During the first decade of the 20th century, the British Empire was at its zenith. The Indian Subcontinent was secure barring trouble in the North West. English education had spread far and wide. The project to build and nurture a middle class of supportive English-speaking Indians was proceeding apace.
Many affluent Indian families, as also the princes, sent their children to England for education as that was our only window to the West and the world at large. Thus, it was that four families had their children in England for studies when World War I broke out.
During the first two years of the War, the Royal Flying Corps that had been set up as part of the British Army, suffered heavy casualties on the Western Front in Europe. The British Government was especially looking for volunteers for the flying service.
Among the volunteers were four young Indian men (actually five, including a technician). The first was rejected on medical grounds even though he was an American-trained pilot. All the Indians were from affluent families and had no need to volunteer, but they did so nonetheless and were accepted, trained and sent into battle.
This book, Laddie Goes to War: Indian Pilots in World War I, is the story of these five Indians who volunteered in World War I. Four of them flew combat planes in the Royal Flying Corps in France, Belgium and Italy during the War, at a time when Indians were considered to be unfit to operate a screwdriver or drive a car/railway engine, or even fly an aeroplane. This book tells their story.
Laddie Goes to War : Indian Pilots in World War I
In a four-decade long career as a journalist and author, Mr. Somnath Sapru has over the years, specialized in writing on the military and civil aviation. He has several books on this subject to his credit. His first book dealt with four Indian pilots who flew in World War I, which is now being revised and expanded to include the hitherto untold story of one more pilot, with a new title: Laddie Goes to War: Indian Pilots in World War I.
Mr Sapru was initially the Defence Correspondent of the Deccan Herald and later with the Indian Express, first at Bengaluru and subsequently in New Delhi. He served as the Editor of The Pioneer, with editions in Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi and New Delhi. He later served as the Regional Editor for the Indian Express at Chennai, Madurai and Coimbatore. He covered the activities of the three Services of the armed forces and specialized in the history of military aviation.
He has bagged several professional awards such as the American Jefferson Fellowship in the United States in 1979 and the Asian Journalist of the Year in 1988. Though he has written on myriad themes, his preferred area of research has all along been aviation.