A personal narrative

The British Factor and Asia in the Twentieth Century

DJ is serialising extracts from the proposed book by Maj (Retd) RAJA MUHAMMAD SARWAR DHUDDY.

Chapter I


Twentieth century dawned with the British as the leading European power whose domination and influence extended to every nook and corner of the world. In the Indian Subcontinent the British Viceroy ruled in the name of His Most Exalted and Illustrious Majesty King Emperor of India.

The World War I had been won by the British and their Allies. Russia had undergone a revolutionary change and the British were primarily concerned with checking Russian expansion in Asia. At the same time the British, wherever they were ruling, were engaged in works of extraordinary developments which included construction of vast networks of Railways, Roads and Bridges and also Irrigation Canals. We may note that the canal irrigation system of Punjab is the largest in the world.

A purposeful and steady system of education was adopted. Most effective administrative system at District level was introduced which included Executive, Revenue, Judiciary and Police. Affairs of people were attended to without much and unnecessary delay and no one was denied fair chance of justice. Christian missionaries were operating and carrying out their works in far flung and remote areas. At the same time absolute freedom was ensured to other religions and faiths – security prevailed.


The Most Important Province

Punjab was one of the major and most important provinces of British India. It strategically dominated the whole of West Asia as well as South Asia, particularly Indian Subcontinent and had been so ever since the dawn of history. Besides boasting of some martial races it also was the most fertile land with healthy climate. Numerous rivers flow through its fertile soil from Himalayas. These potential were well exploited by making Punjab a granary of India. The non-irrigated and hilly regions where pastoral pursuits were followed, also provided men for recruitment for the army. The British adopted and pursued policies accordingly and the populace co-operated whole-heartedly. Political resentment against the ruling power did not exist much, real peace and tranquillity prevailed.

Why some recognized regions are known to have produced more soldiers and others have not, depends on social, economic, historic and geographical conditions. My village MALOT, in JHELUM district is situated right in the path of historic migrations and invasions of early Aryans, Scythians, Greeks, Hunas, Turks, Persians, Afghans and Mughals who came down from the North-West to settle down in the fertile Indus plains. In the year 326 B.C. ALEXANDER the great, camped at a site only about 10 miles from where my village sprang up much later. He fought his major and last Indian battle here against Indian Prince Raja PORUS, a Pramar (Punwar) Rajput. Later King FARID KHAN SUR (SHER SHAH SURI), an Afghan who snatched the throne of Delhi from NASIR UD DIN HUMAYUN son of ZAHIR UD DIN BABAR, the founder of Mughal Dynasty in India, built a large Fort called ROHTAS, which is only at a distance of three miles from my village. This Fort is probably the second largest masonry work after Great Wall of China, in Asia. The Fort was built to house a large garrison to maintain stability in this region inhabited with marshal races.

Being highly proud of belonging to this famous region and having immense love for it, I humorously tell my friends that my village is the " Centre of Earth" not for any other reason but because it is my village. This most beautiful landscape, falling on the lower slopes of the Himalayas, is also eastern fringe of famous Potohar plateau where Pakistan’s Federal Capital, Islamabad, is located. History books give an account of this area being thick jungle till recent times where elephants, rhinos and tigers roamed. My village is probably not older than 1200-1400 years and there are no signs of ancient dwellings in the vicinity. However, ALEXANDER’s move for battle with Raja PORUS from Taxila was via Salt Range to the South of the battle site where settlements of significance existed. The hills provided ample food and other conditions for pastoral life and scattered spots of flock rearing gave way to establishment of villages as the population increased. Though the bush and jungle clearing took place rapidly, I remember there was enough jungle and bush on the hills and the various depressions where animal life abounded, common trees being Berry (both tree and bush) and Acacia. Bush berry was so abundant that boys and girls used to collect berry fruit in loads which when dried would be preserved for many months. I was very fond of it and my collection was second to none. Was this the legacy from our ancestors who continued this practice even after learning the new methods of food production. A story on similar countryside, another historic Fort in MALWA, Madhya Pradesh State of India shall follow in later chapter. I have given some description of my village because I believe that it is the environment and other living conditions, which moulded character and personality.

District Jhelum is inhabited by martial races from times immemorial and when British came to Punjab they took good cognisance of this fact and made it their prime recruiting base for British Indian Army. For those readers who may not be familiar with this area, a short description and mention of historical events should be interesting. Jhelum district is Eastern part of the famous POTOHAR plateau, which rises about 1000 feet to 3000 feet above sea level from the northern fringes of Indus plain. Lying between rivers Indus to west and Jhelum in the east, Potohar has landscape where low hills, broken and heavily eroded soil made life rather difficult. The area is non-irrigated and fairly dry and not rich in agriculture. Hills and bush forests provided ideal countryside for pastoral and other occupations. Man inhabited this area from early stage and Aryan movement from the Northwest into Indus plain over many millenniums found this on their path, many clans settled down in scattered places. So much so that we find in early Indian history, Taxila civilization in POTOHAR, only about 100 miles from Jhelum and then Raja PORUS, an Indian Rajput Prince, ruled over his kingdom to the east of Jhelum. His capital was almost on Jhelum river bank close to present City and Cantonment of Jhelum. Babar’s early conquests in India include "Bhera – A strong state at that time on the left bank of Jhelum. Farid Khan, Afghan (Sher Shah Suri) built ROHTAS FORT here to garrison his large force against reappearance of Mogul king, Humayun from the West, besides suppression of local martial races. Humayun’s son Akbar built a fort at Attock on river Indus as a defensive measure. Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh had various military garrisons in and around this area and eventually British fought their 2nd battle at RASUL, almost the same site as of Alexander-Porus battle.

The British established a cantonment at Jhelum and their policy of recruiting heavily from this area was well justified. First Victoria Cross (the highest Military Award in War) was won by Subedar Khuda Dad Khan in World War-I, who belonged to this area and Major Raja Akram from the same region, won its equivalent (Nishan-e-Haider) in Indo-Pak war of 1971. There are many number of other gallantry awards such as Sitara-e-Jurat (Military Cross) won by its brave soldier sons. At the time of partition of India in 1947, out of first four Major Generals of new Pakistan Army, three hailed from Jhelum; they were Major General Muhammad Akbar, Major General Nazir Ahmed and Major General Muhammad Iftikhar Khan. The senior most Pakistan Air Force officer was also from here. Brilliant generals such as Lt. Gen. Abdul Majeed Malik, Lieut. General M. Safdar, Major General M. Jamshaid (MC & Bar), General Asif Nawaz, Army Chief and Naval Chief of Staff, Admiral T.K. Khan are also proud sons of this region.

The British Administration, after annexing Punjab in 1849 embarked on developing it agriculturally. Those districts where irrigation canals were provided became primarily agricultural belts and other areas adapted to pastoral and services professions.

British Administration

Two names in Punjab were very popular, in those days (1930’s). One was "Tunda Lot", a local distortion for "twisted arm" which related to the Lord Governor. He was so much admirably feared and respected that some pretenders when bragging of their courage would say "I don’t even care for Tunda Lot". The other was called "Socrates", Mr. Fl. Bryan, probably Secretary Agriculture Punjab. He had introduced some fine and effective measures for the benefits of agriculture, and the comfort of rural population. He ensured that "Animal Dung’ was used as manure (fertilizer) for crops and not as fuel for fire. The other measure concerned keeping narrow rural area pathways clear of prickly thorns because a large number of people in the villages moved about bare footed. The third concerned with incentive for young generations to be good farmers.

In the case of first measure, every one was required to dig a deep pit, well away from the houses and daily dump of dung and other sweepings was to be covered with fresh earth. This was also a measure of sanitation besides improving quality of manure.

To keep the tracks clear of thorns; he had instructions for school teachers who in turn ensured that we, the school boys, kept our tracks clear. This was necessary because the peasants, as a matter of bad habit would give tilt to their thorny hedge towards the path rather than keeping those upright. This meant reducing the already narrow and twisting paths and a peasant when carrying a load on his donkey’s back would keep his own back clear of thorny hedge but his load would rub against the hedge on the other side and break thorn from the hedge and drop on the pathway. This may look a very small matter but just imagine the discipline involved, obedience and finally the comfort of poor people.  "Socrates" was expected to be in every village any time but I don’t think if he ever had to go there.

The third measure was very interesting and enjoyable for us. Before the spring season with the help of our elders we grew crops in pots. Large bowls or trays, earthen or metallic were filled with the best possible soil and fine quality of manure added to it. Then from selected seeds sowing was done. After sprinkling of water these pots were kept in some secure place in the house. Under advice of elders we would bring out these pots for fresh air and some sun shine exposure and then place them back. When the crop grew about 3-4 inches high, on a fixed day we would get a holiday and some coins in cash for buying sugar to make sweet drink. After showing our effort to interested elders we took those crops to the nearby river "Kahan" and emptying the pots we would enjoy when those green and tender crops were washed down by the current of clean water. The pots were given good rubbing with sand, washed and then the sweet drink session followed by games in the open sand bed. A good holiday would bring us back tired but happy and in many cases with sense of achievement.


