– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

#WW1 – Hardit Singh Malik (Balliol 1912)

The BBC has a fascinating series of stories on their WW1 At Home site – here is an index of all the Oxford related ones. The one that interests me particularly is that of HS Malik, the first Indian pilot in the Royal Flying Corps.

I can recommend his autobiography, A Little Work, A Little Play, published by his daughter in (?)2010, as an excellent read of a fascinating life lived in decidedly interesting times on several continents. Here is a review.

There is not a great deal of information about HS Malik’s time at Balliol (1912-1915) in the College Archives, but what there is illustrates his long-standing enjoyment of college cricket, his WW1 flying career and his abiding friendship with his tutor Francis Fortescue Urquhart, known as ‘Sligger’, a Modern History don and the first Roman Catholic Fellow of an Oxford college since the Reformation.

 

The series of five photos from Urquhart’s personal albums, now in the College Archives, is bookended by group photos of ‘Past v Present’ cricketers from the college’s sport albums, once kept in the cricket pavilion and documenting all college sport except rowing, which had its own set of albums in the boathouse – these are also now in the College Archives. HS Malik appears first in 1913 as a ‘Present’ cricketer and finally in 1931 as a ‘Past.’ Some cricket match records from the period also survive.

In his first year at Balliol, Malik is still wearing his Eastbourne College cricket blazer; by the next year, he has a Balliol blazer. The informal, light-hearted snap at the Pavilion is from about the same time as the last, Trinity Term 1914, just weeks before war was declared.

The first of Sligger’s wartime photos, from May-June 1916, is the only one of Francis Urquhart and HS Malik together – at this time they will have been discussing ways for Malik to fulfil his desire to join either the French or the British air force. The next also predates HS Malik’s groundbreaking acceptance as an officer in the RFC – at this point, summer 1917, through FF Urquhart’s connections, Malik is working as an officer ambulance driver for the Croix Rouge Français. (Urquhart volunteered at the American Hospital in Neuilly -sur-Seine during University vacations.) The caption of the next two photos, also from Francis Urquhart’s own albums, marks a milestone for HS Malik and for the Service he entered – he has become a pilot in the newly-formed RAF (merger of RFC with Royal Naval Air Service in April 1918).

Though he took his History degree in 1915, HS Malik returns to college cricket as a ‘Present’ for the 1920-21 year, while undertaking mandatory studies preceding posting to the Indian Civil Service.

The last photo is once again a ‘Cricket Past and Present’ group – HS Malik and his family are back in England as he takes up the post of Deputy Trade Commissioner in the Indian High Commission for three years from 1930. This posting to England came in time for Malik to see his friend and tutor again before Urquhart’s death in 1934.

The photos on this page are provided for educational and personal research purposes. Permission must be obtained in advance of any reuse or publication, including on the Internet.

Further reading:

Biographical entry for HS Malik in the Balliol College Register – see 1912 sections of the 2nd and 3rd editions

More of Francis Urquhart’s WW1 photos – see Vol. 7

Correspondence from HS Malik’s later career in the Monckton archive at Balliol:

  • Letters to and from Walter Monckton, 1956-60
    • Dep. Monckton 6R, fols. 85-7, 113-14, 147, 155, 243, 303, 309
    • Dep. Monckton 7R, fols. 19, 37, 41, 75, 82, 114-15, 143-8, 154, 158-9, 162
    • Dep. Monckton 12R, fols. 64-70, 75
  • Copy of letter to T.E. Peppercorn, 1956, Dep. Monckton 7R, fols. 147-8.

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