HMIS Hindustan Incident

As a result of political unrest in India in December 1945, the 15th (Kings) Parachute Battalion was designated the British Internal Security Battalion for Karachi. The Battalion trained for its new internal security role and within some 6 weeks of preparing civil disobedience began and rumours of a mutiny within the Royal Indian Navy were received.

On 18 February 1946, the CO of 15th Battalion, Lt Col Otway DSO, was called from a Guest Night in the Mess to arrange the cordoning off of the port area of Karachi. There were concerns from local authorities that the personnel of the Royal Indian Navy planned to mutiny and were going to enter the town to encourage unrest.

By dawn on 19 February, the Battalion was in place and at midday the Naval Base on Manora Island hauled down the White Ensign and the Royal Indian Navy personnel boarded the Folkestone Class Sloop HMIS Hindustan. The crew then manned the 4inch and 20mm Oerlikon guns and small arms were seen to be distributed amongst the crew. A 4inch shell was fired from the ship and landing some miles away in front of Divisional HQ – fortunately without exploding as it had not been primed.

An ultimatum was delivered to the ship to surrender, but only officers complied leaving the rest of the crew on board. At this time 159 Parachute Light Regiment, Royal Artillery was ordered to assist and arrived with four 75mm pack howitzers and took up positions covering the ship. 15th Battalion members stood to on rooftops overlooking the ship.

A subsequent ultimatum on the following day was ignored by the crew and a warning shot was fired. At this the crew of the Hindustan opened fire, and subsequently the 15th Battalion and Royal Artillery returned rapid fire from rifles, STEN and BREN guns and 75mm howitzers. As it was low tide the Hindustan could not depress her guns sufficiently to return accurate fire.

This short and intense engagement lasted some 35 minutes with A Company, 15th Battalion leading the boarding party to seize the ship and take the mutineers surrender. The 15th Battalion suffered 3 wounded whilst the Indians had several dead and wounded. The rest of the crew were taken to prison.

The Sloop was heavily damaged but was repaired and eventually renamed the Karsaz and transferred to the Pakistan Navy after partition in 1948.

So ended the short lived mutiny of HMIS Hindustan and the only action, under fire, of the 15th Battalion.

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