Lord Karan Bilimoria is the first Parsi Peer in the House of Lords. His maternal grandfather, D.D. Italia was a member of the Council of States, now the Rajya Sabha. In between these honourable men came the distinguished military career of Lieutenant General F.N. Bilimoria (Billy). This week, at the Nehru Centre in Mayfair, Lord Bilimoria launched the book about his father’s life and times by Major General Ian Cardozo. The invitees were piped upstairs to the auditorium by a 5th Gorkha Riffles Piper.
Srinivas Gotru, Director of London Nehru Centre, welcomed everyone and hoped some would return for the broader programme of events planned in the summer schedule. Lord Bilimoria explained he wanted to launch the book at a venue that was the heart of India’s culture in UK, as Gopalkrishna Gandhi had been the very first director here. Even the House of Lords did not trump the Nehru Centre as a venue. The book is being launched on the tenth anniversary of Lt Gen Bilimoria’s death. Aneminent line up gave tributes, beginning with Colonel (Ret) Patrick F. Shervington MBE, Chairman of the Cobra Foundation, and lifelong friend of Billy. The Colonel reminded the company of Billy’s contribution to the India-Pakistan war of 1971, for which he was highly decorated. The chapter on the Battle of Pirganj and the Battle of Bogra gives all the strategic military details that led to the Instrument of Surrender and the Liberation of Bangladesh. On 18 December 1971, Lt Gen Bilimoria drove Major General Nazar Hussain Shah to the surrender ceremony at Bogra. Apparently the Pakistani general was overweight: “he was not fit, he was fat and he was not fit for purpose”.
Srinivas Gotru of London Nehru Centre, welcomed everyone and hoped some would return for the broader programme of events planned in the summer schedule.
He NavtejSarna, HCI, who spent his younger school years in Dehradun, recalled how he listened as an excited 10-year-old from his bed to the Dussehra celebrations of the 39th and 50th Training Centres. He complimented the book as a labour of love, a son’s love for his father and the love of a great soldier for India, he also volunteered to present the Cobra Foundation with a new map of India.
Field Marshall Sir John Chapple remembered their friendly competitiveness as Commanders of the 2nd and 5thGorkha Battalions and how they were both amateur naturalists and shared an interest in conservation. Finally, Maj Gen Ian Cardozo, the first officer of the Indian Army to be awarded the Sena Medal for gallantry for his efforts on the India-Pak border in 1960, came to the lectern. He recalled all Billy’s achievements in Ladakh, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Sylhet, Punjab and with the UN in the Congo, and his admirable Zoroastrian qualities that culminated in his appointment of General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Central Command in 1989. The book is a trove of biographical photographs, remembrances, letters and family history, definitely a “must read” for anyone interested in India’s military history.