10 April, 2021

The Sailor Song Of Rebellion

The revolt that shook the Raj. First-hand memories of the Royal Indian Navy mutiny of February 1946.

The Sailor Song Of Rebellion

February, in 1946, saw the Royal Indian Navy mutiny, a spectacular uprising if ever there was any and one of the closing notes of an Empire that was born on the seas in many ways. It has all but faded from public memory. Hiten Bhaya, 94, is one of few people who have first-hand memories of it. He was part of the navy’s armaments department in Bombay at the time. Later, he went on to serve the Indian government in various capacities, last of which was as a member of the Planning Commission. In this piece, he recalls the revolt that shook the Raj:

It’s difficult to recall a day 68 years ago when you are 94. But the RIN mutiny, which many believe was the last nail in the Raj’s coffin, wasn’t just any other day. And I happened to be a proximate eyewitness to this momentous event. On February 18, 1946, ratings at the HMIS Talwar, a shore establishment for signals training, went on strike, protesting against the inedible meals and searing insults to which they were regularly subjected. The revolt spread like wildfire. Some...

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