RAF 100 Fly-past marks 71 years since the start of the Battle of Britain. Thousands stood in the streets and on The Mall in London to witness over 100 aircraft fly in synchronized formations. However unaware to many, it wasn’t just British pilots who defended our skies from Axis forces.
In 1941 around 20% of the pilots who fought in the aerial battle where from non-British countries. 596 pilots came from Poland, Canada, India, New Zealand, Czechoslovakia, Ireland, Australia, Belgium, South Africa, France, America, Southern Rhodesia, Jamaica and Mandatory Palestine.
Squadron Leader Mohinder Singh Pujji was one of those pilots. Born in Simla, India, Mohinder learned to fly in 1936 as a hobby pilot at the Delhi Flying Club and by April the next year he was a qualified commercial pilot.
In 1940, he attended the Indian Air Force 4th pilot course and became one of the first batch of 24 pilots who were accepted to receive a Volunteer Reserve commission with the RAF. After completion of all his flight training, Mohinder flew in active service with No.43 Squadron RAF, the formidable “fighting cocks” fighter squadron. Flying the Hawker Hurricane, a plane that inflicted 60% of the losses sustained by the Luftwaffe. Mohinder preferred the Hurricane over the iconic Spitfire due to its ease of flying.
After the Battle of Britain, Mohinder then went on to fly as part of the North African Campaign and then the Burma Campaign. For his service in the RAF, Mohinder received several awards including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the 1939-1945 Star.
After retirement, he moved to East Ham and became an active member within the community. Later he moved to Gravesend in Kent and in 2000 he was made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Newham. Mohinder continued to campaign and raise awareness for the racial diversity who serve in the armed forces until his death in 2010.
A statue of Sqn Ldr Pujji now stands in St Andrew’s Gardens, in Gravesend bearing the inscription:
“To commemorate those from around the world who served alongside Britain in all conflicts 1914-2014”