Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Mhow Mercury - WW2 STC (B) India Publication

It’s long since I shared any WW2 publication. Frankly speaking, it is more difficult to gather any information on literature items specially if they were local to some unit in some country. Today’s item is one of such thing. It’s called “Mhow Mercury” a WW2 paper covering the social activities of the S.T.C. (Signal Training Center), Mhow, India. Before we even hit upon Mhow, let’s dive into history of Signals!

~~~~~~~~~~~~Royal Signals~~~~~~~~~~~~

It all started with formation of Royal Signals (India) or Corp of Signals (now known as Indian Army Corp of Signals)on the 15 February 1911 as a separate entity under Lt Col S H Powell in India. Lt Col SH Powell,Royal Engineers, was the founder and first head of the Indian Signal Service which later became the Indian Signal Corps.Till then, the Sappers part of the Indian Army Corps of Engineers established in 1777, where in charge of passing battlefield messages. The Corp of Signals celebrated its centenary in 2011.

Corps of Signals (India) was itself part of Royal Corp of Signals just like all the similar establishment of British Commonwealth. Until World War 1, the Royal Engineer Signal Service provided communications. During that time the Dispatch Rider (DR) came into prominence and wireless 'sets' were introduced into service. Wireless communications were provided in France and Flanders and also in the campaigns in Salonika, Palestine and Mesopotamia.

It was not until 1918, when the first official agreement to form a separate Signal Corps was made, but due to various policy delays the formation of the 'Corps' was delayed until 1920. A Royal Warrant was signed by the Secretary of State for War, the Right Honourable Winston S Churchill, who gave the sovereign's approval for the formation on the 28th June 1920 of a 'Corps of Signals'. Six weeks later His Majesty the King conferred the title 'Royal Corps of Signals'. During the 1920s and 1930s the Corps increased its strength and had personnel serving in overseas stations such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon, Egypt, Jamaica and many other 'out - posts of the Empire'. The largest portion of the Corps was overseas and one third was concentrated in India.

Throughout World War 2 members of the Corps served in every theatre of war and at the end it had a serving strength of 8,518 officers and 142,472 soldiers. During the war 4,362 members of Royal Signals gave their lives.

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As part of Corps of Signals establishment, two Training Centers were created in India: one in Jabalpur and the second in Bangalore. On partition, the assets of the Centre at Bangalore were transferred to Pakistan. We will focus upon the Jabalpur and surrounding training centers.

Mhow (cantonment) town was founded in 1818 by John Malcolm as a result of the Treaty of Mandsaur between the British and the Holkars who ruled Indore. John Malcolm's forces had defeated the Holkars at the Battle of Mahidpur in 1818. It was after this battle that the capital of the Holkars shifted from the town of Maheshwar on the banks of the Narmada to Indore.

Mhow gained in military status early in the 20th century as part of the reforms brought about by General Kitchener. With his wide experience of warfare in Egypt, the Sudan and Africa, he saw that the existing broad spread of military units over the country might usefully serve local troubles but had no merit for military action against an invader. He rightly foresaw that there were potential enemies in the north, Russia amongst them, who might take advantage of the situation if improvements were not made. He therefore set about grouping fighting units into Brigades and Divisions. Mhow became a Divisional Headquarters and formation training became part of the routine of life. Mhow was the headquarters of the 5th (Mhow) Division of the Southern Command during the British Raj.

There is total lack of unanimity on how Mhow got its name. There are many theories about this, but there is no confirmation about which theory is true.

Many people believe that MHOW stands for Military Headquarters Of War. There is no proof for this as it is said that the village near Mhow has been called Mhow Gaon since time immemorial. Thus the Cantonment which came up in 1818 came to be known as Mhow Cantt.

The Mahua (Madhuca longifolia) tree which grows in profusion in the forests around Mhow has also been mentioned as a possible source for the name of this town.

