Millennium Post

This horse has traversed eras

Of all regiments in the Indian Army, the one with the most historically significant name, typically spelt complicatedly by the British, is The Scinde Horse. Because Sindh, derived from Sindhu, meaning Indus, is how India got its western name. Many other Indian Army regiments are named after regions to which their troops hail  from. But Scinde Horse was raised and operated till Independence largely in the Indus region. And while most regiments and troops of the Indus region went to Pakistan, much to its chagrin, The Scinde Horse remained part of the Indian Army.

The Scinde Horse, with its motto ‘Man Dies But The Regiment Lives’ and the only regiment known to honour its enemy till date - with the Baluchi warrior on its badge- celebrated its Quartoseptcentennial (175th) and Platinum (75th) Jubilee of Mechanisation on 16 and 17 November 2012 at its location in the Western Sector.  The event hosted by the current members of the regiment with aplomb and meticulous coordination, saw many retired officers and men, most of who participated in the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars, converge and get nostalgic about the years gone by.

The journey started here

The 14th Prince of Wales’s Own Cavalry, The Scinde Horse, a regular cavalry regiment of the British Indian Army traces its formation back to two regiments of Scinde Irregular Horse raised at Hyderabad in 1839 and 1846 respectively. In fact at that time there were the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Scinde Irregular Horse, which were absorbed into the regular Army after the Mutiny of 1857 and became the 35th Scinde Horse and the 36th Jacob’s Horse. 1st Scinde Irregular Horse in 1861 became the 5th Bombay Cavalry and later in 1903, the 35th Scinde Horse. 2nd Scinde Irregular Horse in 1861 became the 6th Bombay Cavalry and later in 1903, the 36th Jacob’s Horse. The men and horses of the 3rd Scinde Horse were divided up between these two regiments. The 35th Scinde Horse remained in India during the World War I for purposes of training drafting and internal security. The 36th Jacob’s Horse saw active service in Northern and Central India, Persia, Afghanistan, on the North West Frontier and during World War I, where it served in France and Palestine. After the Great War the 35th Scinde Horse went in March 1920 to Mesopotamia, where part of Sir Aylmer Haldane’s force quelling the Arab rising. The regiment reunited with Jacob’s Horse in November 1921 at Jabalpur.

The two regiments were amalgamated in 1922, as 14th Prince of Wales’s Own Scinde Horse which became the first of Indian Cavalry regiments to get mechanised in 1939. The transition was initially planned with only armoured cars but later one Squadron was equipped with light tanks. Perhaps the toughest thing in the transition phase for the officers and men of the regiment was to bid farewell to their horses. On 14 April 1938 the last mounted parade led by the Commandant, Col Malcomson at Rawalpindi. ended with the order ‘make much of your horses.’ During World War II, Scinde Horse performed vital tasks in Persia, Iraq, Egypt, and Syria from 1942 to 1946 before it returned to India at the end of the war.

Nation is divided, but troop stays

During partition the composition of the regiment with two Mohamedan Squadrons was seen as likely to be allotted to Pakistan. The Sikhs were worried about the transition but stoic. It came as a surprise that the regiment would be retained by India. In August 1947 the Pathan Squadron was transferred to Guides Cavalry and their Sikh Squadron replaced it in Scinde Horse. Lieutenant Colonel K R Brooke in his book The Scinde Horse (14th Prince of Wale’s Own Cavalry) wrote of the occasion – ‘The Regiment formed a line opposite the Quarter Guard and saluted their old comrades as they left their lines for the last time. On arrival in their new regiment, which was also stationed in Ahmadnagar, they formed up opposite the Sikhs who were to relieve them. Each man of both squadrons removed his Regimental cap or pagri badge, as the case might be, and handed it over to his opposite number’. The Ranghar Squadron in early October 1947 was transferred to the 13th D.C.O. Lancers. The then Risaldar Major of Scinde Horse, Niaz Mohd Khan was so torn up by the decision to leave the regiment and serve under Pakistan that he did not sign his papers till the moment of departure of the Squadron, that too on the urging of his Commanding Officer. Till the end he maintained that he had enlisted with the Scinde Horse and that was where his loyalty lay. The new ‘C’ Squadron was to be a Sikh Squadron from Probyn’s Horse, but did not join the regiment as Army HQ had decreed that this Squadron was to join Hodson’s Horse instead. Instead the Guide’s Dogra Squadron which had already joined Hodson’s Horse was sent to Scinde Horse. By 22 January 1948 and the Scinde Horse got composed of two Sikh and one Dogra Squadron, the same as Hodson’s Horse.

Horse power gets technological edge

Equipped with Sherman tanks, with which it fought the 1965 Indo-Pak War, Scinde Horse subsequently was also the first to get Soviet Russian T-55 Tanks in 1966 and amongst the first to get T-72s in 1980-81.

