The lesser-known Mutiny

Discussion in 'Military History & Strategy' started by Osiris, Mar 29, 2011.

  1. Osiris
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    Osiris FULL MEMBER

    THE trauma experienced during those four days of the Rin Mutiny in February, 1946 was a source of tension. In fact the situation was more sensitive than the one that arose from the actual combat condition prevailing in the north Arabian sea during the India-Pakistan conflict in 1971.

    The mutiny was initiated by the ratings of Indian Navy during early 1946. It was a reaction against the treatment meted to ratings in general and the lack of service facilities in particular. On January 16, 1946, a contingent of 67 ratings of various branches arrived at Castle Barracks, Mint Road, in Fort Mumbai. This contingent had arrived from the basic training establishment, HMIS Akbar, located at Thane a suburb of Mumbai at 1600 in the evening. The officer on duty informed the galley (kitchen) staff of this arrival. Quite casually, the duty cook, without winking an eyelid, took out 20 loaves of bread from the large cupboard and added three litres of tap water to the mutton curry as well as the gram dal which was lying already cooked before as per the morning strength of the ratings. Every one associated with each wing of administration in those days had such a mindset that no one bothered. Nothing more was required to be done in such cases. On that day, only 17 ratings ate the watery, tasteless meals while the rest went ashore and ate. Such daily cases of neglect, when reported to senior officers present, practically evoked no response and the discontentment continued to build up. The better educated ratings of communication branch in the shore establishment, HMIS Talwar, located in Mumbai had been complaining of neglect of their facilities and harboured a high level of revulsion towards the authorities.


    The adventures of Indian National Army and the stories of glory of Netaji Subhas Chander Bose received through the wireless sets and the media inspired them. A naval central strike committee was formed. It was led by a naval rating M.S Khan. Soon, thousands of disgruntled ratings from Mumbai, Karachi, Cochin and Vishakhapatnam joined them. They communicated with each other through the wireless communication sets available in HMIS Talwar. Thus, the entire revolt was coordinated. The unrest spread to ships too. Admiral Godfrey in Mumbai took a stubborn stand towards the demands of the strikers. Demands by now had come to include the release of INA prisoners too. This was early February, 1946.

    Inspired by the patriotic fervour sweeping the country, the movement started taking a political turn. During the second week of February, 1946, my ship was alongside the outer breakwater. One fine early morning, I noticed about 20 junior ratings surrounding the main duty- free canteen located close to the smithy shop inside the naval dockyard in Mumbai. This large canteen was a part of an international chain of canteens run by the royal navy and was well-stocked with choicest brands of foreign liquor, cheeses, caviar, cigarettes etc mostly imported. About four ratings forced themselves into the store and came out with cartons of cigarettes, cameras and electric irons etc. It was followed by another rush of ratings who now were holding boxes of scotch whisky in both hands and sported imported umbrellas slinging on their shoulders. Soon the canteen staff also arrived but was helpless and terrified as some of the ratings carried arms.

    As if this was not enough, another batch of ratings brought some steel bars from the closeby smithy shop and dismantled the steel safe from its seat. Efforts were being made to drag the locked safe to nowhere when I left the scene. I then came across some cooks holding fully-loaded automatic weapons in their hands and pointing those towards the direction of Gateway of India where the British destroyers from Trincomalee were expected to arrive. Just then Captain (E) T.N. Kochhar, then an engineer officer of HMIS Narmada, sped past me and told me that the strike committee had broadcast a message that Indian officers would not be harmed if they did not interfere, while Admiral Godfrey required all officers to be in their place of duty and ensure that no violent action or damage to equipment and property took place and that the agitation remained peaceful. In the evening, a news item was received stating that a Gurkha regiment in Karachi had refused to fire at an agitated group of naval ratings. This was day one.

