Saturday, January 16, 2016



Background. STATE OF THE CORPS IN 1947 : PersonnelOfficersVCOs and Other Ranks. PARTITION OF THE INDIAN SIGNAL CORPS : Partition and Restructuring of Units Training Establishments. MAJOR COMMITMENTS AFTER PARTITION : The Punjab Boundary Force The Military Evacuation Organisation – Signal Communications for MEO (India)  Indian Signals Relief Centre. JUNAGADH : Political Developments – The Kathiawar Defence Force – KDF Signals. HYDERABAD : Background Political Developments Operation ‘Polo’ Signals in Operation ‘Polo’. CONCLUSION


The long struggle for freedom from British rule bore fruit on 15 August 1947 when India became an independent nation. In his oft quoted speech during the midnight session of Parliament, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru referred to the historical event as the ‘unfettering of the soul of the nation’. Another nation - Pakistan - was created by partitioning the country. The birth of the twin nations was not painless. Since the division was on communal lines, large groups of people were uprooted from their homeland. Millions of Hindus and Sikhs moved from Pakistan to India, with similarly large numbers of Muslims travelling in the opposite direction.   The largest mass migration in recorded history was accompanied by widespread violence resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people of all communities.  Families that had lived together in harmony for generations became enemies overnight, baying for each other’s blood.  Like the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857 that had occurred ninety years earlier, Partition was a cataclysm that left deep scars. 
Mercifully, the virus of communalism did not afflict the Indian Army, which continued to perform its role of maintaining peace and defending the country’s borders. Though many soldiers nursed hopes of the armed forces remaining unified, at least for some time, this was found to be impracticable. The armed forces were also divided, with approximately one third going to Pakistan and two thirds remaining in India. Since most units and formations had troops from all classes, the division was not easy. Apart from the physical movement of formations, units and sub-units from one country to the other, many of them had to be reconstructed, disbanded or re-designated.  To decide on the formations and units that would go to each dominion, as well as their location and composition, the Armed Forces Reconstitution Committee was set up, with sub committees for the Army, Navy and Air Force. 

            Though the decision to divide the armed forces was taken several months earlier, the separation was not complete at the time of Partition. It became necessary to establish a separate headquarters that could supervise the process. Even as new Army HQs were created for India and Pakistan, the existing Armed Forces HQ was converted into the Supreme HQ, which continued to function from South Block in Delhi. Army HQ, India was set up in the Red Fort in Delhi while the existing HQ Northern Command at Rawalpindi was redesignated Army HQ, Pakistan.  GHQ India continued to function, looking after administrative matters until the two Army HQs were in a position to take over these responsibilities. A new appointment called Major General, British Troops in India was created under the Supreme Commander, to exercise control over British troops.  Several other organizations were established to deal with peculiar problems that cropped up after Partition, prominent among them being the Punjab Boundary Force (PBF), the Military Evacuation Organization (MEO) etc. To look after evacuees from Signals, the Corps set up the ISC Relief Centre. These organizations had short life spans and were disbanded when they had fulfilled their purpose. 

Personnel - Officers
One of the major problems faced by the Corps at Independence was the shortage of officers. The Indian Armed Forces Nationalisation Committee set up in 1946 had agreed that in technical arms such as the Indian Signal Corps,  Indianisation posed serious problems,  in view of the fast progress made in signal communication techniques during the war, lack of senior Indian Signals officers and highly skilled Indian technicians.  The committee felt that with the exception of certain senior appointments such as the Director of Signals, chief signal officers of commands and a small number of technical maintenance officers and telecommunication engineers, the Corps could be Indianised in a matter of two to three years.  Major General R.F.H. Nalder, the SO-in-C, had already made plans for overcoming the shortage of officers in the Corps. In April 1947, the Corps had only 335 Indian officers, of which 106 were deferred volunteers who had still not confirmed their willingness to continue serving. Even if they did, it would leave a gap of 165 officers, since the anticipated requirement of officers in April 1948 was about 500. Most of the vacancies were in categories such as quartermasters, cipher officers and technical maintenance officers, which could not be filled by granting direct commissions to VCOs or NCOs, very few of whom had the requisite knowledge or expertise. Hence, it was intended make up the shortfall by direct commissions or transfers from other arms. However, these plans were put paid by the Viceroy’s startling announcement of the advancing the date of granting independence to India from June 1948 to 15 August 1947. This stunned almost everyone, but none so much as the Indian Signal Corps.
            One way out was to delay the departure of British officers for as long as possible. The withdrawal of British officers was planned in a phased manner, with the senior and most experienced being sent last. It was decided that subalterns would be sent home in August and captains by December 1947. Specialist officers such as quartermasters, technical maintenance officers and ciphers officers were to be retained, if they wished, until their places could be taken by direct commissioned officers.  In addition, senior appointments on Signals staff in headquarters and establishments that had already been identified would continue to be held by British officers, who were asked to volunteer their services. In the event, 23 British officers, including the SO-in-C, Brigadier C.H.I. Akehurst, O.B.E., agreed to serve for one year beyond 31 December 1947, while three agreed for three months. Some continued to serve in the India for several years, with Brigadier C.H.I. Akehurst demitting office only in 1954.
            Against the authorized establishment of 462 officers, the number of Indian officers in the Corps at Independence was only 293. Even after taking into account the British officers who continued to serve, there was a shortfall of 143 officers.  A number of steps were taken to alleviate the shortage, such as grant of regular or short service commissions to VCOs; transfers from other arms; transfer of serving and released officers of the Royal Indian Navy Volunteer Reserve; recall of released officers, commissions to university graduates under Army Instruction (India) 23/S/47; and employment of civilian gazetted officers.  The intake of officers from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun was also increased, with 19 officers being commissioned into Signals in December 1947. However, these officers would be available in units only after two years, once they had completed their training at the Infantry School, Saugor or the Indian Signal Corps School, Mhow.  
VCOs and Other Ranks
The Indianisation programme for the Indian Signal Corps had been formulated in August 1946. It consisted of a short term plan that was to be implemented in two phases and a long term plan.  The short term plan envisaged the reduction of British Other Ranks (BOR) in Indian signal units from 5761 to 3000 by 1 January 1947. According to the long term plan, all British tradesmen of higher classes such as operators, workshop trades and cipher operators would be replaced by Indian tradesmen by 1 July 1948, barring 246 that would remain in training establishments, employed on Imperial chain of communications in GHQ and Foremen of Signals in units. It was estimated that it would take at another two years to find suitable Indian Other Ranks (IOR) who could replace these 246 British personnel. After the announcement that India would be granted of independence in June 1948, these plans had to be revised. In February 1947, Signals Directorate issued another plan that catered for the replacement of BOR by IOR in stages.  The first stage involved the re-organisation of sections into all-British or all-Indian sections, with a few British NCOs being retained as instructors in the latter.  In the next stage, the all-British sections would be replaced by all-Indian sections with British NCO instructors.  In the final stage, British NCO instructors would be substituted by Indian instructors. 
            The advancement of the date of independence to 15 August 1947 literally threw a spanner in works, as far the plans to Indianise the Signal Corps were concerned. Unlike most other arms, every signal unit had some Muslims. The Indianisation plans had differentiated between British and Indian ranks, with Muslims being counted as Indians, along with Hindus and Sikhs. The departure of the Muslims to Pakistan added a new dimension to the problem. At the same time, several BOR also left, either for UK or Pakistan. This naturally quashed all plans for Indianisation that had been made so far. As in the case of officers, shortages in VCOs and OR were most acute in specialist trades, which had long been the preserve of British service men. Among VCOs, shortages were mostly among clerks, ciphers and foremen of signals. Among the men, the trades affected were line mechanics, tele mechanics, radio mechanics, operators switchboard and operators cipher. A number of steps were taken to reduce the shortages. The output from training centres in the affected trades was increased, but this in fact aggravated the situation for some time, since experienced tradesmen had to be pulled out from units to act as instructors. Chief signal officers and commanding officers were given the authority to employ civilians in lieu of certain technical tradesmen. As in the case of officers, British warrant officers and OR were also given the choice of continuing to serve in India. In addition, the War Office was requested to find volunteers from other theatres who were ready to serve in India. Against the estimated number of 246  BOR that were expected to remain even after 1948, only 29 agreed to continue in India after 31 December, of which  eight signed up for only three months.



