Col. Prithipal Singh Gill (retd), the only officer to have served in all the three Services — the Army, Navy and the Air Force — turned 100 on Friday. He joined the Royal Indian Air Force in 1942, served with the Royal Indian Navy during World War II and fought in the 1965 war with Pakistan with the Indian Army.
Col. Gill was born in 1920 in Patiala and studied in the Government College, Lahore. He got married to Preminder Kaur in 1950. He and Ms. kaur (93) presently reside in Chandigarh with their children and grandchildren and are looking to celebrate their 70th anniversary on December 24.
Col. Gill joined the Royal Indian Air Force in 1942 without his family’s consent. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer and stationed at Karachi, flying Howard aircraft. “Flying was then considered unsafe and his family did not want him to be a pilot. Gen Savoy, known to the Gill family, was able to have Pilot Officer Singh transferred to the Navy,” an Army officer said.
In the Navy, he served on a mine-sweeping ship and later on INS Teer, an escort vessel for cargo ships, during World War II. Sub. Lt. Singh was detailed to attend the Long Gunnery Staff Course at the School of Artillery, Devlali, and he qualified as an Instructor in Gunnery. “He then sought a transfer to the Army, which was approved, and he was posted to the “Gwalior Mountain Battery” equipped with 5.4 inch Howitzers,” the officer said.
He served with the 34 Medium Regiment and later raised and commanded the 71 Medium Regiment. During the 1965 war, when four guns of his regiment were cut off by enemy action, Lt. Col. Gill personally led a successful mission to retrieve them.
On promotion to the rank of Colonel, he commanded an Assam Rifles Sector in Ukhrul, Manipur. He took premature retirement in 1970 and went to farm the family lands at his native village Pakhi in Faridkot district.