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Date of Crash: 09 Jan 46 Aircraft Type: Spitfire Serial Number:  Unit: IAFDF
Pilot details: Fg Offr S K Mukerjee DFC*(2359)Source: RIAFDB
Details: No, not quite forgotten by D. K. Mukerjee THERE have been wars in plenty in the century that has gone by, involving our country in one way or the other. There have been several heroes in these wars — declared or undeclared — a few of whom have found recognition and fame, while the numberless rest have remained unknown and nameless. The memories of the unknown heroes are sometimes honoured as in the India Gate at New Delhi commemorating the brave and fallen in World War I. The “graves of the unknown soldiers” are symbolic of all forgotten heroes. So, it was a matter of immense joy to me when someone who had gone sightseeing to Delhi came to me and said with delighted surprise: “Do you know what I saw when I visited the Air Force museum near the Qutab at Delhi? Among the portraits of war heroes of World War II was that of your brother who had won the Distinguished Flying Cross while serving in the Royal Indian Air Force and fighting the Japanese invaders in the Arakans and the jungles of Burma.” It was a surprise for me because I had not expected anyone to remember the gallantry award won nearly six decades ago in a war that was fought for the allies. There have been other wars since then — the successful fight against invaders in Kashmir at the time of our winning Independence, the unsuccessful fight against the Chinese invasion in 1962, the Pakistani aggression in 1965 beaten back by our heroic soldiers, the Bangladesh war of 1971 when Pakistan suffered an ignominious rout, the IPKF misadventure in Sri Lanka, the successful UN missions abroad, the Kargil betrayal, and the relentless proxy war launched by Pakistan in the name of jehad. The blood of our heroes has flowed from snowclad mountain tops to dense forests, plains and moving waters, marking them as parts of India “forever” in the way the poet Rupert Brooke spoke about the English soldier fallen to his death in a foreign land: “There is some corner of a foreign field which is forever England”. My mind flew back to the time when World War II was declared and my brother immediately enlisted in the Air Force. There was only one squadron of the newly formed RIAF with another Mukerjee as its squadron leader who later became India’s Air Chief Marshal. My brother flew his “Spitfire” with fire in his guts and courage in his veins. He used to tell us whenever he came home that he felt safer flying in the aircraft than while driving a car on the road. He used to remit us some money every month. Once there was no remittance for some months. I wrote to him a reminder care of his base headquarters. I got a reply on “toilet paper” in which my brother explained that the place where he happened to be at that time could not provide him with any other writing material. He said he would use proper paper and send us the money as soon as he got back to civilisation!! When the war ended we were so happy that the danger was over. Peace has its tragedies no less than war. It was during a demonstration flight at Juhu beach that his favourite “Spitfire” went crashing down. With a last valiant effort he manoeuvred and saved the crowd of spectators on the ground and landed in the nearby sea. He opened the cockpit door and waved to the people ashore but a strong sea wave pulled the “Spitfire” away dragging it to the bottom. To me and my family he was a hero. We cherish his memory and when, once in a while, we find someone spotting him as a war hero of long ago, it gladdens our heart. That solitary single squadron of the Royal Indian Air Force has grown into the indomitable Indian Air Force of today which is our pride and our protection.

 
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