Regimental

Heroism Redefined …

Posted on May 27, 2018. Filed under: Regimental |

Maj Gen K.M. Bhimaya (Retd), Ph.D, writes ……

Some of us must have read an account of how a potential terrorist was disarmed in a Paris-bound train from Amsterdam by two Frenchmen, a Briton, and three Americans.

I recall a Senior Command discussion on this subject which was led by the Late Gen Vas, the then-Commandant, College of Combat. After detailed discussion, the consensus was that, while courageous leaders would still meet unforeseen dangers with vigor and élan, it would be difficult to train for such situations. One explanatory factor, arguably, was the uniqueness of each situation, incapable of being replicated and incorporated in peacetime training, particularly in simulation. Another identified antidote to panic was contrived, or spontaneous humor.

Field Marshal Slim recapitulated a humbling incident he witnessed during the disorganized retreat from Burma in 1941-42 (Defeat into Victory). When he was rambling aimlessly, he came across his old JCO (then-Sub Maj) from one of the Gurkha (most probably the 7th) Battalions. The portly Sub Maj paid the usual compliments and gleefully remarked “It is interesting to observe the commander who does not seem to know what is doing.” The Field Marshal admitted that it was a wake-up call for him to get a handle on what was going on. More important, he remarked that it was a humbling experience, too.

The reference to humor brought back memories of an apocryphal anecdote that had gained currency in the corridors of South Block, immediately after our victory in the Indo-Paik conflict of 1971. The main actors were “Sam Bahadur”, the late Lt Gen I.S. Gill, the-then DMO, and the late Lt Gen Harprasad, the then-VCOAS. Unbeknown to these main actors, was an ops room Captain, nervous but attentive, and within the hearing distance of these luminaries’ deliberations. What he heard may serve as an object lesson on how to scale down the panic level in a crisis situation.

The inimitable Sam Bahadur stormed into the ops room and started his customary harangue which soon turned into a tirade. Politically, the sailing wasn’t smooth for India in the security council. The setbacks in the Akhnur sector did not augur well for the intended, speedy and decisive conclusion of the conflict. After berating the DMO, Sam Bahadur asked him pointedly, “What should we do now?” Pat came the calm response from the DMO: “Sam, I don’t know what you’re going to do, but I’m going to the loo.” The deafening silence that followed was broken by Sam Bahadur who responded, “That’s a damn good idea. I’m following you to the loo.” It is believed that, when the trio returned from the same place, they had regained their composure, and had a very good, productive discussion! This anecdote, if true, underlines the importance of humor in alleviating stress in a crisis situation. The humor may not have won the war for us, but it definitely brought about a transformation of a stressful situation for the better.

Lindberg addresses a seldom- discussed facet of courage. To wit, how in a potentially violent situation, these passengers sprang to action intuitively, while others were too numb and terrified to react. We, the Riflemen, have had similar encounters, vicarious, as well as primary, in our respective tours of duty. Of course, these might have differed from each other in contexts and levels of danger. I invite all of you to a discussion on a theme that cannot be wished away, and that will challenge all of us at the present time, and in the future. I hope I have set the tone for a purposeful discussion that might throw up some novel and original ideas.

I have only one request. Please pitch your ideas politely. Please be gentle, even if you cannot be genteel.

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The Unseen ‘Olive Green’ in the Indian Flag …

Posted on May 26, 2018. Filed under: Regimental |

The fourth color in our flag is Olive Green. – Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran) – 17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

It was the summer of 1994 and my Unit, 17 Kumaon was stationed in Suratgarh, Rajasthan. Just as summer was peaking, the local transformer went out one fine night, with a bang.

Fourteen days of hell followed, before they managed to restore the transformer. I remember that in those fourteen days, we would often go to the Officers Mess of 10 Sikh Light Infantry. They had a generator and were fantastic hosts. Other youngsters of my Unit were obsessed with football.

They would watch the game with the concentration of a sniper stalking his prey. I, on the other hand, had no interest in football. I still don’t. For me, a sport was all about riding horses and showjumping. When I was commissioned into the infantry, I understood that from now onwards, I was the horse.