This wonderful institution (King Georges Royal Indian Military School) is today one of the most important educational institutions in the country. During World War I, Jhelum district and surrounding areas had contributed tremendously towards the war effort and it was in gratefulness that British Government established this school for the benefit of sons of Viceroy Commissioned Officers (VCOs) and lower ranks. Place chosen was a town, near Jhelum, called Sarai Alamgir. This town had developed at a camping site established by Mughal King AURANGZEB whose title was "ALAMGIR", meaning "Of World Fame". Earlier Alexander the Great had camped here 326 BC. No wonder the Foundation stone of the school, later, college, was laid by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, later King (abdicated), on March 3rd 1922. The school/college has produced around 1000 commissioned officers including a four star general, late General MUHAMMAD IQBAL KHAN, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Pakistan, and many more. Many thousand VCOs/JCOs and other ranks have served and are serving in late British Indian Army and Pakistan Army.

Students were well cared for. Monthly medical inspections were carried out under arrangements with the Commandant Combined Military Hospital Jhelum. A small 8-bed hospital with a doctor and nursing staff was available in the school premises. For advanced medical treatment the school was attached to C.M.H. Jhelum. I was operated for "Tonsillitis" in 1938 and have never had any difficulty with throat till today. In other words this institution was an appropriate gift for the people who co-operated in World War I. There is a similar school at Dover in England. There were two more such establishments in India, one at Jullandar and other at Ajmer.

The Commandant laid special stress on punctuality and would never give any concession on this account. He himself did not faulter and saw to it that the fixed routine was never violated even by one minute. Two interesting incidents in this regard should be amusing. During the last year at the college our class had passed out academically, but we were marking time for next policy step.

During the final year we were given training in additional subjects of cane drill, .22 rifle firing, cross country run, swimming and also visits to para dropping and such functions. In addition we were to discharge our duties as superiors to junior boys including teaching classes. We were given extra coaching in the subject of English -- two periods a week on every Thursday were reserved for that purpose. The Commandant himself was the teacher. A room had been set up for us with desks where we kept our notebooks and stationery locked up. I was Senior Under Officer when on one Thursday about 2 minutes before the start of the period we had assembled outside the class room, the Commandant had placed himself at convenient distance and we were waiting for the bell to ring when I realized that desk key was left behind in living room. Without a second thought I approached the Commandant and requested for his permission to go to fetch the keys. One minute was lost. The class was seated and Commandant was pacing up and down outside. After the class was over the School Senior Under Officer HAQ NAWAZ KAYANI told me to report at Commandant’s Bungalow in the afternoon. This was a sure sign of caning as punishment. Call to office for Senior Under Officer meant loss of appointment or reduction in rank. There we were, I received 17 hard strokes of cane. Thrashing over, I said "Thank You Sir", and the Commandant as tense as anything moved away to another room and I saw tears in his eyes. Steam coal fire had been arranged in the next room by Mrs. STEBBING who came sobbing and was feeling more hurt than myself. She tried everything to console and provide relief as any loving mother would. She continued to say "my dear child, my dear child" while she prepared a hot cup of tea for me and Kayani, soon we were joined by the Commandant. First words we heard from him were "Today you forget your desk keys – tomorrow you will forget your command". The only thing I could say was "Sir it was too severe".

Another incident of punctuality is most interesting. According to school routine, Under Officers paraded daily for Commandant "Turn out" inspection. This was done after morning physical training or drill period but before the commencement of first education period. One day our first period belonged to meticulous Sergeant REID. The Commandant, after his inspection retained Kayani, the school Head Boy, for an extra minute. In the class room, 19 students were sitting like stone statues with the class teacher pacing up and down. Kayani came, the education period over, we saw Sergeant REID picking up his cap and off he went to the Commandant, we came to know what transpired there. "Sir, twenty precious minutes of my class have been wasted and it is due to an action of the Commandant". The considerate Commandant offered an unqualified apology and assured the dutiful teacher for the future. The Commandant promptly ordered a special period on the subject, to be taken during afternoon games period. It is difficult to forget and find likes of Col. STEBBING and Sergeant REID.

Our common punishment, which we senior boys, usually received was a run of 6-8 miles under supervision of a teacher or writing of a given passage 50 times over during the night and to be submitted by "Reveille". How dare anyone make a mistake or hand in a slipshod work? One day a young boy, a new entry, was checked on some drill period for a fault. He was to be produced before Commandant in the orderly room on charge sheet. Though there were the Section Commander and his Platoon Commander in between, the drill was that the Company Commander (Senior Under Officer) was to be standby outside the office as a requirement. When the defaulter was marched in by the college student adjutant (later Brigadier) MUHAMMAD ASLAM, the Commandant asked for the company commander to be called in. The Commandant questioned "Do you know your offense"? I replied, Sir, I am in attendance for one of my boys who is charge-sheeted". He for best reason, only known to him, said "you don’t know your offence" and pulling out the passage written only on the previous night from his table drawer handed it to me with the orders " 50 times more and in by Reveille next morning", that was that and nothing could be done or said. I deeply felt wronged. After days normal routine I sat-down to write and when my other colleagues were snoring I was writing. Some times during the night forced sleep over came me. The Commandant and Kayani were visiting some place at about midnight when from a distance the Commandant noticed my room light which was the solitary one shining. He, having forgotten his own orders, questioned Kayani about it and that was the opportunity for the latter to protest forcefully. There they were in my room to find me snoring probably louder than the rest. When awakened I came to attention promptly and saw the Commandant smiling. Asked as to how on earth I would complete mu punishment if I slept the way I did. I could only say "Sir, I will do my best". He was delighted and affectionately gave me a pat and ordered for my undisturbed sleep till 11 a.m. next morning.

Our routine was always full of interesting events and besides normal sports viz Hockey, Football, Basketbal. Greater importance was given to Boxing for obvious reasons as it promoted courage to attack and defend and to display good sportsman spirit. Once a month, a mobile film unit would visit and we enjoyed CHARLEE CHAPLAIN and LAURAL and HARDY’s silent films.

Swimming was another favourite sport with the Commandant and he usually joined us during holidays. Col. STEBBING’s son who had died some years earlier was an English Channel Swimmer. During one swimming period I was practicing Diving when I found Commandant in about the middle of the pool and I thought of playing mischief. Having dived I pulled his leg while passing close to him and he being unaware probably swallowed some water. I thought of moving well away from him before emerging and was quite pleased with myself when I saw him come up. He ignored me totally and a short while after when I dived again and was to emerge from water, the teacher who had guessed correctly that I made the mischief was ready this time and he made no mistake. I was down once, twice and thrice and then completely out of breath and helpless with good amount of water swallowed. I was helped to get out of the pool and after restoration of senses, the old man asked me, triumphantly, if I would do it again. No Sir, not in the near future and everyone enjoyed the joke. Then, in order to cheer me up he said "It was a good game all the same".

Dedicated Teachers of KGRIM

The Commandant, aforementioned Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel T.H.L. STEBBING) had taken over only some months earlier before my joining. He was from British Royal Army Education Corps and was an outstanding administrator. He was a scholar and teacher in and out, kind, fatherly, and strict disciplinarian. Some details of his administration, his character building measures and dedication will be like beacon light. His never loosening grip on teaching and administrative staff and his personal interest in every student was of highest order.

It would be no exaggeration if it is said that "Not a leaf would move without his consent". The staff was posted on temporary assignments from Army which was first approved by the Commandant. There were other British teachers including Captain LEWIS as Chief Instructor and Mr. HAY HURST and Mr. REID who taught English and Science to higher classes. Mr. REID, from Liverpool, the city that he loved, was meticulous and punctual. Also there were Mr. MORRIS, Mr. DICKINSON and Mr. GRATAGE who all took keen interest in our education and growth with full devotion.

In addition to academics, emphasis was laid on physical fitness for which drill, physical training and sports were regularly organized and elaborate facilities were provided. The school had three residential Houses each accommodating 97 students who were named after famous British Field Marshals, ROBERTS, BIRDWOOD and SKEEN. During World War II, a fourth House was added after the name of Commander-in-Chief India Field Marshal Sir CLAUDE AUCHINLECK. Each House was supervised by House Master and an Assistant House Master. Boys were trained to earn and hold appointments. A dormitory having 16 beds, at first had 2 sections of 8 boys each which later came to have one doubled section only. Three of these dormitories or sections made a platoon, hence there were two platoons in each House. A section commander was called Junior Prefect (JP) and a platoon commander was known as Senior Prefect (SP). The company commander was called House Head Boy. Each had his specified duties and powers. Routine was published in school orders and was controlled through bugle calls and no one was ever late or absent. Matters were run precisely and meticulously like the clicking of ‘Big Ben’.

