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READING LIST

MARCH 2015 ISSUE

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Force Magazine
Guest Column - Force Magazine
Those Were the Days
Being in command at the INS Trata was an experience far removed from a typical naval stint
 
Cmde K.P. Mathew (retd)
By Commodore K.P. Mathew (retd)

The defence services gives exposure to a wide variety of experiences. I came face to face with such variety when appointed in command of the shore establishment INS Trata in Mumbai in February 1982. This establishment had a history with a wide geographic spread all over Mumbai to go with it.

INS Trata housed the Naval Coast Battery. In the good old days such batteries with their large calibre long range guns protected the port from any intruding enemy ships. The coast batteries were originally a component of the Indian Army. In the Sixties they were all transferred to the Indian Navy.

The Mumbai coast battery had large calibre guns at Colaba Point which commanded the entrance to the harbour, on the islands of Middle Ground and Oyster Rock that formed part of the inner harbour and at Worli to the north along the coast. To logistically sustain these islands there was also a centre at Apollo Bunder with facilities for plying boats. The combined might of these gun batteries was to deter any sea-borne intruder with evil intentions on Mumbai. Each of these locations, besides gun emplacements in fortified structures, also had semi underground structures as magazines or protected storage places for gun ammunition. There were also tall observation and spotting towers meant to provide the inputs to control the firing. The whole get-up and layout was reminiscent of the classic Hollywood movie The Guns of Navarone.

By the time I took over command, the big guns had given way to missiles. Hence, INS Trata now sported a missile launcher at Colaba point which could launch surface to surface missiles. Being compact, it occupied only a small enclosure. All the other real estate got put to either alternate use or became relics of a bygone era with considerable land area spare and awaiting use. The Middle Ground came to house the Naval Museum, the Oyster Rock the navy detention quarters, Colaba Point area a training centre and so on. My appointment in command was connected to the last — the interim training centre for the newly inducted Rajput class of destroyers for which I had trained in erstwhile USSR and then served as commissioning crew.

This command was nothing like any of my earlier tenures ashore. It came with an earmarked bungalow within the establishment. It was a beauty in all respects — spacious, at a height overlooking the bay, lawn in front to nurse a tot and leisurely watch the vessels moving in and out, surrounded by large old trees full of birds whose chirping at times, when they were in full flow, could make one raise one’s voice to be heard, and so on. Over the years the spare buildings and sheds had been put to some unorthodox use as well — viz a dairy housing buffaloes and a piggery. There were civilians employed to look after both the dairy and piggery. The milk from the dairy was distributed by home delivery in the morning and evening and pork meat once a week.

While the primary focus was on the training charter, all these other activities and operations also demanded attention, often in special or in an unconventional manner. The dairy and piggery output was never sufficient to satisfy the demand from the establishment’s own personnel but also those of the hierarchy above. It called for an intricate distribution matrix which could either be logically explained to those who could follow or end up thoroughly confusing the balance of the irate consumers. There were also the usual complaints on the quality of milk for which I ended up deputing an officer to the Aarey Milk Dairy to study and understand their system for ensuring both the optimum quality and of regularly maintaining such a standard. Post this exercise, a detailed circular was sent out to explain the Aarey system and how its provisions had been adopted for Trata Dairy.

INS Trata
INS Trata

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