Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An article by Maj Gen surjit singh

Dear Brig Kamboj and Friends,
I recently did a bit of research on the life and times of Chetwode. What I find is contained in a brief note, attached with this mail. I feel that we often quote Chetwode out of context.
Maj Gen Surjit Singh


I owe a personal debt of gratitude to Chetwode. His credo guided me throughout my service. Early during my military career I learnt that the more I cared for the quality of life of the troops placed under my command the greater was the loyalty and willing obedience of my orders which I received in return. I find that his message has made deep inroads into our psyche and I do not know any army officer who has forgotten what he read on the Chetwode building at the time of passing out of the Indian Military Academy.

In an idle reverie, I decided to find out a bit more about the man who wrote those three sentences and what he did to translate them into action during his own service. A quick search of the Internet revealed that Field Marshal Philip Walhouse Chetwode was the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army during 1930-35. The IMA was raised during this period and the C-in-C inaugurated the Academy in 1932. This eternal advice was contained in his address to the cadets, and that has given to him his name and fame. But I could find nothing in his biography to substantiate any of his actions to improve the ‘safety and welfare’ of men whom he commanded during his service. He was the second most powerful man in India, next only to the Viceroy. And so his word meant a lot. Specifically in terms of the salaries of the soldiers under his command, I observe that what we have done can put his creed to shame.

By a quirk of fate, I discovered a booklet entitled “Regulations for the Pay and Allowances for the Army in India” in my father’s collection. It is published in 1932 and all amendments up to 1942 are inscribed in manuscript on the first few pages. The pay at the cardinal points are as follows:

Lt Gen (in command) Rs 4,500
2nd Lieut(married) Rs 490
2nd Lieut (unmarried) Rs 405
Subedar Major Rs 250-15-310
Sepoy (Infantry) Rs 16 (fixed)

There is no mention of the pay of the C-in-C, but I have read somewhere that he was given an annual salary of Rs 100,000 during that period. My father used to tell me that getting a man enrolled in the army was easy. The spoken word of a Subedar Sahib or a letter of recommendation from an officer was all that a man needed to become a recruit. The soldiers were enlisted for seven years with the colors and a ‘reserve’ liability of eight years. To earn a pension the soldiers had to rise to the rank of a Naik, and that was not easy. They had to undergo a stiff ‘umeedwar’ cadre and only those who qualified on this course could rise to NCO ranks. The army did not grant pension to all the men, and so the pensioners could be well looked after. Thus, getting in was easy but climbing up in the hierarchy was tough. And as far as I could see, Chetwode did nothing to change this format. Incidentally, the officers who passed out of the Academy which he inaugurated were called ICOs and they did not get the KCIO rates of pay. An ICO 2nd Lieut started was granted Rs 300 only.

In sharp contrast to the above competitive format, we now start a Sepoy on Rs 10,250 with a DA @22% and give him 3% compounding increments with three assured career progressions, and every entrant is entitled to a pension, hedged against inflation. Is it a surprise that there was a virtual stampede at a recruiting center in Rajasthan and the crowd of military service aspirants had to be fired upon in UP a few months ago? I myself have been approached by men from our village to help them get their wards recruited. They are willing to pay as much as 1.5 lac rupees if they can be assured that the job will be done.

For a more comprehensive understanding of the personality of Field Marshal PW Chetwode, kindly turn to the web pages. To me it seems that he was a blue blooded soldier whose performance was mediocre as a young officer and average as a middle level officer. His rise to the apex ranks is due more to his lineage than anything else. In the British social order he is referred to as 1st Baron & 7th Baronet of Oakley. As for the matters related with determination of wages and salaries, the British depended on the principles enunciated by Lord Islington.

I strongly urge my friends to quote Chetwode only after getting to know more about the man and his work. Three clever sentences do not tell the whole story!

Field Marshal Philip Walhouse Chetwode, 1st Baron Chetwode, 7th Baronet of Oakley GCB OM GCSI KCMG DSO (21 September 1869 – 6 July 1950) was a British cavalry officer who became Commander in Chief in India. Read more:
Philip Chetwode, 1st Baron Chetwode

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