I received a letter from the Captain Superintendent, I.M.M.T.S. Dufferin directing me to appear for the entrance examination in Calcutta on 29th., 30th and 31st October.and emphasizing that, apart from the number allotted, under no circumstance should we write our names on the examination paper. My number was 115 CX (C for Calcutta and X for the Executive Branch). The Rector granted me permission to proceed to Calcutta, wishing me the best of luck, and I thanked him for all that he had done to make it possible for me to appear in the examination to join the the Training Ship.
After the examination father felt there was no need for me to return to school for only three weeks as the winter holidays would begin around 25th November. I took the opportunity to visit my sister, Tahera Baji, in Kharagpur and meet my brother-in-law Mr. A.M.A. Kabir as Shahed and I could not attend their wedding in early October of the year 1938.
On 3rd December 1938 I received a letter informing me that I had passed the entrance examination and should proceed to Bombay in the first week of January 1939 for interview and medical examination for final selection. It goes without saying how happy my parents were, and, in the afternoon I went over to give the good news to Chachajan and Chachijan (Uncle and aunty Khwaja Nazimuddin). There I met Mrs. Hilaly who had recently been married to Agha Hilaly I.C.S. She was one of the prettiest ladies that I have ever met. As a new bride, she had come to call on Chachijan, and was waiting for her to come out. I decided to keep her company until Chachijan came out.
I joined the train for Bombay from Kharagpur. In the compartment in which I had a berth reserved for myself, were D.C.Mitter, who was also going for the interview, and Debnath Sen, a nautical, in his final year.
My school friend, Amir Sultan Chinoy met me at the Victoria Terminus railway station and took me to his beautiful home “Dilbahar” on Cumbala Hills. His father, Sir Sultan Chinoy, who was Mayor of Bombay, his mother and sister Roshan welcomed me. I enjoyed their kind hospitality for three days during which I used to go to one of the Bombay University buildings every morning where more than fifty of us – candidates – assembled.
On the first day we were divided into two groups one of which was interviewed by Captain R.C.G. McClement, the Captain Superintendent and the other group, to which I was attached, was interviewed by the Head Master Mr. H. I. Jones. I wore my blue suit and the school tie which Mr. Jones recognized as, before joining the teaching staff of the Dufferin in 1927, he taught at St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling. Surprisingly I felt quite relaxed and the half-hour interview went quite well.
After that I had my medical examination which also went smoothly. The following day was the interview with the Governing Body on which most of the provinces of India were represented. The chairman of the Governing Body was Sir Zafarullah Khan, the Commerce Member, Government of India. This interview, which lasted for ten minutes or so, was merely a formality after which the names of those selected to join the Training Ship Dufferin were announced. The next day, 10th January 1939, Amir very kindly dropped me at the Mazgaon Pier in time for me to catch the 10 a.m. departure of the ship’s Motor Boat which took me to the Dufferin, anchored about a mile and a half away.
The Indian Mercantile Marine Training Ship, I. M. M. T. S. Dufferin, as it was then known, was built in 1904 and served as a troopship for the Royal Indian Marine (R.I.M.) until 1925. She was named after “The Marquess of Dufferin, Viceroy and Governor General of India, 1884-88.” According to a report in the Silver Jubilee Number of the “Indian Cadet”, the Dufferin magazine, in 1952:
“Persuant to a resolution moved by Sir P. S. Sivasvani Iyer in the Indian Legislative Assembly the Government of India appointed a committee on 3rd February 1923 to consider the question of training Indian officers for the Merchant Navy. As a result of this committee’s recommendations it was decided to convert R.I.M.S. “Dufferin” into a training ship, and the Government of India agreed to her sale to the Department of Commerce for that purpose on 5th October 1927.
“The Training Ship actually came into being on 23rd November when seven cadets from up-country who had passed the examination and satisfied the Selection Board were allowed to join before the official opening to save them the necessity of residing ashore between 23rd November and the 1st December on which date the First Term of the First year of the First Training ship in India officially commenced.”
There were 30 young cadets hailing from all parts of India who formed the first batch 1927-30. Cadet No.1 was Ram Das Katari, who, as an Admiral, became the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Navy. Habibul. Huq cadet no. 20, from Faridpur, did three years sea service with P&O, got his Second Mates Certificate and joined the Bengal Pilot Service to pilot ocean going vessels on the river Hooghly, between the port of Calcutta and the Bay of Bengal. He died in 1936 at a very young age. Incidentally, he was the eldest brother of the late Najmul Huq (Ziad) who married my cousin/sister-in-law Laila (Lal) Sudderuddin in 1960 and spent the rest of his life in Canada.
One other Ex-cadet from that first batch, the late K.R.S. Captain (Kaeki), cadet no.8, Master Mariner, Shipping Magnate and Industrialist, was well known in Pakistan. His wife Frainy, daughter Spentha and son Furrokh Captain live in Karachi. Then two distinguished personalities the late Admirals A.R.Khan (cadet No. 303) and S.M. Ahsan (cadet no.290) served as Commanders-in-Chief of the Pakistan Navy. The former also served as Minister, Ministry of Defence, and the latter, Admiral Ahsan was Governor of East Pakistan in 1971.. My friend and shipmate – 5th Engineer Officer of s.s. Chilka – C.G.K.Reddy, was also from the same batch 1936-38. He is no more – may his soul rest in eternal heavenly peace – but I will never ever forget his kindness and consideration for me when I was in the Hillisimitabo Hospital on Nias Island, in such a state that I could hardly move from one side to the other without help.
It so happened that, after the sinking of our ship S.S. Chilka by a Japanese submarine, after six days, all the five boats reached different points of the same Island, and Reddy, along with some other officers, was able to locate us at the village hospital where 1 was being treated for severe burns and wounds. Reddy immediately planted himself on a chair next to my bed, and apart from having his meals or answering the call of nature, he remained constantly by my side. Whenever I woke up at night, which must have been many times, he was there for me with kind words of affection, helping to turn me from one side to other as I was in no position to move on my own. His request to stay on at the hospital was not granted, as he had to be moved to Goonoongsitoli along with the others.
It is a long story of how he got back to India but, on reporting his arrival to the authorities concerned, he was arrested and put in the jail in Madras, and later, sent to the Red Fort for trial. He kept his promise, that he made when saying goodbye to me, to tell his sister, who came to visit him, to inform my parents about my whereabouts. It was in the eighties that we met in Dubai by accident It was great meeting him, once again, after many, many years. My mother, who was visiting us in Dubai at the time, also had the opportunity to meet and thank him for his care and kindness, as his presence by my bedside when 1 was in pain and agony in an unknown land among strange people had meant so much to me ‑ then a young man of only eighteen‑and‑a‑half years.
I was in the 1939-41 batch and my number was 425. For some unknown reason, ours was one of the smallest batches with only 42 cadets – 8 short of the quota. There were only six Muslims – A.J. Kardar (423), S.A. Hussain (430}, A.A. Bootwala (444), M. Alam (455), S.A Ayubi (460) and myself (425). The province of Bengal was represented by only four cadets – D.C Mitter (434), F. A. Douglas (450), S.C. Dutt (457) and myself. The rest were from other parts of India, mainly the Punjab, South India and Bombay, and Burma and Ceylon.
How vividly I remember that first morning aboard the “Dufferin”. Having woken up at 6 a.m. with the bugler sounding ‘reveille’ and making up my bed, I made my way leisurely towards the Mess Room for coffee and biscuits, but before I got there, the bugler sounded the call to “Fall-in” on the Upper deck, so I had to go without my coffee. I kept saying to myself: “after ‘fall out for prayers’ will come the announcement, ‘those who have not had coffee proceed to the Mess Room’. Nothing doing. We got down to cleaning the ship, washing down, sweeping etc, followed by P. T. I learnt my first lesson. From that day onwards I made sure never to miss my morning coffee and biscuits. There were some cadets, as I learned from Don Dyer (1940-42 No. 471) who presently lives in Sydney, who got to the Mess Room early and managed to even scoop some butter from the platter.
A word on the organization of the ship and the life on board would be of interest. Discipline, dignity of human labour, physical training, love of sports, and a healthy and harmonious social intercourse inspired and brightened the life on board the ship. The cadets were divided into two Watches, Port (left side of the ship) and Starboard (the right side), each Watch was divided into three Tops (like ‘Houses’ in public schools) viz: Port Fore, Port Main and Port Mizzen.
Starboard Fore, Starboard Main and Starboard Mizzen. These were taken from the names of masts on sailing ships. The cadets were spread equally among the six Tops irrespective of religion or part of the country from which they hailed. A Top was allotted a part of the ship and was responsible for its cleanliness and general maintenance. The cadets in each Top, worked, played and messed together and entered for all competitions as a Top, whether it be for games, sailing or Boxing, maintenance of the part of the ship allotted to it, and as such a sense of esprit de corps was cultivated. With a few exceptions, all Trophies in the ship were awarded to a Top rather than to an individual cadet.
In charge of each Top (six of them) was a Senior Cadet Captain (like prefects in public schools) assisted by a Cadet Captain and a Leading Cadet. Every fortnight one of the Senior Cadet Captains took over the duties of Chief Cadet Captain, when the seventh S.C.C. known as the Captain’s Coxwain (pronounced Cox’n) took over charge of his Top.
All senior cadets who showed aptitude for leadership were given an opportunity to be appointed Senior Cadet Captains and Cadet Captains which helped to cultivate a sense of leadership. Cadets in the third and final year were known as ‘Nauticals’, second-year cadets as ‘Removes’ and the new comers as ‘Juniors’, for whom the first year was very tough, indeed. For most of them it was quite difficult to get used to strict military discipline, doing everything on the double and the physical labour of scrubbing the deck and performing various duties.
