Chapter 10: Home Front – 4
Security in the RIN
Naval Port Security Offices and Staff
In April 1943, an officer left for the United Kingdom to undergo training in security duties, and returned in October to take up office as Staff Security Officer at Naval Headquarters. At the same time, Naval Port Security Officers were appointed at Calcutta, Madras, Karachi, Chittagong, Bombay and Landing Craft Wing. Moreover, Naval Security-Intelligence Officers were appointed at other ports of India. Between October 1943 and January 1944, the RIN obtained the services of Commander Campbell-Ross, RNVR, to examine and suggest improvements in Port and Shipping Security. As a result, many new security measures were undertaken to introduce a larger degree of control. The Security Branch, like other branches in the services, suffered from an acute shortage of officers. On the recommendation of the Manpower Committee in 1944, intelligence and security duties at Karachi, Cochin, Madras and Chittagong were amalgamated. Thereafter, security arrangements at the ports showed progressive improvement. The number of security ratings originally allowed in April 1944 was cut down to 14, excluding the thirty with the Landing Craft Wing.
Inter-Services Security Education Department (ISED)
In March 1944, Commander Campbell-Ross, RNVR, and Commander Clairmonte, RNR, came to India to advise about the setting up of a Security Education Department in the RIN. Later, the Naval Security Education Department was amalgamated with the Inter-Services Security Education Department and formed part of the Inter-Services Security Directorate (ISSD). The education department consisted then of two wings the education wing and the production wing. Commander Clairmonte, RNR, was appointed officer-in-charge of the Inter-Services Security Education Department and Lieut. Commander Bruce Belfrage, RNVR, as head of the Inter-Services Education Department (Education Wing). With the help of the Department of Information
and Broadcasting, security education, drives were conducted at all ports and important centres with great success.
Inter-Services Security Co-ordination Section (ISCS)
With the formation of Inter-Services Security Directorate under the Director of Security, India Command, a close liaison was maintained with the security authorities of the other services through the Inter-Services Security Co-ordination section to which a representative of each Service was appointed.
Inter-Services Movements Security Control Directorate (I. Mov. S.C.)
Another addition to the Inter-Services Security Directorate was the Inter-Services Movement Control Directorate, which was responsible for all questions relating to security of sea, air, and land movements and merchant shipping and seamen, and formed a linkup with, and worked on the lines of security control in, the United Kingdom. The Director of Naval Intelligence Admiralty loaned a Lieutenant Commander as a Naval representative in this department.
Inter-Services Security Board (ISSB)
The Staff Security Officer, Naval Headquarters represented the Royal Indian Navy’s interests on the Inter-Services Security Board. At the time of the separation of the East Indies Fleet and the British Pacific Fleet, the Royal Naval Intelligence Officer in Delhi was appointed as a representative of the Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Station. There was also a naval officer on the permanent secretariat of the Board.
General Headquarters Security Liaison Officers were made available to the Royal Indian Navy. These officers were asked from time to time to make tours of various HMI ships and establishments to advise on security and morale amongst the personnel of the RIN. Their work proved very valuable.
In order to improve censorship in the Services, the Naval Adviser on Censorship, Middle East (Captain W. K. Conlon, RN,) visited India in January 1944, and carried out a tour of ports to contact censor authorities, service and security representatives, and civilians connected with shipping, to advise them on common problems. His visit which terminated in March 1944, was most beneficial. He was loaned to the India Command, as Naval Adviser to the Director of Civil and Services Censorship (India) (D.C. & SCI) His appointment proved most advantageous as censorship of
naval mails was organised on a much sounder basis. WRINS censorship units were established at each of the ports and, in addition to being responsible for censorship of RN mails, they also undertook censorship of RIN mails written in English.
Morale in the RIN
A section at NHQ. was formed on 18 August 1945 to deal with questions affecting morale and to take over certain allied subjects from the Naval Law Branch. The head of the section was called the Staff Personnel Officer.
On 30 September 1946, though all censorship in the India Command ceased, particular attention was paid to morale reports received from ships and establishments and information received from other sources. These reports showed that operations in the Far East and the liberal grant of leave that was possible in many ships between July and December 1945 had a good effect on morale. Conditions of service, accommodation and messing were generally reported satisfactory. Physical fitness and medical attention were commented on very favourably from all sources. Ratings were greatly interested in their family affairs and the majority had confidence that the District Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Boards were looking after the welfare of their dependents. Throughout the war, the morale of the service was indeed very high.
Welfare and Canteens
As regards welfare, there was, until early 1945, no co-ordination whatsoever, and the three Services were free to follow their own welfare activities. While taking all possible steps to ensure that adequate amenities and recreational facilities were made available to its personnel, the RIN chose to concentrate its efforts mainly on family welfare. This was achieved by providing an adequate and efficient service for dealing with the multifarious problems which might adversely affect the rating’s family during his service. Steps were also taken to build up a Royal Indian Navy Benevolent Association with sufficient resources to meet all possible claims upon it, whether from ratings themselves, or from their dependants. In other words, far more importance was attached by the RIN, in its efforts to stimulate and maintain morale, to mental confidence and contentment than to the satisfaction of physical needs and requirements, like food, amenities etc.
Prior to 1943 the RIN had no welfare organisation. There was no money available for the provision of welfare. There was no proper system or established channel through the Naval Headquarters for dealing with civil authorities in the interest of navy personnel. Occasionally cases of very exceptional hardship were taken up by the Director of Personal Services at Naval Headquarters with the civil authorities, through the War Department. Attempts were also sometimes made by individual officers in the ships and establishments, by writing direct to the collectors, to assist in family cases, but in the absence of any proper system, or of any knowledge or official guidance as to how such matters ought to be handled, these odd attempts usually proved abortive and unsuccessful.
As regards amenities, sporadic local attempts were also made to obtain them from private organisations or through the good services of public-spirited civilians, and these attempts were sometimes successful. In general, however, very little progress was made in this direction, and when, for example, the first batches of officers and ratings were leaving India for the U.K. to man new construction ships, they were generally obliged -to leave without any amenity goods whatsoever, and even without any woollen comforts. These were, of course, invariably forthcoming from the welfare organisations in the United Kingdom, so that the service at that end was usually amply catered for – after its arrival there. Later, late in 1942 and 1943 drafts were, in fact, adequately supplied with woollen comforts and sheepskin jackets, collected under the kind auspices of Lady Fitzherbert from the Red Cross and other sources.
