Kodandera M. Cariappa

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Field Marshal
Kodandera Madappa Cariappa
Field Marshal KM Cariappa.jpg
Native name ಫೀಲ್ಡ್ ಮಾರ್ಷಲ್ ಕೊಡಂದೆರ ಮಾದಪ್ಪ ಕಾರಿಯಪ್ಪ
Nickname(s) Kipper
Born (1900-01-28)28 January 1900
Sanivarsanthe, Coorg Province, British India
Died 15 May 1993(1993-05-15) (aged 93)
Bangalore, Karnataka
Years of service
  • 1919–1953
  • 1986–1993[a]
Rank Field Marshal of the Indian Army.svg Field Marshal
Unit Rajputs.JPG Rajput Regiment
Commands held

Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa or Kodandera "Kipper" Madappa Cariappa OBE (28 January 1899 – 15 May 1993) was the first Indian Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the Indian Army who led Indian forces on the Western Front during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. He is one of only two Indian Army officers to hold the highest five-star rank of Field Marshal (the other being Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw). At the highest point of his career he was appointed C-in-C of the Indian Army in 1949.

His distinguished military career spanned almost three decades. Born on 28 January 1900 in Madikeri, Kodagu, Cariappa joined the British Indian Army on 1 December 1919, and was commissioned as Temporary Second Lieutenant into 2/88 Carnatic Infantry. Later he was transferred to 2/125 Napier Rifles, then to 7th Prince of Wales Own Dogra Regiment in June 1922, and finally to 1/7 Rajput, which became his parent regiment.

He was the first Indian officer to attend the course at Staff Collge, Quetta, the first Indian to command a battalion, and also was one of the first two Indians who were selected to undergo a training course at Imperial Defence College, Camberly, UK. He served in various staff capacities at various unit and command headquarters (HQ) and also at the General HQ, New Delhi.

Before taking over as the C-in-C of the Indian Army, Cariappa served as the commander of the Indian Army's Eastern and Western Commands.

Early life and education[edit]

Cariappa was born on 28 January 1900 in Madikeri, Kodagu (Coorg), to a family of farmers belonging to the 'Kondandera' clan. His father, Madappa, worked with the revenue department. Cariappa was second in order of four sons and two daughters in his family.[2]

Cariappa was known as "Chimma" to his relatives. After completing his formal education in the Central High School at Madikeri, in 1917, he joined Presidency College, Chennai, to pursue college education.[2] During college, he came to know that Indians were being recruited for commission into the Indian Army, and the recruits were to be trained in India. Cariappa's zeal to serve as a soldier made him apply for it.[3]

Out of 70 applicants, 42 were finally granted admission into the Daly Cadet College, Indore, and Cariappa was one of them. Cariappa proved his wits at the Cadet College. Though he was not from an aristocratic background like most of the other cadets, he was able to score well in all the aspects of training and stood seventh in overall order of merit when he graduated.[3]

Military career[edit]

Cariappa passed out on 1 December 1919, and was granted a temporary commission. Subsequently, a permanent commission was granted on 9 September 1922 with effect from 17 July 1920. This was done to make Cariappa's rank junior to the officers that passed out from Sandhurst on 16 July 1920.[3]

Carippa was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion of 88th Carnatic Infantry at Bombay as a Temporary Second Lieutenant.[4] He was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant in 1921 (retroactive to 1920).[5] Later he was transferred to 2/125 Napier Rifles which moved to Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) in May 1920. On his return on India, Cariappa was posted to 7th Prince of Wales Own Dogra Regiment in June 1922.[4] In 1922, he received his permanent commission as a Second Lieutenant (retroactive to 1919).[6] In June 1923, Cariappa was transferred to 1/7 Rajput, which became his permanent regimental home. After four months of his posting to the Rajput Regiment, Cariappa was promoted to Lieutenant in November 1923.[7]

In 1925, Cariappa went on a world tour to Europe and also visited various countries such as the United States, Japan and China. He met a large number of soldiers and civilians in various nations. The tour proved to be educational and made him much wiser. After that Cariappa was able to settle down. He acquired his nickname "Kipper" while he was serving in Fatehgarh, which was given by a British officer's wife who found his name difficult to pronounce.[8] In 1927, Cariappa was promoted to Captain,[9] but the appointment was not officially gazetted until 1931.[10]

In 1931, he was appointed as the Deputy Assistant Quarter Master General (DAQMG) at HQ Peshawar District. The experience he had gained at headquarters, his coaching at Royal United Services Institute in 1932 and the courses he attended in Small Arms School (SAS) and Royal School of Artillery (RSA) helped him to get through the entrance examination of Staff Collge, Quetta. He was first Indian officer to attend the course at Staff College, Quetta.[11] Though officers were generally given staff appointments after completion of the course, Cariappa was not given his staff appointment until two years after his completion of the course. Until then, he rendered regimental service with his parent unit on the North West Frontier. In March 1936, he was appointed as Staff Captain of the Deccan Area.[12] In 1938, Cariappa was promoted to Major[13] and was appointed as the Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quarter Master General (DAA & QMG).[12]

In 1939, the Skeen Committee was set up the to examine the options of Indianisation of the officer ranks of the Indian Army. As Cariappa was one of the most senior Indian officers with about 19 years of service, the committee held several discussions with him. Cariappa expressed his displeasure over the treatment of Indian officers in the army. He stressed the discrimination shown toward Indian officers in terms of appointments, promotions, benefits and allowances to which British officers were entitled to and Indians were not.[14]

After World War II began, Cariappa was posted as Brigade Major to 20 Indian Brigade stationed in Derajat. Later he was appointed as the DAQMG of 10 Indian Division which was stationed in Iraq. He earned his 'Mentioned in Despatches' as DAA and Quartermaster general of General (later Field Marshal) William Slim's 10th Division. He served in Iraq, Syria and Iran in 1941–1942 and then in Burma in 1943–1944. Back in India in March 1942, he was posted as second-in-command of the newly raised 7 Rajput Machine Gun Battalion at Fatehgarh. On 15 April 1942, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was appointed as the Commanding Officer of the same battalion. With this appointment he became the first Indian to command a battalion[d] in the Indian Army.[16] Cariappa was successful in stabilizing the newly raised battalion in terms of administration, training, handling the arms, etc. Later the unit was rechristened as 52 Rajput and put under 43 Indian Armoured Division. Within a span of few months, the unit observed two transformations and two moves. First, the battalion's machine guns were replaced with tanks in order to convert into an armoured division. But soon the battalion was reverted to infantry and re-designated as 17/7 Rajput. Subsequently, it was moved to Secunderabad. This led to unrest among the troops of the unit which was successfully handled by Cariappa.[17]

On 1 April 1943, he was appointed as the Assistant Quarter Master General (AQMG) in the headquarters of Eastern Command. Though Cariappa wished to serve in combat, chance did not favour him, as it was for his fellow Indians. In August 1943, when the South East Asia Command was formed and the Fourteenth Army was placed under it, Cariappa volunteered for active service in the war. But he was again posted as AQMG of 26 Indian Division stationed at Buthidaung in Burma. It played an important role in pushing back the Japanese from Arakan. For his services in the operation, Cariappa was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE).[18]

On 1 November 1944, Cariappa was promoted to Brigadier, but was not given the command of brigade as expected. Instead, he became a member of the Reorganisation Committee chaired by Lieutenant General Sir Henry Willcox. Though initially Cariappa was not happy with the appointment and protested to the Military Secretary, the experience proved to helpful when he took over as the C-in-C four years later. The committee closely worked with the General HQ and Viceroy's Secretariat. This gave the British hierarchy a chance to assess Cariappa.[18]

Finally in November 1945, Cariappa was made the Commander of Bannu Frontier Brigade in Wazirstan. It was during this time that Colonel Ayub Khan – later Field Marshal and President of Pakistan (1962–69) – served under him. Unlike the previous British commanders who tried to keep the local tribes under control by force, Cariappa tried a different approach by extending them friendly relations, and it worked well. When Head of the Interim Government Jawaharlal Nehru visited Bannu he found it extremely peaceful and settled, compared to Razmak where another brigade was stationed. Nehru was impressed by Cariappa's way of dealing with the tribes.[19] Cariappa was also widely acclaimed for his treatment towards the prisoners of the Indian National Army (INA).[20]

In 1947, Cariappa was one of the first two Indians who were selected to undergo a training course at Imperial Defence College, Camberly, UK on the higher directions of war.[20] With the experience he had gained at Imperial Defence College, Cariappa felt that dividing the Indian Army would have a devastating effect on both sides. He explained to the hierarchy the risk of inexperienced officers taking over higher commands, and without the help of British officers the situation would be much worse. But he was forced to dismiss the idea and proceed according to the partition plan. 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.[21]


