My regiment (An artillery unit with all ranks from Maharashtra only) was to felicitate Veer-Matas, Veer-Patni’s, Veer-Narees, in addition to veterans, ex- Prisoners of Wars (POW), disabled soldiers or their next of kins.
Because of my over 60 years of very close association with my Regiment, they requested me to carry out a research with the help of serving and retired officers at Nashik and Pune to get exact details of the above mentioned personnel, their present address, health, condition to travel so on and so forth.
We started with visits to District ex-servicemen welfare officers, liabraries of Army, Navy, Air Force units visit by volunteers, discussion with people who wrote books, in addition to the British Council at Mumbai. Inspite of my willing to pay for costs the council did not help.
Result. We were quite successful and in addition I came across some brave people from our neighbourhood. Wikipedia and Google were also of great help. I went on jotting down their details. Herebelow are those unsung heroes.
I must confess this list must be incomplete. My sincere apology for that omission. But I would request those who can add or correct my information.
The study revealed
Till Portuguese arrived there was no foreign aggression in this region. Not there is any record of battles at Sea or Land. The findings start with 1914-19 war Germany V/s Great Britain.
The first name of Indian happens to be of 2nd Lt Jijibhoy Pirosha Boman Jeejibhoy (a aeroplane pilot), he was from Ridge Road. My older sister stayed on Little Gibbs Road, but none of my old friends could tell me more about this officer. His date of birth is 9th November 1881. He learnt flying at Stinson School, San Antonio, Texas, USA. After the WW1 he was with British Air Ministry, London.
Second one was Lt Shrikrishna C. Welingkar (Pilot) was posted to 87 Sqn RFC on 13.01.1918. He flew Aveo 504. Later transferred to 23 Sqn RAF. On 27th January 1918 he flew Dolphin over Germany. His plane was shot down. He was injured and died in Germany. He was the first Indian Pilot to have died in action. He was later decorated, his mother used to stay behind Wilson College Hostel (Chowpatty) in Babulnath area. Our families have a long association with this family.
Lt (Pilot) Harishchandra Shrikrishna Kirtikar. He flew over Germany, he flew over Germany, was shot down and lost his life. He is from South Mumbai.
As I continued my surfing I came across a name “Duttoo”. My regimenthas given me this nickname. Since this is an interesting read I am writing. There was a peson 2Lient (Pilot) Dattatraya Laxman Patwardhan born on 10th July 1883. He went to England before WW1. He was a very bright and intelligent man. It appears he joined the British Army (as an Anglo Indian). On his own merit became 2nd Lt (Pilot), as per London Gazette dated 25th March 1919. He was a bomber pilot. British documents show that he was the first bomber pilot to bomb Kaiser Palace, Berlin. He was therefore decorated by King George the V and also the King personally gave a sword of honour. The American historians deny any bombing of the Kaiser Palace. Reason they say was British Royalty and the German Royalties were closely related. ‘Duttoo’ after the war was given an honorary rank of a Captain. The records show that he was tried in 1937 and the Court found him guilty of supporting Indian Freedom movement. His honorary rank was withdrawn and dismissed from Govt. service. It is believed he was in communication with Gandhi and other political leaders in India.
During WW1, one of my maternal uncle after his MBBS from Mumbai joined as a Medical Officer in the rank of a Captain of a Horse Cavalry Regiment. He being a vegetarian was allowed to have his own cook. He took with him Satyanarayan Dubey to Messopotamia and then after the bloody battle at Yepres, Belgium where more than ten thousands of Indian troops were killed in battles against Germany and over 10,000 Indian troops injured. There was severe shortage and need of Indian doctors especially to speak to Indian patients, young Satyanarayan tagged along. Eventually he became part of our family and always accompanied my mother.
In 1954 I was posted to National Defence Academy, then at Dehra Dun. We shifted to (Pune) Khadakwasla in 1954.
In 1955 Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited NDA, the only institution then in the world where all three services – Army, Navy and Air Force cadets were given preliminary military training and also to develop camaradie amoungst the three services. Satyanarayan was with me at the NDA when Mr Nehru was to visit NDA in June 1955 at Khadakwasla. I was very busy as I had many jobs on hand like all types of communications, seating, reception etc. Suddenly Col. Thakkar, a brave officer much senior to me landed at my residence. I took his permission, left Col. Thakkar to the care of my wife and Satyanarayan ji. My wife knew Col. Thakkar. His daughter and my wife later faced each other in All India Womens Squash Tournament.
The Jeep Scam
Shortly after above event, I came to know that Col. Thakkar had an unnatural death somewhere near Charni Road, Mumbai. Col. Thakkar was in Indian High Commission and I believe he was in possession of original copies of purchase of 200 second hand Jeeps from Britain for Indian Army. I also have reasons to believe that out of the order of 200 Jeeps at a cost of Sterling 60 lakh Pounds only 155 were delivered to Indian Army. The original copies were missing and the case was closed in September 1955 (it was a shut up call). In the Indian Army even a wink of an eye has to be obeyed without batting an eye. Late Col. Thakkar’s daughter is a famous surgeon who stays on Malabar Hill. Note in 1950’s with the prevailing exchange rate, 60 Lakh pounds = Rs 60000000
“It is possible there are many such heroes in our neighbourhood whom I have not surfed. Readers are requested to inform us, so that we can give justice to their great sacrifice”
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