THE HISTORY OF BANGLADESH ARMY

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The people of this land have made innumerable sacrifices over generations in an endless pursuit of freedom. For them, independence has been an article of faith, deeply ingrained in their national psyche. During the long stretches of colonial domination, the Bengalees kept up their struggle for independence.

The colonial rulers always viewed the Bengalees with suspicion and aversion. They could never accept Bengalee youths within their military establishments. But from time to time a few would be recruited mostly in the lower ranks.Bengalee members of the Indian Armed Forces under the British rule demonstrated a rare brand of heroism and bravery during the First andSecond World Wars.

After the partition of India in 1947, the Pakistani authorities began to show a similar antagonism and attitude towards the Bengalee community, which made it extremely difficult to develop and sustain a military heritage. But this inexplicable hostility and cynicism of the Pakistanis did not stand in the way of legendary performances by the valiant and courageous Bengalees. Even with a token presence in the Pakistan Army, the Bengalee soldiers created history by their exemplary courage and valour in the Indo-Pak War of 1965.

The year 1971 saw the Bengalees in their finest glory. Although count­less number of people embraced martyrdom to liberate their Country, the year also saw unimaginable acts of bravery and courage, as well as meticulous military planning. The stigma of 'a martially inferior race' that was so unfairly and revengefully attached to the Bengalees by the Pakistanis finally disappeared in a blaze of glory.

Bengalees proved that although they were peace-loving people, they could also rise to defend themselves whenever there was an attack on them and take the fight to the enemy's territory. After independence, a new journey began with small but sure steps to rebuild the military institutions and a defence structure. It was a gigantic task and a huge challenge to the competency of our planners.

In the absence of a strong foundation and background, a painstaking process to rebuild the total infrastructure was initiated. The legacy that we inherited was one of bankruptcy. Not a single Armour, Engineers, Signals, Ordnance, Supply and Transport of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering unit was in existence when the country emerged as a free nation. There was no military institution other than the East Bengal Regimental Centre where only the infantry soldiers could be trained.

Bangladesh Army has come a long way since then. Its transformation from a nondescript entity to a credible defence apparatus has not been without its share of vicissitudes and trying times. As an institution, the Army today is self-contained, with tremendous potentials to sustain growth, expansion and modernisation in their totality. Every corps can proudly claim to have an institution of their own where men and officers alike are trained in their respective trade. Looking back, one can take pride from the fact that it was worth all the effort and sacrifice.

On the15th February 1948, the most glorious chapter of our military history was initiated. On this day, the East Bengal Regiment was raised at Kurmitoia, Dhaka under the prudent leadership of late Major Abdul Ghani. This auspicious occasion provided an identity that would sustain through all crises and generate pride in millions of hearts for years to come. Two pioneer companies of Bengali Muslims had earned wide acclaim for their bravery during the World War-II both in British India and abroad. Subsequently, these two companies laid the foundation of the East Bengal Regiment. This historic regiment is now one of the vital organs of Bangladesh Army.

The glorious chapter of this regiment may be attributed to two major events of military history of this subcontinent. In a rare feat of battle showmanship, the fearless'tigers'of the regiment as they are popularly called, inflicted unprecedented damage and casualties on the Indian side in the Indo-Pak War of 1965. In recognition of their sacrifices, the 1 East Bengal Regiment was awarded the highest number of gallantry awards. The performance was only to be repeated six years later. During the War of Liberation in 1971, the same unit bagged the highest number of gallantry awards for their outstanding feat. As a whole, the regiment excelled itself with 2 out of 7 'Bir Srestho Padak' the highest military award of Bangladesh. A total of 317 awards of different merits were also awarded to various members of the regiment. Another milestone was added when a total of 24 infantry units was conferred with the National Standard for their exemplary role in defending sovereignty and providing selfless service to the nation.

Bengalee officers and soldiers were an enviable asset to the Armoured Corps of Pakistan for their skill and efficiency. During the war of independence in 1971, 2 officers, 6 Junior Commissioned Officers and 48 soldiers of the Armoured Corps embraced martyrdom. After independence, in 1972 the 1st Bengal Lancer was raised with the freedom fighters and Bengalee soldiers of 29 Cavalry of the then Pakistan Army at Dhaka Cantonment. This is the first tank regiment of Bangladesh Army. The requirement of a modern armoured corps necessitated the creation of few more tank regiments thus converting the armoured corps into a highly competent and credible combat force that it is today.