Post-Independence, Cariappa was appointed as the Deputy Chief of the General Staff with the rank of Major General.[21] In November 1947, on being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, he was appointed as the Eastern Army commander. In January 1948, owing to the worsened situation in Kashmir, Cariappa was called back to the capital and appointed as the GOC-in-C Delhi and East Punjab Command. After taking over the command, he immediately renamed it the Western Command and moved its headquarters (HQ) to Jammu; he subsequently raised a corps HQ under Lt Gen S.M. Shrinagesh at Udhampur. He appointed Lt Gen Kodandera Subayya Thimayya as the GOC Jammu and Kashmir Force (later 19 Division), and Atma Singh as the GOC Jammu Division (later 25 Division).[22]

He launched three subsequent attacks namely Operation KIPPER, Operation EASY and Operation BISON to capture the Naushera, Jhangar, Poonch, Zojila, Dras and Kargil areas. Plans were laid to completely drive out the Pakistani forces from Kashmir, but they were stopped by the intervention of the United States. On 6 July 1948, the Army HQ issued strict instructions against conducting any major operations without its permission. Cariappa protested against this, stating that this policy would threaten Leh, Kargil and ultimately the Kashmir Valley, which would put the country's security at stake. Though Cariappa asked for two brigades to continue offensive strikes, he was provided only one brigade and permitted to advance to Kargil. He disobeyed orders and launched strikes in the Ladakh area. This allowed India to assert control of the Ladakh region.[22][23] Cariappa continued several operations and offensive strikes against the Pakistanis which involved high risk and failure of any might have threatened the Indian forces. This ensured his elevation to the supreme post of Commander-in-Chief.[24][25]

C-in-C of the Indian Army[edit]

When Lieutenant General Sir Roy Bucher's appointment as the C-in-C of the Indian Army was about to expire in January 1949, it was decided to replace him with an Indian. Cariappa, Shrinagesh and Nathu Singh were the contenders for the post. Though Shrinagesh was six months elder to Cariappa in age, he was a year junior to Cariappa, and Nathu Singh was two and a half years junior to him. But the Defence Minister of the Interim Government Baldev Singh was not in favour of Cariappa. He contacted Shrinagesh and Nathu Singh for their opinion in appointing them as the C-in-C. As both declined the offer, Cariappa took over as the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army.[25]

The day Cariappa took over the reins of the Indian Army, 15 January 1949, was marked as official Army Day and celebrated annually. As the chief of the army, Cariappa was instrumental in the formation of the Territorial Army in 1949. Though the National Cadet Corps was already formed in 1948, it was Cariappa who extended support during its formative years. These two complimentary branches of the army later proved to be very helpful in the wars India fought in later years.[26]

Several measures taken by Cariappa, such as his refusal to induct INA personnel into the Army, put the army away from political affairs and maintained its autonomy. However, the INA's slogan 'Jai Hind' which means victory to India, was adopted by Cariappa and later it became a formal phrase between personnel to greet each other. He also turned down the proposal to reserve vacancies in the army for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, as it was in other government services. He stated that it would degrade the standards of the army and increase the risk of being defeated if the right talent was not recognized.[27]

After four years of his service as the C-in-C, Cariappa retired on 14 January 1953. Before he retired, he bid a farewell visit to his parent regiment, the Rajput Regiment, at the Rajput Regimental Centre accompanied by his son and daughter. Shrinagesh succeeded him as the C-in-C.[27]

Personal life[edit]

Cariappa was married to Muthu Machia, a forest officer's daughter, in March 1937, while in Secunderabad. Though initially their married life was happy, later due to an age gap of almost 17 years, ideological differences and Cariappa's professional commitments, their marriage broke down. In September 1945, the couple separated without any formal divorce. Three years later Muthu died in an accident.[28]

Cariappa and Muthu had a son and a daughter. Son K.C. Cariappa was born on 4 January 1938 and daughter Nalini on 23 February 1948. Their son, called 'Nanda', joined the Indian Air Force and rose to the rank of Air Marshal.[28] He authored a biography of his father titled Field Marshal KM Cariappa. The book was published by Niyogi Books and was released 30 October 2007.[29][30]


Cariappa's association with the Indian Army was 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 the army in 1953, he served as the High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand till 1956.[31][32]

With a view toward ex-servicemen's welfare, Cariappa founded the Indian Ex-Servicemen's League (IESL) in 1964.[33] He was also instrumental in setting up the Directorate of Resettlement[34] (later Directorate General Resettlement), an inter-service organization under the Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare, Ministry of Defence, that looked after the various issues concerning the resettlement of retired soldiers, especially those who retired young.[35]