Partition and Restructuring of Units


Like the rest of the Indian Army, the Indian Signal Corps was also partitioned, with one third of the assets going to Pakistan and two thirds remaining in India. Due to the wide variation in the type, size and role of units in the Corps and the requirements of communications, homogeneity and class composition, this ratio could not always be maintained.  In many cases, units had to be restructured or reconstituted, to achieve the desired class composition and make them fit for the new role. The units allotted to India were as under:-

Static Units
GHQ Signal Regiment                                                New Delhi
Southern Command Signal Regiment                                    Poona
Eastern Command Signal Regiment                           Ranchi
Deccan Signal Regiment                                             Kamptee
Madras Signal Regiment                                             Madras
Bengal and Assam Signal Regiment                           Calcutta (Delhi)
(Northern India /DEP Command Signal Regiment)
North Burma District Signal Regiment                      Jubbulpore
(under disbandment)
1 Air Formation Signal Regiment (Modified)            Delhi              

Field Formation Signal Units
1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment                    Secunderabad (Kashmir)                                (JAK Divisional Signal Regiment)       
1 Armoured Brigade Signal Company                       Secunderabad (Jhansi)                       
2 Armoured Brigade Signal Company                       Ahmednagar (Meerut)           
            *43 Lorried Brigade Signal Company                        Ferozepore
            4 Divisional Signal Regiment                                     Jullundur
5 Infantry Brigade Signal Section                              Amritsar
7 Infantry Brigade Signal Section                              Kurla              
11 Infantry Brigade Signal Section                            Jullundur
5 Divisional Signal Regiment                                     Ranchi                        
            9 Infantry Brigade Signal Section                              Chittagong                 
            123 Infantry Brigade Signal Section                          Ramgarh                     
161 Infantry Brigade Signal Section                          Kojatoli                                  
2 Airborne Divisional Signal Regiment                      Quetta (Amritsar)                                14 Para Brigade Signal Section                         Quetta            
            77 Para Brigade Signal Section                                  Quetta            
            19 Indep Brigade Group Signal Company                 Lucknow (Agra)                                 80 Indep Brigade Group Signal Company                      Agra/Muttra (Kashmir)                       98 Indep Brigade Group Signal Company                        Avadi
Among static units, major changes were effected in the GHQ Signal Regiment, which was redesignated GHQ (Indian) Signal Regiment on 15 August 1947. Simultaneously, a new unit known as the GHQ (British) Signal Regiment was raised from the British complement of the existing GHQ Signal Regiment. This was done for a number of reasons, the most important being the nationalization of the signal regiment of Army HQ India. The British unit was intended to look after the communication needs of the Supreme Commander’s Headquarters until it existed, especially the ex-India wireless communications. This would ensure that there was no dislocation within GHQ Indian Signal Regiment when the Supreme Commander’s Headquarters was abolished. Each of the two signal units was to have its own commanding officer, with Lieutenant Colonel J.H.L. Crichton, M.B.E. being the commander of both, with the title Officer Commanding GHQ Signal Regiments.  Lieutenant Colonel S.N. Bhatia assumed command of the GHQ (India) Signal Regiment on 15 August 1947. However, due to shortage of British officers, Colonel Crichton was asked to assume command of GHQ (British) Signal Regiment in addition to being the overall commander of both. On 1 January 1948 GHQ (India) Signal Regiment was redesignated Army HQ Signal Regiment. The personnel of GHQ (British) Signal Regiment moved to Bombay and Karachi, preparatory to embarkation, where they provided communications for HQ British Troops in India & Pakistan, until it was abolished. 

            The Bengal and Assam Signal Regiment at Calcutta underwent a major change.  The regimental headquarters and No. 3 Company moved to Delhi to form Northern India Signal Regiment, which later became the Delhi and East Punjab Command Signal Regiment. No. 2 Company was allotted to Pakistan and moved to Dacca, where it became Eastern Pakistan Signal Company. No. 1 Company was allotted to Eastern Command Signal Regiment to replace No. 3 Company of the latter unit located at Lucknow, which became part of Northern India Signal Regiment.  Deccan District Signal Regiment was also amalgamated in the newly raised Delhi and East Punjab Command Signal Regiment, which was later to become Western Command Signal Regiment. To cover the raising of Delhi and East Punjab Command Signal Regiment, the North Burma District Signal Regiment and Delhi District Signal Section were disbanded.
            The allotment of field formation units was based primarily on class composition. Ironically, most of the units which had Muslims were in India, while the ones in Pakistan had larger number of Hindus. These had to be interchanged and or reconstructed based on the recommendations of the Armed Forces Reconstruction Committee. Wherever possible, complete sub-units i.e. signal sections were interchanged, provided similar types of signal sections were available. Inter-unit postings of personnel were carried out only as a last resort, if the change of complete sections was not feasible. One such interchange took place between 4 Divisional Signal Regiment at Jullundur under Lieutenant Colonel R.W. Atkinson and 7  Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment at Rawalpindi under  Lieutenant Colonel R.N. Batra. However, before the changeover could take place it had to be ensured that the complete unit was either Hindu or Muslim. In order to make sure that 4 Divisional Signal Regiment becomes completely Muslim, its 5 Brigade Signal Section (Sikh) was changed over with 9 Brigade Signal Section (Muslim) of 5 Divisional Signal Regiment at Ranchi.  After this changeover, 4 and 7 Divisional Signal Regiments were inter-changed and redesignated. 7 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel R.N. Batra moved from Rawalpindi to Jullundur, and became 4 Divisional Signal Regiment. The famous ‘eagle divisional signals’, veterans of El Alamein and Cassino, moved from Jullundur to Rawalpindi reincarnated as 7 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment of the Pakistan Army.

Lieutenant Colonel R.W. Atkinson recalls that the change over between the two units was beset with problems. Some of the moves ordered in order to rationalize the class compositions of both units could not be carried out, leading to delays. Another factor was the move of headquarters East Punjab Area to Jullundur, which meant additional communication commitments for the unit, which had left a large rear party at Poona before moving to Jullundur. Fortunately, the two unit commanders were able to solve the problem by staggering the moves, with the advance party of 7 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment, which was not so heavily committed at Rawalpindi,  moving to Jullundur earlier and relieving 4 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment. The changeover was carried out by a process if ‘infiltration’, with men moving in driblets so that there was no disruption in communications.

Lieutenant Colonel R.N. Batra had taken over command of 7 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment at Rawalpindi in July 1947 from Lieutenant Colonel J.H.L. Crichton. Shortly after wards, Major M.N. Batra, who was his cousin, joined the unit as second-in-Command. The day he joined, Raj Batra told him; "Mini, you have come as my 2IC, I am not going to show you any favours just because you happen to be a close relation of mine. In my office we will have a very professional relationship. After office hours it is a different matter." Shortly after their move to Jullundur, Raj Batra was promoted as colonel and posted to Army HQ as Deputy Director, Signals, handing over the unit to M.N. Batra, who was promoted as lieutenant colonel. (Many years later, in 1956, when he CSO Western Command, R.N. Batra again handed over charge to his cousin, M.N. Batra).  
               There were several BOR in the regiment at that time, and Raj Batra always referred to them as 'my BORs'. Some of them still recall the affection with which he treated them and the respect and regard they all had for their first Indian CO. After Independence, all units were asked to send the BOR to Delhi, but Batra was very reluctant to part with them. He kept giving reasons, such as erection of an aerial park, which was required for the Kashmir operations, to delay their move. Finally when he realised that he could not hold on to them any longer, he agreed to let them go. The day before they left, he came to their mess, and told them that he had five hundred rupees in the regimental funds, which he did not know what to do with. He had decided to spend it on a farewell dinner for the BOR, and he would be happy to preside, if they wanted him to. Naturally, the BOR were overjoyed, and it was an emotional evening, with old comrades sitting down together for the last time. When RQMS Booth, the senior BOR present, proposed a toast to 'Lieutenant Colonel Batra and his BORs ', there were many wet eyes.1

            2 Airborne Divisional Signal Regiment located at Quetta was ordered to move to Lahore to facilitate the changeover of 4 and 7 Divisional Signal Regiments. This unit had a mixed class composition. Of the three parachute brigades, two were allotted to India, while one was allotted to Pakistan. Since 50 Parachute Brigade Signal Section (non-Muslim) was allotted to Pakistan, and 77 Parachute Brigade Signal Section (Muslim) to India, both sections interchanged designations.

There were eight frontier brigade signal sections out of which six (Peshawar, Kohat, Razmak, Bannu, Wana and Gardai) had non-Muslims and two (Thal and Zhob) had Muslims. Since all were to remain in Pakistan, personnel of the non-Muslim sections were interchanged with Muslim brigade signal sections or companies. The personnel of two frontier brigade signal sections were interchanged with those of 1 and 2 Armoured Brigade Signal Companies, while a third was interchanged with 98 Brigade Signal Company. The personnel of the remaining three frontier brigade signal sections were changed over gradually with the available Muslims in
1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment and 2 Airborne Divisional Signal Regiment.

Of the two air formation signal regiments that were in undivided India, one each was allotted to both dominions. However, the units were reconstructed to form smaller units, which could form the nucleus of a full- fledged unit in case of hostilities. The composition of both regiments was a company headquarters (modified); one construction section; one technical maintenance section; one wing section and one terminal equipment section. The modified 1 Air Formation Signal Regiment remained in Delhi, while the modified 5 Air Formation Signal Regiment moved from Bangalore to Peshawar.
            After the war, air support signal regiments had already been disbanded. However, some of the contact cars, control stations and air field detachments were still available. These were divided between both dominions, so that each could form one air support signal company.
Training Establishments

During World War II, training of ISC personnel was carried out at three centres – Jubbulpore (later Jabalpur), Bangalore and Sialkot. In addition, the Army Signal School at Poona trained regimental signallers, while the ISC School at Mhow trained officers and NCOs. After the end of the war, the training centre at Sialkot was closed down. As a result, Pakistan did not have any training establishment within its territory. To tide over the problem, it was decided to close the training centre at Bangalore and move its assets to Pakistan. Some assets from the other establishments at Mhow, Jabalpur and Poona were also transferred to help Pakistan set up two institutions, the Signal Corps School at Rawalpindi and the Signal Training Centre at Murree Hills.

Unfortunately, No 2 ISC Centre at Bangalore trained only Madrassi recruits from the south while recruits from the north, including Punjabi Mussalmans, were trained at No 1 ISC Centre Jubbulpore, which also trained all mechanics. As a result, almost all trainees who were to be transferred to Pakistan were at Jubbulpore. It therefore became necessary to carry out the move from Bangalore in stages. In the first phase, the centre at Bangalore was closed and all recruits undergoing training there were shifted to Jubbulpore.  About 400 tons of stores that were to be transferred to Pakistan were also moved to Jubbulpore, and handed over to a cell of the Pakistan Signal Corps that was formed at that location.  In addition about 1500 personnel of No 2 ISC Centre moved from Bangalore to Jubbulpore. The personnel of the Boys Regiment numbering 486 were sent from Bangalore to Mhow. Finally, approximately 2500 personnel from Jubbulpore and 150 from Bangalore along with heavy stores and equipment moved to Murree Hills after trains were made available, well after Independence.

