While October and December are very important months in the history of the Indian Military Academy the month of September is of great importance too as it was in this pleasant autumn month that the first batch of Cadets joined the Indian Military Academy eighty five years ago.
In April of that year, the campus of the Railway Staff College was taken over by the Army Department for setting up this academy. On October 1, 1932, the IMA opened while it was officially inaugurated on December 10, 1932.
All of the first batch ( “Pioneers”) of GCs, Sam Manekshaw among them, reported for duty on September 30, 1932 .The seniormost cadet was G S Isaac whose number was 1 and the last was Shingar Singh, No. 40. The Commandant’s “Special Order of the Day” was published on October 1 and it said,” The Indian Military Academy opens with effect from today. The first Commandant, Brig l P Collins, on the occasion of the opening of the Indian Military Academy, wishes to place on record his deep sense of appreciation of the labours of his staff in the preliminary work of the Academy. He is confident that on this foundation and with the loyal co-operation of the Gentlemen Cadets who have joined in the first term the foundations of the name and the traditions of the Academy will be firmly established.”
The founding of this prestigious academy in 1932 was a culmination of a long-drawn battle fought in Central legislative Assembly and the Round Table Conference by stalwarts like Sir Sivaswamy Aiyar, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pandit Motilal Nehru and lala lajpat Rai. The history of the IMA from 1932 to 1947 is common to India and Pakistan.
According to legend, Dehra Dun was the site of the acdemy of the great warrior Dronacharya where the Pandavas, Kauravas and other princes were trained. The Chetwode Committee had recommended three places — Satara, Mhow and Dehra Dun — with the accent falling on Dehra Dun. And Dehra Dun was selected by the Government.
The Railway Staff College had been opened in Doon in 1930 next to the Forest Research Institute but had to be closed down owing to a financial crisis. It had an imposing central building (the present Chetwode building of IMA) , a number of staff quarters, and a block of building for railway trainees to live in. The Army Depoartment acquired the buildings and campus of the staff college, spread over an area of 155.53 acres of land for a price of Rs 21,17,597.
There were no playing fields ,no drill square and no building for setting up a mess.It was indeed a challenging task to lay the foundations and to shape a permanent military academy, India’s Sandhurst. However, under the leadership of Brig Collins, the institution became functional by September, 1932.
The IMA was inaugurated formally by Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode on December 10, 1932 after whom is named the “Chetwode Building” of the IMA, which is the academy’s heart and soul. The inaugural address by Chetwode was stirring and acquired immortality as a passage from his address has been adopted as the Credo of the Academy — “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”
Certain things were impossible such as converting the grounds into playfields in time for the first course. Yet, the dedicated lot of people succeeded in making the institution functional in time.
During the Railway Staff College days, the Chetwode Hall was called Dormer Hall after its first Superintendent RM Dormer and was used for the purpose of demonstrating the movement and control of incoming and outgoing trains at a station. Tiny trains were electrically operated on miniature lines. The trainees watched the operations from galleries high above the hall.
The new library building was proposed in 1936 and was sanctioned in 1937.The library building was constructed on the north of the northern corridor of Chetwode as an integral extension of the building. By December,1933, the Academy had five hockey,one football and one cricket field. From then on, progress was fast and the campus began to take a wonderful shape. The campus grew by adapting and extending the pre-existing campus of the Railway Staff College. And this is what makes the story of its growth so special and unique.