Early life and education
Manekshaw was born in Amritsar, Punjab to Parsi parents, Hormusji Manekshaw, a doctor, and his wife Heerabai, who moved to the Punjab from the small town of Valsad on the Gujarat coast. After completing his schooling in Amritsar and Sherwood College (Nainital), with distinction in the School Certificate examination of the Cambridge Board, he asked his father to send him to London to study medicine. When his father refused to send him till he was older, in an act of rebellion Manekshaw appeared for and qualified in the entrance examination for enrolment into the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun and as a result became part of the first intake of 40 cadets on 1 October 1932. He graduated from the IMA on 4 February 1934 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Indian Army.
Manekshaw recalled at a function on 8 June 1969 on the centenary of Sherwood College after taking over as COAS, that his years at the College had prepared him for war in World War II as he had learnt here to live alone and independently, to fight without relent, tolerate hunger for long periods and to hate his enemy.
Manekshaw’s military career spanned four decades, from the British era and World War II, to the three wars against China and Pakistan after India’s independence in 1947. He held several regimental, staff and command assignments. Manekshaw went on to become the eighth Chief of the Army Staff, led the Indian Army successfully in a war with Pakistan and become India’s Second Field Marshal.
World War II
During World War II, Manekshaw saw action in Burma in the 1942 campaign on the Sittang River as a captain with the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment, and had the rare distinction of being honoured for his bravery on the battle front itself. He was commanding his battalion’s ‘A’ Company in a counter-attack against the invading Japanese Army and despite suffering 50% casualties the company achieved its objective, Pagoda Hill, which was a key position on the left of the Sittang bridgehead. After capturing the hill, he was hit by a burst of LMG bullets and was severely wounded in the stomach.Major General D.T. Cowan spotted Manekshaw holding on to life and was aware of his valour in face of stiff resistance from the Japanese. Fearing the worst, Major General Cowan quickly pinned his own Military Cross ribbon to Manekshaw saying, “A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross.”The official recommendation for the MC states that the success of the attack “was largely due to the excellent leadership and bearing of Captain Manekshaw”. The award was made official with the publication of the notification in a supplement to the London Gazette of 21 April 1942 (dated 23 April 1942).
Manekshaw was almost pronounced dead when brought to Rangoon hospital with nine bullets in the lung, liver and kidneys. The military surgeon was reluctant to operate, seeing his hopeless condition, though Manekshaw was conscious. When the surgeon asked what had happened to him, he replied that he was “kicked by a donkey”.
Having recovered from those near-fatal wounds in Burma, Manekshaw attended the 8th Staff Course at Staff College, Quetta from 23 August to 22 December 1943, and was posted as Brigade Major of the Razmak brigade till 22 October 1944 before being sent to join the 9th Battalion, 12 Frontier Force Regiment in Burma under General (later Field Marshal) Slim‘s 14th Army. Towards the end of World War II, Manekshaw was sent as staff officer to General Daisy in Indo-China where, after the Japanese surrender, he helped rehabilitate over 10,000 POWs. He then went on a six-month lecture tour to Australia in 1946, and after his return was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and served as a first grade staff officer in the Military Operations Directorate.
Upon partition, his parent unit 4/12 FFR became part of the Pakistan Army, so Manekshaw was first empanelled with the 16th Punjab Regiment and later to the 3rd Battalion 5th Gorkha Rifles which he was detailed to command. The tumultous events of partition required Manekshaw’s retention in Army Headquarters as a Lt Colonel in the Military Operations directorate because of which he missed his chance to command an infantry battalion, subsequently being promoted to Brigadier and becoming the first Indian Director of Military Operations.
