Saturday, June 23, 2012

Maj. Gen. Vikram Ramaji Khanolkar

I.A. 421, Maj. Gen. Vikram Ramji Khanolkar, 11th Battalion, The Sikh Regiment

Article by  - Sagat Shaunik Original Link - Click here

Purpose of this article 
The General has been forgotten in history, owing to the turbulent times of the young nation during the time of his demise. My endeavour is to pay a small tribute to the sacrifices and hard work of my great grand father by writing an article about him, lest his memory be forgotten.

I.A. 421, Maj. Gen. Vikram Ramji Khanolkar

-Grandson of Dhondaji Sakharam Khanolkar (British Indian Army, Rank Unknown); Son of Rai Bahadur Ramji Dhondaji Khanolkar (British Indian Army, Indian Medical Department, Died in the earthquake of Quetta, 1935)

Brothers: Dr. Vasant Ramji Khanolkar, Padma Bhushan (1955), Padma Shri (1954)
                    Vinod and Vijay Ramji Khanolkar (Died in the earthquake of Quetta, 1935)
Birth Quetta, 1905

Education B.Sc at Wilson College, Bombay

Alumnus Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst

Military Career

• Began his career as a Y-Cadet in the 1st Battalion of the 4th Bombay Grenadiers (now 2nd Guards, Indian Army) on 2nd November 1927

• Graduated from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in 1929 and was commissioned in the East Lancashire Regiment.

• In 1931, he was posted to the 5th Battalion (Duke of York’s Own) of the 11th Sikh Regiment and served mostly at the N.W.F.P.(North West Frontier Province)

• As a Captain, he was sent to the Travancore State to command the 2nd Nayar Infantry garrisoned at Trivandrum and subsequently became the Commandant of the Travancore State Forces.
• After a year he returned to help raise the 14th Battalion of the 11th Sikh Regiment.

• From there he was sent to Singapore in 1942.

• After the fall of Singapore he returned unattached to any regiment

• In May 1936, violence brewed in Palestine between the Arabs and the Jews. The British had to restore law and order using the military and so he was sent  as part of a military contingent to Egypt then Syria and later Lebanon.

• In 1943, Captain Khanolkar, the Second-in-Command of a Sikh battalion served in the Middle East and the Central Mediterranean (Sicily and the Italian Campaign under FM Montgomery's British Eight Army)

• On neutralization of Italy he was transferred to Burma

• On 2nd November 1944 he was promoted to Major.

• Soon he was promoted to Lt. Colonel and appointed Commanding Officer of the 6th Battalion of the 11th Sikh Regiment in Waziristan (N.W.F.P.).

• On his promotion to Colonel, he was appointed President of the 54th S.S.B (Service Selection Board) at Belgaum. Thereafter promoted to Brigadier, he relocated 54th SSB to Bangalore.

•Under him, the 54
th S.S.B was taken overseas to screen wartime Emergency Commissioned Officers (ECO) for permanent commission. This step was taken as it was not practical for occupation forces to revert back to India for screening. Among his port of calls was Singapore and Tokyo where the famous 268 Indian Infantry Brigade was deployed.

• On his return to Bangalore, he was appointed as the commandant of the refugee camp at Kurukshetra in 1947.
He assumed command of Sub Area, Jalandhar, where interestingly his spouse Savitri Bai Khanolkar (Eva Maday)  became the first Indian woman to earn a flying license.

• In 1948, he commanded an Infantry Brigade in the Jammu and Kashmir Operations. After relinquishing command, he was appointed as the Brigadier of Administration of the H.Q. Jammu And Kashmir Force.

• After the war he returned to the Punjab Area, prior to his appointment to the prestigious Delhi Area as General Officer in Command (G.O.C). The appointment included the entire area of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in those days.
For reasons unknown he changed the formation sign (insignia) of H.Q. Delhi Area from a Leopard to a Taurus. His old and original Taurus car pennants  photographs are displayed above.

