“NOTES FROM DEHRA DUN, JULY 30, 1931”: HOW THE PIONEER REPORTED ABOUT THE BEGINNINGS OF THE IMA
It is indeed interesting to recall how this newspaper, The Pioneer, reported on July 30, 1931, 87 long years ago, about the setting up of the prestigious Indian Military Academy (IMA), the pride of the nation and of the Doon valley. This was the time when holding of examinations, nomination of cadets and other preparatory activities for IMA had begun figuring in news reports
The Pioneer, under the caption “Notes from Dehra Dun” wrote ,”His excellency the Commander-in-Chief was here for a few days last week,from July 14 to 17.He was probably here in connection with the Indian Military Academy, which has only a couple of months ahead of it now before opening.” The Commander in Chief was Sir Philip Chetwode. The founding of this prestigious academy in 1932 was a culmination of a long drawn battle fought in such for a as the central legislative assembly and the Round Table Conference by stalwarts like Sir SivaswamyAiyar, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pandit Motilal Nehru and Lala Lajpat Rai.
The crucial link between the founding of a military academy and the attainment of Independence was acutely realised by a section of Indian leadership in the days of struggle for Independence.Their concerted efforts resulted in the initiation of the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms which enabled ten Indians to be sent to Sandhurst for training, setting up of the Skeen Committee in 1925, and later holding of Round Table Conference in London in 1930 which recommended the establishment of the Indian Sandhurst without any delay.
As a follow up action, the Government of India set up a committee to work out the details under the Chairmanship of Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode, who was then Commander-in-Chief, India. The committee recommended, in its report submitted in July 1931, 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 campus of the Railway Staff College was taken over on April 1, 1932. The closing down of the Railway Staff College was a god-sent opportunity. The academy might have had, otherwise, to make a start in barracks. The campus was some seven kilometres from the main bazaar of the Doon valley and ten kilometres away from the town’s Railway station. All around were jungles and shrubbery, and, beyond the village of Panditwari, were tea estates.It was an idyllic location indeed for setting up the “cradle of the Indian army”.
The Railway Staff College was opened in Dehra Dun 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. 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. The work went on under the able command of Brigadier LP Collins, the first Commandant of IMA, appointed in January 1932.
It was on the tenth day of December in the year 1932 that the Indian Military Academy (IMA) was formally inaugurated by Sir Philip Chetwode, Commander-in-Chief.
The academy had, however, begun functioning on October 1, 1932. The inauguration had to be delayed by more than two months .The first cadets arrived on September 30 and IMA opened on October 1. The academy became functional with a course strength of 40 Gentlemen Cadets.The first course had on its rolls Sam Manekshaw, Smith Dun and Mohd Musa. All of them later became the chiefs of the armies of their respective countries; namely India, Burma and Pakistan. The course was christened ‘Pioneers’.
Sir Philip Chetwode said in his speech at the inauguration, “I wish I could have welcomed the Gentlemen Cadets of the new Indian Military Academy on the day they first made their appearance here ,for it was a memorable day in the History of Indian Army .I could not do so because it was pointed out to me that they had not yet received their uniform ,nor were they sufficiently drilled to make an inspection on parade possible .At the request of the commandant,I,therefore ,postponed my visit until today,when he said that he would be ready to receive me”.
Before the inaugural ceremony was held the Ceremonial Parade. At 9.45 am, the GCs marched into the parade ground .Ten minutes after this arrived Brig. Collins who was received by GC Smith Dun.At the stroke of 10 arrived the Commander-in-Chief. The inaugural ceremony in Chetwode Hall was followed by a display of physical exercises by the cadets. Later, Chetwode attended a hockey match between the IMA and the RIMC.The day concluded with an “At Home” in Chetwode Hall with the Commandant as chief host.