Military & Aerospace

Field Marshal KM Cariappa: Making of an Officer and a Gentleman
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While in his first year at the Presidency College it was rumoured that the British were selecting boys for Commission in the British Indian Army and that they would be trained in India. Cariappa made a dash home to consult his father who took him to HV Cobb, the Commissioner. He found out that a cadet’s school was indeed being set up in Indore.4 Cariappa recalled:

“Kodagu had been allotted one vacancy amongst some 50 distributed all over India. A very rich man’s son, whose father had considerable prestige besides wealth, also wanted to join the Officer’s Training School and earn his Commission. The fathers and their sons waited in the Commissioner’s office. The rich man who had airs about himself made no secret of the fact that his son would be selected and perhaps I was wasting my time.”

Cariappa Senior was quite disheartened but not his son. Cariappa asked his father not to be browbeaten and insisted on being taken for the interview. Cariappa’s confidence prompted his father to eloquently plead his son’s case before the Commissioner. So impressed was the Commissioner with Cariappa that he agreed to have a special vacancy released for him. And in case that was not agreed upon, he assured them that Cariappa would be given preference over the son of the rich and influential man. The first step to success had thus been secured.

In the Army no one can be ignorant of the orders and instructions, learn to look out for yourself.

At the Training School for Indian Cadets, Indore, Cariappa acquired several sound qualities that stood him in good stead.

The Training School at Indore,1 under the Command of an English Colonel was designed to turn-out, after completion of each course, one hundred Temporary Commissioned Indian Officers for the Army. The School Commandant was directly under the Chief of the General Staff for training, while for administrative purposes, the School came under the General Officer Commanding, Fifth (MHOW) Division. The small teaching faculty endeavoured to promote “honourable and gentlemanly spirit among the cadets, by gaining their confidence with tact and discretion.”

Cariappa’s training began on 1 June 1918. It was to be completed in six months, i.e., by December. However, the fighting in Europe seemed to end from 4 August 1918and it was then decided to continue with the training at the School for another year and his batch – the only batch – was commissioned on 1 December 1919. Along with the opening of the Officers Training School, Indore, a batch of Indian Officers had also begun their training at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. The seniority of the Indian cadets who passed out from Indore in December 1919, with a shortfall of six months’ training was fixed for 17 July 1920. This was done with a view to maintain the seniority of the ‘Sandhurst wallas’. The redeeming factor, however, was to find that on being given a Permanent Commission they too became the King’s Commissioned Indian Officers, the famous KCIOs.

In his address, five and a half months after the training began, the Commandant impressed upon the Cadets, “the great honour that had been conferred upon them and each must prove worthy of that.”  “To those of you who show yourselves fit in all respects,” the commandant continued, “the King Emperor has been graciously pleased to promise the grant of a temporary Commission in his Indian Army.”

The Commission signified “the implicit trust of the King Emperor in a loyal and faithful subject, to whom he commits the training and the welfare of his soldiers, relying on that subject’s devotion to duty at all times, in all circumstances for protection of his person and of his empire and for the maintenance of the honour and glory of the national flag.”

These very words were repeated at the oath ceremony in December 1919 and remained ingrained in his mind as the principles Cariappa was to abide by all his life. His opposition to the absorption of the Indian National Army (INA) – the army Subhash Bose raised out of the Indian prisoners of war under the Japanese in World War II – into the regular army, emanated from this principle. Those who joined the INA, their nationalistic feelings notwithstanding, had, in Cariappa’s views, “breached the personal trust and confidence of the sovereign they had avowed to be faithful to and protect under all circumstances.”

Cariappa used to say “could move a Vasco da Gama to discover a new world; induce a Hannibal and Napolean to cross the Alps. No one can be a leader unless he sets a personal example.”