Cariappa took an active part in the reorganization of the 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 the 'Order of the Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit' by US President, Harry S. Truman.[36]

Cariappa also tried out his luck in politics after a lot of persuasion from his friends and admirers. He contested for the Lok Sabha seat from North-East Bombay independently against Krishna Menon and J.B. Kripalani. Though he was a respected figure, politics did not work well for him and he lost.[34]

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 on 28 April 1986 at a special investiture ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan.[37]


Cariappa's health started to deteriorate from 1991; he suffered arthritis and heart problems. Finally, he passed away on 15 May 1994 in his sleep at the Banglore Command Hospital, where he had been receiving treatment for a few years. His mortal remains were cremated in Madikeri after two days. The cremation was attended by the three service chiefs along with Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. Cariappa's son Nanda Cariappa lit the pyre while the Honour Guard reversed arms.[37]


According to biographer Vijay Singh, it was unheard of for Cariappa to use his power and status for personal purposes.[38] One example Singh cites occurred when Cariappa went to the Rajput Regimental Centre to pay farewell before he retired. He brought his son and daughter with him, and both of them stayed at the commandant's house the next day. According to the rules, children were forbidden to attend the officers' mess. Cariappa might have taken them to the mess but he did not even though he was the chief.[27]

After he was the C-in-C, he wanted Major (later Lieutenant General) Srinivas Kumar Sinha to be his Military Assistant (aide-de-camp). But the Military Secretary noted that a Military Assistant must hold the rank of lieutenant colonel which required a minimum of six-and-a-half years of service. Sinha was only a major with five years of service. Cariappa backed off the idea when he heard that and did not want to break the rules.[38]

During the 1965 war, his son K C Cariappa, an Indian Air Force pilot, was shot down over Pakistan by army officer Major Zaidi. He was captured and held as a prisoner of war (POW). On realizing the identity of the wounded soldier at Dargil, Radio Pakistan immediately announced the capture of the younger Cariappa. General Ayub Khan himself contacted Field Marshal Cariappa, who was living a retired life at Mercara, his hometown, with information about his son's safety. When Ayub Khan offered to release his son immediately, Cariappa is reported to have scoffed at the idea and told him to give his son no better treatment than any other POW. "He is my son no longer," the old soldier is reported to have thundered. "He is the child of this country, a soldier fighting for his motherland like a true patriot. My many thanks for your kind gesture, but I request you to release all or release none. Give him no special treatment," the Field Marshal is reported to have said.[39]


Service British Indian Army Indian Army
Insignia UK Army OF1a-2.png UK Army OF1b-2.png UK Army OF1a-2.png UK Army OF1b-2.png UK Army OF2-2.png UK Army OF3-2.png UK Army OF4-2.png UK Army OF6-2.png UK Army OF4-2.png UK Army OF6-2.png UK Army OF7-2.png UK Army OF8-2.png UK Army OF9-2.png General of the Indian Army.svg Field Marshal of the Indian Army.svg
Rank Temporary Second
Temporary Lieutenant Second Lieutenant (retroactive seniority
from 1919)
Lieutenant Captain Major Temporary Lieutenant Colonel Temporary Brigadier Lieutenant Colonel Brigadier Major
General[e] General
Indian Army
Field Marshal
Year 1919[6] 1921[36] 1922[36] 1923[7] 1927[9] 1938[13] 1942[36] 1944[36] 1946[40] 1946[36] 1947[36] 1948[36] 1949[36] 1950[36] 1986[36]

Awards and decorations[edit]

