Air Marshal Malcolm Shirley Dundas Wollen, fondly known as ‘Mally’, is an Old Cottonian of the 1944 vintage. Air Marshal Wollen was bestowed with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) for his stellar role in the 1971 Indo-Pak War. The PVSM was constituted in 1960 and is, now, awarded for sustained service, though, during 1971 was generally regarded as recognition for a notable performance during the war.
Air Marshal Wollen joined Cotton’s in 1937, preceded by five brothers. At School, he was a scout and a good boxer. He served as Head of Day Scholars in 1944. Air Marshal Wollen entered the Indian Air Force in July 1947 and while commissioning in September 1949 was awarded the Sword of Honour, the Flying Trophy and the President’s Plaque. He entered the fighter stream and flew all fighter aircraft, from the Spitfire to the Swept-Wing MIG 23. He commanded the Hunter, Gnat and MIG 21 Squadrons and was awarded a “Mention in Dispatches” during the 1965 Indo-Pak War. He was thrice commended for skilful handling of in-flight emergencies and survived five flying accidents including a mid-air collision!
In May 1965, Air Marshal Dilbagh Singh (later Chief of the Air Staff) handed over command of the 28 Squadron to Wg. Cdr. Wollen (as he then was). The 28 Squadron was to gain prominence for successfully flying MIG 21’s into Pakistan (Pathankot in particular) and causing havoc within the ranks of the Enemy. In fact, Air Marshal Wollen was handpicked along with Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh owing to his specialized expertise in flying the MIG. As Commanding Officer of 28 Squadron, Air Marshal Wollen spearheaded some memorable combat sorties especially against the Pakistan Air Force Sabers.
Air Marshal Wollen’s last three appointments in the IAF were Deputy Chief of the Air Staff, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief – Eastern Air Command and Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief – Western Air Command. After an illustrious career in the IAF, Air Marshal Wollen retired in September 1984 and relocated to Bangalore, with his wife, Rose. Post-retirement, Air Marshal Wollen served as the Chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) from September 1984 to March 1988. During his stint with HAL, the design and development of the Advanced Light Helicopter and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) was undertaken.
Considered an authority on LCA, and MIGs in particular, Air Marshal Wollen has authored several papers on aviation including “The First Supersonics in 1965” (Indian Aviation, 1992) and “The Light Combat Aircraft Story” which appeared in the Opening Show Report of Indian Aviation during Aero India 2001. Air Marshal Wollen also served for two years as the President, Aeronautical Society of India. He has been an Advisor to the Indian Aviation News Services (Mumbai and London) for the last fourteen years, writing articles on military aviation and attending National and International Aerospace Exhibitions and Seminars. He now lives in New Zealand. Air Marshall Wollen fondly recalls the eight wonderful and vibrant years he spent at Cotton’s, largely unaffected by the events of World War II. In his words “There were around fifteen boys in each class, often less at the year’s end. Students were deeply aware that good character and sportsmanship were as important as hard study. Compulsory attendance, four times a week, at evening games / sports, helped build character. Masters were strict and invariably fair in their dealings, they were respected and liked; each one of them had an excellent record in the field of education.“ Till date, he remains indebted to Canon Elphick, his Masters – M/s Ward, White, Fitzgerald, and Mrs. Lester, and further believes that the School remains one of the finest educational institutions in India, duly living up to its motto.
Air Marshal Wollen is closely associated with the School and often returns as the Chief Guest at various functions at Cotton’s. He has addressed the Cottonians on ‘Careers in the Air Force’ and has also served on the School Board. All told, Air Marshal Wollen’s exemplary career and impeccable comportment represent Cotton’s at its best.