Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Oldest Officer in the Indian Air Force - Gulmast Khan

We all know that the oldest officer at any point of time in the Indian Air Force is probably the Chief of Air Staff - who retires as soon as he reaches the age of 60. Additionally there could be a Master Warrant Officer who reaches his late 50s before he retires. There have been cases where personnel from the ranks were commissioned into the Officer stream - and some of them pretty late in their career. But most if not all would have retired before hitting the 60 year mark.

Enter the mysterious IND/1721 Flight Lieutnant Khan Bahadur Haji Gulmast Khan, commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a Pilot Officer on 10th October 1941. Gulmast Khan was among the first ever 200 officers in the air force, and was commissioned into the Administration Branch - then known as A&SD. What puts apart Gulmast from the others was that at the time of his commissioning, he was 59 years old! You see, Khan Bahadur Gulmast Khan was born on 1st May 1882!

Not much is known about Gulmast Khan. He seems to have served in the North West Frontier Province as much is known about him. The end of the Second World War found him on the strength of RAF Station Kohat - which at that time was the only RAF Station entirely staffed by Indian Officers. It was from this post that Gulmast Khan was demobilised. On 18th December 1946, Gulmast Khan was sent to No.1 Demobilisation Center at Lahore for release - at which point he was 64 years old!

Gulmast Khan, however, can only claim to be the IAF Officer with the oldest birthdate. The credit of being the oldest officer at the time of commissioning goes to IND/2112 Pilot Offr Edmund George Lazarus of the Signals Branch. Lazarus was born 14th Sept 1882 -- five and a half months after Gulmast. But Lazarus was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 11th November 1942 - An year and a month after Gulmast Khan! Thus making him the oldest ever person to get a regular IAF Commission - at the ripe old age of 60 years and two months! (nearly). It is not know as to when Lazarus left the IAF.But he is noted as still serving as of October 1945.

No known photographs exist of either Gulmast or Lazarus - but it certainly makes an intriguing story to find out why and how they ended up getting commissioned in the Indian Air Force at such an advanced age. One can say for sure - that neither of these gentlemen will lose thier records in the near future!

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