The Commandant said several other things in his first address which made a deep impression on Cariappa:

  • The greater your knowledge of your military duties and of the customs and observances of the Army – regimental and social life – the easier it will be for you to fall in line, gain the regard and friendship of your British comrades and the confidence and respect of your men.
  • In the Army no one can be ignorant of the orders and instructions, learn to look out for yourself.
  • Treat all on an equal footing, have no cliques, develop a spirit of mutual assistance and sympathy.
  • Be an officer and a gentleman — always and everytime. Remember what the religions teach: never to hurt others’ feelings; never to do a thing that will lower our prestige; never succumb to temptations; and, maintain your integrity. (These became the testaments of his unflinching faith in nobility of human conduct and the much acclaimed AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN.
  • The efficiency of a military organisation is based on discipline, without which it becomes a rabble. The collapse of the Russian Army in 1917 was entirely due to the breaking of the bonds of military discipline.2 The best of nations fell because of the lack of discipline.*
  • Develop a ‘soldierly spirit’. Besides devotion to the Crown a ‘solidierly spirit’ stands for a value system and a set of principles rooted in a high sense of honour, a zealous regard for the good name of the regiment and one’s comrades, selfless service, team spirit and honourable dealing with men by leading through example.

Likewise, Cariappa believed that there was nothing degrading in an officer doing himself what he called upon his men to do. Giving a lead, setting an example became part of his personality.

“Personal example,” Cariappa used to say “could move a Vasco da Gama to discover a new world; induce a Hannibal and Napolean to cross the Alps. No one can be a leader unless he sets a personal example.”

By the time Cariappa completed his training at Indore he had played sufficient hockey and cricket, learned the basic military skills in weapon handling, field craft, minor tactics,3 and had acquired some idea of administration. Though he had entered as the fortieth cadet, he passed out seventh. His diligence and sincerity were acknowledged. The final assessment of him by the Commandant was that he had “absorbed the most and has shown the promise of being a good officer.”

Major General AA Rudra, his senior in age by two years, was with Cariappa in the Cadet School at Indore. Rudra who had fought in the ranks in France and Flanders in World War I before joining the Daly College recalled:

“Cariappa was shy. He hardly talked. But he was laborious and punctilious to the minutest detail. The institution had boys from among the sons of Maharajas, Rajas and rich men. The Princes of Jamnagar, Kapurthala, Jind and Baroda had joined the same course. The non-princely types were cowed down by complexes in the face of ostentatious wealth enjoyed by the others. But Cariappa was unfazed and determined to beat everyone and take a lead.”

By the Christmas of 1919, IA – 927 Kodandera Madappa Cariappa was a Second Lieutenant and commissioned as an officer of His Majesty’s Government in India and posted to the Second Battalion of the 88th Carnatic Infantry, then located at Colaba, Bombay.

Click to buy: FM KM Cariappa: His Life and Times

The first twenty years of his life had been memorable for providing him with a good training and opportunities for learning. From his ninth year, he came in contact with some excellent people including a few Englishmen, who, though true colonialists were nonetheless thoroughbred gentlemen. HV Cobbs, the Commissioner, however, impressed him as being the most forthright and as a good administrator. On the birth of his son Nanda in 1938, and later Nalini, Cariappa persuaded Cobbs to become their godfather and he remained a very close family friend.

Through his association with Whitworth and Steele and devotion to Cobbs, Cariappa cherished the positive side of the British. He reached out to them in order to improve himself. The endeavour began to fructify. For, he was in the profession of arms, which demanded unwavering ‘trust and faith’. In the case of Cariappa there could be no deviation from upholding the trust reposed in him as a soldier and a man of honour, serving as a junior officer with plenty of dash and élan in the British Indian Army.

———-

Technically the First World War ended on 11, November 1918, with the signing of the Armistice and the defeat of the Turks in Palestine.

