Kent

Gravesend unveils statue of fighter pilot Mahinder Singh Pujji

Mahinder Singh Pujji statue
Image caption The statue of Sgn Ldr Pujji was paid for by the Gravesend community

A statue of the longest surviving fighter pilot from a group of 24 Indians who arrived in Britain in 1940 has been unveiled in Kent.

Sqn Ldr Mahinder Singh Pujji arrived in Britain in 1940 and died at the age of 92 in Gravesend in 2010.

The statue is intended to represent all the service personnel from across the world who have fought for Britain in conflicts since 1914.

Members of the Pujji family attended the unveiling in St Andrews Gardens.

Sq Ldr Pujji, who learned to fly as a hobby in India, began training with the RAF in the autumn of 1940.

Early the next year he began flying Hurricanes, protecting coastal convoys and intercepting bombers and fighters when Hitler ordered the bombing of London.

He survived several crashes and flew combat missions throughout the war in Britain, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Burma and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war he became a champion air race pilot in India.

"Reading about him made me realise what an amazing hero he was," said the statue's sculptor Douglas Jennings.

"He was a volunteer - it was his choice to fight for the British and that bowls me over."

Sqn Ldr Pujji's son Satinder said his father loved Gravesend.

"He liked the sea and when he used to fly, this was the first land he saw so he used to feel happy," he said.

Gravesham borough councillor Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi said the Gravesend community, which has one of the largest gurdwaras in the UK, raised £70,000 for the statue in a month.

Image copyright Gravesham council
Image caption Mahinder Singh Pujji died in Gravesend at the age of 92 in 2010

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