General Cariappa

Kodandera Madappa Cariappa
File:K M Cariappa.jpg
Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa
First Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army
Nickname Kipper
Born (1899-12-29)29 December 1899
Sanivarsanthe, Kodagu
Died 15 May 1993(1993-05-15) (aged 93)
Bangalore, Karnataka
Buried at (cremated) Madikeri, Karnataka
Allegiance  British India
Service/branch  British Indian Army
 Indian Army
Years of service 1919–1993[1]
Rank Field Marshal
Battles/wars World War II
Indo-Pakistani War of 1947
Awards Order of the British Empire
Legion of Merit

Field Marshal Kodandera "Kipper" Madappa Cariappa (Kannada: ಫೀಲ್ಡ್ ಮಾರ್ಷಲ್ ಕೊಡಂದೆರ ಮಾದಪ್ಪ ಕಾರಿಯಪ್ಪ (ಕಾರ್ಯಪ್ಪ)) OBE (29 December 1899 – 15 May 1993) was the first Indian Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army and led the Indian forces on the Western Front during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947.

He is among only two Indian Army officers to hold the highest rank of Field Marshal (the other being Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw). His distinguished military career spanned almost three decades, at the highest point of which, he was appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Military in 1949.

Early life and education

Cariappa was born at Shanivarsante in Kodagu (Coorg) in the erstwhile State of Coorg, which was at that time a self-governing princely state of India, which is currently in Karnataka.

Cariappa was known as "Chimma" to his relatives. He had his formal education in the Central High School at Madikeri, after which he pursued his college education at Presidency College, Chennai. Here he grew up equally attached to books and plays under the guidance of renowned academicians. He was an active sportsman, who played games such as hockey and tennis with vigour and brilliance. In addition to this, he loved music - and had a fondness for a sleight of hand tricks, too.

Military career

After World War I concluded in 1918, Indian politicians at that time raised a demand to sanction Indians to the King's Commission. After strict screening, Cariappa was selected as one among the privileged few, who were selected for the first batch that underwent rigorous pre-commission training. In 1919, he joined the first batch of KCIOs (King's Commissioned Indian Officers) at The Daly College at Indore and was commissioned into the Carnatic Infantry at Bombay as a Temporary Second Lieutenant. He was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant in 1921 (retroactive to 1920).[2] In 1922, he received his permanent commission as a Second Lieutenant(retroactive to 1919).[3] The future Major General Muhammad Akbar Khan of the Pakistan Army(seniormost officer of Pakistan Army at the partition, and commissioned as PA-1) was also commissioned at the same time, but was outranked by Cariappa, who had seniority. Muhammad Ayub Khan, who graduated with him, is sometimes confused with the future ruler who ruled from 1958-69 but was really a minor officer from Scinde Horse.[3] Cariappa was promoted to Lieutenant in 1923.[4]

In 1927, Cariappa was promoted to Captain,[5] but the appointment was not officially gazetted until 1931.[6] He saw active service with the 37 (Prince of Wales) Dogra in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) and was later posted to the 2nd Queen Victoria's Own Rajput Light Infantry, which became his permanent regimental home. He was the first Indian officer to undergo the course at Staff College, Quetta in 1933. He was promoted to Major in 1938.[7] The following year, he was appointed a Staff Captain.[8]

Cariappa served in Iraq, Syria and Iran from 1941–1942 and then in Burma in 1943-1944. He spent many of his soldiering years in Waziristan. He earned his 'Mentioned in Despatches' as DAA and QMG of General (later Field Marshal) Slim's 10th Division. He was the first Indian Officer to be given command of a unit in 1942. By 1944, Cariappa was a Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel. After command he volunteered to serve in 26 Division engaged in clearing the Japanese from Burma, where he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

In 1946, he was promoted as the Brigadier of the Frontier Brigade Group. It was during this time that Colonel Ayub Khan - later Field Marshal and President of Pakistan, 1962-1969 - served under him. In 1947, Cariappa was the first Indian who was selected to undergo a training course at Imperial Defence College, Camberly, UK on the higher directions of war. During the traumatic period of partition, he handled the division of the Indian Army and sharing of its assets between Pakistan and India, in a most amicable, just and orderly manner. He was then the Indian officer in charge of overseeing the transition.

