Pakistani Christian Military Officers


White for the Green is an exclusive series of the profiles of people from Ethnic and Religious minorities in Pakistan. It aims at highlighting their efforts and struggles that they have rendered while contributing towards a better society. The series is dedicated to devout like Maxwell Shanti, Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat, Eric Gordon and Cecil Chaudhry who have committed themselves and sacrificed their lives for the Green in our flag. The series acknowledges the surprisingly minute, astonishingly powerful stories of the guardians of the Green.

Wing Commander Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat (July 1940 – 12 December 1971) was a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighter pilot who was twice awarded Sitara-e-Jurat (In 1965 & 1971) and Sitara-e-Jurat (1971). Born to Percy and Daisy Middlecoat in Ludhiana, India, in July 1940, he joined PAF in 1954 and won the Best Performance Trophy in ground subjects. He took part in some very important aerial battles during the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pakistani wars and was credited with several air-to-air kills.

When the 1965 war broke out, he was posted in Karachi and flying one of the premier fighter planes, the F-86, Sabre aircrafts. During air battles, he shot down two enemy aircrafts, a feat for which he came to be known as the ‘Defender of Karachi’. Later on he performed an impressive series of seventeen ‘Air Sorties’ and three ‘Photo Reconnaissance’ missions. At the end of the war, he was awarded the richly deserved “Sitara-e-Jurat” for his bravery and professional leadership.

Once when he was suggested to move abroad, he replied “Listen, this is my country; I was born here; my ancestors are buried here. I have spent my life defending my country; perhaps I will sacrifice my life for this country one day as well. I am not going anywhere.”

In 1971, he was promoted to Wing Commander at the outbreak of war and was one of the six strike command officers who were selected to conduct the aerial operation “Amritsar Radar”, and was assigned to attack the heavily defended Indian airbase at Jamnagar. On 12 December while returning after the successful mission he was engaged by 2 enemy MiG-21s and he was hit over the Gulf of Kutch. The Indian pilot that shot him down saw him eject into the Arabian Sea, in shark infested waters and it was considered unlikely that he survived. He was declared missing in action, and posthumously was awarded the Sitara-i-Jurat for the second time.

His widow also received a personal letter from King Hussain of Jordan where he wrote, “Sister, the passing away of the Shaheed is not only the loss of you and Pakistan, but also mine. It is my wish that when he is buried, his body will be wrapped up in Pakistan’s flag, but the flag of my country Jordan must be placed below his head.” Middlecoat had fought for the King earlier during the Six Day War with Israel.

Wing Commander Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat remains one of a number of distinguished Pakistani strike and fighter pilots of the period who gave his life to protect his country.

Air Vice-Marshal (Major-General) Michael John O’Brian, (1st May 1928 – 8th September 1998), was a Pakistan Air Force officer and two-star general who has been awarded, Tamgha-i-Jurat, Sitara-e-Basalat and Nishan-e-Imtiaz. O’Brian was the first Pakistan Air Force general to serve as the Commandant of National Defence University, Islamabad. He also served as the Deputy Chief of Air Staff, and was one of the distinguished pilots who served their country in the wars of 1947, 1965, and the 1971.

Born in Lahore, he enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1946. The following year, on being awarded a scholarship by the Royal Air Force to study in Forman Christian College he opted for Pakistani citizenship in 1947 and took part in that year’s war. After the war, he continued his BSc in mathematics at Forman Christian College till 1948. He then went on to graduate from Pakistan Air Force Academy’s College of Flying Training where he gained a BS in Aviation Sciences, also receiving a Certified Diploma in Flying from the Flying Instructors School. O’Brian holds an MSc in Military Science and an honorary PhD in War studies from National Defence University, Islamabad.

A fighter pilot, O’Brian played an important role in setting up the training institutes within the Pakistan Air Force. He was promoted to Air Vice Marshal (AVM) in 1969, and led military missions in the 1971 war. After the war he got the penultimate position in PAF and served as the Deputy Chief of Air Staff. He is one of those rare PAF officers who also served as the Commandant of National Defence College. In 1974, given the command of Sargodha Air Force base, he played an important and significant role in the up-grading of the facility. He has also supervised the nuclear test sites near Kirana Hills, and personally oversaw the construction of the test site.

As a military intellectual, he played an important role in the nuclear policy of Pakistan. O’Brian was one of the senior military officials who eye-witnessed the first cold test of a nuclear device. He took honorary retirement from the Pakistan Air Force in 1984, and joined the National Defence University, Islamabad, as a professor of war and strategic studies, retiring in 1994 and lived a quiet life in Islamabad, Pakistan until his death. For his services, he was conferred with civil awards as well.

Air Vice-Marshal Eric Gordan Hall (12th October 1922 – 17th June 1998), was a Pakistani Air Force fighter pilot and bomber. As a two-star general he has also served as the director general of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and as Deputy Chief of Air Staff. He also served his country in the wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971. He was awarded Hilal-i-Jurat in 1947, Sitara-i-Jurat in 1965 and Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 1971.

In 1965, as a Group Captain he commanded the air transport base at Chaklala. With war imminent, he was conscious of PAF’s lack of specialist aircrafts and came up with the idea of converting C-130 Hercules (which is transport aircraft) into heavy bomber aircrafts with some modifications enabling them to carry up to 20,000 lbs of bombs.

After conducting successful trials, he volunteered to lead the first danger laden mission on 11th September 1965, over the Kathua Bridge which he conducted successfully. It was this success that prompted the high command to authorize thirteen more missions, including precision bombing of Indian heavy guns at Atari on the banks of BRB Canal. For his vision and valour Hall was awarded Sitara-i-Jurat in 1965.

Through his dedication and hard work, he rose to the rank of Air Vice Marshal and Deputy Chief of Air Staff. During his service, Hall commanded a number of PAF Bases and served as Commandant of PAF Staff College. As part of Pakistan’s Nuclear Technology project, he rendered his services as the Director General of the PAF’s Air Force Science Research Laboratories, heading the atomic weapons research. He also served his country in the capacity of a Defense and Air Attaché in the Pakistan Embassy of United States in 1960 and early 1970s.

Air Vice Marshal Eric Hall retired from the Air Force in 1978, with an honorable discharge from the Air Force and was made Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for the Government of Pakistan.

Air Commodore Władysław Józef Marian Turowicz (23 April 1908 – 8 November 1980) was a prominent and noted Polish-Pakistani military scientist and an aeronautical engineer.

He is considered as one of the chief architects of the Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan’s space program. Turowicz, an eminent rocket scientist and an aeronautical engineer, was the leading and central figure in Pakistan’s drive to develop high-tech rocket and missile technology of its own.

Turowicz was the administrator of Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) from 1967 to 1970, and towards the end of his career, he was appointed to the post of Air Marshal of the Pakistan Air Force.

He was one of thirty high ranking Polish pilots who served in Pakistan Air Force during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, and is considered one of the pioneers of Pakistan’s space program, playing a central role in Pakistan’s aviation and aerospace industry. After completion of his initial contract, Turowicz opted to stay on in Pakistan and continued to serve in PAF and later, SUPARCO.

In 1952, Turowicz, was promoted in the rank of Wing Commander. In 1959, Turowicz was promoted in the rank of Group Captain. In 1960, he became an Air Commodore and an Assistant Chief of Air Staff, in charge of PAF’s Maintenance Branch.

In 1966, the Government of Pakistan transferred him to SUPARCO, Pakistan’s national space agency, where he worked there as a chief scientist and an aeronautical engineer. As head of SUPARCO, he revitalised and initiated the space program as quickly as possible He, along with noted Pakistani theoretical physicist, Dr. Abdus Salam, who later won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979, met with President Khan where he successfully convinced him of the importance of a space program for a developing country like Pakistan after Russia’s launch of Sputnik.

Air. Cdre. Turowicz died in a car accident on 8 January 1980 along with his driver. The Government of Pakistan issued a condolence letter to his family, stating that Turowicz was not only an outstanding Air Force officer, but also a scientist, and had served in the country’s space program. In 2005, PAF Museum, Karachi, placed a memorial plaque in the honour of Air. Cdre. Władysław Turowicz where both Polish and Pakistani civilian and military personnel attended.\ Turowicz made significant contributions to Pakistan’s missile/rocket program as a chief aeronautical engineer. In Pakistan, he remains highly respected as a scientist and noted aeronautical engineer.

Squadron Leader William Desmond Harney, a Navigator of exceptional courage and dedication to duty needs special mention.

