Master of the field

This book is a revised and updated edition of Sam Bahadur’s approved biography, written by his trusted military assistant. Many biographies tend to be anecdotal and chronological, and this one is no exception. The chapters, The Early Years, Move to Delhi…. Prelude to War, The War, and The Aftermath, substantiate the same.

As a record of Sam Manekshaw’s interactions with people around him, the book sheds considerable light about his life. He was forthright in his dealings and spent a lot of time visiting junior officers to discuss their issues and problems. The author quotes an incident when he was a Corps Commander and he personally intervened on behalf of an officer to help him get his leave approved. Manekshaw called the officer’s immediate superior and said, ‘Look, I have had a letter from the youngster’s father asking that the boy be sent on a spot of leave as there is some family problem to sort out. I am sure we can spare the bugger for a few days, let him go, we won’t miss him’.
Manekshaw, for all his bluster, was still an officer cut from the ‘traditional, no-nonsense’ mode. On one occasion, while visiting a battalion, he asked the Commanding Officer what action he took against a man who had contracted venereal disease. The disease could have been prevented by being self-discipline, which is quite a big deal in the army. It shows a laxity in command and general carelessness in approach. The Commanding Officer in question announced that strict action would be taken and that his head would be shaved off. Manekshaw boomed in retort, “Shave his head off? Dammit, he didn’t do it with his head.”
Running a contented and happy team was Manekshaw’s specialty. Some officers have this quality but some don’t. But Manekshaw had far more to his credit as we saw later during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. In the past, he has been criticised for not having a firm grasp on strategy that he was known for. Lt Gen. JFR Jacob, the erstwhile Governor of Punjab has written that Manekshaw lacked strategic sense and that instead of setting Dhaka as the main objective, he was overly concerned that China would intervene in the war.

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: Soldiering with Dignity
by Lt. Gen. Depinder Singh, PVSM, VSM.
Natraj.Pages 271. Rs. 525

Reviewed by Khushwant S. Gill

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