He was the first Indian to fly as a pilot with British forces. Now the late Hardit Singh Malik is to be commemorated with a statue in Southampton.
The announcement was made by One Community Hampshire and Dorset (OCHD) and the Southampton Council of Gurdwaras as part of a campaign to mark the ‘lost history’ of ethnic minorities who fought for Britain and its allies in the wars of the last century.
More than one million Indians fought in World War I alone, with 70,000 of them killed.
Group Captain Malik served with the Royal Flying Corps, the precursor to the RAF, between 1914 and 1918. He became known as the ‘Flying Sikh’ because he wore a specially designed helmet that fitted over his turban.
One of just four Indian pilots at the time, he flew a Sopwith Camel on combat missions over France and Italy. Malik survived the war, despite a crash-landing in October 1917 after his aircraft was hit more than 450 times.
In later life, Malik became a diplomat and served as India’s first ambassador to France in the early 1950s, as well as playing first- class cricket. He died in 1985.
Commenting on the announcement, Alan Mercel- Sanca, co-founder and director of OCHD, praised the ‘much needed’ memorial, adding: ‘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 WWI era.’
The sculptor commissioned for the project, Luke Perry, said he was ‘honoured to be a part of this team.’
Perry noted: ‘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 healthcare and every aspect of modern life.’
Perry’s statue and its plinth are set to be almost 5m high. The work is due to be installed near Southampton’s SeaCity Museum by April 2023.