Birthday: April 15, 1919
Died At Age: 98
Sun Sign: Aries
Born Country: India
Born in: Faisalabad
Famous as: Marshal of the Indian Air Force
Height: 5'7" (170 cm), 5'7" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Teji Arjan Singh (m. ?–2011)
father: Kishan Singh
mother: Kartar Kaur
children: Arvind Singh
Died on: September 16, 2017
Cause of Death: Cardiac Arrest
education: Royal Air Force College Cranwell (1938–1939)
awards: Padma Vibhushan
General Service Medal 1947
Samar Seva Star
Sainya Seva Medal
Indian Independence Medal
Distinguished Flying Cross
War Medal 1939–1945
India Service Medal
Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC, was India's oldest-serving officer who held various key positions, including that of the Chief of the Air Staff. Known for his strategic vision, leadership, and competence, he had the honour of leading the first fly-past of an RIAF aircraft over Delhi’s Red Fort on 15 August 1947. A few years following independence, Singh was promoted to the Chief of the Air Staff. Born in the town of Lyallpur, British India, into a Jat household, he grew up in a family with an army background. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather had held lower and middle ranks in the army. Singh, however, was the first member in his family to acquire the rank of a commissioned officer. In 1966, he became the first IAF officer to become Air Chief Marshal. In 2002, he became the first and the only IAF officer to be promoted to Marshal of the Indian Air Force, a five-star rank equal to the army rank of Field Marshal. After retirement from the army, Singh served as a diplomat and advisor to the Indian government. A father of three, the legendary air force officer died in 2017 following a cardiac arrest. He was 98.
Childhood & Early Life
Arjan Singh was born on 15 April 1919, in Lyallpur, Punjab, British India (currently Faisalabad, Pakistan), to Kishan Singh and Kartar Kaur. His father served as a Lance Daffadar at the time of his birth and later retired as a full Risaldar.
Singh received his early education in Montgomery, British India. In 1938, he joined the RAF College Cranwell.
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On 23 December 1939, Arjan Singh was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in Royal Air Force.
In 1941 and 1942, he served as a flying officer and flight lieutenant, respectively. Soon after this, he was promoted to the rank of acting squadron leader and later led No. 1 Squadron, Indian Air Force, during the 1944’s Arakan Campaign.
In 1945, Singh commanded the Indian Air Force Exhibition Flight. On 15 August 1947, he led the first fly-past of RIAF aircraft over Delhi’s Red Fort as an acting group captain and wing commander.
Soon after independence, he was promoted to Group Captain (acting) of Royal Indian Air Force and assumed work at Air Force Station, Ambala. He became the director of training at air headquarters in 1949. A year later, he was promoted to Air Commodore of Indian Air Force AOC.
From May 1958 to January 1961, he was Air Vice Marshal, Air Officer in Charge. Then in early 1963, he became Deputy Chief of Air Staff and later acquired the rank of Vice Chief of the Air Staff.
On 1 August 1964, Singh became Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), at the relatively young age of 45. He held the position until 15 July 1969.
In January 1966, he became the first IAF Chief of the Air Staff to be upgraded to the rank of Air Chief Marshal. He was also elected as chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
Singh retired in 1969 at the age of 50. On 26 January 2002, he was honoured with the title of Marshal of the Indian Air Force, becoming the first and only IAF officer to be promoted to a five-star rank.
Post Military Career
In 1971, Arjan Singh became the Indian Ambassador to Switzerland and also concurrently served as the Indian Ambassador to the Vatican.
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From 1974 to 1977, he served as the High Commissioner to Kenya. Concurrently, he served as a member of the Government of India and the National Commission for Minorities from 1975 to 1981.
He was the Lt. Governor of Delhi from late 1989 to late 1990.
Awards & Medals
Arjan Singh was awarded many medals and awards for his exceptional military service. He received Padma Vibhushan for leading the Indian Air Force during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.
He received several other honours, including the General Service Medal 1947, Raksha Medal, Samar Seva Star, Sainya Seva Medal, Indian Independence Medal, Burma Star, India Service Medal, and Distinguished Flying Cross, to name a few.
Family & Personal Life
Arjan Singh’s grandfather Risaldar Major Hukam Singh was associated with the Guides Cavalry from the late 1880s till early 1900s. His great-grandfather, Naib Risaldar Sultana Singh, was enlisted in the Guides Cavalry in the 1850s.
In 1948, Singh married Teji Singh. They had three kids, Amrita, Arvind, and Asha. The couple remained married until Teji’s death in 2011.
His niece is the renowned actress and television personality Mandira Bedi.
Death & Legacy
On 16 September 2017, Arjan Singh suffered a cardiac arrest at his home. He died that evening at New Delhi’s Army Hospital, Research and Referral. He was 98.
On 14 April 2016, the then Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha stated that the Indian Air Force base at Panagarh in West Bengal will be named Air Force Station Arjan Singh in Singh’s honor.