As regards funds, the only funds available for giving monetary assistance to genuine cases of distress among RIN personnel or their dependants was a small Benefit Fund. Its total resources did not at any time exceed an invested capital of 70,000, the income from which was used to dispense benevolence. The number of its beneficiaries was thus of necessity small, and the grants they received were paltry.
Establishment of Welfare
In early 1943 provision was made for the establishment of a Welfare Organisation in Naval Headquarters. It was formed on 1 March, 1943, with the appointment of one Welfare Officer and one Welfare Accountant Officer, with the requisite office staff.
Two Welfare Touring Officers, one for the East Coast and the other for the West Coast, were shortly afterwards added. The organisation subsequently grew until, at its peak, it consisted of seven officers at naval ports (Bombay, Karachi, Chittagong, Calcutta, Vizagapatam, Madras and Cochin), an Officer-in-Charge of the RIN Ratings’ Rest Camp at Tindharia, an officer attached to the Fauji Dilkhush Sabha Entertainment Organisation in India, and a great many officers in ships and establishments, who were responsible for internal welfare duties. The main activities of RIN Welfare from March 1943 until the end of the war may conveniently be summarised under three main heads: (a) individual and family welfare, (b) funds and amenities, and (c) the RIN Benevolent Association.
(a) Individual and Family Welfare –
One of the first steps taken after the welfare organisation was set up was to issue an RIN Order informing Commanding Officers that petitions of the ratings on matters relating to their or their immediate dependants, welfare should, in future, be forwarded to the Naval Headquarters. Within the first two months nearly 300 such petitions, many of them involving long and complicated negotiations with the civil authorities, were received. The two officers sanctioned for the organisation found themselves completely unable to cope with the volume of work. Within a very short time, it was necessary to obtain sanction for another officer, whose sole function was to set in motion the procedure for obtaining satisfaction or redress in family cases. Very soon he had an incredibly large number of files to deal with. Speedy results were not forthcoming, since the Service was still in the stage of feeling its way to find the most satisfactory mode of contacting the appropriate civil authorities, and settling family grievances.
Considerable use was also made of the existing army organisation, the Indian Soldiers’ Board, whose title was changed, in April 1944, and was then called the Indian Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Board. The Board maintained branches, called district boards, in all districts of British India, and was composed of prominent local individuals, i.e. Government officials, local welfare workers, vakils etc., with the Collector or Deputy Commissioner of the district always as the ex-officio chairman. The Boards were grouped under a Provincial Board and the whole was controlled
by a Headquarters Office, under the auspices of the War Department at New Delhi. In theory, their functioning was efficient, systematic, and rapid. Petitions were received by the Secretary; generally a paid official and whose office was often located in the Collector’s office at the Headquarters town in the district. Where the petitions related, as 99% of them did, to remote villages in the district, they were passed on to the tehsildars concerned, who further passed them on to the local patwari, who in fact, generally did delegate his responsibility in the matter to a local welfare worker. The report reached the Service Headquarters along the same channels.
In practice, the system had grave defects, the most serious being an inevitable and, in some cases, quite inordinate delay in obtaining any answers at all. The passage of the petitions through the Board Office, the tehsildar, and the patwari to the village welfare worker, meant long delays. The experience of Naval Headquarters was that in many cases petitions remained outstanding from nine to nineteen months, without any effective action being taken. Often these petitions related to simple matters, such as permission to cut a tree or use thatching material. Another handicap was that at the level of the District Boards, very frequently its members and welfare workers, however willing and anxious to assist, lacked the necessary influence to do so. A number of cases occurred in which the Service was frankly informed that some local resident against whom a service man had formulated a complaint was “too influential a person” for the Board to deal with. Thirdly, there was the element of corruption and there were cases where the decisions of the District Boards had been influenced by coercion or greed.
But these should not lead to the impression that the Sailors’, and Airmen’s Boards were wholly ineffective. There were many Boards which did valuable service. It was found that, when the Collector saw a particularly deserving case or a glaring instance of inaction by the District Board, he took effective action to obtain redress.
In addition, utmost care was taken to ensure that food concessions, educational concessions, tax remissions, etc. which were made available to serving personnel by the Central and Provincial Governments during the war, were brought to the notice of RIN personnel through the medium of RIN Fleet Orders, RIN Temporary Memoranda, and printed and cyclostyled notices. Great care was
taken to ensure that these notices actually reached the ratings for whom they were intended. Full publicity was also given, through the same media, to the considerable body of legislation which was introduced during the war with the object of protecting servicemen’s interests on the legal side. Many ratings were benefited in this way and the interests of others were protected in legal matters under the provisions of the Indian Soldiers’ (Litigation) Act, 1925, as read with the Indian Seamen (Litigation) Rules 1944.
Inside the Service
The individual welfare of officers and ratings was directly bound up with the various terms and conditions of their service and, in particular, with the rules governing, for example, pay, pensions, and clothing. Cases in which these rules appeared to require modification or were unduly harsh, were frequently taken up, from the welfare point of view, and in many cases modifications were obtained. Notable examples of this type of work were the initial steps taken to secure free treatment on full pay for personnel suffering from tuberculosis attributable to naval service; the extension of sick leave on full pay for an indefinite period (as opposed to the earlier six months limit), the modification of certain pension rules, the modification of the whole procedure for discharge, and the grant of very generous additional clothing, without payment, to boy trainees at HMIS Bahadur and HMIS Dilawar.
Early in 1945, family welfare was pursued in a new direction when the first welfare tour was undertaken in conjunction with a recruiting tour. An officer from the Welfare Section of Naval Headquarters, accompanied by a small party of selected ratings, was sent to Southern India to contact the families of ratings, to visit local officials and to discuss service welfare matters with them. The welfare party visited Ratnagiri, Mangalore, Cannanore, Tellicherry, Calicut, British Cochin, Ernakulam, Alleppey and Trivandrum, and at all these places the meetings which were held were attended, amid great enthusiasm, by all local Officials. A number of vexatious cases which had been pending for long periods were settled on the spot, and the families of some 800 ratings were met, mainly by personal visits to their homes, in these towns and in the small villages in the immediate neighbourhood. The tour was an unqualified success, subsequent morale reports received at the Naval Headquarters testified to the popularity of the idea amongst the ratings, and many appreciative letters were received from the families
who had been visited and on whose behalf action had been taken locally. Another result of the first welfare tour was a noticeable speed-up in time taken by the local authorities to deal with representations from Naval Headquarters.
