Air Force Hero Jumbo Majumdar's Medals are Coming Home

Air Force Hero Jumbo Majumdar's Medals are Coming Home

War medals of the Father of the Indian Air Force, Wing Commander Jumbo Majumdar, will be coming back to India.

New Delhi:  The war medals of the Father of the Indian Air Force, Wing Commander Jumbo Majumdar, will be coming back to India, and will likely be showcased at the Indian Air Force's museum.

NDTV has learnt that the Indian Air Force has closed a deal with the auction house Morton and Eden in London and is in the process of acquiring Jumbo's World War II Distinguished Flying Cross, log books and other war time personal belongings for 25,000 pounds, in addition to which it will pay a 20 per cent buyer's premium. The government, which has committed to acquiring the medal, is in the process of deciding whether the payment will be made from public funds or Air Force funds, the decision for which will be made in the next two to three days.   

This has been possible after the initial effort to auction the medals by Sailen Majumdar, Jumbo's son, fell through - the highest bid was short of the reserve price.

The fate of Jumbo's medals was highlighted on in this report. Then, retired Indian Air Force Air Marshal Anil Chopra, who once commanded 1 Squadron, Jumbo Majumdar's old squadron, said he was willing to pay Rs 20 lakh from his personal pension fund to bring back the medal to India. This prompted the Indian Air Force to swing into action and identify funds which could be disbursed to eventually acquire Jumbo's medals and personal belongings. The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Arup Raha, the former Chief, Air Marshal NC Suri, and India's Air Attache at the High Commission in London were closely involved in the process of sealing a deal with the auction house.

Karun Krishna 'Jumbo' Majumdar was the ultimate flier, a hero in the truest sense of the word. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Royal Air Force not once, but twice, for bravery during the Second World War where he flew over both the Burma front and in Europe.

The auction documents state, "Jumbo Majumdar's seeming disregard for his own safety on solo bombing raids and leading others against what appeared to be insurmountable odds made him a legendary figure both in the Royal Air Force and among his own countrymen. It is generally agreed that had he lived, his example and vision for Indian air power would have seen him rise to the highest level in the post-Independence Indian Air Force."

In 1942, Jumbo commanded a squadron flying Lysanders in Burma where he led two unescorted attacks to enemy airfields in Thailand and conducted attacks in support of the army in Tennasserim. He also led invaluable reconnaissance missions over the Rangoon region. On one occasion, he had to crash land in the jungle where he was eventually rescued after four days by Shan tribesmen.

Deployed in England in March 1944, Jumbo went on to fly 65 sorties in 100 days operating in densely defended airspace. His efforts were not unnoticed.

In January 1945, when he was awarded a second (Bar) to his D.F.C, the London Gazette wrote, "His keenness for operational work and his skill on difficult and dangerous missions has always been outstanding. Before the advance northwards in France, he completed exceptionally valuable photographic reconnaissances of the Seine bridges, in the face of heavy ground defences. He has also participated in long tactical reconnaissances on which he was several times intercepted by superior formations of enemy aircraft. His skill and courage have always been outstanding."

'Jumbo' Majumdar was killed on February 17, 1945 in Lyallpur (in Faisalabad, Pakistan) in an air crash when the Hurricane fighter he was flying during an aerobatic display developed problems - one of the undercarriage legs deployed mid-flight upsetting the balance of the fighter as it was being put through tight turns. True to form, Jumbo had gone ahead with the display despite knowing that this particular Hurricane had a series of mechanical problems. He was killed instantly in the crash. The display was meant to raise public awareness to improve recruitment prospects to the Indian Air Force.

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