A bit of military history trivia for the history buffs…
This afternoon I got an email from someone doing research on a World War I fighter pilot named Indra Lal Roy.
Unsurprisingly, I knew nothing about the subject, but through a little digging I did come across a couple of pages in a book called Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History by Rozina Visram that has a couple of pages on Indra Lal Roy. It turns out the interesting thing isn’t that he fought in the war — in fact, there were thousands of Indians on the western front — but that he managed to get into the elite Royal Flying Corps (RFC). He was one of only four, and (at least on the internet) he is the only thing about which anything is concretely known:
In early 1917, anxious to ‘do his bit’ in the war, he applied for a temporary commission to the RFC. How difficult it had been for Roy to obtain a commission is hard to judge. A letter addressed to General Sefton Brancker from a Charles Roberts suggests it had not been easy. The ‘best way’ as an Indian, apparently, was to enlist as an air mechanic and then, if he proved worthy, become a ‘flight mechanic’. However, as in the case of 2nd Lt. S.C. Welinkar from Jesus College Cambridge, it was likely that it was Brancker’s personal recommendation that eventually secured Roy the Commission. He joined the RFC in July 1917 and on 30th October was posted to 56 Squadron.
Here is what the researcher is looking for:
My book is actually aimed at children, ages 9-12. When I was a kid I read a lot of books about military heroes and I thought Indra Lal Roy’s story needs telling. Are there books about Indian military heroes there for children?
I have found his service record and some other things about his background. The contradicting tale I found is this, on a couple of Indian web sites I have read a story that says Roy was injured in a crash, believed dead, sent to the morgue only to revive before the astonished attendants. I cannot seem to find any official documentation to support this, and I wonder if its true or just a bit of fiction conjured up by an admirer.
The story he is referring to is up at Bharat Rakshak [editorializing comment removed]. It looks pretty fanciful to me.
But the other question stands — are there books about Indian military history (for children or otherwise) that readers would recommend to this (American) researcher? I get the feeling he is just starting out on his project.