Born in Chittagong in 1937, after receiving his early schooling at St. Placids, W.D. Harney joined PAF Academy in 1957 and graduated in 1960.
Flight Lieutenant William D. Harney’s daring performance and professional ability during the indo-pak wars 1965 and 1971 has been of the highest order. Despite his hand injury, the officer voluntarily carried out all available bombing missions and particularly the most risky ones to Ambala, Pathankot, Adampur, Halwara and Jodhpur, Pathankot and Ambala. In all the missions, he excelled in leadership, courage and devotion to duty. His mission-planning and execution of the missions was so meticulous that despite heavy odds, he always reached his targets and contributed significantly to the accuracy of the attacks. For his display of extreme courage and professionalism, W.D. Harney was awarded the Sitara-i-Jurat.

During the Indo-Pakistan War, he completed total 14 operational missions and every one of them has been of substantial importance to the overall superiority of the Pakistan Air Force.

Air Commodore Nazir Latif (July 10, 1927 – June 30, 2011) was a one-star general officer in the Pakistan Air Force and a former director-general of the Operations and Plans at the Air Headquarters, Islamabad

He was born in 1927 into a highly educated Christian family in 1927. He grew up in Rawalpindi, where his father was a well-known professor of psychology who later taught at FC College in Lahore. Latif was accepted in Pakistan Air Force Academy in 1947. He did 8th GD pilot’s course but because of his high standard in flying, was upgraded to the 7th GD (P) course and graduated in 1950. Nazir was sent to Great Britain where he attended and graduated from Royal Air Force College Cranwell in 1954 and in 1958, he was promoted to post of Wing Commander.

Just prior to the 1965 War, as a Wing Commander, Nazir Latif commanded a Bomber Wing. Under his able command, the bomber wing had been well prepared and well trained to undertake daring but accurate bombing missions deep inside the enemy territory. Wing Commander Nazir Latif led the most challenging raids including the successful attack on Ambala which was deep inside the Indian Territory and was believed to be defended by batteries of Soviet-supplied SA-2 Surface to Air Missiles.

For his exceptional flying skill and valour the Government of Pakistan conferred the Sitara-e-Jurat on him twice (1965 & 1971).

Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry (27 August 1941 – 13 April 2012) was a veteran fighter pilot, academic and human rights activist. As a Flight Lieutenant in 1965, Chaudhry and three other pilots attacked the Amritsar Radar Station in a difficult operation. He was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat(Star of Courage) for his actions during that mission.

Chaudhry was born to the only Christian (Roman Catholic) family of the village Dalwal, located in the Salt Range. Cecil Chaudhry was schooled at St. Anthony’s, before pursuing higher studies at the Forman Christian College, Lahore where he received his B.S. in physics.

He joined Pakistan Air Force Academy in 1958 and was enrolled in the engineering program and in 1960, he received his double B.Sc. in Aeronautics andmechanical engineering along with becoming an ace fighter pilot upon graduating from the PAF Academy.

He was working as Flight Commander (Training) under the renowned Squadron Leader Sarfraz Rafiqui. After the outbreak of war broke in 1965, Cecil completed numerous Close Support missions to ward off the Indian ground attack against Lahore and Sialkot. He was detailed to fly a dusk strike mission against Halwara under the command of Squadron Leader Rafiqui. There were unavoidable delays in their take-off and Halwara got forewarned because of the successful PAF strike against Pathankot. When Rafiqui, Yunus and Cecil reached their target Halwara, they were intercepted by numerous Hunter aircraft of the Indian Air Force. During the engagement, after shooting down one Indian Hunter, Rafiqui’s guns jammed and he handed over the lead to Cecil.

The three fought bravely against heavy odds but Rafiqui and Yunus were shot down while Cecil managed to return safely after shooting down a Hunter. The loss of his mentor Rafiqui and friend Yunus enraged Cecil and he fought the rest of the war aggressively and with determination. For his acts of courage, dedication and professional ability, Cecil received the Sitara-i-Jurat.

During the course of his service, Cecil commanded the prestigious No 9 Squadron and the Combat Commander’s School PAF. He retired in 1986 in the rank of Group Captain. Not one to sit idle, he took time to educate himself and subsequently became the Principal at St. Anthony’s School at Lahore.

Chaudhry remained an influential, independent human rights activist, as well as working for the betterment of children with disabilities and for educational reform. He advised and worked closely with the late Shahbaz Bhatti from the early 1990s onwards and had been Executive Secretary of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) since its inception. He was also affiliated with the National Commission for Justice and Peace and was instrumental in leading the fourteen-year campaign that led to the restoration of Pakistan’s joint electorate system in 2002. After his death in 2012, Government of Pakistan approved the conferment of the President’s Pride of Performance Award upon Cecil Chaudhry.

Written by Hammad Anwar


Leave a reply