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Lion hearted colonel Gill who served all three services dies at 100

Colonel Prithipal Singh Gill, who had the unique distinction of serving all the three wings of the armed forces -- Air Force, Navy and Army, passed at the age of 100

Serving any wing of the Armed Forces, be it the Army or Air Force or Navy is a matter of pride and prestige. But Colonel Prithipal Singh Gill, who had the singular distinction of serving all the three wings for India, passed away yesterday.

Colonel would have turned 101 this week on December 11.

Gill was not keeping well for a couple of days and died at his residence. The cremation was held the same day.

The World War II veteran had served and donned the uniforms of the Royal Indian Air Force, Royal Indian Navy and the Indian Army during his career.

Finishing his graduation from Lahore’s Government College, Gill who was passionate about flying took it up at Walton Aerodrome, Lahore, and earned his flying licence. Joining Royal Indian Air Force in 1942, he trained to fly Howard aircraft but had to give it up as his father, Major Harpal Singh Gill, persuaded him to since the family thought it was unsafe. In an interaction with the Tribune, “My father feared I would die in an air crash.”

Having reluctantly given up Royal Indian Air Force, Gill then joined the Navy. At the age of 23 he started wearing the whites and served for five years, from January 1943 to September 1948. He served on INS Teer, a mine sweeping ship which had the important responsibility of escorting cargo ships during WW II.

After a brief stint in an Government agency, he wore the olive green dress from April 1951, joining the Indian Army after completing the Long Range Gunnery Course in which he was graded Instructor Gunnery (IG). Though eager to join 1 Sikh, now known as 4 Mech, as it had several family members of his serving it, including his father, he was allotted the Regiment of Artillery where he was posted with Gwalior Mountain Battery equipped with 5.4 inch guns.

He took premature retirement after becoming a Colonel in 1970.

He told the Tribune: “The most eventful part of my service was during the 1965 Indo-Pak War, when I was commanding the 71 Medium Regiment. During the war, the Pakistanis had enveloped one of our gun batteries, but we went after it and got them back. For a gunner, his guns are sacrosanct and revered and just cannot be given up.”

Gill served at several places, including Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and the North-East and it was at Imphal he retired.