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Karun Krishna Majumdar

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Wg. Cmdr. Karun Krishna "Jumbo" Majumdar
Kk jumbo majumdar.jpg
Birth 6th September, 1913
Death 17th February, 1945 (Aged: 31 years)
Reason of Death Air crash
In Memory Karun Majumdar General Knowledge Prize
Portfolio DFC & Bar
First Ace of the Indian Air Force.


Karun Krishna (KK) Majumdar, an Indian Fighter Pilot who won the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) twice. That is, the only IAF pilot to be awarded a bar on his DFC, is regarded as the First Ace of The Indian Air Force (IAF).[1] He tragically died in an air crash on 17th February, 1945. That very year, the annual award of the Karun Majumdar General Knowledge Prize, was instituted to perpetuate his memory.[2] A plaque in his name has also been placed in the School chapel.[3]

Details[edit]

Wing Commander Karun Krishna Majumdar, gave the fledgling Indian Air Force its first war hero in World War II. A born leader, and a daredevil of a pilot, Majumdar was the second Indian Pilot ever (the first in World War II) to be decorated with the “Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)”. (The first Indian Pilot was Indra Lal Roy who was awarded posthumously in September 1918 in World War I).

This is a military decoration awarded to personnel of the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and other services, and formerly to officers of other Commonwealth countries of the erstwhile British Empire, for "An Act or Acts of Valour, Courage or Devotion to Duty Whilst Flying in Active Operations Against The Enemy".

If the award is won for a second time, a BAR is awarded to the DFC won previously. This is precisely, the achievement of Karun Majumdar, who is the only pilot in the IAF to be decorated with a Bar to the DFC.

There is a Memorial Plaque in the School Chapel, commemorating this gallant son of the school.

Popularly called "Jumbo", he started his flying career after training at RAF Cranwell. On being commissioned he joined No.1 Squadron as Flying Officer in the Mid 1930s. He was identified early as having leadership potential and was charge as Flight Commander of 'C' Flight of the No.1 Squadron. Promoted to Squadron Leader, K.K. Majumdar took over command of the No.1 Squadron in June 1941, when it was based at Miranshah, NWFP. The squadron after its conversion to Westland Lysanders in August 1941 was moved to Drigh Road for training.

At the onset of the hostilities, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and Malaya, “Jumbo” Majumdar and his command were put to test very early. The No.1 IAF Squadron was posted to Burma.

The Squadron reached Toungoo airfield on 1 Feb 1942. The Japanese Air Force attacked Toungoo the very next day, destroying the allied airfield installations and aircraft. Only the No.1 Squadron’s aircraft were unscathed. Majumdar immediately planned a retaliatory raid on the Japanese airfield at Mae-Haungsan with his Lysander, whose use in offensive bombing missions was generally unheard off. The next day, Majumdar took off in a solitary Lysander armed with two 250 lbs. bombs. Seeing this, New Zealanders of the No.67 RAF Squadron who were sharing Toungoo air field, in sheer admiration and respect for this young Indian, who was taking on the Japanese, sent an escort of two Buffalo fighters with him. Squadron Leader Majumdar flew at low level, almost skimming the tree tops to achieve complete surprise at the Japanese airfield. He dropped his bombs with unerring accuracy on an aircraft hanger at the airfield, destroying it as well as the aircraft inside.

The very next day, Majumdar was in the thick of the action again. This time he led the whole squadron on a bombing mission on the airfield, destroying several buildings, wireless installations and aircraft on the ground. These lumbering Lysanders would normally have been no match for the Japanese Zeros and Oscars without the courage and skills of the Indian Pilots. From then till the fall of Rangoon in April 1942, the Lysanders provided close air support to the Army. They were finally withdrawn after handing over their Lysanders to the Burmese Air Force.

Karun “Jumbo” Majumdar was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his leadership of the squadron during the Burma Campaign on 10th November, 1942. He was the first Indian Air Force Officer to be so decorated during World War II.

Following K. K. Majumdar, 21 other brave pilots of the Indian Air Force were also decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) during World War II. Prominent among them being Sq. Ldr. Arjan Singh (later Chief of Air Staff and now Marshal of the IAF), Sq. Ldr. Aspy Merwan Engineer (later Chief of Air Staff), Sq. Ldr Pratap Chandra Lal (later Chief of Air Staff), Flt. Lt. Minoo Merwan Engineer (later Air Marshal) and Fg. Offr. Rohinton Merwan Engineer (later Group Captain).

After his Burma exploits, K.K. Majumdar spent two years in India in various staff and flying assignments. Restless and by this time promoted Wing Commander, “Jumbo” Majumdar again returned to the front, volunteering for posting as a tactical reconnaissance pilot with No 268 Squadron, Royal Air Force, during the liberation of France in 1944.

Prior to the Allied advance northwards in France, Majumdar, was entrusted with the job of tactical reconnaissance and photographic sorties. He completed exceptionally valuable photographic reconnaissance’s of the Seine bridges, in the face of heavy ground defences. He has also participated in long range tactical reconnaissance, during which, he was intercepted several times by superior formations of enemy aircraft.

For the missions undertaken by him and for his skill and courage, which had always been outstanding, Majumdar was awarded a Bar to his DFC on 23rd January 1945, again the first and the only Indian to be so decorated.

Majumdar having returned from Europe in early 1945, now participated in the Indian Air Force Display Flights and toured the country conducting aerobatic shows and displays to attract and bring to public notice, the Indian Air Force's exploits.

It was on 17 February 1945, Majumdar decided to do an aerobatic practice sortie in a Hawker Hurricane. The aircraft he chose had a previous history of snags and problems. Disregarding the advice of his compatriot, Flying Officer Harjinder Singh, (later Air Vice Marshal), Majumdar took to the skies in the Hurricane. In the midst of the aerobatic routine, which involved a dive, one of the undercarriage legs, unlocked itself from the wheel well and deployed down, upsetting the aircraft's stability. The Hurricane stalled and crashed headlong into the ground, killing Wing commander Majumdar instantaneously. He died, as he had wanted to live, carefree, daring and at the controls, doing what he wanted to, fly, to his heart's content.

Majumdar lies buried at the Gora Kabristan (white graveyard) in Lahore.

It has been said, Karun Majumdar would have been destined to reach the topmost position in the Indian Air Force, that of the Chief of Air Staff, if fate has not decided to intervene.

References[edit]

  1. Note on Sumant Dalmiya's Facebook Profile
  2. A pic of the Award list on Sumant Dalmiya's Facebook profile
  3. Link to image on Sumant Dalmiya's Facebook Profile