Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw

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Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw
From: April 3, 2018: The Times of India

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.

A profile

India Today, June 27, 2015

April 3, 2018: The Times of India


Manekshaw was the first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the five-star rank of Field Marshal.

He served the Army for 40 years and participated in five wars.

Famous for his quotes, he once said “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gorkha”.

Sam Manekshaw was the first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the five star rank of field marshal. He spent a glorious military career that spanned over four decades. With a swashbuckling personality and signature twirling moustache, his name is enough to spark reverence and admiration in the minds of not only the army officials but also of every Indian who knows about him.

Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw (April 3, 1914 –June 27, 2008), popularly known as ‘Sam Bahadur’, was one of the greatest military commanders India’s had. On his 104th birth anniversary, here are some interesting facts about the eighth Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army.

Born to Parsi parents in Amritsar, Manekshaw was the first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the five-star rank of Field Marshal.

His father initially resisted his plans to join the Army, but he rebelled saying his father should send him to London in that case so that he can become a gynaecologist. His father refused that too. Following that, Manekshaw took the Indian Military Academy entrance examination and the rest is history.

Manekshaw served the Army for 40 years and participated in five wars -World War II, India-Pakistan war of 1947, Sino-Indian war of 1962, India- Pakistan war of 1965 and the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.

Prior to the India-Pakistan 1971 war, when Indira Gandhi asked Manekshaw about the Indian Army’s readiness, he said, “I am always ready sweetie.” He would refer to Indira as sweetie or sweetheart because of their Parsi connection (Indira’s husband Feroze Gandhi was Parsi).

Some important highlights from his life:

•Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw was born on April 3, 1914 to Parsi parents in Amritsar in Punjab

•Manekshaw's father initially resisted his plans for joining the army, but he rebelled and gave the entrance examination for enrolment into the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun and was a part of the intake of first 40 cadets in 1932

•Post Manekshaw's graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the British Indian Army, which became the Indian Army after Independence

•In 1942, Manekshaw served as the Captain of the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment in Burma during World War II against the invading Japanese Army

•Manekshaw led to his team's victory despite losing 50 percent of his soldiers. He also suffered a major injury by a light machine gun fire and was in a state of panic. Observing this, Major General David Cowan who was the Commander-in-Chief of the 17th Infantry Division, saluted his bravery and determination. He pinned his own Military Cross ribbon on his chest saying, "A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross"

•On May 24, 1953, Manekshaw was appointed the Colonel of the Regiment 8 Gorkha Rifles and 61 Cavalry and continued to be the Honorary Colonel of the units till his death

•On June 8 1969, Manekshaw was appointed the Chief of the Army staff succeeding General P.P. Kumaramangalam

•Manekshaw was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the President of India in 1968 for his Services in the Indian Army

•As the Chief of the Army Staff, Manekshaw rendered yeoman services to the nation by counterfeiting the Indian Army into an efficient instrument of war. He united the army, navy and air force into a close knit team which resulted in the defeat of the Pakistani Army in Eastern Front in 1965 and the significant achievements of the Indian Army during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War that led to the liberation of Bangladesh

•For Manekshaw's unfathomable services towards the nation, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1972 and was given the rank of Field Marshal in 1973

His service was extended by six months on special order of President in 1972. Although unwilling, he continued out of respect for the President.

•Manekshaw succumbed to complications from pneumonia on June 27, 2008

•In 2014, a statue of Sam Manekshaw was erected in Wellington, the place where he died, in his honour

Manekshaw cheated death on a few occasions, both on the battlefield and away from it. He however lived on to be nonagenarian. As a young Captain, while posted in Burma and fighting a war with the Japanese in 1942, he was critically wounded with as many as nine bullets lodged in his body. While battling for life, his valiant Sikh orderly Sepoy Sher Singh came to his rescue and saved him from certain death.

He was awarded the Military Cross in 1942, the Padma Bhushan in 1968 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1972.

One of his famous quotes is: “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gorkha”.

Another of his famous quotes came when asked what would have happened if he had opted for Pakistan during partition, to which he replied, “then Pakistan would have won all wars.”

He died of pneumonia at the military hospital in Wellington. No politician came to his funeral, nor was a national day of mourning declared.

Reportedly, Manekshaw's last words were "I'm okay!" We salute the bravery of the army man and the sacrifices he made to make our motherland proud.

1947: Jinnah asked Manekshaw to join the Pakistan army

Arjun Sengupta, Dec 3, 2023: The Indian Express

Partition of the army

The Partition divided much more than just the subcontinent’s landmass. From the railways to the government treasury, the civil services to government assets down to chairs and tables, everything was split between the two nascent countries.

Also partitioned, was the British Indian Army, nearly 400,000 strong in 1947. All assets and indigenous personnel were split between the two countries, with India allotted approximately 260,000 men and Pakistan the rest. Like much else in 1947, this was a complicated, oft-bloody partition, with individual units split up on religious lines.

“They had this terrible problem of getting the Hindu squadrons out [of the northwest frontier] without them being murdered by the Pathans… the Muslim Punjabi Squadron protected… and smuggled them out one night,” Edward McMurdo Wright, a British major who firsthand witnessed the Partition, wrote in his memoir in 1991.

Officers’ choice

While enlisted men did not have a say in which army they would join, that was not true for officers, at least formally.

“Officers received a form on which to record their choice,” historian Brian Lapping wrote in End of Empire (1985). “Most Hindus and Sikhs had no option. Pakistan would not have them. But for those Muslims whose homes lay in what was to be India … many convinced of the need for a secular army in a secular state, chose India,” he wrote. Christian and Parsi soldiers too were faced with a similar choice.

Sam Manekshaw, a Major at the time, was a Parsi born in Amritsar, although his family originally hailed from Bombay (now Mumbai). He spent his early years in the city in Punjab before being sent to Nainital to study at Sherwood College. His parent unit, the 12th Frontier Force Regiment, became part of the Pakistani Army. Thus, Manekshaw was faced with a choice.

Manekshaw denies Jinnah’s request

In fact, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father, himself requested Manekshaw to join the Pakistani Army. Thankfully for India, Manekshaw turned Jinnah down, despite Pakistan providing rosy career prospects for a talented officer such as him.

“Agreeing with Jinnah would have resulted in faster promotions in the Pakistan Army, but Sam preferred to remain in India,” Colonel Teja Singh Aulakh (then a Major) said, as quoted in Hanadi Falki’s biography of Field Marshal Manekshaw.

A large chunk of the British Indian Army’s top leadership comprised British officers. Thus, in 1947, armies of both India and Pakistan stared at a major leadership vacuum. This was especially true for Pakistan, with most native officers being Hindu or Sikh and staying on in India. Consequently, for young Pakistani officers, a rapid rise up the ranks beckoned.

Manekshaw was transferred first to the 16th Punjab Regiment for a very brief while, and later, as Lieutenant Colonel, to the 5th Gorkha Rifles. He would, however, not serve with Gorkha troops, being assigned to the Army Headquarters’ Military Operations Directorate during the 1947-48 Kashmir War.

Years later, after his retirement, Field Marshal Manekshaw was asked about his decision in 1947. He, in jest, responded, “Jinnah had asked me to join the Pakistan army in 1947. If I had, you would have had a defeated India [in 1971].”

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