Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry was one of the few Christians who served in PAF and he dedicated his entire life in the service to Pakistan. He was a Pakistani academic, human rights activist, and veteran fighter pilot. He was a hero a legend who truly represented the white part of our National flag.
Chaudhry was born on 27 August 1941 to the only Christian (Roman Catholic) family of the village Dalwal, located in the Salt Range, Punjab. His father, Elmer Chaudhry, was from East Punjab and then based in Lahore. He worked as a chief photographer with The Times, Lahore. He also served as a teacher of physics and mathematics at St. Anthony’s High School. Chaudhry was schooled at St. Anthony’s, before pursuing higher studies at the Forman Christian College, Lahore where he completed his bachelor’s degree in physics.
Career in PAF
As an Air Scout, he was awarded his glider pilot’s wings in 1956 by then President of Pakistan, Iskander Mirza, at a ceremony in Karachi. He was admitted into the Pakistan Air Force Academy on 12 March 1958 and enrolled in the engineering program. In 1960, he received his double B.Sc. in aeronautics and mechanical engineering. Meanwhile, he became an ace fighter pilot upon graduating from the PAF Academy.
As a Flight Lieutenant, he fought in the 1965 Indo-Pak war and, as a Squadron Leader. Also served as Squadron leader in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. During the 1965 war, Chaudhry, and three other pilots, under the leadership of Wing Commander Anwar Shamim, destroyed the Amritsar Radar Station in a daring attack. It was a very difficult mission but PAF was successful in this mission.
On 6th September 1965, Flight Lieutenant Cecil Chaudhry was No. 2 in a flight of 3 F-86 aircraft led by Squadron Leader Rafiqui. Their target was Halwara airfield of the Indian Air Force. This formation of 3 F-86s was intercepted by 10 Hunter aircraft of the Indian Air Force. During the engagement, Squadron Leader Rafiqui’s guns stopped firing and he handed over the lead to Flight Lieutenant Cecil Chaudhry, who very ably and aggressively continued the fight against heavy odds. About 60 miles inside enemy territory, he destroyed two enemy Hunter aircraft with his gun attack. This performance in such adverse circumstances proved that the enemy had no match for his courage and Professional skills. He successfully managed to return to base after losing contact with other members of the formation. Squadron Leader Rafiqui embraced shahadat on this Mission.
On 15th September 1965, despite insufficient information from Ground Radar, Flight Lieutenant Cecil Chaudhry pursued his aggressive attacks on enemy bombers and chased them 150 miles away from the base. During the engagement, he destroyed one enemy Canberra bomber. The services rendered by him were above and beyond the normal call of duty and contributed a significant share in achieving Pakistan Air Force air superiority.
For all his acts of courage, compassion, dedication, and professional skills. Flight Lieutenant Cecil Chaudhry was awarded Sitara-i-Juraat. Later, during the 1971 war, he again showed the same courage and bravery. For which he was awarded Tamgha-i-Jurat in 1971.
Social Services for Pakistan
Cecil Chaudhry became an educationalist after leaving the air force and was affiliated with the Punjab Education Foundation. He served as principal at St. Anthony’s College for many years, before joining Saint Mary’s Academy as a principal, succeeding his Sister Eileen Ann Daffy. He retired from this post in July 2011.
Chaudhry remained an influential, independent human rights activist, He worked for the betterment of special children. He was Executive Secretary of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) since its inception. He was also affiliated with the National Commission for Justice and Peace and was instrumental in leading the fourteen-year campaign that led to the restoration of Pakistan’s joint electorate system in 2000.
Death and Legacy
Cecil Chaudhry died at the age of 70 in Lahore on 13 April 2012 after a long battle with lung cancer. In August 2013, the Government of Pakistan approved the President’s Pride of Performance Award for Cecil Chaudhry.
His daughter Michelle Chaudhry, in his memory founded “Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation”, an NGO advocating for the rights of minorities in Pakistan.
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