The British Empire’s armed forces in India included the Indian Air Force, established in British India as an auxiliary air force of the Royal Air Force, and renamed as the Royal Indian Air Force by King George VI in 1945 in recognition of its distinguished service during World War 2.
Gulmast Khan was born on 1 May 1882. He served for two years in the Indian Army, being awarded the East and Central Africa Medal (1897-99) before joining the Police Department in 1900. He had a distinguished Police career for over 35 years, before retiring as a Deputy Superintendent of the Police, a very senior role at that time. In 1932 he was given the title “Khan Bahadur” by the Viceroy & Governor General of India The Earl of Willingdon. (“Haji” denotes that he has made the Pilgrimage to Mecca).
However, his greatest claim to fame is that during World War 2 he enlisted and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 10th October 1941 when he was aged 59, an age when many of us are thinking about retirement. This made him the earliest born Indian Air Force officer commissioned during the war.
In the photograph he is wearing the following medals:
- Prince of Wales visit Medal (Neck),
- Khan Bahadur Title,
- Kings Police Medal for Gallantry,
- East and Central Africa Medal,
- India General Service Medal (1908-1935),
- 1911 Durbar Medal and
- 1935 Jubilee Medal.
We are grateful to the Bharat Rakshak website for permission to reproduce their photograph and their research. You can read more about Haji Khan Bahadur Gulmast Khan at this link.