Photograph of Indian pilots arriving in the UK


During the Battle of Britain of World War Two, the British government and military forces realised that the Royal Air Force (RAF) would need considerably more support. In October 1940, a newspaper article declared that, among other nations, India was sending pilots to Britain.[1] This photograph shows just a few of the 26 Indian pilots who arrived in London a couple of days later. Among the men was Mahindra Singh Pujji, a fighter pilot who won the Distinguished Flying Cross for his missions in three theatres of war across Europe, North Africa and Burma.

Upon their arrival at a London train station, the pilots were met by Sir Louis Leisler Greig from the Air Ministry and the photographer William G Vanderson. Their aim was to show evidence of India’s significant contribution to the war effort. As India at War acknowledges, India already operated a small air force to oppose Axis advances in Asia, but the British public largely perceived their role in the war as minimal.

[1] 'R.A.F. Pilot Reserve', Daily Telegraph (7 October 1940), p. 6. The Telegraph Historical Archive [accessed 11 May 2017].

Full title:
The first group of Indian pilots arriving at London Station to be greeted by Louis Greig, right, 8th October 1940
8 October 1940, London
Photograph / Image
William Vanderson
© William G. Vanderson/Fox Photos/Getty Images
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Getty Images

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