Pran Nath Thapar

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Pran Nath Thapar
General Pran Nath Thapar.jpg
4th Chief of the Army Staff (India)
In office
8 May 1961 – 19 November 1962
Preceded byGeneral Kodendera Subayya Thimayya
Succeeded byGeneral JN Chaudhuri
Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan
In office
August 1964 – 1 January 1969
Personal details
Born(1906-05-08)May 8, 1906
DiedJanuary 23, 1975(1975-01-23) (aged 68)
White Gates, Chhatarpur, New Delhi
Military career
AllegianceBritish Raj Red Ensign.svg British Indian Empire
Service/branchBritish Raj Red Ensign.svg British Indian Army
 Indian Army
Years of service1926 - 19 Nov 1962
RankGeneral of the Indian Army.svgGeneral
Service numberIA-558[1]
UnitBadge of 1st Punjab Regiment 1945-56.jpg 1st Punjab Regiment
Commands heldFlag COAS India.jpg Chief of Army Staff
IA Western Command.jpg Western Army
IA Southern Command.jpg Southern Army
161st Indian Infantry Brigade
Badge of 1st Punjab Regiment 1945-56.jpg 1/1 Punjab
Battles/warsWorld War II
Sino-Indian War
Spouse(s)Bimla Thapar
RelationsKaran Thapar (Son)
Shobha Thapar (Daughter)
Premila Thapar (Daughter)
Kiran Thapar (Daughter)
Romila Thapar (Niece)
Valmik Thapar (Great-Nephew)

General Pran Nath Thapar (May 23, 1906 – June 23, 1975) was the fourth[2] Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army.

Personal life[edit]

General Pran Nath Thapar was born into a prominent Punjabi family. He was the youngest son of Diwan Bahadur Kunj Behari Thapar of Lahore. The historian Romila Thapar is his niece and the conservationalist and tiger expert, Valmik Thapar is his great nephew.

In March 1936, Thapar married Bimla Bashiram, the eldest daughter of Rai Bahadur Bashiram Sahgal and granddaughter of Rai Bahadur Ramsaran Das. Bimla Thapar was a sister of Gautam Sahgal, whose wife Nayantara Sahgal was a daughter of Vijayalakshmi Pandit and niece of Jawaharlal Nehru. General Thapar and Smt. Bimla Thapar had four children, of whom the youngest is the prominent journalist Karan Thapar.


After graduating from Government College, Lahore, he trained at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, passing out on 4 February 1926 as a second lieutenant. He passed out in the same batch as K.S. Thimayya, who also went on to become Chief of the Army Staff.[3] He spent the next year attached to a British Army battalion stationed in India. On 18 April 1927 he was formally appointed to the Indian Army, ranking as a second lieutenant.[4] He did his regimental duties with the 2nd battalion, 1st Punjab Regiment for ten years and later attended the staff courses at Quetta in India and Minley Manor in England.[5]

He served in Burma during the second World War in 1941 and later in the Middle East and Italy. By October 1942 he was serving on the staff as a brigade major.[6] He was appointed as assistant military secretary in 1945, and commanded the 1st Battalion of the 1st Punjab Regiment in Indonesia in 1946. Subsequently, he went on to serve as the commander of the 161 Indian Infantry Brigade in East Bengal. During the Partition of India, Thapar officiated as the Director of Military Operations and Intelligence.

In November 1947, he was promoted to the rank of major general. He served as the Chief of the General Staff for a few months and later as Military Secretary until August 1949. He was appointed Master General of Ordnance on August 1949.

On 1 January 1950, Thapar was promoted to substantive major-general.[1]He commanded an Infantry Division for four years till 1954 and was promoted to the local rank of lieutenant general in 1954 as Commander of a Corps. He was selected to attend the Imperial Defence College, London in 1955. After successful completion of the course, he was appointed General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command on 21 January 1957, with the acting rank of lieutenant-general,[7] and was promoted to the substantive rank on 1 February.[8] He became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Western Command in 1959. Thapar took over as Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army on 8 May 1961 and served until 19 November 1962. He was also colonel of the Rajputana Rifles. He was head of Indian army during the Sino-Indian War and resigned in disgrace on 19 November 1962 for his dismal failure during the war.

Later life[edit]

After retirement, he was appointed as Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan from August 1964 to January 1969. He died on his farm, White Gates, in Chhattarpur, New Delhi, on 23 January 1975 at the age of 69.

Awards and Decorations[edit]

Param Vishisht Seva Medal
General Service Medal 1947
Videsh Seva Medal
Indian Independence Medal
1939–1945 Star
Burma Star
War Medal 1939–1945
India Service Medal

Dates of rank[edit]

Insignia Rank Component Date of rank
British Army OF-1a.svg Second Lieutenant British Indian Army 4 February 1926[3]
British Army OF-1b.svg Lieutenant British Indian Army 4 May 1928.[9]
British Army OF-2.svg Captain British Indian Army 4 February 1935[10]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-3.svg Major British Indian Army 1940 (acting)[11]
1 January 1941 (temporary)[11]
4 February 1943 (substantive)[12]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-4.svg Lieutenant-Colonel British Indian Army 20 August 1944 (acting)[11]
20 November 1944 (temporary)[11]
10 August 1946 (war-substantive)[11]
British Army (1928-1953) OF-6.svg Brigadier British Indian Army 2 November 1945 (acting)[11]
10 August 1946 (temporary)[11]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-3.svg Major Indian Army 15 August 1947[note 1][13]
British Army OF-7.svg Major-General Indian Army November 1947 (acting)
1 January 1950 (substantive)[1][note 1]
Major General of the Indian Army.svg Major-General Indian Army 26 January 1950 (recommissioning and change in insignia)[13][14]
Lieutenant General of the Indian Army.svg Lieutenant-General Indian Army 1 September 1953 (local)[15]
21 January 1957 (acting)[7]
1 February 1957 (substantive)[8]
General of the Indian Army.svg General
Indian Army 8 May 1961[16]


  1. ^ a b 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 and four-pointed Bath Star ("pip"), was retained, 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, with a five-pointed star being substituted for the "pip."


  1. ^ a b c "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 24 June 1950. p. 70.
  2. ^ B-R Archived 2009-03-02 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b "No. 33130". The London Gazette. 5 February 1926. p. 888.
  4. ^ "No. 33296". The London Gazette. 22 July 1927. p. 4721.
  5. ^ Indian-Army Archived 2014-02-01 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Indian Army List October 1942
  7. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 9 March 1957. p. 58.
  8. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 9 March 1957. p. 59.
  9. ^ "No. 33396". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 June 1928. p. 4268.
  10. ^ "No. 34142". The London Gazette. 15 March 1935. p. 1810.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Indian Army List Special Edition for August 1947. Government of India Press. 1947. pp. 146–147.
  12. ^ "No. 36042". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 June 1943. p. 2579.
  13. ^ a b "New Designs of Crests and Badges in the Services" (PDF). Press Information Bureau of India - Archive. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 August 2017.
  14. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 11 February 1950. p. 227.
  15. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 5 December 1953. p. 262.
  16. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 27 May 1961. p. 134.
Military offices
Preceded by
Kodandera Subayya Thimayya
Chief of Army Staff
Succeeded by
Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri
Preceded by
Kalwant Singh
General Officer Commanding - in - Chief Western Command
Succeeded by
Daulet Singh
Preceded by
Kodandera Subayya Thimayya
General Officer Commanding - in - Chief Southern Command
Succeeded by
Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Not sure
Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan
Succeeded by
Not sure