By Brig. VK Atray
New Delhi. 29 January 2019. Sad day for the Indian Army and gives me both pain and pleasure to pen these lines. Pain because a gallant soldier and a professional par excellence has left for his heavenly abode. And pleasure because never will I ever write an obituary so much from the heart.
The Indian Army and I personally mourn the demise of Lt. Gen Francis Tiburtius Dias popularly known as Dick Dias. When the nation was watching the Martyr Lance Naik Nazir Ahmad Wani’s wife receiving the Ashok Chakra at the Republic Day Parade, the General breathed his last.
My association with the General started in 1985 when having finished my command I applied for a post In Canteen Stores Department which I never got , but lo & behold I landed up in the Division HQ at Jodhpur where he was the Division Commander. In my dining-in he broadcasted smilingly,“ man you wanted to go to the CSD ? See I have got you here,”. He was in MS branch & was sifting the applications for CSD thus posted me to the Division which he was taking over.
You would wonder as to why I am writing a story of a General ? Well, here are few instances which need a mention as to why am I .We were on a Command Exercise where the General was being tested & it went off well – as he later became a Lt General. The Exercise finished and Diwali festival was a day away. I was winding up the units from the Exercise area &.to ensure that all the troops are back he personally kept calling me and dispatching reinforcement of vehicles so that no troops are left behind to reach home to celebrate the festival.
General ‘ family was staying in Bombay since his mother in law was ailing. Mrs. Dias and both their daughters Sharon and Fiona were living there. Whenever the daughters came to Jodhpur and demanded to go to the market or eat an ice cream he would take them out on the scooter . (Army people know about the fleet & manpower which a General Officer Commanding has) .
Once Army Commander Lt Gen RS Dayal was visiting the station & Mrs Dayal was accompanying him .To welcome her Mrs Dias organized a family welfare meet ,but she dared not ask even a penny for bouquet from the Div Hq fund. Such was his uprightness.
There are many instances in my memory but one comes up every now & then. In a weekly conference he questioned , “ why do you all sit so late in the office in the afternoons ?” I responded, “since the GOC sits so late so do we.” He thought for a moment & asked me to give him a reminder on the intercom every day at 1.30 PM ( office closing time ). Thereafter he always left around 1.30 & I didn’t even have to remind.
I am an engineer and we normally boast our calligraphy skills , but I dare say that General Dias’ was like pearls in a necklace. There was never a slash on his written notes which gave him a long fans list for unambiguous communication.
So great was his influence in my life that when my son got selected to NDA he instead of opting for Sappers – which is my arm – wanted to join Infantry & that too Gurkhas.
A valiant and frequently decorated soldier Gen Dias was conferred with both war time and peace decorations. He was a Veer Chakra, a PVSM and AVSM. As the Commanding Officer of 5/11 Gorkha Rifles., he was ordered on 12 December 1971 to capture a well prepared position held by an enemy infantry battalion. Again, on 13 December, the battalion was assigned the task of capturing two bridges held by the enemy in strength. And finally on 14 December 1971 the battalion was assigned the task of capturing a portion of Bogra Town. After contacting the enemy defences at Mahasthana, he infiltrated between the enemy’s forward defended localities, raided the enemy battalion headquarters, and captured the officer commanding along with other officers. He also thwarted enemy efforts to blow up bridges. It was due to him that the battalion contributed to a great extent in clearing Bogra Town and taking a large number of prisoners.
He was honored with Param Vishist Seva Medal (PVSM) when he was the Chief of Staff Southern Command and Ati Vishisht Seva medal (AVSM), which he received for distinguished service in counter-insurgency operations in the North East .
Born in Poona on 4th October 1934 he joined the unit on 4th December 1954 after commissioning. His Commanding Officer told 2 / Lt Dias that in the unit they already have officers named Tom & Harry so he would now be called Dick. Thus Indian Army got its famous Dick Dias.
In October 2018 I went to Bhutan & wrote an article on Indian Military Training Team ( IMTRAT ) which has been training Bhutan Army since 1963.I wrote to General Dias in December 2018 that I have dedicated the article to him as he was a popular GSO 1 of IMTRAT and got a response in a feeble voice .
As ever I sent him Christmas greetings on 24 th December 2018 & he did send me thanks E greetings. It was my last dialogue with a great General whom I revered.
The Indian Army will always remember him as an honest, forthright and dedicated soldier. I am sure there will be many more like me who found their hero in him. Very few have their names etched in the annals of the history of the force we belong to and Gen Dias is one such trailblazer to have left for generation of officers to emulate.
Rest in peace Sir. Our final salute to you! Jai Hind!