A short voyage from Bombay to Minicoy Island on board the Flagship of the Navy, INS Delhi , during a Term break at JSW gave us a glimpse of the Navy and the shape of things to come. On getting up one morning while sleeping on the quarter deck of the Ship in Bombay Harbour , everyone was bewildered when Taj Hotel on shore changed its position from starboard to port. (The tide had turned the anchored ship around).
25 joined the JSW for the Navy. Out of them 20 became Naval Officers. Details are as under:-
A1 D.K. Ghosh - Commander, Salt Horse
A2 Mahendra Pratap - Captain(G)*
A3 R.S. Grewal VrC.NM - Commander (P)*
A4 R.N. Gulati - Commander, Salt Horse
A5 T.S. Khurana NM - Commodore
A6 J.N. Sukul PVSM, AVSM - Vice Admiral (L)
A7 R.P. Sawhney PVSM - Vice Admiral*
A8 S.K. Sharma VSM - Captain (S)*
A9 M.N. Vasudeva VSM, - Rear Admiral
A10 Suresh C. Aggarwal - Commodore (L)
A11 R.B. Rai (Changed over to Army in JSW)
A12 Ashok J.Madholkar (Changed over to Air Force in JSW
and later to Army)
A13 L.N. Ramdas PVSM, AVSM, VrC VSM - Admiral
A14 S.K. Bhalla AVSM , NM - Commodore (E)
A15 U.C. Tripathi NM - Commodore (O)
A16 Subhash C.Chopra PVSM, AVSM , NM - Vice Admiral
A17 N.C. Suri (Changed over to Air Force and
became Chief of the Air Staff)
A18 S.B.N. Singh PVSM, AVSM - Vice Admiral (L)*
A19 Hardev Singh NM Commander (O)
A20 R.K. Chaudhury NM, VSM - Commodore (G)
A21 S.C. Sachdev (Had to leave Service before the
Course left for UK )
A22 H.K.D. Madhok VSM - Commander At Arms (Provost)
A23 R.S. Sharma PVSM, AVSM, VSM - Vice Admiral (S)
A24 B.S. Chimni (Changed over to Air Force and then
Army) - Brigadier*
25 B.S. Anand - Commodore (S)
Note:- * Expired
After passing out from JSW, we found ourselves at a loose end as the term at Dartmouth , England was to commence in May 1951 and where as we were ready to go in January 51. So we were bundled off to Cochin to acquire some Naval 'spit and polish' and shed our habit of stamping our feet a` la JSW. Here we remained under the very able stewardship of Lt Russi Gandhi, one time Flag Lieutenant of Lord Mountbatten and ending his career as Governor of Himachal Pradesh, after retiring from the Navy as Vice Admiral.
On the morning of 17 th March 1951, our 'coffin like' metallic trunks (only 16, as three Electrical cadets: SBN, Shukul and Suresh Chandra, as also the Supply Branch Cadet Radhey were to come later), were hoisted aboard the P & O liner SS Strathaid at Bombay and we trooped in thereafter. After nearly a month's memorable voyage, we landed in Tilbury, London, straight in the hands of our wet nurse, Lt Cdr Nagarkar, who took great pains to introduce us to the toiletry habits of Gora Sahibs so that we would not offend our land ladies. In London , we had a twenty days' jolly and savoured our travels in the 'Tube' and ride on the escalators, in those days a great novelty for us.
Our Term at Dartmouth lasted from May to August 1951. This beautiful 'Alma Mater' of the Royal Navy is situated on a sloping hill on the mouth of River Dart in the South western corner of England . However, we were kept apart from the regular British Naval cadets who had joined at the age of 13. But we did have a sprinkling of those from the Commonwealth countries. Ours was called 'Benbow Division'. Emphasis here was laid on seamanship and navigation, and particularly sailing.
When Admiral of the Fleet Lord Louis Mountbatten visited Dartmouth , the Indian cadets adorned the entire Front rank of the Guard of Honour, on merit, as we were by far the smartest cadets on board.
On to HMS Devonshire, the three funnelled Training Cruiser, we were to mingle with the regular cadets of the Royal Navy, popularly called 'the Darts'. The ship undertook the Autumn Cruise to the Mediterranean ports like Gibraltar , Syracuse ( Sicily ), Sorrento (off Naples ), Malta , Rhode Island of Greece etc. Here we were taught to undertake all the chores of a sailor as well as class room instructions for professional subjects in running a warship.
This cruise lasted from end Sep to Dec 1951 and then after a brief break, the winter cruise (end Jan 52 to end March 52) took us to the West Indies, where we were to visit ports, home to 'rum and coca cola' and 'steel bands' such as Port of Spain in Trinidad, Grenada, St Lucia, Antigua, British Virgin Island and Bermuda etc.
May 52 saw us returning to India on board SS Circassia of Anchor Line, another grand holiday on board for over three weeks. Also on First May we were promoted to the rank of Midshipman, a strange rank that hung between a sailor and an officer. We joined INS Tir, the very first Training Frigate of the Navy and us the very first trainees. No seniors, what a joy!
Now we were only thirteen, as Bhalla, the Engineering Cadet, Begum Sharma, Andy Anand and Radhey Sharma supply Branch cadets stayed back in the UK . Lucky ones!
We remained in INS Tir for only 8 months as midshipmen. Thereafter we were distributed amongst various ships of the Fleet for another 8 months. Ravi Sawhney, Reggie Gulati and Dilip Ghosh were lucky ones, as their ship INS Ranjit, under the command of Cdr S M Nanda (later to become CNS), was dispatched to the UK to represent India at the Spithead Review for the Coronation of the Queen in June 1953. The others undertook the Mediterranean Cruise with the rest of the Fleet, visiting exotic places such as Malta, Naples, Dubrovnik and Split in Yugoslavia, Corfu etc.