The nucleus of Bangladesh Artillery Corps took shape during the War of Liberation and began its journey on 22 July of that year. This force comprised of freedom loving youths, Bengalee officers and jawans of the then Pakistan Army. The Artillery batteries continuously provided support to the freedom fighters throughout the Liberation War. The first Artillery unit, called the ' Mujib Battery', played a praiseworthy role during the Liberation War. The undaunted and steadfast morale of its personnel provided the ultimate impetus to victory. In recognition of their bravery, patriotism and ultimate sacrifice, some 16 members of the corps were given gallantry awards of different merits. In all, 121 members of this corps embraced martyrdom. The corps began its operation with six cannons and one field battery during the freedom struggle. Today, it is a force to reckon with consisting of a number of units. The Regimental Centre and School of the corps received the National Standard on the 18th of November 1982 as a symbol of trust placed upon it in defending our independence and sovereignty.

The history of the Corps of Engineers of Bangladesh Army dates back to the Bengal Sappers and Pioneers of British Imperial Army from where it originated. The highest gallantry award 'Bir Sreshtho' was posthumously awarded to Captain Mohiuddin Jahnagir of this Corps. During the War of Liberation in 1971, some 5 officers and 82 other ranks embraced martyrdom for their country. After the War of Liberation, the corps was reorganised and later expanded. Engineers have been playing a vital role for the last decade in all spheres of national activities and in times of national emergencies like natural calamities and disasters of great magnitude.

During the time of reorganisation of the Bangladesh forces in 1971 , the Supreme Commander felt the necessity of restructuring the signal units to suit the need of time. This resulted in the formation of sector-wise Brigade Signal Companies. Initially three such companies were constituted with signallers from Army, Navy, Air force and the then East Pakistan Rifles (presently Bangladesh Rifles). The newly born brigade signal companies were attached to the No 1, 2 and 8 sectors with battalion headquarters at Mujibnagar. From the time of independence, the Signal Corps has achieved a commendable standard for its significant role in all spheres of military and national affairs. The Signal Corps today has been able to provide assured communication to the army through professional competency and with support of quality standard equipment.

Army Service Corps had only a few Bengalee officers and troops at the time of the Liberation War. Their participation even with such small strength in the freedom struggle is remarkable. The Army Service Corps came into being on 11 March 1972. Initially it started off with a small number of officers, junior commissioned officers and other ranks. However, selfless service of all ranks enabled the corps to achieve a very high standard of performance and recognition from all corners within a very short span of time. The corps has been organised and expanded to meet the growing demands of the army.

A good number of Bengalee officers and troops of the Pakistan Army medical Corps actively participated in the Liberation War. Some 14 officers and 114 troops embraced martyrdom and enriched the History of Medical Corps with glory. The Directorate of Medical Services came into existence during the Liberation War at Mujibnagar. In 1973, the newly organised corps started expanding with 224 officers and 1484 other ranks. Slowly and gradually, a good number of small and big medical institutions including field medical units were raised. After it was reorganised in 1973, the Armed forces Institutes of Pathology and Transfusion started its work with full dedication. For its unique and exceptional performance in medical science, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and Transfusion was awarded the prestigious civil award Shadhinata Padak (Independence Medal) in 1987.

Despite limited scope, members of the Ordnance Corps went beyond the call of duty to augment the strength of frontline forces and fought heroically side by side with other corps members. Some 36 soldiers embraced martyrdom in the Liberation struggle. The ordinance Corps was made responsible for collecting all sporadic equipment and vehicles from different parts of the country to make the best use of their services. The Ordnance Depots started functioning at Chittagong, Comilla, Syllnet, Rangpur, Saidpur and Jessore from March 1972. Later on, the corps was reorganised and subsequently expanded to suit the need of the time.

During the War of Independence, 1400 members of the erstwhile Pakistan Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering were stationed in Bangladesh. These men fought gallantly side by side with members of other fighting arms in the war. Within the limited constraints of equipment and technical backup, these men made best use of their skill and technical knowledge in keeping all armament and weapon battle worthy. After liberation, 4 infantry workshops were raised in April 1972. The corps was further reorganised and expanded subsequently.

After independence, a number of ex-Military Police personnel took the initiative to organise a Military Police unit in the newly born Bangladesh. The ex-Military Police persons from various places of Bangladesh were collected together at the Dhaka Transit Camp from where a Military Police unit was raised. Later on, the Corps of Military Police was organised and expanded. The Corps presently has a school of its own to train both men and officers in this specialised profession.

