malik is a well-rounded, fact-laden account and is recommended highly.

Over the Front - Autumn 2022 issue

Competition as featured in

RAF News

This man is the kind of character who might have figured largely in Frank Richards's schoolboy stories - Hardit Singh Malik is a larger than life character straight from the pages of the Boys' Own Paper, and his daring and incredible exploits make for a totally fascinating read.

Books Monthly

"...highly recommended as the military biography of an interesting young man who battled discrimination and difficulty with good humor and poise. It is also a good overview of the history of British-Indian relations, at least as regards the military of the period."

Roads to the Great War, July 2022

Featured in:

Cher Ami, GWSIG Newsletter – International Plastic Modellers Society (UK) – March 2021

About Stephen Barker

STEPHEN BARKER is an independent museum consultant and historian specialising in work relating to the First World War and British Civil Wars. He has run successful projects for the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, and the Battlefields Trust. With many years of experience in the heritage sector, Stephen works on behalf of museums, universities, charities and other organizations, designing exhibitions and making funding applications. He is a Trustee of the Bucks Military Museum Trust and this is his second book.

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