On 13 June 1971, 349 Gentlemen Cadets from the famed ‘Born to Battle’ course graduated from the Indian Military Academy, that which is nestled on the foothills of the Himalayas whence they found themselves thrust into combat operations during the I971 Indo-Pak war for the liberation of Bangladesh. Five decades have surpassed since the course walked towards the ‘antim pag’; Thrust into what they call “A trial by fire”
Veterans from the course recount tales of valour, pride, friendship, and loss from the battlefield in this series, which chronicles the lives of the 307 young men from the 47th regular, and 42 from the 31st Technical Course who helped deliver a watershed victory for the nation half a century ago, thereafter, changing the geopolitical face of the subcontinent.
Mission Victory India flags off the second entry into this series by interacting with Major General Rana Goswami (Retd), a highly distinguished veteran from the Regiment of Artillery who went on to serve as part of the Army Aviation Corps (AAC) and has held some of the Indian Army’s most coveted appointments in a military career spanning nearly four decades.
General Goswami began our interaction with a nostalgic account of pre-commission training and life in his new unit, “Most of us have very fond memories of our rigorous training period in the NDA as well as the IMA. However, today, we are approaching the 50th year of our passing out from IMA and our commissioning as Second Lieutenants into the Indian Army. This was something that we had been aspiring for since the last four years from 1967-71 and one can recount some of our thoughts at the time. Perhaps the foremost was, a feeling of deep joy and accomplishment, of having successfully completed our training as cadets and then gentleman cadets to becoming officers of the Indian Army. I was keenly looking forward to my new life in the army. Personally, I hardly knew anything about the Regiment of Artillery, the fighting arm of the army that I had been allocated, as I had opted for the Armoured Corps. There was no doubt a sense of disappointment. I’d be a hypocrite to not accept that, but I now looked forward to learning the ropes of my profession in the Artillery, for me an unknown entity of the army. I had also learnt that the Artillery had a flying branch, the Air OP and had looked forward to joining this branch in due course and fly like a free bird in the sky, to carry out whatever tasks that these pilots did. Luckily for me, I did join this flying branch, now called the ‘Army Aviation’ and spent 16 years of my service career in this profession.”
Recounting his Pipping ceremony, the General narrated, “The passing out parade had already taken place on the morning of 12 June and my elder brother, two years older and senior to me in service from the Armoured Corps had witnessed it. Our parents couldn’t come for various reasons, but I now looked forward to being pipped, i.e., wearing the rank of a 2/Lt on our shoulders the same night. It was a glittering ceremony which took place at the prestigious Chetwode hall in the IMA at the stroke of midnight, the very place where just two years earlier, I had had the privilege of pipping my elder brother, who now did me the same honour. Well, just like my brother was next to me at the pipping ceremony, all around us there were hundreds of parents and close relatives pipping their children or brothers. They all had tears of joy in their eyes at the achievement of their sons. So did we have tears in our eyes. We would keep looking at our shoulders to see the single shining brass pip, as if it would disappear if we didn’t look often enough. The next morning would be the oath taking ceremony and then, we would all leave for home, to meet our parents after more than five months. We were all looking forward to that.”
“Our course, the 47th Regular IMA Course is indeed the most decorated course in the history of the Indian Army and we who form are a part of this course are genuinely proud not only of that fact, but of the fact that so many of our iconic officers who martyred their lives in acts of outstanding gallantry in the service of the nation are now a part of folklore in the army, officers who inspired us and will continue to inspire thousands of others who followed us in the profession of arms to continue to defend the territorial integrity of our great nation, displaying outstanding valour of gallantry and courage in war after war over the last 50 years,” said General Goswami highlighting his course’s combined martial prowess and contribution to the ’71 war effort.
He went on to describe the undying sense of camaraderie shared between his course mates for over five decades, “Our B2B Course has a phenomenal sense of bonding. Most of us, especially close friends from our own squadron in the NDA, or company in the IMA kept in touch with each other from the time we passed out, right through the war in 1971, right up to this moment. In those initial and subsequent years, it was through letters and as time passed on and new development in technology took place, we’ve kept in constant touch through telephones, cell phones as well as through internet mail. Whenever we travel to various places, we make it a point to go and meet up with our course mates at the places where we are visiting, and that pleasure can never be quantified. Most of our wives and families are surprised at how soon we catch up on the days gone by and go right back to our days as a cadet in our training academies. This bonding is something to be seen. These days we call each other through video calls, on birthdays and wedding anniversaries, or even sad moments during the demise of a loved one and see each other and our wives aging gracefully into the seventh decade of our lives and chat for hours with them, irrespective of which part of the world they are living in today. It is such an immense pleasure.”
With half a century having passed since the 349 mighty young men of ‘Born To Battle’ walked towards the ‘antim pag’ and into the jaws of war before collectively delivering the nation a decisive military, the General was asked if he would like to give any advice to future military leaders and the nations vibrant youth, to which he replied by saying: “The profession of arms, whether it is the army, navy or the air force, is among the noblest professions in this world,” he went on to elaborate, “While each citizen of any nation accomplishes something or the other for their own selves, there are very few who give something back to the nation, other than in way of taxes etc.”
“In the profession of arms, you get an opportunity of giving something back to your motherland, in terms of looking after its integrity, day and night – for decades of your life, especially in your youth, even give your life defending it, if need be. It is a very satisfying profession for those who are spirited, who seek adventure and wish to see and travel to different places within and out of the country, meeting people from different strata of society, religion, and communities, learning from the experience of living and interacting with such a vast, diverse multilingual lot of people. I doubt whether any other profession provides such an amazing experience,” he explained with a glint of pride in his eyes!
When asked if he would like to share a message dedicated to those who, despite their best efforts could not join the armed forces, General Goswami replied saying, “Every person, male, or female, who is born on this planet, comes with their own destiny. Many a time, even when one is very inspired to join the defence services to serve the country, one is not able to, despite all one’s hard work or endeavour. I’ve personally seen this happen to a lot of youngsters and I have always advised them initially, not to give up hope and continue to try their best. However, if destiny does not have it in them to succeed in this endeavour, it is not the end of the world. Perhaps the almighty has something better in store for you and he generally has. One can opt for some other profession, which offers you something else that you may have a liking for.”
“So, remain motivated and inspired and work towards it. Years later, when you look back at your life, you will smile and say, “Where God closed a window of opportunity during your early days, he opened up a much wider door” and thank him for it, said the seasoned war veteran before signing off.
About Maj Gen. Rana Goswami, VSM (Retd)
The veteran is an alumnus of the King Georges School, Belgaum, NDA & IMA from where he got commissioned into the Regt of Arty, in Jun '71 & experienced '71 Indo-Pak War, the same year. In 1975 , he joined the aviation branch of the army where he served for 16 years whilst logging around 3,000 hours of flying hours. He has taught flying & commanded an army aviation unit. He is an alumnus of the DSSC, Wellington & has held various command & staff appointments including Director NBC, at the AHQ from 1995-98 & ADG of Strategic Move at AHQ from 2007-09. He commanded his regiment during 1992-95, when insurgency was at its peak and has commanded his brigade under similar conditions in Lower Assam. During his tenure of command of his unit, it became the most decorated arty regt in the country, being awarded with 28 individual gallantry awards, the Army Chief’s Unit Citation, & the J&K Governor’s Salver for “Outstanding Contribution” to the State of J&K. During command of his brigade his formation was awarded 155 individual gallantry awards.