The ISC School at Mhow and the Army Signal School at Poona also contributed some personnel and equipment which was sent to the Pakistan Signal School after it was established. Altogether 643 personnel from Mhow and 107 from Poona moved to Rawalpindi. The moves were expected to be completed by January 1948 but in view of the worsening communal situation it was decided that the personnel to be transferred to Pakistan should move earlier without waiting for the courses in progress to be completed.  The Army Signal School completed its division on 31 October 1947. The establishments at Jubbulpore were able to complete the process of division on 21 November 1947. A year later, the Indian Signal School, Mhow was redesignated School of Signals, while the Indian Signal Corps Centre became the Signal Training Centre (STC). The title of the Corps was also changed, from Indian Signal Corps (ISC) to Corps of Indian Signals (IND SIGS).


The Punjab Boundary Force
In June 1947 the Punjab Boundary Commission had been constituted to demarcate the boundaries of the two parts of the Punjab that were to form part of India and Pakistan. Even before the award had been announced, incidents of violence had begun. It became clear that the award of the Boundary Commission would have to be implemented by force. In July 1947 the Partition Council set up a Special Military Command in the Punjab to check disturbances, maintain law and order and enforce the award of the Boundary Commission, which was yet to be announced. This was the Punjab Boundary Force.  The members of the Commission could not agree on the boundary, even as the deadline of 15 August drew near. Ultimately, the Chairman, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, had to give an award on his own, under the special powers that had been vested in him for this purpose. As expected, the award satisfied neither the Sikhs and Hindus of West Punjab nor the Muslims of East Punjab, leading to an escalation in the violence and large scale migration of people from both sides, which had not been anticipated by anyone.

The Punjab Boundary Force was a combined military force composed of both Indian and Pakistani troops. The commander of the Force was Major General T.W. Rees, General Officer Commanding 4 Indian Division, located at Jullundur, which formed the nucleus of the Force.  The Force comprised five brigades – 114 Infantry Brigade (Lahore); 14 Para Brigade (Lahore); 5 Infantry Brigade (Amritsar); 11 Infantry Brigade (Jullundur) and 43 Lorried Brigade (Ferozepore). It had about 50,000 personnel, with a large number of British officers.  The staff for the Force HQ came from HQ 4 Indian Division and HQ Lahore Area. The Force Commander was placed directly under the Supreme Commander, through the Joint Defence Council. Brigadier D.S. Brar, O.B.E. and Brigadier Ayub Khan were appointed advisers to the Force Commander, from India and Pakistan respectively. Both dominions agreed that the Force would continue to operate as a combined force for maintaining law and order in central Punjab even after the declaration of Independence.  The Force HQ was initially at Jullundur, but moved to Lahore soon after it was set up.

Signal communications were the responsibility of 4 Indian Divisional Signal Regiment, with the assistance of 2 Company Northern Command Signal Regiment, which was responsible for the normal static communications of Lahore Area. The commanding officer of 4 Divisional Signal Regiment was Lieutenant Colonel R.W. Atkinson, while Major Freeman was commanding 2 Company Northern Command Signals. Though the Punjab Boundary Force was based on an infantry division, the communication responsibility of 4 Indian Divisional Signal Regiment was akin to that of a corps signal regiment.  Speech and teleprinter circuits had to be provided from Lahore to Delhi, Rawalpindi and Karachi, in addition to speech circuits to major cities in the Punjab. This was backed up with wireless links to a large number of stations. The communications were similar to those provided during war, and this was, in effect, the last major commitment of the Indian Signal Corps before it ceased to exist after Independence.

An interesting feature of the Boundary Force communications was the special train that was used by the Force Commander, Major General Russel for journeys between Delhi and Amritsar. The idea of the train was perhaps borrowed by General Russel from the one used by Hitler during World War II. It was equipped with wireless sets and a telephone exchange manned by Signals. At each major stop the exchange was connected to the local Army exchange manned by the local signal unit. A mobile column of three vehicles - one 15 cwt and two 5 tonners – ran almost parallel and a little ahead of the train during its journey. The equipment was not of the best and the arrangement ad hoc but it worked.

As soon as the Boundary Commission announced its award, mayhem broke out in the Punjab, accompanied by arson and murder on an unprecedented scale. The civil administration collapsed and it became clear that the Punjab Boundary Force would not be able to bring the situation under control, considering the large area and the numbers involved. The state of affairs worsened with both sides accusing the Punjab Boundary Force of acting in a partial manner. It was finally decided that India and Pakistan would be responsible for maintaining law in their own areas and the Punjab Boundary Force was disbanded on 31 August 1947.  The responsibility of maintaining law and order in the disturbed areas was taken over by two newly created areas. As a result, 4 Indian Division was designated East Punjab Independent Area and became responsible for law and order in East Punjab, while Lahore Area was made responsible for West Punjab. Major General KS Thimayya, D.S.O., took over command of forces in East Punjab from Major General T.W. Rees. The headquarters of East Punjab Area moved back to Amritsar.

The Military Evacuation Organisation

            After the disbandment of the Punjab Boundary Force, both India and Pakistan were saddled with the problem of refugees, whose numbers were swelling by the day, with a corresponding increase in incidents of violence. Since civil administration including the police in the Punjab had virtually ceased to exist, reliance had perforce to be placed on the Army, which was itself facing a crisis consequent to being split.  The Military Evacuation Organization (India) or MEO (I) was raised 1 September 1947, with Major General Sirdar B.S. Chimni designated as the commander, with later Brigadier H.M. Mohite as his deputy.  Before the communal clashes broke out in August, it had been estimated that there were about 53 lakh Muslims in East Punjab, while the non-Muslim population in West Punjab was 38 lakhs, of which 15 lakhs were Sikhs and 23 lakhs Hindus. By the end of August, about 12 lakh non-Muslims had already left West Pakistan for India, and the MEO (I) was now tasked to evacuate the remainder. The East Punjab Area (4 Infantry Division) was tasked with providing the infrastructure for the organisation in India, with the West Punjab Area carrying out the task for Pakistan. The Government of India established a Refugee and Rehabilitation Ministry for the evacuation of non-Muslim from Pakistan. However, it did not control the MEO (I), which reported to the C-in-C of the Indian Army. The MEO (I) functioned more or less independently, concerning itself only with the evacuation of refugees, with the Ministry looking after their rehabilitation and 4 Infantry Division being responsible for restoration of law and order.

            The major problem faced by the MEO (I) during the first few days was shortage of staff and troops to protect the convoys and temporary camps established during the move of the columns of refugees, numbering about 50,000 every day. To facilitate the evacuation, the refugees within a radius of 150 miles of the border were moved on foot or in vehicles, while those from longer distances were moved by rail. While the main headquarters remained at Amritsar, a tactical headquarters was established at Lahore, under Brigadier Mohite. Towards the end of September, Major General Brar was transferred and Brigadier Mohite was appointed Commander. He decided stay on in Lahore, which became the main headquarters of the MEO (I). The second-in-command, Colonel Pritam Singh Chowdhry was left to run the rear headquarters at Amritsar. Being located at Lahore, Brigadier Mohite could interact closely with the Pakistani authorities.  Brigadier F.H. Stevens, commander of the Military Evacuation Organization (Pakistan) or MEO (P) was located at Lahore, as were Major General B.W. Key, Commander Lahore Area and his deputy, Brigadier Iftikhar Khan.

Considering the scale of the evacuation and the small number of troops at its disposal, the task allotted to the MEO (I) was extremely difficult, if not impossible. Each refugee column had about between 20,000 to 30,000 people, moving in packed formation with three bullock carts abreast packed with household effects, with children and older people sitting on top. On both sides of the columns there was a mass of humanity driving cattle, sheep, donkeys and camels, or walking, weighed down by personal belongings. The length of each column was usually between 17 to 25 miles, with several hours elapsing between the times its head and tail passed a point. Convoys were escorted by troops on foot and in Jeeps, until they reached camps where they halted for the night for food and rest. The camps also had to be protected by picquets and patrols. Protecting the column from predatory attacks by marauders from neighbouring villages was not an easy task, and troops on protection duties were often themselves attacked, many losing their lives in the process.

Protecting the refugees in its own territory was the responsibility of the respective country, but the protection afforded by Pakistan was inadequate and the camps as well as convoys were often attacked by the hostile population. The conditions in some of the camps were appalling, and the refugees had to contend with shortages of water, food and shelter, apart from kidnapping of young girls.  While the camps afforded some measure of security, it was while moving from the camps to the border that the refugees were most vulnerable and were often attacked by mobs, sometimes with the connivance of the Police. As a result, the non-Muslim refugees lost faith in the Pakistan Police and refused to move out of the concentration camps set up in Pakistan unless escorted by Indian troops. It was agreed between the MEOs of both countries that combined military escorts would be used, with Indian troops providing close protection and Pakistani troops being responsible for area protection. The combined escort would shepherd the refugee columns between the concentration camps and the border, from where the East Punjab Area would take over. To facilitate the formation of the combined escorts, additional Indian troops were provided to the MEO (I). These were 2 Mahratta (less one company); 2 Bihar (less one company); 2 Rajput (less two companies); 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles (less rear party of 300 personnel); and 1/8 Gurkha Rifles. 2

For movement by road, civil general transport companies were formed, to supplement the resources of the military general transport companies. The transport columns were also attacked and had to be escorted by troops. In many cases, the vehicles had to be left behind when they broke down, due to lack of repair facilities.  The convoys were provided with wireless communications, whenever possible. For evacuating refugees from distant locations, special trains were run by 108 Army Railway Operating Company, which was made responsible to operate all trains between India and Pakistan. In addition, they had to man the block stations near the border, which had been abandoned by the civilian railway staff. Each country was made responsible to run its own trains to carry the refugees coming in from the other side. The situation was complicated by the fact that most of the locomotives, rakes and workshops were in Pakistan. As a result, India faced great difficulty in arranging enough trains, and it was finally decided to pool the resources for through trains, with 20 rakes coming from India and 12 from Pakistan.

