When Railway Staff College
Campus Became the IMA
Today is April 1 and this is a day which is extremely significant in the history of the Indian Military Academy (IMA), the pride of the nation and the Doon valley. It marked the beginning of the existence of this glorious institution 87 years ago.
It was on the first day of this pleasant spring month in the year 1932 that the campus of the Railway Staff College was taken over by the Army Department for setting up the IMA. The closing down of the Railway Staff College was a god-sent opportunity. The campus was some seven kilometres from the main bazaar and ten kilometres away from the railway station. All around were jungles and shrubbery, and, beyond the village of Panditwari, were tea estates.It was an idyllic and perfect location indeed for the setting up the “cradle of the Indian army”.
In May 1931, the Chetwode Committee was appointed.The committee recommended three places namely Satara, Mhow and Dehradun for the academy. The government selected Dehradun as the location. And perhaps, the most important consideration in favour of Doon was the availability of very suitable buildings for the purpose.
The Railway Staff College was opened in Dehradun in 1930, next to the Forest Research Institute, but it had to be closed down owing to the financial crisis caused by the Great Depression. It had an imposing central building (now the famous Chetwode building), a number of staff quarters and a block of building for the trainees to reside. The Army Department acquired the buildings and the campus of the Railway Staff College, spread over an area of 155.53 acres of land for a price of Rs 21,17,597. It seems that the furniture came with the buildings as there were a few chairs with the monogram of the staff college in use at the academy till a few years ago.
The campus and the set-up of the Railway Staff College needed to be radically adapted and readied to prepare the academy to receive the first course of cadets in September 1932. There were no playing fields, no drill square, no building where the mess could be housed. It was indeed a very challenging task to lay the foundations and shape a military academy on the lines of Sandhurst. The work went on under the able command of Brigadier LP Collins, the first commandant of IMA, appointed in January 1932.
During the Railway Staff College days, the Chetwode Hall was called Dormer Hall after its first superintendent RM Dormer, and was used for the purpose of demonstrating the movement and control of incoming and outgoing trains at a station. Tiny trains were electrically operated on miniature lines. The trainees watched the operations from galleries high above the hall. With the increasing enrolment at IMA, the need for more lecture halls was soon felt and the first extension of the building took place in 1934 when one more barrack was added to provide accommodation for lecture halls, labs and workshop.
The new library building was proposed in 1936 and was sanctioned in 1937. The library building was constructed on the north of the northern corridor of Chetwode as an integral extension of the building. In 1932, when there had been no building to house the mess, either for cadets or for officers. As a temporary measure, the walls of the billiards room, in what later came to be called Collins Block, were demolished to provide space for dining. The new mess building came into use by June 1934. It had eight tables with red tops for the gentlemen cadets. The Mess building also housed the barber’s shop, canteen and the tea-room for GCs.
By December, 1933, the Academy had five hockey, one football and one cricket field. From then on, progress was fast and the campus began to take a wonderful shape. The campus grew by adapting and extending the pre-existing campus of the Railway Staff College. And this is what makes the story of its growth so special and unique. The closing down of the Railway Staff College, 87 years ago, marked the beginning of a long and glorious tale of “Valour and Wisdom” at the cradle of the Indian Army, the Indian Military Academy.
Monday, 01 April 2019 | Jaskiran Chopra | Dehradun
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