Militarized officers and staff wore official dress and the Civilians wore prescribed and clean dress. Students were issued appropriate uniform for every season and they were to maintain the same without a button being loose. Adequate washer-man and tailoring arrangements existed. Clothing and kit items were stamped with students school number (mine being 724). This ensured that there were no complaints of exchange or even misappropriation. The Commandant carried out regular monthly inspections and declared the unserviceable items, which were replaced from quarter master stores. The Commandant had such a catching eye that no one dared borrow items which did not bear students number because the man would invariably catch it. Once during an inspection he pointed out that my toothbrush was changed. No doubt it was because only a week before I had purchased a new one.

We were required to observe strict anti-malaria precautions and were issued mosquito nets and mosquito repellent oil. Before dusk and accurately to the minute every mosquito net was pulled down and its edges tucked below the bedding. During hot summer months, beds used to be arranged in the square courtyard of the house building and these used to be fairly close to each other because of the limited space which gave a feeling of suffocation, and some who were not used to such restrictions would protrude their heads outside of the net. This was considered a serious offence. The ever-alert Commandant, who conducted inspection visits at nights, would invariably catch such offenders and necessary punishments were awarded. During winters some offenders would cover their faces and heads with blanket which was contrary to regulations, hence suitable punishment was awarded. The administration was soon on top of the matter and discipline was enforced with very negligible rate of violations.

On the educational side, the Commandant foresaw that with changed circumstances the boys would be required to play greater roles in the Army. He therefore embarked on a program which would ensure better education as well as physical training so as to prepare them to be officers. He obtained GHQ sanction for introduction of well qualified educationists, established science block and laboratory. Senior Under Officer’s residential block including a Mess and a swimming pool were added. The school was raised to Inter College and vigorous training was enforced for senior boys to appear before Inter Services Boards for selection as officer Cadets to undergo training courses.

Visit of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, C-in-C INDIA

The Commandant when confident, in 1943, requested the Commander-in-Chief India, Field Marshal Sir CLAUDE AUCHINLECK, to visit the college. On this occasion many other serving senior officers as well as retired officers and Viceroy Commissioned Officers were invited. The aim was to give us, senior boys, an opportunity to build confidence and see senior officers from close distance. We were given various responsibilities to act as guides, aide de-camp and receptionists etc. with visiting senior general officers. Of course the Commandant had thoroughly practiced and rehearsed us in our assignments and we felt very confident. The C-in-C being impressed ordered visit by a team to study and assess us in detail. We were put through Intelligence Tests, Physical exercises including drill, swimming, short range shooting and of course a test of general knowledge. The team returned well impressed and first ever batch of 6 students went through ISSB (Inter Services Selection Board) tests at Rawalpindi with 100% success. So we were the pioneers in this respect.

No one, who has spent a day within the walls of this memorable institute can forget two names. These were the two buglers who spent their lifetimes there. One LAL KHAN called "Maasi" (Sister of mother), for his feminish physique and kind attitude and other TAJ MUHAMMAD called "TAJA". The first one was remembered with kindness because he usually sounded the "LAST POST" and "LIGHTS OUT" calls at night and TAJA was cursed because he sounded the "REVEILLE" at a time when the growing boys are usually dreaming. The other person who made a history was Mr. HAIDRY, a decent, smiling and pleasantly mannered teacher who also organized College Dramatic Club. He probably has spent longest years in the service of the college.

World War II broke out in September 1939 and ADOLF HITLER of Nazi Germany was triumphant in every one of his moves. Mainland Europe was totally in his grip and Britain was left alone after collapse of France. HITLER'S ultimatum was replied by Sir WINSTON CHURCHILL with his hand fingers making a sign of "V" for victory. He mobilized his nation and other countries of British Empire in an unprecedented manner. Some of his measures are lessons for the whole world and especially the third world countries, to remember and to follow.

Information and propaganda are two factors for any nation’s high morale. Except for some advanced and affected countries a great majority of world population was uninformed and unconcerned, it was here that the British concentrated. It was designed to gain sympathy and friends while denying the same to Axis powers. The effort centered around convincing the world that Axis powers could be and would be defeated and democracy must prevail.

As a result of British propaganda, Hitler changed his mind from invading Britain, instead he made the fatal mistake of attacking Russia. Now Britain was not alone. The vastness of Russian Empire was so great that total mobilization of German manpower including that from conquered European countries was not enough for the task.

Additionally the factor of Russian winter which had also defeated Napoleon Bonaparte was to play its full part to break the spine of German Army. Russians, in their own territory, for defence of their homeland and used to their own climate, had all the factors in their favour. Hitler had made a blunder. It is said that nothing succeeds like success in war. Here this factor encouraged many countries to support Britain. American support, though slow coming, was sure and Britain had a breather.

Miscalculations by the Japanese and their attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 brought United States into war and now the outcome was clear and a matter of time only. Churchill was now believed for his word. While some occupied European nations played their restricted part in the war of resistance, the British were fully mobilized and geared for eventual victory.

The other success of the British propaganda was their success in undermining Italian national morale. Italians became more of burden for Germany. Turkey, having quite many grievances of the World War I, was being induced and pressurized by HITLER to join the war on the side of Axis. Here again British propaganda prevailed and soon Churchill decided on a masterpiece of strategy to win a Battlefield victory as soon as possible. For this he signed a pact with United States under which he received enough aeroplanes, guns and tanks for British Eighth Army in Egypt and 50 Destroyers for the Royal Navy. Drastic changes at top and other levels among officers enabled him to gain the desired victory at Alm-al-Halfa battlefield, which became turning point of events as desired by Churchill. This defeat to Field Marshal ERWIN ROMMEL’s favourite Africa Corps and Field Marshal PAULUS’ surrender at STALINGRAD, after destruction of his Army Group, set German armies on retreat. Thus Middle East and Asia were saved and Turkey kept out of war. The British manpower was stretched to its last limits and the world saw British women also playing their role. Women were  recruited heavily for Women Auxiliary Army Corps, nursing services, secretarial jobs and other national defence organizations. While the able-bodied men were recruited for field fighting, those with one arm, broken leg, one eye deficient and with such physical disabilities played their role in various services. Information and Propaganda Services were full of such men and women. It was said, in those days when mechanization and weaponry was fairly simple, to place one soldier in the battlefield there were one hundred men required behind. No other nation could have accomplished such a great task-mobilization of human resource was at its best.

The British war effort in their colonial empire was again exemplary. Though there were political and independence seeking movements in many of their colonies, yet the able British administrator, everywhere, held his charge together and helped in war effort. Here it will be interesting to recall Indian scene. The Indian National Congress and other political parties such as All India Muslim League and Khaksars were demanding independence. At one critical stage when Britain was left alone, the Indian National Congress started its non-cooperation movement, courting arrests and filling up jails, thus weakening the war effort. Japanese, having stormed Far East and South East Asia with European armies of East surrendering everywhere, were at that time knocking at Burma-India border. A popular Indian Congress leader SUBHASH CHANDAR BOSE was raising an Indian National Army from among the surrendered troops when the British leadership obtained policy statements from Mr. MOHAN CHAND KARAM DAS GANDHI and Mr. MUHAMMAD ALI JINNAH which disapproved any co-operation with the Japanese. They were emphatic that India will not have change of masters. With above stated training and motivation we the senior boys had reached a high pitch of morale and enthusiasm.

Lieut. Col. STEBBING - The Master Builder

Mr. SAEED RASHAD, a highly popular and keen professor at the Military College Jhelum since 1950, who is considered an expert on the history of the institute, writes on Colonel STEBBING in his book "History of M.C. Jhelum" quoting Professor F.H. HAIDARY who called the Colonel as the "Master Builder".

I have given a fair detail of Colonel STEBBING’s dedicated and untiring efforts to build the college and to raise its standard to a matchless degree in this sub-continent. Translation from Urdu version of the relevant paras from Mr. RASHAD reproduced, is self-explanatory:-

STEBBING did not lag behind any of the leading Head Masters of Traditional Public Schools. It is not easy to completely adopt all possibilities of a system. STEBBING achieved this miracle, he had his own way of working and he transferred this military way of teaching into a Public School Method. His subject was History and I always felt that study of ‘Sport’ and ‘Human History’ had left a lasting and deep impression on his thinking, and the system of ‘Public School’ had impressed him deeply. He would use sport in the game manner as ARNOLD of Rugby did.

