Ever seen a pre-Independence Certificate of Discharge/Release from the Indian Army?
My maternal grandfather, Ananthan Nair, worked in The Survey of India. I think this might have been the only employer he served all through his working life.
These undated pictures are from mom’s album – I suppose they’re survey assignments in different places.
During World War II (1939-1945), India was under the British, and was a substantial contributor to the forces of the Allied Nations. Apart from soldiers, Indians provided other expertise as well – like surveyors such as my grandfather.
The Indian Army had asked for surveyors to serve on deputation. With good proficiency in English and Mathematics, and with experience behind him, Grandpa was one of those who was sent from the Cochin State unit. He was enrolled into the army as Subedar, in 1941. As per the Certificate of Service, he served in the Air Survey Unit, till March 1947, just before India got independence “Five years, Eight months and Seven days with the Colours, and Four months, Twenty-four days in the Reserve” – over six years.
During the years of War Services, Grandpa was at three theatres of operations:
7-11-1941 to 4-8-1943 – Paiforce (Persia-Iraq Command)
25-4-1945 to 19-1-1946 – Ceylon
28-1-1946 to 31-12-1946 – Singapur.
From the dates, it looks like Grandpa was not around to see my mom when she was born.
He used to say that his most important tasks included doing surveys from air-crafts, aerial surveys – to pinpoint where to attack, where the bombs were to be dropped, and the like. On and off he used to share some of his experiences – how he was chased by hyenas, how he had to walk for days through Burma (why I don’t know), about rubber plantations in Malaysia and other stories. He was very excited when I was going to live in Singapore in 2001. How different it must have been in 1946!
The certificate says he was awarded two medals – the Defence Medal and the War Medal. We’d asked him about these but he couldn’t remember if he collected the medals or where they went. We never did see them. Character – Exemplary.
After release from the army, Grandpa returned to The Survey of India, subsequently moved to Bangalore, where he worked till his retirement.
It was post-retirement, and years later (in the 1980s actually) that Grandpa discovered that this Discharge Certificate would get him access to the Military Canteen where he could buy all his supplies. The ballpoint scribbles on some of the pages on the certificate are for the Canteen Card. Sometimes I would take him to buy the things he needed. We loved the trips to the Canteen – we could buy more with our money as everything was much cheaper than in the outside shops.
Grandpa knew that I had an interest in historical things, so he gave me his Discharge Certificate to keep. And I am so glad that it’s been safe with me all these years.