Furdoon ‘Duck’ Mehta Passes Away At 101

Furdoon Siavax Byramji Mehta, who was known to have been the only Indian officer to fly with a British Air Observation Post (AOP) Squadron in the Second World War, passed away on 3rd March, 2021, on his 101st Birthday. Born in Bombay, Furdoon was the son of a major who served in the Royal Indian Medical Service in the First World War.

He attended school locally before training for the Merchant Marine on Dufferin, a former auxiliary cruiser, in 1933. He then acquired basic military training at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, and was commissioned into the Royal Indian Artillery in April 1940. He was known as the ‘Duck’ because of his association with Bombay.

During the Second World War, he served in various regimental units including 656 AOP Squadron RAF, India. He was the only Indian officer learning to fly and served in India, Burma and Malaya as a captain, flying artillery observation and control missions in support of the 14th Army.

After the war, he played a leading part in the development of Indian Army Aviation, especially in the introduction of helicopters. In 1947, at age 27, he assumed command of 9 Parachute Field Regiment, Royal Indian Artillery (Khadakvasla, Pune) making him not only the unit’s first Indian CO but also the youngest officer to command a Royal Indian Artillery Regiment as a Lieutenant-Colonel.

He went on to command 26 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment as a full Colonel and was also the Chief Instructor at the IMA (Dehradun), before getting posted to Germany on attachment to BAOR (British Army of the Rhine). He headed Artillery divisions in Jammu and Kashmir and in Punjab before taking up as Commandant at Deolali’s School of Artillery, followed by taking over command of Tezpur Artillery on the Indo-Tibet-Burma border. By 1964, Furdoon was Chief Artillery Adviser to the Army Commander, Western Command, Simla. During the India-Pakistan War of 1965, he was responsible for the planning and allocation of surface-to-air defence resources for the field armies.

He got married in 1960 to Villie Hormuzshaw Wania, in Mumbai, and they were blessed with a son and a daughter.

Mehta’s last military appointment was that of military and naval attaché to America and Canada at the Indian Embassy, Washington DC. In 1969, he retired in Mumbai and worked as Administration Manager for the Tata Electric Co.

An accomplished horseman and a regular at the Turf Clubs in Mumbai, Furdoon also served as Secretary of the Mumbai Cricket Association, and an honorary member of the Ex-Services’ Association Committee. He became active in an advisory capacity in the stock markets, and had a following among professional wealth managers. He enjoyed being in London, and would travel to England every other year to indulge his passion for fine food, good whisky and cigars and to attend reunions with his old comrades.

Furdoon ‘Duck’ Mehta was a devout Zoroastrian Parsi and his last wish was honoured at his funeral when a bugler from his old Regiment, 9 Parachute Field Regiment, played the ‘Last Post’. His wife passed away in 2020, and he is survived by his children.



(Courtesy: The Telegraph)

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