Well, I digress.

On one such sojourn to the 10 Sikh Li mess, I ventured a little further and heard the children of an officer speaking in fluent Punjabi. In the army no one thinks twice about these things and they don’t matter. But outside, it can create a controversy. Well, the officer was a Malyalee. And his children were speaking Punjabi inside the unit Gurudwara. They had come for the langar, as all kids do. Spiritual enlightenment was still decades away, if at all.

We had adventures in the blazing deserts of Rajasthan. Mahajan Field Firing Range, a few hours from Bikaner, was our happy hunting grounds. Field exercises were no fun but when the sun went down, the desert would come alive. Snakes and scorpions found their way into our boots. Yes, we had adventures. Staring at Fort Abbas in Pakistan was how evenings were spent. There were no TV sets there.

Shortly, the Unit moved to Gurdaspur. Punjab, glorious Punjab, with its green fields and hospitality was a stark contrast to the large nothingness of Mahajan. Soon, we settled down.

New to the station, 17 Kumaon was itching to celebrate but the one major Kumaoni festival, Dussehra, was still months away. My Paltan is a pure Kumaoni battalion with 100% Hindu troops from the Kumaon region. Officers, as is true for the entire army, are from all over India. Had it been Dussehra, 17 Kumaon would have been decked up like a bride. There would have been “kaal ratri” on the eve of the big day, a “Mandir Parade” on the following morning, followed by the ritual sacrifice, and then the “shastra pooja”.

The famous Kumaoni “choliya dance” would have followed. Finally before we all went home, we would have the feast…the massive “bara khana” with the mustard-spiked Kumaoni “raita” as the centerpiece. One spoon of that raita would have your scalp tingling like you had a thousand ants crawling on your skull.

But as I said, Dussehra was still months away.

So, Colonel Lincoln Lewis Andrews, YSM (Yudh Sewa Medal), Commanding Officer of 17 Kumaon decreed that we would celebrate Janmashtami with equal fervor. We would show the Brigade HQs what 17 Kumaon was…our spirit, our traditions and our hospitality.

Officers were invited from the Brigade. The Brigade Commander was tied up elsewhere and sent his regrets, but never mind…everyone present would know that the “bhullas” were second to none. “Bhulla” means younger brother in Kumaoni and that is how troops are addressed in my Unit.

The Unit Mandir was spruced up and on the big day, we assembled at 2330 hrs (11:30 pm) at the Mandir. Col Andrews led the Mandir parade, and with the “arti thali” being passed around, the Mandir was soon reverberating with bhajans.

Col Andrews was a boxer, and he sang like one. I was sitting right behind him and had to bear the brunt of his musical talent. But he was the CO and I was then a young Lieutenant. I kept my peace. Another reason I kept my peace was that Capt. RK Anuj, Adjutant of 17 Kumaon, was sitting next to me. He was also my senior subaltern. I had very valid reasons not to air my precious opinion.

17 Kumaon was caught up in the fervor of Janmashtami, and was led from the front by its CO. Whenever the bhajan reached a crescendo, Col Andrews would repeat the lines “Brij mein aayo mere Nand Lala” along with everyone. Suddenly, at 2359 hrs, one minute to midnight, everyone stopped singing.

The Unit Panditji gave a sharp command, “Mandir Parade saavdhan baith”. 17 Kumaon turned into a thousand statues.

Turning to the CO, he saluted and said, “Ram Ram Sahab. Sri Krishna ke janam ki anumati chahta hoon, Shrimaan”. Pandit Ji was asking permission from the CO to allow the birth of Lord Krishna. No one batted an eyelid. This was the Indian Army, after all. Traditions were everything. Izzat. Wafadari. Dastoor.

“Ram Ram, Pandit Ji. Anumati hai”, said the good Colonel, beaming.

A silent signal was given. Far away, half a kilo of plastic explosive went off. The cradle of Lord Krishna was slowly lowered from the ceiling. The hall exploded with bhajans.

