Sailen (Bambi) Majumdar, son of India's famous World War Two Wing Commander Karun Krishna Majumdar, faced resistance when he tried to redeem the medals of his fighter-bird father for the substantial sum that they deserved. Now, in a poignant gesture, Air Marshal Anil Chopra, a pilot pensioner has come forward to NDTV stating that he is prepared to pay Rs. 2million from his own retirement fund if it means that the Distinguished Flying Cross of the legendary KK Majumdar will be returned to its rightful place at the Indian Air Force Museum.
As a British resident, son Sailen held a London auction to sell many of KK's valued belongings, including his log books, but the sales fell through when no one in the audience bid the reserve price of between 20 to 30,000 pounds, with the highest offer being £15,500. Anil Chopra said to NDTV: “As a retired person, from my own personal pension fund, I am ready to pay Rs. 20 lakh (Rs 2mn)... In case nobody pays these Rs. 20 lakh, I will pay and get these medals.”
Wing commander KK Majumdar, was the first Indian Officer to be so decorated and is heralded as the 'Father of the Indian Air Force'. Known as 'Jumbo' to his peers and supporters, KK demonstrated great talent and courage as a fighter pilot in the Number 1 Squadron, the very same that Chopra led from 1989, during World War Two. Majumdar was awarded the much talked about DFC medallion for his leadership initiative in the Burma Campaign in which he led an unerring strategic attack on the Japanese with fellow pilots, as well as flying by himself in a cumbersome Lysander aircraft to carry out a stealthier bombing on the airfield of Mae-Haungsan. At this point New Zealanders of the No.67 RAF Squadron sent an escort of two Buffalo fighters to accompany Majumdar out of sheer admiration for the sole fighter's bravery. Majumdar's tactic was to hover at a low level, almost touching the tree tops, to create a surprise element before swooping in on the targeted plane hangers.
Equipped with what were more or less inferior flying vessels, especially compared to the sleeker Zeros and Oscars of the Japanese air force, the success of Majumdar and his team was hugely down to their skilled minds and daring spirits. Destroying several buildings, wireless installations and aircraft on the ground, they were efficacious in their mission. From the time of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbour to the fall of Rangoon in April, the men and their-misleadingly-named Lysanders continued to provide close air support work for the Army.
It is no wonder then that there has been disappointment after the outcome of KK's recent auction, and that Chopra, a fellow valiant, has felt the need to step in and preserve the hero's honour. Until recently Chopra served in the Mirage 2000s, and is a crash survivor after his plane came down due to engine failure over the Bhind region of Madhya Pradesh.
A brother in air-force history, KK Majumdar actually perished in an air-craft accident, during an IAF aerobics display. These shows were designed to draw attention to the good work of the IAF and Majumdar took part in many impressive performances across the country. On the fateful day, the mechanical flaws of the pokey Hurricane aircraft that Majumdar was attempting to fly outweighed any possible human prowess and he was killed in an instant.
Had Majumdar survived it is very probable that he would go on to become the First Chief of the Indian Air Force.
NDTV has reported that many viewers are writing in to support Chopra, also offering donations and pledges to buy the DFCs themselves. The Indian Air Force, “who was made aware of the auction by NDTV”, said they could not bid citing Government of India policies as the reason. One thing is for certain, the honourable Commander KK Majumdar, who won not one but two medals- a second DFC was awarded for work with British forces during the liberation of France, is deserving of a place in the IAF Museum; an institution that reflects the 'very best of war and peace.'