Achiever's Index

Major Somnath Sharma

Somnath studied in Sherwood till the age of eleven after which he joined the RIMC, Dehra Dun.

In May 1941, he was selected to join the IMA, Dehra Dun from where he was commissioned as Second-Lieutenant in the 8/19 Hyderabad Regiment- now the 4 Kumaon. 

He saw action in Burma with the 51 Infantry Brigade and at the early age of 21, he was appointed D.A. & Q.M.G. at his Brigade Headquarters. He was mentioned in despatches for his gallantry and for outstanding efficiency. 

From Burma he was posted to Malaya to assist in the process of rehabilitation of the population.

Returning to India as adjutant of 4 Kumaon, he was posted to Communal-strife-torn Punjab where the army was deployed to maintain law and order.

When hostilities broke out in Kashmir in 1947, Somnath found himself handicapped with an arm in plaster. But, despite his fractured arm, he was so keen to join his regiment, that the C.O. gave in and ordered him to fly to Kashmir in command of two companies sent to protect the air-field at Srinagar.

The account of how this brave officer, despite devastating enemy fire kept the air-strip is given in the following citation:


On 3rd. November 1947 Maj. Sharma's Coy was ordered on a fighting patrol to Badgam Village in Srinagar (Kashmir) Valley. He reached his objective at first light on 3rd. November, 1947, and took up a position south of Badgam Village. At 1100 hours, enemy estimated strength 700 attacked his Coy position being brought to bear on the Coy position from three sides, the Coy began to sustain heavy casualties.

Maj. Sharma fully realizing the gravity of the situation and the direct threat that would result to both Srinagar and the aerodrome if the enemy attacking him was not held until reinforcements could be rushed up to close up the gap leading to Srinagar via Hum Hom, urged his Coy to fight the enemy - tenaciously with extreme bravery. In order to do this, he rushed across the open ground to his sections exposing himself to heavy and active fire. 

He took a very active part in directing the fire of his sections on to the ever-advancing enemy. He exposed himself to the full fury of the enemy's fire and laid out air-strips in order to guide the aircraft on to the targets in full view of the enemy.

Realising that casualties had affected the efficiency of his light automatics, this officer, whose left hand was in plaster, personally commenced filling LMG magazines and issuing them to LMG gunners. A mortar shall landing amongst his ammunition resulted in an explosion that killed him.

Maj. Sharma's Coy held on to its position and the remnants withdrew when almost completely surrounded. His inspiring example had resulted in the enemy being delayed for six hours and reinforcements permitted to get into position in Hum Hom to stem the tide of the enemy's advance.

His leadership, gallantry and tenacious defence was such that his men were inspired to fight the enemy outnumbered by them seven to one for six hours, one hour of which was after this gallant officer had been killed.

He has set an example of courage, with qualities unequalled in the history of the Indian Army. His last message to Brigade HQ received a few moments before he was killed was "The enemy are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to the last man and the last round.
Field  Marshall S.H.F.J. Manekshaw, M.C. affectionately  known 
as `Sam' was commissioned from first course to pass out  of 
the  Indian Military college (now known as the Indian  Military 
Academy),  Dehradun, in 1934 . He was commissioned in the  9th 
Frontier  Force  Rifles. During the Second World War,  he  saw 
service  with his battalion in Burma and was severely  injured 
in  action. He awarded the Military Cross for his devotion  to 
duty and outstanding bravery. In 1947, after independence  and 
the  Partition of India, Sam Manekshaw was transferred to  the 
8th Gorkha Rifles. During his illustrious career, he has  held 
a number of important staff appointments. He was the  Commandant  of the Infantry School, Mhow, and Defence Services  Staff 
College,  Wellington. He was selected to command  the  Eastern 
Command as it had a challenging task to fulfill as a result of 
the Chinese aggression. He was appointed the Chief of the Army
Staff in 1968. As chief, he was the architect of the 1971 Indo 
- Pak war in which he ld the Indian Army to its success.

Your Grace, the Metropolitan of India, My Lord Bishop of Lucknow, Mr. Principal, ladies and young gentlemen of Sherwood : 
yesterday  evening  when my A.D.C. told me  that  I  would 
have  to speak here, I was horrified. I thought the  Principal 
had  asked  me to come and join the celebrations ; I  did  not 
realize he wanted me to sing for my supper ! Believe me, as  I 
stand  here, I am terrified. Those near me can almost hear  my 
knees  knocking  and my teeth chattering. For eight  years  in 
Sherwood, I was at the receiving end.
It  is customary on these occasions for the guest  speaker 
to  give a learned discourse or advice to young gentlemen.  It 
is  not my fault that, although I received my early  education 
in  Sherwood, I am not learned. Sir, I am fit neither to  give 
you a learned discourse nor advice, I really want to tell  you 
what Sherwood has done for me. 
Sherwood  has  taken me to my present position.  First  and 
foremost,  I  learned  to  live  alone  and  independently.  I 
learned to fight - from the time I got up in the morning till 
the  time I went to bed. When I went down to wash I could  not 
find  my towel, and while I was looking for my towel  somebody 
pinched my soap. This, my young gentlemen, happened for  eight 
years.  I am rather disappointed as I look at you carefully  (I 
shall  put on my glasses) to see so few scarred faces.  In  my 
time, the guest speaker saw nothing but black eyes. I  fought, 
and  it stood me in good stead during the war in Burma,  where 
we came up against the Japanese. 