It was at 0003 hrs, three minutes past midnight that the Mandir phone rang loudly. The CO was asked to come on the phone. Well, the Brigade Commander basically said that he was back. He had heard so much about the Kumaoni Janmashtami. Would it be possible for him to attend the celebrations?

Col Andrews was a war hero, with a Yudh Sewa Medal in Operation Pawan, Sri Lanka. The LTTE had feared him. But the Brigade Commander’s visit was a bit too much. But what could he do? Lord Krishna had “already been born”.

“You are welcome, Sir”, said Col LL Andrews, his throat obviously dry. There was nothing else to say.

A few minutes later, the Unit Panditji again said, “Mandir parade saavdhan baith”. Marching up to the Brigade Commander, he saluted and smartly said again, “Ram, Ram Sahab. Sri Krishna ke janam ki anumati chahta hoon, Shrimaan”.

This time it was the Brigade Commander who gave permission for the birth of Lord Krishna. The same distant explosion. The same cradle lowered gently.

There was much bonhomie and the “suji ka halwa” prasad was consumed in vast quantities. 17 Kumaon sang bhajans to its heart’s content. Subedar Gopal Singh Soin, the soul of our Mandir functions, raised his right fist and shouted “Kalika Mata ki Jai”. A thousand throats roared the Kumaoni battle cry.

Col. Andrews folded his hands, closed his eyes and whispered “Jai Ram Sarv Shaktiman”. The Mandir Parade was over.

As we stepped outside the Mandir and wore our shoes, I could see Col Andrews chatting with the Brigade Commander. He was beaming with pride.

It was on that day that I learned a valuable lesson. If you are an officer in the Indian Army, the religion you were born into is secondary. The religion of the troops you command is your religion. You live and pray with your men. And when the time comes, you die with them.

When a Hindu officer of the Grenadiers Regiment refuses a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day, because he is fasting for Ramzan, you know you are in the Indian Army. And when all the other officers from different regiments keep down their lemonade glasses in a show of solidarity, it sets you thinking. Who are these men? What are they made of?

I recently tweeted pictures of an Iftar function organized by the army in Kashmir. Trolls reacted the way they mostly do. The Indian Army was accused of minority appeasement, pandering to Muslims, feeding traitors and becoming “sickular”. I was almost made to feel as if the Indian Army was standing for local elections and Muslim votes were critical for electoral victory.

I mostly don’t react to trolls when they fire at me. But this was different. If you don’t speak about the Indian Army with the utmost respect, expect a response from me. No attack will go unanswered.

Much as many people may hate it, the truth is that the Indian Army is both secular and liberal. Yes, the same army that has killed thousands of terrorists, defeated and dismembered Pakistan, stared down China and continues to sacrifice lives everyday in the line of duty. Fret as you may, this is carved in stone and defended by 1.2 million men and women with automatic weapons.

It is not going to change.

Now, about the Iftar in Kashmir. Every Kashmiri Muslim is not a terrorist or a stone pelter. I go to Kashmir frequently. I do claim to have a little sense of what is going on there. There are many who oppose us. There are many who stand with us. And those who stand with us put their lives in peril to do so. They must be defended, whatever the cost. More importantly, they must be respected.

I am all for throwing stone pelters in jail. I am against ceasefire. I would love to see the Hurriyat leadership in prison till the day the sun rises from the North. I celebrate the killing of every terrorist. I am the strongest possible votary for vertical escalation on the Line of Control.

But the fact remains that Kashmir is a war on terror, not a war on the people. Our morality often exacts a price. So be it. We don’t worship Lord Rama because he was a powerful king. He is God because he is “Maryada Purushottam”. He is the most ideal of men. On the first page of the 2018 Indian Army coffee table book, there is full-page painting of Lord Rama. His morality is our compass. This is “dharma”. This is duty.

The Indian Army is not just a powerful army. It is also a moral army.

Politicians and the media have mangled secularism and liberalism beyond belief. Many Indians believe these ideologies to be architects of India’s impending doom. Nothing is further from the truth. Secularism is simply the separation of religion and the state. Liberalism is simply the ability to accept opinions and behavior different from ours. That’s all. In my book, there is no other definition. Our books, should we choose to look carefully, are exactly the same.

