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Formative Years

Ends and Means

The 'Ends and Means' of the Joint Services Wing were spelt out thus. ‘The Joint Services Wing catches the potential officer young. He is given thorough and varied training, designed to make him eventually just not a professionally efficient soldier, sailor or airman, above all, a dedicated servant of the Country, blessed with the unique privilege of living and, if need be, dying for the Motherland.

The process is four fold-the cadet is given a sound basic all round Liberal education (of muscle no less than of mind), so that before he proceeds to learn his job, he knows something of everything. He goes through some amount of elementary Service training. He is indoctrinated with the joint service ideal, by being introduced through personal contact and lectures, to the practices, problems and personalities of the three Services. Above all, his character is scientifically shaped by the inculcation of loyalty, discipline, devotion to duty, a sense of humour, initiative, self confidence, resourcefulness, team spirit and other qualities of leadership. From the daring new type of training is expected to emerge a new type of officer, more liberal and cultured but as tough and efficient, more friendly to the other two Services but as loyal and proud of his own'.

The First Course Arrives

The First Batch of cadets for the three Services joined ISW at Clement Town on 6, 7, 8 and 9 January 1949. Cadet A-188, DS Sabhiki (later Air Marshal) had the distinction of being the first to report, at 0630 hrs on 6 Jan 1949 . A few cadets like Jagjit and Shukul (both Army) joined a few days after 9 January. There were 25 cadets for the Navy (A-1 to A-25), 144 for the Army (A-26 to A-166 plus A-189 to A-191) and 21 for the Air Force (A-167-A188; A-169 did not report). Mudholkar , NC Suri and Brijender Chimni changed over from Navy to Air Force and RB Rai to the Army from Navy. From the Air Force lot, TV Manoharan, Bangara and Dubey came to the Army. Chimni had the distinction of first changing from Navy to Air Force and then to the Army! DK Ghosh, a naval cadet had the privilege of having the number A-1!

The Course comprised of young men from diverse backgrounds and places. National integration in 1949 was not to the extent it is now a days. People in one part of the Country say North or South, knew very little about those living in other parts and vice versa. However, the cadets soon got to know one another, carved out their turfs and friendships. Sports, extra-curriculum activities and hobbies started gradually and got the cadets busy.

In the beginning everything looked so different, new and strange. The daily routine was tough with PT, drill, followed by academic classes, workshop practice, Service subjects, weapon training, field craft and rather enjoyable D&M (Driving and Maintenance). In the afternoons after a bit of well deserved rest, there were sports. One had to get ready for the evening in Bushirts. At sun down there was the mandatory ANTI MOSQUITO precautions Parade. All the Sections fell in, in front of their living barracks. It was mandatory to wear long sleeves and trousers and all cadets had to apply mosquito repellent cream on exposed parts of the body. (In the Second World War, Allied Forces in South East Asia , suffered large casualties due to Malaria. Anti Malaria measures were therefore formalised. Any one getting Malaria was punished severely as it was considered a preventable disease)!.

To start with, cadets from the three Services were issued distinctive Service specific uniforms. However, soon this was rescinded and all cadets were given common Khaki dress, so that an atmosphere of oneness and jointness prevailed. This dress with minor modifications along with Blue Patrols continues till today.

The Course had about 40 cadets from RIMC and KGRIM. They were well versed with military discipline, drill, PT, wearing of uniforms, military etiquettes and had an edge. The others even did not know how to stand at attention, wear anklets or shine their boots, but caught up fast.

Since there were no senior courses and precedences, this was also the start of the setting up of trends, building up customs and traditions and germination of the inter-service ethos.

ISW was housed in barracks in which Italian Prisoners of War lived during World War II. The MES must have been busy for quite some months to get the living, office, classroom and mess accommodation ready as also arrange furniture and various ancillaries by the end of Dec 1948. The cadets were fairly comfortable when they arrived. However, in the first few weeks, the cadets picked up picks and shovels and spruced up the area around their living barracks, including some gardening.

