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Dear Members of the Corps of Signals fratenity,
With grief we are posting details of our colleagues who leave for their heavenly abode. We request members to forward their "shradhanjali". Kindly share with us the photographs, fond memories and association.
We await tributes from associates/ course mates for publication.
Blog Team

RMS Tributes
  • Amar Jawan: Roll of Honour of the Indian Armed Forces
  • The Kargil Memorial
  • Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Lt Col Krishnan Vasudevan Nair

    Dev Kumar Vasudevan narrates the story of Late Lt Col Krishnan Vasudevan Nair who was a keen photographer and clicked some rare photos in 1948, when Mountbatten was relinquishing his post as the first Governor General of independent India.

    Lt Col Krishnan Vasudevan Nair (1925 - 2009), a senior veteran, expired in Mhow on May 21 after a long and protracted illness. He had served in the Indian Army, Corps of Signals, for 37 years till 1980.

    He had run away from his home in Varkala, Kerala to enlist in the British Indian Army. His first attempt to enlist had failed as his father, a prominent landlord, succeeded in convincing authorities in Trivandrum not to select him. He did not return home but succeeded in getting selected from Tamil Nadu, erstwhile Madras Presidency. After his basic military training in Bangalore he was sent to Jabalpur for specialised training in Signals.

    Some months before Independence he was among the first batch of Indian signalers who were selected for training in Ciphers. Prior to 1947 only British servicemen were used for Cipher duties. When Independence and partition became inevitable it was decided to impart cipher training to Indian and Pakistani personnel. The first batch was trained in Mhow and Delhi after a rigorous selection procedure.

    From December 1945 to June 1949 Nair was posted in GHQ Signals, New Delhi. This was one of few units in which British and Indian soldiers worked together. The meticulousness with which Nair worked ensured his selection in this elite unit. He replied in the affirmative when I asked him whether he and his Indian colleagues interacted with British soldiers and PBOR (Personnel Below Officer Rank). “They would interact with us only at work,” said Nair, “but there were times they would be out of money and would borrow money or cigarettes from us.”

    At the time of India’s independence this unit was entrusted with the additional responsibility of looking after the communications of the Prime Minister. They kept the PMO in touch with India and the world. As a young NCO Nair was one among a select few who would encrypt and decrypt messages meant for Pandit Nehru. In Sir Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi there is a scene in which a young Signals officer is shown handing over a signal to an ashen faced Nehru. This could well be the only instance of a personnel of this unit being shown in a film.

    It was a thrilling experience for the young Nair to see Nehru and other national leaders in flesh and blood. When I asked him whether Nehru was hidden under layers of heavy security he smiled and shook his head, “Panditji used to go around Delhi with just one motorcycle outrider.” Those were different times indeed. Nair remembered August 15, 1947 as a very special day. When I asked him about this day he told me that outwardly it felt like any other day. But deep down he and his colleagues were thrilled. He felt lucky that he was there to see all the functions associated with Independence Day 1947. He remembered visiting the Red Fort and Parliament House on that day.

    This was a traumatic period in India’s history due to the violence of partition. And Delhi was overflowing with refugees from Pakistan. When asked whether he remembered any interesting incident Nair described an incident when a Signal Centre in a distant part of Delhi was attacked by a mob of rioters. They wanted the small arms that the Signalmen had been issued to protect themselves. The soldiers managed to barricade themselves. As the telephone lines were down they radioed Cairo and informed them of their predicament. Cairo informed London. And London informed Army Headquarters, New Delhi which immediately sent a quick reaction team to save the Signalmen.

    Nair also got an opportunity to photograph national leaders like Pandit Nehru, C Rajagopalachari (Rajaji), Indira Gandhi and the last Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten. The photographs published here are from the farewell ceremony to Mountbatten in June 1948 when C. Rajagopalachari took over as the first Indian Governor General of India. This post was abolished in 1950.

    In June 1949 Nair was a part of a three member team of the Corps of Signals which accompanied Nehru to Leh. During this visit he and his colleagues could interact with Panditji – something which was just not possible in Delhi. Nair cherished the fact that Nehru had borrowed a fountain pen from him to write a note. After the visit Nehru and his team returned to Delhi but Nair trekked from Leh to Kargil. He had been posted to a Para Brigade Signal Company. The walk took him seven days.

    Commissioned in 1957, Nair was posted in the Signals Intelligence Directorate as a captain in 1964. In May of that year he, along with thousands of other service personnel, took part in the funeral march of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

    He participated in the 1962 and 1971 wars. During the disastrous 1962 war with China he was posted at HQ IV Corps at Tezpur. He was posted in the Western sector as a member of a special team during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. He was also posted as senior instructor, Cipher Wing, MCTE, Mhow from 1968–72.

    His last posting was as Commander, Cipher Wing, MCTE, Mhow. At that time he was one of only two Lt. Colonels in the Indian Army from the Cipher department. He has always been seen as a father figure by the officers and men of this department.

    After retiring from the Army in 1980 he decided to settle in Mhow. He was among the founder members of the elite colony of Signals Vihar and worked very hard in giving it a concrete shape on paper and on ground. His eyes which scanned thousands of secret documents were rendered sightless during the last years of his life. He was afflicted with glaucoma – the silent thief of sight – and diabetic retinopathy. He is survived by his wife Ponnamma and three sons.

    The youngest is a serving Colonel in the Corps of Signals. The second son is working in the private sector after a nine year stint with the 62 Cavalry. The eldest has written this article.

    Dev Kumar Vasudevan is currently a freelance writer based in Mhow.
    The story of Late Lt Col Krishnan Vasudevan Nair