K. M. Cariappa
28 January 1899|
Madikeri, Kodagu (Coorg Province), British India
15 May 1993 (aged 94)|
|Years of service||
|Relations||Air Marshal K. C. Cariappa (son)|
Field Marshal Kodandera "Kipper" Madappa Cariappa, OBE (28 January 1899 – 15 May 1993) was the first Indian Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the Indian Army. He led Indian forces on the Western Front during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. He is one of only two Indian Army officers to hold the five-star rank of field marshal; the other being Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. He was appointed commander-in-chief of the Indian Army in 1949.
His distinguished military career spanned almost three decades. Born on 28 January 1899, in Madikeri, Kodagu, Cariappa joined the British Indian Army shortly after the end of World War I, and was commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant into the 2/88 Carnatic Infantry. He was transferred between multiple regiments early in his career before settling on 1/7 Rajputs, which became his permanent regiment.
He was the first Indian military officer to attend the Staff College, Quetta, the first Indian to command a battalion, and was also one of the first two Indians selected to undergo training at the Imperial Defence College, Camberley, UK. He served in various staff capacities at various unit and command headquarters (HQ) and also at the General HQ, New Delhi. Before taking over as the C-in-C of the Indian Army, Cariappa served as the commander of the Indian Army's Eastern and Western Commands.
Cariappa was born on 28 January 1899, in Madikeri, Kodagu (Coorg), to a family of farmers belonging to the Kodandera clan. His father, Madappa, worked with the revenue department. Cariappa was the second child in a family of four sons and two daughters.
He was known as "Chimma" to his relatives. After completing his education in the Central High School at Madikeri in 1917, he attended Presidency College, Chennai to pursue his education further. During college, he learned that Indians were being recruited into the Army, and that they were to be trained in India. As he wished to serve as a soldier he applied for the training. Of the 70 applicants, Cariappa was one of 42 who were finally granted admission into the Daly Cadet College, Indore. He scored well in all the aspects of his training and graduated seventh in his class.
Cariappa graduated on 1 December 1919, and was granted a temporary commission. Subsequently, a permanent commission was granted on 9 September 1922, with effect from 17 July 1920. This was done to make Cariappa's rank junior to those British officers who passed out from Sandhurst on 16 July 1920. He was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion of the 88th Carnatic Infantry at Bombay (Mumbai) as a temporary second lieutenant. He was promoted to temporary lieutenant on 1 December 1920. Later he was transferred to the 2/125 Napier Rifles which moved to Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) in May 1920. He was promoted to lieutenant on 17 July 1921. On his return to India, Cariappa was posted to the 37th (Prince of Wales's Own) Dogras in June 1922. In June 1923, Cariappa was transferred to the 1/7 Rajputs, which became his permanent regimental home.
In 1925, Cariappa went on a world tour to Europe as well as the United States, Japan, and China. He met a large number of soldiers and civilians in various nations. The tour proved to be educational for him. After this he was able to settle down. He was given his nickname "Kipper" by a British officer's wife, who found his name difficult to pronounce, while he was serving in Fatehgarh. In 1927, Cariappa was promoted to Captain, but the appointment was not officially gazetted until 1931.
Cariappa was appointed as the deputy assistant quarter master general (DAQMG) at HQ Peshawar District in 1931. The experience he had gained at headquarters, his coaching at Royal United Services Institute in 1932, and the courses he attended at Small Arms School (SAS) and the Royal School of Artillery (RSA) helped him to get through the Quetta Staff College's entrance examination. He was the first Indian military officer to attend the course. Though officers were generally given staff appointments after completion of the course, Cariappa was not given his staff appointment until two years later. Until then, he rendered regimental service with his parent unit on the North-West Frontier. In March 1936, he was appointed as staff captain of the Deccan Area. In 1938, Cariappa was promoted to major and was appointed the deputy assistant adjutant and quarter master general (DAA & QMG).