Post-Independence, Cariappa was appointed as the Deputy Chief of the General Staff with the rank of Major General. On promotion to Lieutenant General he became the Eastern Army Commander. On outbreak of war with Pakistan in 1947, he was moved as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command and directed operations for the recapture of Zojila, Drass and Kargil and re-established a linkup with Leh. In all this, he showed tremendous energy in moving troops, against considerable odds and finally ensuring success. This ensured his elevation to the supreme post of commander in chief. He had two officers senior to him — both King Commissioned Officers (from Sandhurst) of the 1918 batch, KS Mahadeo Singh and MS Himmat Singh ji. KS Mahadeo Singh ji had not enough combat experience and was superseded by Cariappa during the Second World War and finally retired in 1948; he is better remembered now as first Indian commandant of IMA, Dehradun. MS Himmat Singh ji remained as a prisoner of war in Japan for 4 years (1939–43), which made him lose war experience. When he returned, he remained with PSY war/ propaganda section at army HQ and later took charge of the integration of princely state forces into the Indian Army after the states' accessions. In 1950, Cariappa headed a committee on the northern frontiers.[9]

On 15 January 1949 Cariappa was appointed as the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, succeeding Lieutenant General Sir Roy Bucher, who had been in the post only a year. He was displaced owing to differences with the Indian government over the invasion of Hyderabad and the operations in Kashmir. Cariappa was then instrumental in turning an imperial army into a national army.

Higher Commands and Offices

His association with the Indian Army is spread over an unbroken period of more than 29 years, during which he had wide experience of staff and command work. After his retirement from Indian Army in 1953, he served as the High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand till 1956.

Cariappa took active part in the reorganization of armed forces in many foreign countries. He was a much traveled man and visited parts of China, Japan, United States, Great Britain, Canada and most of the European countries. He was conferred with 'Order of the Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit' by US President, Harry S. Truman. As a token of gratitude for the exemplary service rendered by him to the nation, the Government of India conferred the rank of Field Marshal on Cariappa in his 87th year, on 14 January 1986.


During the 1965 and 1971 wars, he visited the front lines to talk to the troops and keep their morale up.

Apart from being a military man, Cariappa had insight about the status of the country. He is quoted as saying, "In modern warfare, a large army is not sufficient, it needs industrial potential behind it. If the army is the first line of defence, the industry is the second." Cariappa had even said that "soldiers know the facility of wars to solve the internal problems. We ought to be ashamed that today they had more peace in war than peace in peace." Such insight has placed him above many in this field. "Army is there to serve the Government of the day, and we should make sure that it does not get mixed up with party politics. A soldier is above politics and should not believe in caste or creed," was another insight of this soldier.

He lived and remained, as he said, "an Indian and to the last breath would remain an Indian. To me there is only two Stans - Hindustan (India) and Foujistan (the Army)."

During the 1965 war, his son K C Cariappa, an Indian Air Force pilot, was shot down over Pakistan. He was captured and imprisoned as a POW. When Ayub Khan learned about this, he informed Cariappa he would not be kept in a POW Camp like other Indian POWs, since they had worked together before independence. But Cariappa politely declined the offer, saying every soldier in the Indian Army was his son, so he could not request special privileges for only one.


Cariappa settled down amidst greenery and nature, in his house 'Roshanara' at Madikeri in Kodagu, after his retirement from public service. He loved the environment and the flora and fauna around him. He spent a lot of his leisure time educating people about cleanliness, pollution control and other essential issues.

On 15 May 1993, Field Marshal Cariappa died in Bangalore, aged 94.

Rank Promotions


External links

  • Profile on Bharat
Military offices
Preceded by
Roy Bucher
Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army
Succeeded by
Rajendrasinhji Jadeja

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