Apart from close protection of the train by the escort accompanying the train, the area through which the trains were run had to be protected by mobile patrols which were provided by the respective Area Commander. A pilot train usually moved ahead of the refugee train to ensure that the track was not damaged or sabotaged. Each train escort had a wireless set which functioned as the control station, with the pilot train and mobile patrols being out stations. These sets were opened half an hour before the departure of the train, and thereafter closed on orders of the control station. The wireless communications were supplemented by light signals, using Verey lights. Usually, air cover was also provided for the trains, in the form of reconnaissance aircraft that flew at first light, followed by a sortie every three hours and over the trains as required. Air-to-ground communications were provided on wireless, light signals, flags and dive signals by the aircraft. 

By the end of November 1947 the mass evacuation of non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan had been almost completed, with nearly 23 lakh non-Muslims being evacuated. It was estimated that about a lakh non-Muslims were still left in camps, isolated pockets and out of the way places. The task of MEO (I) being virtually over, its command was downgraded and Colonel Apji Randhir Singh took over as the Commander on 7 December 1947. From escorting large columns of refugees, the task of the MEO (I) changed to clearing pockets, locating and rescuing abducted women and converted persons, and evacuation of scheduled caste refugees. The evacuation of abducted women was not an easy task, since a large number of them had been converted, with some being pregnant. A few of them declined to go back because they felt they would not be accepted by their families and would face social ostracism. It was agreed between both dominions that there would be no forced evacuation and the wishes of the women would be respected. Many areas in Pakistan were closed to entry of Indian troops, especially in the North West Frontier, where it was feared that evacuation of women would lead to bloodshed, since the tribesmen considered these women as lawful booty. .. A large number of civil officers and social workers were roped in to assist the MEO in this delicate task and several thousand women were recovered. However, there were many whose whereabouts could not be ascertained. By August 1948 when the MEO was finally closed down, it was estimated that about 20,000 abducted women were still in Pakistan.

Signal Communications for MEO (India)

Though the Military Evacuation Organization was officially raised in September 1947, duties connected with evacuation had been taken up much earlier on an ad hoc basis, with a demand for communications being a logical consequence. The Indian Signal Corps was at that time severely handicapped by shortage of trained manpower, due to the departure of British and Muslim personnel. The process of reconstitution and bifurcation of units having commenced, it was not possible to provide communications for the evacuation on a planned basis. To meet the immediate demand for communications, a detachment was provided from 4 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment at Lahore. This was augmented by a detachment of 1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment under Major Jaswant Singh which arrived at Amritsar from Secunderabad on 10 September 1947. The other officers in the detachment were Captain M.L. D’Souza and Lieutenants M.L. Sahni and Chanan Singh. In October 1947 a detachment of 2 (Air Borne) Divisional Signal Regiment, which had recently arrived in India from Pakistan, denuded of all its equipment, joined this organisation. A composite ad hoc signal unit was formed out of these three detachments, reinforced with additional equipment and vehicles released directly from Army Headquarters. 3

Some idea of the difficulties faced by Signals can be determined from the story of 2 (Air Borne) Divisional Signal Regiment. The unit moved from Quetta to Lahore in October 1947 to help in the reconstitution of 4 & 7 Divisional Signal Regiments. (The latter unit, at Rawalpindi, under Lieutenant Colonel R.N. Batra, interchanged places as well as designations with the former, under Lieutenant Colonel R.W. Atkinson, then at Jullundur).  In the first week of November 1947, 2 (Air Borne) Divisional Signal Regiment was ordered from Lahore to Amritsar, where it was to take over the responsibilities of MEO Signals from 1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment, which was to be prepared for another role i.e. communications for JAK Force.  East Punjab Area Signals was to be in operational control of the changeover. Since it was not desirable to employ Sikhs in West Punjab, it was decided to make 2 Airborne Divisional Signal Regiment completely non-Sikh by cross posting between East Punjab Area Signals, 1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment and 2 Airborne Divisional Signal Regiment. On 15 December 1947 MEO communication commitments were taken over by 123 Brigade Signal Company and the rest of 2 Airborne Divisional  Signal Regiment moved to Dehradun. In January 1948 the unit was asked to move to Pathankot, to take over communications of JAK Force from 1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment, which was asked to join its parent formation at Jhansi.

Some interesting details have been given by Lieutenant Colonel R.N. Sen, CO 2 Airborne Divisional Signal Regiment:-

            On 10 Oct 47 Major (OC Designate) RN Sen was posted to 2 AB Div Sig Regt. On reporting to the OC unit Lt Col D Jones it was found that the unit was on the move and was leaving Quetta on 10 Oct 47. Lt Col D Jones evaded handing over the unit and gave instructions to Major RN Sen to come to Dehradun with Rear HQ 2 AB Div.

            Major Anand Mehra was handed over the unit by the time and the unit moved to Lahore. Major RK Vats was commander of det Sigs (nearly a coy strength) and was left in Lahore to provide comns as MEO Sigs, relieving 1 Armd Div Sigs who were employed originally as MEO Signals under Major Jaswant Singh.

            Major Anand Mehra as Offg OC 2 AB Sigs, Major RK Vats as OC Det MEO (2AB) at Lahore and Capt Hardev Singh Kler as Adjt did a magnificent job in rescuing whoever they could and also providing signal comn for the MEO. Dets of the unit were situated as far as Dera Gazi Khan, Montgomery and Sialkot. The unit did very good work in rescuing families of OR. Special mention must be made of Sigmn Kahan Chand for his devotion to duty and for running of the DRLS service from Lahore to Amritsar.

            On 17 Nov 47 I joined my unit at Amritsar and took over from Major Anand Mehra. Major Raj Kumar Vats was still in Lahore. The unit was accommodated in a Girls College in Amritsar.

            77 Para Bde Sig Sec, Capt CM Edwards, OC unit, was at Gurdaspore. Brig Usman was the Bde Comdr. 77 Para Bde Sig Sec was pre-partition 14 Bde Sig Sec (Dogras). Jem Gandrav Singh was the sec JCO. The second officer was Lt Jasbir Nanda. 50 Para Bde Sig Sec was being commanded by Capt C U K Nair. The other offr was Lt Ram Singh. 50 Para Bde Sig Sec was now under comd of 1 Armd Div Sig Regt. It had moved into Jammu area.

            My first job was to get the unit together and to improve the morale of all the men. On checking I found that the so called 400 tons of stores was nothing but mud. Immediately I moved the unit from the Girl’s College to a camp in Amritsar.  Jem Gurnam Singh assisted me admirably.

            The unit was ordered on closing of MEO to move to Dehradun and be disbanded. A point to note, it was 2 AB Div Sig Regt and not other units, as has appeared in the Corps Diary from time to time who acted as MEO Sigs after 1 Armd Div Sig Regt. 4

            Wireless was the mainstay of communications for the MEO. A radio telephony (RT) net using No.19 or 62 sets linked the main headquarters of MEO (I) at Lahore with various ‘areas’ such as Shekhupura, Mianwali, Montgomery, Lyallpur, Sialkot, Gujranwala and Atari, many of which were mobile.  The rear headquarters of the MEO (I) at Amritsar had a continuous wave (CW) link with the main headquarters, for clearance of message traffic. Both the main and rear headquarters were outstations on RT and CW links based on No. 399 sets whose control station was at East Punjab Area at Jullundur, which in turn was linked to Delhi and East Punjab Command at Delhi, using No. 53 sets. In addition to the above, wireless sets had to be given to the escorts, patrols and picquets that accompanied the road, rail and foot columns. Due to their large number and the wide area over which they were spread, centralized control at divisional or even brigade level was out of the question. In most cases, the responsibility was delegated to battalions and companies, with No. 48 sets being used extensively.

The existing landline communications could not be fully utilized because the staff had run away or the lines damaged by miscreants. The few operators who manned their posts were not acquainted with military procedures, leading to delays. The ideal solution would have been for the Army to take over the civil communication network, but this was impractical due to paucity of manpower. In the event, line communications were used mainly for lateral and rearward communication between headquarters of MEO (I) and other formations. The MEO (I) exchange at Lahore had trunk lines to Amritsar, Jullundur and Ferozepore, with local tie lines to MEO (P) and Lahore Area. Important officials such as the Deputy Commissioner, Chief Liaison Officer and Officer on Special Duty, Mr. K.L. Punjabi, were subscribers on the MEO (I) exchange. The line between Delhi and Amritsar in the initial stages passed through Lahore, where it was strapped through. This proved to be unsatisfactory, because the test point at Lahore was manned by Pakistani personnel who often disconnected it. Later, the line was split at Amritsar and both ends terminated on the Amritsar exchange.

Despatch riders were extensively employed, using light or heavy vehicles. Motor cycles were not used since they were considered unsafe. A truck was preferred because it could carry adequate number of troops as escort. A regular SDS run was organized between Lahore and Amritsar catering to units located between the two places. Due to paucity of Signals vehicles, the transport was provided by the general purposes transport company, while escorts were from infantry battalions.  The resources of 659 Air OP Squadron proved invaluable, since pilots were able to give timely information about villages being set on fire, convoys and trains stalled due to broken bridges or accidents and collection of mobs. In some cases, the presence of the aircraft acted as a deterrent to hostile elements, leading to the mobs dispersing even before troops could be summoned to the trouble spots.

