By Captain John Marshall, OC ‘C’ Troop, 554 Battery, 159 Para Lt Regt RA
I was ordered to take my Troop to the docks on the Thursday, 22 February – one Troop of R Battery already being there in support of the infantry. It was my own C Troop, however, which was asked to do the dirty work. I decided to have one gun forward, partly shielded by a dockyard building and heavily sandbagged. The other three guns of the Troop would be out of sight and firing indirectly.
I was not at all pleased to be told, by the Brigadier in charge of the whole operation, to use the clock tower as my observation post, simply because it stuck out like a sore thumb. My fears seemed well founded because, next morning, when the ultimatum was due to expire at 1030 hrs, some ratings aboard the “Hindustan” trained the aft-gun on my OP. When the expiry time had passed there was no message from the ship nor any movement so we gave them three minutes grace before opening fire at 1033 hrs.
My Sergeant’s first shot was on target. He was firing directly over open sights. I directed ranging shots with the other three guns and scored a hit with the second round. Meanwhile on board the “Hindustan” they began to open fire and several shells whizzed past my OP – fortunately without hitting it. Later we discovered that the shells had failed to explode when they fell in Karachi itself. They had not been primed. It was not long before the mutineers cleared the decks and took cover. My one gun firing directly was so effective that I ordered the others to cease firing. My decision was proved correct because, at 1051hrs, a white flag suddenly appeared through a hatchway of the “Hindustan”. They had already stopped firing and British Naval personnel removed the casualties and then the remainder of the crew.
Afterwards I visited the ship. It was not a pretty sight, of course, although I did take a certain amount of pride in the excellent shooting of my Troop. But I had an overwhelming feeling of great sadness. These young Indian ratings, many of them still in their teens had paid a heavy price for allowing themselves to be misguided into mutiny. The ship’s superstructure was an absolute mess for we had aimed above sea level. I imagine it was repairable. Sadly much of the human damage could not be repaired.
Courtesy of Brigadier Arthur SissonRead More