In 1939, the Skeen Committee was set up to examine the options for the Indianisation of the Indian Army's officer ranks. As Cariappa was one of the most senior Indian officers with about 19 years of service, the committee held several discussions with him. He expressed his displeasure at the treatment of Indian officers in the Army. He stressed the discrimination shown toward Indian officers in terms of appointments, promotions, benefits and allowances to which British officers were entitled but Indians were not.
After World War II began, Cariappa was posted as Brigade Major to the 20th Indian Brigade stationed in Derajat. Later he was appointed as the DAQMG of 10th Indian Division which was stationed in Iraq. He earned a Mention in Despatches as DAA and quartermaster general of General (later Field Marshal) William Slim's 10th Division. He served in Iraq, Iran and Syria in 1941–1942 and then in Burma in 1943–1944. Back in India in March 1942, he was posted as second-in-command of the newly raised 7th Rajput Machine Gun Battalion at Fatehgarh. On 15 April 1942, he was promoted to acting lieutenant colonel and was appointed commanding officer of the same battalion, receiving an advancement to temporary lieutenant-colonel on 15 July. With this appointment he became the first Indian to command a battalion[c] in the Indian Army. Cariappa was successful in stabilising the newly raised battalion in terms of administration, training, and the handling of arms. Later the unit was rechristened as the 52nd Rajput and put under 43rd Indian Armoured Division. Within a span of a few months, the unit observed two transformations and two moves. First, the battalion's machine guns were replaced with tanks in order to convert it into an armoured regiment. But soon the battalion was reverted to infantry and re-designated as 17/7 Rajputs. Subsequently, it was moved to Secunderabad. This move led to unrest among the unit's troops which was successfully handled by Cariappa.
On 1 April 1943, he was appointed as the assistant quarter master general (AQMG) in the headquarters of Eastern Command. Though Cariappa wished to serve in combat, chance did not favour him. In August 1943, when the South East Asia Command was formed, and the Fourteenth Army was placed under it, Cariappa volunteered for active service in the war. But he was again posted as AQMG of the 26th Indian Division stationed at Buthidaung in Burma. The division played an important role in pushing the Japanese back from Arakan. For his services in the operation, Cariappa was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in June 1945.
On 1 November 1944, Cariappa was promoted to the acting rank of Brigadier, but was not given the command of a brigade as expected. Instead, he became a member of the Reorganisation Committee chaired by Lieutenant General Sir Henry Willcox. Though Cariappa was not happy with the appointment initially, and protested to the Military Secretary, the experience proved to helpful when he took over as the C-in-C four years later. The committee closely worked with the General HQ and Viceroy's Secretariat. This gave the British hierarchy a chance to assess Cariappa.
Finally, in November 1945, Cariappa was made the commander of the Bannu Frontier Brigade in Waziristan. It was during this time that Colonel Ayub Khan – later Field Marshal and President of Pakistan (1962–1969) – served under him. Unlike previous British commanders who tried to keep the local tribes under control by force, Cariappa tried a different approach by extending them friendly relations which worked well. When Head of the Interim Government, Jawaharlal Nehru, visited Bannu he found it extremely peaceful and settled, compared to Razmak where another brigade was stationed. Nehru was impressed by Cariappa's way of dealing with the tribes. He was also widely acclaimed for his treatment of the Indian National Army's (INA) prisoners. When Cariappa visited one of the camps that held INA prisoners, he was moved by the conditions in which they lived. He immediately wrote to the Adjutant General recommending that their living conditions be improved and to pardon some of those who were not guilty. These included Colonel Prem Kumar Sahgal, Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon and Shah Nawaz Khan. Cariappa pointed out that these prisoners had considerable support from the Indian leaders, who would later rule the country. This led the British to release most of the prisoners.
In 1947, Cariappa was the first of two Indians selected to undergo training at the Imperial Defence College, at Camberly, in the UK, to attend the higher command courses. With the experience he had gained at the Imperial Defence College, Cariappa felt that dividing the Indian Army during the partition would have a devastating effect on both sides. He explained to the hierarchy that without the help of British officers, there was a risk of inexperienced Indian officers taking over higher commands. But his concern was not addressed. During the disquieting period of partition he handled the division of the Army and sharing of its assets between the two new nations as the officer in charge.
