It is a pleasant coincidence that the outgoing Chief of Army Staff, General MM Naravane, who belongs to the Sikh Light Infantry, is being replaced by Lt Gen Manoj Pande of Bombay Sappers. The Sikh Light Infantry and Bombay Sappers have a unique brotherhood and General Naravane is the honourary Colonel Commandant of the Bombay Sappers.
The Army Chief prominently displays the banner of Colonel Commandant of Bombay Sappers in his office along with that of the Colonel of Regiment of the Sikh LI. The common lineage of troops of Bombay Sappers and Sikh LI dates back to the time when the Ramdasia and Mazhabi Sikh troops of the Sikh Pioneers (precursors to the Sikh LI) were amalgamated into the Bombay Sappers in 1933 upon the disbandment of the Sikh Pioneers. It was during the World War II that the Sikh Pioneers were re-raised as Mazhabi and Ramdasia Sikh Regiment, later renamed as Sikh Light Infantry.
The bond between the Bombay Sappers and the Sikh LI was strengthened when Lt Gen PS Bhagat assumed the Colonelcy of the Sikh Li in 1966. He remains the only officer from the Corps of Engineers to have been the Colonel of an Infantry Regiment. Lt Gen Bhagat was the third Colonel of the Sikh LI Regiment and the second Indian. He succeeded Brigadier Gurkirpal Singh and remained the Colonel of the Regiment till his death in 1975. It is Lt Gen Bhagat who took special pains to infuse a new spirit in the Sikh LI and made efforts to give the regiment a special elan and identity and raised its profile.
Lt Gen Bhagat was no stranger to commanding Mazhabi and Ramdasia troops as he commanded 21 Field Company comprising these troops when he received the Victoria Cross in 1941. Lt Gen Bhagat did a turnaround of the Sikh LI’s image and gave it much needed elan.
Lt Gen Bhagat ensured that some of the best cadets from the training academies were commissioned into Sikh LI. He brought a change in the colour of the accoutrements of the regiment and introduced the bright yellow and Flame of the Forest colour for the badges and turbans replacing the chocolate and scarlet colour. He also introduced a new shoulder title for the regiment, a military bugle against the flame of the forest background. He also changed the regimental lanyard and belt buckle. He also ensured that the Sikh LI officers’ command potential was realised so that officers from outside the regiment were not inducted to command battalions. The fact that an Engineers Officer took so much effort to improve the lot of an infantry regiment shows the connection which Bhagat felt with the troops of the Sikh LI.
It is no wonder that the ties between Bombay Sappers and Sikh LI, which existed before Lt Gen Bhagat, became stronger after his tenure as the Colonel of the Regiment of Sikh LI. The regiment till today honours his memory through the regimental slow march tune, The Prem Bhagat March. A constant reminder of a man who infused a new spirit into the Sikh LI.
Troops of an Infantry Division falling under Western Command undertook a joint tactical training exercise in special heliborne operations on April 20 with Chinook helicopters at Air Force Station Chandigarh. According to HQs Western Command, the training showcased synergy and jointmanship between the two services.
Lt Gen Pushpendra Singh has taken over as the new GOC of 9 Corps in Yol, Himachal Pradesh. He has replaced Lt Gen PN Ananthanarayanan who has been posted as Commandant Infantry School, an appointment he held before coming to Yol as GOC.