Batchmates remember of IAF’s lone Param Vir Chakra awardee recall his valour

Special tributes will be paid to Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon by his fellow coursemates who intend to reminisce about the time they spent together while under training.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh | Updated: June 5, 2017 2:01 pm
Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, iaf officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, Param Vir Chakra awardee, flying officer Special tributes will be paid to Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon by his fellow coursemates who intend to reminisce about the time they spent together while under training.

Had Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon been alive today he would have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the passing out of his course along with his fellow officers at Air Force Academy in Dundigul, near Hyderabad. However, the lone Param Vir Chakra awardee of the Indian Air Force will form part of the memories of the 97th General Duty Pilots course and 36th General Duty Navigators course when they meet on Sunday (June 4) at Hyderabad to mark the 50th anniversary of getting commissioned in the IAF.

The members of this course consider themselves special because of Sekhon and the fact that he was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest gallantry award while deployed at Srinagar airfield in the 1971 war. Special tributes will be paid to Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon by his fellow coursemates who intend to reminisce about the time they spent together while under training.

As many as 168 pilots and 27 navigators had passed out on June 4, 1967 out of which 71 laid down their lives in combat operations and on active duty including flying accidents. Tributes will be paid at memorial at the Air Force Academy by the members ofe course in honour of those batchmates who lost their lives while answering the cal of duty.

Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, iaf officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, Param Vir Chakra awardee The members of this course consider themselves special because of Sekhon and the fact that he was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest gallantry award while deployed at Srinagar airfield in the 1971 war.

Out of all the fellow officers who served with Flying Officer Sekhon, Wing Commander GM David (retd) is the one who saw him off on his last sortie when he took on four attacking Pakistani F-86 Sabres on December 14, 1971 in his Gnat aircraft. It was in this action, while chasing off the Pakistani attackers singlehandedly, that Sekhon’s aircraft got damaged in enemy firing and he dies in the ensuing crash.

Recalling Sekhon, Wing Commander David told The Indian Express that both used to stay together in the same block. “He was an excellent human being, not given to boasting or false bravado. His only passion in life was to fly the G Bird (as the Gnat was known) to the best of his ability”. David added that Sekhon was so tall that he barely fitted into the Gnat cockpit even with the ejection seat in the fully down position. “We suspect he cheated on his height a bit so that he would be accepted on the Gnat,” he said jocularly.

Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, iaf officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, Param Vir Chakra awardee Sekhon (right) during an excursion with a fellow cadet while undergoing training.

Narrating the sequence of events of the action in which Sekhon earned the Param Vir Chakra and he saw as an eyewitness, David said that the F-86 Sabre was known to turn better than the Gnat. “I think that during the battle, Sekhon may have proved everyone wrong because he held the turn with the Sabres even with his underwing external tanks laden with fuel. He shot the first Sabre with his wing tanks on. He jettisoned his external wing tanks, and using the superior power of the Gnat to close in to shoot at the second Sabre. He must have been overwhelmed by the closeness of the Sabre in front of him. All along he was aware of one of the escorting Sabres manouvering to shoot him. He thought that he would get F-86 in front before he got shot. That was the unflinching courage of the man and his supreme confidence in his machine,” he said.

Wg Cdr CS Grewal (retd), who was a room mate of Sekhon during the academy days, recalls him as a quite person who was always polite. “He would call every body ‘brother’ and was most affable. After our initial training we parted ways as he went for advanced training to Kanpur. We are proud that 50 years ago he passed out with us and today we remember his sacrifice for the country”.

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    Arun Govil
    Jun 6, 2017 at 7:52 am
    The valor of the officer is beyond anything, one small correction is needed in the writeup, the first course at AFA was 107 Pilot's Course (38th NDA) with Air Commodoe J.D.Aqino as Comdt AND Gp. Capt. (Later) ACM, Lafontaine as Chief Flying Instructor.
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      Arun
      Jun 5, 2017 at 12:36 am
      Sheer indomitable courage, a true warrior , salute Fl Lt Sekhon you would be remembered for centuries to come
      Reply
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        Anand
        Jun 4, 2017 at 11:19 pm
        Congratulations on publishing this account of true courage and spirit.
        Reply
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          Shyamal Ganguly
          Jun 4, 2017 at 4:19 pm
          "As many as 168 pilots and 27 navigators had passed out on June 4, 1967 out of which 71 laid down their lives in combat operations and on active duty including flying accidents. ". That is high. 45 died. Babus got bribes in procurement department and passed on to Gaddhi Parivar like Air Force Chief TYAGI.
          Reply
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            Shyamal Ganguly
            Jun 4, 2017 at 4:20 pm
            $tupid IE can not write percent symbol. I said 45 percent.
            Reply
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            Sundar BN
            Jun 4, 2017 at 2:31 pm
            Salut ! And eternal gra ude to a noble soul.
            Reply
            1. S
              Sundar BN
              Jun 4, 2017 at 2:31 pm
              ^gra ude ^
              Reply
              1. S
                Sundar BN
                Jun 4, 2017 at 2:34 pm
                ^grat1tude^ Suggest a better algorithm for filtering inappropriate words. Making grat1tude as gra tude by merely removing t1t with an i is rather rudimentary. Just sayin'.
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              Abhivadan Vashisht
              Jun 4, 2017 at 11:46 am
              Proud of him. Sikhs are the most courageous people in the w world. They have been at the forefront of Indian armed forces since ages, whether it be fighting against the Mughals or any other invader. Respect.
              Reply
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                Navtej Singh
                Jun 4, 2017 at 12:32 pm
                Even then thousands were burnt alive in November 1984 including the soldiers returning to the duty. No one including the people raised their voice against the Governments for the last 33 years. The victims leaving the world in the wait of justice.
                Reply
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                  shailendra
                  Jun 4, 2017 at 2:44 pm
                  Navtej, true to the fact I salute all Sikh community for their service to mother land. Yes the 1984 was very cruel in the history of Independent India, we all feel shame to such genocide happened,
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                    Victor
                    Jun 4, 2017 at 5:11 pm
                    It surely was one of the worst chapters in the history of our country. In riots , it's the criminals who take advantage of the situation . It has nothing to do with religion. I hope the law catches up with the perpetrators . Also in sikh insurgency, Hindus suffered in Punjab...but one can't blame Sikhism for it.
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                    Harminder singh
                    Jun 4, 2017 at 3:33 pm
                    Abhivadan Vashist and Shailendra ji , your comments are much appreciated. (For the greater good of the country)
                    Reply
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