Post-Independence, being promoted to the rank of Major General, Cariappa was appointed as deputy chief of the general staff. In November 1947, on being promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, he was appointed as the Eastern Army commander. In January 1948, owing to the worsening situation in Kashmir, Cariappa was called back to the capital and appointed as the GOC-in-C Delhi and East Punjab Command. After taking over the command, he immediately renamed it the Western Command and moved its headquarters (HQ) to Jammu; he subsequently raised a corps HQ under Lt Gen S.M. Shrinagesh at Udhampur. He appointed Lt Gen Kodandera Subayya Thimayya as the GOC Jammu and Kashmir Force (later 19th Division), and Atma Singh as the GOC Jammu Division (later 25th Division).
He launched three subsequent attacks—Operations Kipper, Easy and Bison—to capture the Naushera, Jhangar, Poonch, Zoji La, Dras, and Kargil areas. Plans were laid to drive out the Pakistani forces from Kashmir completely, but they were stopped by the intervention of the United States. On 6 July 1948, the Army HQ issued strict instructions against conducting any major operations without its permission. Cariappa protested against this, stating that this policy would threaten Leh, Kargil, and ultimately the Kashmir Valley, which would put the country's security at stake. Though Cariappa asked for two brigades to continue offensive strikes, he was provided only one and permitted to advance to Kargil. He disobeyed orders and launched strikes in the Ladakh area allowing India to assert control over the region. Cariappa continued several operations and offensive strikes against the Pakistanis which involved high risk. Failure of any of them might have threatened the Indian forces. He was subsequently appointed to the supreme post of commander-in-chief.
When Lieutenant General Sir Roy Bucher's appointment as the C-in-C of the Indian Army was about to expire in January 1949, it was decided to replace him with an Indian. Cariappa, Shrinagesh, and Nathu Singh were the contenders for the post. Though Shrinagesh was six months older than Cariappa, he had not served as long as Cariappa had; Nathu Singh had served two-and-a-half years less. But the Interim Government's Defence Minister Baldev Singh was not in favour of Cariappa. He contacted Shrinagesh and Nathu Singh asking for their opinion of being appointed as C-in-C. Since both declined the offer, Cariappa took over as the first native Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army.
The day Cariappa took over the reins of the Indian Army, 15 January 1949, was marked as official Army Day and celebrated annually. As the chief of the Army, Cariappa was instrumental in the formation of the Territorial Army in 1949. Though the National Cadet Corps had been already formed in 1948, it was Cariappa who extended support during its formative years. These two complimentary branches of the Army later proved to be very helpful in the wars India fought in later years.
Several measures taken by Cariappa, such as his refusal to induct former Indian National Army personnel into the Army, kept the organisation out of political affairs and maintained its autonomy. However, the INA's slogan Jai Hind which means "Victory to India", was adopted by Cariappa and later it became a formal phrase between personnel to greet each other. He also turned down the proposal to reserve vacancies in the Army for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as had been done in other government services. He stated that the proposal would degrade the Army's standards and increase the risk of it being defeated if the right talent was not recognised.
After four years of service as the C-in-C, Cariappa retired on 14 January 1953. Before he retired, he made a farewell visit to his parent regiment, the Rajput Regiment, at the Rajput Regimental Centre accompanied by his son and daughter. Rajendrasinhji Jadeja succeeded him as the C-in-C.
Cariappa was married in March 1937, in Secunderabad, to Muthu Machia, a forest officer's daughter. Though their married life was happy initially, later, due to an age gap of almost 17 years, ideological differences, and Cariappa's professional commitments, their marriage broke down. In September 1945, the couple separated without any formal divorce. Three years later Muthu died in an accident.