One further aspect of individual welfare which deserves to be mentioned was the Priority Passage Scheme governing the passage to India of wives of RIN personnel from countries outside India. This, from its inception in 1943, was handled by the Welfare Section and a large number of priority passages were obtained on behalf of both officers and ratings.
(b) Amenities –
The first and most important problem which faced the new welfare organisation was that of funds. In March 1943, the RIN War Purposes Fund contained only Rs. 17,000. The ACES (Amenities, Comforts, and Entertainments for the Service) Fund, provided by the Government of India, was also meagre, which, while useful for the provision of small amenities, was quite inadequate to provide for any large-scale welfare work. The officer-in-charge of welfare came to the conclusion that very little in the way of welfare would be attempted until the service was able to get hold of adequate funds. Appeals were, therefore, made to His Excellency the Viceroy, to all the Provincial Governors, and later to the public at large, and funds were soon forthcoming on a generous scale. As a result, it was possible during the succeeding 1\ years to carry through a very considerable programme of welfare work, at a cost of over 20 lakhs of rupees.
Supply of Small Amenities
A considerable portion of this sum was expended on the provision of small amenities such as gramophones, wireless sets, sports gear, woollen comforts, and in some cases refrigerators and soda-water machines. It was the “aim of Naval Headquarters that every ship, however small, should be supplied with at least one wireless set, one gramophone, and an adequate quantity of sports gear. Some difficulty was experienced in 1944 in obtaining sufficient wireless sets and gramophones to go round. This shortage, however, did not persist. Great difficulty, on the other hand, was experienced in the servicing and maintenance of wireless sets, which had to be carried out in spare time by Naval Stores Officer, Bombay, and his
staff. One difficulty which was never solved was the provision of wireless sets for motor launches and landing craft. These craft were unable to run a mains wireless set and, although exhaustive enquiries were made, an adequate supply of battery wireless sets was never available anywhere in India. Similarly, the supply of gramophones fell far below requirements. At the time of the Munster Mission to India, the RIN was successful in its bid for 500 mains and battery radios, a large number of gramophones, and also for refrigerators, all from the United Kingdom, but these amenities were not forthcoming until some six months after the end of the war, when, with the reduction in the size of Service, their arrival proved more of an embarrassment than an asset.
Periodicals and Books
The welfare organisation also made itself responsible for the regular supply of reading material to the whole Service. After an initial period of difficulty with the postal services, and after the loss of many thousands of periodicals by theft in transit, an efficient distributing organisation for newspapers, magazines, and periodicals in English and in the Indian languages was built up at the Naval Headquarters, and nearly 35,000 papers were distributed each month, through service channels instead of the ordinary post. In addition, all shore establishments were provided with cash grants, to enable them to set up ratings’ libraries, and books were supplied in periodical parcels to the ships afloat.
In the early years of the war a frequent grievance was that the ratings going ashore at various ports in India had nowhere to spend their leisure hours. Welfare, therefore, undertook the setting up of a ratings’ club at every port. The Cornwallis Fleet Club was built in Bombay, on a permanent scale, at a cost of nearly four lakhs of rupees. The club which was designed by an architect serving as a temporary officer in the RIN, was a handsome building with luxurious interior furnishings, containing two restaurants, a theatre, and a dormitory for 40 men. It was one of the finest Service clubs in India. At Chittagong, Calcutta, Vizagapatam and Cochin, temporary-style clubs were opened. No club was opened at Madras as there existed adequate club facilities for servicemen at that port. In Karachi various administrative limitations delayed the commencement of building operations, but, largely due to the generosity of His Excellency the Governor of Sind and of the Karachi Port Trust, a start was made in the middle of 1945 with the construction of a
ratings’ club, somewhat smaller than the Cornwallis Fleet Club, but on the same generous lines and designed for permanence.
Leave facilities for both officers and ratings received attention. The first step, as far as officers were concerned, was the publication of a small annual booklet containing full information about all the various hostels, clubs, etc., in all parts of India, which made special arrangements to cater for service officers on leave. In 1944, the RIN opened its own Officers’ Leave Hostel at Srinagar (Kashmir), and this functioned successfully throughout 1944 and 1945. The hostel was made available to junior officers of all Services. The RIN was also responsible for initiating the proposal which eventually led to the grant of free road travel between Rawalpindi and Kashmir for all service personnel, both Indian and British.
A rest and convalescent camp for ratings was established at Tindharia (near Kurseong, on the Darjeeling-Himalayan Railway), but although the building was rented for over two years, administrative difficulties in obtaining Government sanction for ratings to proceed to the camp on duty, and not on leave, prevented the camp from coming into operation before the war was over.
Arrangements were made with the army welfare authorities to place Ensa and the Fauji Dilkhush Sabha entertainment organisation equally at the disposal of the RIN. Special parties were arranged to cater for the tastes of RIN ratings, and these parties did invaluable work touring naval establishments and ports. In 1945, a naval officer was attached to the Fauji Dilkhush Sabha organisation in Calcutta, whose special duty it was to raise and to route Indian concert-parties for the RIN.
One of the most interesting features of the welfare programme was the Ship Adoption Scheme. The scheme was lunched by the Flag Officer Commanding, RIN, in 1943, when he appealed to Governors, Princes, and business community, and in a few cases, business firms, to adopt RIN ships. The idea met with conspicuous success, and all the ships whose names had territorial connections were adopted immediately. It was somewhat more difficult to get the others adopted, but this was done eventually. Many ships benefited greatly from the scheme, receiving gifts both of amenities and of money from their adopters; but looked at from a national
point of view, the main benefit derived from the scheme lay in the fact that good relations were fostered between the RIN and the public, and that information about the navy was disseminated. Delegations from many districts visited their adopted ships, and, where possible, these visits were returned by the ships’ companies.
