In a strange twist of fate, it was the gallant display of courage, selflessness and fortitude shown by the soldiers of the Indian Army in Sudan during the Second World War that led to the germination of the seed for the foremost military academy of the world, – the National Defence Academy (NDA). Once again, the Indian Army is battling in Sudan to maintain peace under the auspices of the UN, this time led by officers of the same NDA which it helped form nearly 65 years ago! After the second great war ended, a grateful nation of Sudan presented a handsome cheque of 100,000 pounds to lord Linlithgow, the then Viceroy of undivided India, to build a war memorial to honour the many Indian officers and men who had made the supreme sacrifice in Sudan.
At the same time, Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, the then C-in-C India, having observed the dynamics of the second world war, was contemplating the setting up of a joint training academy of all three services to affect jointmanship and synergy of operations for future wars. A high powered committee was formed to study similar institutes around the world and then draw up a blue print for India. In the end, no institute was found which had the planned ethos contemplated for NDA. In the event, drawing some inspiration from West Point of USA, in the interim the Joint Services Wing was established in the premises of the Railway Staff College at Dehradun. After detailed reconnaissance across the length and breadth of the country, Khadakwasla was chosen as the venue for the NDA Its climate, availability of land and the rolling hills, besides the proximity of the Pashan lake, tilted the choice in its favour. In the meanwhile, the partition had taken place and Pakistan Army went its own way. With due magnanimity and
fair play, India gave 30,000 pounds of the initial grant by Sudan to Pakistan and kept the balance 70,000 pounds which formed the corpus to start the construction of the Academy. Interestingly, Pakistan Army failed to follow up on the idea of a joint training academy! Pandit Nehru as Prime Minister laid the foundation stone at Khadakwasla on 06 Oct 1949. The construction began and the Academy was nearly ready by January 1955.
The war memorial concept of Sudan manifested as the imposing and resplendent Sudan Block, till today equally feared and revered by all NDA alumni. Its sandstone façade and grand staircase give it a truly mesmerising feel. The hut of remembrance, which was built mostly by ‘Shram Dan’ of respective generation of cadets is a later addition. The transfer of the JSW from Dehradun (Clement Town) took place with military precision, with the whole exercise being called ‘Operation Badli’. The move was smooth and without a glitch. A princely sum of Rs 5/ was the compensation paid for damages! The JSW had started with about 170 cadets and comprised of two squadrons. The first JSW course gave us three service chiefs.
Today, the National Defence Academy stands as a testament to the faith and belief of those who visualised it. It is the finest training academy in the world, without parallel. Even today, it conforms to the highest and exacting standards of training and excellence in all spheres and is the premier crucible of leadership feeding the three services with young officers of impeccable standards and sterling qualities. Let us revel in its glory and pray it continues to be a beacon of steadfast devotion to duty, valour and sacrifice