Before I begin with our story, I need to first bring you up to speed with the naval battle for the liberation of Goa! This was perhaps the easiest battle ever fought on Indian soil, or rather, waters. So easy that it was embarrassing to narrate the story to the Portuguese nearly 28 years later, as we shall see shortly. On 01 December 1961, the Naval HQ launched “Operation Chutney”. Two naval frigates, Betwa and Beas were tasked to monitor the movements of the Portuguese Man-of-war Afonso-de-Albuquerque. Shortly thereafter, “Operation Vijay” was launched to seize Goa, Daman and Diu,with a Naval Carrier Task Force consisting of 16 major war vessels. The only significant Portuguese Navy warship present in Goa at the time of invasion was the sloop NRP Afonso de Albuquerque. It was armed with four 120 mm guns capable of two shots per minute, and four automatic rapid-firing guns. In addition to the sloop, the Portuguese Naval Forces had three light patrol boats (lanchas de fiscalização), each armed with a 20 mm Oerlikon gun, one each based in Goa, Daman and Diu.
In order not to sodomise things, the Fleet Commander ordered the two ‘Chutney’ ships, Betwa and Beas, to engage the sloop, with their 4.5 inch guns. Albuquerque was at anchorage, when Betwa commenced firing with her 4.5″ guns at 1200 hrs on 18 Dec 1961. Afonso put up a brave fight and returned fire. A little later her Bridge was hit, killing her radio officer and seriously wounding Captain Aragão. Aragão was evacuated to shore and transferred by car to medical facilities at Panjim. Half an hour later, under massive fire and with her boilers and engines already destroyed, the frigate’s crew ran her aground onto the beach to serve as a shore battery. The crew continued to resist and fight until about the 1410 hrs and were finally captured by Indian forces on the next day at 20.30 hrs. It is estimated that during her last combat Afonso de Albuquerque fired almost 400 shells. Five of her crew were killed and 13 were wounded.
Fast forward our story to 1989, when I was appointed to ASW School Kochi as Instructor. Shortly after I reported, the CI summoned me and assigned me a job of getting the Command Mess ready for the evening reception of a visiting Portuguese warship. I protested, saying it was the job of the Mess Secretary and his staff to get his part of ship in order. But in those days the norm was to get under-trainee boys to do all the menial work. So I took a bunch of sailors and began tidying up the Mess area.
The Mess wasn’t in a mess it was just fine in its existing state for the evening party. So I went to the loo to relieve myself. When i finished, I turned the water faucet on and it instantaneouslys quirted a jet of water into my crotch. I emerged from the cubicle looking as though I hadn’t bothered to lower my trousers. In a state of distress, I rushed over to a portable convector fan, of Russian design, which I now suspect was kept there on purpose, and positioned myself to gently blow dry my trousers and immediately got a pretty good idea of what it might be like to accidentally stand behind a RBU-6000 rocket launcher, when the rocket is fired. I was now in real trouble.
To make matters worse, a senior Obergruppenfuhrer from SNC HQ arrived and began tearing down the place with his temper. He greeted me with a jolly ‘You look as if you’ve peed in your trousers.” I hunkered down even further as this obese officer pummeled into me, barreling his way around the Mess and pointing at everything with disgust. My level of discomfort was getting tighter than a reef knot.
He didn’t like the quality of the red mat. He didn’t like the arrangement of the flowers and most if all he didn’t like the huge painting of the Naval battle for the liberation of Goa displayed on the wall in a very prominent location. So he asked me “What’s wrong with this painting?” I thought the painting looked better than a Caribbean sunset, so in all exuberance and with all the wit and brilliance i could muster, I said “It’s a terrible painting, sir. I’m sure even you can paint better than that “”No, no, you idiot” he yelled. “It’s a terrific painting! But our foreign guests might take offence to it. So take it down and keep it hidden till the evening party is over.” I left him chuntering to himself and directed my boys to lower the painting from the wall and dump it against the outer wall of the men’s lavatory, before securing for the evening.
When the Portuguese Naval officers arrived at the Command Mess for the reception, there were the usual pleasantries exchanged and it was turning out to he one of those drab parties, where everyone ate something but nobody said anything. Until one of their officers went to the loo and having wet his crotch with the leaky faucet, and probably burnt his fly trying to dry himself up, discovered the painting. All hell broke loose with excitement. They were keen to know how exactly they had fought the war. It was interesting to note that the Indians were trying to play the whole episode down while the losers of the war were trying to extract as much information as they possibly could get. Soon the painting was restored to its rightful place on the wall, but not without a look of disapproval from the PMC to me. When the party ended the Portuguese were hugging and back-slapping the Indians for a most delightful evening. This, despite the fact, that they were speaking in Portuguese and we in English, and the lip sync was so much out of kilter that we were laughing five minutes after each joke was cracked and vice versa.
Just before I was leaving the Mess, our Obergruppenfuhrer beckoned me over with a snap of his fingers and tried to justify his position on the painting saying “You did an excellent job by converting the party into a treasure hunt. I believe you have special powers to turn a boring party into a lively one.” I would have liked to think that the special powers should have included a battery terminal, some wires and a plier.
But my day was made when I saw him holding a coffee table magazine in front of his trousers. He knew that I knew that he knew that I knew that he had got a first class dousing by the leaky faucet followed by a hot blast from the heater fan. Just at that very moment, the naval band was playing the Village People song “In the Navy”. It was enough, you might imagine, to make anyone priapic with pleasure.
Captain Anil Gonsalves, I.N. (Retd) joined NDA in 1975 and passed out with the 54th course. He specialised in Anti- submarine warfare and was Fleet ASW Officer. He commanded CGS Rajshree and INS Mahish. After leaving the Navy prematurely, he joined the Offshore Division of Shipping Corporation of India and commanded a number of Platform Support Vessels and top-of-the-line Dynamic Positioning Vessels. He is now fully retired and lives in Pune.