It was a town of modest size in open undulating country with the advantage of an altitude of 1824 feet. It therefore provided a climate that was never oppressive. The countryside was open, neither forested nor lacking trees. All in all it was a good choice for training establishments.

It led to creation of The British Signal Training Centre, STC(B) for short which undertook the revision training of soldier tradesmen after their long sea voyage from England and also ran courses for new specialties or upgrading. The Officer Cadet Wing, which was part of it, received its input from Officer Cadet Training Centres in England as well as those at Dehra Dun, Bangalore and Mhow itself in India. These had given basic officer training for all future officers.

The Cadets then moved on to specialist training appropriate to the branch of the Army that they intended to join. It was a great advantage for both nations that the British and Indian components of our courses should meet and make friends with each other during the four month duration of their Signals training.

From 1933-40, Indian commissioned officers were trained at the Signal Training Centre (STC) Jabalpur and Army Signal School, Poona. Besides this, specialist training was imparted at the Telecommunications School, Agra and Communication Security School (Cipher) at Mhow.

But after creation of the Signals Officers Training School, as part of the STC (British) Mhow, trained cadets commissioned into the Royal Signals as well as the commissioned officers of the Indian Signal Corps during 1940-46. All these institutions, except the Army Signal School, Poona, were amalgamated at Mhow on October 1, 1946 to form the Indian Signal Corps School. After independence, it was renamed the School of Signals on June 25, 1948.

The school was organised to train Young Officers (No 1 Squadron), Tech Training (No 2 Squadron) and Cipher Training (No 3 Squadron). However, in 1947 the squadrons were renamed Coys. By early 1949, the establishment was revised again and the school re-designated the School of Signals.

On October 1, 1967, the School of Signals was re-designated "Military College of Telecommunications Engineering" (MCTE) in keeping with the advanced technical training being imparted in the Institution, and the Wings were renamed Faculties.

The Mhow Mercury

Mhow Training Center came into focus after the Japanese invasions in Burma and North East India. Before that Indian Divisions, largely British-officered, were moved to the Mediterranean area and played an important part in that area including, in the Italian campaign. After the rapid expansion of Mhow Training Center, a recreational paper was planned which gave birth to “The Mhow Mercury”.

It had overall only 36 issues starting first issue on 27th July 1944 and final issue on 29th March 1945. The majority of the issues were 6pp, some were 4pp, and one was 2pp and the final issue 10pp. It was printed at the Imperial Printing Press, Mhow initially and then at the Rasalpura Electric Press, Mhow (Vol. 2, No. 4 onwards).

Here is what editorial section of first edition has to say:

No fanfare of Trumpets; no Red Carpets; no Garlands of Orchids as the first edition of the new Mercury goes to press. The aim of this publication is to give you the up-to-date news on events in this station, far removed from the horrors and grim machinations of war. This is YOUR paper, and it is to you that we look for criticism. But don’t keep your comments to yourselves. Let us have them. Write your suggestions or criticisms on a piece of paper, add your name and number, and hand it in to your Wing office.

May be you have an idea which will benefit the social activities of the S.T.C. Let us have it, and if it’s good, we’ll use it. Remember it’s YOUR paper and we want you to help in its publication.

Have you a bona fide grievance? Do you wonder why the Thrift shop only opens on Friday? Are you worried about your stoppages, your food, your Income Tax? Drop us a line and we’ll give you an explanation. One thing more, be brief for we’re short of space.

Maybe you have a short story or an article on ‘Dhobis’ tucked away in your Kit Bag. Send it in maybe you’ll hit the headlines.

Our Live Letter Box and Poet’s Corner are your features. Keep them going, chaps.

The weekly publication of this paper depends on YOU. So, with apologies to Winston Churchill we say, Give us the scripts, and we’ll continue the job.