Soon after waking up and making up his bed, it was not unusual for a Nautical to tell him to make his bed also. At other times to clean shoes, shine brass buttons or wash cap-covers of senior cadets. He could also be punished by a Remove or a Nautical for various offences, however minor, like, for example, a button on the shirt not in its place. This was normally done by those who wished to throw their weights around and bully the Juniors. Even a ‘Remove’ could be punished by a ‘Nautical’. The punishment mainly was “Capstan Bar Drill” when a cadet was made to carry a wooden capstan bar weighing 7 lbs and run on the spot for several minutes according to the wish of the senior concerned. Senior Cadet Captains were authorized to cane a culprit with a rope wasp.
All minor cases of breaches of discipline were reported to a Court of Honour consisting of three Senior Cadet Captains with a junior cadet as Secretary. The cases were carefully investigated and a verdict arrived at, and if found guilty, a suitable punishment was given. In the year 1941 a cadet who was found guilty of stealing from a fellow cadet was expelled from the ship by the Captain Superintendent on the recommendation of the Court of Honour.
The first Captain Superintendent of the Training Ship was Captain H. A. B. Digby-Beste, C.I.E., O.B.E., R.I.N., J.P., who had joined the ship on 1st November 1927, and, on retirement, handed over charge to Commander (later Captain) R.C.G. McClement R.I.N. J.P. on 16th December 1937. He was assisted by three executive officers – Commander M.F.S.C. Harvey, Chief Officer, Mr. R.J. Sampson, Second Officer – and, during our time (1939-41), we had four different Third Officers – Messrs. E. Johm Jacob, P.N. Kapani (whom we called Pine ka pani), A. Chowdhury and P. Alexandra. All four of them were Ex-Dufferin cadets. Mr. J.S.H. Stevenson (Sticky) was the Chief Engineer and Mr. Brown the Second Engineer.
The Scholastic Department was headed by Mr. H.I. Jones, the Headmaster, who taught English, joined the Dufferin in 1927 from St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling, and retired in June 1940. He was succeeded by Mr. U. Kramet, who came from Lahore, and was there when our batch passed out in December 1941. He was later appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Punjab by the Government of Pakistan. Among the masters, the senior most was Mr. R.D. Sathe, who joined in 1927 and taught Mathematics and Trignometry, followed by Mr. C. R. Pinto (Geography), Mr. Koppikar (Mechanics), Mr. Kallap (Science), and Mr. Baig (Grammar). These are the names I remember. I forget who taught history and any other subject. We also had Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Packiam.
The Dufferin passing out certificate was equivalent to matriculation so that any cadet, not proceeding to sea, could join a college. In addition to the school subjects, the executive officers taught us Seamanship, Navigation, Chart work, Astronomy, Meteorology, the use of ‘sextants’ to determine the position of a ship on the open seas, signaling (Morse code, Semaphore and International code) and Elementary Engineering. The Engineering cadets had a more detailed instructions in all aspects of engineering. In addition, we were taught Boat-handling, and those who passed the test were appointed Cox’n of the ship’s Motor Boat. Similarly, cadets who qualified were given duties for driving the engine in the Motor Boat. Mr. D. H. Gallaher was the games master and Dr. Wilkinson, the ship’s doctor, who attended to cadets in the ship’s hospital, known as the Sick Bay.
We had a very busy schedule from 6 a.m. when the entire Ship’s company ‘fell in’ on the Quarter Deck, wearing ‘Boiler suits’, each Top having its own place. The first order used to be “Fall out for prayers” when cadets formed groups according to the religion they followed and prayed for five minutes. This was followed by “Clean Ship” when each Top went about sweeping, cleaning etc., of the part of the ship allotted to them. We then changed into shirts, shorts and canvas shoes for P.T. after which we bathed and changed into our ‘Day’ uniform – Blue shirts with lanyard, and shorts, black stockings, black shoes and caps (which had to be removed in the Mess Room and classes) – had breakfast at 9 a.m. then two periods of school work.
At eleven o’clock we had a break for half an hour followed by two more periods, then lunch at 1 p.m. We had two more periods of school or vocational classes, Tea and then cadets of one watch went to our playing fields at Hay Bunder for games. On Mondays and Wednesdays it was the Starboard Watch and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Port Watch. Some of the cadets of the ‘Watch’ remaining on board were allotted duties as Quarter Master, Messenger, Signaler and watch keeper on the Bridge etc., while others had boxing lessons supervised by a Sergeant Major from a British Regiment stationed in Bombay or play ‘Deck-hockey’. On alternative Fridays a Watch went to the “Backbay Baths Swimming pool” for swimming, and the watch remaining on board did “make and mends”, while some went sailing in one of the ship’s boats.
