Indra Lal Roy

First World War


Indra Lal Roy was an Indian fighter ace, achieving a total of 10 victories. Born 2 December 1898 in Calcutta in India, Roy moved to England with his family as a child. Educated at St Paul’s School in Kensington, he was only 15 when the First World War broke out in August 1914. Roy thrived at school and his academic achievements led to a scholarship to study at Oxford University.

Intent on becoming a fighter pilot, however, he never accepted the scholarship and instead applied to join the RFC as soon as he could. Roy’s application was initially rejected on the grounds of ‘defective’ eyesight, but this did not deter him. Selling his motorbike to fund a second opinion from Britain’s leading eye specialists, Roy cleared the eye test and was able to overturn his rejection.

In July 1917, he was commissioned into the RFC as Second Lieutenant. At the end of October 1917, following training at Vendome and gunnery practice at Turnberry, Roy was posted to No. 56 Squadron. Here, he flew S.E.5a ‘Scout’ fighters and became known for his daring manoeuvres, which were far beyond his age and experience. 

On 6 December 1917, Roy crashed after being shot down. He was badly injured in the crash, suffering injuries so extensive that he was taken for dead and sent to the morgue on arrival at hospital. Regaining consciousness, Roy alerted hospital staff by banging on the morgue’s door while shouting in his limited French. After being found alive by hospital staff, he was sent back to England to recover. While rehabilitating, he spent his time sketching aeroplanes and received further remedial training.

Despite initially being pronounced medically unfit to return to service, Roy managed to get the verdict reversed and returned to France on 19 June 1918. Posted to No. 40 Squadron, he achieved a total of 10 victories in a matter of weeks, from 6 to 19 July 1918. This total included three in one day on 8 July 1918.

On 22 July 1918, Roy was killed in action when he was shot down by a German fighter pilot. Aged just 19 when he was killed, Roy was posthumously awarded the DFC in September 1918. He was buried at ‎Estevelles Communal Cemetery in Pas-de-Calais, France.