For training of Senior Cadets (Cadet Officers) Colonel STEBBING conducted a strange experiment in 1943. One evening he called a sudden meeting of staff and when all were seated he signalled Jamadar Adjutant to close the door. We were all surprised at it but the matter was very simple. He said that "From tomorrow from Reveille to Retreat, none of us would carry out our routine duties and during school hours we should come to the staff room and remain there but we should not go to classes. I am carrying out an exercise and this announcement is ‘Top Secret’. You should not talk about it to anyone so much so that don’t talk about it even in your houses. Thank you, Gentlemen, now you may go". We were astonished and wonder struck when we returned to our residences. In accordance with the orders no one worked from Reveille till Retreat. I was, incidentally, that day, duty master of the day. I did no checking at all – did not go anywhere. Early in the morning duty cadet NCO came to call me for "Milk quality checking" but I refused even to get out of the room.

That day, from Reveille to Retreat, the whole college was run by college Head Boy with the help of cadet officers and cadet NCOs. Classes were taken by the boys -- Commandant’s seat was taken by the Head Boy -- Kayani. Head Clerk who was then called Superintendent, placed files before him and Kayani wrote down "Put up tomorrow". At about 10 a.m. Commander Jhelum Brigade came and TAJ MUHAMMAD opened the door of Commandant’s office respectfully. As he stepped inside he saw a smart cadet occupying the chair of Commandant and issuing orders to the Cadet Adjutant. Kayani stood up and saluted, he welcomed the Commander. The visitor said that he wanted to meet the Commandant. The answer was "I am the Commandant and if you mean Colonel STEBBING, then kindly take the trouble to see him at his residence". This is how from Reveille to Retreat the whole college was run by the boys. After the Retreat, orders were received for all that cadets and staff should assemble in the Hallroom. All the boys were greatly excited with this experiment. At the same time STEBBING entered the Hall accompanied by the Brigade Commander. The Commandant congratulated the boys repeatedly saying "I feel proud of you – I am proud of you". The Brigade Commander also highly appreciated the boy’s work. His last sentence was "If I have the power I would promote all your Cadet Officers as regular Officers". This is how this interesting and useful experiment ended. What to say of the psychological gains to the boys. During this trying atmosphere the Commandant took great interest in my Cultural activities. Debates and Dramas which I arranged were at his stance and under his guidance. One drama of Aston is named "Master Builder". I consider STEBBING as the Master Builder of the College.  



Officers Training School- Mixed Cultures.

The British war effort required training of large number of officers for much increased wartime Army. Indian Military Academy (IMA) was also converted into OTS. We joined OTS, MHOW in early 1944 for a training course of about 9 months.

MHOW is located in Windhiachal mountains of Rajasthan province of India. The mountains are not very high and are rich in soil, growing trees of many varieties. Valleys are beautiful and numerous clean water streams make up CHAMBAL river which joins JAMUNA in the North East, while some streams flow into NARBADA river, which flows east to west, in the south. Soil produces cotton and a great variety of citrus fruit and fine quality of banana. Its physical geography combined with good climate and richness of soil must be the good reason for MALWA being so rich in Indian History. My own clan the PRAMAR is reckoned as the leading most of the 36 RAJ KULA (Ruling Rajput) Clans by a great historian no less than Colonel TODD. My knowledge of history and also of my ancestors was very limited then and I had only known of my ancestors having ruled in MALWA.

As a grownup, it was for the first time that I was among people who came from different backgrounds and besides a large number from United Kingdom there were some from Burma and many from vastness of Indian Subcontinent. There were only a few of my age group and educational background. The bulk of cadets were from Britain, a majority had service experience. Except for a few Anglo-Burmese and some from other parts of India, the majority of Indian denomination cadets had been either lecturers in colleges or engineers. Some had made grade from clerical posts and other positions in the Army. It was important to adjust among this great variety of new colleagues and there was a world of knowledge, culture, manners, etiquette, tolerance, behaviour and competency to learn. One feeling always at the back of mind was "not to be exposed for inadequacies lest you became a laughing stock." All time alert was needed.

My colleagues from military college and I did well in all military subjects and were good on physical side but were given extra periods to improve our "English Language". During current years a most enjoyable programme is telecast, courtesy BBC, called ‘Mind Your Language’ which is my most favourite and reminds me of my class at MHOW. I was weak in boxing, an important sport which enables assessors to see courage qualities of a person. The weakness was due to thin bony nose and longer but weak arms at elbows. But this did not mean that other qualities were lacking. In the all important boxing bout, sadly against a boxer of class, I found the whole world circling when he hit me hard on the nose but I did not touch the mat and recovering, through courage, immediately I took to offensive though my hits must  have been counted as fouls. In the following two rounds, I was on the offensive but the end result was his win. I was good at obstacle course and that must have gone to my credit and I did hold an appointment of Platoon Corporal and passed out fairly high among the cadets.

There were interesting differences of culture and customs between the British cadets and others. What was difficult to comprehend was when British cadets would walk out of their living rooms for community bath/latrines located at a fair distance from living barracks. They walked out stark naked with tooth brush in the mouth, soap cake in hand, towel on the shoulder and slipper in feet.

Another place of conflict was the mess anteroom where there was only one Radio set. Everyone was keen to listen to the news broadcast and at times some music. Some hard-line British cadets would not tolerate Indian music or even news broadcast in vernacular and losing patience to wait, would use individual authority and by using physical force would switch it off or change the station frequency. On one of such occasions an ugly situation was created when a tall and heavy weight ex-sergeant now cadet, manhandled Aslam, my friend and class fellow, from military college. Aslam was a good boxer and a belt holder but hardly a welter weight. He challenged the big offender, to as we would call it. "Come out". There were supporters on both sides and the match looked so uneven that ASLAM's courage was admired by all. Luckily that night, as usual our popular teacher Capt. (Later Lieutenant General) AZMAT BAKHASH AWAN, who later commanded a corps in Pakistan Army and was commandant National Defense College and also Pakistan's Ambassador in Sweden, arrived on the scene to tell the offender to be ashamed of himself and he obtained an apology from him. The local music was restored.

Glimpses Of Legendary, British Sergeants and Sergeant Majors

Some outstanding personalities are to be remembered for long, along with interesting stories which go with them. British army Sergeants and Sergeant Majors were known to be the real backbone of the army and they were highly reputed for their efficiency and toughness of discipline. In fact they were considered to be exemplary. We had regimental Sergeant Major COLLIE (I may be excused for short name and if the spelling is wrong). He was from Scots Guards and was certainly a "Model". One day the whole of OTS was on ceremonial parade and the Commandant Brigadier SHUKAR was to take the salute. The parade having come to final stage, after handing over by the Adjutant Captain GREENOUGH to the OTS Second-in-Command was at "Stand-at-ease" and the commandant’s arrival was an odd minute off. The commandant’s vehicle halted behind the saluting dais and as he walked towards it, the Second-in-Command, a Lieutenant Colonel, ordered "Parade Slope Arms". Heavens, the parade at "Stand at ease" and how come it carry out orders without first coming to "attention". There was complete chaos and as many different actions as were cadets on the drill square. Then instantly yell was heard "As you were – Sir" first, call the parade to attention - that couldn’t be any person other than the smart Regimental Sergeant Major COLLIE. By now the commandant who should have stepped on the saluting base, moved away in order to give time to recover, to his panicking Second-in-Command. Amends were made and the RSM established high reputation.

The RSM generally remained serious and we never saw him smile. It was during our last minutes before the midnight of 10-11 February 1945 when he appeared at the cadets mess where we had been "dined out" for the last time as cadets. Everyone was happily moving around to congratulate others and first minute of February (eleven) was eagerly awaited when we were to wear badges of rank - One star on each shoulder. In our case our kind and affectionate teacher Captain AWAN had brought with him shoulder badges to be slipped over the flaps of our shirts. These were the gifts never to be forgotten. It was at this stage that the smart RSM COLLIE walked in and coming to each one of us he saluted with the words "Congratulations Sir". We saw him all smiles those early hours of 11th February 1945.

We also had the English Double National Star Sir DENIS COMPTON who was a Sergeant and a Physical Training Instructor. A handsome and smart tough man. We did not play much cricket in those days because we spent every bit of time in training for war against Hitler. Hitler, we had heard had banned cricket, in Germany, for it consumes much of National Time. We saw Sergeant COMPTON play football and that always was thrilling. Many years later Sir COMPTON was honored for his services to Britain as Double National Star.

