British mercenaries futile bid to keep Hyderabad independent

 thehindu.com  09/16/2020 17:41:25 

Indian troops will enter Hyderabad tomorrow morning. The Nizams Army will surrender to General Chowdhry tomorrow evening at 5 p.m., these are the words of a New Delhi datelined report in The Hindu on September 17, 1948. The surrender ceremony took place at 4.30 p.m. and rung down the curtains of a dramatic period in the history of Indian union and Hyderabad.

While India became free on August 15, 1947, Hyderabad, ruled by Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam, tried to remain independent using a number of diplomatic, legal, and military tricks. Aiding him in trying to remain free were a clutch of British mercenaries.

The role of Razakars (volunteers or the militia of Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen), the Communist party workers and Congress leaders has been studied intensely. But the role of British mercenaries in helping the Nizam escaped scrutiny.

Among the legal minds who helped the Nizam negotiate with India dodging commitment was Sir Walter Monckton. Sir Monckton was a legal advisor to Simon Commission as well as Edward VIII during the royal abdication crisis. The Nizam, with the immense wealth at his disposal, hired the legal genius to negotiate with India. The result was the Standstill Agreement signed on November 29, 1947, that gave the Nizam one years time to reach a bargaining position.

Sidney Cotton was another brilliant mercenary who used his flying skills to help arm the Nizams land-locked forces. He earlier worked for MI6, much like James Bond during World War II. His nifty tricks gave birth to aerial reconnaissance.

In the service of the Nizam, he flew about 20,000 .303 rifles among other weapons from Karachi to Hyderabads airbases at Bidar and Warangal. He also smuggled in British mercenaries to aid the Nizams army. In his memoirs, commander of Hyderabad Army Maj Gen El Edroos lays bare the plot: At this time, at Army HQ at Hyderabad, several British officers were employed in various capacities&who had been imported from England and were trained as commandos. Some of them had been brought in by Sidney Cotton in his aircraft. Cotton made some 60,000 pound sterling for his effort.

Among the commandos who were instrumental in setting up a radio link between Karachi and Hyderabad was Fredrick Rowan. He was lured to come to Hyderabad and then to Bidar and was shot dead by a Hyderabad Army officer.

Another mercenary who let down the Hyderabad Army was a Lieutenant T.T. Moore. The British commando was tasked with blowing up the bridge in Naldurg to halt the advance of Indian Army from the west. The Indian Army caught the commando as soon as they entered Nizams dominion with a vehicle full of dynamite sticks and orders to blow up bridges. The intelligence supplied by Brigadier Nepian was that Indian military operations would begin on September 15.

Nepian was another British mercenary in the service of Hyderabad Army. The intelligence was wrong and the plot went awry.

In the end, all these mercenaries could not help the Nizam ward off the inevitable. On September 18, at 4. 30 p.m., at the fifth milestone on the Sholapur-Hyderabad road, the commander of Indian forces Major General J.N. Chowdhry met Major General El Edroos of Hyderabad Army.

I have to ask you for the surrender of the Hyderabad army, said Maj. Gen. Chowdhry.

I give you surrender of Hyderabad army, replied Maj. Gen. Edroos.

You understand that it is unconditional?Yes.

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