On First of September, 1953 we received our first stripe and became Sub-Lieutenants or 'subbies'. Then after serving in various ships 'the Thirteen' returned to the UK by yet another liner. This time we really beat it up and painted the town red as the saying goes. We reached Royal Naval College at Greenwich ( London ) in Dec 1953 and stayed
on in the UK till May 1955. Perhaps this was the happiest time of our training. It was here that some acquired motor cycles and cars (of course, ancient museum pieces). Some ventured out to the Continent hitch hiking, others just cycling in the UK .
After Greenwich we spent a few months doing courses in the Naval professional subjects like gunnery, navigation and direction, communications, NBCD, torpedo and anti-submarine, submarine, naval aviation etc. These took us around the Southern Coast of Britain where these professional schools were located. This was no 'beer and skittle affair', as our seniority in the Service depended on the outcome of these courses. So everyone had to keep their noses to the grindstone.
Once again we were on board another liner to go back home. Being summer, many a romance by our naval Romeos blossomed on board SS Cilicia, another Anchor Line ship. On arriving at Port Said we were informed that we had to go to Cairo to await the arrival of our Fleet as there had been a collision between two ships and the fleet had returned to Bombay for repairs. So we beat it up in Cairo for around a fortnight. Flush with money and staying in one of the top hotels of Cairo (all paid for) we could afford to enjoy the nightlife of this beautiful city. We were also lionized by the Egyptian Military as it was the beginning of the era of Nehru-Nasser friendship and World Military games were in progress then.
On return, four of the 1 st ; Garry Grewal, Chops Chopra, Harry Hardev and Joe Tripathi went to the Air Force Flying College at Jodhpur . A year later, two (Chops and Garewal) were inducted as pilots in the Fleet Air Arm as Pilots and a third opted to become an Observer
A few years later, Vasudev joined the Submarine Arm of the Navy. Dilip Ghosh and Reggie Gulati opted to remain 'salt horses'. Ravi Sawhney and Ranjit Chaudhury specialized in Gunnery, Ramu Ramdas and Mahendra Pratap in Communications, Lochi Khurana and Vasu in Navigation and Harry Madhok joined the Naval Provost Branch.
Our friends in the 'Electrical' Branch spent a total of seven years in the UK, starting with Dartmouth, Devonshire, University of Durham (three and a half years to obtain a degree in Bachelor of Electrical Engineering) and another two years in Collingwood and other RN Establishments and ships before joining INS Vikrant being readied in the UK.
S K Bhalla the lone Marine Engineering officer followed the same routine as others i.e. RNC, Dartmouth , HMS Devonshire and 16 months at sea as midshipman on board RN ships before joining Royal Naval Engineering College , HMS Thunderer for a two year basic engineering course. In 1955 he returned to India as a confirmed Sub-Lieutenant (E) for Sea Watch Competency Certificate. He went back to UK as a Lieutenant for specialist engineering course at HMS Manadon till end 1956. Thereafter he returned to India as part of the Ships Company of the newly acquired INS Mysore , the Flagship of the Indian Fleet.
Three cadets who opted for the Logistics cadre also followed similar training pattern as rest. They had also stayed back in the UK and did their professional courses and stints in RN Naval Establishment. T hey were sent to an Aircraft Carrier or a large Cruiser of the Royal Navy. They also spent some time on board Naval Air Stations in Malta and in UK , before rejoining their parent course at Greenwich for the Junior Staff Course . On returning to India , they joined INS Hamla, for conversion courses, to bring them back to Indian logistics stream.
In the peak of their careers , Admiral LN Ramdas rose to the dizzy heights to become the Chief of Naval Staff. He along with VADMs S C Chopra and RP Sawhney commanded the three Naval Commands. Operationally both VADM Chopra and Ramdas commanded the Western and Eastern Fleets, respectively whilst VADMs RP Sawhney was in command at Port Blair.
VADMs SBN Singh and JN Sukul headed the Material Branch and VADM RS Sharma headed the Logistics branch.
Ravi Sawhney became the first ever Commandant of NDA (JSW) from the 1 st Course. It was during his tenure that Queen Elizabeth II visited the NDA.
On retirement or premature retirement six joined the Merchant Navy. Among these Reggie Gulati served the longest, for over 17 years. SBN served as a consultant to the newly constructed Port of Pipavav and Ranjit Chaudhuri as an Administrator of National Performing Arts.
Ravi Sawhney served as the Chairman and Managing Director of Jawaharlal Nehru Port, off Bombay .
The "1 st "JSW" Course was considered the finest course of young cadets which joined the Indian Navy in all its history. It produced one four star Admiral, five three star Vice Admirals, one two star Rear Admiral, and six one star Commodores. Sixty Five percent of the cadets reached the enviable Flag Rank from the Naval Contingent. Of the remaining seven two became Captains and five retired as Commanders.
The Course also won two Veer Chakras and seven Navy Medals in the 1971 Indo-Pak War. Six officers were awarded PVSM, six AVSMs and six VSMs, for highly distinguished and dedicated service in the Navy.
The 1 st JSW Course set very high standards indeed for generations of NDA cadets to emulate!!
Alas, as on 15 Nov 2008 , six are no more with us. May their souls rest in peace.
Kind courtesy Reggie Gulati and Chops Chopra