Not many would be able to keep their head and keep maneuvering an aircraft especially after an enemy bullet slices through their cap, taking with it a chunk of hair. For Brigadier Furdoon Siavax Byramji Mehta (retd), however, it was just another day at the front during the Second World War and something that couldn’t deter him from flying into enemy territory again.
Named ‘Duck’ Mehta by his fellow officers after the fish Bombay Duck, the Brigadier who passed away in Mumbai on March 3, on his birthday, at the age of 101 years, had many firsts to his credit.
He was the first Indian Artillery officer to wear the wings of the Air Observation Post (Air OP), now known as Army Aviation Corps. He was the only Indian Artillery officer to have served with the 656 Air OP Squadron of Royal Air Force (RAF) in Burma and Malaya in Second World War. He was also the first Indian Commanding Officer of 9 Parachute Field Regiment, a command which he took over in 1947 at the age of just 27 years.
Born on March 3, 1920, Mehta joined the Indian Military Academy in 1938 and graduated in April 1940. He was commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery and participated in the Second World War between 1942 to 1945, both in the traditional artillery role and in Air OP pilot’s role.
As a Captain, he trained as a pilot at the No 2 Elementary Flying and Training School (EFTS) at Jodhpur, which was established by then Maharaja of Jodhpur, Umaid Singh. Mehta was posted to the 656 Air Op…