Saturday, January 16, 2016

HISTORY OF THE CORPS OF SIGNALS VOLUME III (1947 - 72) - PREFACE

PREFACE

            The third volume of the history of the Corps of Signals is really the first, the previous two volumes covering the history of the Indian Signal Corps, the name by which the Corps was known before Independence. In fact, when Brigadier T. Barreto wrote the draft manuscript of Volume I, which covered the period from 1911 to 1939, the title of book was ‘History of the Indian Signal Corps’. However, between the time he completed the draft in 1965 and its publication in 1975, the title had been changed to the ‘History of the Corps of Signals’. Even when the second volume covering the period 1939 to 1947 was being compiled, this anomaly was pointed out by Brigadier Barreto during my frequent interaction with him. However, in order to avoid confusion in the minds of the reader, it was decided to continue with title ‘Corps of Signals’ instead of ‘Indian Signal Corps’ in Volume II also. 
            Ideally, work on Volume III should have commenced immediately after the publication of Volume II in 2006. However, it was only in mid 2007 that the decision was taken to go ahead with the project. Compared to the interval of over thirty years between the publication of the previous two volumes, this delay may appear to be of little consequence. But the gap resulted in some additional delay because the Corps History Cell that had been functioning for the last five years was wound up in 2006. The manpower and equipment had been redistributed to units, and the reference material returned to Jabalpur, Mhow etc. Consequently, it was only towards the end of 2007 that the cell was established and work started in earnest on the project.
            The present volume covers the first 25 years of the post Independence history of the Corps, from 1947 to 1972. This includes all the major wars fought by the Indian Army after Independence viz. the Jammu & Kashmir operations of 1947-48; and the Indo Pak wars of 1965 and 1971. It also covers the Hyderabad operation of 1948, the Goa operation in 1961, the skirmish at Nathu La in Sikkim 1967 and various operations undertaken under the aegis of the United Nations. Apart from the performance of the Corps in operations, other aspects such as organisations, personnel, training, equipment, developments in signal communications and regimental institutions have also been covered.
Since the records of the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962 have still not been declassified, the chapter dealing with these operations does not form part of this Volume. It is intended to print it separately as a supplement, which can be added to the book at a future date, when records are declassified. Similarly, due to security considerations, some personal inputs from veterans                                                                                                                                              who took part in the Nathula and Chola skirmishes in 1967 and the Indo-Pak war of 1971 in the Eastern Theatre have been curtailed or omitted.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
            In the chapters dealing with operations, a brief account of the battles and actions has been given followed by the role and performance of Signals. Instances of failure of signal communications have also been highlighted along with the achievements and successes. A few veterans expressed the view that failures in signal communications should not be mentioned, as this tarnishes the image of the Corps.  However, the majority of signallers do not support this view. History must record events truthfully; otherwise it ceases to be classified as history. In fact, this attitude has been the bane of Indian military history, after Independence. Several war diaries and regimental histories of the post Independence period mention only successes, glossing over failures, even though these are mentioned in after action reports of  formations of which they formed part and in accounts written by those  who participated in the operations. This probably stems from a false sense of ‘izzat’ which has been inculcated in some regiments and units.  Though not completely immune from this syndrome, the Corps of Signals is afflicted to a lesser degree than others. The few instances of failure of signal communications mentioned in this volume have been taken from declassified records such as war diaries of the period preceding 1962, unit histories or accounts of the officers who took part in the operations.
The major problem encountered in compilation of the present volume was the lack of reference material. For the portions dealing with operations, the principal source is the war diary, supplemented by personal accounts and unit histories. The History Division of the Ministry of Defence located in RK Puram has a large number of war diaries, which can be perused by scholars. The History Division has also compiled official histories of all major wars and operations since Independence. However, only the one pertaining to the period up to 1961 have been published in printed form. The official histories of the wars in 1962, 1965 and 1971 have still not been declassified or printed, though they are available on the Internet. They can be accessed by scholars and used for research, but cannot be used in official publications, which need clearance from Army HQ or the Ministry of Defence.
A considerable amount of material was obtained from the Corps Museum and the archives that form part of the library in MCTE. However, there were large gaps, which could not be filled.  Sadly, the after action reports compiled by each signal unit after the 1971 war could not be traced in the Signals Directorate, the respective command headquarters or the MCTE, each of whom were sent a copy. By a stroke of good luck, the reports pertaining to Eastern Command were found in the Corps Museum by an officer of the Corps History Cell during his visit to Jabalpur. But the reports pertaining to Western Command could not be located.
An important document that gives information on all matters concerning the Corps is the Corps Planning Note, which later became the Liaison Note. In the early years it was issued every month by Signals Directorate but the frequency was later made bi-monthly and then quarterly. Every major signal unit gets a copy, in addition to all headquarters and establishments. The Liaison Notes No. 1 to 40 for the period 1947 to 1956 were found in the material collected earlier for compilation the Corps history by Brigadier Barreto. However, subsequent issues could not be located for quite some time. Again, by a stroke of good luck, Liaison Notes for the period 1963 to 1972 were found in 2 STC very recently. However, the Liaison Notes for the period 1957-62 could not be located, in spite of sustained efforts. This has resulted in some gaps in the chapters dealing with organisations, personnel, training, equipment and developments in signal communications. In October 1971 instructions were issued to destroy old copies. With this, a valuable source of reference material was lost, forever.
