The first Indian military dentist

  • Mandeep Singh Bajwa, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jul 06, 2014 08:46 IST

General Kartar Singh, an internationally-renowned dentist, passed away recently in Panchkula at the age of 96. For his role during its initial years, he is widely respected as the father of the Army Dental Corps. Persistent lobbying by politicians to establish a dental service for Indian troops led to the commissioning of Kartar Singh and six other dentists on February 1, 1941. This is now celebrated as the birthday of the Dental Corps.

Kartar Singh served with the 7 Indian Division in Burma during World War II and on occupation duties in Thailand thereafter. Interestingly, he was presented with one of the first captured Japanese Samurai swords by the Subedar Major of 1st Sikh.

After Independence, Kartar Singh continued to guide the growth of military dentistry remaining the head of dental services from 1951 to 1971. On a professional level, he was a member of the Dental Health Advisory Committee of the Indian Council of Medical Research for over 10 years, as its chairman in 1968-71. He contributed to the World Health Organisation as a consultant and in addition, as a member of its dental health advisory committee during 1970-75. The general was the honorary dental surgeon to the President for 10 years (1962-72). That the army maintains high dental standards today is a tribute to the pioneering work done by General Kartar Singh and his colleagues.


The Sikh Regiment got its 9th and 10th battalion recently with the commencement of the raising of 23 Sikh at the regimental centre at Ramgarh, Jharkhand. Colonel Deepak Sharma, SM, is the battalion’s first commanding officer. It is believed that the new raising will be an all-Sikh unit in line with the regiment’s traditions.

After a short experiment with a mixed unit, 13 Sikh, the Sikh Regiment has reverted to its longestablished class composition. It would be of interest to note the class composition when the regiment was raised in 1922 from the existing six all-Sikh 14th, 15th, 35th, 36th, 45th and 47th regiments. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions of the new regiment (known then as the 11th Sikh Regiment) were to consist entirely of Jatt Sikhs. But the 4th, 5th and 10th (Training) Battalions also recruited the regimentally ubiquitous Punjabi Muslims as well in proportions varying from 25% to 50% depending on the period. Most battalions of the regiment raised during the World War II also had a Punjabi Muslim composition of 50%. These were replaced with Sikhs from regiments that were allotted to Pakistan during Partition.

23 Sikh’s raising is a part of the infantry’s recent expansion consequent to the raising of XVII Corps, the offensive formation earmarked for mountain warfare. May the new battalion add to the glories of the most decorated regiment in the army!


Major general PJS Pannu, general officer commanding, 71 infantry division took over in April as the new Colonel of the Maratha Light Infantry in a ceremony at the regimental centre at Belgaum, Karnataka. He succeeds lieutenant general Narendra Singh who has retired after having served in the Army for 40 years. The latter who was last posted as deputy chief of the Army Staff (planning and systems) held the colonelcy of the Marathas for nearly seven years.

(Would like to hear from descendants of First World War veterans. Please write in to or call on 093161-35343)

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