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Book Review by K. Chandni
A Sailor's Story, by Vice Admiral N.Krishnan. Edited by: Arjun Krishnan
We are familiar with the well known photograph of the surrender ceremony at Dacca in 1971.
One officer in the picture stands out in the sa of Khaki and Olive Greeen- he is the Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, Eastern Naval Command of the Indian Navy, Vice Admiral N.Krishnan.
“A Sailor’s Story” is the posthumously published autobiography of this highly decorated Indian naval officer and is a must read for all historians and enthusiasts.
It is nearly 400 pages long and is illustrated with marvelous photographs from the Admiral’s albums.
Admiral Krishnan hailed from a modest South Indian background .His father was a civil servant in thee Princely state of Travancore and this circumstance alone makes his choice of a Naval career so unique and unprecedented.
The book starts off with a brief background about his growing years and joining the Royal Indian Navy.
He was sent to the Uniteed Kingdom and assigned to the HMS Foxhound.The passages recount wartime Britain comprehensively and are livened up with tales of meeting historical figures such as then Captain Mountbatten, Air Marshal Hugh Dowding and others.
Readers are given a close up account of new developments in naval warfare such as ASDIC, Aircraft Carriers, ASW which were cutting edge in those days.
The author is a wonderful raconteur and he blends anecdotes with actions he participated in.
He is one of the only two Indian naval officers to have won the DSC .He got it for his leadership of a boarding party from HMIS Investigator,a survey tug to capture an Iranian gunboat,the Abadan.
He ended up in a personal duel with the enemy captain and having shot him and wounding 6 others,he captured the ship undamaged and with 20 prisoners.
This chapter makes fascinating reading simply because of the description of places and ports that he travelled to.Basra,the Shatt-al-Arab,Khorramshahr,Khor Island were all part of the RN/RIN Persian Glf Area of Operations.
He was at an outfitters in London, getting himself measured for an uniform for the Investiture ceremony when he made the acquaintance of the legendary Guy Gibson of the RAF and they struck up a friendship which culminated in heading to the Trocadero restaurant after the ceremony.
The book is a magnificent first person account of the Indian Navy from the pree-independence days.The author was witness to all the events, plans and acquisitions as the Navy started growing.
He had the distinction of commanding thee INS Delhi for two and a half years and later also commanded Inia’s first aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.
He describes more personalities, this time Indian-leaders like Pandit Nehru,Sardar Swaran Singh,VK Krishna Menon, colleagues from the Navy and the Army and the Air Force.
He talks about the 1962 operations, the 1965 operations and then the 1971 war. He also served on the mission to Ghana in the late 60s,went to Higher Command Course in the UK which continues to be a pre-eminent course for Indian officers even today.
Admiral Krishnan became the Vice Chief of Naval Staff when the acquisitions of the Sea King helicopters and the Soviet missile boats went through. Nearly a chapter has been devoted to the hunt and the destruction of the PNS Ghazi submarine in the eastern theatre of operations and it makes interesting reading.
Admiral Krishnan was seconded to the Ministry if Shipping and Transportation and was made the first Chairman and Managing Director of Cochin Shipyard Limited. He continued to be on active substantive service in the Navy and set up a greenfield shipyard from scratch. This legacy of his is now at work constructing the country’s Indigenous Aircraft Carrier.
Adm.Krishnan finally retired from the Indian Navy in 1976 having missed out on the Chief of Naval Staff’s post two times in a row.
However, like so many other admirals who did not achieve the CNS’ position, his formidable legacy continues to this day. This affable and dapper officer embodied the Indian Navy in more ways than one and one must read this book to appreciate his achievements.
A Sailor's Story
Vice Admiral N.Krishnan
Edited by: Arjun Krishnan
Publisher: Punya Publishing Pvt.Ltd.