The training including academic classes started wef 11 January 1949 . The civilian professors led by the Principal Mr. JTM Gibson were a selected lot but had no experience working in military environment. Mr. Bhawani Shankar, Mr. Bhawnani, Dr. Virender Verma, Mr. Basu, Mr. Wanchoo, Mr. Sehgal, Mr. Dias, Mr. Isaac were some of the finest professors selected through the UPSC. The syllabus covered very large number of subjects at Intermediate level; in both science and arts. Award of gradings generated a number of ideas. Civilian instructors were given powers to award up to seven Puttie Parades and initially some cadets indulged in mock Parade State reporting and Orderly Room procedures in the classrooms to have some diversion from studies. The Sick Bay was a favourite place for those who wanted to relax a bit.

The military training included drill, PT, weapon training, army, naval and air force organisations and minor tactics. Capt Pathania, the Adjutant was a respected figure as also Capt Bains the PT Officer. A few drill and PT instructors were obtained on loan from England (for drill RSM Prestige, Sgt Majs Pierce and Armstrong and for PT Sgt Fairy and a couple more). They proved their worth along with their Indian counter parts. The Indian JCO and NCO instructors did not like the importance given to the British Staff and at times showed it. Out of the Indian instructors, one still remembers Sub Chuni Lal of the Punjabis and Hav Maj Burge of MLI, for their excellent bearing and conduct.

No cadet could go out to Town unless he had passed the dreaded Drill Square nor were the bearers allowed to polish boots etc. The cadets practiced marching, saluting, other drill movements and saw to it that they wore the uniforms properly. The drill instructors were also highly charged to ensure that maximum number of cadets in their squads passed in the first attempt. The majority did pass and the unlucky ones had to wait a few more days to have a second try. Dehradun Town was flooded with ISW cadets on the week end following the Drill Square !

There was considerable experimentation as regards cadet appointments and distinctive badges they were to adorn. Finally 'five pointed brass stars' were decided upon, to be worn on the chest. Initially, the cadet appointments were by rotation.

The Military Instructors were efficient, firm but friendly and handled the cadets well. Who can forget the likes of Maj GS Saran (Rajputs), 'A' Squadron Commander, Lt Sarma of the Navy, not only marching but even cycling with his chest stuck out. He would return the greetings of even the sweepers with a smart salute and uttering 'good morning Topus'!! The strict Sqn Ldr MB Chand, 'B' Squadron Commander, Capt DS Dhindsa (Sikh Regt), Capt Pannu (ASC), Capt Amarjit Singh (Armoured Corps), Capt Anand (Sikh LI) and highly popular, Capt Sahai (Ordnance)!

The cadets were given a pay of Rs. 90 per month. Out of this, after deducting mandatory expenses for services like barber, washer man etc, Rs. 25 was paid in cash and this came in quite handy. The bonanza, however, lasted only a year! Smoking was not permitted but some found secluded places to have a few puffs (tight space above the living barrack ceilings being most common). Everyone used to be so hungry due to physical exertion and the Catering Staff led by Maj Babbbar had to keep a vigil to guard against some gluttons going in for second or even third B'fast!!

The Drill Square was being extended and within a few months a Naval Mast arrived from Bombay and became a famous landmark. It was the largest Drill Square in the Country and may be Asia ! The drill instructors led by RSM Prestige, fumed, huffed and puffed to put the cadets in some military shape and bearing. Those awarded extra drills and restrictions had to visit the Drill Square at additional laid down timings.

Camp Green Horn was the first major outing the Course had. The setting up of the camp, inspections, competitions, guard duties and patrolling gave the first taste of life in the field. Many a lessons were learnt and techniques to survive in the field imbibed.

Formal Inauguration of Armed Forces Academy

On 04 Jun 1949, the then Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel formerly inaugurated the Armed Forces Academy at a ceremonial parade at Clement Town new Parade Ground. Cadets of both ISW and Military Wing took part.