In the evening – 6 p.m. onwards – our uniform used to be, white shirt with a black tie, blue shorts and black stockings, and we had free-time after dinner until 9 p.m. when the lights went out. Muslim cadets were permitted to change into their sleeping suits at 8.30 p.m. and go to the Foc’sle Head (front deck of the ship) to perform their prayers.
On Saturdays the whole morning was spent in cleaning the ship. Starting with scrubbing the upper deck with a six inch brick from one end to the other and back. This operation was termed “Holi-stoning”. The entire deck was then washed down and dried. Shining all brass work using ‘elbow grease’ and all paint work cleaned. Since we were dressed in our boiler suits, breakfast – sandwiches, banana and tea – was served on the deck during a break. I do not remember when the task of cleaning ship ended, but, after bath and changing into our Day uniform we had lunch around 1 p.m. After that we got busy shining our buttons, washing our cap covers, polishing our shoes – for juniors there were a few additional shoes to polish – for the Sunday Division.
The ship’s Hockey or Football team, according to the season, played a match, at home, against a school or a club team in our playing fields at Hay Bunder, or ‘away’, when we travelled in our launch “Dorothy”, landed at the Gate of India, and marched down to the ground of the home team. In my first year, as a Junior cadet, I was selected to play for the Hockey team, and in my final year, I was the Vice-Captain while Cadet W.F.C. Jones was the Captain
After dinner we had free time. The Canteen was opened by the Remove cadet in charge of it when the cadets got an opportunity to spend from the ‘Rupee one’ per week pocket money that they got. In my second year, as a Remove cadet, I was given charge of the Canteen.
On Sundays we changed into our No.1 uniform – White shirt, trousers, socks and shoes, black tie and white jacket. In winter, we wore a blue refer. After ‘falling in’ the Captain Superintendent inspected us, as well as all parts of the ship. Points were given to Tops for cleanliness and maintenance of the part of the ship allotted to them. This was followed by the ‘March Past’ led by the Chief Cadet Captain marching behind the ship’s band. The rest of the day we were free to do as we liked. Write letters, read books etc. One Sunday in the month we had shore leave from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and one Sunday in the month was visitor’s Day.
The year was divided into two terms. First, January to about 3rd June known as the Spring Term, followed by summer holidays till the end of August. Then the Autumn term from the beginning of September till about the 10th of December, when we had one month of winter holidays. During the spring term we had ten days of Easter holidays when the entire ship’s company camped at the Juhu beach which was great fun – sea bathing three times a day, playing games on the beach etc. and camp fire at night. Cadets living in Bombay were allowed to go home. In the autumn term the big event used to be C.B. Sethna Boxing Championship which was compulsory for every cadet to enter, except those in the Sick Bay. The Juniors used to look forward to be paired against Seniors who were great bullies, and take the opportunity to give them a good bashing.
I have completely forgotten the time of year when we had the Ceremony for the “Dufferin Promise” when each cadet had to solemnly declare:
On my honour I promise that
I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country;
To help other people at all times,
To place my ship before my Top,
And the top before myself.
A day in the month of November – when the Nauticals also had their Final Passing Out Examination – was the Selection for His Excellency the Viceroy’s Gold Medal when the cadets assembled on the Quarter Deck, each Top in its allotted place. The Captain Superintendent announced and had the names written on a Black board of at least three or at the most five, Senior Cadet Capains chosen by the Captain and members of the staff, who, according to them, fulfilled the conditions for receiving this award.
Those whose names appeared on the blackboard were then asked to go up to the poop and wait there. The Captain superintendent then addressed the cadets. The cadets then followed a procedure, two at a time, marching up to the desk, writing the name of the S.C.C. they wished to vote for and dropping the paper in a Box meant for the purpose. During the voting, visitors who had been invited to attend this function were taken round the ship. After the voting finished and the four officers finished scrutinizing the votes, the cadets ‘fell in’, with the S.C.C.s, who were sent away, joining them.
The Captain Superintendent then announced the names of the winner and the runner-up, both of whom marched up to where the Captain stood. The cadets marched away, and as soon as they were dismissed, they run towards the winner and the runner-up pick them on their shoulders and throw them into the small swimming pool. This was followed by shore leave for all except those who had duties allotted for them.
Finally, we had the Prize Day in the first week of December when the Guest of Honour inspected the cadets, took the salute at the March past and gave away the prizes. That was followed by the “Break-up Dinner’ and around 10th of December the year came to and end and the cadets went home for the winter holidays.
At the end of the first term, in my first year, in June 1939, when I came home to Calcutta for the summer holidays – June, July and August – my father read with concern, a remark by the Chief Officer in my report that, the impediment in speech that I had, might affect my profession at sea. At the first available opportunity father took me to see a ENT specialist, Dr. Roy, who checked me thoroughly and said there was nothing physically wrong.