What  else did I learn from Sherwood ? During the war  in 
Burma I went without food for many days. I was hungry. I withstood  this  and said to myself, "After all I went  through  8 
years of hunger in Sherwood.~ I was hungry in the morning;  I 
was  hungry  in the afternoon, hungry when I went  to  bed  at 
night.  Does  a similar situation prevail now ?  I  learnt  in 
school  to hate my enemies. How ? ....Thanks to St.  Joseph  's 
next door and when we played them on the Flats. From the corner of my eye I see His Grace, the Metropolitan, and the Bishop 
frowning.  "  You sowe should your neighbour,~ is  what  they 
say.  So  we should, though I can almost hear  the  boys  say, 
"except St. Joseph's."

Sir, it is a great privilege and a great honour to be able 
to come back to Sherwood after thirty years, to come back as a 
chief guest, to come back to address you boys who will grow up
to  be fine gentlemen. I thank you very much for having  given 
me this privilege. I am sorry I cannot tell you anything  about 
Mr.  Binns, I have heard a great deal about him, but  he  was here  after  my time. May I hope that some day, some  of  you, 
will join the armed forces to rise to high positions.
Gleanings from `The Sherwoodian Times'

It is with a great sense of satisfaction that we note that 
the first Field-Marshal in the Indian army was Sam  Manekshaw, 
a tremendous honour for the school indeed.
Not  much can be gleaned about this future leader of  men 
from  old  Sherwoodian'  magazine. We know that  he  had  two 
brothers,  Jehangir  and Jemi, who also studied  in  Sherwood. 
They came to us from Mussoorie.
He  seemed to be more literary than sporting and we  give 
here  a  delightful  poem which gives early  warning  of  that 
famous  humour  that is so characteristic of  him  (and  which 
sometimes got him into trouble ! ). 
He  and  his two brothers seemed to have a  penchant  for 
Maths.  This  talent is referred to in the poem  `The  Naughty 
Ninth '
" Now Manekshaw S. we are to add 
Who, no doubt, is a jolly lad, 
He's keen on Mathematics, too, 
Our Trig. sums for us he does do."

Jemi in Sherwood `Seniors'
"J. Manek's working hard, too:
To church he never comes.
`Tis thought he doth stay behind
To work out Algy sums."

We  follow the fortunes of Sam's meteoric rise from  this 
first  report.  "We are constantly hearing of the  success  of 
many  Old  Boys of whom we would especially  mention  Sam  Manekshaw who passed out with the first batch from Indian  Military Academy in March.
Later we read of him cutting his teeth on his first job : 
"  Congratulations to S.H.F.J. Manekshaw on passing out  among 
the first batch of cadets from
the  I.M.A, Dehradun. He has been temporaily attached  to  the 
2nd Battalion, Royal Scouts, at Lahore before eventually joining a unit in the Indian Army."
In  1946, there is a passing reference to his having  been 
wounded  in  the war (IInd World War). In  addition,  he  also 
picked  up an M.C. for gallantry and leadership on  the  Burma 
front.  He  became the centre of news in  the  December  1962 magazine which reads like a fanfare of trumpets, "We congratu
late  Maj. Gen. S. Manekshaw (1923-1930) on his  promotion  to 
the rank of Lt. General. He has been in charge of the  Defence 
Services Staff College, Wellington, for the last three  years. 
He  has a distinguished fighting record and is reputed to  be 
an authority on modern strategy and tactical planning.
He won the M.C. on the Burma Front during World War II.  He 
was the Directorof Military operations at Army Headquarters 
during the Kashmir fighting 1947-1948.
Later he served as Director of Military Training at Army 
Headquarters.  In  1985 he was appointed  Commandment  of  the 
Militery  School at Mhow. Generaal Manekshaw was  commissioned 
in 1934. 
Lt-General Manekshaw M.C. (1923 - 1930) who is at present 
commanding  a corps in the Eastern Sector is  being  appointed 
G.O.C in Central Western Command."
Students of the college who were here at the time of the 
Centenary  Celebrations (1969) can count themselves  fortunate 
in having General Manekshaw as Chief Guest. His speech,  short 
and  witty, captured the collective hearts of the  school  be
cause  he  touched lightly on those ingredients  that  are  an 
intrinsic  part of college life. We give it below, leaving  it 
to  serve  as a conclusion to the brief story of  a  man  whom 
Sherwood is very proud to own as one of her sons ! 

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