Obituary: Field Marshal Kodandera Cariappa

Kodandera Madappa Cariappa, soldier and diplomat: born Coorg, south India 28 January 1900; commissioned British Indian army 1919; OBE 1945; Commander-in-Chief, Indian Army 1949-53; Indian High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand 1953-56; Field Marshal 1986-93; died Bangalore, south India 15 May 1993.

KODANDERA CARIAPPA was independent India's first military commander-in-chief.

He fought with distinction on several battlefields during the Second World War and was responsible for reorganising the Indian army into an efficient and disciplined fighting machine. After retirement he was India's High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand.

Cariappa, who received the Field Marshal's baton 33 years after retiring in 1953, was one of the handful of Indians to be commissioned as an officer in the British Indian Army towards the end of the First World War. Popularly known as Kipper (after his fondness for them at breakfast), he saw action in the Middle East, north Africa and Burma during the Second World War with regiments which have ceased to exist, before being dispatched to tame restive tribesmen in the North-West Frontier province, the NWFP bordering Afghanistan.

Soon after India's independence in 1947 Cariappa, then a Lieutenant- General, was charged with defending Kashmir State in the north from Pakistani invaders. Defying orders issued by General Sir FRR Butcher, the last British commander-in-chief of the Indian army, Cariappa positioned soldiers at strategic places, eventually stopping the raiders from overrunning the state, and before the United Nations brokered a ceasefire. An eccentric, who cultivated old- world values, Cariappa named this deadly military confrontation Operation Tutti Frutti.

Later, as the first Indian army chief, he reorganised the Indian army and raised the redoubtable Brigade of Guards modelled on the British Coldstream Guards, throwing open recruitment to Indians from any caste or community.

A shot from a rifle heralded the birth of Kodandera Cariappa in 1900, in Sanivra Santhe in Coorg, south India, in accordance with local custom in an area known as the cradle of Indian warriors. The son of a teacher, Cariappa was schooled locally before joining Presidency College in Madras in 1917.

Two years later he was one of the few Indians selected for the King's commission and as a 2nd lieutenant was dispatched to Mesopotamia (now Iraq) with Napier's Rifles in 1920 to quell an Arab insurrection. With the Indianisation of the British Indian Army, Cariappa was transferred to the 2nd Rajputs from which he raised and commanded a machine-gun battalion during the Second World War as a Lieutenant-Colonel in Burma. In 1945 he was appointed OBE.

Cariappa retired in 1953 after four turbulent years as India's army chief. Policy differences between him and the prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, led to the Commander-in- Chief's post being abolished after Cariappa's retirement and split between three individual service chiefs. However, despite differences, Nehru persuaded Cariappa to be India's High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand, a post he held for three years till 1956. He was promoted Field Marshal by the President in 1986.

Cariappa was a close friend of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, Pakistan's dictator and army chief in the Fifties and Sixties, and often visited him after retirement. But when Khan offered special medical treatment for Cariappa's fighter-pilot son, taken prisoner during the second India-Pakistan war in 1965, Cariappa politely declined the offer.

Cariappa assiduously pursued his homespun philosophy of 'Deepcud', an acronym for discipline, energy, endurance, perseverance, courage, unselfishness and determination. And, when the Chinese attacked India in 1962, he was spotted by an embarrassed recruitment officer in his home town in Coorg, standing in line, waiting to enlist.

Cariappa was a soldier's soldier who founded the Indian Ex-Servicemen League and daily responded to hundreds of letters from retired soldiers seeking financial help and jobs for their children. A stickler for discipline, he always dined in a dinner- jacket, even when eating alone, and stopped children on the road to comb their unruly hair.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor