Indra Lal Roy (Bengali: ইন্দ্রলাল রায়), DFC (2 December 1898 – 22 July 1918) is the first, and thus far only, Indian flying ace.
He served in the First World War with the Royal Flying Corps and its successor, the Royal Air Force. He claimed five aircraft destroyed (including one shared), and five ‘down out of control’ wins (including another shared) in just over 170 hours flying time.
The son of Pyare Lal Roy and Lolita Roy, he was born in Calcutta, where his father was Director of Public Prosecutions. He was nicknamed “Laddie”.
Roy came from a family of highly qualified and distinguished persons. His older brother, Paresh Lal Roy (1893-1979), is known as the “father of Indian boxing.”
His maternal grandfather, Dr. Surya Kumar Goodeve Chakraborty, was one of the first Indian doctors to be trained in Western medicine.
His nephew, Subroto Mukerjee (1911-1960), was also a fighter pilot and later became the first Indian Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force.
When the First World War broke out, Roy was attending St Paul’s School, Hammersmith in London, England.
Five months after turning 18, in April 1917 he enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps and was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 5 July. After training and gunnery practice at Vendôme and Turnberry, he joined No. 56 Squadron on 30 October.
Roy was part of “A” Flight, commanded by flying ace Captain Richard Maybery.
Two months later, Roy was injured after he crash-landed his S.E.5a fighter on 6 December. While recovering, Roy made numerous sketches of aircraft — many of which survive. Though concerns were raised that he was medically unfit, Roy was successful in returning to duty after he had recuperated.
He was transferred to Captain George McElroy’s flight in No. 40 Squadron in June 1918.
On his return to active service, Roy achieved ten victories (two shared) in thirteen days. His first was a Hannover over Drocourt[disambiguation needed] on 6 July.
This was followed by three victories in the space of four hours on 8 July (two Hannover Cs and a Fokker D.VII); two on 13 July (a Hannover C and a Pfalz D.III); two on 15 July (two Fokker D.VIIs); and one on 18 July (a DFW C.V).
Roy’s final victory came the following day when he shot down a Hannover C over Cagnicourt. He is the first and only Indian flying air ace to this day.
He was killed over Carvin on 22 July 1918 while flying in formation with two other S.E.5a in a dog fight against Fokker D.VIIs of Jagdstaffel 29. He is buried at Estevelles Communal Cemetery.
Roy was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in September 1918 for his actions during the period of 6–19 July 1918.
He was the first Indian to receive the DFC.
On the occasion of the 100th birth anniversary of Indra Lal Roy, the Indian postage service issued a commemorative stamp in his honor in December 1998.