ANOTHER PAF eagle face left this troubled world for his eternal abode. Air Commodore Syed Mansur Ahmed Shah (Polly Shah ) breathed his last at Karachi on Feb 7. He was 87. His date of birth was March 11, 1926. Known to his friends and colleagues as Polly Shah, he was son of Maj (Dr) Habibullah Shah and Capt (Dr) Enid Flora Shah. He had two sisters who predeceased him.
He joined the Indian Air Force and was commissioned at Ambala on April 9, 1947. He opted for Royal Pakistan Air Force at partition.
Polly was the opening batsman of the 1948 Kashmir war. He did some pinpoint para-dropping over a very difficult terrain in Kashmir flying a four-engine Halifax bomber. Poly Shah was among the first bomber pilots flying World War II death traps, this four-engine monster. But his performance in the Kashmir war was remarkable.
We had the honour of flying cadets at PAF Riaslpur in 1951 under his incredibly strict command. We feared his wrath but never will forget that in awarding retribution there was cynical humour in his expletives so commonly dispensed by the commander for the minutest error in flying or discipline.
Mansoor Shah was a highly intelligent and educated commander and he bequeathed those virtues to create future air force leaders.
He was an important member of the cavalcade which formed the nucleus of PAF in its embryonic and testing eon under Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s command.
He also commanded No 12 Squadron. He served as Base Commander, Chaklala, Peshawar and Mauripur.
His assignments at Air Headquarters had been as Chief Inspector, Director Plans, Director Training and during the 1971 war was the chief of operations. Polly was a graduate of Air Command and Staff College US, and Air War Staff College, Quetta.
After his retirement, while flying a single-engine plane, he lost power and attempted to land on road which was clear but a transport turned up from a side road, Polly avoided the transport but hit an obstruction.
He was injured badly ending up in a hospital for six weeks. He recovered and did 10 years more of flying duty.
Polly with his par excellence pedigree and command of English, when annoyed, could pull out from his vast vocabulary hard-hitting and charged words enough to deflate the recalcitrant. He would be sorely missed by his friends and former colleagues. May the Good Lord in His Infinite Mercy and Benevolence bestow choicest blessings on the departed soul. Ameen.
AIR CDR ( Rtd ) SYED SAJAD HAIDER Karachi