At Independence, India inherited a modern, technically competent, veteran army with strong traditions. Most of all, it was a victorious army having taken on two of the world's best fighting forces, the German and Japanese armies, on equal terms and beaten them. During the Second World War, the Indian Army expanded from 130,000 men to 2.5 million, the largest all-volunteer force in history. More profound and far-reaching was the change in the Indian soldier.
He had graduated from signal flags to the most modern radio equipment and from leading mules to driving lorries and fighting in tanks. The jawan gained supreme confidence, learned the value of rigorous training, and recognised the leadership of Indian officers. He had competed on an equal footing with European soldiers, learned to be their equal and even bested them. The Indian Army served in war theatres from Britain to Hong Kong.
The contribution of Indian divisions to the final victory in Africa (the campaigns in both the northern and eastern parts of the continent) and Italy was most significant. Nearly 80% of the fighting men on the Allied side in the Burma Campaign came from India. Their performance was superlative from all accounts. Historians have called the re-conquest of Burma the old Indian army's finest hour. Victory in Burma enabled the British to exit from Asia with a modicum of dignity and honour intact, unlike the other colonialists like the French or the Dutch or even indeed the Americans (post-Vietnam).
The most significant result of the war was the emergence of an experienced, dedicated, professionally capable Indian leadership. Cariappa, Thimayya, Chaudhari, Kumaramanglam, Maneckshaw and Bhagat all earned their spurs fighting on various fronts.
The special defence kids
Life as a Services child brings to mind many happy memories of going to school in army trucks, playing games, evenings spent at the officers' institute, shikar, outdoor pursuits, that terrific bonding that exists only between men in uniform and their children and those large-hearted gentlemen addressed as 'Bhaiya' - batmen - for whom we were a substitute for their children living far away in their villages. It also meant long separations from fathers who were in field areas or at the front. Fervent prayers for their well-being and safe return were a daily feature.
Army brats, Fauji kids, call them what you will, children of military men are special. Growing up in the exceptional environment of cantonments and military stations with their unique facilities, social life and bonding is an unforgettable experience. An extraordinary bond is forged between these children and their fathers' regiments and corps characterised by the affection these regiments show for 'their kids'. This is something difficult for an outsider to fathom.
Social networking sits like Facebook are full of groups where army brats revel in nostalgic reminiscences of Services life. Such children tend to pick up the same sort of values that servicemen imbibe. No wonder they've made their mark in diverse fields and endeavours of life. Of course, many of them still heed the call of their first love and join the 'old man's regiment'.
Their tremendous nostalgia for Services life and appreciation for the armed forces' values makes them great supporters of men in uniform. Another characteristic makes them stand apart - their unparalleled patriotism.
I would like to get in touch with Services children. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 093161-35343