With a distinguished military career that spanned over four decades and five major wars, Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw (lovingly called Sam Bahadur) was undoubtedly one of the most celebrated military men in Independent India.
The man under whose leadership, the brave Indian Army annihilated the Pakistani forces in 1971 was known for his bravery, courage, sense of humour and wit.
He was one of those persons who thought differently and who dreamed differently. He was the first Indian Army Officer to be promoted to the Five-Star Rank of Field Marshal.
Today is this Indian Legends Birthday and here are few things every Indian Should Know about him.
- He was amongst the First batch of Cadates to pass out from IMA in december 1934 along with General Muhammad Musa and Lieutenant General Smith Dun, who became the Army Chiefs of Pakistan and Burma respectively.
After achieving a distinction in the School Certificate examination of the Cambridge Board at the age of 15, he asked his father to send him to London to become a Gynaecologist.When his father refused to send him until he was older, in an act of rebellion, Manekshaw took the entrance examination for enrollment into the Indian Military Academy (IMA).
- He has fought in all Major Wars India has involved In.
Although Sam never actually commanded Gorkha troops, he became the lifeblood of Gorkhali folklore. Sam could never actually decide which of the two, 5 or 8 Gorkhas, he liked more, so he carried two lanyards representing both Regiments.
- After commissioning from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, Sam Bahadur was attached to the 2 Royal Scots. Since his name was a mouthful, the officers of the Scottish Regiment abridged it to ‘Mr Mackintosh’.
6. During the fighting around Pagoda Hill, a key position on the left of the Sittang bridgehead in 1942,Manekshaw was hit by a burst of Light Machine Gun fire and was severely wounded in the stomach.Observing the battle, Major General David Cowan, the then commander of the 17th Infantry Division pinned his own Military Cross Ribbon to Manekshaw saying, “A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross.”
- Sam once said “I know nothing about fighting—the only skirmishing I learnt was from my wife…and she died in 2001.”
When he visited Nepal after liberating East Pakistan, King Mahendra conferred on him the title and sword of Honorary General of the Royal Nepal Army, beginning a tradition whereby the chiefs of the two countries are made generals in each others’ armies. Sam Bahadur is a household name in the villages of Nepal.
- Sam batted for his soldiers and the army. In 1953, he had become Director, Military Training. He fought off the government’s bizarre attempt to downsize the army to 1,00,000 in what became known as Plan 100.
Sam was no Great Sportsman. He liked gardening, tending to roses, trimming hedges, manicuring the lawn. He enjoyed playing bridge, with wife Silloo as partner.
- At the height of the 1971 war, he would ensure he was seen at the bar of the newly constructed Oberoi Hotel, sipping Famous Grouse, signalling that the conduct of the war was in safe hands.
Perhaps it is less known that he was prone to exaggeration and could sometimes be economical with the truth.
- A Union cabinet minister in Mrs Indira Gandhi’s government used to visit him with his girlfriend. “One day he brought a suitcase packed with banknotes instead. He put it under my bed. ‘Why here?’ I asked. ‘My wife will steal it,’ he replied. ‘How do you know my wife won’t?'” said Manekshaw
At the President’s banquet for the Shah of Iran, Sam, resplendent in his green patrols and pouch belt, complimented Indira Gandhi within earshot of her cabinet colleagues: “You look beautiful tonight.” “Thank you, Sam,” she smiled.
After helping an young Indian Army Officer,with his luggage who didn’t recognize Manekshaw,Officer asked “What do you do here ?”.”I everyday help officers like you with their luggage,but i do in my pass time command this Infantry Division” Manekshaw replied.
So we’re left with Manekshaw-isms, Sam-isms and hearsay. But no serious biography of this great man and general. His last best quip. He was on the board of directors of Escorts when Mr Swraj Paul tried to take it over. The government responded by changing the entire board, a Mr Naik replacing him. “This is the first time in history that a Naik (Corporal) has replaced a Field Marshal”.
Not true. It’d be impossible to replace Sam Bahadur.