During the War of Liberation, members of the Education Corps fought valiantly for the country and a number of them embraced martyrdom. After the War, the Education Directorate was organised at the Army Headquarters. Bangladesh Army Education Corps is entrusted with the responsibility of officers' academic training, troops' education training and formulation of troops' information and motivation programmes at various levels.

The biggest achievement in the reorganisation of the Army can well be attributed to the establishment of the Bangladesh Military Academy at Bhatiary, Chittagong. The training and grant of commission to cadets underline the very essence and importance of a developing army like ours where officers are trend setters. The arduous task of building up this edifice began in 1974 when a makeshift Academy was set up at Comilla Cantonment. Two years later, it was shifted to its present location at Bhatiary. The journey since then has been a painstaking but immensely successful one. The effort has been especially rewarding in the sense that Bangladesh Military Academy matches the standard of any contemporary institution anywhere in the world. Cadets from foreign countries today are also availing facilities of the Academy for their pre-commission training. The Academy is also imparting training to Bangladesh Air Force and Naval Cadets. It is also providing basic military training to the members of Bangladesh Civil and Police administrations.

The School of Infantry and Tactics is one of the prime training institutions of our army and has been entrusted to conduct as many as twelve different courses on tactics, weapon and special military operations in a year. The school was established on 19 March 1973 at Jessore Cantonment as The School of Infantry. In 1979, it was shifted to its present location at Jalalabad Cantonment, Sylhet. In 1982, the Special Warfare School was merged with the School of Infantry and Tactics to constitute a separate wing, and in January 1988, the Research and Development Wing was also organised. All officers of various arms and services attend all arms courses in the School. The School of Infantry and Tactics also runs special to arms courses for the infantry. Besides the Army, students from Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Rifles, Police, Ansars and officers from abroad also attend various courses run by the School.

The Defence Services Command and Staff College is a joint services training institution with separate wings for the Army, Navy and Air Force. The Staff College is located at Mirpur, Dhaka and was formally opened on 30 December 1977. A British Military Advisory Team (BMAT) initially assisted in the preparation and conduct of four short courses of six months duration exclusively for Bangladeshi officers. From the start of the 5th Army Staff course on 31 March 1980, the duration of course was extended to nine and a half months and the college was opened to foreign students. Later, separate Naval and Air Wings were established to cater to the special needs of the Navy and Air Force. From 1983 onwards, the duration of the course was extended to ten months. In addition, a science package of six weeks duration has been introduced for Bangladeshi Army Wing students prior to their attending the Staff College. Officers from various countries also attend this course. Till the end of 1999, 362 overseas students from as many as 28 countries have graduated from this institution.

As we enter the new millennium, many new challenges are coming up. To meet these challenges, Bangladesh Army is going through the process of modernisation in all respects. Besides organizationalrestructuring, training and logistic framework are also being developed, consistent with the need to create the capability required of a modern army. In order to meet the growing need of our officers and men, some premier academic institutions have already been established, such as: National Defence College, Armed Forces War College, Military Institute of Science and Technology , Armed Forces Medical College and Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operation Training. These institutions provide higher direction in the fields of defence management and technology. Side by side, a contingency plan has been undertaken to improve infrastructure development to support logistic problems. The recent construction of barracks for troops and high rise buildings for officers and other ranks has solved long outstanding problem in this respect.

The Bangladesh National Defence College (NDC) was formed following a decision of the Governing Body of the Defence Services Command and Staff College (DSCSC) on 7 December 1996. The NDC is a tri-service organisation modelled both on the Royal College Defence Studies and other national defence colleges the region. The NDC offers a blend of academic study and debate within a relaxed and informal atmosphere will give the members the freedom to broaden the minds and develop their strategic vision as they purse individual studies and participate in the intellectual rigour of the course. Selected senior officers from the Armed Forces and Civil Services attend the courtesy so that it can prepare them for future assignments in the planning of national strategy. The first course commenced on 10 January 1999 and twenty officers successfully completed the course.

The Military Institute of Science and Technology (MIST) was inaugurated on 19 April 1998 at Mirpur, the place that has already become the centre for learning for the armed forces officers from Bangladesh and abroad. The role of MIST is to provide technical training to officers of technical branches and other arm and services of the armed forces. Besides, this institute also offer technical training facilities to the civilian student community of the country. MIST conducts courses of Bachelor of Science in Engineering an Masters of Business Administration, besides Computer and other courses.

Bangladesh Army recently took an epoch-making decision to induct women in officers’ corps. The recruiting process has already begun in a two-year training programme at Bangladesh Military Academy from January 2001.

At the beginning of a new millennium, Bangladesh Army marches ahead in full glory with the expectations of more promising future.