Sam Manekshaw – or just Sam Bahadur – ‘Will there ever be another?’ …

Posted on March 28, 2008. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

Sam Manekshaw will always be remembered as a dapper, debonair, dashing, nattily attired, non chalant figure with piercing,  laughter filled, fun loving, naughty eyes! And  with his trademark side cap set at a rakish angle and his  jaunty, springy, swashbuckling stride.

He is remembered so much for his wit and humor that we tend to forget his exceedingly large heart, which never ever held any tiny bit of rancor or malice – and that includes those who tried to do him maximum harm!

He never ever seemed to hold or even remember a grouse or a grudge . He was all his life so richly magnanimous. That indeed, seems to be his crowning glory!

And remember it was truly Sam – aided and abetted by the likes of Inder Gill (as his Operations guy); Jacob the COS at Eastern Command, the ever aggressive Sagat and his Corps, the likes of Hardev Kler the Signals officer who led his brigade into Dacca – and of course the rank and file of the Indian Army, who helped win India’s Greatest Victory ever!

And with the capture of over 90,000 PsOW (by the way that was the  No of Germans who surrendered after Stalingrad). And the severance of Pakistan’s Eastern half which became the new nation of Bangladesh.

Here follow a few chance episodes which are a privilege to record.

Just before the ’71 War, Sam as Chief visits the First Armored Division where we are squatting on the ground awaiting  the Great Man’s arrival. A chopper arrives and out bounces the Chief. Without wasting time, he strides forward wanting to begin his address. Just then the chopper takes off and covers him – and us – in dust. Sam turns his back to us, waiting for the dust to settle and then facing us,  quips endearingly, Whenever I plan anything, I can bank upon the air force and the armored corps to fuck it up!”


Way before he led the Indian Army in 1971 to its greatest victory, Sam Manekshaw was Commandant at the Staff College. It was here that one particular officer, Kim Yadav of the Grenadiers (who was one time aide de camp to Lord Luis Mountbatten), at the behest of Krishna Menon, the then Defense Minister, gave questionable evidence in a reprehensible attempt to snuff out Sam’s Army life.

Fortunately for the country, the Chinese came to Sam’s rescue when their mountain ‘blitzkrieg’ resulted in the resignation of the Minister! And promotion, long delayed,  of Sam as Corps Commander!

A wee later, Sam took over the Western Army and in his command was our unit in a brigade being commanded by the same professionally competent and capable Kim Yadav. When the officers learnt that the brigade was to be operationally tested in an exercise with troops, bets were on that this was Sam’s way of ‘sorting’ out the brigade commander.

In the exercise, watched by Sam, the brigade and its units performed rather well. We awaited, with baited breadth, Sam’s remarks at the ‘summing up’. Sam strode to the podium in his usual jaunty style, coolly looks us over and for once without his flashing smile, comments – “Gentlemen!  I have only one thing to say! And that is – that had I been your commander – I could not have made your brigade perform better!!!”.

Earlier when Sam had newly arrived at the Western Army HQs in Simla, one night he heard in the Mess some officers speaking nastily of Kim Yadav. Sam butts in with, “Gentlemen, Brig Yadav is a much better soldier than any of you. All he lacks is character!”

In a much much later TV interview, Sam recollected.

“At the end of a Rashtrapati Bhawan function, as Mrs Manekshaw and I are walking out, who do I see walking along side but Mr VK Krishna Menon. i and wished him, ‘Good Evening Sir!’ And turning to Mrs Manekshaw said, – Darling, I am sure you remember Mr Menon?  Back comes the cold, ‘No – I certainly do not!”.

And here is another;

A unit which has just detrained is in no state to receive dignatories but as always there never is any choice. The Eastern Army Commander, had been nominated Chief designate and while on his way to Delhi, decides to pop in.

The Commanding Officer and the Subedar Major are lined up smartly to receive the Chief Designate.  Sam Manekshaw, in one look, sizes up the situation. He turns to the Subedar Major and asks whether the unit has a piggery? “Yes Sir”, is the smart response. Turning to the CO, Sam quips, “OK – lets see the piggery! If the piggery is in good shape, I  think the unit is in good shape!”

No one is really sure where the pigs are but with that bit of ice breaking, Sam suggests a beer in the Mess. In the mess, he sees himself smiling back in the picture kept near the Visitors Book. Sam looks at himself and turning to the 2 i/c, asks, “Where has Kumaramangalam (the current Chief whose picture should rightly have been there) gone? To the bathroom???”

Sam’s Joie di vivre and Style were His Very Own Patent.

And his Big Heart:

In the Eastern Army HQs, there are numerous stories about Sam and his wonderful Saturday – ‘Race Day’ – routine. But of that some other time.  This post recalls two incidents depicting the colorful maestro at his ebullient best. The first is solidly true. The second is, perhaps, a bit of hearsay.

Here was this infantry commanding officer who had bungled up and was the target of the whole Eastern Command structure. Every thing he did appeared to be wrong and seemed to be a threat to the Army itself.  So every one was baying for his blood. The case was put up to Sam for sacking the guy. Sam for some unknown reason decides to go and have a look and see things for himself.

Sam came – Sam saw -And Sam  pinned a Gallantry Medal on the guy’s chest! Years later                                   the guy retires as a Lt General with a chest full of gallantry awards.

The other story, alas not verifiable and hopefully not true but which reflects the man.

Here is this officer who requests an interview with Sam. He complains to Sam that his orderly is sleeping with his  wife! Sam digs into his desk and brings out a hand gun, which he offers the officer, saying – “Maybe you don’t have a hand gun. Well, you can borrow mine!”


Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, MC, (“Sam Bahadur”) born April 3, 1914).

Indian Army legend who rose to be Chief of the Indian Army in 1969. A dashing, debonair, cheery figure,who trained, organized and led the Indian forces to victory in the Indo-Pak War of 1971 and made possible the birth of Bangladesh.

Famed for his razor sharp and lively wit, his ebullience, aplomb, genuine decency, generosity and kindness. A soldiers soldier, loved and revered by the rank and file. 

Whence comes such another?

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3 Responses to “Sam Manekshaw – or just Sam Bahadur – ‘Will there ever be another?’ …”

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Sam Manekshaw was never the weatern army commander. He headed the eastern command. please get your facts right.

Not getting involved here – was going to leave a comment but will wait till this debate cools off

“… get your facts right”. …………….. shades of autocratic flag rank?

‘to err is human’, but am afraid it is not your day! … A dozen cases of Chivas back up the fact that Sam was at Western before he moved to Eastern. OK?

Getting two army commands before reaching Chief has not been uncommon. Most recent case is probably Paddy. Am on slippery ground as regards Air Force and Navy but memory urges that there also are such instances.

So the facts are ‘Right’.

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