Indian Signals Relief Centre

An Indian Signals Relief Centre was established at Amritsar on 15 October 1947, under the control of 4 Divisional Signal Regiment for the purpose of sifting information regarding welfare of families of Indian Signals personnel from relief camps and incoming convoys from Pakistan. The Centre also made arrangements in collaboration with the Military Evacuation Organization for the evacuation of families of Indian Signals personnel from West Punjab. The officer commanding the Centre was Captain Brij Lal, who was provided with a nucleus staff to assist him.

            Though the Centre had been established primarily for families of Signals personnel, it readily assisted families of other non-Signals personnel also. While the majority of the families came from West Punjab, there were some from the disturbed areas of Jammu and Kashmir. In many cases, families from East Punjab also came to the Centre. By the end of January 1948 when it closed down, the Centre had facilitated the evacuation of 1094 family members, of which 222 were related to personnel other than Signals. It was without doubt a great relief to the officers and men, especially those whose families had been stranded in Pakistan and who were serving in areas far removed from Punjab. The good work done by the Indian Signals Relief Centre was appreciated by everyone and had an impact on the morale of Signals personnel.

            A sum of Rs 2000/- had initially been allotted from the Corps funds for providing relief to distressed families. This was obviously inadequate and led to the establishment of the Signals Evacuees Relief Fund to which units and individuals were asked to contribute. By end of November 1947, Rs. 8123/- had been received, with a further Rs. 2735/- being collected in the following two months. The Indian Signals Relief Centre was closed on 30 January 1948. On behalf of all ranks of the Corps, a letter of thanks and congratulations was sent from the office of the SO-in-C to the officer commanding for the extremely valuable work done of by the Centre.


Political Developments
Along with the decision to grant independence to India and partition the country, the British Government was faced with the problem of the Indian States. During the British Raj, Britain enjoyed the status of the paramount power in the sub continent. After 15 August 1947, paramountcy would lapse and the Indian States were given the choice to accede to either India or Pakistan. The rulers of almost all states signed the instruments of accession before the deadline of 14 August 1947, with the exception of Kashmir, Hyderabad and three small states in Kathiawar – Junagadh, Mangrol and Manavdar. Junagadh’s Muslim ruler, Nawab Sir Mahabatkhan Rasulkhanji was an eccentric, whose chief preoccupation was dogs, of which he owned hundreds. The area of Junagadh was 3,337 square miles and it had a population of 6,70,719 of whom 80 percent were Hindus. Manavdar, a tiny state with an area of about 100 square miles and with a predominantly Hindu population, was surrounded on three sides by Junagadh territory. Like Junagadh, it had a Muslim ruler, known as the Khan. Mangrol was another tiny state between Porbander and Junagadh, with a Hindu majority, ruled by the Sheikh. Mangrol was an independent state, though Junagadh regarded it as a vassal and exercised civil and criminal jurisdiction over 21 of its villages.5

            The Nawab of Junagadh kept delaying the decision to join India or Pakistan until 15 August 1947, when he announced that he was acceding to Pakistan. This caused a violent reaction among the people of the state as well as the other rulers of Kathiawar, who urged on the Nawab to reconsider his decision. On her part, India advised the ruler to consult his people through a referendum, and decide what was in their best interest. However, the Nawab, refused to change his stand. It was later learned that he had been in correspondence with Jinnah and was acting on his advice. The Khan of Manavdar also declared that he had decided to join Pakistan. The Sheikh of Mangrol indicated that he was willing to accede to India, provided his independence vis-à-vis Junagadh was recognised. Once this assurance was given, he signed the Instrument of Accession. However, he later retracted under pressure from the Nawab of Junagadh, who also sent troops into Babariawad, a group of 51 villages held by Mulgirasias (original landholders), who had already acceded to India. After the Nawab refused to heed warnings and withdraw his troops, the Government of India decided to act, and asked the C-in-C to prepare an appreciation to occupy Babariawad, including preparations to assist Mangrol. On 24 September 1947 the Government of India decided that a brigade of the Indian Army should be deployed in Kathiawar for the protection of states that had decided to accede to India.  On 25 September Junagadh informed India that since Babariawad and Mangrol were integral parts of Junagadh, their accession to India was invalid, and troops would not be withdrawn from Babariawad. At a high level meeting on 27 September, Sardar Patel, the States Minister, called for strong action. Lord Mountbatten felt that India should refer the matter to the United Nations Organisation, but this was strongly opposed by Patel, as well as Prime Minister Nehru. Mountbatten then suggested that Nehru make one more attempt to resolve the impasse with his counterpart in Pakistan.

            Meanwhile, other developments were taking place in Kathiawar. In accordance with the Cabinet’s decision, a force known as the Kathiawar Defence Force under the command of Brigadier Gurdial Singh had been created. The rulers of Nawanagar, Bhavnagar and Porbander had agreed to contribute troops from their State Forces to the KDF. The Kathiawar Congress leaders had set up a provisional government (Arzi Hukumat) of Junagadh comprising six members with Samaldas Gandhi as president. After announcing the formation of the provisional government at a massive rally in Bombay on 25 September, they made a triumphal journey to Rajkot where they set up their headquarters. At a meeting of the Joint Defence Council between India and Pakistan held on 1 October, Nehru suggested to Liaqat Ali Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan that Junagadh troops should be withdrawn from Babariawad. Just then a telegram was received that Junagadh troops had occupied Mangrol as well. Liaqat Ali Khan was adamant in reiterating the right of Pakistan to accept the accession of Junagadh. Finally, on 21 October, the Government of India decided that Babariawad and Mangrol should be occupied. On 22 October, a small police force was sent to Manavdar after reports that the ruler was arresting local leaders and harassing the people. On 1 November the administration of Babariawad and Mangrol was taken over by the Government of India.

          Conditions in Junagadh had deteriorated and on 28 October the Nawab fled to Pakistan with the entire cash balance of the State and all the shares and securities in the treasury. On 2 November the town was taken over by the Arzi Hukumat. On 7 November, the Junagadh State Council requested Samaldas Gandhi to take over the reins of the government and restore law and order in the State. Next day, the Dewan of Junagadh, Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, formally requested the Government of India to take over the administration. On 9 November the administration of Junagadh was handed over to N.M. Buch, the Regional Commissioner, Western India and Gujarat, by Captain Harvey Jones, senior member of the Junagadh State Council.6

The Kathiawar Defence Force

            The Kathiawar Defence Force (KDF) came into being towards the end of September 1947. It was based on 7 Infantry Brigade which was then located at Kurla in Bombay. The brigade commander, Brigadier Gurdial Singh, was appointed Commander KDF. Apart from three infantry battalions (14 Rajput, 2 Sikh and 2 Sikh Light Infantry), the force had a squadron each from Skinners Horse and Scinde Horse; three State Force battalions (Baroda, Bhavnagar and Nawanagar); a battery of field artillery; a field company of  engineers; and its integral signal company. Air support was to be provided by No. 8 Squadron of the Indian Air Force. Two companies of 1 Mahrattas were also placed under command. These were to form two columns, named JOG and NAM, for special tasks. A troop of Skinners Horse was part of NAM Column, while a troop of the Central India Horse was given to JOG Column.

            The NAM and JOG columns were the first to be deployed. They were moved from Bombay by the sea route, landing at Veraval and Porbander by 6 October. The rest of the force moved by train and reached Rajkot by 16 October. Intelligence regarding the situation in Junagadh was sketchy and tended to be highly exaggerated. It had been reported that Pakistan had promised military assistance to Junagadh and the Indian troops naturally expected stiff resistance. Reports were regularly received through police, members of the volunteer force and the fleeing Hindu population, of a number of landing grounds being prepared and all ports being got ready to receive Pakistani troops. Reports regarding the Junagadh Forces were also exaggerated, as became clear after Indian troops entered the State. 

The Muslim state territories were effectively “fenced in” from 18 October onwards.  From then on spasmodic movement forward and occupation started. By 1 November 1947, Manavdar, Mangrol and Babariawad had been occupied. After the departure of the Nawab from Junagadh on 28 October, the volunteer force had launched a liberation campaign and occupied a number of small border villages. On 2 November the volunteer force occupied Nawagadh and then proceeded to occupy Kutyana on 6 November.  These operations, supported indirectly by the KDF, were closely monitored by the Government of India. Sardar Vallabhbahi Patel was in constant touch with Brigadier Gurdial Singh, the Force Commander, who was getting his orders directly from Delhi on Army wireless links. The entry of the KDF in Junagadh on 9 November was a tame affair. Captain Harvey Jones, a senior member of the Junagadh State Council, personally escorted Brigadier Gurdial Singh and Mr. N.M. Buch, the Regional Commissioner into the town, ahead of the military convoy. There was no fighting or casualties. At 1800 hours the administration of Junagadh State was handed over to Mr. Buch. Next morning, the Junagadh State Forces were disarmed.  They comprised a few hundred thoroughly demoralized third rate infantry, armed with nothing more than rusted lances and swords. There were only two guns capable of firing and these two could not be moved.
KDF Signals

            Communication support for the KDF was the responsibility of  KDF Signal Company, which was an ad hoc signal company based on 7 Infantry Brigade Signal Section under the command of Captain D. Asirvadam. The second officer, Lieutenant Gurcharan Singh joined the company only around the middle of October. Since the company did not have a JCO, the company commander had no one to assist him in the initial stages of the operation. Towards the end of October, Captain Asirvadam was relieved by Captain Ajit Singh. Although 7 Infantry Brigade Signal Section was one of the oldest of the signal units in the Indian Army, it underwent a complete change in personnel immediately before it was committed to Exercise ‘Peace’, as the Junagadh operations were named. This changeover of personnel was necessitated by the fact that it was a completely Punjabi Mussalman section and all the OR had to be dispatched to Pakistan after partition. The changeover was scheduled to take place during November/December 1947, but in view of the political situation in the Punjab the move was advanced to the first week of October. To replace them non-Muslim OR had to be posted from various units at very short notice.