    The next day morning, the tricolour was hoisted by the ratings on mastheads of most of the ships and establishments. There was a general feeling of anxiety and tension everywhere. The ships deck and lavatories had not been cleaned for past two days. Officers and ratings’ kitchens were out of use. The canteens in every ship were forced open and eatables consumed in lieu of cooked food. The morning news on the radio indicated that fully-armed destroyers of British Navy had already steamed out of Trincomalee harbour and were heading towards Mumbai to quell the Mutiny. The naval ratings’ strike committee decided, in a confused manner, the HMIS Kumaon had to leave Mumbai harbour while HMIS Kathiawar was already in the Arabian Sea under the command of a striking rating. At about 10.30 HIMS Kumaon suddenly let go the shore ropes, without even removing the ships’ gangway while officers were discussing the law and order situation on the outer breakwater jetty.

    So the wooden gangway, six-metre-long was protruding out of the ship’s starboard waist when the ship moved away from the jetty under command of a revolver bearing senior rating. However, within two hours fresh instructions were received from the strikers’ control room and the ship returned to the same berth.

    The situation was changing fast and rumours spread that Australian and Canadian armed battalions had been stationed outside the Lion gate and the Gungate to encircle the dockyard where most ships were berthed. Unfortunately, by now all the armouries of the ships and establishments had been seized by the striking ratings. The real danger was that the sophisticated arms with the ammunition were being handled casually by unscrupulous ships clerks, cleaning hands, cooks and wireless operators who had never handled these before.

    The third day dawned charged with fresh emotions. Sardar Patel’s statement of assurance did improve matters considerably. However, an unruly guncrew of a 25 pounder gun fitted in an old ship, without orders from the strikers, fired a salvo towards the Castle barracks and blew off a large branch of an old banyan tree. It was clear that those bearing arms had started acting on their own without taking orders from their central striking command. The negotiations moved fast, keeping in view the extreme sensitivity of the situation and on the fourth day most of the demands of the strikers were conceded in principle.

    Immediate steps were taken to improve the quality of food served in the ratings’ kitchen and their living conditions. The national leaders also assured that favourable consideration will be accorded to release of all the prisoners of the Indian National Army. By this time the British destroyers fully armed to go into action arrived and had positioned themselves off the Gateway of Indian Mumbai.

    Luckily a very grave situation was tackled in a very timely manner and a real disaster was averted by the prudent action both by the strikers and the country’s leadership.

    The Sunday Tribune - Spectrum - Article
  2. Osiris
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    RIN mutiny gave a jolt to the British

    WHICH phase of our freedom struggle won for us Independence? Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 Quit India movement or The INA army launched by Netaji Bose to free India or the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny of 1946? According to the British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, during whose regime India became free, it was the INA and the RIN Mutiny of February 18-23 1946 that made the British realise that their time was up in India.

    An extract from a letter written by P.V. Chuckraborty, former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, on March 30 1976, reads thus: "When I was acting as Governor of West Bengal in 1956, Lord Clement Attlee, who as the British Prime Minister in post war years was responsible for India’s freedom, visited India and stayed in Raj Bhavan Calcutta for two days`85 I put it straight to him like this: ‘The Quit India Movement of Gandhi practically died out long before 1947 and there was nothing in the Indian situation at that time, which made it necessary for the British to leave India in a hurry. Why then did they do so?’ In reply Attlee cited several reasons, the most important of which were the INA activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, which weakened the very foundation of the British Empire in India, and the RIN Mutiny which made the British realise that the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the British. When asked about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 movement, Attlee’s lips widened in smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, ‘Minimal’."

    Strangely enough, like the chapattis which went all around India during the 1857 First War of Independence asking the nation drive away the British, it was 20 loaves of bread that started this so-called RIN Mutiny. It was a reaction against the high-handed behaviour by British officers of the RIN. On January 16, 1946, a contingent of 67 ratings of various branches arrived at Castle Barracks, Mint Road, in Fort Mumbai. This contingent had arrived from the basic training establishment, HMIS Akbar, located at Thane a suburb of Mumbai at four in the evening. The officer on duty informed the galley (kitchen) staff of this arrival. Quite casually, the duty cook, without winking an eyelid, took out 20 loaves of bread from the large cupboard and added three litres of tap water to the mutton curry as well as the gram dal which was lying already cooked before as per the morning strength of the ratings. On that day, only 17 ratings ate the watery, tasteless meals, while the rest went ashore and ate. When reported to senior officers present, this grievances practically evoked no response and the discontentment continued to build up.

