Sam Manekshaw was one of the greatest soldiers and war hero that India has ever had. Born Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw on April 3rd 1914 he became the first ever Field Marshal of the Indian forces and served the country gloriously through five wars and over forty years including the second world war. Sam Manekshaw long military career is studded with achievements including the successful campaign of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 that led to the creation of Bangladesh. He became the 8th Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of the Indian Army in 1969 and though the Indian army had limited resources he crafted them to become brave soldiers and tasted victory on each occasion. After four years as COAS he was awarded the honorary rank of Field Marshal in 1973. He had a very close association with the Gorkha rifles and was affectionately called Sam Bahadur by them. He had also received the Padma Vibhushan and the Military Cross and was famous for his bravery and forthright approach. He was married to Sillo Bode and they had two daughters Sherry and Maya. Sam Bahadur died of pneumonia and other related complications at the Military Hospital, Wellington, Tamil Nadu on 27th June 2008 at 94 years of Age. India truly lost one of her best sons on that day.
Sam Manekshaw was born into a Parsi family in Amritsar to Dr. Hormusji Manekshaw and Heerabai on the 3rd of April 1914. His father had served with the royal British Army as a medical officer in Messopotamia during the First World War. However after the War as his medical practice did not prosper very well in Bombay he decided to shift to Amritsar. Here Hormusji started a pharmacy and began to practice medicine. Sam had three brothers and two sisters and apart from the eldest Fali who studied in Bombay the rest of the boys Jan, Sam and Jemi went to the ‘Sherwood School’ in Nainital for studies. His sisters studied at Murree which is now in Pakistan. The Manekshaw children learnt a lot from their father with a strong sense of honour and honesty. Sam got his jolly spirit and humour from his mother.
When Sam had completed his schooling he wanted to go to England to study medicine. But his father believed he was too young to go on his own. Thus Sam enrolled at the Hindu Sabha College, Amritsar but his heart was hardly into it. In 1931 India’s very own Military Academy was established at Dehra Dun and Sam Manekshaw was amongst the first batch of Indians who qualified to study at the academy. On 30th September 1932 Sam joined the academy and very soon made his mark as a good tennis player. He was part of the Academy Tennis Team and was awarded the ‘Tennis Blue’. However Sam frequently landed up in trouble with the laws and rules of the IMA.
In 1972 President V.V.Giri awarded him the Padma Vibhusan for his distinguished service to the nation. On 1st January 1973 he was given the honorary rank of Field Marshal, another first in Indian military history. Apart from Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa, Manekshaw was the only other Indian Field Marshal. Sam Manekshaw retired a fortnight later after forty years of exceptional military service and setlled down with his wife in Conoor near the Wellington Military Catonment where he remained the Commandant of the Defence Services Staff College. He died at the age of 94 on the 27th June 2008 due to pneumonia and related complications. He is survived by his daughters and grandchildren. Soldiers like him are very rare nowadays.