By 5 October 1947 all Muslim OR had left the unit.  By then only a sprinkling of Indian OR had arrived.  On 8 October the unit had to send out three wireless detachments, one for the airfield at Khamballa and the other two with the JOG and NAM columns.  These three wireless detachments had to be air lifted.  The newly arrived men, some only a few hours old in the unit, were hurriedly briefed and dispatched. The control station of this net was also flown out to Rajkot on 9 October. The personnel for this detachment, just arrived from three different units, were driven from the railway station directly to the airfield where the equipment had been brought earlier; there was no time for them to go to the unit lines even to dump their kit.  Only a few minutes’ briefing was possible at the airfield and operators barely had time to check up the equipment and documents.

            During the next three days there was hectic activity in the unit in Bombay.  Men were still coming in; the stores and equipment, which could not be packed earlier due to checking for handing/taking over between the Muslim OR who were leaving and the non-Muslim OR who were relieving them had to be packed, some for air lifting and the rest to go by train. The unit, together with the brigade headquarters, was to move by special train to Rajkot.  Appointments of NCOs in charge of various stores were made as the NCOs arrived in the unit and they had hardly any time to check the items properly.  However, stores and vehicles were loaded on a special train which left Bombay on 14 October, arriving in Rajkot on 16 October.

The unit was required to establish three wireless links - a rear link to Delhi; a forward operational control link and an administrative link.  The rear link was based on a SCR 399 station that had been issued on loan from Southern Command Signal Regiment.  On 16 October, this was the only link which was working with a measure of reliability.  The forward operational control net based on 76 sets had the control at Rajkot and four out stations, two with the infantry columns and two with State force units.  This link functioned erratically and was not reliable. The administrative net based on WS 76/R109 had the control at Rajkot with outstations at Kamballa airfield and Santa Cruz airport at Bombay. The performance of the administrative link was disappointing. One reason for the unsatisfactory state of wireless communications was that the operators were new to the equipment and to each other, not having had the time to settle down. The company commander had not had a chance to get the operators together, to brief them in one body and to give them an opportunity to know and acquaint themselves with each other.  This important factor in establishing and ensuring good communications had not been fulfilled due to unavoidable circumstances.

            By 18 October the communications had stabilised. This was fortuitous because the volume of traffic suddenly increased. From 18 October onwards there was a marked increase in messages exchanged between the Force Commander, Brigadier Gurdial Singh and Sardar Patel, who began to take a personal interest in the activities of the Kathiawar Defence Force. Every message was Operational Immediate and Top Secret and none less than 500 groups. There was an endless stream of messages in both directions and operators were hard put to cope with the inundating traffic.  Neither the Force Commander nor the Home Minister would brook any delay in clearance of messages which they originated or the replies. Wireless operators could not get more than 3 to 4 hours sleep per day; the exchange operators just about kept their heads up; the signal centre staff had to depend upon the proverbial “Forty winks” to ward off exhaustion; and, worst of all, the cipher operators knew no rest whatever. There were just two cipher operators who handled a peak load of 10,000 groups a day, all in book cipher.

Apart from the delays caused by the sheer volume of traffic, communications were not up to the mark. At one stage, The Force Commander, in a communication to Sardar Patel, after giving his appreciation of the relative strengths reported “….As far as signals are concerned I am most unhappy. Wireless sets are always faulty, batteries never charged, lines are usually down; atmosphere invariably bad.  In short, always, there was more than one reason for Signals Communications not to be through”.

Such strong indictment from the Force Commander was found to have its after effects. Army HQ ordered CSO Southern Command to fly to Rajkot to carry out a personal appraisal of the situation.  Brigadier R.H. Copeland visited Rajkot, accompanied by Major V.D. Deshpande from the Directorate of Signals. Soon afterwards, additional personnel and equipment began arriving in Rajkot from all over India. By the beginning of November the holdings of the unit in both personnel and equipment had almost doubled. There was also a change in command, Captain Asirvadam being replaced by Captain Ajit Singh.

The movement from Rajkot to Junagadh on 9 November 1947 was carried out as an administrative move, though plans existed for operational deployment if necessary.  Besides wireless communication within the convoy, the only communication provided was a one-to-one link between the convoy and Rajkot.  This net got through whenever the convoy halted for any length of period.  Bombay could not be contacted throughout the move and attempts were successful only after 10 PM when Force HQ had comfortably settled down in the Nawab’s palace. Communications with NAM and JOG columns were through the naval net.  Both columns had communications back to their respective ports, as luckily both included a troop of tanks. The naval wireless net linking Porbander, Veraval, Bombay, Force HQ and Naval HQ in Delhi worked very efficiently and was often made use of for communications with Delhi, the columns at Porbander and Veraval. After arrival at Junagadh the civil telephone circuit to Rajkot was brought into use.  Other lines of the department of Posts and Telegraphs were also available and this eased the situation for Signals.



            One of the important operations undertaken by the Indian Army after independence was against Hyderabad, which was codenamed Operation ‘Polo’. Like the operations in Jammu and Kashmir, the Hyderabad operations were conducted by the Indian Army. However, the Government of India decided to call it a ‘Police Action’ since it was not directed at a foreign country. The crucial difference was that Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India and the operations were launched to defend the State from external aggression. In the case of Hyderabad, the ruler did not accede to either of the two dominions and wanted complete independence, against the provisions of the Indian Independence Act. Geographical realities and the interests of the non-Muslim majority also indicated that accession to India was the only logical choice. This could not be achieved even after prolonged negotiations lasting almost a year, and it became clear that the Nizam was under the influence of subversive elements such as the Razakars and could not freely exercise his choice. This left the Government of India with no alternative except to force a decision with the use of troops.
            With an area of 83,000 square miles Hyderabad was the second largest of the Indian States, surpassed in size only by Jammu and Kashmir. Ironically, both had not signed the Instrument of Accession by 15 August 1947. The population of the State was about 16 million, of which 87% were non-Muslims. It was ruled by the Nizam, who was a descendant of Asaf Jah, a nobleman of Turkish descent who exercised control over much of South India as the Viceroy of the Mughal Emperor. In 1724 Asaf Jah defeated the Imperial Army and became virtually independent, though he still acknowledged the suzerainty of the Mughal Emperor. This continued until 1857 when the Mughal line became extinct, after Bahadur Shah was imprisoned by the British and deported to Rangoon, and all his sons killed. Hyderabad enjoyed virtual autonomy in almost all matters, having its own laws, currency and stamps. However, Britain exercised her authority as the paramount power, maintaining a Resident in Hyderabad and a contingent of troops to ensure good behaviour on the part of the Nizam.

            In 1947, the Nizam, Mir Usman Ali Bahadur, was 61 years old and had been on the throne for 36 years. Though reputed to be one of the wealthiest men in the World, he lived frugally, famous for his riches as well as his miserliness.  The revenue of the State was about 26 crore rupees from 17 districts. This excluded Berar with an area of about 18,000 square miles that had been given on lease to the Government of India, which used the revenue to pay for the Hyderabad Contingent that the British had agreed to keep in Hyderabad to maintain the authority of the Nizam over the State. Though Muslims formed only 13% of the population, they occupied 97% of all public posts. The police and army were manned almost exclusively by Muslims, including some from outside the State. The C-in-C of the State Army, General El Edroos, was of Arab descent. Though a minority, the influence of Muslims was all pervading in Hyderabad. There was a political party called the Ittehad–ul–Muslimeen, whose aim was to enlarge Muslim supremacy in the region, offsetting their minority status. The party had a private army known as the Razakars, who played an important role in the fortunes of the State.7

Political Developments

            Soon after the announcement of 3 June 1947 giving details of the plan to grant independence to India, the Nizam issued a firman (proclamation) announcing his intention not to join either India or Pakistan but to resume the status of an independent sovereign. When informed that the Indian Independence Bill did not permit this, the Nizam protested against the ‘abandonment of an old ally’, pointing out that ‘ties that bound me in loyal devotion to the King Emperor are being severed.’ On 11 July a delegation from Hyderabad led by the Nawab of Chhatari met Lord Mountbatten and requested for a Standstill Agreement and more time. Not wishing the negotiations to break down, Mountbatten agreed to grant an extension of two months to Hyderabad.

However, the Nizam kept on changing his stance and came up with new demands. Instead of an Instrument of Accession, he wanted to sign Articles of Association, which was more akin to a treaty. The Government of India agreed, as a special case, to a Standstill Agreement, and the draft was finalised in October 1947 with the delegation, which returned to Hyderabad to get the Nizam’s signature. The Nizam approved it on 26 October but postponed the signing to the next day, when the delegation was due to leave for Delhi. During the night a violent mob led by the Razakars surrounded the houses of the Nawab of Chhatari and Sir Walter Monkcton, the Nizam’s Constitutional Adviser. The delegation was virtually under house arrest and could not leave for Delhi. Kasim Rizwi, the Razakar leader met the Nizam and asked him to change the terms of the agreement. He felt that India had her hands full with the crisis in Kashmir and would not be able to take any action against Hyderabad. The Nawab of Chhatari resigned and Mir Laik Ali, a nominee of the Razakars, became the new Prime Minister.