A few days later, the doctor took me to see the Principal of the Deaf and Dumb School, Dr. Chatterjee, a highly qualified speech therapist from the USA. He was seated on a Chowki dressed simply in a dhoti and vest. He asked me to take a deep breath and almost immediately gave his verdict, which was, that I had defective breathing. He then asked me if I could sing. I sang one of my favourite songs,”the Swanie River”. He then started me on some exercises – a co-ordination of breathing and making sounds.
During the next one month that I was in Calcutta, I used to leave the house at 6 a.m. every morning and take a bus to his place which was quite far off. At the end of the month I had an exercise book full of various exercises which meant making noises loud while breathing as taught by the doctor.. When I returned to the ship after the holidays, my father wrote a letter to the Captain Superintendent telling him about the action he took in response to the Chief Officer’s remarks. The Captain, who had the interest of the cadets at heart, instructed the Chief Officer to arrange for me to go up to the Boat Deck and do my speech exercises, whenever possible, particularly during P.T. in the morning. I had improved quite a lot, almost 90%, but, the years in Japanese captivity did affect me to a great extent.
On 3rd September, that year (1939), a day or so after we had returned from our summer holiday, soon after we returned to the ship after a game of hockey in our playing fields at Hay Bunder, the “Fall in” bugle sounded, which meant all hands on deck at the double. The Senior Cadet Captains brought their respective Tops to ‘attention’ and then ordered ‘stand easy’. Just then, the Captain Superintendent, accompanied by the Chief Officer arrived and the Chief Cadet Captain brought the whole ship’s company to ‘attention’, and then, with a signal from the Captain Superintendent, ordered them to ‘stand at ease’, to listen to the Captain Superintendent’s address. This gathering on the Quarter Deck was most unusual and each one of us must have wondered ‘why’?
The Captain Superintendent’s speech was quite brief and I do not remember, in detail, what he said, except that, Britain and France had declared war on Germany. We were, thus, present on this historical occasion of the beginning of the Second World War, with one term – September to December 1939 – and two more years to complete our training and go out to sea.
After that, quite naturally, we were interested to know how the war was going on, and each morning, during the ‘eleven o’clock break’ we would gather in front of the notice board on the Upper Deck, to glance over the relevant newspaper clippings which had been posted by the Chief Cadet Captain. During the next two years the Chief Cadet Captain, reading the ‘Weekly Orders’ at the Sunday Division, would inform us about those Ex-Cadets who had been killed in action, and those decorated for bravery. The ‘bulk-head’, at one end of the Quarter Deck, had a fairly large sized board, brown in colour with the names of Winners and Runners-up of His Excellency the Viceroy’s Gold Medal, written in letters of gold. A small sized board – ‘Roll of Honour’ -was installed next to it with the caption: “They died that we may live” and, as soon as news of an Ex-cadet being killed in action was received, his name would appear on this board.
The Quarter Deck could possibly be termed as the most sacred part of a ship, particularly a warship. In the Dufferin it was the custom, as soon as one came up the gangway and stepped on to the Quarter Deck, he would stand to attention and ‘salute’. There was always a messenger – a junior cadet – posted at the gangway who would return the salute.
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “The quarterdeck is that part of a Warship designated by the Commanding Officer for official and ceremonial functions. In port, the quarterdeck is the most important place on the ship, and is the central control point for all its major activities. Underway, its importance diminishes as control of the ship is transferred to the bridge. The quarterdeck is normally on the main deck, but may be elsewhere in some types of ship. It is usually marked off by special lines, deck markings, decorative cartridge cases, or fancy knotwork.
“There are ancient traditions of offering special deference to the quarterdeck. Greek, Roman, and Carthaginian warships all carried pagan shrines which were given special respect. This continued into Christian times, and in medieval British warships, the religious shrine was set up on the quarterdeck. All hands were required to salute it by taking off their hats or caps. This led to the habit of saluting whenever one entered the quarterdeck”.
In the British Navy the the tradition of saluting the Quarter Deck most probably goes back to the time when the dead body of Lord Nelson lay ‘in state’ on the Quarter Deck of H.M.S. Victory after he was killed on 21st October 1805 in the Battle of Trafalgar.
In January 1941, I was a Nautical cadet, and a Senior Cadet Captain in charge of Starboard Fore Top. I had a fine bunch of cadets under my charge and I am grateful to each and every one of them for their help and cooperation. Thank God, I was able to discharge my responsibilities to the best of my ability, which included being a member as well as, when my turn came, President of the Court of Honour.
I was in the Dufferin with the sole object of joining the Royal Indian Navy (R.I.N.).and felt certain that I would be admitted to the R.I.N. Class to prepare for the competitive examination to fill in the number of vacancies available each year. Unfortunately, for me, this was not to be, as I learnt one night when it was my turn to do the duty of Chief Cadet Captain. As per routine I did the rounds and went up to the Captain’s quarters to report that all was well. I knocked at the door and heard the Captain say “Come in”. As I entered and stood at ‘attention’ – he was at his dining table – he said: “Sit down, my boy” which was quite unusual.
