Indra Lal Roy, the most famous Indian pilot of
the First World War, was born in Calcutta on 2 December 1898. Roy's
service record in AIR 76/438 shows that he joined the Royal
Flying Corps (RFC) in early April 1917 at the age of just 18,
when he was a student at St Paul's School in London. Within the
space of three months, he had earned promotion to the rank of second
After a period of flying training at Vendôme
in France and a spell at the RFC Gunnery School in Turnberry, Roy
was given his first posting (with No. 56 Squadron) in late October
1917. Unfortunately he was injured when his plane crashed on 6 December
1917. The medical board record in Roy's file shows that he was not
declared fit to resume flying until 13 May 1918.
On 19 June 1918 Roy was posted to No. 40 Squadron in France. During
his period of service with the squadron, he shot down nine German
planes in less than 14 days. His brief and spectacular flying career
ended when he was killed in action during a dogfight with a German
Fokker aeroplane on 22 July, at the age of only 19.
Roy was posthumously awarded the Distinguished
Flying Cross. He was the first Indian to receive this honour.
The citation in the London Gazette on 21 September
1918 praised Roy as 'a very gallant and determined officer'
whose 'remarkable skill and daring' had enabled him on occasion
to shoot down 'two [enemy] machines in one patrol'.