Indra Lal Roy is the sole Indian World War I flying ace. He is designated as First Indian Fighter Aircraft Pilot. While serving in the Royal Flying Corps and its successor, the Royal Air Force, he claimed ten aerial victories; five aircraft destroyed (one shared), and five ‘down out of control’ (one shared) in just over 170 hours flying time. He was nicknamed “Laddie”.
He was born on 2nd Dec, 1898 in Calcutta, where his father was a barrister and Director of Public Prosecutions. Roy came from a highly qualified and distinguished family.
His older brother, Paresh Lal Roy (1893–1979), served in the 1st Battalion, Honourable, Honourable Artillery Company, and later became 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), served as a fighter pilot in World War II, 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. Initially rejected by the Royal Flying Corps on on the grounds of poor eyesight, Roy paid for a second opinion from a leading eye specialist, and the decision was overturned. Five months after turning 18, on 4 April 1917 he joined the RFC, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 5 July.
Roy was killed in a dog fight on 22nd July, 1918. He is buried at Estevelles Communal Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France.
In September 1918, he was posthumously decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross, the first Indian to be awarded the honour.
In December 1998, to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Indian postal service issued a commemorative stamp in his honour.