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Saga of Sweat and Tears

Combat Lore: Indian Air Force 1930-45 It is quite likely that a 568-page book on the Indian Air Force (IAF) may scare off many from even attempting to read it but a quick look through is enough to convince readers that there is nothing ‘heavy’ or boring about this combat lore. The book is about the men who make up the air force, ones who have toiled and worked hard to make it one of the most respected forces in the world.

One such icon was Harjinder Singh, father of Maintenance Command of the IAF. A mechanical engineer, he joined in 1931 and dreamt of forming an ‘Indian air force’. It was tough going initially as Singh and other fellow Indians faced apathy and indifference of the British officers who looked down upon the Indians as good for nothing. But he swore to suffer all the insults and indignities for the sake of creating an all Indian air force. And he managed to realise his dream when on 1 April 1933, the IAF saw the first light of the day. The events which led to the forming of the IAF and thereafter are meticulously recorded by Singh in his memoirs which the author has generously used in the book. Without it, there would have been such little information that one would have got.

First person accounts of former officers make for compelling read. Wing Commander T.C. George, for instance, joined No 1 Squadron and was chosen by Jumbo Majumdar, another iconic air force figure, to serve in Burma. In fact, it is through these first person accounts that details about some of the iconic officers can be gleaned.

Then there are reports — press, official as well as eyewitness — that fill the pages with delightful tidbits about the various events in the IAF’s 81-year-old journey. For instance, an eyewitness account by Wilfred W. Russell, RAFVR, of the 10th celebration of the air force makes for an interesting read.

The author has painstakingly, and obviously lovingly, created a book that speaks volumes about the hopes, aspirations, fears and frustrations of the men who came together to form a formidable force that the world would reckon with one day.

Combat Lore: Indian Air Force 1930-45
Somnath Sapru
KW Publishers Pvt Ltd
568 pg

— Meenakshi Kumar


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