Thursday, June 8, 2023
Support Our Journalism
HomeSoftCoverNew book by historian Stephen Barker tells story of only Sikh to...

New book by historian Stephen Barker tells story of only Sikh to fly with Royal Air Force in WWI

Published by HarperCollins, ‘Lion of the Skies: Hardit Singh Malik, the Royal Air Force and the First World War’ by Stephen Barker will be released on 7 July on ThePrint’s Softcover.

Text Size:

New Delhi: A new book by independent museum consultant and historian Stephen Barker chronicles the fascinating life story of Hardit Singh Malik, who was the sole Sikh airman to fly with the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force during the first World War.

Published by HarperCollins, the book, titled ‘Lion of the Skies: Hardit Singh Malik, the Royal Air Force and the First World War,’ will be released on 7 July on ‘Softcover’, ThePrint’s online venue to launch non-fiction books.

An expert in work relating to the First World War and the British civil wars, Barker has completed several successful projects for the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, and the Battlefields Trust. Barker has years of experience designing exhibitions and making funding applications on behalf of museums, universities, charities and other organisations in the heritage sector.

Barker’s book is a rich historical and biographical undertaking that brings to light Hardit Singh Malik’s unique story of battling discrimination and alienation while struggling to enlist and serve as a fighter pilot alongside British military personnel.

Barker said about the book, “Only a handful of the one and a half million Indian soldiers who fought on behalf of the Empire during the Great War have left any personal testimonies and Malik’s story is unique therefore – this book representing the sole biography of an Indian combatant alongside British military personnel!”

The chronologically ordered book spans across time and continents, from Rawalpindi in 1894 to Yatesbury in 1917, and finally to Amritsar till 1921. Abundant in fascinating anecdotes as well as large amounts of information about Malik’s life, the book’s writing style comprises a mix of the historical with the personal.

Barker’s book paints a picture of Malik from his early days as a fourteen-year-old public school boy in Britain, and recounts his journey through his university days before highlighting to the world his commendable role as a crack pilot in World War I.

Fascinatingly, Malik wore a specially designed flying helmet that could fit over his turban as he was a devout Sikh.

Prior to joining the RFC, Malik served with the French Red Cross in 1916 as an ambulance driver, until one of his Oxford tutors recommended him to a former head of the RFC and managed to get him a cadetship. Malik had two kills to his name before he was shot down behind Allied Lines with his Sopwith Camel also taking a hit of over 400 bullets. Later, he went on to become the first Indian high commissioner to Canada after which he served as the Indian ambassador to France.

Commending the book, renowned public intellectual and writer Shashi Tharoor writes, “Beyond painting an insightful portrait of this interesting and accomplished man’s own life, Barker delves into various angles of the history of Britain’s relationship with colonial India: the alienation sometimes felt by Indian students in Britain, the long battle to allow Indians to serve in Britain’s army, and more.”

In the words of Swati Chopra, Executive Editor of HarperCollins India, this book is likely to make readers’ list of good reads “to sink their teeth into”.

Also read: ‘Glimpse of a person time has ignored:’ Kasturba Gandhi’s rare diary comes out as a book

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism

Most Popular