General Service Medal 1947
Indian Independence Medal
Order of the British Empire
1939–1945 Star
Burma Star
War Medal 1939–1945
India Service Medal
Legion of Merit
(Chief Commander)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Indian military officers of five-star rank hold their rank for life, and are considered to be serving officers until their deaths.[1]
  2. ^ Previously 'Delhi and East Punjab Command'.
  3. ^ Previously '7th Rajput Machine Gun Battalion'.
  4. ^ A battalion comprises of four rifle companies. A rifle company comprises of four platoons. A platoon comprises of a section which consists of 10 men.[15]
  5. ^ Upon independence in 1947, India became a Dominion within the British Commonwealth of Nations. As a result, the rank insignia of the British Army, incorporating the Tudor Crown, was maintained, as George VI remained Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces. After 26 January 1950, when India became a republic, the President of India became Commander-in-Chief, and the Ashoka Lion replaced the crown.
  1. ^ Anwesha Madhukalya. "Did You Know That Only 3 People Have Been Given The Highest Ranks In The Indian Armed Forces?". Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Singh 2005, p. 21.
  3. ^ a b c Singh 2005, p. 22.
  4. ^ a b Singh 2005, p. 23.
  5. ^ "Viewing Page 5359 of Issue 32380". London-gazette.co.uk. 5 July 1921. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  6. ^ a b "Viewing Page 7379 of Issue 32757". London-gazette.co.uk. 20 October 1922. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Viewing Page 7663 of Issue 32878". London-gazette.co.uk. 9 November 1923. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  8. ^ Singh 2005, p. 24.
  9. ^ a b "Viewing Page 5805 of Issue 33310". London-gazette.co.uk. 9 September 1927. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  10. ^ "Viewing Page 3324 of Issue 33718". London-gazette.co.uk. 22 May 1931. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  11. ^ Singh 2005, p. 25–26.
  12. ^ a b Singh 2005, p. 26.
  13. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 34541. p. 5189. 12 August 1938. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  14. ^ Singh 2005, p. 28–29.
  15. ^ "STRUCTURE". Indian Army. Retrieved 12 August 2016. 
  16. ^ Singh 2005, p. 29.
  17. ^ Singh 2005, p. 30.
  18. ^ a b Singh 2005, p. 30–31.
  19. ^ Singh 2005, p. 32.
  20. ^ a b Singh 2005, p. 33.
  21. ^ a b Singh 2005, p. 34.
  22. ^ a b Singh 2005, p. 35.
  23. ^ Singh 2005, p. 36.
  24. ^ Singh 2005, p. 37.
  25. ^ a b Singh 2005, p. 38.
  26. ^ Singh 2005, p. 39.
  27. ^ a b c Singh 2005, p. 40.
  28. ^ a b Singh 2005, p. 27.
  29. ^ "Field Marshal KM Cariappa Hardcover – Illustrated, 30 Aug 2007". Amazon. NIYOGI BOOKS. 30 August 2007. Retrieved 13 August 2016. 
  30. ^ K. C. Cariappa (2007). Chaudhuri, Dipa, ed. Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa (2nd ed.). New Delhi: Niyogi Books. ISBN 978-81-89738-26-6. 
  31. ^ Singh 2005, p. 46.
  32. ^ "Previous High Commissioners". www.hcindia-au.org. Retrieved 12 August 2016. 
  33. ^ Singh 2005, p. 47.
  34. ^ a b Singh 2005, p. 48.
  35. ^ "About Directorate General Resettlement, Ministry of Defence". www.dgrindia.com. Retrieved 13 August 2016. 
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "General K.M Cariappa Biography – General K.M Cariappa Profile, Childhood, Life, Timeline". www.iloveindia.com. Retrieved 13 August 2016. 
  37. ^ a b Singh 2005, p. 49.
  38. ^ a b Singh 2005, p. 41.
  39. ^ Singh 2005, p. 45.
  40. ^ The London Gazette: no. 37747. p. 4946. 4 October 1946. Retrieved 19 April 2015.


Further reading[edit]

  • K. C. Cariappa (2007). Chaudhuri, Dipa, ed. Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa (2nd ed.). New Delhi: Niyogi Books. ISBN 978-81-89738-26-6. 
  • Edel Weis (2002). Field Marshal Cariappa: The Man who Touched the Sky. New Delhi: Roopa & Co. ISBN 978-81-7167-944-7. 
  • Brig CB Khanduri AVSM (Retd) (1995). Field Marshal K M Cariappa, His Life And Times. New Delhi: Lancer Publishers & Distributors. ISBN 978-1-897829-75-2. 
  • Brig CB Khanduri AVSM (Retd) (2002). Field Marshal K M Cariappa: A Biographical Sketch. New Delhi: Dev Publications. ISBN 978-81-87577-02-7. 
  • LS Seshagiri Rao (2001). Field Marshal KM Cariappa – Immortal Lights. Bangalore: Sapna Book House. 
  • IM Muthanna (1964). General Cariappa. Mysore: Usha Press. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Lt. Gen. Dudley Russell
General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command
Succeeded by
Lt. Gen. S. M. Shrinagesh
Preceded by
Roy Bucher
Commander-in-Chief, Indian Army
Succeeded by
Rajendrasinhji Jadeja
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
M.S. Duleepsinghji
High Commissioner of India to Australia and New Zealand
Succeeded by
K.R. P. Singh