He then said (As far as I can remember): “My boy, I am going to give you a shock. We have not selected you for the R.I.N. (Royal Indian Navy) class. I know your speech has improved to a great extent as I see you giving orders and, while performing the duty of Chief Cadet Captain, reading the ‘Weekly Orders’ at the Sunday Division Parade. Nevertheless, I cannot take a risk as I would be held responsible if there is the slightest hint of an impediment in your speech when you go up for an interview before the R.I.N. Examination Board. One other reason is that you are week in Mathematics.
However, we would like to see Indians in command of Merchants Ships and as Pilots or Harbour Masters in one of the ports around the world.” Quite naturally I was disappointed and had very little to say, except thanking the Captain Superintendent for his advice. From our batch eight cadets were selected and only two – J.T.G. Pereira (431) and S.K. Uttamsingh (424) – qualified for the Royal Indian Navy. Pereira rose to the rank of Vice Admiral in the Indian Navy. I was left with no other alternative but to join the merchant Navy. My first choice for employment was the British India Steam Navigation Company (B. I.), where I was offered a job after an interview at Bombay.
The third and final year – 1941 – went well for me. I felt quite comfortable having charge of about twenty five cadets in the Starboard Fore Top, earning their respect and cooperation, as their leader in our day to day activities. I also served as President and member of the Court of Honour. We had various interesting cases to handle and we did our duty in a fair and just manner.
It was a ‘Red letter’ day for me at the ship’s Annual Athletic Sports at Hay Bunder in May, when I came first in 100 yards (10.3 seconds), 220 yards (25.75 seconds) and 440 yards (60 seconds) and lead the Starboard Watch to win the Relay race. I got the Victor Ludorum, the individual championship, and was very proud and happy to note that the report of this event in the sports page of the Times of India, Bombay, the following day, was headlined: “Dufferin sports at Hay Bunder, Shahabuddin champion.” I was also selected to play football for the Ship’s team and we went up to the semi-finals of the Cowasjee Jehangir Cup Inter-school Tournament, losing to St. Mary School after holding them to a draw on the first two days.
One morning, in early November 1941, the cadets were made to ‘Fall-in’ on the Quarter Deck when the Chief Officer Captain Harvey announced that Mr. Alexander, the third officer, who was also present, was planning to organize a ‘dance’ by inviting girls from local schools under the supervision of one of the teachers. He said the decision, whether or not to have the dance, would depend on the cadets who would vote in favour or against the proposal. He then asked those in favour to move to the Starboard side, and those against to the Port side. The entire ship’s company moved to the Starboard side with the exception of Cadet Khanna, a junior and shortest of us all. It showed his strength of character and principles which he held dear. I forget his first name, and I am sorry to learn that he passed away many years ago. May his soul rest in eternal heavenly peace. With a ‘live-band’ in attendance, the dance was held on 3rd December and all of us had great fun.
Our Dufferin Final Passing Out examination (D.F.P.O.) had started on 25th November, and after a week or so of written examination we had the ‘Orals’ for which each cadet spends half hour to forty five minutes with the Captain Superintendent answering questions. Our names were drawn to determine the order in which each cadet would be examined.
The “Prize Day” was held on 9th December with the Honourable Sir Sultan Ahmad, Bar-at-Law, Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council in charge of the Department of Law, as the guest of honour. That year, for the first time, the Prize Giving was filmed by the Twentieth Century Fox Corporation (India) Ltd. for the British Movietone Newsreel. It was exhibited in all the major cinema houses all over India, with a running commentary by the Captain Superintendent. In Calcutta it was shown at the Metro cinema.
A large number of invitees were present who were taken up to the Boat Deck to watch demonstration of a manouvre entitled “Away all boats”, when the cadets manning six boats – three cutters and three whalers – made various formations in response to signals from the Ship. The chief guest then inspected the cadets and took the salute at the ceremonial march past which I had the honour to lead. This was followed by the distribution of prizes after which the function came to an end, and along with it, the “Three Dufferin years”, as we left the ship for good on 10th December 1941, bidding farewell and wishing each other the best of luck for the future.
Those of us who were bound for Calcutta, arrived at the Victoria Terminus station shortly before evening. Some of our colleagues, who lived in Bombay, came to see us off. Among them was Amir Chinoy, my friend from St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling, who had received me at this station three years ago. On ‘shore leave’ days whenever I visited them, his parents and he welcomed me with their kind hospitality. He had come to the station with an edition of Evening News which reported the sinking of two British warships – H.M.S. Prince of Wales and H.M.S. Repulse – off Singapore. This was the first impact of the war on us, as we realized how close we were to the theatre of war. Amidst farewells our train pulled out of the Victoria Terminus and we were on our way home to our parents, brothers and sisters and friends in Calcutta, and to start a new life which, we hoped, would lead us to “somewhere, some day” according to the words of the DUFFERIN ANTHEM:
We’re on the road, we’re on the road to anywhere,
With never a heartache, with never a care.