Laik Ali tried his best to get the terms of the agreement changed, but Sardar Patel refused to budge. The Standstill Agreement was finally signed on 29 November 1947. The Government of India nominated Mr. K.M. Munshi as India’s Agent-General at Hyderabad. Several rounds of negotiations followed, without any result. Meanwhile, Hyderabad took a number of provocative steps, which aggravated the situation. Indian troops were asked to leave Hyderabad, Indian currency was banned and the State not only appointed an agent but also gave a loan of twenty crore rupees to Pakistan.  The Razakars stepped up their activities, raiding and looting border villages and Indian enclaves. Mountbatten tried his best to resolve the impasse but did not succeed, in spite of giving as much leeway as possible to Hyderabad. On 17 June 1948 negotiations with Hyderabad were broken off, Mountbatten leaving India four days later. In August Laik Ali wrote to Pandit Nehru protesting formally against what he claimed to be breaches of the Standstill Agreement, economic blockade of the State, border violations etc. He planned to take the issue to the United Nations and had already made the Hyderabad State funds in London banks available for propaganda and payment to Mr. Zafarullah Khan, the Pakistani representative in United Nations. The Government of India informed him that Hyderabad had no international status and thus no right to deal with any foreign government or international organization. Meanwhile the Razakars had found a new ally – the communists - and the law and order situation deteriorated rapidly. There were some clashes between Hyderabad and Indian troops. The Government of India had by now exhausted its patience and decided to act. On 9 September 1948 the Government’s decision to send troops into Hyderabad was communicated to Army HQ.8

Operation ‘Polo’

            The military potential of Hyderabad was as baffling as the political situation. The few regular troops that they had were quite well trained. Their morale was excellent but they had no logistics worth the name. The army as a whole had just two armoured car regiments, about seven infantry battalions and some irregular troops. Some battalions and the Golconda Lancers of the Hyderabad Army had been employed in India and abroad, during the Second World War. On Indian Army troops being asked to leave Hyderabad, 1 Armoured Division had been moved to Jhansi. However, a large quantity of artillery, engineer, signal and general stores and clothing were left in the depots in Secunderabad. Besides these stores, vehicles such as Jeeps/trucks, tanks and armoured cars had yet to be moved out of the state. There was a danger that this could be misappropriated and used by the Razakars against Indian troops.

Once the situation in Hyderabad deteriorated, the Indian Army was alerted and asked to be ready to undertake military operations if the need arose. Lieutenant General E.N. Goddard, GOC-in-C Southern Command, had carried out an appreciation and produced a plan in early February 1948. The plan, which envisaged a dual thrust on Hyderabad from Vijayawada in the East and Sholapur in the West, was approved by Army HQ on 27 February 1948 and given the code name Operation ‘Polo’. The operation for the takeover was planned in five phases and was expected to be completed in 15 days. The task was to be carried out by 1 Armoured Division, which had recently moved out from Hyderabad and was familiar with the terrain and the state of defences in the State. Major General Hira Lal Atal, GOC 1 Armoured Division, carried out an appreciation and formulated his plan in April 1947. On 1 May 1947 the formation was placed under Southern Command and ordered to move to the Poona area. By the middle of June, the entire division, comprising 1 Armoured Brigade, 7 Infantry Brigade and 9 Infantry Brigade had concentrated in the area around Poona and begun intensive training. Around this time, most of the senior commanders were changed. Lieutenant General Maharaj Shri Rajendra Sinhji replaced Lieutenant General Goddard as GOC-in-C Southern Command, while Major General J.N. Chaudhuri relieved Major General H.L. Atal as GOC 1 Armoured Division.

The C-in-C Indian Army, General Roy Bucher, issued Operation Instruction No. 10 to Lieutenant General Maharaj Shri Rajendra Sinhji GOC-in-C Southern Command on 8 September 1947, asking him to ‘take necessary action to restore Law and Order within HYDERABAD State in accordance with Internal Security Plans which you have already prepared – PLANS CATERPILLAR – on a date after 10 September which you consider militarily convenient.’ However, actual entry of troops into Hyderabad was not to be carried out until the code-word ‘Caterpillar’   had been received from the C-in-C. (The earlier code- name ‘Polo’ had been changed to ‘Caterpillar’ on 1 July 1948 as a precautionary measure). General Bucher was not happy with the decision to attack Hyderabad. But since the Government of India had taken the decision, he had little choice in the matter. Nonetheless, he was permitted to keep the British High Commissioner at Delhi fully informed of the action he was taking.  All British, Canadian, Australian and American nationals from Hyderabad were evacuated on 10 and 11 September 1948.  Strangely enough, even Pakistan was informed of the impending operation. On 12 September 1947 General Bucher sent a message to his counter-part, General Douglas Gracey, C-in-C Pakistan Army, of the decision to send troops into Hyderabad State and added that the British High Commissioner at Delhi had already been informed.

On 12 September 1948 the code-word ‘Caterpillar’ was transmitted from Army HQ to HQ Southern Command.  As scheduled, the operations commenced at 2000 hours on 12 September 1948.  The forces had been divided into five groups. The ‘Strike’ Force under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ram Singh comprised 1 Horse and 9 Dogra; the ‘Smash’ Force (Brigadier S.D. Verma) was based on 1 Armoured Brigade Group and comprised 3 Cavalry, 17 Horse, 1 Field Regiment (SP) and HQ 1 Armoured Division; the ‘Kill’ Force (Brigadier Gurbachan Singh) was based on 7 Infantry Brigade and comprised 2 Royal Sikh, 3 Indian Grenadiers and 14 Rajput;  the ‘Vir’ Force (Brigadier Apji Randhir Singh) was based on 9 Infantry Brigade and comprised 3/2 Punjab, 2/1 Gurkha Rifles. The rear divisional headquarters constituted the fifth group.

From different locations such as Ahmednagar, Sholapur and Bijapur where they had moved in August, the forces moved by stealth to their respective assembly areas. The Kill Force (7 Infantry Brigade) arrived at Kazi Kanbas village about 23 km South of Naldurg and about 8 km away from the border of Hyderabad.  To give it the appearance of a party of villagers, a few bullock carts and donkeys accompanied the column loaded with mortar ammunition and wireless sets. The monsoon just having ended, the fields were completely soaked and innumerable rivulets flowed all over.  In order to achieve complete surprise, strict orders were issued not to use wireless till 0400 hours next morning, when the border was expected to be crossed at many points all round the State by various forces. Setting off from their assembly area at 8 pm on 12 September, the Kill Force moved on a wide hook from the south-west at night and captured the Naldurg Bridge intact with a coup-de-main force in the early morning. By 1800 hours it was firmly in position on the main Hyderabad road from Naldurg to Jalkot, a distance of about 8 km.

 Meanwhile, Smash Force (1 Armoured Brigade) had also started its advance towards Naldurg from the west. After a short engagement at Itkal village where 16 of the enemy were killed, the Force reached Naldurg at first light. As soon as it received the information of the capture of the bridge by Kill Force, the Smash Force moved forward bypassing Naldurg Fort and established the link up, continuing its advance up to Yenagur where it harboured for the night. The Strike Force was now asked to lead the advance. The fort itself was cleared by 9 Dogra, the Hyderabad battalion having fled when they realized that the bridge had fallen intact and tanks were rolling over. The Strike Force recommended their advance soon after the clearance of Naldurg Fort and passed through the other two forces near Yenagur. By the evening, they had concentrated at Umarga. While these operations were developing on the main axis, Vir Force (9 Infantry Brigade) attacked Tuljapur where it encountered stiff opposition. Among the defenders were a few Razakar women, on whom the Rajput troops of 1 Mewar Infantry refused to open fire. They were captured and disarmed before the battle continued, resulting in casualties on both sides.

            The Strike Force resumed its advance early in the morning on 14 September, with the Smash Force following close behind. The strong defensive position at Talmud was vacated by the enemy commander, even as Hyderabad Radio Station announced that Talmud had fallen “after a brave resistance to superior forces’. The Strike Force reached Rajasur and surrounded Homnabad on 16 September, then reached Ekeli and discovered the bridge partially damaged. The advance was temporarily halted but the engineers quickly bridged the gap by putting a 30 feet Bailey bridge over the weak portion of the bridge in about 90 minutes. This helped the leading elements to reach Zahirabad by noon. On the evening of the same day, a fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force mistakenly fired two rockets into main divisional headquarters, wounding a few OR and destroying one jeep.  This mishap did not dampen the momentum of advance, and by 1000 hours next day i.e., 17 September, Bidar airfield was secured.

            HQ Southern Command began to broadcast a message on the Hyderabad Army forward net from the morning of the 17 September, appealing to General E1 Edroos to lay down arms and avoid further loss of lives. The security section of 1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment, while monitoring the Hyderabad net, intercepted the message from General E1 Edroos to all his troops ordering them to lay down arms by 1700 hours. The signal regiment was instructed to establish communication with the Hyderabad Army and ask them to open a direct link on a different frequency with both HQ Southern Command and 1 Armoured Division. The message was then flashed to HQ Southern Command. General Rajendra Sinhji, GOC-in-C Southern Command, decided that Major General Choudhury would accept the surrender of the Hyderabad State Army from General El Edroos on 18 September 1948.

            The Nizam dismissed the Laik Ali Ministry and ‘agreed’ to the immediate return of Indian Army troops to Secunderabad. India’s Agent General, K.M. Munshi was hurriedly released from internment. By these actions, the Nizam tried to give the impression that he was still ruling the State. However, Sardar Patel did not allow these delusions to remain for long. Major General Choudhury was appointed the Military Governor of Hyderabad State. Members of the Laik Ali Ministry and Razakar leaders were interned or arrested. Kazim Rizvi was taken into custody and put in a battalion quarter guard cell in Bolarum. At 1630 hours on 18 September, Major General Chaudhury accepted the surrender from Gen E1 Edroos at a spot just outside Hyderabad city. This brought to a close Operation ‘Polo’. Instead of 15 days that had been estimated, the operation was over in five days. The total casualties suffered by the Indian Army were 42 killed, 97 wounded and 24 missing. The casualties of the Hyderabad Army were 490 killed and 122 wounded. In addition, 2,727 Razakars were killed, 102 wounded and 3,364 captured.9

Signals in Operation ‘Polo’

            Communication support for Operation ‘Polo’ was the responsibility of 1 Armoured Divisional Signals, with rearward communications being provided by Southern Command Signal Regiment at Poona. The CSO Southern Command, Brigadier B.D. Kapur, was responsible for the overall communication planning and execution. Southern Command Signal Regiment was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Pran Nath, with Major P.S. Gill as the Second-in-Command. The commanding officer of 1 Armoured Divisional Signals was Lieutenant Colonel Jaswant Singh.