The Indian Army is all about what we value most in our life – honour, brotherhood, integrity, loyalty, faith, courage and morality. It is the defender of all that is right. The truth cannot always be defended with a pen, a banner and a candlelight march. Sometimes, it needs a soldier with a gun.

Ask anyone and they will tell you that our national flag has three colors. But it actually has a fourth color, invisible to the eye…look from the deepest recesses of our collective morality and there it is.

 

 

 

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For the Soldier …

Posted on May 26, 2018. Filed under: Regimental, Uncategorized |

Unless You are a Soldier …… by Clive Sanders

Unless you have been a Soldier

You just never will understand

stuff Soldiers have seen and done

In the Service of their beloved Land.

They trained to fight in fearful combat

And cope with awful sounds n sights

that should not be seen by anyone

because they keep you awake nights.

Soldiers never discuss the wounds

On their bodies or in their minds

They just put all their pain behind

And make their memories blind.

Proudly they served their Country

And remember the comrades lost.

For the Freedom you enjoy today,

The lost paid the awesome cost.

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Gen Bhimaya writes on Regimental History …

Posted on May 7, 2018. Filed under: Regimental |

Brig Gen H. Gordon, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O. the former Commanding Officer of the 2 Leistershire Regiment, (a.k.a. “The Green Tigers”) wrote the “Foreword” to Brig Gen Drake-Brockman’s magnum opus: “With the Royal Garhwal Rifles in the Great War 1914-1917”.

While brevity is the defining characteristic of this foreword, the candor and the sincerity with which Gen Gordon paid tribute to the Regiment in general, and Brig Drake-Brockman in particular, is remarkable. Incidentally, “The Green Tigers” had an opportunity to team up again with 1/18 RGR in Burma (Circa 1941-42)

Although my first reaction was to paraphrase this moving foreword, on second thoughts, I felt that I would be robbing the original of its basic features that extol the virtues of the Garhwali riflemen under extreme adversity.

General Gordon is magnanimous to concede that, during the first battle of Festubert, while his own Battalion got held up under fire, the two Garhwali battalions, ably led by their British officers, accomplished their tasks with great élan.

He also has observed that Garhwalis were hardly known when they arrived in France because they were definitely not an advertising Regiment. (Some argue that the reason Garhwalis wear the lanyard   differently from the other, similarly honored Regiments, (5RGR (FF), for example) was their innate modesty not to advertise their accomplishments.

They did not believe in advertising, because their gallantry in the battlefield was their best advertisement! Officers who are aware of this interpretation may comment on this).

I have, therefore, scanned the “Foreword” and attached it for your reading pleasure.

Comments are welcome, but please be courteous to your brother officers and, of course, follow the Internet Etiquette.

I will be traveling in the next few days. If you don’t hear from me, don’t presume I’m AWOL!

Thank you for your patience.

 

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Indian Army’s Culture of Excellence …

Posted on April 20, 2018. Filed under: Regimental, Searching for Success |

Despite the ongoing degradation of he Military (read Articles with this heading, in this Blog), there is  the Indian Army’s Culture of Excellence & Integrity – as this small incident highlights –

Three units of the Bombay Sappers of the Indian Army were deployed to construct three, foot over – bridges (FOB) at Elphinstone Road, Mumbai in early 2018. Highlights of the construction of the three bridges are as follows:

  1. The Army completed the three bridges within three months.
  2. Three months include planning, design, tendering, material procurement and meeting all statutory requirements of the Indian Railways.
  3. Work was done only during early mornings from 1 AM to 4 AM breaking the biological clock for the entire 3 months.
  4. The Railways gave no special shut downs as is their practice for all their own works.
  5. The Army did not cut corners in any procedures such as tendering, selection of contractors​, material testing by laboratories authorised by the Railways. There were no deviations from any norms, quality and standard procedures although working under time constraints.
  6. The Army also carried out acquisition of a small piece of land for a staircase adopting standard government procedures.
  7. There were no under the table dealings. Hence, all work was done in the shortest possible time in the face of unhappiness on the part of the Railways who were miffed that the job was snatched away from them.
  8. The Railways did not provide local train passes to the Jawans who commuted daily from their base to site. The Railways agreed to reimburse individually knowing full well that the Army personnel would go back to their units after completing the work.

