Memories of the day: What I felt on August 15, 1947

Business as usual at IMA, lights went out on the dot: Brigadier (Retd.) R.N. Mishra

War Veteran Brig (Retd.) R.N. Mishra   | Photo Credit: Shanker Chakravarty

As independent India made its tryst with destiny, lights went out early on the night of August 14, 1947 at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun, Brigadier (Retd.) R.N. Mishra (94) recollects.

“In the academy, people go to bed early after a hectic day,” he says when asked if everyone was up listening to the radio broadcast of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic “Tryst with Destiny” speech.

At the time, he was a young captain posted as an instructor at the academy that trained Indian and British officers.

Changed atmosphere

Summing up the mood inside, he says, “We were very happy to gain Independence and were certainly keen that the British go. British officers were very abusive towards Indian officers and men. We were happy that they were going and Indians were taking over their positions. That is the main thing that changed the atmosphere.”

The public celebrated Independence outside, but the academy was largely quiet with the mixed feelings running inside.

While Indians were keen to take over, British officers were getting ready to pack their bags and head back home.

“On that day, we held a parade for the cadets and had a holiday after that. In fact, the holiday went on for two days,” Brigadier Mishra recalls, sitting at his home in Noida as India celebrates 70 years of Independence.

Just as he turned 18, he followed in his father’s footsteps into the Army.

He was commissioned into the Rajput regiment of the British Indian Army in 1942.

He fought in the Second World War in the Burma theatre and after Independence, served in the Indian Army, eventually retiring as a Brigadier in 1972.

The public were happy about Nehru’s speech at midnight. We read about it in the newspapers the next day

The understanding between the British and Indians even during the war was not very good, he says. “However, we continued with them.” On the historic speech delivered by Nehru, at the stroke of midnight, he says there was a lot of interest among the general public, but not so much within the IMA.

“The public were happy about Nehru’s speech at midnight. We read about it in the newspapers the next day. The general public were also very keen to hear Nehru when he spoke from the Red Fort,” he says. There were an almost equal number of British and Indian officers in the academy. That started to change, but barring that, the system continued as such, he says.

R.N. Mishra In his younger days

R.N. Mishra In his younger days  


“British officers started packing a few months after that. Senior British officers were given some more time, but the junior officers left immediately.”

While the country went through a turbulent and bloody phase of Partition, the transition of the British Indian Army to the Indian Army was quiet though hectic.

Various state forces were merged into the national Army, and new units were being raised.

One sharp observation of Brigadier Mishra was on India’s defence manufacturing capability.

While the country is now adopting the slogan “Make in India”, Independent India has, in fact, lost that edge in the transformation from colonialism.

He notes that under the British, several factories made ammunition and equipment in India. However, as the Second World War ended and the British left India, many of them were shut as there was no demand.

Modern Army

Later as India expanded and modernised its Army, a lot of change came about.

“We have better weapons, systems, and so on. There was improvement. But it was not made in India, that was the problem,” he says.

For instance, in 1962, the Indian military changed the rifle system to the self-loading rifle.

“Then we had to import the ammunition from Russia as they gave us the system,” he says.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 8:16:46 AM |

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