In a fatal helicopter crash, (second in the military aviation history) India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and others were killed in Conoor, Nilgiri Hills, Tamil Nadu. There were in total 14 passengers on board the ill fated Indian Air Force (IAF) Mi-17V5 helicopter.
In the history of military aviation, such a serious air accident occurred 58 years ago on Nov 22, 1963 in which two Lt Gens Daulat Singh & Bikram Singh were victims then. All six officers were lost in that crash which had occurred in the Poonch sector involving a Chetak helicopter.
In that crash 1963 crash the officers who were on board were Lt Gen Daulat Singh, the general officer commanding-in-chief, western command, Air Vice-Marshal EW Pinto, air officer commanding, western command, Lieutenant General Bikram Singh, general officer commanding, 15 Corps, Major General KND Nanavati, Military Cross, general officer commanding, 25 Infantry Division, Brig SR Oberoi, Military Cross, Commander, 93 Infantry Brigade, and Flight Lieutenant SS Sodhi.
Today’s crash is also a reminder of the February 1952 Devon crash which was near Lucknow in which the Indian Army’s top leadership could have been wiped out. There were two future chiefs —Lt Gen SM Shrinagesh & Maj Gen KS Thimayya who were among the survivors. Lt Gen SM Shrinagesh, who was the then GOC-in-C Western Command and Maj Gen KS Thimayya, was the QuarterMaster General and they both became Army Chiefs later.
According to reports, Gen Shrinagesh in one of his personal notes mentioned that he was returning from a conference when the crash took place.
Besides him, others on board that flight included Maj Gen SPP Thorat (who later became GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, Maj Gen Mohinder Singh Chopra, Maj Gen Sardanand Singh and Brig Ajaib Singh.
As luck would have it, General Shrinagesh’s ADC at the time was Capt K Sundarji, who later became the Chief of Army staff and had given up his seat to Brig Ajaib Singh.