The Indian Army Engineers (The Bombay Sappers) displayed exemplary organisational capacity, integrated teamwork, very high standard of integrity both professional and moral and leadership par excellence.

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‘Bull’ Sheru Negi Goes – Apr 12 …

Posted on April 15, 2018. Filed under: Regimental |

 Thank you Gen Bhimaya for correcting me re Brig LS Negi, who was also a RIMCO  ….
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If you recall The Regimental 75th Raising Anniversary in 1962 celebrated when you were Adjutant at the Center, you had housed us youngsters in the Barrack like house below No3 – where there is a small Cemetery just across the road. Those were the times of the 1962 War and there was lots of machismo. So much so that after the usual bravado and bonhomie there was a right royal fist fight involving ND, Self and several others – and then comes in Bull Negi and knocks all of us out cold – and — Peace!
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Bull was 16th NDA King Sqn which possibly had the finest ever Sqn Cdr – the Great Chandan Singh VrC in ’62, MVC in 71 – who was a Div Cdr in Able when Gen Bhimaya’s 10th passed out. Well even he could not help BULL – whom he loved no end – from getting relegated for academics!
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Bull was the type who would come to Pune from Bombay, borrow a friends motor bike and call him from Bombay next day saying the Bike was lying in a Ditch under a culvert – And No Qs asked. Such were his friends who loved him dearly.
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Along  with DP, ND, RP, H Ali, Sudesh Bhasin, Doc Sunderam from the Regimental Center n Jojo SenGupta and his AC Crowd and Eli Mirzoeff from Bombay, he attended my marriage in my wife’s dusty decrepit village near Patiala.
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And then when my wife and I were housed in a single room in a Barrack – which also housed Brig Bunty Quin – in the Pune RSI, we come back once from a walk in Main St – and what do we see – Bull Negi  dead drunk n fully sprawled on our two beds! And no way was he going to awake! So we pull out some sheets and sleep in the covered verandah!
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And on the day our daughter was born, after I drop my wife in the MH, who drops in out of the blue – but Sultan Mal Charupa, !st Course JSW, who needs to be dropped to the Station — followed by Bull and Amrik, who stop me from going to the MH around 2pm when I receive news that my wife has delivered a Baby girl, saying that I would not be allowed to see my wife till at least 6pm – since Amrik is an experienced hand.
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And when I do go at 6pm, my wife begins to cry and accuses me of every thing under the sun; my wonderful friends quietly abandon ship and make a quiet get away!
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But one must respect space and time.
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Those days there were those evil things called promotion exams. The Retention needed a Bottle of Scotch – Parts A n C needed cozying up to the Examiner n Parts B n D needed some writing. Now Bull and Part D became born enemies – specially the subject of Mil History. Even if you gave Bull a book with the needed answer highlighted, he would Not Copy it but write what his opinion was on the subject!
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To show the spirit of the times – Once in S Command the COS was Gen Kabraji, who one day called all officers during the Tea Break and showed them a Part D Answer Sheet which had written on it in bold Letters – “HELP HELP LAST CHANCE” And Gen Kabraji thundered, “This Officer has Faith in the System and I am going to PASS HIM”. 
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Dear Bull was not That Lucky – but I should say he was More Lucky than Most of Us!  Because he and his wonderful wife Founded a School and made it BIGGER n BIGGER with lots n lots of Greenery n a Huge Main Building for a strength of over 1500 kids ………  n made a Beautiful House with a Pagoda Style Roof – again with lots of Greenery.
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And Guess who was the Patron of this Brazenly Big School —
None other than the Dear Wonderful DP – who tried his utmost to make BULL a CO of the FOURTH.
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But Bull became something BIGGER ….  GOD BLESS HIM n HIS WONDERFUL FAMILY!!!
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Have a Ball Up There, Old Chap – sure as hell, we all will be joining You Sooner or Later – keep some seats empty near you – and the Hell with the RIPs sent you …..
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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And here is Gen Bhimaya …
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I am sorry, indisposition and senility came in the way of doing full justice to what Bert entrusted me: an eulogy to the Late Sheru (Bull) Negi.
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I am glad you came to my rescue and filled in the readers with an elegant piece that was moving, comprehensive and, of course, brief, with the soul of wit. I am not sure whether readers would appreciate our banter, but I shall risk it.
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Yes, I do remember you and Dhasmana showing up at the Parade Ground–you with a side cap that ill-concealed the bruises, and Dhasmana trying to play hide and seek.
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Some of us were products of a culture that, arguably, recognized bars in the officers’ messes as  great learning centers – even if you did not drink. Those were the places, where you recalled regimental episodes (even apocryphal), let the steam out, settled scores arising out of the day’s turbulent interactions, and shook hands when you tottered out of the mess for a good night’s sleep.
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The spirit is encapsulated in your words: “and then comes in Bull Negi and knocks all of us out cold – and — Peace!”
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Times have changed, and I suppose, they should.
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1971 War – Sam Manekshaw, Kim Yadav, Krishna Menon …

