By Brig Vijay Atray ( Retd.)
Pune. 29 January 2020. Bicentenary Heritage Walk proved to be a nostalgic ride into the glorious timeline of the Bombay Sappers filled with valor and resplendence. The upgraded Group Museum Complex encompasses seven buildings of each tending to different facets of the Group. Nanda Hall, Awardees Gallery, the YO’s Gallery, the Old Commandant’ Office, the Generals’ Gallery, the JCOs/OR gallery, the Shaheed Gallery, the Sports Gallery, the Band gallery, the Regimental Panel Block and the UN Missions gallery.
Having last visited the old museum in 1984 , it was an awesome feeling to witness a totally , transformed ,refurbished and renovated museum. As one walks down the Nanda hall one is mesmerized by the great feats of the Bombay Sappers ,whether it is the storming of the Ghuznee Fort , the Battle of Neuve Chappel , rebuilding of Germany , in recent past the construction of Dirang to Senge road – during the Chinese aggression or the three Unit Citations in one operation during Kargil.Every event has been recreated by painters & sculptures. Shaheed gallery is yet another area where all the gallant sappers have been reincarnated. While the YOs ‘ Gallery has the group photographs of all , it has names of all the officers on the scrolls hanging from the high roofs to the floor. Similar treatment is given to the Personnel Below Officer Rank. The best part is that one can see all the details of these persons on a console by the click of a button. The Band Gallery not only houses the old band instruments ,but also displays medals won by Bombay Sappers from 1777 to now. The Sports Gallery show case not only the awardees but all the medals & trophies won by them ,which includes Arjuna Award , Dhyan Chand Award ,Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Award & all that which the Bombay sappers have earned The Regimental Panel Block which was in a small room has a place of honour now. One surmises that every unit should feel proud to contribute maximum information of have archival value under these panels.
The best part is that the Museum not only honours all their predecessors but even the affiliated arms and services viz Su Mk! of IAF , INS Magar of Indian Navy , SIKH LI & MARATHA LI. Surprising that one finds the museum has put up items of their affiliation with Madras & Bengal Engineer Group; not seen anywhere else In the open court -yards one finds Puffing Billy , banners of all the units , history carved in stone, railway wagon being pulled by a jeep – when the railway engine was off road or not available. An old Dodge car – beautifully manicured – welcomes you as one approaches the Bombay Sappers Group Museum.
It was an education to listen to Brig MJ Kumar the Commandant of the Bombay Engineer Group who was conducting tour for the charming ladies, who would then conduct other visitors on the Bicentenary. Having visited many museums in various Army Centres and abroad one tends to feel that the concept , design ,coverage, layout and the ambience beats them all.
Bereft of soul would he be who would pass by without admiring complex so majestic, which takes you back down the memory lane & make your day nostalgic.
ADU is of the opinion that Bombay Sappers Museum would now become a tourist attraction not only for the defence personnel but for everyone who comes to Pune.