When Cariappa took over any organisation, from battalion onwards, it was this operating principle that was repeatedly applied

Notes

  1. Also known as Daly College for cadets. Established primarily as a measure of Indianisation and to meet the war requirements for Commissioned officers by granting temporary Commissions to a few selected Indians and men in the ranks. It was initially scheduled to run a six month course with some 42 cadets. Major General Iskander Mirza, Major General AA Rudra were some of the others who were enlisted for the course. The shortfall in their normal two year training that Sandhurst gave was adjusted in their service.
  2. The dismantling process of the USSR in 1991, among other causes, has also its roots in a lack of discipline in the Union, that was once a Superpower. The best of nations fell because of the lack of discipline.
  3. By definition strategy is determination of aims to be achieved and the mobilisation and concentration of forces and logistical and other national support to achieve the aims so set. It is thus a national effort. As opposed to strategy, tactics is the employment of all arms of a fighting formation, unit or sub-unit making the best use of ground, sea, and air in concert with the weapons and equipment to defeat or destroy an enemy. It is a purely military effort. Minor tactics are generally the tactics used by sub-units and smaller groups to achieve their immediate aim.
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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Brig CB Khanduri

Brig CB Khanduri, author of the book Field Marshal KM Cariappa: His Life and Times.

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6 thoughts on “Field Marshal KM Cariappa: Making of an Officer and a Gentleman

  1. This great man died in Bangalore My mother ROSY was there with him to take care for about 10 days during his last days . She took care of him he was bed ridden and she has to give all support and took care of him ..I am proud to say I have seen him and as my mother took care of him…..a great man….a great service to him by my mother……he said he will help us to come out of our problems once he becomes allright….he died…his memories are still alive…..My brother JOSEPH V J joined indian Army he is still serving and is in Leh & Ledhak region now where the great man worked and motivated the young Indian soldiers……He was an inspiration to me which I gave to my brother who serves in Madras regiment of Indian Army.

  2. very inspiring article.I wished,like my CENTENARIAN father in law ,IC-3651,
    LT COL DAMODAR VAMAN TANKSALE ( DOC-16011944 ) ( DOR-02011967 ), I too was lucky to have served under this ‘ HARDEST MAN BEHIND THE STICK ‘ !
    Very well covered by Brig CB Khanduri Sir.

  3. Field Marshall K M Cariappa became Commander in Chief of India after Independence.one of his first visits as C in C ws to Garhwal Rifles in Pauri Garhwal. He ws hosted fr dinner by my dad who took charge of Pauri Garhwal as it’s first Indian D C on 15 th Aug 1947.reminences.

  4. THE GREAT FIELDMARSHAL LIKE OTHER PREPARTITION GENERALS , OFFICERS AND ADMIRALS WAS TRAINED AT SANDHURST AND DARTMOUTH FOR NAVAL TARINING . THE INDIAN TRAINING INSTITUTES OF NDA , IMA , NAVAL ACADEMY MAY THOUGH EQUAL THE TRAINING OF THESE 200 YRS OLD BRITISH INSTITUTIONS BUT YOU HAD TO LOOK AT THE PERSONALITY , CHARACTER , CHARM AND LEADERSHIPQUALITIES THESE BRITISH TRAINED OFFICERS IMBIBED . HAVING SEEN THE DARTHMOUTH TRAINED ADMIRALS AS A YOUNG OFFICER AND HAVING SERVED UNDER POST PARTITION INDIAN TRAINED OFFICERS THE BRITISH TRAINED OFFICERS WERE A CLASS APART.TILL THEY WERE IN SERVICE TILL 70 AND 80S THE SERVICES BY AND LARGE WERE RESPECTED AND MAINTAINED A IMAGE . ALAS THEY DO NOTMAKE LIKE THEM THEM ANY MORE. WHAT WE SEE TODAY IS RENT SEEKERS , TRADERS , PROPERTY EXPERTS , MEDICINE SWINDLERS , ARMS DEALERS AND FIXERS AND BUDDIES WHO STEAL FROM THIER HOSTS .

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