They were the superstars of the sky, daredevils who courted death as they shot down enemy aircraft during World War I. Fighter pilots who wanted more vied with each other for the tag of ‘flying ace’, the Holy Grail for these flamboyant mavericks. This meant notching up five or more ‘kills’, or shooting down a minimum of five enemy aircraft.
And India had one of them. Indra Lal Roy was India’s first flying ace and the only Indian to achieve this distinction during World War I. He earned this coveted tag while he was part of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), the air arm of the British Army, before it became the Royal Air Force. His achievement: an astounding nine aerial victories in 170 hours of flying time, in just 13 days.
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