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The design for a sculpture of an early 20th century fighter pilot, dubbed the Flying Sikh, has been approved for a new memorial in Southampton to commemorate the contribution of Indians to both World Wars.
Hardit Singh Malik first arrived in the UK in 1908 as a 14-year-old to Balliol College at the University of Oxford and went on to become a member of the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. As the first Indian and turbaned pilot with a specialised helmet, he became famous as the Flying Sikh in the Royal Flying Corps in World War I.
Hardit Singh Malik also played cricket for Sussex and was also the Indian Ambassador to Canada and then France during a long and distinguished career in the Indian Civil Service. But it is as a fighter pilot during 1917-19 that he is best known.
Lord Rami Ranger, Chairman of the Association and Chief Patron of One Community Hampshire & Dorset (OCHD) – the organisation behind the campaign for the memorial, said: “I am truly overwhelmed by the striking beauty and power of the exceptional design of the memorial, which captures the spirit and endeavour of this great RAF fighter pilot, Hardit Singh Malik, so well.
“It gives me great happiness to learn that the design is approved by the community.”
“This project certainly speaks for itself; strongly furthering community cohesion and integration, and testifying to the major contribution our Sikh and broader ethnic minority communities make to our country, as we live in such a vibrant multicultural society here in Southampton,” said Pritheepal Singh, OCHD CEO and Director.
The memorial, approved for the port city by Southampton City Council last year, will be created by English sculptor Luke Perry, who is associated with other memorials such as the “Lions of the Great War” monument in Smethwick in the West Midlands region of England, which depicts a turbaned soldier to honour the sacrifices made by millions of South Asian service personnel who fought for Britain in the .
His design for the latest memorial was finalised earlier this month and also received the backing of the Council of Southampton .
“Monuments such as this are a vital part of the fight for equal representation. 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 health care and every aspect of modern life,” said Perry.
“The public statue of Hardit Singh Malik embodies the spirit of inclusivity — representing the will to ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ at the intersection of two World Wars and minority enrolment in the RAF: a significant feat for an Indian at the time,” added Dr Sanjukta Ghosh, Artistic Director at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) South Asia Institute and OCHD Advisor.
An online is inviting funds for the memorial, the unveiling of which is expected to be accompanied by educational resources, a book and a documentary covering several educational themes.