It may not be a well-known fact in India — and not surprising — that close to 1.5 million Indian soldiers under the British, fought in First World War (WW I) and were acknowledged by the armies and people of allied nations on whose soil they fought — to defend those countries — as being the decisive factor to the Allies’ victory. The famous majestic India Gate was built as a memorial to 74,187 Indian soldiers, who were martyred in various battles of WW I and their names are etched on all the walls of this memorial.
Referring to fierce battles of 1915, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Commander of the Allied Forces in France during WW I, said while addressing the troops: “…The Indian troops were thus among the first to show the way to a victorious offensive. It is only right that a memorial should perpetuate the glorious memory of officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the Indian Army at the very spot where later on a general attack by the Allied troops was to bring the decisive victory in sight.” Turning to the Indian contingent, he said: “Return to your homes in the distant, sun bathed East and proclaim how your countrymen drenched with their blood the cold northern land of France and Flanders, how they delivered it by their ardent spirit from the firm grip of a determined enemy; tell all India that we shall watch over their graves with the devotion due to all our dead. We shall cherish above all the memory of their example. They showed us the way, they made the first step towards the final victory.”
It was in this war that Great Britain, for the first time, awarded its highest gallantry award in war, the Victoria Cross, to eleven personnel of the Indian Army, beginning with Sepoy Khudadad Khan and Naik Darwan Singh Negi, on whom the medal was pinned by King George V, during his tour of the battle areas in France.
So, it was not surprising that on 25 August 1917, a significant step towards the Indianisation of the Army was initiated, quite literally, to establish an “Indian Sandhurst”.
This led to the appointment of the Skeen Committee, which recommended the establishment of the Indian Military Academy by 1933. Eventually the amplified recommendations of the Chetwode Committee to establish an Indian Military College with a training course of three years and proposed output of 60 Gentleman Cadets (GCs), was accepted and the Indian Military Academy was opened in Dehradun on 01 October 1932, with 40 Gentlemen Cadets.
The ideal location for the Academy had to be at an easily accessible place, with temperate climate all year round, adequate area for training needs, as also, to have a military garrison in the neighbourhood. Hence out of the three nominated places, Satara, Mhow and Dehradun, the Doon Valley aptly called the “Dronacharya Ashram” was selected for the same. Perhaps the most important consideration in favour of Dehradun was the availability of the eminently suitable buildings of Railway Staff Colleges spread over 155.53 acres of land. The campus was taken over on 01 April 1932. Also considered suitable was the Doon Valley’s climate – a short summer from mid-April to June, a long wet monsoon from July to September, nice and pleasant during October and March and quite cold from November to February.
The formal inauguration of the Indian Military Academy was on 10 December 1932, by H.E. the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, General Sir Philip Chetwode, Baronet GCB, GCSS, CCMA, DSO. The concluding part of the historic inaugural speech of Sir Philip Chetwode on the Day gave the Academy its unmatched Credo, which till date is the functional ethos of every officer who has passed out through the portals of the Chetwode Building.
On 28 November 1933, the then Viceroy, Lord Willingdon, presented the King’s Banner during a Parade on the Chetwode Drill Square, adjoining the impressive pillared porch entrance of the Chetwode Building, which all Gentleman Cadets passing out enter at the end of the Passing Out Parade.
By 1934, the Academy had attained its designated strength of 200 Gentlemen Cadets spread over five courses. The first five courses were distinguished from the others by their specific names as well as by their historic seniority. These courses were: First Pioneers, passed out on 22 December 1934. Out of the 40 inducted, only 29 Gentleman Cadets passed out as the remaining were relegated or withdrawn. Of these, GC SHFJ Manekshaw became a Field Marshal and GCs Mohammad Musa, Bhagwati Singh (IC-1) and Smith Dun became Generals.
Then followed the Second Immortals, Third Invincibles, Fourth Stalwarts and Fifth Bahadurs – this batch wanted an Indian word with a martial resonance.
The appropriateness of Pioneers as the name for the first course is self-evident. The other names seem to have no semantic justification, yet they express a more significant fact – the spirit of exuberance, the sense of adventure and pride. As if for them it was an excitement to have joined the Academy, as if they had done something worth doing; the Pioneers are distinguished from other ‘courses’ by a record of achievement nearly impossible to beat. They gave three Army Chiefs to three countries – India, Pakistan and Burma (now Myanmar). Gen Smith Dun became the Army Chief of
HOW IMA ADJUSTED TRAINING SCHEDULES FOR WARS
Lt Col Anil Bhat, VSM (Retd)
It was the outbreak of the India-China war in October 1962, then referred to as the Chinese Aggression, when it was realized that Indian Army needed more officers.
The first immediate step the Indian Military Academy (IMA) took was to adjust its training schedule to pass out two courses together in the forthcoming Passing Out Parade (POP) of December 1962.