Posted on March 27, 2018. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities, Regimental |

A sordid Story which began when Gen Thimayya was Chief and Nehru’s blue eyed Defense Minister – VK Krishna Menon began to under cut and humiliate the Chief in order to pave the way for the rise of the Kashmiri ASC Gen BM Kaul – a distant cousin of the PM.

The Story starts when the Defense Minister visits Maj Gen Sam Manekshaw who was GOC 26 Div and tries to enlist him against his own Chief – Gen Thimayya. Sam of course refuses point blank and thereby begins to  dig his own grave.

This is the cause de terre for the enquiry which was initiated against Sam a year or so later when he was Commandant of the Staff College.

The principle witness against Sam in the enquiry against him was a close colleague and friend – then Col – later Brigadier – Kim Yadav who happened to be the the first CO of a very dear course mate and friend, who vouches his elan and professionalism. Kim was, indeed, an outstanding officer, who was for a while, ADC to Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Years later when Sam took over Western Command where Brig Kim Yadav  was Commanding a Brigade, Sam heard some officers in the Mess, in hushed tones belittling Brig Yadav. Turning to them he says, “Gentlemen, Brig Kim Yadav professionally is  head and shoulders above most of you – all he lacks is character”.

The late PKK Raju, a Rimcollian, was present with the FIFTH when it was part of Kim Yadav’s Brigade and used to narrate this exercise which most every one thought was to fix Kim. This seemed  more so Sam as Army Commander himself attended.

The brigade had performed pretty well and Sam went up for his Summing Up, most every one thought that Sam would now tear apart Kim. But Sam went to the podium, looked round and spoke just one sentence before he shook the Commanders’ hand. He had said was that were he himself commanding the brigade, he could not have done better!

And at the end of the 1971 war, Kim Yadav sent a telegram to Sam, ‘You seem to have won the war all by yourself – without any help from me! My Congratulations’.

Those were the Days and these were the Guys.

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Rajputs – Why they Lost …

Posted on February 21, 2018. Filed under: From a Services Career, Regimental, Uncategorized |

From Scroll.in ……  They were defeated by Ghazni, Ghuri, Khilji, Babur, Akbar, the Marathas and the British.

A thousand years ago, Rajput kings ruled much of North India. Then they lost to Ghazni, lost to Ghuri, lost to Khilji, lost to Babur, lost to Akbar, lost to the Marathas, and keeled over before the British. The Marathas and Brits hardly count since the Rajputs were a spent force by the time Akbar was done with them. Having been confined to an arid part of the subcontinent by the early Sultans, they were reduced to vassals by the Mughals.

The three most famous Rajput heroes not only took a beating in crucial engagements, but also retreated from the field of battle. Prithviraj Chauhan was captured while bolting and executed after the second battle of Tarain in 1192 CE, while Rana Sanga got away after losing to Babur at Khanua in 1527, as did Rana Pratap after the battle of Haldighati in 1576. To compensate for, or explain away, these debacles, the bards of Rajputana replaced history with legend.

