logo image Visual & Oral history of the Indian Subcontinent via family archives

45 – The first few men trained in Cipher for the Indian Army

My father, late Lt. Col. K Vasudevan Nair (left), then a Major, receiving Lt. Gen. I.D Verma, the Signal Officer in Chief, at the Military College of Telecommunication Engineering, Mhow, Indore, Madhya Pradesh. December 1970

Image and Text contributed by Dev Kumar Vasudevan

This image as my mother Mrs. Ponnamma Vasudevan tells me, is when my father, then a Major & a senior instructor at one of the wings of Military College of Telecommunication Engineering (MCTE), Mhow, was going to deliver a lecture to student officers attending the Higher Command (HC) course at the College of Combat, presently known as Army War College. The Signal Officer in Chief (SO-in-C) Lt. Gen. I.D Verma (right) had also attended this talk along with the then MCTE Commandant Brigadier Pinto. The SO-in-C is the senior most Signals officer and one of the principal staff officers to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS).

My father had enlisted himself in the British Indian Army in 1943 and at the time of Independence, was posted at GHQ Signals which is now a defunct unit. GHQ Signals was also responsible for taking care of communications for the Prime Minister’s Office. This posting enabled him to meet many national leaders at close range.

He was also selected to be a part of the first batch of Indian and Pakistani personnel to be trained in Cipher duties – a department which the British had earlier not permitted Indians into.With Independence inevitable, a group of personnel, my father included, was carefully screened, selected and trained for future Indian and Pakistani armies.

My father passed away in May 2009 at the age of 83. Lt. Gen. Verma, who was commissioned by the Indian Army during the early 40s and served as a Commandant of the School of Signals, Mhow at the time of India’s Independence, also passed away in 2009. As far as I know, very few personnel of the Corps of Signals who served during the pre-independence era, remain alive.

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Responses (8)

  1. Thomas Manimala says:

    It is indeed very satisfying to read abt a Cipher Officer, common man for that matter people in defence itself do not know what a cipher man is doing, they always work in closed rooms , no unauthorised or authorised observation on their job even his CO cannot moniter his work, it is most holy and secret art of secret writing, I as a cipher offr enjoyed much previleges when as a IAF JCO, I took over as o i/c s and C publication other men and offrs appreciated me, it is total dedication with high degree of integrity

    We were trained @ MCTE،Mhow, those days،iaf had no facility to train their staff on cryptography ocb iaf 30 the best student was none else but ME.

  2. Radha says:

    Thank you for your appreciative words. Yes indeed those days in the Navy are the best for me.I had read your informative article a few weeks back, and enjoyed it too.

  3. narayan says:

    A senior contemporary of my uncle who was a Major at Mhow at the time of your photograph. I last saw my late uncle, K. Srinivas Rao, in the 70s when he was Lt.Col. in charge of communications in Goa before it achieved statehood. On his retirement he was a Brigadier.

  4. Dev says:

    Thank you very much. Coming from a Signaller your comment is so much more valuable.

  5. Anurag says:

    A beautiful contribution. As a retired Signals Officer, I value such personal glimpses..

  6. Many thanks for the comment. It is only when he is no more that I am able to look at his life from a distance and see what this lad who ran away from his village achieved. I am glad I could take a video recording of his reminiscenses a year before he died.

  7. marathi says:

    Well sorry about your father but he was really a wonderful man! he really achieved something remarkable in his life which took about many lifes for a soul!

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