Col Prithipal Singh, World War 2 veteran and only officer to serve in army, navy, air force, turns 100
Retired Colonel Prithipal Singh Gill who is the only person to have served in all three wings of Indian defence forces turned 100 on Friday. Colonel Gill celebrated the occasion at his Chandigarh residence surrounded by his family and well-wishers. Another celebration is on the cards for the Colonel — of his 70th marriage anniversary with 93-year-old wife Preminder Kaur on December 24.
The defence veteran has served in World War II, the Indo-Pak War of 1965, and as a sector commander with Assam Rifles in Manipur. Social media has been abuzz with wishes and greetings for the centenarian Colonel. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh too joined in wishing him. “Congratulate Col Prithipal Singh Gill, who turns 100 today. He bears the unique distinction of having served in all three armed forces. Sir, Wish you many more years of good health and may you continue to always inspire all of us,” Singh said in a tweet.
A life of service
Colonel Gill was born in pre-Independent India’s Patiala in 1920 and started taking flying lessons at Walton Aerodrome in Lahore, earning his flying license. He later joined the Royal Indian Air Force but was withdrawn from training by his father Major Harpal Singh Gill because the family feared for his safety. Thereafter, he joined the Navy and served on a minesweeper INS Teer, escorting cargo ships on the rough seas during World War II. After Independence, he moved on to the Army and was keen on serving in the Sikh regiment, where three generations of his family had served before. However, he was alloted the Gwalior Mountain Battery due to his gunnery experience at the Navy.
Colonel Gill went on to serve at 34 Medium Regiment and later raised and commanded the 71 Medium Regiment. He served as the commander of the 71 Medium Regiment during the Indo-Pak War of 1965, serving at Sialkot. He was promoted to his final rank in the Army, that of a Colonel while serving with the Assam rifles at Ukhrul in Manipur, and retired from the armed forces at the age of 70.