Review for the Sandhurst Foundation
ln the summer of 1956, Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck opened the R.M.A Sandhurst's Indian Army Memorial Room with its fine stained glass commemorative windows. Before a large gathering of forrner lndian Army officers, with one of whom I was staying as a guest, "the Auk" gave a message which few present will ever have forgotten, a message telling us to look back on the lndian Army with pride for its splendid achievements, but that its era was now over, history, and nostalgia would serve no purpose.
John Hislop's reminiscences, edited by his daughter Penny Kocher, follow "the Auk's" counsel excellently. After passing out from Sandhurst in 1933 Hislop served in lndia with the 9th Jat Regiment and in staff appointments until the end of British rule in 1947. His various chapters cover service in the golden years before 1939, operations on the North-West Frontier and in Burma in the Second World War, and the turmoil of the final two years before independence.
Readers will leam much interesting detail about operations in Waziristan and Baluchistan before the outbreak of war, tactics needed for protection on long marches - an officer in charge of a flanking picquet might find himself moving over thirty miles per day over mountainous ground for several consecutive days, and all the problems of food supply and water. ln 1942-43, as protection as much because of anxiety over a possible German invasion via a defeated Soviet Union as of local insurgents, the equivalent of five divisions were engaged in operations in the North-West Frontier provinces. Hislop was then moved to the even more dfficult conditions of Burma, fighting the Japanese in the unfamiliar conditions of sticky heat, only a few roads and these very poor, rain, lush jungle and leeches.
Perhaps most interesting of all, though, is the author's description of how the lndian Army actually worked; the Jat Regiment battalions, for example, were structured around two companies of Hindu Jats, one company of Punjabi Moslems and one company of Musulman Rajputs, a mix requiring not only good purely military leadership to ensure the respect of all but sensitivity for different cultures and beliefs. Hislop's long service revealed many examples of good leadership. Sadly there were also examples of bad command by others; lessons for officers in any army at any time.
A valuable addition to the history of the lndian Army, written with pride and no nostalgia.
Dr Anthony Clayton, Academic Staff RMA Sandhurst 1965-1993
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A Soldier's Story- John Hislop, Indian Army officer of The Jat Regiment
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