Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw was perhaps a one-off military general who caught the nation by storm. Nicknamed as Sam Bahadur, the most celebrated general had a career in the military spanning four decades. Sam Bahadur fought five wars, beginning from the World War II in 1942. As the Army Chief, Manekshaw led the Indian Army to its momentous victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
On his death anniversary, here are some facts about one of India’s greatest war heroes:
He was given the nickname ‘Bahadur’ by soldiers of the 8th Gorkha Rifles where he was reassigned after the Independence in 1947. Henceforth, he came to be popularly known as ‘Sam Bahadur’.
Manekshaw was born to a Parsi family on April 3, 1914 in Amritsar, Punjab. His father Hormusji Manekshaw was a doctor in the British Indian Army during First World War. Jemi Harmusji Framji Manekshaw – his younger brother – served in the armed forces as well.
Manekshaw – the first General of the Indian Army to be promoted to the five-star rank of Field Marshal – faced resistance from his father to join the Army. But he eventually took the IMA entrance examination and came off with flying colours securing the sixth rank. He was part of the first course – christened ‘The Pioneers’ – of INA.
In his 40-year military career, Manekshaw fought five wars – World War II, 1948 Kashmir War Against Pakistan and Afghan tribals, 1962 Indo-Sino war, 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars.
He got married on April 22, 1939 in Bombay and had two daughters – Sherry and Maya – with his wife Siloo Bobde.
On one occasion, when the-then PM Indira Gandhi asked General Manekshaw about the Indian Army’s preparedness for the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the dapper officer replied, “I am always ready, sweetie.” It is said that he referred to Gandhi as ‘Sweetie’ due to their Parsi connection.
The gallant General is known to have escaped death on many occasions. During the Second World War, he suffered serious bullet injuries in his stomach. Fortunately, he was saved by an Australian surgeon who operated on him and took out bullets lodged in his lungs, liver and kidneys. In fact, he lived to his ripe old age.
Field Marshal Manekshaw was also known for coruscating wit and quotes. One of his famous quote that has taken on timeless proportion is, “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is Gorkha.”
He was honoured with the Military Cross for gallantry in 1942, the Padma Bhushan in 1968 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1972.
Mankeshaw breathed his last on June 27, 2008 in Wellington at the age of 94.