It is worth asking, surely, what made Rajputs such specialists in failure. Yet, the question hardly ever comes up. When it does, the usual explanation is that the Rajputs faced Muslim invaders whose fanaticism was their strength. Nothing could be further than the truth. Muslim rulers did use the language of faith to energise their troops, but commitment is only the first step to victory. The Rajputs themselves never lacked commitment, and their courage invariably drew the praise of their enemies.

Even a historian as fundamentalist as Badayuni rhapsodised about Rajput valour. Babur wrote that his troops were unnerved, ahead of the Khanua engagement, by the reputed fierceness of Rana Sanga’s forces, their willingness to fight to the death.

Let’s cancel out courage and fanaticism as explanations, then, for each side displayed these in equal measure. What remains is discipline, technical and technological prowess, and tactical acumen. In each of these departments, the Rajputs were found wanting. Their opponents, usually Turkic, used a complex battle plan involving up to five different divisions. Fleet, mounted archers would harry opponents at the start, and often make a strategic retreat, inducing their enemy to charge into an ambush.

Behind these stood the central division and two flanks. While the centre absorbed the brunt of the enemy’s thrust, the flanks would wheel around to surround and hem in opponents. Finally, there was a reserve that could be pressed into action wherever necessary. Communication channels between divisions were quick and answered to a clear hierarchy that was based largely on merit.

Contrast this with the Rajput system, which was simple, predictable, and profoundly foolish, consisting of a headlong attack with no Plan B. In campaigns against forces that had come through the Khyber Pass, Rajputs usually had a massive numerical advantage. Prithviraj’s troops outnumbered Ghuri’s at the second battle of Tarain by perhaps three to one. At Khanua, Rana Sanga commanded at least four soldiers for every one available to Babur. Unlike Sanga’s forces, though, Babur’s were hardy veterans.

After defeating Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat, the founder of the Mughal dynasty had the option of using the generals he inherited from the Delhi Sultan, but preferred to stick with soldiers he trusted. He knew numbers are meaningless except when acting on a coherent strategy under a unified command. Rajput troops rarely answered to one leader, because each member of the confederacy would have his own prestige and ego to uphold. Caste considerations made meritocracy impossible. The enemy general might be a freed Abyssinian slave, but Rajput leadership was decided by clan membership.

Absent meritocratic promotion, an established chain of command, a good communication system, and a contingency plan, Rajput forces were regularly taken apart by the opposition’s mobile cavalry. Occasionally, as with the composite bows and light armour of Ghuri’s horsemen, or the matchlocks employed by Babur, technological advances played a role in the outcome.

Ossified tactics

What’s astonishing is that centuries of being out-thought and out-manoeuvred had no impact on the Rajput approach to war. Rana Pratap used precisely the same full frontal attack at Haldighati in 1576 that had failed so often before. Haldighati was a minor clash by the standards of Tarain and Khanua. Pratap was at the head of perhaps 3,000 men and faced about 5,000 Mughal troops. The encounter was far from the Hindu Rajput versus Muslim confrontation it is often made out to be.

Rana Pratap had on his side a force of Bhil archers, as well as the assistance of Hakim Shah of the Sur clan, which had ruled North India before Akbar’s rise to power. Man Singh, a Rajput who had accepted Akbar’s suzerainty and adopted the Turko-Mongol battle plan led the Mughal troops. Though Pratap’s continued rebellion following his defeat at Haldighati was admirable in many ways, he was never anything more than an annoyance to the Mughal army. That he is now placed, in the minds of many Indians, on par with Akbar or on a higher plane says much about the twisted communal politics of the subcontinent.

There’s one other factor that contributed substantially to Rajput defeats: the opium habit. Taking opium was established practice among Rajputs in any case, but they considerably upped the quantity they consumed when going into battle. They ended up stoned out of their minds and in no fit state to process any instruction beyond, “kill or be killed”.

