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Colonel recalls first salute to freedom

india Updated: Aug 15, 2007 02:46 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times
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It was the first salute to freedom exactly 60 years ago.

And, it was Colonel Harwant Singh — commanding the first ceremonial Independence Day parade — who snapped out that proud first salute to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the first-ever flag-hoisting ceremony in independent India at Princess Park, near India Gate on August 15, 1947.

Singh’s unit, 1st Sikh, led the first parade. Now 87, and a wizened veteran of many a battle, he still gets goosebumps recalling the first parade.

“Every soldier cherishes his accomplishments on the battleground. But for me the pride of leading the first parade is unrivaled. Sixty years have passed but it seems like yesterday,” Singh told HT from Patiala.

Singh was awarded the Military Cross for his exploits in northern Italy during World War II in August 1944.

On August 16, Singh recalls it was not Nehru, but a young army officer who hoisted the flag at the Red Fort. “Had Nehru hoisted the flag, the crowds would not have seen him. So an electric bell was installed at the flagstaff’s base, with a switch on Nehru’s lecture stand. An officer hoisted the flag when the PM rang the bell.” Singh was pained to learn that the first Tricolour hoisted by Nehru is not traceable now.