• He had the unique distinction of being G.O.C Delhi Area during the first Republic Day Parade of Independent India on 26th January 1950. In fact, the first Indian Flag hoisted during this occasion found its way to his personal collection of artifacts, that was later presented by his son-in-law (Lt Gen Surindra Nath Sharma P.V.S.M. A.V.S.M.) to the Officers Mess H.Q. Delhi Area.
In 1950 there was a change amongst the infantry regiments when the princely states were amalgamated with the Indian Union. The Bikaner Sadul Light Infantry and the Jodhpur Sardar Infantry joined the Rajput Regiment and became 19th and 20th Rajput respectively. (Jodhpur Sardar Infantry was raised in 1922. During World War 2 it was in Eritrea and then it was part of the American 5th Army when it landed at Salerno in Sept. 1943. Afterwards as part of the 10th Indian Division it operated along the Adriatic coast. During these operations it won 1 DSO, 1 MC, 3 MMs and 17 Mentioned-in-Despatches). Maj Gen Khanolkar was the G.O.C of Delhi Area when the area of Rajasthan was included as a Sub-Area under Delhi. The pictures below show him taking the salute  from the Jodhpur Sardar Infantry and some other pictures of Rajasthan Sub-Area.
In 1952, he took command of the 20th Infantry Division, Calcutta as well as Bengal Area. 
Approved for promotion to Lieutenant General to command the corps at Udhampur (Jammu & Kashmir), he died in harness before taking on his new assignment. The General  had the unique honour and distinction of being the First Indian Colonel Of the Sikh Regiment. 
General Service Medal with Jammu and Kashmir Clasp, 1948
• India Independence Medal, 1947
• India General Service Medal 1908-1935 with N.W.F.P. Clasp
• General Service Medal 1918-1962
• India General Service Medal with North West Frontier 1937-39 Clasp and Waziristan Clasp 1936-1939
• 1939-1945 Star
• Africa Star
• Burma Star
• Italy Star
• 1939-1945 War Medal
The Story After

The General passed away in 1952, survived by his wife Savitri Bai Khanolkar, daughters Kumudini Sharma, Mrinalini Rao and son Mahesh Khanolkar.

Savitri Bai Khanolkar is remembered for designing the War Time Gallantry Award series- Param Vir Chakra, Maha Vir Chakra and Vir Chakra. She also designed the Peace-time Gallantry Award series- The Ashok Chakra, which was to be awarded in  three classes viz I, II or III. Later these were renamed the Ashok Chakra, Kirti Chakra and Shaurya Chakra. Her eldest son Ashok Khanolkar died in infancy and it was in his memory that she named the highest peace-time gallantry awards as the "Ashok" Chakra Series. She was requested to design these medals by Major General Hira Lal Atal (the first Indian Adjutant General) as replacement to the existing British gallantry medals (VC, DSO, MC). She has also authored many Sanskrit texts and is an alumnus of the famous Nalanda University.
Kumudini  did her schooling at Shanti Niketan in West Bengal. Later she married IC- 1475 W Maj Surindra Nath (Tindi) Sharma in 1953. Surindra was the younger brother of Maj Som Nath Sharma (The First Param Vir Chakra of Independent India). Surindra retired as the Engineer in Chief in 1981 and had been awarded the Param Vashisht Seva Medal (P.V.S.M) and Ati Vashisht Seva Medal (A.V.S.M), the highest military decorations for distinguished service. Kumudini’s son IC-40761N Col Gautam Shaunik is the last army officer from this great legacy of warriors.

Mahesh  - Settled in Kochi, leads a happy retired life.

Mrinalini  married Shri Gopal Rao an engineer with the Indian Railways.

After the generals demise, the family was relocating from Pune to New Delhi when a trunk containing all his service records, medals, certificates and uniforms was lost in transit never to be found. All the information that I have is from a few photographs, magazine articles and notifications of The London Gazette. Thankfully, a few service flags of the General remained. He has been forgotten in history owing to the difficult times of  young India at that time. 


Caption Vishvas Bhosale, Indian Army said...

Nice information about General. Thanks to Shaunik. And thanks for sharing waman.

Sagat Shaunik said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sagat Shaunik said...

Greetings Admin, I would like to contact you, my email ID is

Col Vijay said...

Thanks for bringing back such great lagacy into public limelight. If I may add to the legacy, Gen VN Sharma COAS was younger brother of Maj Som Nath Sharma