Bhubaneswar: Admiral S.H.Sarma, PVSM, AVSM, began his 100th Year today. On this occasion a set of picture postcards marking his illustrious career were released at his residence, Navy House. The covers were released to commemorate his lifetime achievements. He is the senior most living veteran of the country. The Prime Minister of India will honour him in a ceremony on the 13th December at New Delhi.
Admiral Sri Harilal Sarma was the youngest Cadet on the HMS Dufferin, joining at the age of 13 years and 8 months. His rise in the Navy was meteoric. He is the only living veteran who has seen action in World War II and both the 1965 and 1971 wars. His actions in the 1971 war against Pakistan, as the Fleet Commander in the Bay of Bengal, were pivotal in India’s victory.The Eastern Fleet launched 93 airstrikes against the enemy instead of a planned five, thus pounding the enemy into submission without loss of any Indian lives. After Pakistan surrendered to India, President Yahya Khan stated in a speech “The capitulation of the Pakistani Army in East Pakistan would not have been so complete or precipitate had it not for the strangulating action of the Indian Navy”. This was a truly fitting tribute from the enemy.
The release ceremony was attended by Navy veterans, Capt. S. C. Das of the Indian Navy, Amiya Bhusan Tripathy (IPS) Retd., members of Rotary International, Punjabi Arya Sanatan Biradari, Drusthi Daan and many other organizations.
Admiral Sarma was one of 42 Cadets who passed out of the Dufferin in December 1939. The Viceroy, Lord Wavell had presented him the Viceroy’s Gold Medal for being the best all round cadet. On the 16th of December 1942, during World War II, he joined the Navy as a RINR Officer and spent the war doing convoy escort duty in the Indian Ocean and mine sweeping duties in the South East Asia theatre. The first ship that he commanded the “INS KHUKRI” was brought by him from the United Kingdom in 1958. He later was the commander of the INS BRAHMAPUTRA and INS MYSORE.
On the commencement of hostilities in 1971, India’s Eastern Naval Fleet bombed Pakistani coastal fortifications, their coastal airfields and their aircraft. So great was the damage inflicted that the skies over the Bay of Bengal were safe from the Pakistanis. Pakistan could not reinforce nor replenish her forces in East Pakistan, because of the Indian naval blockade; and their army could not escape by sea, because India’s Eastern Naval Fleet, under S.H.Sharma stood guard. INS Vikrant was Admiral Sarma’s Flagship in the 1971 war for the “Liberation of Bangladesh”. The sinking of the PNS GHAZI at Vishakhapatnam was a turning point of the war.
Vice Admiral S.H.Sarma contributed to training of Officers, Petty Officers and Sailors right through his career. He was the Divisional Officer, Joint Services Wing, Dehradhun, which later became National Defense Academy, Khadakwasla, Pune. The first course JSW produced the three Chiefs of the Armed Forces – Air Chief Marshall Suri, Admiral Ramdas and General Rodrigues. In 1975, he was the Commandant of the National Defence College, New Delhi. Admiral Sarma is amongst the very few Officers who were assigned as Directing Staff to the National Defence College, New Delhi, without ever having done the course. He was also instrumental in locating the Training Establishment INS Chilka, at Balugaon. His book “My Years at Sea” is a wonderful account of India’s post independence Naval history.