Mandu Fort-MALWA

Muslims religious festival of Eid falls after the holy month of Ramzan during which we the Muslims observe fasts. There were 3 days Eid holidays during which our company arranged a visit to historic Fort of Mandu which was not far off. We were lucky to have our teacher Captain A.B. AWAN as conducting and supervising officer, in fact the trip was arranged by him. The Fort was in ruins and its grandeur confined to history. Spreading over miles on low hills, about 2000 feet higher than the plain through which flows Narbada river at a visible distance of about 15 miles, the Fort for good length has natural cliff walls. The masonry work existed at easy approaches. The flat plateau inside its compound was blessed with plenty of spring and stream water. Also there were large ponds added by various rulers, which stored rain water. The central area had many palaces and a large redstone mosque. There also were a few caves and to reach that site we had to carefully climb down over the face of the cliff. The Caves were cool with crystal clear water dripping from roof and collecting on the floor. There also was a palace at a commanding position from where Narbada river water streak was visible. There existed a legend that BAZ BAHADUR, a ruler of Malwa, fell in love with one ROOPMATI who lived on the river bank. The lovelady asked BAZ BAHADUR to ensure her daily river water bath which was a matter of her religious devotion. So the RAJA got built an easy going path from his palace on top of the cliff which went down to plain where a canal from river brought its waters. Later a movie was also made on the said story.

There were about 40 cadets of non-British nationality and they belonged to many ethnic, racial and religious groups. We had a group photograph at the site. This photograph includes cadet (later General and President of Pakistan) MUHAMMAD ZIA UL HAQ, (his chest number was 1616 and mine 1606). General ZIA UL HAQ was well disciplined in his personal habits and was regular with his mandatory prayers. He refrained from high and jolly style of life which some others were quite fond of. He never availed the concession of excuse to attend games in the afternoons, granted to Muslims during the month of Fasting. That was on account of his conviction that a healthy man was capable of doing everything which others did as a part of duty and Fasting was a personal matter. He wore simple dress and always covered his head with a white cloth cap which is common in Indian subcontinent. He was equally competent and being a "teenager" held an appointment of platoon NCO. Being underage by a couple of months and having good potential to make a regular army officer, he was not commissioned with us and had been transferred to IMA, DEHRADOON from where he graduated joining an Indian Cavalry Unit. We gave him a good send off and a photograph shows him wearing flower garland. He was liked and respected by us and we often called him by nick name which I gave him, out of affection, and he liked it. Last we met was in 1966 at shrine of Hazrat ALI HAJVAIRY (DATA GANJ BUKHSH) in Lahore when he was a Lieutenant Colonel. I was hospitalized when he died tragically in a sabotage attempt causing his plane to crash. I often go to his grave, Islamabad, to say "Fateha" prayers - may Allah bless his noble soul.

An unforgettable incident took place at Mandu Fort. In the first chapter I have given some description of environments of my village. Here I found the ground similar, with stony waste and berry bush. During our visit these bushes were bearing fruit. I couldn't resist temptation to go for picking of berries to eat. While eating the delicious ripe berry fruit I thought of collecting some for my colleagues and got busy in picking up handfuls and pocketing the same. During this effort, I was deeply absorbed and involved in completely denuding the large bush of its entire ripe fruit, when all of a sudden I was disturbed by a hissing sound on my right side. Looking down I was stunned to see a large cobra snake coiling and jumping in agony. An arrow had pierced through its hood and I saw a young boy of about 14-15 years, belonging to BHEEL tribe, wearing a small loin cloth and carrying a proper bow and arrows standing at a short distance. He was all smiles. He saw me plucking fruit and so observed that a large cobra snake with its raised hood all ready to strike at my hand when it came down to pocket the plucked fruit. I at once recovered from the shock and picking up a few stones crushed cobra's head. Then after giving good pat to the boy who had saved me from deadly cobra, I gave him Rs. 10/- which would have easily bought him a couple of goats. The bow and arrows with the BHEEL boy, reminded me of early Rajput races including my own which dwelled in that region.

His Majesty The King Emperor Grants Commission

We had been granted commission in the name of His Majesty the King Emperor to be officers in their Indian Land Forces. What a proud day it was and I felt my shoulders heavy with the load of responsibilities which one small star carried. Later a parchment in the name of His Majesty the King Emperor signed by the Secretary to the Government of India and Field Marshal WAVEL, the Viceroy in India was received which is self explanatory for its values. This is being reproduced in this book.

Guest Of Commandant KGRIM School

ASLAM  and I were posted to the famous Frontier Force Regiment with its Training Centre at Sialkot. Before leaving MHOW, we from KGRIM College Jhelum, received invitations from our loving ex-Commandant Col. STEBBING to spend a day and night as their guests, one at a time. Imagine my feelings to think of invitation to be honorable guest at the same bungalow where about a year earlier I had received 17 lashes/canes from the same strict but affectionate Commandant. A few days later, after good reception and festivities at my own house, quite near to the college, I was at the Commandant's house. There I went through strange and exciting experience. Dear old Mrs. STEBBING left nothing which my own mother did to convince me of her delight to see me as a mature man but young officer. The host attended to his official routine but gave me maximum attention and was behaving in greatly relaxed manner. For me it was a problem to choose "subjects" for talk - How could I be Chummy with him and I adopted a method to initiate some talk with Mrs. STEBBING and left it to the Commandant to initiate talk.


Sialkot Cantt

ASLAM  and I reached Sialkot by a short train journey and reported to the Officers Mess and were given a room to share and after breakfast we were to report to office. We tried to be as smart and correctly dressed as was possible.

The Training Major DOUGY CAIRN called us after we had a breather and we saluted him. I was on the right because of being senior of the two. The Major's face was serious and there was no welcome word instead he gave searching look at us, turn by turn and then shouted "You are not dressed like officers - Look at your cap badges - These are at best Dhobi badges - You two should read regimental Standing Orders and get into proper dress soon". There was nothing else but to say "Right, Sir". But at heart we cursed the stiff man for long time.

We were posted to recruits training companies as a result we hardly ever saw day light in the cantonment. For most of the time we were at the Rifle Shooting Ranges, supervising recruits' firing. At nights, whenever we could, we slipped into the city for watching some movie. Often picture houses were placed "OUT OF BOUNDS" for troops. One day, after about six weeks we were both produced before the tough Training Major who asked us two questions:

i.          How many times did we dine in the Mess?

ii.          How often did we "Miss" seeing movie in "OUT OF BOUNDS AREA"?

The Major was most correctly informed. I answered the first question by saying that it was difficult to feel satisfied with European style of food. There came the retort "Young men you better get adopted to official routines".

Aslam answered the second question, "Sir, after spending the whole day at the firing range, there is irresistible requirement of entertainment". This time the reaction was stronger "Young men its either you two or me who shall stay here and certainly not you and I". I hastened to say "Sir, we should go". Within a week we received orders for posting to a Jungle training establishment near Saharanpur on Jamuna River, North-West of Delhi.

Saharanpur Jungles

Stay of about one year at this jungle training establishment with 7/12 F.F. Regiment is most memorable and exciting in many ways. On arrival at the Officers Mess, located in picturesque surroundings on the bank of Jamuna River, we were greeted with the good sports news that the Bn 2 I/C Major ATMA SINGH had shot a Tiger. The animal was big from all counts and it measured more than average size, that is what we understood from the general talk. We also learnt that the un-inhabited jungle which spreads over hills not very high, was infested with Tigers and other animals including leopards, grisly Bears, wild Boars, Monkeys, Deer, Peacocks and others. The area is extension of "KUMAON", I was to experience as many Tiger incidents as would one see domestic cats in that time.

The second but dreadful hearing was of an unfortunate accident wherein a complete 3" Mortar detachment was blown up due to wrong loading of its High Explosive Bomb during Field Firing. The camp was well spread out covering high banks of the river with elephant grass and wild bush. Some sub unit camps were established in valleys and low ridges at the foothills. Again trees and bush covered every bit of ground. Local villages spread fairly well away from the line of foothills and we now lodged ourselves between the villages and the habitat of wild life.

First assignment, as usual for any new comer, was awaiting and the battalion Routine Orders included my name as a Duty Officer of the week. One task included among other duties was said to be most scaring and frightening one. The establishment had located its ammunition dump, obviously a large one because of it being a training establishment, at a distance of about one and a half miles and deep into the hills. A popular story said that at a particular spot on the way to the dump, "JINNEES" pelted stones on the lonely passer-by. Officers, whether British or Indian of any denomination believed that to be true and quite a number of officers had experienced it.

Only after a couple of days, in that environment and without familiarization with the conditions and after hearing of such a frightening night walk would put anyone to severe test of nerves and courage. Aslam offered to accompany me. Though such an offer was very welcome in the face of dangers including the feared attack by "Jinnees" and also the scare of Tigers or grisly Bears, but it had to be thankfully declined otherwise you were certain to be labeled a coward. How could one continue to be a soldier with such a label or reputation. I was fully prepared for the solo voyage duly armed, you can call it "armed to teeth", with a 5-cell hand torch, a Kukary knife, a .38 pistol with six rounds and an ordinary walking stick. I was seen off by my friend at about 0100 Hrs. and all the way there were thoughts of an encounter with a beast and then the "Jinnees" corner. There were less ferocious animals such as wolves. Hyenas, the grave diggers, wild Boars and Porcupines. What if any one of these charged on me due to my intrusion in their world. One comforting and consoling thought was that duty officers previous to me had remained safe except for the stone pelting by "Jinnees".