The Course due to Pass Out in December 1962 was the 30th IMA Course, which was in its 4th/final term. At the time of taking the decision, barely two months were left for the 31st Course, to complete its third term. The training schedule of this Course was adjusted to speed it up and train it as best as possible, so that it could be passed out with the 30th Course.
Thus, at the POP of December 1962, the two Courses were passed out together. It was a grand POP, at which, as had been earlier scheduled, President Sarvepally Radhakrishnan presented new Colours to the IMA.
Simultaneously, in 1962 it was decided to begin training extra batches of cadets for the Emergency Commission programme. For this, two Officers Training Schools (OTS) were established in January 1963 at Chennai and Pune, where the first few batches were trained. The next few batches were trained at the IMA itself till 1965, when the Emergency Commission programme was discontinued and the Short Service Commission (SSC) was begun.
OTS Chennai, later renamed as Officers Training Academy (OTA), became the designated institution for training SSC officers and continues so till date. In the early 1990s, when it was decided to induct women in the Army as SSC officers, OTA became the first institution in the Army to train women cadets alongside their male counterparts.
In 1971, with the war against Pakistan imminent, twice more the regular courses at IMA were passed out as earlier.
The 48th IMA Course was passed out on 14 November 1971, and its newly commissioned officers, were given a short leave, before they joined their units just before the third India-Pakistan War began on 03 December 1971. Many of them were pitched into this war, fought on two fronts-the Western Theatre including Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Rajasthan and the Eastern Theatre which from where Indian Army encircled and entered erstwhile East Pakistan, forced the surrender of 93,000 Pakistan armed forces personnel taken as prisoners of war, creating a precedence of liberating the suppressed Bengalis there and aiding in the birth of a new nation, Bangladesh.
The 49th IMA Course was passed out three months ahead of its schedule on 31 March 1972.
Burma, Gen Musa Khan of Pakistan and Gen Sam Manekshaw of India and one who after retirement was elevated to Field Marshal, the highest rank.
On Independence in 1947, the Command of the Academy was taken over by Brig (later Maj Gen) Thakur Mahadeo Singh, DSO, the first Indian Commandant.
20 December 1947 was a special day at the Indian Military Academy as it marked the first Passing Out Parade of 189 Gentleman Cadets being commissioned in Independent India.
In January 1949, as a first step towards jointmanship of Army, Navy and Air Force, the Inter Services Wing for training of cadets of the three Services was created and Academy was renamed as Armed Forces Academy. The Military Wing continued at the present campus at Premnagar and the Inter Services Wing was established at Clement Town, about 13 km away. To link the two wings a new road was constructed and named after the first Indian Commandant, Maj Gen Mahadeo Singh. In 1950, the Inter Services Wing was renamed as Joint Services Wing. In December 1954, the Joint Services Wing (JSW) was permanently shifted to Khadakwasla, Pune and was named as the National Defence Academy. Consequently, on 05 September 1955 the Military Wing Dehradun was re-designated as the Military College Dehradun and in October 1959, the College once again reverted to its initial designation as Indian Military Academy.
IMA alumni have led and fought in every conflict in which the Indian Army has been called upon to render service since the Academy was established. Numerous alumni have earned laurels, many made the ultimate sacrifice and many but not all of them were honoured with gallantry awards. Sam Manekshaw, an alumnus of the IMA, was the first in India to become a Field Marshal.of them were honoured with gallantry awards. Sam Manekshaw, an alumnus of the IMA, was the first in India to become a Field Marshal.
In 1941, during World War II, then 2nd Lieutenant Premindra Singh Bhagat was awarded the Victoria Cross. Captain Mateen Ahmed Ansari and Captain Sartaj Singh were awarded the George Cross. 71 Military Crosses were awarded to IMA alumni during that war, and over 200 alumni were martyred in action. Kashmir Singh Katoch, a Padma Bhushan recipient and the military advisor to Hari Singh, the erstwhile ruler of the princely state of Kashmir, completed his military training from IMA in 1936. General Mohan Singh Deb, Commander-in-Chief of the First Indian National Army which fought against the British for the independence of India, was also an alumnus.
Alumni who have been honoured with the Param Vir Chakra include:
• Major Somnath Sharma, Posthumous, 4 KUMAON Regiment, Indo-Pak War of 1947
• Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria, Posthumous, 1 GORKHA RIFLES, Congo, 1961
• Lieutenant Colonel Hoshiar Singh, 3 GRENADIERS, Indo-Pak War of 1971
• 2nd Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, Posthumous, 17 POONA HORSE, Indo-Pak War of 1971
• Captain Vikram Batra, Posthumous, 13 JAMMU & KASHMIR RIFLES, Kargil War, 1999
• Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey, Posthumous, 11 GORKHA RIFLES, Kargil War, 1999