Operation ‘Polo’ was estimated to last 15 days but was actually completed within five days. The rapid advance of 1 Armoured Division can be attributed to the lack of worthwhile opposition and support of the local population. The only means of communication was wireless, though line communications had been planned. The CO, Lieutenant Colonel Jaswant Singh, has described the operation in the following words:-
‘To keep our conscience clear we laid lines for the first two days of the advance and a total of 67 miles of field cable were laid and worked with the help of audio repeaters. Then we gave it up. The CSO Southern Command had hopefully ordered us to carry a DTN table complete with printer! One innovation practised was to connect all important vehicles by line when halted, even for 20 minutes, to facilitate RT remote controlled conversations. One staff officer who received a Tele F complete with case was quite non-plussed and went around seeking expert advice regarding a ‘sort of wooden box some signal wallahs have given me’.10

Wireless silence that had been imposed on 1 September 1948 was lifted on the night 12/13 September 1948. The rapid rate of advance is in itself ample testimony to the quality of wireless communication that was provided to commanders and staff.  This was the result of a high level of motivation and training among operators  The only time the divisional headquarters lost contact with a brigade headquarters was on the night 12/13 September  1948 for a few hours between 2300 and 0600 hours. Since 7 Infantry Brigade was coming across country to cut off Naldurg from the rear before first light on 13 September 1948, Commander 7 Infantry Brigade decided to stretch himself and go to sleep in the bullock-cart carrying the wireless set on the D 1 Net and told the operator to switch it off till he woke up. Nobody dared to wake him up for the regular two-hourly contact calls. Coup-de-main force of 2 Grenadiers, which was to silence the enemy at the Naldurg Bridge, turned up an hour late but succeeded in its task of capturing the bridge intact because of the early morning fog. 1 Armoured  Brigade started the advance at the correct time but waited short of the bridge on River Bori before Naldurg Fort because of lack of information from 7 Infantry Brigade. Ultimately 1 Armoured Brigade passed through after establishing contact by patrol. A little later, 7 Infantry Brigade came up on the net to report that the bridge was clear, after the Commander had woken up and allowed the set to be switched on.

            Apart from providing communications, divisional signals were assigned the additional responsibility of monitoring enemy transmitters, a task they performed very efficiently. The value of such interceptions can be gauged from the record in the official history of the operation which states:-
1 Armoured Division knew all the instructions which were being issued by the Hyderabad Army Commander to his units and formations as his wireless signals were being intercepted by 1 Armoured Divisional  Signal Regiment and were probably reaching Major General Chaudhury before they reached the addressees. These messages issuing and then revoking orders and frequent references to Allah indicated clearly the confusion and despondence prevailing in the State Army.

Another significant achievement of Signals was that they not only intercepted but also succeeded in breaking the code and deciphering the messages of the Hyderabad Army. This is related by Major General Chaudhury who writes:

‘When we first started intercepting the messages of the Hyderabad State Forces, they were in code which we could not break. All the best brains were put on to solve this particular code. Finally, it was solved by a comparatively junior officer who worked out that it is impossible for Hyderabad to invent codes of their own and therefore they would possibly be using one of the old Indian Army codes   which they were entitled to in the previous days. He searched the old codes and found the one that the Hyderabadis were using. This was an excellent piece of deductive analysis by a young officer. It showed what a young officer can do if he is given an opportunity’.

            Another interesting sidelight has been given by Major (later Brigadier) P.S. Gill, who was the Second-in-Command of Southern Command Signal Regiment, who writes:-

               Prior to the actual move of the Armoured Division in September, a number of exercises were held around Sholapur, in which Radio was used quite frequently. It was not uncommon for Staff Officers and Commanders to practice radio telephony procedure during slack hours by talking to their families in Poona. The GOC of 1 Armoured Division, Major General Chaudhury was no exception. The radio link was a simplex link. Thus the General instructed his wife to remember two facts – firstly not to interrupt when he spoke and secondly to say ‘over’ when she finished talking. This certainly was not to the liking of the lady.
               Accordingly she called me up next day and expressed her unhappiness at the cumbersome procedure she had to employ to speak to her husband. The Armoured Division was using SCR 999 on this link.  It struck me that as the transmitter and receiver were separate pieces, the link could easily be converted to a duplex link instead of remaining on simplex. Orders were duly passed thus adding to domestic happiness all round.

Brigadier P.S. Gill is a well known amateur radio (HAM) operator, having become a member of the fraternity during his tenure at the Indian Military Academy Dehradun in 1947, thanks to Colonel Watnam of the Royal Signals, who was then heading the Signals Research & Development Establishment. Brigadier Gill has described how HAM radio came in handy during the Hyderabad operations:

               Various attempts to gain time resulted in Nehru and Patel’s acceptance of a year’s moratorium i.e. the future to be decided in August 1948. When the time was up and Nizam still refused, No.1 Armoured Division, in what was labelled, a ‘Police Action’ was sent in, the operation itself being Code-named Op POLO. Hyderabad Army resisted for less than 72 hours and word came from our Column Commander along the Sholapur axis that surrendered Hyderabadis had lost contact with their own Headquarters and had requested our assistance in this regard.

For once a hobbyist’s listening and monitoring of air waves came in handy. After a quick consultation at the level of the Command CSO – Brahm Kapur - it was decided that drawing upon its knowledge of frequencies employed by Deccan Airways, VU2KD should try and contact Deccan Airways Hyderabad Station. Before long contact was established and the Airways functionary was prevailed upon to telephone General El Edroos of Hyderabad Forces and inform him that his force had surrendered, lost contact with its own HQ, and awaited his instructions. This in turn resulted in a representative of General El Edroos being deputed to settle field level surrender terms.
And of course, the erstwhile State of Hyderabad, entered the Indian Union for good. 11

Signal officers were often called upon to perform tasks that were far removed from their basic responsibilities. One such officer was Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Colonel) C.C. Bakshi, who was then serving with Southern Command Signal Regiment. Bakshi was commissioned in the Rajputana Rifles but was   attached to Signals for a year from August 1947 to August 1948 for cipher duties. Fate willed otherwise and he remained with Signals up to 1969. Because of his Infantry background, Bakshi was sometimes given unorthodox tasks. At one stage he was sent to Goa in 1949 on a ‘Top Secret’ mission to collect information about the Portuguese. He also mentions a secret visit by the then CSO Southern Command, Brigadier B.D. Kapur to the Minicoy islands. In later years, after the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Major S. Mohan was sent to Tibet on a clandestine mission. He carried a special crypto system easy to operate and easier to destroy.

Describing his interception activities during the Hyderabad operations, Bakshi relates this anecdote:
‘Captain (later Major General) Mahesh Rawat was with the interception party of a breakaway column of the Hyderabad Army. It was headed by a Colonel, who had a Daimler armoured car. He had decided to enter the Indian territory from Aurangabad side and kill and destroy as many people and as much property as possible. His message to General El Edroos (Nizam’s Army Chief) was intercepted, decrypted (by yours truly) and sent to General Choudhury. That unfortunate officer was ambushed and shot dead’.


Independence saw the Corps of Signals faced with many challenges, not the least being the shortage of trained personnel due to the sudden departure of British ranks who had been handing the technical trades and the partition of the country and the Army. The problem of shortages could have been partially alleviated if the Corps had been allowed a couple of years of comparative peace and consolidation. However, this was not to be. Soon after Independence the Indian Army was committed in several operations of varying intensity such as Junagadh, Hyderabad and Jammu & Kashmir, in all of which Signals were deeply involved. Thanks to the high level of motivation and experience gained during World War II, the personnel of the Corps performed admirably in every assignment it was entrusted with.  All ranks found themselves catapulted into ranks and responsibilities that would have come their way several years later in the normal course. That they were able to fulfil these commitments in spite of inadequate training and experience is truly a remarkable achievement. The continued presence of selected British officers, especially in the senior ranks, proved to be blessing, and the Indian Corps of Signals is indebted to its elder sibling, the Royal Corps of Signals for coming to its aid in the hour of need.


1.         Maj. Gen. V.K. Singh, Leadership in the Indian Army – Biographies of Twelve Soldiers, p. 239.
2.         Rajendra Singh, , The Military Evacuation Organisation, 1947-  48, Historical Section, Ministry of Defence, New Delhi, 1961.
3.         Lt. Col. Jaswant Singh, ‘1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment,’ The Signalman, January 1949.
4.         Lt. Col.  R.N. Sen, write up ‘2 AB (MEO) Signals.’
5.         V.P. Menon, The Story of the Integration of the Indian States, pp. 124-34
6.         Menon, pp. 135-45
7.         S.N. Prasad,, Operation Polo – The Police Action Against Hyderabad 1948, Historical Section, Ministry of Defence, New Delhi, 1972, pp. 3-9
8.         Prasad, pp.11-19
9.         Prasad, p.110
10.       Lt. Col. Jaswant Singh, ‘1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment’, The Signalman, January 1949.
11.       Brig P.S. Gill,   ‘Tales from HAM Radio 2 (Poona 1948)’, The Signalman, May 2001.

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