Saturday, April 13, 2013

NATION | Saturday, December 5, 2009
For those whose own ease comes last, always, every time

Jaskiran Chopra | Dehradun
The 10th day of December is a memorable day for the Indian Military Academy (IMA) as it was on this day, in 1932, that the formal inauguration of this prestigious institution took place. Though the academy began functioning on October 1, 1932, it was only on December 10 that Commander-in-Chief Sir Philip Chetwode inaugurated the Academy.

The inauguration had to be delayed more than two months. The first cadets arrived on September 30 and IMA opened on October 1.

Chetwode said in his speech at the inauguration, “I wish I could have welcomed the Gentlemen Cadets (GCs) of the new Indian Military Academy on the day they first made their appearance here, for it was a memorable day in the history of the Indian Army.”

He added, “I could not do so because it was pointed out to me that they had not yet received their uniform, nor were they sufficiently drilled to make an inspection on parade possible. At the request of the commandant, I, therefore, postponed my visit until today, when he said that he would be ready to receive me.”

Brigadier LP Collins had been appointed the first Commandant of the academy in January 1932. The holding of examinations, nomination of cadets and other preparatory activities had begun figuring in news reports.

The July 30, 1931 issue of The Pioneer, under the caption ‘Notes from Dehradun’ wrote, “His Excellency, the Commander-in-Chief, was here for a few days last week, from July 14 to 17. He was probably here in connection with the Indian Military Academy, which has only a couple of months ahead of it now before opening.”

The founding of this prestigious academy in 1932 was the culmination of a longdrawn battle fought in circles such as the Central Legislative Assembly and the Round Table Conference by stalwarts like Sir Sivaswamy Aiyar, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pandit Motilal Nehru and Lala Lajpat Rai.

After the Commandant’s speech in Chetwode Hall on December 10, 1932 came the historic inaugural speech of Sir Philip, the concluding words of which have echoed in the hearts and minds of young GCs and officers of the Indian Army over the generations.

These words, inscribed in letters of gold in Chetwode Hall, are the credo of the academy. The words are, “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”

These words form the quintessence of the values of the noble profession of arms. Sir Philip’s speech was widely reported in newspapers. Greetings poured in from many quarters and messages of congratulations were received by IMA on December 10, indeed a red-letter day for the great institution.

Before the inaugural ceremony was the Ceremonial Parade. At 9.45 am, the GCs marched into the parade ground. Ten minutes after this arrived Brigadier Collins, who was received by GC Smith Dun. At the stroke of 10 came the Commander-in-Chief.

The inaugural ceremony in Chetwode Hall was followed by a display of physical exercises by the cadets. Later, Sir Philip attended a hockey match between IMA and the RIMC. The day concluded with an ‘at home’ in Chetwode Hall, with the Commandant as chief host.

The history of the IMA from 1932 to 1947 is common to India and Pakistan. The crucial link between the founding of a military academy and the attainment of Independence was acutely realised by a section of the Indian leadership in the days of struggle for Independence.

Their concerted efforts resulted in the initiation of the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms — which enabled 10 Indians to be sent to Sandhurst for training — setting up of the Skeen Committee in 1925 and later holding of the Round Table Conference in London in 1930, which recommended the establishment of the Indian Sandhurst without any delay.

As a follow-up action, the Government of India set up a committee to work out details under the chairmanship of Field Marshal Sir Philip, who was then Commander-in-Chief, India. The committee submitted its report in July 1931, recommending an establishment for training 40 entrants in each term. The academy became functional with a course strength of 40 GCs.

The first course had on its rolls Sam Manekshaw, Smith Dun and Mohd Musa. All of them later became chiefs of the armies of their respective countries, namely India, Burma and Pakistan. The course was christened ‘Pioneers.’

The Government acquired the estate of the erstwhile Railway Staff College at Dehradun, which had the appropriate buildings and a fairly extensive campus to meet the requirements of the academy. The campus was taken over for the academy in April 1932 to begin a glorious tradition.

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