The "Jinnees" corner was reached and I held the large size flash light ready so as to spray the area instantly. Lo and behold, there came a shower of stones (If these were stones) which hit the stony nullah bed with the noise and surprise they should have. I halted and holding the pistol in the right hand moved the flash light over the high ground to my right  - would pistol be of any help against the "Jinnees"? But what other reaction would have been normal - nothing seen or heard. Fairly shaken, I moved forward and soon there was repetition and now my torch slipped under the armpit with its head raised high and the "Jinnees" was seen. These were monkeys, feeding and resting on top of a clump of tall trees which produce fruit of size of an orange but with a very hard shell or skin like that of a coconut. Hard nuts would make enough noise when hitting stones in the bed of dry nullah. With all the fear gone, I moved forward triumphantly only to see two soldiers coming from the direction of the dump. These were two men sent by a considerate NCO at the dump to help me through the ordeal.

Soon I was detailed for a ten week course on medium machine gun at Small Arms School at SAUGAR in Central India. I had been at SAUGAR as a kid when my father was posted there, hence stay there was thrilling. Obtaining a top grade of "AX" which meant above average for knowledge and the same for teaching, I was appointed M.M.G Officer on return. In addition I was detailed for conducting 3" Mortar firing which was the most dangerous and exacting task since it involved destruction of unexploded bombs. The responsibility involved searching, locating and destruction of unexploded bombs which used to be in dozens. High rate of unexploded bombs could be attributed to possibly defective manufacture combined with the sandy marsh where the fired bombs landed. At times it became problematic when a bomb got buried in muddy slush leaving not enough of its surface free to attach the exploding device. It was full of risk to attempt making such surface clear for the job. No other method was allowed i.e. destroying it with burst of a grenade or firing a bullet. Over the months which involved very heavy mortar firing, we remained anxious and worried.

Field Firing - Grenade Firing - Initial Experiences

We had field firing in the bed of Jamuna River. It was called "Battle Inoculation" and the exercise was with troops, using live ammunition. Artillery and 3" mortars provided fire support from behind, shells and bombs passing over the heads of advancing Infantry and landing well away on targets in front. Medium Machine Guns also provided fire support on given targets at fixed timing. This was first experience and things looked very real, except that there was no fire from the supposed enemy side. Safety margins were kept but an allowance for any shell or bomb following short, thereby causing casualties was made. The exercise certainly took out fear of the unknown.

Tigers Calling - Tigers & Tigers

Our company camp was half on flat ground on side of a rainwater nullah and half on the lower slopes of a spur shooting off from a high feature. Officers' tents were farther on the higher side of spur including a large 180 lbs. tent for the company commander (a major) and 3/4 smaller size tents for subalterns and a captain. My tent was the last and near the cleared bush line after which it was domain of wild animals. The jungle was extremely thick which included some trees and plenty of bush. One night at about 2200 Hrs. when I was returning from Officers' Mess, about a mile and a half away, a British colleague shouted for me to rush up with my flashlight. I covered 20-25 yards' climb-up at top speed and the officer snatched the flashlight and focused it at a short distance where a Tiger was standing. The fearless officer who had a stone in his hand threw it at the animal. I was non-plussed. Luckily the Tiger retreated into the jungle and we could hear monkeys revealing its direction through their noises. Why did it withdraw in that friendly manner is for any one to guess but most probably it was the baffling strong flashlight which the Tiger could not understand.

Some times later, during winter months we slept under blankets and closed flaps of our tents. At about midnight I heard a high sounding belch in the area between two tents - one being mine. My nose joined the ears and all other senses and I knew from the fear and all other evidence that a Tiger was around. I quietly slipped back into bed and shivering with fear only hoped that some one else would initiate some action for this brute to clear away. I of course tried not to make a sound, leave alone sleep and how could you with only two flaps of tent between you and the Tiger. After long time there was a grunt voice to confirm that he was very well there. Those hours were very trying for all of us in that camp when finally the dawn broke out and activities in the lower down camp made him leave. As our batmen brought bed tea trays, there was a yell from the senior tent, the major asking "Are you boys breathing"? We all answered back with whatever words we  could muster but hopes of new life were visible when all collected at the site. His spoor or Tiger dung and flattened smooth bed of earth with his flat and probably filled belly was evidence of his having stayed long hours in our company. Isn't great JIM CORBETT right in calling it a "Gentle" animal?

Jungle Lore - With JIM CORBETT

The Japanese had completely outdone and stunned Western armies with their mastery in jungle warfare, when they swept through South East Asia, with British, Dutch, and French Formations/Forces surrendering totally. Having contained them on Burma-India border the British in India were preparing and training large armies for counter offensive. For this purpose two large training establishments were created, one in the area Saharanpur - Hardwar in the Western United Province and the other in area Chindwara in Central India.

The legendary JIM CORBETT, of world famous "Man Eaters of Kumaon" had been engaged in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel who conducted a number of specialized courses for officers on the subject of "Survival in Jungle" while depending solely on local resources. Also it included knowledge of animals as well as jungle discipline. I was among the one dozen young officers who under- went such a course of 12 days. The course was named "Jungle Lore" the name given to one of his books, which is most interesting for any one at any stage of life for all times. JIM CORBETT needs a special mention for his successful campaign against Tigers of Kumaon area which had turned into "Man Eaters". He was assigned the almost unheard of task to eradicate that menace which he accomplished through his original strategy, skill and risk to his life. The book he wrote became subject matter of an academy award winning English movie film.

I am, most probably, the only officer in Pakistan who has that distinction of having undergone a course of instructions with JIM CORBETT himself. The selection for the course was made with strict regard to health and personal discipline besides physical fitness. No coughing, no smoking and no use of smelling material was permitted. The equipment and personal baggage, carried on person, was free from any rattling noise and footwear was restricted to rubber sole canvas shoes. We were to depend, for 12 days, entirely on uncooked food which was non-conventional and gathered from the jungle. Water was prohibited and we were to depend on tree/creeper juice such as from banana tree trunk. We were given lessons on recognition of trees and bushes, the leaves of which, could be eaten or chewed besides roots of grass and tubers.

For our other necessities we were to carry in our sacks, a towel, extra pair of socks, the house wife - please do not misunderstand - you cannot carry housewife in your pack or sack - it was a small cloth bag containing some needles, thread and buttons, which became readily handy and it made you think of your lady. We carried 303 rifle with bayonet and its ammunition. There was a fairly large size knife, called Kukary which was most useful for hand to hand fighting and the best defensive weapon against a big animal, as well as bush clearing.

At the early stage we were kept in fairly safer areas during which basic knowledge and rudimentaries of life in jungle were taught. Animal habits, their cries and sounds and of course acclimatization received special attention. We had been instructed in the circumstances where a tiger's presence could be probable and how to avoid coming in his path. Drills for dealing with emergencies were practiced. Marching formations, resting and camping drills were taught. When the teacher was sure of our readiness he moved into deep forest. One night we camped in a bed of fairly wide stony nullah. Rising early, at dawn, we were all set for locating a Tiger in the wilderness. The teacher asked us for the direction which we would like to move and we all decided to move up the nullah course. Having given to us the marching formation he led at a distance of about 40-50 yards. Having moved for about 200 yards the teacher halted and pointed to an area with his hand; he said that there were fresh pug marks and that a young Tiger had passed only about 15/20 minutes earlier. Our feelings were mixed, how could teacher estimate Tiger's age and the time unless he had seen it earlier which he did not disclose. We could not detect any signs. He, then, gathered us close and showed a small pebble lying on top of a flat embedded stone. He asked one of us to pick it up and examine it carefully. The pebble was half covered with wet sand, surely it had been uprooted by foot or paw of some one and lifted/dropped on the larger stone. The wet sand was indication of the fact that it had happened a short while earlier. In the jungle where we were operating there was no human habitation and movement of men and domestic animals at that hour was out of question. Obviously some wild animal was responsible for disturbing the pebble. Pug marks on the ground would identify the animal and of course an expert like Col. JIM CORBETT would only know, from the state of pug marks how old or big the animal should be. Now after close examination of the ground revealed pug marks, which we could hardly figure out by ourselves but when helped by the teacher we could make out the shape of pug marks, each one now clearly visible. The teacher could differentiate between the pug marks of an old tiger and a young one from the deep or flat marks of pads of paw. The older one would leave flat and not deep marks and also there would be cracks in his pads. The size, he could determine from the distance between the pug marks, we moved forward, losing the trail and again discovering it till we reached a sharp bend and the nullah appeared to be making almost a semi circle round a hill. At that stage the teacher claimed that the animal was not far off and it could be within 200 yards. He cautioned us for more alertness and made us climb the hill, around which the nullah made the bend. The hill had scattered pine and other tall trees and fairly thick under brush, the height was about 200 feet. We adopted a formation called Diamond, like outer line of diamond on playing cards. Kukary was to be used in emergency and absolute silence was to be maintained. He stopped us about 25 feet below the crest of the hill and he himself crawled for last few feet. He then called us, one by one, and we saw the "King of Jungle" sitting in a highly majestic manner. He had chosen a spot where the flood waters created a deep water pool against a rock and there was also sand and soil deposit with some grass. Surely the Tiger knew well where the prey animals should come for drink. With the help of binoculars the distance of about 150 yards was much reduced and we could see him almost within grasping distance - what an exciting experience. The teacher taught us another lesson. He had kept us on the downward side of breeze from the animal. It was this important factor which kept the Tiger away from smelling us or from hearing any noise. On the other hand the clever Colonel continuously smelled the stink of the animal. Another lesson we learnt was of military importance concerning inter communication for various reasons such as dispersal and again gathering at a Rendezvous (RV). Here important point to note was to take care that the animal sounds cries used would be of such animals which were usually common in that particular jungle else you would be caught.

