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How many times has IAF changed its roundel? New book on Indian armed forces has it all

Written by Group Captain Anurakshat Gupta and his team, ‘Naam, Namak, Nishan 2’ features over 200 questions for readers as it explores trivia related to armed forces.

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New Delhi: From sporting red-white-blue colours of the British Union Jack to abandoning the colours in 1942, the roundel of the Indian Air Force (IAF) has undergone multiple changes. What was the reason for these changes?

Penguin’s new armed forces quiz book ‘Naam, Namak, Nishan 2’ tells us that the Indian Air Force was flying missions against the Japanese in World War II in the Burma theatre.

The red and white roundel (a circular disc used as a symbol) was similar to the one on Japanese aircraft. The book says that post-Independence, the Royal Indian Air Force, sported the Ashoka Chakra on its roundel until India became a republic in January 1950. It was after the ‘Royal’ was dropped from the air force that the current tricolour roundel adorned air assets.

Revealing another interesting fact in a question-and-answer format, the book says that Ramgarh in Jharkhand — the Regimental Centre of Punjab and Sikh regiments — has the graves of 667 Chinese soldiers. During World War II, 30,000 Chinese soldiers of General Slim’s ‘X force’ were trained and equipped by the Americans at Ramgarh to fight the Japanese in the Burma theatre.

Co-authored by a group of ‘quizzer doctors’ Air Cmde (Dr) Anurakshat Gupta, Surg Lt Cdr (Dr) Hitesh Mahato, Dr Anmol Dhawan, Flt Lt (Dr) Arnabh Sengupta and Dr Sagnik Sarkar, the book looks to connect the Indian armed forces to more topics and that too in an interactive way.

Among several of its nuggets on military history, there is one on the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP), when it was active in the years 1854–1943. According to the book, boasting diversity in its ranks, the SMP employed Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans. From 1884, it also included the Sikhs from India.

Giving the details, the book says that the SMP had the motto ‘All joined as one’ to signify its diversity. “The Sikh branch of the SMP came into existence in 1884. By 1920, there were 573 Sikhs in this branch. The Shanghai Gurudwara was established in 1908 and was visited by Shri Rabindranath Tagore in 1924. Many of the Sikhs went on to join the INA in support of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, when the SMP was disbanded in 1943,” it adds.

In a question to readers, the book asks which operation on 1 May 1945 featured the only use of Indian paratroopers in World War II when a Gurkha battalion was dropped on to Elephant Bay? “It might remind one of a Transylvanian count,” the book says, giving a hint.

The right answer is ‘Operation Dracula’. Launched during the race to secure Rangoon in World War II, it pit two commanders, Admiral Mountbatten and General Slim, against each other.

“After the Indian 50th Para Brigade had secured Elephant Bay, a massive fleet of the Royal Navy and Royal Indian Navy (RIN) carrying the 26th Indian Division landed on the banks of Rangoon River, which was the longest passage in history of amphibious ops without gun support,” the book adds.

Owing to the Japanese resistance at Pegu, it says, Gen Slim’s attempt to capture Rangoon via the land route was aborted.

Among various other interesting bits, the book also talks about how on 11 November 1942, Indian minesweeper HMIS Bengal escorting a Dutch tanker to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean took on two Japanese raiders “ten times its size and twenty times its firepower”, making it the “most decorated engagement” for the Royal Indian Navy in World War II.

The 1,000-tonne HMIS Bengal was fitted with a 12-pound gun. It sank one of the two 10,000-tonne raiders equipped with four six-inch guns each and damaged the other without any casualties.

(Edited by Tony Rai)


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