Got no home, got no friends,
Thankful for everything the good Lord sends.
We’re on the road, we’re on the road to anywhere,
And every milestone seems to say,
That the road to anywhere, the road to anywhere,
Will lead to somewhere some day.
To end this chapter, I would like to go back to Sunday 16th November 1941, a day in my life I can never forget. It was the day for the selection of the winner and the runner-up for His Excellecy the Viceroy’s Gold Medal, the coveted prize that every Dufferin cadet looked forward to win. I am taking the opportunity to reproduce a report about this event, which appeared in the Spring 1942 issue of the Indian Cadet Magazine:
“Sunday November 16 was set aside this year for one of the important events that takes place annually on the Dufferin viz. the selection for H.E. The Viceroy’s Gold Medal. The Captain addressed the cadets:
“This morning you are assembled for a duty which is perhaps the first real responsibility you have had in your lives .You have to vote for the shipmate who is likely to make the finest sailor on deck or in the engine room and who will thus receive the highest honour India can give to one of her sons who is still in his teens. That honour will follow him through life and, more important than anything, his sea career, if he chooses that career as the great majority of the cadets do. Much will therefore be expected of him. India – his training ship – you even – will be judged accordingly by the world.
“Give your vote for him whom you consider most worthy of His Excellency the Viceroy’s high award. Remember the Viceroy is our King’s representative; remember also our Dufferin traditions; the promise that you took when you joined the ship and on which your training is based – ‘to place my ship before my top and my top before myself’. You must vote in conscience and only for the cadet you think best fulfills the following conditions. Your vote must be irrespective of all other thought:
“Cheerful submission to superiors – self respect – independence of character – kindness and protection to the weak – readiness to forgive offenses – desire to conciliate the differences of others – fearless devotion to duty – unflinching truthfulness.
“I will now read out the names of the four cadets selected for voting: Senior Cadet Captains Indreswar Gogoi, D.C. Mitter, Swaraj Prakash and K.S. Shahabuddin”.
“During the voting the guests were taken around the ship, returning to the quarterdeck at the end of the voting. The voting papers were then counted by four scrutinisers and the winner was announced. K. S. Shahabuddin was the winner whilst D.C. Mitter was the runner up.”
Looking back with nostalgia, after so many years, I admire the honesty and integrity of the cadets, who hailed from all parts of India, Burma and Ceylon, to have honoured us by casting their votes in our (a Muslim and both from the province of Bengal) favour irrespective of all other consideration. This is what the good ship Dufferin taught us, and all of us, wherever we may be, owe a deep debt of gratitude to the officers, teachers, and members of the crew for what they have done for us, to make us what we are today. May God bless them all and their respective families; and all those who are no longer with us, which includes all Ex-Cadets who have passed away – may their souls rest in eternal heavenly peace!
Even though I may sound immodest, I feel it was a great honour for me to be the one and only Muslim cadet, in the history of the Training Ship Dufferin, to win this coveted prize. Two other Muslim cadets were Runners-Up. The late Commodore M. A. Alavi (Pakistan Navy, Cadet No.227:1934-36) and M. Nurul Huda (Merchant Navy, Cadet No. 819: 1946-48).
As far as I know, the Government of India were, at one time, considering converting the Dufferin in to a Maritime Museum. It is most unfortunate that it did not materialize. The good ship Dufferin, our alma mater, was scrapped in 1974 and was replaced by the Training Ship Rajendra, which did not last very long. According to Captain Gursaran Singh (1934-36 batch), a former Nautical Adviser to the Government of India: “Rajendra has since been replaced by a well equipped shore establishment, ‘Chanakya’ located in New Bombay” (DROCA – 80th Anniversary World Meet Souvenir).
In order to keep all matters pertaining to the Training Ship Dufferin, together, in the same chapter, I am adding a report, I had prepared, about the DROCA GLOBAL MEET 2006 organized by the Delhi chapter of the Association, from 10th to 12th November 2006, in New Delhi, attended by approximately 150 Ex-Cadets of the Training Ships Dufferin and Rajendra, which included four Dufferin Ex-Cadets from Pakistan, two from Sri Lanka and one each Admiral Musharraf Hussain, (No. 937: 1948-50): from Bangladesh and Captain Kyaw Thein (No. 566: 1941-43) from Myanmar, formerly Burma.
It is impossible to find suitable words to praise the organizers for the effort they made to get so many Ex-Cadets of all ages, and their wives together. It was a grand re-union and they need to be thanked for the kindness and hospitality extended to all visitors, which cannot be described in words. They made it possible for us to meet our very dear friends and colleagues of those three glorious years, for some, after 65 years. We were all teenagers when we knew each other, and this great re-union gave us all the opportunity to catch up with what each one of us have been doing since we left the good ship DUFFERIN.