We survived and lived in the jungle and when we came out each of us was growing good crop of beard and certainly needed good bath with plenty of rubbing, and of course a change of light and clean clothes. There never was a greater urge of cooked hot spicy meal. Back in our regular camps we were not to relax but required to run a number of courses for Officers, VCOs and NCOs. Then came the news of dropping of Atomic Bombs on two cities of Japan (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) which forced Japan into surrendering but higher policy makers knowing Japanese stubbornness decided that we were not to take things easy and should be prepared for long drawn struggle to disarm Japanese soldiers who were spread over entire South East Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Besides above stated Jungle Lore Course there was so much and so many interesting events at the jungle training camp at Jamuna River that we have to go back to it.

Monkeys, Jinnees and Other Incidents

We have earlier talked of Major ATMA SINGH’s fondness of tiger shooting. He organized a Tiger Hunt and many knowledgeable as well as raw curious ones joined in. At a point, four of us broke off from the main party and decided to move in a different direction where forest was more open and hills rather flat and easy going. We did so, more for enjoying an outing rather than a serious tiger hunt. We had two shotguns between us. I did not possess one but I did share carrying one belonging to a colleague. We decided to rest on a flat piece of ground which had a small clean water stream circling around it, almost, three sides. We pulled out fruit basket and some came up with offer of biscuits and then we saw a group of deer running fairly close to us which was heading for the open side of the stream, without a thought a captain and I jumped up and ran after this group. Lucky for us that, where these animals collected, out of scare, the place was locked by high insurmountable cliffs and the only open side was covered by two of us. Due to lack of co-ordination between us and indecision almost all animals managed to escape except for one full grown female spotted deer. We moved forward trying to get her into a tight corner when it jumped into a very narrow but about 16/20 feet deep trench-like cutting made by flood waters. Without thinking of the consequences I jumped with a view to land in front of it and I did succeeded in having a grip on its one hind leg. My colleague joined-in almost simultaneously and inspite of furious head hitting from the animal we secured it. Had it been a male with sharp horns, things might have been different. We decided to present this beautiful female deer to the officers mess where already a strong and young male spotted deer was kept. It was donated by no other person but Major ATMA SINGH. The captured deer would not walk and lay flat on ground, and we thought that she was either feigning or was under shock. We could not carry this heavy load on our shoulders and decided to seek help from the party of men we had left at vehicle point. Two colleagues moved carrying one gun while two of us, the 'smart' captors, remained behind holding on to the animal. While in this state of affairs, we saw a Tiger running rather taking leaps and passed at a distance quite close to us. It was driven off by beaters of our main hunting party. A couple of men arrived and we lifted the deer but noticed that it was dying. A careful examination revealed a small bullet (pellet) hole, just above its eye. It was then slaughtered and men enjoyed their feast when back home. We the 'sportsmen' felt terribly sad at losing our rare prize.

We had established an advance camp about 5/6 miles deep into forest along the river for field firing. The site selected was a good one with its three sides covered with very high vertical cliff forming a projection or fort around which the river forming roundish loop flowed, and the open side was secured with high and thick layer of barbed wire fence. This was essential for camp's safety against big animals. For firing of high explosive hand grenades, I selected a spot not very far from the camp and instructed my senior VCO to lead the firing party next morning to that spot. We had not done enough work, hence I left earlier than the troops for the selected firing place. Sunlight spreads rather late in the morning in mountainous and forest country as such it was fairly early for me to have gone into the wilderness, but when one is acclimatized and used to the routine he is apt to become somewhat careless. This was such a case and as I approached the selected hill, at early dawn, I saw a Leopard busy enjoying his fresh kill. I was only about 30 yards from him and while he was on the far side of the crest line I was on the other. One .38 pistol looked rather a toy in the circumstance. One thought came to mind and that was to beat immediate retreat before Leopard could raise its head to look around. Second thought made me change mind firstly because I was not sure of my making a clear break from it and the other reason was the vague fear lest men should consider me a coward. I, therefore, sat down, so as to be invisible to the beast and then advanced quietly towards a near-by easy to climb, tall teak wood tree. That tree branched off into two main trunks providing a slot to see through, and I stood behind the tree with my eyes never off from the leopard which was sucking blood. I held pistol ready and the strategy was based on a plan that in case of assault by the animal, there was that strong tree between us and I should hit him in the head from point blank distance. How bold plan but practically things could have been different. Troops were not far and I could hear their voices when they approached the foothill. Right at that moment two instinctive things happened. One that the leopard, hearing the noise of men, raised its head and then decided to walk off, down hill away from me. The other thing was that for a moment a thought went through my mind to roll down the hill with maximum speed to be with my men but again I reassured myself that I had endured absolute loneliness for so many minutes and now when things were so much better, I should not surrender to fear. I shouted at my men to warn them of the presence of the beast and ordered for them to adopt a close formation with fixed bayonets - no loading of ammunition. Soon they were in control of the hill and search was extended wider and then double sentries posted, also a few shots were fired in the air to scare it away.

Quite a bit of preparation is required for conducting High Explosive Grenades firing. Grenades throwing site and the target areas are to be carefully selected, then troops resting and waiting areas which should be safe, are to be arranged. At the throwing point a trench for 'priming' of the Grenade and then a separate compartmented trench for the thrower and the conducting person are to be dug. All was done but one error almost cost lives of a few men including myself. There was a tall tree well away from the grenade throwing bay but its one long branch extended towards this site. Though it was fairly away to one side but there is always the possibility of human error of thrower not keeping the correct direction. That is more probable for fresh recruits, making their first attempt. During the firing one recruit, in excitement, lobbed a grenade in an awkward manner and in the direction of the said tree. The grenade hit the tree branch and came back landing on the ground before our noses. The Providence saved us and one of the NCOs just managed to push it off the slope before it burst. We, down in the trenches were covered with dust but remained safe. Here was a lesson that "time spent on reconnaissance (Recce) is never wasted" and no details of procedure should ever be ignored. 

One day, I thought of getting out of advance camp and decided to move along a forest department trail deep into thick forest. The absolute quietness and serenity of the forest was suddenly broken when I realized that on my both sides were hordes of large size monkeys. There were the large ones, the mother monkeys, grown ups and the babies, in scores. Had I intruded in their privacy? They kept good distance on sides and to the rear and few, the leaders, crossed my path at times - what message were they conveying, I did not understand! Then a stroke of fear went through my body and I told myself how foolish I was to take them to be friends, and decided to turn back. Now the big ones were more aggressive and while they talked in their language impressing each other, I could only sense increase in their aggressiveness. As I retraced my steps, I kept .38 pistol very handy and I swung the walking stick here and there to tell them to keep the distance. While the fear of a sudden attack was always there, I certainly enjoyed from that close distance their natural behaviour. Babies clinging on to their mothers, youth trying acrobatic tricks and swings on trees and older ones admonishing the silly ones. Then seeing the fence wire of our camp I was emboldened and keeping it on one side, I was able to reduce danger from all around and then these creatures started losing their interest in the chase and only a few sturdy ones were left when I finally came to the camp gate. It certainly was a great thrill.

I had first seen wild monkeys at Lucknow when a 7 years old kid. This supposed near relative of ours certainly attracts you and when you see it making faces, loving its young ones, eating with fore feet, it makes you feel like seeing a mirror yourself. Back at the main training camp, I had located a small spur which provided bush fruit food for them and for a good long - time, I would visit that place on holidays to throw some eatables including bananas, roasted gram etc.

