Wing Commander Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat was one of the few Christians who served in PAF and sacrificed their lives for Pakistan. He was a hero and a legend who truly represented the white part of our National flag.
Middlecoat was born into an Anglo-Indian family in Ludhiana, India, in July 1931. His parents were Percy and Daisy Middlecoat. He received his early education at Lawrence College Murree, St. Anthony’s High School (Lahore) and Burn Hall College Abbottabad. Middlecoat joined PAF and passed out of the 16th General Duty Pilot (GDP) Course in 1954 winning the best performance trophy in ground subjects.
Soft-spoken and mild mannered, Middlecoat was considered to be the epitome of an officer and a gentleman, besides also being an outstanding pilot. Although he flew a number of different aircraft during his service career, he mastered both the F-86 Sabre and the F-104 Starfighter.
The 1965 War
In the 1965 war he showed extreme courage and heroism, during the three-week war. He flew 17 air defence sorties and three photo reconnaissance missions over forward Indian airbases.
He was part of the most elite and most well-respected squadrons of the PAF the No. 9 Squadron. As a Squadron Leader, Middlecoat commanded No. 9 sqn during the 1965 war. He was a great leader and showed his leadership capabilities in the war with utmost efficiency. Leading from the front, he kept the spirits of his boys high and guided his pilots in a highly professional manner. Besides undertaking dangerous photo-reconnaissance missions over Indian territory, including a key radar facility located in the grounds of a Sikh temple in Amritsar, Indian Punjab, he shot down a high-flying IAF Canberra bomber egressing Pakistani airspace into India at night.
Middlecoat’s prowess as a pilot and leader were recognized early in his career and when Pakistan became the beneficiary of US military aid in the 1950s, he was selected along with his close friend, Allauadin famously known as “Butch” Ahmed, to be the first two PAF officers to go to the US to train on the F-86 Sabre. Some years later, the same two officers were again selected as PAF pioneers to go to the US to train on the more advanced F-104 Starfighter. The F-104 was inducted in the PAF’s No. 9 Squadron (Griffins).
For his leadership and devotion to duty, he was awarded the Sitara-i-Jurat, the third highest award in the Pakistani military, in 1965.
The 1971 War
In 1971 war he was a Wing Commander, when 1971 war broke out, he was in Jordan on deputation from PAF on a training assignment with the Royal Jordanian Air Force. When he heard about the war he immediately returned to Pakistan and he soon volunteered for a mission to attack the heavily defended Indian airbase at Jamnagar on 12 December.
During the mission he and his wingman attacked many aircrafts parked on the runway and destroyed most of them but soon after that they were intercepted by the IAF jets, two IAF MIG-21 aircraft from No. 47 Squadron starting pursuing the attacking aircrafts of PAF.
Middlecoat, as leader of the sortie, was entitled to egress first but instead told his younger wingman to depart ahead of him. Maintaining a high speed, he reduced altitude and managed to deflect the first missile fired at his Starfighter. However, with the lead MiG21 closing in, he was shot down over the Rann (Gulf) of Kutch. The Indian pilot who shot him down, Flight Lieutenant Bharat Bhushan Soni, saw Middlecoat eject and his parachute deploy. As he fell into the Arabian Sea, Soni contacted a nearby IAF base to send a rescue team. However, by the time potential rescuers arrived, Middlecoat was nowhere to be found. He had landed in shark infested waters and it was considered unlikely that he survived. Declared missing in action, he was posthumously awarded a Bar to the Sitara-i-Jurat. His remains were never found.
Request from King Hussein of Jordan
Because Middlecoat had served and fought for the King in Royal Jordanian Air Force earlier during the Six-Day War with Israel in June 1967. The king of Jordan made a personal request to PAF and Pakistani government that “Middlecoat be buried with the Jordanian flag under his head if he was to be wrapped in the Pakistani flag”.
Official PAF citation reads
On the outbreak of war on 3rd December 71, Wing Commander Mervyn L Middlecoat was on a training visit abroad. He returned to Pakistan immediately and joined operations with such keen interest that he inspired all squadron pilots. The day after his arrival he was detailed on a strike mission to the heavily defended Jamnagar air field. While returning after the successful mission he was engaged by two enemy Mig-21s. In the encounter his aircraft was hit by an enemy missile. He was seen to be ejecting in Indian territory and was officially declared missing in action. For his devotion to duty, determination and courage he was awarded a Bar to the Sitara-i-Jurat and Sitara-i-Basalat.
His firm Belief in Pakistan
Once his only daughter Leslie Ann Middlecoat was bullied in school and one boy named Ali told her “you are not a Muslim, this country is not for you leave Pakistan”, on hearing such remarks little Leslie punched him and then teachers called the Middlecoat family. After hearing about this incident Mervyn Middlecoat told his daughter “I am ashamed of you, you shouldn’t have punched your fellow student”. Leslie replied I punched him because he bullied me then his father told her.
“Look at the Flag of Pakistan this green part belongs to ALI and this White part belongs to you and your dad and this white part is the one which holds the pole while hoisting the flag so without this white part of the flag this green part cannot flutter and this is how you should explain yourself if you are bullied again”.
Medal and Honors
- Sitara-e-Jurat (1965)
- Sitara-e-Jurat (1971)
- Sitara-i-Basalat (1971)
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