We were all together for three days, meeting one another, beginning with the inaugural session at which the Chief Guest was Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Dy. Chairman, Planning Commission, Government of India. This was followed by a seminar on “The Role of the Merchant Mariner in our Economy” and other subjects of interest to mariners, and lunch, and, later that night, there was Shaam-e-Ghazal and dinner. The organizers could not have arranged for a more accomplished artist than Dr. Radhika Chopra, whose performance was out of this world. And, what a treat it was to listen to the orchestra, presented by the Children of Matri Karuna Vidyalaya of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Delhi branch, who were little kids between the ages of six and ten.
We had a pleasant “second day” to spend in shopping and sight seeing and the golfers had a wonderful, but tiring day at the Delhi Golf club. The same night was the dinner-dance, and, once again it provided all of us with the opportunity to spend more time with each other. Then came the saddest day of all – the Farewell Lunch at the Delhi Gymkhana Club – when we said farewell not knowing if and when we will meet again. To quote Ex-Cadet Bhim Makhija from his article “Toward better tomorrows” in the souvenir: “There is only one problem with Old Boys’ get-togethers, however. Eventually we have to part and leave. And the parting is often painful.”
Unfortunately for me – cadet no. 425 of the 1939-41 batch – there were none from my term at the Global Meet, but, I was very happy to meet – after 65 years – of the 1940-42 batch, Bhim Makhija (489), Kirpal Singh (465) and Bhagat (481), who passed away recently, and from the 1941-43 batch Kyaw Thein (566) from Mayanmar (Burma), and P. N. Parashar (518), with whom Ayesha and I stayed, and enjoyed his kindness and hospitality. We had met him in 2001 when he was kind and gracious to visit Pakistan from Hong Kong, to meet us. It may be of interest to know that he was the Naval A.D.C. to Lord Mountbatten after the partition of the sub-continent.
The Pakistan contingent consisted of Rear Admiral Syed Zahid Hasnain (1935-37, No. 240) Commander Iftikhar Ahmad (No. 933, 1948-50) and his wife, Najma, Captain (Extra Master Mariner) Naseem-ul-Haq, (No. 1013, 1948-50) his wife, Halima, (Mrs) Zarina Sayeed, wife of the late Extra Master Mariner M.J. Sayeed, (1936-38, No. 298) Ayesha and myself (No.425 of 1939-41 batch.).
We arrived in New Delhi on the afternoon of Wednesday 8th November 2006. Pran Parashar was at the airport to receive us and arranged for members of our group to be transported to the Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road where they were accommodated. He then took Ayesha and me to his house where we were to stay as his guest, and, later that night he took us to a dinner which Bhim Makhija and his wife Sarla very kindly arranged for us at the India International Centre at Max Mueller Road in New Delhi. Three other guests present were: Bhim’s brother-in-law Brigadier D. D. Uberoi, Mrs. Parkash and Suresh (Capt. S. K. Anand, Extra Master Mariner and an Ex-Dufferin cadet). I was very glad to have had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Parkash, wife of the late Vice-Admiral Swaraj Parkash, my term mate in the Dufferin. It was very kind and thoughtful of Bhim and Sarla to invite her as we would have, in any case, called to condole with her. Bhim informs me that Brigadier Uberoi passed away in Boston last year (2010). May his soul rest in peace.
Very early, the following morning, five of us – Capt. & Mrs. Nasim-ul-Haq, (Mrs.) Zarina Sayeed, Ayesha and myself – left for Agra by a van very kindly arranged by our host, P. N. Parashar. It was a four-hour journey to Agra. On the way we stopped at Sikandra to visit the tomb of the Moghul Emperor Akbar. We then spent a couple of hours at the Taj Mahal, and after lunch at a South Indian restaurant, visited Fatehpur Sikri, returning to Delhi around 10.30 p.m., well in time to join the Droca Global Meet the following morning. Later, in Delhi, we visited Humayun’s Tomb, Qutub Minar and the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, and also the last resting places of Amir Khusro and Asadullah Khan Ghalib.
It is difficult to explain, in words, what a great pleasure and delight it was to meet Ex-Cadets whom I had never met before – some very senior and many who joined the ship many years later. But, irrespective of the year, it was the ship that mattered, and each one of us had a common bond having been through the same experience over a period of three years.
One Ex-Cadet I was particularly happy to meet was Inder Singh (No. 318) of the 1936-38 batch. He is the first ever Dufferin cadet whose photograph I had seen in the Stateman of Calcutta, in December 1938, when he won the Viceroy’s Gold Medal. We returned home to Karachi on Monday 13th November, bringing with us lots of love, affection and goodwill, while expressing our deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for the kindness and hospitality we received from our hosts in New Delhi. May the Lord Almighty bless them all with health, every happiness and, all that He considers is best for them and all members of their respective families.