The T-72s adorned some of the various venues where the events of the recent celebration were held. Notable among the veterans attending were Brig BS Oberoi (retd), the senior-most and eldest officer well into his eighties and frail but full of zest and Lance Dafadar Harjit Singh, who lost both his hands when his tank was hit during the 1965 Indo-Pak war. Harjit’s regimental spirit drove him to visit Scinde Horse after the 1971 Indo-Pak war, when it was deployed in captured Pakistani territory (which was given back later).

Old yes, but still not outdated

The celebration on 16 November began with prayers at the Regimental Gurudwara and Mandir.  This was followed by a visit to the Regimental Headquarters, and then a fabulous Tattoo Display at the regimental grounds included breath-taking feats by horsemen of 61st Cavalry, motorcyclists of the Corps of Military Police and Labradors of the Army Dog Unit, who have been invaluable in counter-terrorism and rescue operations. The Quartoseptcentennial Lunch and the Bara Khana (when all ranks dine together) that night saw old compatriots of the Scinde Horse mingling with the current generation and recounting many exciting, motivating and humorous episodes. The true spirit of the regiment was much evident in these festivities.

An interesting addition to Scinde Horse is its recently instituted affiliation with the Indian Navy’s ship INS Satpura, whose two officers and eight ranks were invited for the celebration.

The next morning there was a  somber ceremony of wreath laying at Regiment’s war memorial in the Quarter Guard, which followed Mounting of the Ceremonial Guard in cavalry uniforms. Then came the Sainik Sammelan, when the Colonel of the Regiment, Lt Gen AK Singh, Southern Army Commander, addressed all present, following which the JCOs’ Mess hosted lunch for all personnel, while all the ladies had lunch at the Family Welfare Center. The afternoon’s fixture was an exciting cycle-polo match. The evening began with the Army Symphony Band regaling the audience, followed by a very moving sound and light presentation of the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak Wars near the Officers’ Mess. Equally moving was the talk thereafter by Brig Sukhjit Singh, MVC, scion of Kapurthala. The Quartoseptcentennial Dinner at the Officers’ Mess, with all serving officers attired in Blue Patrols, was yet another trip down memory lane for all the veterans present as the Mess with much regimental memorabilia  is almost like a mini-museum.

It runs in the family

Like old regiments, one of the great strengths of The Scinde Horse is family affiliations. There are 41 serving Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and ranks who are second generation Scindehorsemen, some of whose fathers were present for the celebration. Of the 9 second generation officers, two fathers and sons were present- Brig Yudhvir Kanwar (retd), whose son Col Ranvijay Singh is the Regiment’s Commandant and Maj Gen BS Malik (retd), whose son, Bikram, recently retired as a Col, were present. Bikram’s wife, the famous Arjuna Awardee Deepa Malik, a wheelchair borne paraplegic has excelled in multiple handicapped sports events. Two more young Scindehorsemen-Lieutenants BPS Mankotia and GS Takhar are fourth generation officers, with their forebears of different regiments. Lt Gen RM Vohra, commissioned into Scinde Horse, but transferred to 4th (Hodson’s) Horse, which he commanded during the 1971 Indo-Pak war and was awarded the MVC, is the second of four brothers-all in Armoured Corps.

Two incidents recounted to this writer during this celebration merit mention here as they typify regimental spirit. Maj Pramod Kapur (retd) was commanding a prisoners of war (PoW) camp after the 1971 Indo-Pak war, where some of the 93,000 Pak army prisoners were housed. To his great surprise, one of them, the JCO ADC of Lt Gen AAK Niazi (heading Pak army in erstwhile East Pakistan), turned out be an old pre-Partition Scindehorseman. ‘When I met him the first time in the PoW camp, he kept staring at my cap badge and when I asked him why, he told me that he was in Scinde Horse… he never forgot his days in our Regiment and when we parted at his repatriation, so overcome was he that he presented me with Gen Niazi’s car-flag,’ said Maj Kapur. That flag is hung upside down (as per tradition of symbols captured from the enemy) in Scinde Horse Officers’ Mess.  

The other similar incident was when Brig Vivek Mehta (retd), a second generation Scindehorseman, when posted in Army HQs, New Delhi in the 1980s and driving his car with the Scinde Horse crest, was overtaken by the car of the Pakistani High Commissioner (who was not in the car then) and flagged to stop. Out came the turbaned assistant of the High Commissioner, who saluted and introduced himself as an old Scindehorseman, who, it turned out, had served with and recalled Brig Mehta’s father, Col PC Mehta.  Regimental affiliations had disregarded man-made boundaries yet again.

Anil Bhat is a defence and strategic analyst
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