RECENTLY there was a memorial service for Group Capt Cecil Choudry. In his passing away the country lost a loyal son, the PAF a brave fighter pilot and the community a tireless advocate of rights.
As tributes were paid to this brave son of Pakistan, I remembered the great contributions of many other Christian officers who brought honours to the Pakistan Air Force. It was a privilege to be associated with many of them.
In those bygone days of the early 1960s, many of them were our instructors, commanders and mentors and taught us the rudiments of fighter flying. I cherish and honour their memory and so does the PAF.
We salute and honour them for their dedication to duty. Professionalism and the ultimate sacrifices, which some of them rendered, in the line of duty, defending their country.
At partition time in 1947, Air Vice Marshal Joseph, then only a junior officer, brought formation of aircraft, flying in dangerous skies at the time. Air Vice Marshal Eric Hall and Air Vice Marshal O’Brian rose to the position of Vice Chief of Air Staff. Air Commodore Torowic’s engineering expertise and efforts ensured the availability of maximum number of fighter aircraft for war-time missions in 1965. Air Commodore Nazir Latif commanded the biggest fighter base of the PAF.
The late Sqn Ldr Peter Christy and Wg Cdr W.D. Harney, both bomber navigators, distinguished themselves in many dangerous wartime missions. The late Wg Cdr Middlcoat, a fearless fighter pilot, was my squadron commander just before the 1971 war, sacrificed himself fighting over enemy territory. Earlier, he was one of the first to be selected for the F104 programme.
The tenacious Group Capt Cecil Choudry, a thorough professional, distinguished himself many a time in both the 1965 and 1971 wars.
Once during the 1971 war he was shot down by ground fire in the battle area, but ejected safely, landed in a minefield, was rescued and was up again the next day fighting the enemy.
There were others like Air Commodore Callahan, Wg Cdr Anthony Choudry, Wg Cdr Rollo, Wg Cdr Fraser, Banakh and Mukulski, all dedicated men. They and many others fought bravely. They gave no quarter to the enemy and asked for none. The PAF remembers them all. Many roads, parks, buildings and monuments in cantonments/airbases are named after them.
Later in my career I was fortunate to work with, instruct and command many non-Muslim officers and men whom I always admired for their dedication, professionalism, loyalty and spirit of sacrifice. The PAF is a many- splendoured thing. It does not make any distinction amongst its sons, based on colour or creed. It does not forget people, especially those who were part of its finest hours.
Their names would forever remain enshrined as shining stars in the PAF’s hall of fame.
MALIK AYAZ TIWANA Lahore