The Partition hero (1922 – 2012)

Stanley Leslie Menezes was born in a Goan Catholic family on 13 November 1922 in Mumbai and graduated from St John’s College, Agra. He wanted to join the civil service but recruitment in the civil service had been suspended so he joined the Army. He was commissioned into 4th Grenadiers on 30 May 1943.

At the time of Independence, his battalion was located at Thal Fort in Kurram Valley in NWFP(North West Frontier Province, Pakistan). There was wide spread violence in the country following Partition. The Commander-in- Chief of the newly-formed Pakistan Army, General Sir Frank Messervy, believed that it would be safe to bring the battalion to India by train.

But the railway line had been blocked by boulders by the hostile frontier men. As the train stopped, it came under firing from rifles and machine guns. The soldiers travelling by the train found it difficult to counter the attack and the crew of the train fled away. The Commanding Officer was wounded and Menezes, then an acting major, assumed command of the unit. He persuaded the crew to return to duty and got the track cleared. He travelled to Mumbai by the train with the wounded soldiers. It took about seven weeks for the train to reach Santa Cruz railway station. He was awarded Shaurya Chakra(SC) and Commander-in-Chief’s commendation for gallantry award for his heroism.

Menezes was a staff officer at Delhi HQ in 1947 and had the opportunity to follow the progress of war in Kashmir from that vantage point. He was soon after posted to Baramulla and had an opportunity to meet some of the people who had taken part in the war. He commanded 3 Grenadiers in 1960-62.     

He attended Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and was an instructor there. Later, he was appointed instructor in Infantry School, Mhow, Madhya Pradesh. After holding various command and staff appointments, he was appointed GOC 14 Infantry Division at Dehradun. He was awarded PVSM in 1971.  He commanded IV corps in Tezpur in 1973-75 and then took over the appointment of Vice Chief of Army Staff at Army HQ in 1978-80.
He retired on 31 July 1980. After retirement, he wrote many articles in the USI journal on military matters and also wrote a book, ‘Fidelity and Honour’, a comprehensive history of the Indian Army. The book deals with all aspects of the history and evolution of the Indian Army. All the operations have been well documented in the book. Of great interest is the contribution by Indian Army in World War I.

Over two hundred thousand Indian soldiers had taken part in the war and 62, 000 of them had laid down their lives. In addition, 67,000 had been wounded. A funeral ghat was cleared at a spot 500 feet above sea level at Brighton for cremation of the bodies of Hindu and Sikh soldiers. The ashes would be dispersed into the sea. The victory of the Allies was thanks to the contribution by the Indian Army. This realisation has recently led to refurbishing the war memorial in honour of the Indian soldiers. Prior to World War I, Indians were not eligible for Victoria Cross (VC). Award of 18 VCs signifies the esteem in which Indian soldiers were held.

Gen Menezes was able to persuade the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to refurbish the burning ghat at Brighton and inscribe the names of Hindu and Sikh soldiers who had died during World War I. He acted as honorary liaison officer between the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Government of India. 

He retained an extraordinary memory and was often contacted by film makers and publishers for help. He regularly visited London. He passed away on 11 May 2012 at the age of 89, and was cremated in Delhi with full military honours, and his ashes immersed in the River Ganges as per his wishes. 

Brigadier Suresh Chandra Sharma (retd.)