    These complaints continued to agitate the ratings and a naval central strike committee was formed on February 18, 1946. It was led by naval rating M.S Khan. Soon, thousands of disgruntled ratings from Mumbai, Karachi, Cochin and Vishakhapatnam joined them. They communicated with each other through the wireless communication sets available in HMIS Talwar. Thus, the entire revolt was coordinated. The unrest spread to shore establishments from the initial flashpoint in Bombay to Karachi and Calcutta, involving 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors.

    The next morning, the Tricolour was hoisted by the ratings on most of the ships and establishments. The third day came charged with fresh emotions. Sardar Patel’s statement of assurance did improve matters considerably. However, an unruly guncrew of a 25-pounder gun fitted in an old ship, fired a salvo, without orders from the strikers, towards the Castle barracks and blew off a large branch of an old banyan tree. By this time the British destroyers fully armed to go into action arrived and had positioned themselves off the Gateway of India in Mumbai.

    The RIN Mutiny was treated as a crisis of the empire by an alarmed British cabinet and Attlee Clement, ordered the Royal Navy to put down the revolt. Admiral Godfrey, the Flag Officer commanding the RIN, went on air with his order "Submit or perish".

    The next day, the RAF (Royal Air Force) threatened the defiant RIN ships by flying a squadron of bombers low over Bombay harbour even as Admiral Rattray, Flag Officer, Bombay, RIN, issued an ultimatum asking the ratings to raise black flags and surrender unconditionally.

    Both Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Sardar Patel successfully persuaded the ratings to surrender. Patel wrote, "Discipline in the army cannot be tampered with. We will want [the] army even in free India". Mahatma Gandhi, criticised the strikers for mutinying without the call of a ‘prepared revolutionary party’ and without the ‘guidance and intervention’ of ‘political leaders of their choice’.

    The issue remained unresolved till the morning of February 23, when the hopeless situation produced a vote of surrender. The black flags went up at six on the morning of February 23.

    The negotiations moved fast, keeping in view the extreme sensitivity of the situation and most of the demands of the strikers regarding welfare measures were conceded in principle. Immediate steps were taken to improve the quality of food served in the ratings’ kitchen and their living conditions. But these were followed up by court martials and large-scale dismissals from the service. None of those dismissed were reinstated into either of the Indian or Pakistani navies after Independence.

    But the brave sailors had demonstrated to the British that they would rise in defence of their motherland, thus leaving the foreign imperialists little option but to quit.

    Today a memorial to the brave RIN ratings, completed by the Indian Navy in 2002, stands in the busy Colaba area in Central Bombay.

    The Sunday Tribune - Spectrum
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  3. Osiris
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    Clement Atlee's response: to this mutiny was

    Erosion of loyalty to the British Crown among the Indian army and navy personnel as a result of the military activities of Netaji.
  4. Naren1987
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    Any guy with a 3 digit IQ can see what really won our independence, and it was not Gandhi's non violence.
  5. Osiris
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    Osiris FULL MEMBER

    not because of their IQ.our history of independence is distorted,and it gives importance only to Gandhi and his ideology .many struggles like RAF mutiny and R.I.N mutiny were ignored completely
  6. RoYaN
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    there were n number of mutinees which had little impact on Britain but the Gandhian movement was pan India hence the most effective!!
    any one with a two digit I.Q can understand that
  7. RoYaN
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    RoYaN FULL MEMBER

    Im talking about the freedom movement Mister so don't derail the topic!!!!!
    Post reported for Derailing the topic!!
  8. Osiris
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    Osiris FULL MEMBER

    no u r completely wrong this was an important incident in Indian freedom struggle,and this mutiny is considered as a shift in the policy of Indian armed forces who were very loyal to the crown...this Mutiny lead to the formation of cabinet mission in 1946 and interim government (not quit India movement)
  9. Osiris
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    Gandhi thought that the mutiny had set what he called a “bad and unbecoming example” for India. He said that a “combination of Hindus and Muslims and others for the purpose of violent action” was unholy and that if the RIN men were to adopt peaceful methods and apprise him fully of their grievances he would see to it that they were “redressed”.
  10. RoYaN
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    Do you intend to say that Gandhi' movement had no effect??
    Do prove your point about cabinet mission!!

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