Manekshaw showed acumen for planning and administration while handling the issues relating to Partition of British India in 1947, and later put his battle skills to use during the 1947–48 Jammu & Kashmir Operations. After command of an Infantry Brigade, he was posted as the commandant of the Infantry School Mhow and also became the colonel of 8 Gurkha Rifles (which became his new regimental home, since his original parent regiment the 12th Frontier Force Regiment went on to join the new Pakistan Army at partition) and 61 Cavalry. He commanded a division in Jammu & Kashmir and a corps in the North East, with a tenure as commandant of Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) in between. As GOC-in-C Eastern Command, he handled the tricky problem of insurgency in Nagaland and the grateful nation honoured him with a Padma Bhushan in 1968.
Army Chief: Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Manekshaw became the 8th chief of army staff when he succeeded General Kumaramangalam on 7 June 1969. His years of military experience were soon put to the test as thousands of Hindu refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan (Bangladesh) started crossing over to India as a result of its (East Pak’s) conflict with West Pakistan (Pakistan). This resulted in India’s decision to go to war as the large scale movement of refugees imposed a great economic burden and necessitated interference on grounds of human rights.
In end April 1971, Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India at that time, asked Manekshaw if he was ready to go to war with East Pakistan. Manekshaw refused citing the dispersal of his formations, on-road state of his armour, pending harvest which would vie for rail carriage at that point of time the open Himalayan passes and the forthcoming monsoon. When she asked the cabinet to leave the room and the Chief to stay, he offered to resign on whatever grounds the Prime Minister chose. When she declined his resignation but asked for his advice, he asked permission to prepare for the conflict, make his preparations, set the date and he would guarantee victory. These were agreed to by Prime Minister Gandhi and Manekshaw was permitted to prepare the Indian Army for the forthcoming conflict in his own way.
The war ended with Pakistan’s unconditional surrender, the end and victory of the Bangladesh liberation struggle. More than 45,000 Pakistani soldiers and 45,000 civilian personnel were taken as POWs. He masterminded the rout of the Pakistan Army in one of the easiest and quickest surrenders in recent military history.
- Second Lieutenant, British Indian Army-1934
- Brigadier, Indian Army-1950
- Major-General-December 1957
- Lieutenant-General-November 1962
- General (COAS)-8 June 1969
- Field Marshal-3 January 1973 to death
Honour and retirement
For his distinguished service to the country, the President of India (then V. V. Giri) awarded him a Padma Vibhushan in 1972 and conferred upon him the rank of Field Marshal on 1 January 1973. Manekshaw became one of the only two Indian Army Generals to be awarded this prestigious rank; the other being the late Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa. Manekshaw moved out of active service a fortnight later on 15 January 1973 after completing nearly four decades of military service, and settled down with his wife Silloo in Coonoor, the civilian town next to Wellington Military Cantonment where he had served as Commandant of the Defence Services Staff College.
In May 2007, Gohar Ayub, son of Field Marshal Ayub Khan claimed that the retired Indian Army Chief Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw had sold some of Indian Army secrets to Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 for 20,000 rupees, but his accusations were dismissed by the Indian defence establishment. Following his time in active service in the Indian Army, Manekshaw successfully served on the board of directors for numerous companies, and was Chairman of several of them as well.
He died of complications from pneumonia at the Military Hospital in Wellington, Tamil Nadu on 0030 hours, 27 June 2008 at the age of 94.
He was laid to rest in Ootacamund, Tamil Nadu, with military honours, adjacent to his wife’s grave. He is survived by two daughters and three grandchildren. The absence of top leaders at his funeral drew adverse comments from Indian citizens especially Non-resident Indians.
Reportedly, his last words were “I’m okay!”
That year on 16 December, celebrated each year as “Vijay Diwas” in memory of the victory achieved under Manekshaw’s leadership in 1971, a postage stamp depicting Manekshaw in his field marshal’s uniform was released by President Pratibha Patil.
On being placed in command of the retreating 4 Corps during the Sino-Indian War of 1962: “There will be no withdrawal without written orders and these orders shall never be issued.”
About the Gurkha: “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.”
To a surgeon who was going to give up on his bullet-riddled body who asked him what had happened and got the reply, “I was kicked by a donkey.” A joker at such a time, the surgeon reckoned, had a chance.
Courtesy : Wikipedia