Cariappa and Muthu had a son and a daughter. Their son, K.C. Cariappa, was born on 4 January 1938, and daughter Nalini on 23 February 1948. Their son, called "Nanda", joined the Indian Air Force and rose to the rank of air marshal.
Cariappa's alliance with the Indian Army was spread over a period of around three decades, during which he had broad experience of staff and command work. After his retirement in 1953, he served as the Indian high commissioner to Australia and New Zealand until 1956. With a view toward ex-servicemen's welfare, Cariappa founded the Indian Ex-Servicemen's League (IESL) in 1964. He was also instrumental in setting up the Directorate of Resettlement (later Directorate General Resettlement), an inter-service organisation under the Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare, Ministry of Defence, that looked after the various issues surrounding the resettlement of retired soldiers, especially those who retired young.
Cariappa took part in the re-organisation of the armed forces in many foreign countries. He was awarded the Legion of Merit in the degree of Chief Commander by the American President Harry S. Truman.
Cariappa also tried his luck in politics after a lot of persuasion from his friends and admirers. In the 1957 general elections, he contested the Lok Sabha seat for North-East Bombay as an independent against Krishna Menon and J.B. Kripalani, but lost.
As a mark of recognition for the commendable service rendered by him to the nation, the Government of India conferred the rank of field marshal on Cariappa on 28 April 1986, at a special investiture ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official home of the president of India.
Cariappa's health began to deteriorate in 1991; he suffered from arthritis and heart problems. He died in his sleep on 15 May 1993, at the Bangalore Command Hospital where he had been receiving treatment for a few years. His mortal remains were cremated in Madikeri two days later. The cremation was attended by the three service chiefs along with Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. Cariappa's son, Nanda, lit the pyre while the Honour Guard reversed arms.
According to biographer Vijay Singh, it was unheard of for Cariappa to use his power and status for personal purposes. One example Singh cites occurred when Cariappa went to the Rajput Regimental Centre to pay farewell before he retired. He brought his son and daughter with him, and both of them stayed at the commandant's house till the next day. According to the rules, children were forbidden to attend the officers' mess. As chief Cariappa might have taken them to the mess but he did not.
After he was the C-in-C, he wanted Major (later Lieutenant General) Srinivas Kumar Sinha to be his aide-de-camp (military assistant). The military secretary noted that a military assistant must hold the rank of lieutenant colonel which required a minimum of six-and-a-half years of service. Sinha was only a major with five years of service. On learning this, Cariappa backed off the idea not wanting to break the rules.
During the 1965 war, his son, Nanda, was shot down over Pakistan. He was captured and held as a prisoner of war (POW). On realizing the identity of the wounded soldier at Kargil, Radio Pakistan immediately announced the capture of the younger Cariappa. General Ayub Khan himself contacted General Cariappa, who was living a retired life at Mercara, his hometown, with information about his son's safety. When Ayub Khan offered to release his son immediately, Cariappa is reported to have scoffed at the idea and told him to give his son no better treatment than any other POW. Singh recounts that Cariappa replied, "He is my son no longer. He is the child of this country, a soldier fighting for his motherland like a true patriot. My many thanks for your kind gesture, but I request you to release all or release none. Give him no special treatment."
|Service||British Indian Army||Indian Army|
|Temporary Lieutenant||Second Lieutenant (retroactive seniority
|Lieutenant||Captain||Major||Temporary Lieutenant Colonel||Temporary Brigadier||Lieutenant Colonel||Brigadier||Major General[d]||Lieutenant
Indian Army) [f]
|Year||1919||1920||July 1920||July 1921||July 1927||July 1938||1942||November 1944||July 1946||1946||1947||1948||1949||1986|
|General Service Medal 1947||Indian Independence Medal||Order of the British Empire||1939–1945 Star|||
|Burma Star||War Medal 1939–1945||India Service Medal||Legion of Merit|
Lt. Gen. Dudley Russell
| General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command
Lt. Gen. S. M. Shrinagesh
| Commander-in-Chief, Indian Army
| High Commissioner of India to Australia and New Zealand
K.R. P. Singh