Opium contributed considerably to the fearlessness of Rajputs in the arena, but also rendered them incapable of coordinating complex manoeuvres. There’s an apt warning for school kids: don’t do drugs, or you’ll squander an empire.

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Imperial Services Cavalry Brigade Memorial …

Posted on January 15, 2018. Filed under: Regimental |

https://thewire.in/213922/forgotten-memorial-gives-indian-soldiers-yore-due/

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Military History n Political Correctness …

Posted on January 3, 2018. Filed under: Regimental |

Self Evident Exchange of Views –

1. Gen KM Bhimaya

Dalits, proudly celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon, were attacked by some miscreants.

I do not wish to delve into the political ramifications of this incident, except to admire this Battle as one of the very brave actions fought by an Indian Unit of the East India Company.

As a tribute to this valorous action, the designation of this Unit was changed to “Grenadiers.” At the village Bhima Koregoan, Captain Staunton with about 800 Dalit troops defied and defeated a large army of the Peshwa.

It was a battle of maneuver, deception, and raw “guts”. Please also read Gen S.L. Menezes’s “Indian Army”, page 291, for more information. The General was a dyed-in-the-wool ‘Grinder’.

2. Brig Jagtar S Grewal

It is a sad day that defeat of Peshwas is being celebrated. We should celebrate battle honors pre independence only which were abroad. This must be motivated by congress
Rightly said its political ramifications should not be discussed. Even such battles should be played down

3. Col PM Dubey VSM

Thanks Gen Bhimaya for presenting new and hidden face of the military history.

We should not be looking at this battle having been won by dalits or lost by Peshwas, which will dilute the very purpose of history. I think Gen SL Menezes has written this chapter to glorify the ancestors of his Regiment, Grenadiers.

What we need to learn is reasons of loss of battle and not won by whom. We need also to remember that on both sides Indians were fighting, may be the cause/aim was different.

4. Gen KM Bhimaya

I have failed to develop the art of being politically correct. I recall some astounding summing up in various military institutions of learning in which political correctness often clouded one’s judgment.

For a military officer, a feat of arms, regardless of when, or where it occurred, and who the participants were, should be the staple of intensive study. Even though the Confederates fought against the Union Army, some battles of maneuver (Chancellorsville, for example), in which the outnumbered Confederate General Lee inflicted a crushing defeat on the Union Army) are still being analyzed in detail.

This said, the Indian context may be different. As brought out by Puran and Gary, some historical footprints that hurt the national sentiments should not be glorified needlessly.

If I remember correctly, this was the Government’s policy immediately after independence, and battle honors, such as ‘Delhi’ and ‘Lucknow’ that featured in some battalions’ Battle Honors were removed.

Some regiments retained the British forbears’ names: Napier’s, Hodson’s, Queen Victoria’s, to quote a few examples, although these were “unofficial”.

Gen Menezes has not glorified this action in his book, but has lamented the fact, that, despite such gallant performance, the enlistment of these “lower caste” men was not encouraged. Their recruitment virtually discontinued, until the exigency of World War 2 brought them to the mainstream once again.

The Duke of Wellington, when he was the Prime Minister, was asked which was his toughest battle?

Everyone present in the gathering expected the obvious answer: Waterloo. Surprisingly, the Duke proclaimed, “Assaye”. Like Koregaon, this was a touch-and-go battle. The Madras Sappers were the most outstanding of all the participants. Since, under East India Company, the British awards could not be given to Indian troops, Madras Sappers’ services were recognized by awarding them special features in their emblem (I think it is the ‘Elephant’).

In another case of outright prejudice, 41 Bengali Regiment was disbanded because the men resented poor leadership, and, more important because of the activities of many Bengalis in the forefront of the independence movement.

Despite these performances, prejudices against color (the British preferred fair-complexioned men to the dark) and political activism precluded the recruitment of many potentially good soldiers and the “Martial Race” theory ruled the roost.

It is noteworthy that, in 1927, B.R. Ambedkar, one of the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution, had visited the memorial at Koregaon and paid his homage. Was he unpatriotic? I do not know.

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