Naval Ensign change puts focus on Army Regiments

The in-house deliberations being held by the Adjutant General’s Branch in Army Headquarters in New Delhi on various issues concerning Indian Army’s uniform, regimental crests and traditions has brought to focus the fact that many Indian Army Regimental continue to carry the colonial baggage in the name of tradition.

There are Infantry Regiments, Armoured Regiments and several Corps which continue to have regimental crests and heraldry which are directly associated with the erstwhile British rulers. The power of tradition in the military is such that most such symbols are carried on without much thought given to their background and with a honest sense of loyalty to the regiment.

However, with the 75th anniversary of Independence and the final discarding of the St George’s Cross from the Naval Ensign, these colonial symbols which form part of the Indian Army’s regimental heritage have come in sharp focus. A cleansing exercise, which should have happened years ago has not happened with the result that something which could have been done over a period of time may now have to be done in a swift blow.

An interesting case in point is that of the Armoured Regiment 4 Horse, which is better known as Hodson’s Horse. Named after William Stephen Raike’s Hodson, who murdered two Mughal Princes in Delhi in 1857 in cold blood, the unit still carries his name on their cap badge. While Hodson’s Horse is often quoted as an example, it is only fair to note that there are many other regiments and corps which have not shed their colonial baggage.

A valiant effort was made by Lt Gen SK Sinha, as Vice Chief of Army Staff, to get 4 Horse rid of Hodson’s name. Unfortunately, the day Lt Gen Sinha took up these points with the then Chief of Army Staff General KV Krishna Rao, the same day in the same meeting he was told by the Chief that he had been passed over for promotion to the next Chief of Army Staff. Though Lt Gen Sinha got the Chief’s approval for the changes, the subsequent exit of Lt Sinha following his resignation allowed the colonial heritage to continue.

Discussed below are some of the regimental crests apart from 4 Horse which have carried the British lineage forward even after India attained Independence and then became a Republic. Ironically, it was the former Indian Viceroy and Governor General, Lord Louis Mountbatten who had suggested the new badges of ranks of the Army, Navy and the Air Force on the pattern of the British Army. His suggestions were accepted by the then Indian Government in toto and implemented with effect from January 26, 1950. In the Infantry, there are several regiments that have the British era Colonial heritage in their crests.

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