Statue planned for Eastbourne student known as the ‘Flying Sikh’

A statue for an Eastbourne student who ended up being the first Indian pilot to serve with the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War is being planned.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 12:46 pm

Hardit Singh Malik attended Eastbourne College and later became known as the ‘Flying Sikh’ as he wore a specially designed helmet that fitted over his turban.

He served on the Western Front, flying a Sopwith Camel on combat missions across France and Italy.

The memorial is to be dedicated to the black and ethnic minority service personnel who lost their lives in the two world wars.

Photo from Eastbourne College SUS-210325-172356001

A sketch of the statue has been finished and it will be installed near Southampton’s Sea City Museum.

When he attended the college, he was on the cricket first team from 1910-1912. He topped the batting average and played for Sussex a few times too.

Hardit was also a self-taught golfer and played at the Royal Eastbourne Golf Club where he was a member from 1914 and won the Club Gold Medal in 1921.

In 1912 he won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, to read history.

Photo from Eastbourne College SUS-210325-172417001

When he tried to join the war he was told there were no vacancies for Indian students in the army so he worked as an ambulance driver before getting his Royal Flying Corps commission.

During one mission Hardit had to crash-land with more than 400 bullet holes in his plane and a number of bullets in his leg – these bullets remained there for the rest of his life.

After the war, he had a career in the Indian civil service and then the Indian diplomatic service, becoming the High Commissioner to Canada and then Ambassador to France.

Hardit died in 1985 at the age of 90.

One Community Hampshire and Dorset, and the Southampton Council of Gurdwaras have approved the design for the statue which will be created by West Midlands-based artist Luke Perry.