 As mentioned in the Preface of the previous volume, the frequent movement of the records between Delhi, Jabalpur and Mhow during the last 40 years, necessitated by the change in responsibility for compilation of the Corps History has aggravated the situation. The requirement for a permanent Corps Archives, which has been highlighted earlier, still exists. Exactly fifty years ago, Brigadier Barreto proposed that Signals should have a regimental headquarters on the lines of other Arms and Services and the Royal Signals in UK. For some reason, the proposal was not accepted, though Brigadier Barreto continued to raise it in every subsequent meeting of the Corps Committee until he retired in 1965. Perhaps the time has come to reconsider the suggestion, which will also give a permanent address to the Corps Association, which today exists only on paper.  It should be manned by a full time Secretary of the Corps Committee, who could also look after the Corps Museum and Archives. If a suitable veteran agrees to perform this role, he could also become the Corps Historian. In addition, a suitable officer could be posted in Signals Directorate as the Corps Monographer, an appointment that existed up to 1954.
A large number of veteran signallers who served in the Corps during the period covered by this volume were contacted, thorough e-mail, telephone and by post. Many of them gave very useful inputs, in the form of anecdotes and personal experiences. Some have also given photographs and their personal diaries. These have been acknowledged in the text or in the endnotes. As each chapter was completed, it was sent to selected veterans for their comments. This was made possible by the availability of Internet, obviating the necessity of making large numbers of copies on a typewriter. The ‘Report My Signals’ site was frequently used for the purpose of clarifying doubts and filling gaps. We are indebted to Brigadier C.S. Kamboj who was ever willing to circulate our queries.  Many among the large number of veterans on his mailing list responded with comments and clarifications, which were very useful.
It is difficult to list all the sources from which material was collected or acknowledge the contribution of every signaller – there were just too many. However, among the few who spent a lot of time going over drafts and giving suggestions were Major General K.K. Tewari, Brigadier P.S. Gill, Lieutenant General M.S. Sodhi, Lieutenant General S.L. Mehrotra, Lieutenant General Harbhajan Singh and Lieutenant General Prakash Gokarn. Most helpful were the personal diaries of General Tewari and Colonel N.C. Gupta, and the personal accounts of Brigadier Lakshman Singh, Brigadier Shamsher Singh, Brigadier P.K. Ghosh and many others. In fact, General Harbhajan Singh had written the complete history of the Corps during the Indo-Pak War of 1965, which has been extensively used in Chapter 5.
As always, the role of guide and mentor was performed by Brigadier Tery Barreto, our first Corps Historian. In spite of his age – he recently celebrated his 92nd Birthday – and failing vision, he diligently read the draft of each chapter, returning it with his comments and suggestions. In fact, his personal records collected assiduously until the day he retired were the most valuable source material, especially for the chapter on Regimental Institutions. As is well known, he played an important role in setting up and nurturing several important Corps institutions such as the Corps Museum, War Memorial, Regimental Colours, Corps Flag, Headquarters Mess, Roll of Honour, Honours and Awards list and many others. However, his outstanding achievement is the compilation of the Corps History. His esprit-de-corps was aptly summed up in the article in the Signalman after his retirement, which stated:  “He loved the Corps as few others did…..  To Tery, the Corps was everything”.
Credit for initiating the project must go to Lieutenant General S.P.S. Kumar, the Signal Officer-in-Chief, who ensured that the History Cell was set up in 2007 with commendable speed and provided the necessary administrative backing. His successor, Lieutenant General P. Mohapatra, nurtured and oversaw the project for more than two years, removing difficulties and providing whatever assistance was needed. The next two heads of the Corps - Lieutenant Generals SPS Kochhar and Nitin Kohli, have done their bit in getting the manuscript approved by DGMI and DGMO. Their personal involvement played an important role in the fruition of the project.
I would also like to place on record the support provided by the Directorate General of Signals, Commandant Amy HQ Signals and CO 1 Army HQ Signal Regiment, in whose premises the Corps History Cell was located. A large number of  documents used in compilation of the present volume were made available by the Military College of Telecommunications (MCTE), Mhow; No.1 Signal Training Centre, Signals Records and the Corps Museum, Jabalpur; and No. 2 Signal Training Centre, Goa. I am grateful to the Commandants of MCTE and the both STCs for their unstinted support.
Thanks are also due to Mrs. R. Dhanedar and her staff of the History Division of the Ministry of Defence, who were ever ready to help us in searching for reference material such as war diaries and unit histories. We would also like to thank Colonel B.D. Maitra of the Photo Division of the Directorate of Public Relations and Shri Sahid Anwar of the Sainik Samachar, who gave us copies of photographs held in their collection.
In the end, I must thank the members of the Corps History Cell without whose assistance the project could not have been completed. The officers who were part of the team for varying periods included Colonel S.S Patel, Colonel Jeevan Pathak, Major Vikas Kumar and Major Simi Basheer. All of them worked diligently to collect the reference material from various sources. The others who did a commendable work were Naib Subedar T.N. Yadav, Naib Subedar Madan Singh, Havildar Fakir Chand. B. and Hav M.K. Biswas, who did the data entry, scanned maps and photographs and photo copied documents; Naib Subedar R.B. Singh, Havildar Mohan Rai and Signalman Amit Gawas who made the diagrams and sketches; and Naik S. Mahmud, Lance Naik Sudheer Kumar and Signalman N.R. Kene who performed runner duties and looked after the administrative requirements of the team.



New Delhi                                                                                           (V.K. Singh)
Date:                                                                                                   Major General (Retired)


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