Here is what editorial section of last edition has to say:

Sir James Grigg’s recent statement that general demobilization would not come into effect until Japan in beaten, has shattered the hopes of those, like myself, who were optimistic of early release when Germany is beaten. If the Govt. makes this decision general throughout the world, and rule out all possibility of ‘string pulling’, this news is not as depressing as it first seems.

After the downfall of the Third Reich, two million more men will be available for the Far East theatre of operations, and the Govt. will then have little excuse for not bringing repatriation down to 3 years of even less.

The British press has long been telling its readers of the bitter winter conditions our troops are suffering on the Western front. We realize, and appreciate, the hardships suffered by them and we hope for an early victory, in order that they can come east to enjoy the splendor and warmth of an eastern summer.
A famous London newspaper reported that a welcome was given to troops home from Burma, who had for three and a half years been sweltering in a temperature of 80 degrees (Celsius). If proof were needed that the 14th Army has been forgotten, then you have it here. The newspaper concerned would do well to study temperatures in Burma before again making such a faux pas.

As the German army crumbles and their cities are systematically razed to the ground by Round-the-Clock bombing by allied air forces, a child of seven wrote to Air Chief Marshal Harris, thanking him for bombing Germany off the map. The reason which prompted her to write this letter of thanks was, she said, because the removal of Germany from the earth’s surface would make her Geography lessons easier.

Be of good cheer, the road which the allies have travelled since Sept. 1939 has been hard and long. The end is in sight, and before 1945 has petered out, great events will have taken place and sanity will once more come into its own.

As this final issue comes off the press, Mercury says farewell to the S.T.C. To those contributors who have helped us in the past, to Aunt Sally and Passionate Percy who responded to our appeal for regular contributors, we say thank you. Continued lack of interest in this paper justifies the decision by the A.O. and Editor to close it down. Alternative arrangements will be made to advertise the Unit entertainment and Cinema programmes within the Unit.

The Mhow Mercury Editions:

No. 1, 27th July 1944
No. 2, 3rd August 1944
No. 3, 10th August 1944
No. 4, 17th August 1944
No. 5, 25th August 1944
No. 6, 31st August 1944
No. 7, 7th September 1944
No. 8, 14th September 1944
No. 9, 21st September 1944
Vol. 1, No. 10, 28th September 1944
Vol. 1, No. 11, 5th October 1944
Vol. 1, No. 12, 12th October 1944
Vol. 1, No. 13, 19th October 1944
Vol. 1, No. 14, 26th October 1944
Vol. 1, No. 15, 2nd November 1944
Vol. 1, No. 16, 9th November 1944
Vol. 1, No. 17, 16th November 1944
Vol. 1, No. 18, 23rd November 1944
Vol. 1, No. 19, 30th November 1944
Vol. 1, No. 20, 7th December 1944
Vol. 1, No. 21, 14th December 1944
Vol. 1, No. 24, 4th January 1945
Vol. 1, No. 25, 11th January 1945
Vol. 2, No. 1, 18th January 1945
Vol. 2, No. 2, 25th January 1945
Vol. 2, No. 3, 1st February 1945
Vol. 2, No. 4, 8th February 1945
Vol. 2, No. 5, 15th February 1945
Vol. 2, No. 6, 22nd February 1945
Vol. 2, No. 7, 1st March 1945
Vol. 2, No. 8, 8th March 1945
Vol. 2, No. 9, 15th March 1945
Vol. 2, No. 10, 22nd March 1945
Vol. 2, No. 11, 29th March 1945

Unfortunately, I have Vol. 1, No. 22, 21st December 1944 and Vol. 1, No. 23, 28th December 1944 edition missing in my collection.

Before I end this long post, I would like to suggest my readers to have a look on:

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I believe that my grandfather may have spent much of the 1939-1945 war at a Royal Signals officer in India, perhaps at Mhow, ending up as an acting Lieutenant Colonel, although a substantive major. Would your copies of the Mhow Mercury have any record of an Alan Desmond Carrette? Many thanks!

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