Book Release - Hardit Singh Malik, the Royal Air Force and the First World War

Hardit Singh Malik, the Royal Air Force, and the First World War. Stephen Barker and HarperCollins India proudly present Lion of the Skies.

Lion of the Skies tells the unique story of the only Sikh airman to fly with the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force during the First World War. It is a remarkable account of one man’s struggle to enlist, against discrimination, and of his service as a fighter pilot.

The book also beautifully captures India’s role in the War, the challenges Indians faced in taking up the status of a commissioned officer in colonial Britain, and the rise of Indian nationalism.

About the Book

Lion of the Skies, Hardit Singh Malik by Stephen Barker

Lion of the Skies tells the unique story of the only Sikh airman to fly with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Air Force during the First World War. It is a remarkable account of one man’s struggle to enlist, against discrimination, and of his service as a fighter pilot over the battlefields of Flanders.

Hardit Singh Malik started his life in Britain as a fourteen-year-old public school boy, who progressed to Balliol College, Oxford, before attempting to join the RFC, but he 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 his behalf to a former head of the RFC and secured him a cadetship. One of the things that set him apart was that being a devout Sikh, he wore a specially designed flying helmet that fit over his turban.

Malik claimed two kills in the war until he was shot down, crashing unconscious to the ground behind Allied lines, his Sopwith Camel riddled with over 400 bullet holes. In later life, he became the first Indian high commissioner to Canada and then served as the Indian ambassador to France.

Rich in historical and biographical detail, Lion of the Skies is the only detailed study of an Indian national enlisting in Britain’s armed forces during the First World War. At the same time, it is also an account of India’s role in the war, the challenges Indians faced in taking up the status of a commissioned officer in colonial Britain, and the rise of Indian nationalism.

About the Author

Stephen Barker is an independent museum consultant and historian specializing 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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