The above paragraphs illustrate the main uses to which the RIN War Purposes Fund and the Government ACES Fund were put. Money from these funds were occasionally also diverted to “other purposes” not directly connected with welfare, but which provided for the Service certain benefits for which otherwise the Government could not sanction funds. Thus the War Purposes Fund gave a grant to the RIN Hospital at Sewri for the purchase of a motor ambulance for the conveyance of officers’ or ratings’ wives from their residences in Bombay to the hospital; another grant was given from the War Purposes Fund to assist in financing the three so-called RIN hostels, set up for the education of the sons of servicemen at Ratnagiri, Dapoli and Sangameshwar, and many grants were made as RIN contributions, towards the financing of inter-service projects.
The RIN War Purposes Fund financed the more important of the dockyard welfare schemes, namely, the provision of amenities in the dockyard hospital, clinic, children’s creche, and so on, to the extent of over a lakh of rupees.
Mention may be made of two other funds administered by Welfare – the RIN Sports Fund and the RIN Band Fund. The former was collected entirely from subscriptions paid by officers and ratings and was used for providing sports gear and for the maintenance of sports fields, tennis courts, etc.
The RIN Band Fund was managed by Welfare Section from its commencement until the RIN Band was actually formed. Subscriptions were collected from officers of the Service, and public appeals were also made. Within a short time a fairly large sum had been collected, to enable the Service to purchase instruments for a band of over 50 musicians. Government sanction was accorded in 1944 to the creation of Musician Branch and to the formation of
the RIN Band itself, and a Lieutenant was recruited into the Special Branch of the RINVR as Director of Music. In 1945, after the band instruments had been paid for, at a cost of about Rs. 40,000, the remainder of the fund, about 20,000/-, was handed over to the Flag Officer, Bombay, in whom administration of the band was then vested.
RIN Maintenance Fund
In early 1945, the RIN Maintenance Fund was established. The purpose of this fund was to collect an invested capital of at least 10 lakhs of rupees, the interest from which would be used in the post-war years to maintain those clubs, libraries, sports grounds, and other welfare institutions which the Service had been able to acquire for itself during the war. It then amounted to some seven lakhs of rupees.
(c) The RIN Benevolent Association –
Early in 1943 the RIN Benefit Fund was reconstituted as “The RIN Benevolent Association” and was registered under the Societies Act (1860). The aim of the Association, as stated in the Memorandum of Association, was the “relief of distress” among past and present officers and ratings of the Royal Indian Navy, Royal Indian Marine, Royal Indian Navy Reserve, Royal Indian Naval Volunteer Reserve and Royal Indian Fleet Reserve, and their dependants. A number of amendments to the Memorandum of Association and to the rules were subsequently made, the chief of these being the substitution of the words “hardship or distress” for “distress” and the inclusion of officers and auxiliaries of the WRINS and of nursing sisters of the RIN Hospital, as potential beneficiaries.
Collection of Funds
In January 1944 the Welfare Section, having collected about 15 lakhs of rupees for amenity purposes, turned its attention to funds for the Benevolent Association, and an intensive drive was started. The target was set by Admiral Godfrey at 20 lakhs of rupees, a figure which, invested at 3%, would give the Association a permanent annual income of some Rs. 60,000 for benevolent purposes. The target figure was regarded as extremely high, but no efforts were spared to ensure that it should be attained. Appeals, signed by the Flag Officer Commanding, were made to almost every section of the people of India, and without exception they responded munificently.
In a space of 16 months, the total of 20 lakhs was reached and passed. The final subscription lists included the names of the Viceroy, all the Provincial Governors, many of the Indian Princes, Indian and British business firms, clubs, zamindars, cinema proprietors, churches, army units, and countless private individuals. A large subscription was also received from the King George’s Fund for sailors in the United Kingdom.
The figures of actual collection show the rate at which money for the RIN Benevolent Association was received. It will be seen that towards the end of 1944 over two lakhs per month was received regularly. The average for 1944 amounted to Rs. 4,000 collected every day of the year. The Flag Officer Commanding stated at a general meeting of the Benevolent Association that in his opinion no better manifestation of the high regard in which the people of India held their navy was required than the way in which they had supported its collection of funds for the Benevolent Association.
Expansion of Activities
As the funds of the Benevolent Association grew, so also did its activities expand. Perhaps equally important with the growth of its resources was the fashion in which between 1943 and 1945 the Association, a non-official body, carrying out its functions with private funds, was gradually woven into the administrative fabric of the Service, and became as much an integral part of the Naval Headquarters, and of the Service, as any of the administrative sections. Great care was taken to ensure that no deserving case went unassisted. A departure was made from the usual practice among charitable associations of taking no cognisance of hardship or distress unless the victim himself appealed for assistance. To this end, arrangements were made for the Medical Board papers of all ratings invalided from the service to pass first through the office of the Benevolent Association, and if it was possible for any assistance to be given to the ratings (especially further medical treatment at the Association’s expense) then action was taken without waiting for an actual appeal from him. The Association speedily became known for the good work it was doing, ratings showed keen appreciation of it, and the number of its beneficiaries rose steadily from a few dozen to some 800. These include widows and families not eligible for service pensions, families whose service pensions were inadequate, those whose pensions were due but delayed, ex-ratings maintained in hospital for treatment for tuberculosis, leprosy, mental complaints, and so on.
At the outbreak of war there was only one shore canteen in the Royal Indian Navy. It was accommodated in a small building inside the Dockyard at Bombay. In conformity with the usual practice of canteen administration in India, a contractor was responsible for the running of that canteen, stores being purchased by him from the Canteen Contractors’ Syndicate. As the Royal Indian Navy expanded and acquired additional training establishments and operational bases, more shore canteens were opened on the contractor system, while ships purchased their requirements direct from the Canteen Contractors’ Syndicate installations at the ports.
Towards the end of 1940 it was realised that the contractor system of canteen management, apart altogether from its normal and expected defects, was, as far as the RIN was concerned, wholly unsatisfactory and unable to meet the particular requirements of the Service. Commanding Officers of most of HMI ships and establishments had throughout displayed a desire to conduct their canteens on service lines. The opinion generally prevailed that the contractor system, though running on well-established and professionally efficient lines, was not satisfactory, in that it lent itself to abuses and tended to make divisional and other junior officers lose interest in the canteens aspect of their ratings’ welfare. In addition, commanding officers found the Canteen Contractors’ Syndicate frequently unable to meet urgent demands for canteen stores during the short periods that the ships were able to spend in the port. It was, therefore, decided that the Service should establish and manage its own ratings’ canteens, as far as possible, and a beginning was made in this direction. By September 1942 there were nine ratings’ canteens, and one families’ canteen (or retail grocery shop) in Bombay all conducted on service lines with the assistance of civilian managers.
The New Policy
It was not until September 1943 that a Canteens Section was established at the Naval Headquarters, this being the first step towards the formation of an efficient canteens service within the navy. The section formed part of the Personnel Department and consisted of one reserve officer at the Naval Headquarters and one touring officer based on Bombay. The officer at the Naval Headquarters was specially selected on account of his experience in the retail trade in civilian life. The organisation was subsequently expanded by
the addition of a staff officer at the Naval Headquarters, another touring Officer and two officers as Canteen Warehouse Managers in Bombay and Calcutta.
A long-term canteen policy for the Royal Indian Navy was then laid down. It consisted briefly of the building up a service-controlled wholesale and retail canteen administration. Canteen supplies were to be taken over in bulk from the Canteen Stores Department, and from that point their distribution, down to the final individual sale, was to be controlled by the Service, and all net profits derived from the sales were to accrue to the Service. In order to disrupt the existing supply procedure as little as possible, it was decided not to make an abrupt switch-over, but to transfer existing canteens gradually to the new system, and to ensure that all new canteens were opened in accordance with this principle.
To implement this policy, it was necessary that funds should be made available for the establishment of new canteens and for the improvement of those already existing. Accordingly, in November 1943, the Royal Indian Navy Canteens Improvement Fund was established by means of an advance of 3 lakhs of rupees from the RIN War Purposes Fund. Cash grants from the improvement fund were made to ships and establishments, and the standard of existing canteens was greatly improved. In addition, between 1943 and March 1945, over 40 new service-run canteens were opened in HMI ships and establishments, and by that date 95% of all ships and establishments were provided with canteen facilities.
The distribution of the bulk supplies purchased from the Canteen Stores Department required the establishment of RIN Canteen Warehouses at the various ports. These warehouses, the equivalent of Canteen Bulk Issue Depots, were established in Bombay, Calcutta, Karachi, Jamnagar, Vizagapatam and Madras. In December 1943, the Quarter Master General in India authorised RIN Canteen Warehouses to purchase canteen stores at wholesale prices, thus enabling canteens in the RIN to compete with contractors on equal terms and making possible the employment of a nucleus of civilian managers on attractive rates of pay.
By the middle of 1945, the canteen organisation had gone long past the experimental stage. Of the 95 canteens in the RIN, only three were then run by canteen contractors, and these were in the ports in which an approved contractor had been granted monopoly of all canteen supplies. The RIN was thus in the position of being the only Service in the India Command (Indian or British) which ran its own wholesale and retail canteens organisation. This
Was undoubtedly the greatest benefit to the Service, and the psychological benefit of an honestly administered canteen service was well worth the additional trouble involved, and far outweighed the monetary benefit accruing to the Service. Visitors to RIN canteens had on a number of occasions commented upon the extremely high standard of cleanliness and comfort achieved in them. The successful establishment and operation of this service-run canteen organisation effectively dispelled the notion that contractors in India were indispensable. It proved that a service could run its canteens organisation successfully from a financial point of view. At the end of the war RIN canteens were yielding a dividend (from profits) of Rs. 2,500 per month or 15% per annum. This money was paid into welfare funds, to be used for the benefit of the personnel of the service, and, in addition, over one lakh borrowed for the establishment of the Canteens Improvement Fund had been repaid.
Medical Care in the RIN
Till 1942 members of the Indian Medical Department were seconded to the navy, but due to shortage of personnel and because of their own needs, the army was unable to second any more Warrant Officers of the Indian Medical Department. Instead, Emergency Commissioned Officers of the Indian Medical Service were selected from volunteers for secondment to the navy. This went on for about a year. At first, it appeared to be satisfactory, but later, the quality and number of volunteers for the navy began to fall. The Director General, Indian Medical Service, approached the Government and obtained sanction for direct recruitment to the Navy. This supplied the RIN with medical officers who were keen to serve in the navy and gave a wider range of selection. Medical officers in the army were still seconded to serve in the navy, if they volunteered to do, and a few were taken in from time to time from that source. Emergency Commissioned Officers (E.C.Os.) of the IMS began to be seconded to the RIN from the latter half of 1942. In 1943, the army opened the Army Medical Training Centre (AMTC), at Poona and medical officers who joined the navy through the army had usually completed this course.1
In 1944, a Medical Branch of the Royal Indian Naval Voluntary Reserve (RINVR) was formed consisting of officers of the IMS (ECO) and IAMC who had been seconded to the
RIN. When direct recruitment of medical officers to the navy was opened, the new entrants were given a divisional officers’ course of training at HMIS Feroze. Regular IMD officers continued to serve in the navy as RIN officers.
There were no other courses for medical officers in the navy. The Medical Directorate organised courses on various subjects for their medical officers; but these were not open to naval medical officers on account of the objections of the Finance Department. Later on, Finance agreed to permit one medical officer at a time to attend the army courses of instructions in malaria and in venereal diseases. There were altogether five medical officers who ultimately attended these courses. The courses in malaria were held in Malaria Institute, Delhi, and those for Venereal diseases at the General Hospital, Bangalore.
The system of appointing specialists in various branches of medicine and surgery did not exist in the Royal Indian Navy, nor was the system of graded specialists recognised. There were many medical officers of the status of specialists or at least of graded specialists in medicine, surgery, public health, ophthalmology and pathology, but they were denied this privilege. To obtain expert opinion and treatment, the RIN appointed consultants from among the leading specialists in Bombay. They were given honorary naval ranks and were attached to the RIN Hospital. They gave approximately three mornings a week of their valuable time to the RIN.
Sick Berth Attendants
Sick Berth Attendants were recruited directly for this branch. The educational standards required were matriculation or its equivalent. The response of volunteers to this branch was low and the entry was small. In 1943 the pay scale was favourably revised and the educational standard was lowered. There were also a few modifications in the physical standards. The result of modification in the standards and the rise of pay was that more men were available and the quota of Sick Berth Attendants was kept up. There was, of necessity, a sacrifice of quality for quantity, but the large number that trained for the navy was in consonance with the principle of rapid expansion which was essential for winning the war.