Arrival of Second Course

The Second Course arrived in Jul 1949 and it was a big event. The First Course was eagerly waiting for the juniors to arrive, put them through their paces and initiate the new arrivals to the military ways. 'C' and 'D' Squadrons were added and a second mess came into being. The cadets of both the courses were mixed up in all the sections, divisions and squadrons. Considerable ragging took place but within a short period both the courses developed good rapport and friendships.


Sports played an important role in the training curriculum at the ISW. In the early days the sports grounds, tennis courts and squash courts were being got ready. However, these improved over time. There was a Plunge Bath (which still exists) and looked like an International Standard Swimming Pool to most of us those days!! The Course had some good sportsmen. Inter squadron competitions were held in each sport and there was healthy competition. At times, matches were played against Military Wing and local teams as well.

Sukhbir Garewal was a national standard cricket player, Harbakhsh Sodhi, Hasabnis, Jakatdar, Surinder Singh were also enthusiastic cricketers. Jaitly excelled in swimming and diving, Katty and Laroia were also good swimmers and Pannu became quite a swimmer too. Brij Tewari, Caveeshar, Andy and Bhagat Singh were keen basketball players, Jimmy Dovedy could control and shoot the football at will. Ravi Sawhney, Rajju Shahani and BK Laroia were good in tennis. BK Laroia and KD Issar were leading players in squash. Padamjit, Chimni, Surinder Singh, Sultan Mal, Malhi and Harbhajan played hockey well, Roddy, Gurung, Nirmal Suri, Tony Archer, GK Sen were tough boxers and Hanut, Giyan Gupta, LB Sondhi keen riders. Durjan Shekhawat, Madanjit, Niranjan Khera, Harbhajan, Mohinder Kahlon and Giyan Gupta were the track and field stars.

Hobbies and Clubs

ISW offered avenues and facilities for wide range of hobbies and extra curricular activities like debating, music, dramatics, arts and crafts,hiking, dramatics, aero-modelling . These kept the cadets occupied in constructive pursuits. The most popular was the local cinema. Western cowboy and Hindi movies were popular.

Calendar of Important Events

Details of important events during 1949-50, while the 1 st Course was at the ISW/JSW are given blow:-

  • 6-9 January 1949. 1 st Batch of cadets (1 st Course ISW/JSW reported at Clement Town.

  • 11 January 1949, training commenced

  • February 1949, various clubs started functioning.

  • 04 June1949, Inauguration Parade held.

  • Second Week July 1949, Second Course started to arrive.

  • 18 Jul 1949 , 2 nd Term started.

  • 6 October 1949 , Foundation Stone of NDA laid at Khadakwasla.

  • 1st  November 1949, Post of Commandant AFA upgraded to Major General.

  • 1 st December1949, the Reporters Club produced First Issue of the Monthly Magazine.

  • 23 November 1950 , Ceremonial Parade held at the Military Wing for laying-up the Kings Colours of Indian Regiments. JSW cadets also took part, this time with rifles.

First Course Passing-Out Parade

Although the First Course by and large enjoyed their stay and training at ISW/ JSW, each cadet was eagerly looking forward to the day when they will successfully complete their training, pass out and move on to Service specific academies and training.

The Passing-out Parade was held on 8 December 1950 thus marking the successful completion of the training of First Batch of First ever Inter Service Academy anywhere in the World. Quite a landmark in the soldiering history of the World and lives of 1st 'J' cadets.!!

General KM Cariappa, the First Indian Chief of the Indian Army was the Chief Guest and took the salute at the smart parade. Wing Cadet Captain, Ashok Datta commanded the Parade and Rodrigues (later Chief of the Army Staff) and MN Vasudeva (later Rear Admiral) were the Ceremonial Stick Orderlies. As the teenage boys marched smartly past the Saluting Base, one could see the firm markings of good soldiers/sailors/aviators and officers in them .

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