Among the galaxy of politicians including President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the three chiefs of the armed forces, who visited the residence of Indian Air Force Marshal Arjan Singh in New Delhi to pay their tributes, was also present actor and TV personality Mandira Bedi.
Air Force Marshal Arjan Singh was the uncle of actor Mandira Bedi, who expressed her grief on the death of the legendary military officer with a Twitter post saying, “Marshall (sic) of the Air Force, #ArjanSingh , my uncle, passed away this evening. A true officer and a gentleman. Will miss him dearly.”
Mandira Bedi is related to Marshal Arjan Singh through his wife Teji Singh, who died in 2011. Teji Singh was Mandira Bedi’s maternal aunt. Marshal Arjan Singh had married Teji Singh in 1948.
Marshal Arjan Singh was the fourth generation soldier from his family. His great-grandfather Sultana Singh was the Naib Risaldar in the Guides Cavalry of the British Indian Army enlisted in 1854. Sultana Singh was martyred during the Afghan campaign of 1879.
AIR FORCE CHIEF AT 45
Marshal Arjan Singh was the first, after three generations, from the family to become a commissioned officer of the Armed Forces. Marshal Arjan Singh is best remembered for his contribution in the 1965 war as the Air Force chief.
Born in 1919, Arjan Singh joined the British Indian air force at the age of 19 in 1938 as pilot officer. He rose through the ranks fast and at the time of Independence, Arjan Singh was a wing commander and acting group captain.
Arjan Singh led the first fly-past of the Indian Air Force over the Red Fort as part of the Independence Day celebrations on August 15, 1947. Arjan Singh became the Chief of Air Staff in 1964 at the age of 45.
ARJAN SINGH AND 1965-WAR
The following year, he played the decisive role in 1965-India-Pakistan war. He was awarded Padma Vibhushan – second highest civilian award in the country – for his services in the war.
It was his leadership in the 1965 war that led to elevation of the rank of the Chief of Air Staff to Air Chief Marshal. Arjan Singh is the only Air Force chief who held the position for five years as against the norm of two-and-a-half years to three years.
Arjan Singh flew more than 60 different types of military aircraft and as the Air Force chief Arjan Singh transformed the Indian Air Force from a military power modeled on World War-II pattern to a modern and fourth biggest global force.
POST-AIR FORCE CAREER
After his retirement in 1969, Arjan Singh took the position of the Ambassador to Switzerland in 1971. He concurrently held the position of the Ambassador to the Vatican. From Switzerland, he moved to Kenya as High Commissioner in 1974 and stayed there till 1977.
From 1975 to 1981, Arjan Singh served on the National Commission for Minorities. He was made the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi for one year between December 1989 and December 1990. Delhi did not have a chief minister during that period.
FIVE-STAR MARSHAL ARJAN SINGH
On the Republic Day in 2002, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government elevated Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh to the five-star rank of the Air Force Marshal. He became the first Air Force Officer and only till date to have been decorated with the five-star rank.
However, he was the third military officer to hold that rank. The other two were former army chiefs SHF Jamshedji Manekshaw and KM Cariappa. The rank of Air Force Marshal is equivalent to the Army’s five-star Field Marshal and Navy’s Admiral of the Fleet grade.
Last year, an Air Force station, Panagarh in West Bengal was named after Air Force Marshal Arjan Singh as Air Force Station Arjan Singh. After suffering a massive cardiac arrest, Marshal Arjan Singh breathed his last on Saturday evening at the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi.