I decided to blog on the above heading after reading a book by Lt General SK Sinha of the 'supersession' fame. Though the topic has never been far from my mind but the resolve to write about it as renewed after reading "A Soldier Recalls". In his chapter "Supersession", Lt Gen Sinha recounts how Gen KV Krishna Rao, who was a great friend of his, broke the news of his supersession by Lt Gen Arun Vaidya, in the most impersonal manner. He goes on to write that after he conveyed his decision to the COAS to resign from the Army and after the COAS had made the usual noise made about not taking a rash decision, Lt Gen Sinha decided to carry on with the agenda items he had for discussion with the Chief.
One of these related to the removal of the name Hodson from the regimental crest of 4 Horse.
I quote verbatim from the passage in the book, "The last case I discussed with him that day was the regimental crest of 4 Horse. This unit was raised by Hodson, an officer with a tainted personal record who had murdered the two hapless Mughal princes of Delhi in 1857 in cold blood. After Independence the name of the unit changed from hodson's Horse to 4 Horse, and so had the shoulder titles worn in the regiment. But the word 'Hodson' continued to appear in the regimental crest. I got Krishna's approval to recommend a suitable change of crest. This had to be approved by the President. Although a decision to recommend this change was taken and duly recorded, mistaken loyalty for regimental traditions has managed to prevail and to this day the change has not been effected".
Now, this book was written way back in 1991, and to my knowledge, the change of regimental crest has still not taken place and the name of the murderer continues to adorn the crest. 4 Horse is not the only regiment to take pride in its traditions and there are several regiments which still carry on with the symbols of the past British victories over native Indian princely states. But none have the name of a murderer and a philanderer written on their regimental crest.
There is certainly no harm in perpetuating regimental traditions. There are several cavalry and infantry regiments in the Army which have taken part in active supression of 1857 war of Independence. But these are only spoke of in hushed whispers in this day and age and they do not adorn the cap badge of every rank and file. The least that the armoured corps brass can do is to get this anomaly corrected, which Lt Gen Sinha tried to do even on a day when his dream of heading the Indian Army lay in ruins.
Can we expect the Colonel of the Regiment of 4 Horse, whoever that noble soul is, to initiate a corrective action. Sadly, no. that would be too much to expect from him. Not because of any personal flaw of character, but because of a flaw in the system which will look at him with suspicion the moment he tries to do anything of the sort.
On another day, we will debate how long the Highland bugle will form part of the regimental crest of several of our infantry regiments. and when will Battle Honours like Seringapatnam, Bharatpore and Sobraon be consigned to the dustbin of history....far-far from the honourable place they enjoy in the list of regimental victories.
But as of now, let 4 Horse get rid of Hodson's ghost.