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].