The demand for Sick Berth Attendants grew as war progressed. Many small ships of the RIN carried Sick Berth Attendants who, apart from attending to minor ailments, were called to treat serious injuries received in action. This necessitated a proper training of
the Sick Berth Attendants; hence a training establishment known as a SBA Training Establishment, was opened in 1943 in Bombay. First it was housed in the gymnasium hall in Castle Barracks where instructions and demonstrations were given, and later it moved to the RIN Hospital at Sewri. The programme of training was so arranged as to give them a good grounding in elementary anatomy, physiology, first aid and general sick nursing.
Medical Personnel and Equipment of Ships
Sloops of the RIN carried one medical officer each. The ships had a complement of 210 to 250 officers and men and their duties entailed being at sea for a period extending up to three weeks in company with other ships, not carrying medical officers. Hence the medical officers had to be independent as far as they could in all matters including medical aid. The medical stores and equipment carried on board was of a comprehensive nature and included a large range of instruments and medicines to deal with most illnesses and emergencies on board.
The duties of the medical officers consisted of maintaining the ships company in health and countering threat to their wellbeing. They arranged and organised for medical aid in emergencies and accidents either on board their own ships or in others in company. They also gave lectures and demonstrations in first aid and general principles of hygiene to the ship’s company, to make them capable of rendering first aid when called upon to do so in an emergency. Lectures were also given on the prevention of venereal diseases.
For the assistance of medical officers on board there were two Sick Berth Attendants, one usually of the leading rate or even the petty officer rate (PO) and the other a SBAI or SBA II. They acted as nursing orderlies carrying out the treatment as ordered by the medical officer, and kept the sick bay clean. The Sick Bay Attendant had considerable influence over the rest of the ship’s company who looked upon him with friendly respect. He was a great help in organising and helping in the running of lectures and demonstrations. During action, the S.B. As. were in charge of stretcher parties. They rendered first aid and transported the wounded to the sick bay for attention by the medical officer.
There was difficulty regarding stores of medical equipment in ships afloat. Immediately on the declaration of war the RIN ships worked with, and under the orders of, the Royal Navy in various theatres, for example, Persian Gulf, Aden and the Red Sea. The Indian ships were, however, not fitted medically on the same
scales as the RN, the difference being considerable. The RIN scales of medical stores and equipment were similar to the army and tended to be based more on the numbers of men to be looked after rather than on the idea of an independent unit or the nature of its duties. Parity with RN, in medical equipment in the ship was necessary as the two navies were working in conjunction and there was reciprocity in the matter of medical aids and medical duties. To secure such a parity the Flag Officer Commanding, Royal Indian Navy, sanctioned making up of medical stores in RIN ships up to the standard of Royal Navy by local purchase of articles and equipment required.
The Royal Indian Naval Hospital
Till 1943, the RIN had no hospital of its own and, therefore, had to depend on the military or civil hospitals for the treatment of their cases. St. George’s Hospital, Bombay, placed one of its wards at the complete disposal of the navy. Consequent on the expansion of the Service after the outbreak of war, the numbers of patients requiring hospitalisation rose. The military hospitals, because of their own needs, were hard put to provide for the navy also. It was first proposed to take over the St. George’s Hospital, Bombay, for naval use jointly with the RN, but the negotiations were dropped as it meant depriving the civilian population of the hospital. The completed buildings of the Ramesh Premchand Sanatorium, Sewri, Bombay were placed at the disposal of the RIN. Though completed in 1940, the buildings were not equipped or furnished, perhaps due to the outbreak of war. Negotiations were taken up with the Bombay Corporation and the buildings were acquired for a 250-bed hospital for the RIN. It continued to be the only well-organised hospital for the Indian Navy in the country till it closed down in 1946 after the close of the war, when a RIN wing of 120 beds was opened in the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Colaba, Bombay.
The Royal Indian Navy operated in almost all theatres of war extending from the North and South Atlantic in the west to the Java Sea and the Pacific Ocean in the east. Ships carried a medical officer and had a fairly roomy sick bay stocked with medical drugs and equipment.
At the outbreak of war three sloops of the RIN were attached to the RN and did duty in the Persian Gulf, Aden and the
Mediterranean. Medical arrangements were in common with the RN who had Base Hospitals at various ports in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, to which all the RIN sick were sent for hospitalisation and treatment.
Ships of the RIN took part in patrolling and escort duties in the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. They also took part in the recapture of Berbera and cleared mines from the harbour of Massawa, and were generally active up and down the coast of North Africa. Medical arrangements were similar to those in the Persian Gulf region. Two sloops of the RIN took part in the Battle of the Java Seas. The Sutlej picked up a large number of survivors. The Jumna too was busy in anti-aircraft and anti-submarine patrols and suffered many casualties. All sick from these ships were landed ashore in Singapore. The Jumna and the Sutlej also took part in the landing of the Allied armies in Sicily. The main work was convoy duties and bombarding shore batteries and affording fire cover to landing troops. Medical cover was provided in both the ships. Evacuation and hospitalisation was carried out by the RN.
HMIS Narbada and Godamri did escort duty in the Atlantic with the RN. They depended on the latter for their medical supplies, transfer and hospitalisation ashore to naval hospitals. Ships in Red Sea, Persian Gulf and those in Burmese and Indian waters were chiefly engaged in patrol and convoy duties. They were based on ports where the local sick bay of hospital looked after the RIN sick. A few of the ships of the RIN were completely self-sufficient in point of medical cover.
Navy played an important part in the Burma operations, the RIN specially with its landing craft wing. In respect of the latter, medical arrangements were divided between RIN and the Indian army consisting of Squadron Medical Officers for the Landing Craft Wing and Senior Medical Officer for the Headquarters Base. The Squadron Medical Officers were equipped with a minimum of essential stores and equipment to enable them to travel light. For evacuation of casualties and hospitalisation navy depended on the army. Medical arrangements on the whole worked well during the Burma operations.
Naval Surgeon awarded MBE
Two difficult surgical operations performed at sea while a convoy was proceeding through enemy-infested waters in the Atlantic earned for Surgeon Lieutenant Chandra M. Dave, RINVR, the MBE (Military Division). In the words of the Commanding Officer of HMI Sloop “his conduct and bearing, together with his surgical skill, have been of the highest order throughout these operations.”
HMI Dockyard Bombay
Visiting Bombay dockyard in 1775, a traveller named Parsons spoke highly of it. “Bombay boasts such a dry dock as perhaps . is not to be seen in any part of Europe, either for size or convenient situation”. If Parsons had seen the dockyard during World War II, he would have been still more eloquent. Almost every campaign of the last 200 years from China and Abyssinia, between Egypt and the Cape of Good Hope, depended in some measure on Bombay for its fitting out and repairing of ships. Though the change from sail to steam greatly affected the fortunes of the dockyard, the world wars supplied a strong impetus to ship building and repairing. World War II, in particular, gave Bombay dockyard an importance never exceeded in the past. With Hong Kong and Singapore lost, it became almost the only naval dockyard in the northern hemisphere, east of the Suez, and Bombay workers repaired ships damaged in actions from the Mediterranean to the Coral Sea.
The outbreak of war in September 1939 found the dockyard lacking in both men and equipment for the immense tasks ahead, but it rose to the occasion. Though much hampered by having within its limits the depots, gunnery school, mechanical training and other establishments, the dockyard became a self-contained unit well-equipped with the machinery and gear, which were required for the handling of naval repairs. During the weeks before Hitler marched into Poland, the limited resources were working at full belt to make the ships of the Royal Indian Navy and its requisitioned vessels “in all respects ready for war”. With men and machines working day and night, 17 vessels were handled concurrently in the first ten days of the war, with facilities designed for a much smaller number.
HMI Dockyard was a civilian establishment in a service background and acted as a front-line organisation which performed the same functions of repair and maintenance towards warships as were carried out by those who looked after tanks, motor transport
and aircraft in the army and the Air Force. With the dockyard rested the responsibility for ensuring that ships were properly prepared for war and were capable of remaining at sea and fighting under all conditions.
The dockyard was in many ways like a self-contained industrial town. Hemmed in on three sides by the built-up area of the city, and on the fourth by the harbour, the dockyard found it difficult to expand, but its productive area increased by 50 per cent. Five acres of non-productive buildings were swept away to make room for stores and workshops. A hundred and seventy thousand square feet of new buildings sprang up, in every bit of available space. There were few trades one could not find there, from tailors to tinsmiths and optical experts to millwrights. Foundries and sawmills, engineering shops and gunsheds, stores and power plants crammed the whole dock area, which was policed by its own force of ex-service sepoys.
HMI Dockyard was comparable to Chatham, during war, in the work it undertook. Under the direction of a Captain Superintendent of the RIN, it worked for six years at top pressure. The then Captain Superintendent was Captain R.R. Caws, RIN, who took over from Captain W. R. Shewring, RIN. One of the Departmental Chiefs had a cartoon on his desk showing a long queue, waiting at a door marked “Captains only. Refit coupons to be handed in here”, while a figure on the bridge of one of the cluster of ships in the harbour had his telescope trained on an ominous banner. “Is your refit really necessary”. The answer in the case of most dockyard “Customers” was not in doubt. Clients ranged from a destroyer with 70 feet of stern missing to a ship requiring a new stern. P&O Liners were converted into armed merchant cruisers, and nearly a score of passenger vessels were fitted out as troop transports and hospital ships. Many other ships were taken from their peace-time jobs to become local defence vessels.
As the war progressed, the variety of tasks which had to be performed increased. A dozen ex-Norwegian whalers were converted and fitted out for mine-sweeping. Warships of the United States, Greek and Dutch Navies used the resources of the Bombay dockyard. In addition, the dockyard staff superintended the refitting of all naval vessels in the commercial docks.
The first big action damage repairs were carried out on the Cruiser HMS Capetown, after being torpedoed off Massawa in April 1941. The destroyer HMS Kimberley, which had her stern blown off by an enemy submarine in the Mediterranean in January
1942, was towed through the Suez Canal to the Bombay dockyard where a completely new stern was built into her and her nine ton main gear-wheel was trued up. The destroyer HMS Isis, also damaged in the Mediterranean, reached Bombay under her own steam. After her damage had been patched up, she sailed for Singapore where, with refit 90% complete, she suffered fresh damage after a near miss from a Japanese plane. She was then towed to Surabaya where she received more attention from Japanese planes. In the end, she was towed back to Bombay, to be made fit for sea once more.
The dockyard’s engineering department trebled its capacity after 1939. Housed in the century-old building erected as the “steam factory”, it then possessed the most modern machinery, supplied since the war, partly from the United Kingdom, and partly as lease-lend material from America. Among the shining new machines, a veteran lathe, 98 years old, was still doing its job.
Most spectacular wartime growth was that of the gun mounting organisation. In 1939 it consisted of one officer and one ordnance artificer. At the end of the war, it employed hundreds of men in workshops which were all wartime constructions. As supplier of guns to the Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships (DEMS), Bombay ranked as the third port in the Empire: in one year, it fitted over 500 guns of the size of Oerlikons and above. For naval vessels, repairs were carried out on gun-mountings, Directors and optical instruments. The department coped with the requirements of almost any ship.
The Naval Stores Officer, who supplied anything from a screwdriver to a motor-boat, had a job almost equal to that of big business. Forty-eight officers, 218 storehouse staff and 260 clerks were kept busy looking after the needs of ships which had 50,000 items to choose from (compared with a mere 10,000 at the start of the war). The Naval Stores Department in Bombay planned and manned stores in several other ports. A year’s bill for goods to keep them all satisfied came to something like 400 lakhs of rupees.
The new “Torpedo” Dock which would take Bangors, Bathursts, Bassetts and up to “S” class submarines, eased the docking position in 1944. There were plans to install the electrical pumping machinery. Alterations were carried out to the floor of Bombay dock, so that the whole length of the dock was then on one level instead of three, enabling 2 sloops to be docked together instead of one, as
formerly. Electrical high-duty dry dock pumps were installed in Duncan and Bombay Docks.
A 15-ton crane was installed on West Wall, another between the two dry docks. A new 30-ton mobile crane was also commissioned. The new cranage system made for greater efficiency.
Compressed Air System
Air compressors for a ring main system throughout the whole yard to supply high pressure air to workshops and ships, were installed.
The ground floor or the signal station on the breakwater was demolished in order to permit wheeled traffic, i.e. small mobile cranes, compressors, generators, and trucks to pass on to the breakwater and, in effect, turn the breakwater into a series of refitting berths. Formerly, only very minor repairs were carried out at the breakwater.
Machine etc. Shops
The following shops equipped on a modern scale were created or adapted from previously existing shops, resulting in a greatly expanded output of work viz. platers, blacksmith, tinsmith, jointers, painters, welding, boiler, millwright, engine-fitters and foundry.
Torpedo Motor Workshop
It was found necessary to take over and expand a commercial garage and workshop, five miles from the dockyard, for the purpose of overhauling and maintaining the large fleet of Royal Indian Navy motor vehicles.
About the middle of 1943 comparisons were made between the dockyard and other large industrial establishments throughout India, in respect of wages, conditions of service and welfare arrangements. It was found that while the dockyard compared quite favourably in regard to wage increments, hours of work, leave, provident fund, bonus, medical treatment for employees etc., it compared badly in welfare arrangements, as, with the exception of Dockyard Canteen and grain shop, there were no welfare arrangements, and in addition workers’ housing conditions were appalling. It was, therefore, proposed to the Government that a housing scheme, some 14 miles
outside Bombay, incorporating all the usual amenities for workers’ families, schools, hostel, shopping centre and recreation facilities, should be sanctioned; but owing to the shortage of building materials and the high rough estimate, Government was unable to accord its approval to it. The scheme was then revived in a modified form, alter being shorn of all amenities and the housing cut down to the barest minimum. Sanction in principle was then given. Recognising that while out of keeping with modern development, the plan would still provide better housing than had hitherto existed in the slums of Bombay, it was decided to proceed with the modified scheme.
All these took a great deal of time, about 15 months, but in the meantime efforts were made to deal piecemeal with the welfare problem. A sum of Rs. 100,000 was placed at the disposal of the Flag Officer Commanding, Royal Indian Navy, by the Governor Bombay for providing (a) library (b) educational classes (c) workers’ family dispensary (d) canteens (e) cinematograph apparatus and (f) recreational facilities embracing hockey, cricket, football and swimming to the dockyard workers. With the exception of (b) all these became flourishing activities and were acceptable to the workers.
Workers Family Dispensary
This was housed in a building in Hornby Road, Bombay, near Crawford Market, and was equipped on a modern scale. It was in charge of a well-qualified lady doctor assisted by a staff of six nurses who carried out a routine of house visiting ante-natal treatment, medical advice, and dealt with child welfare problems, as well as attending to out-patients and confinement cases at the dispensary itself. There were a large number of calls for advice and treatment from the dockyard workers. It might be added that the dispensary was quite a useful influence in checking absenteeism among the dockyard workers, who frequently used to leave work to escort ailing members of their families to their villages for treatment by local hakims.
At the suggestion of the Dockyard Workers’ Union, and with the approval of the Government of India, the Workers’ Families Dispensary was renamed in 1945 the “Godfrey Clinic”. This institution fully maintained its popularity with the workers. It would appear that a strong case existed for its retention as a permanent feature of the welfare organisation.
The Workmen’s Institute
This provided indoor games, library, reading room and canteen. This was named the “Shewring Institute”. This institution had a large membership, was financed by members’ subscriptions and welfare funds.
The withdrawal of technical supervisory staff attached to the dockyard on loan from the Admiralty during the later years of the war, had serious repercussions on output and efficiency. Twenty-five Indian technicians from the various departments were selected early in the year to be sent to the United Kingdom for training in naval dockyards, in order to replace the Admiralty staff withdrawn or time-expired. Negotiations for sending those men to England for training were pursued in 1946.
Least war-like, but not least necessary in a corner of the yard, was the section where 300 tailors at their sewing machines were busy during the war period turning out uniforms for the RIN. Thousands of uniforms a year amounting to 75 per cent of the navy’s needs, were made there.
Thus in six years of concentrated efforts the historic naval dockyard in Bombay had made a distinguished contribution to victory worthily maintaining its 200-year old tradition.
Naval Rescuers’ Gallant Work in Bombay Fire
The British SS Fort Stikine, 7,142 ton loaded with ammunition in Victoria Dock, Bombay caught fire on 14 April 1944 and there were two heavy explosions at 1610 and 1645. Fires spread to Prince’s Dock, raged all night, and 18 merchant vessels and three HM Indian ships became involved, the majority of which were totally lost. The three war vessels destroyed were the Jalapadma Combined Operation (M.T.) ship, which was lifted 20 feet on to the quayside; the Braganza, Base ship and the El Hind, LSI(L). Besides the destruction of the two docks, a large area of the city was burnt out. Casualties were officially reported as 336 killed and 1,040 injured. Half of the grain stocks held in Bombay were estimated to have been lost.
From Bombay’s naval establishments officers and men of the Royal Indian Navy went into action with pumps and salvage equipment against what proved to be the worst fire in the city’s history.
Thousands of servicemen were engaged. The fire became) in fact, a large-scale combined operation. Officers and men of the Royal Navy and the Royal Indian Navy rose to the occasion, and a naval detachment was the first to organise a rescue service. A senior naval officer, who had had experience of previous explosions, ordered every available officer and man to the alum post! when the first explosion rocked the city. When the inevitable call to move to the docks for rescue work arrived a few minutes later, this detachments had already made their preparation and reached die explosion area before any other service. Through the pall of smoke the sailors got to work, emptying godowns of inflammable goods in case the fire should spread to them. RIN mobile lire units also saved many godowns later, and when the flames died down and fire-fighting operations gave place to salvage tasks, they were among the first to get damaged installations working again. Here are a few of the many deeds of gallantry performed by naval personnel:–
A petty officer drove a truck full of ammunition to safety. The truck had no tyre and no windscreen – they had been blown away by the explosion – but he succeeded in steering it out of the docks. Four sailors saved many civilians by shepherding them out of the danger area along a road to which fire was spreading. A Commander of the RIN organised a volunteer party of all three Services and completely emptied a godown packed with drums of phosphorus. One naval officer and his party man-handled their pump down a narrow flight of quay steps to reach the water and throughout the night maintained the pressure to other pumps on the dockside. Another party of ratings worked for several hours under a tottering wall to prevent the flames from reaching a cotton Store.
The work at Bombay showed complete co-ordination between the Navy, Army and Air Force. At short notice, the fighting services were called on to “perform emergency tasks under the most dangerous conditions. They worked with energy and with such excellent cooperation that the effects of the fire were reduced to a minimum. They displayed gallantry and devotion of a high order and their work was greatly appreciated.