While I was still at the advance camp set up for field firing of grenades, one night, at the early hours I received a wireless message informing me that a brother of mine named MUHAMMAD ASHRAF had come to see me and he was at our main camp. The advance camp Commander sanctioned my move and was kind to provide an escort of 2 soldiers, duly armed, and I got moving. The route was only an improvised path and to negotiate it during the night was fairly difficult.

It was generally over a line close to the bank of the river but at times it moved well away from the river and passed through low bush-covered areas which usually were ideal grazing grounds for deer and such animals of prey. Darkness is no darkness for animals and that is the time when their game of chase and run gets going, therefore there was every likelihood of bumping across some predator and that couldn't be without a very high risk. One thing which constantly remained in my mind was that the name given in the message, of my brother was MUHAMMAD ASHRAF whereas my elder brother with the name of MUHAMMAD ASLAM was serving some distance away but in a similar establishment in HARDWAR. I couldn't think of MUHAMMAD ASHRAF and contended myself with the assumption that the name was wrongly spelt in the wireless message.

The night was pleasant and the thought of meeting brother after fairly long time made it still more pleasant. The moon was near full and that increased visibility which brought to view, though at short distance, quite a varying landscape. Many small animals such as rabbits, jackals, fox, deer and even a few porcupines were seen. Thanks goodness no predators came in the way. At one place there was some movement on trees, close to our path and flashlight search revealed a large family of peacocks. Once earlier during a holiday we had witnessed a large family of peacocks in their natural habitat - an extremely fascinating experience. What a contrast in their beauty. The female is of dull colour coat with small size while the cock is larger and has a shining and beautiful fur or feather coat with a plume on the head and like a princess' or queen's long cloak as its tail. I wish to offer an apology to our own fair sex when comparing the beauty of males and females among animals. It is a sight when a male peacock spreads his tail feathers and gives a dance and the female rush to him admiringly. Also a herd of deer was grazing and there was a large size male with a crown of long horns, standing guard on a higher ground. A slightest hiss from him, when sensing or smelling a danger, would make the herd runaway at the fastest speed possible.

Such thoughts strengthened a feeling in me that males are more beautiful than the female of their sex and surely a man likewise must enjoy the similar position. Why was I thinking on those lines, was it that I was home sick or was it to strengthen my courage and resolve as a man under conditions of danger. Then a thought went round in my mind about the fact of men never being conscious of their such superiority. Had they been so, they wouldn't have been all praises in their poetry, compositions and the love stories which are always seeking most eagerly their beloved even at the cost of their long and endless sufferings. Lost in such thoughts, common for a young man, I suppose, we covered the distance without any difficulty.

On arrival, at the main camp, I saw, lying on my bed a cousin brother, MUHAMMAD ASHRAF. What a pleasant surprise. He was serving in MALAYA and was declared "Missing" when the Japanese occupied that country. There was no news for good 4 years and now suddenly MUHAMMAD ASHRAF, jumping from the bed embracing me was surely exciting. After his release by the Japanese, he reported at Engineers Center where he learnt of my presence at that camp. Love and young days close association compelled him to make diversion to see me before going home. I have never forgotten his affection. May Allah bless his soul since he is dead.

Back to field firing camp. This time the affair was not that simple so as to be dismissed as a 'Myth' or a fantasy and a lot of us were nonplussed about the reality of what we witnessed. One morning we were having tea, sitting in group, while our batmen were busy with their own routine, a short distance away when Company Commander's batman, a strong and heavy young man started shouting desperately for help. We saw, my batman sepoy FEROZE DIN, a thin and lean man of smallest stature from any angle who had the strong man in his grip and was pushing him towards the edge of the very high cliff over which we were camping. At first we did not take it seriously and some one from us, the officers, just taunted them to stop the nonsense but the matter became serious when we saw that the smaller man had carried/pushed the much stronger one almost near to the edge of cliff, when we all rushed to save the man helplessly in despair. There must have been 6 to 8 men who joined in to control him, now a "giant", who had extraordinary strength in him. He was flattened on the ground, the camp medical officer examined him and general opinion of the doctor and some of us was that he had an attack of 'Epilepsy'. But the men were adamant that Feroze Din was possessed by the Jinnee. Their argument was based on two factors. Firstly, how can epilepsy grow in him the immense strength which had been witnessed by so many. Secondly, when he lay, unconscious, men asked him about various acts of crime that had taken place in our establishment and astonishingly he had a clue to every incidence. Now a lot of men including myself were witnesses to the fact that the man was an honest, well disciplined, who had never had anything to do with men of bad reputation. How was it possible for him to collect so much of believable evidence. The doctor could not answer the first question relating to his acquiring extra ordinary body strength. Therefore, the Jinnee carried the day.

Grave Digger is a harmless and fairly small animal which is shy and remains well hidden during the day. It has a strong neck and is fleshy on hind legs like a wild boar or a lamb. Its size is that of a large size dog.

Officers Mess was located well away from our camp and there was an intervening hill having a fairly long curve over which the track passed. Almost, every night when negotiating that curve or bend which had a depression with thick bush and trees, my path was blocked by a strongly built animal, why it should do that I learnt later. On almost all occasions I would throw stones at him and at first it would shift its position to avoid the hurled stone but would not clear from my way unless rushed at in an attacking manner. There was a troops’ mess (Cook House) above this track bend on top of the spur and one night when I had shouted at this animal, to scare him away, a Havildar (Sergeant) came down from the top of the hill and saluting me, he asked as to what was the difficulty. A plan was made for the next night, in which a party of men would remain at alert and jointly the animal would be attacked. We succeeded in our plan and the animal never appeared again. After careful analysis it appeared that poor animal never meant any illwill towards me but our cook house always provided him some food which was castaway by the men feeding there or even the leftover surplus. Why he blocked my way, was most probably because it would get puzzled and pinned down by my powerful flashlight.

Life in forests, where hard military training is prime object, is usually exacting and tough. Periodic relaxation is certainly needed. One day, some of us, captains and subalterns, decided to cross one branch of river Jamuna. On the far side of this water was clean sand and then a large island in the middle of the river. The island was about one mile long and about half a mile wide which was covered with thick bush, but there was no tree visible. The island surface usually remained dry except for rare high floods, hence ideal breeding ground for egg laying birds and small vertebrate. We carried a gramophone with plenty of disc musical records of our choice. Food including roasts and fruits was plentiful. In those days we did not have transistors or dry battery radios nor there were tapes and tape recorders. We crossed the river with slippery large size stones in the bed, often getting a dip without losing anything to river’s fast and swift current. We also carried a couple of shotguns, obviously the possibility of a predator was always there. The first requirement was to get into dry under wears or anything which would permit removal of wet clothes and then to settle down with entertainment programme. Music started and card games resumed but I for some inner urge picked up a shot gun and made for the said island. I was certainly vague and had no definite aim except that there was a desire to see monkeys. When inside the island I saw few groups of peacocks but these were well away from shooting distance. Also we did not cherish shooting this bird, but no signs of monkeys, most probably absence of trees accounted for that. When fairly bored and having gone for about half a mile I came across an open sandy patch which divided this island width-wise. I thought of turning back taking route of this open sand and then hit the river.

Soon, I heard drum beating and beaters cries at the upper end of the island, the northern one. I soon recognized the sounds which were unmistakably from a tiger hunting party. Then soon a Tiger at full strides broke from the cover and in no time was inside the southern island. It had been chased out of its hideout by the beaters. Thanks God, I was almost near the water stream and I could see my friends camping about half a mile away. The scare was there but one thought that already scared away animal would like to keep away from men, kept me without getting into panic. How silly of us to have decided to hold a picnic right in the ground where the tigers should have taken refuge. On joining my friends I informed them of the presence, nearby, of a Tiger, we held our guns at ready though there was not the least possibility of it heading towards a group of 5/6 men. Our favourite singers, those days were K.L. Saigol and Kanan Devi. None of us then appreciated classical music which is now my most favourite and at times I consider it magical.

Above are some incidents, a lot of tigers, leopards, monkeys and other wild beasts encountered. These experiences or confrontations were enough to take fear out of me which I confess had been created by various stories told by elder ladies of my house during childhood.


Born in Feb 1925, Mohammad Sarwar Khan was educated  in King George’s Royal Indian Military School (later upgraded to Military College), Jhelum.  He was commissioned  in the Royal Indian Army (OTS Mhow) in February 1945 and  retired as a Major in February 1968. During his Army career, he served in Frontier Force Regiment from Feb 1945 to Oct 1962 and in the East Bengal Regiment. He was Second-in-Command of 2 E Bengal from 1962 to 1966.  Presently leading a retired life in Rawalpindi.