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Air Vice Marshal Harjinder Singh was born in a small district of Punjab province. At a very early age, he lost his father and siblings to the plague and, later on, his mother too. Harjinder Singh was raised by his aunt in Jalandhar.
After schooling, Harjinder Singh joined the MacLagan Engineering College in Lahore at the age of 17. He completed his graduation and then continued with an engineering job in civil services, but after 5 years left the job to join the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a “Hawai Sepoy.” Soon after Marshal completed his apprenticeship, he joined the IAF Defence Force at RAF Drigh Road.
Military Career of Air Vice Marshal Harjinder Singh
Harjinder Singh joined the Indian Air Force at RAF Drigh Road. He was trained as a fitter airframe instead of a fitter aero-engine, as his senior NCO suggested him to do so. After two years of apprenticeship, he finally got attached to the test and dispatch flight at RAF Karachi and maintained a Westland Wapiti. He was amongst those 19 Hawau Sepoys at the time it was formed in 1933, having the strength of one flight.
Later on, in 1933, Harjinder was posted to Quetta in September 1933 including four more officers and one sepoy. In February 1934, Air Vice Marshal Harjinder Singh got promoted to the rank of Hawai Naik, which was equivalent to a corporal in the RAF.
The World War II
Seeing the war’s outbreak, Harjinder Singh was offered in the RAF as a Commander of the aircraft depot located in Karachi. But Harjinder rejected the offer by saying he wanted to remain an NCO in the Air Force for his life. Later, he got promoted as Hawai Havildar, a post similar to a sergeant.
After eight months of service, Harjinder Singh was promoted to Flight Sergeant and appointed Station engineer at Fort Sandeman. Flight Lieutenant Karun Krishna Majumdar commanded him in the NWFP. Throughout his stint, he used to be called “Technical Wizard” by his flying officer Baba Mehar Singh as he repaired a crash-landed aircraft in just 72 hours.
When Squadron Mukherjee successfully performed an emergency landing in a village in March 1941, the aircraft got seriously damaged. Harjinder Singh completely repaired that aircraft in two days in the same village. It was a remarkable thing to repair a damaged aircraft in a village all by himself, and due to this reason, Harjinder Singh was recognized in a meeting with British NCOs attached to the squadron in Ambala.
As Harjinder Singh got great recognition for his work, the squadron got converted to the Westland Lysander, making him and his men train on aircraft. He designed, repaired, and installed wooden wheels on the aircraft.
Later on, when KK Majumdar– Leader of No. 1 Squadron, was moving to Burma in 1942, twelve Lysander were moved by train with them from Peshawar via Delhi, Kanpur, Lahore, and Chittagong into Burma. Just a day before they were flying, three of the aircraft crash-landed. The entire technical crew was on the train along with the equipment. Single-handedly, Singh took the pilots and other people to fix the aircraft. Not only this, but he made them flight-worthy for the next 36 hours.
And with such stories, Air Vice Marshal Harjinder Singh got promoted to acting Warrant Officer Class.
Harjinder Singh- Commissioned Officer
Later on in his career, Air Vice Marshal Harjinder Singh got promoted as the first Indian Engineering Officer to the flying officer rank. And on 1st Feb 1943, he was appointed as the president of the Initial and Reselection Board at the Recruits Training Centre, Lahore. The list continues with his joining as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
After Independence in 1947, as most of the repair depots were in Pakistan, Singh organized and built the full maintenance for the aircraft and assured their serviceability. He got his training and got a license as a commercial pilot.
In March 1958, Harjinder Singh got promoted to Air Commodore, and with his air rank, his appointment was re-designated as Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Maintenance Command. As an AOC, he managed leading aircraft like Hawker Siddeley HS 748, Fokker F27 Friendship, and the Lockheed CL-49.
On 15th May, Harjinder Singh got a promotion to Air Marshal and acted as a test pilot for flying the aircraft.
Awards and Rewards
Here are the awards Air Vice Marshal Harjinder Singh earned:
- Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM)
- Indian Independence Medal
- Most Excellent Order of the British Empire