Review. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw

From Dr Hamid Hussain. 
Recently came across a great book
about an officer and gentleman of a bygone era.  Quite a timely
reminder.  In the environment of general deteriorating standards of both
Pakistani and Indian societies, armed forces cannot  be removed from their
environment.  Many officers are simply foraging in the same pastures.
 A pause and looking at the conduct of upright officers and gentlemen may
provide a different set of role models for young officers.  Respect is
earned by the character and not by the amount of brass on one’s shoulders.
Enjoy the reading.
Hamid
Book
Review
Field
Marshal Sam Manekshaw: The Man and His Times by Brigadier ® Behram M. Panthaki
and Zenobia Panthaki
This
book by the husband and wife team provides a window to the personality of an officer
and genetleman Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.  Brigadier ® Behram Panthaki
served as ADC to Sam and Behram and Zanobia had a life long association with
Sam and his family.  This gives authors a unique vantage point.  They
have done an excellent job of introducing the readers to the human side of Sam.


Sam
Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw was the most popular soldier of
India.  He passed out from Indian Military Academy (IMA) at Dehra Dun in
1934 and commissioned in elite 4th Battalion of 12th
Frontier Force Regiment (4/12 FFR).  This battalion went through various
reorganizations through its one hundred and fifty years history.  It
started as 4th Sikh Local Infantry after First Sikh War in
1846.  In 1901, it became 4th Sikh Infantry and in 1903 became
54th Sikhs. In 1922 reorganization, it became 4th
Battalion of 12th Frontier Force Regiment.  In 1947, on
partition of India, battalion was assigned to Pakistan and in 1957
reorganization became  6th Frontier Force (FF) Regiment of
Pakistan army.   Battalion is nick named ‘Charwanjah’
referring to its old number 54. Battalion has the unique honor that an Indian
and a Pakistan army chief belonged to this battalion. Eighth Chief of Army
Staff of Indian army Sam Manekshaw (1969-1973) and fifteenth Chief of Army
Staff of Pakistan army General ® Raheel Sharif (2013-2016) of Pakistan army
were commissioned in charwanjah.
In
Second World War, Sam then a captain was leading Sikh company of 4/12 FFR in
Burma.  A small group of Japanese soldiers surprised the troops and
sneaked into the perimeter of the battalion at night.  This caused a panic
and a number of soldiers bolted from the scene.  Sam’s Sikhs firmly stayed
in their positions.  Sam had threatened them that he will personally
distribute ‘bangles’ if any of them moved from their position.  Later, in
one of the attacks on a Japanese position, Sam was severely wounded when seven
bullets of a Japanese machine gun hit him in his stomach.  His orderly
Sher Singh put Sam on his back and evacuated him to Regimental Aid Post where
Regimental Medical Officer (RMO) Captain G. M. Diwan tended to him.  Sam
was awarded Military Cross (MC).  Death was closely lurking around
him.  When Sam was being treated at a hospital at Pegu, Japanese planes
bombed the hospital and Sam’s bed was moved to the lawn. Severely wounded Sam
was moved to Mandalay and then to Rangoon.  Sam was on the last ship which
left Rangoon before Japanese overran it.  The ship was also bombed by
Japanese planes but Sam made it to Madras.  This association with the
battalion during combat and fighting some of the most difficult battles had a
lifelong impact on the young man.
Sam
had a special affection for the battalion despite it being allotted to rival
Pakistan.  In 1950s, his battalion mate Brigadier (later Lieutenant
General) Atiq ur Rahman nick named ‘Turk’ (4/12 FFR) was commanding a brigade
in Kohat that was brought to Lahore for internal security duties.  Turk
and another PIFFER Brigadier (later Lieutenant General) Bakhtiar Rana
(commissioned in 6/13 Frontier Force Rifles and now 1 FF of Pakistan army) went
to Ferozpur to visit Sam who was commanding 167th Brigade. Old
PIFFERS had a great time together reminiscing about their days together. 
In 1965, Sam was GOC-in-Chief of eastern command and he had another interesting
meeting with his paltan mate Major General Fazal Muqeem Khan (4/12 FFR)
who was GOC of Dacca based 14th Division. After 1965 war, a meeting
was arranged for the two commanders.  Sam landed at Dacca and after a warm
and brief welcome told Fazal ‘let’s go home to meet the Begum Sahiba’. 
Sam and Fazal left leaving their bewildered staff officers to sort out all the
mundane tasks of the meeting.
When
Sam was army chief, there was a standing order to all the staff, guards and
sentries that whenever an ex-serviceman of 4/12 FFR came to the army
headquarters, he should be brought to the chief no matter what chief was
doing.  In 1971 war when he was Indian army chief, he kept an eye on
performance of 4/12 FFR (now 6 FF) which was fighting from Pakistan’s
side.  His staff would notice a certain pride in his eyes when the
briefing officer would give some account of 4/12 FFR.  He commented to his
military assistant ‘I should like to see one of my 8th Gorkha
battalions fighting the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment’.  When Major Shabbir
Sharif of 6 FF got the highest gallantry award of Nishan-e-Haider
fighting from Pakistan side, Sam wrote to one of his old British Commanding
Officer (CO) of 4/12 FFR in England that he was so proud that an officer of ‘his
battalion’ got the honor although Sam’s forces were fighting against
Pakistan.  Another sign of his association was his love for local footwear
of North West Frontier Province; Peshawari chaplis.   Long
after he left the frontier, he preferred Peshawari chaplis when wearing
casual dress.  He also named one of his dogs PIFFER. 
Book
provides details about Sam’s family and personal life in addition to highlights
of his professional career.  A large number of photographs from family
album never published before make it a wonderful pictorial catalogue of
evolution of a young cadet through various stages of his life.  While
looking at the photographs, one cannot ignore one thing and that is whenever
Sam is with other people, everyone is laughing.  Sam had a great sense of
humor and in most of these photographs, he is in his usual jovial and naughty
mood.
This
book is a timely reminder to young officers of Indian and Pakistan armies about
a generation of officers of a bygone era. It is a welcome addition to the work
done about Indian army officers. This work is different as it provides a window
to the human side of Sam. It should be in the library of anyone interested in
Indian army. 
Field
Marshal Sam Manekshaw: The Man and his times by Brigadier Behram M. Panthaki
and Zenobia Panthaki  (New Delhi: Niyogi Books, 2014)

Sam
as Lieutenant Colonel standing next to Colonel (later Major General) Shahid
Hamid, 1946. Sam and Shahid were friends from staff college days. (
Picture courtesy of
Major General ® Syed Ali Hamid son of Major General ® Shahid Hamid)
 
Hamid
Hussain

Defence Journal, Aril 2017 
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