Demands for an Indian military training academy
During the Indian independence struggle, Indian leaders recognized the need for a local military institution to meet the needs of an armed force loyal to sovereign India. The British Raj was reluctant to commission Indian officers or to permit local officer training. Until World War I Indians were not eligible for commission as officers in the Indian Army.
Following the experiences in World War I, where Indian soldiers proved their mettle but British officers had difficulty leading the soldiers in the field, the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms facilitated ten Indians per year to undergo officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. In 1922 the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College (now known as the Rashtriya Indian Military College) was set up in Dehradun to prepare Indian boys for admission to Sandhurst. The Indianisation of the Army started with the commissioning of 31 Indian officers. Among this first batch of officers to be commissioned was Kodandera Madappa Cariappa, who later became the 1st Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army and 2nd Indian Field Marshal.
Despite demands, the British resisted expansion of the Indian officer cadre. Indian leaders then pressed for the issue at the 1st Round Table Conference in 1930. Eventually, the establishment of an Indian officer training college was one of the few concessions made at the conference. The Indian Military College Committee, set up under the chairmanship of Field Marshal Philip Chetwode, recommended in 1931 the establishment of an Indian Military Academy in Dehradun to produce 40 commissioned officers twice a year following two and a half years of training.
Inauguration to Independence
The Government of India transferred the erstwhile estate in Dehradun of the Indian Railways' Railway Staff College, with its 206 acre campus and associated infrastructure, to the Indian Military Academy. Brigadier L.P. Collins was appointed the first Commandant and the first batch of 40 Gentleman Cadets (GC), as IMA trainees are known, began their training on 1 October 1932. The institute was inaugurated on 10 December 1932, at the end of the first term by Field Marshal Chetwode.
In 1934, before the first batch had passed out, then Viceroy Lord Willingdon presented colours to the academy on behalf of George V of the United Kingdom. The alumni of the first batch to pass out of the academy in December 1934, now known as the Pioneers, included Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, General Muhammad Musa and Lieutenant General Smith Dun, who became the Army Chiefs of India, Pakistan and Burma, respectively.
Through the first 16 regular courses that passed out of the academy, until May 1941, 524 officers were commissioned. But the outbreak of World War II resulted in an unprecedented increase in the number of entrants, a temporary reduction in the training period to six months and an expansion of the campus. 3887 officers were commissioned between August 1941 and January 1946, including 710 British officers for the British Army. The academy reverted to its original two and a half year course of training at the end of the war.
Following the independence of India in August 1947, a number of trainers and cadets left for Britain and Pakistan. Brigadier Thakur Mahadeo Singh, DSO, was appointed the first Indian Commandant of the academy.
In late 1947, the Chiefs of Staff of the Indian Armed Forces following the recommendation of a 1946 committee headed by Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, decided to initiate an action plan to commission a new Joint Services training academy. In the interim, they decided to conduct Joint Services training at the IMA. The IMA was renamed the Armed Forces Academy and a new Joint Services Wing (JSW) was commissioned on 1 January 1949, while training of Army officers continued in the Military Wing.
The academy was renamed as the National Defence Academy (NDA) on 1 January 1950, ahead of India becoming a Republic. In December 1954, when the new Joint Services training academy was established in Khadakwasla, near Pune, the NDA name along with the Joint Services Wing was transferred to Khadakwasla. The academy in Dehradun was then rechristened as Military College.
Brigadier M.M. Khanna, MVC was the first IMA alumni to be appointed Commandant of the IMA at the end of 1956.
In 1960, the academy was renamed back to its founding name, as the Indian Military Academy. On 10 December 1962, on the 30th anniversary of the academy's inauguration, the second President of India, Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, presented new colours to the academy.
From 1963 until August 1964, following the Sino-Indian War, the duration of regular classes was truncated, emergency courses were initiated and new living quarters for cadets were added. However, unlike previous wars, the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 and that of 1971 did not disrupt academy training or graduation schedules.
In 1976, the four battalions of the IMA were renamed the Cariappa Battalion, Thimayya Battalion, Manekshaw Battalion and Bhagat Battalion with two companies each in honour of Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa, General Kodendera Subayya Thimayya, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and Lieutenant General Premindra Singh Bhagat, respectively. On 15 December 1976, then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed presented new colours to the IMA.
In 1977, the Army Cadet College (ACC) was moved from Pune to Dehradun as a wing of the IMA. In 2006, the ACC was merged into the IMA as its Siachen Battalion.
By its 75th anniversary in 2007, IMA had trained over 46,000 officers commissioned into armies of the world, including Angola, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Ghana, Iraq, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tonga, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia besides those of United Kingdom, Pakistan, and India.
The academy is located in the foothills of the Himalayas, about 8 km west of Dehradun in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. The campus is on National Highway 72, which separates the North and South Campus. The campus of the academy originally spanned 206 acres which was transferred to the academy along with existing buildings from the Railway Staff College. The academy area is 1,400 acres (5.7 km2).
Built in 1930, the Chetwode Hall on the Drill Square houses the administrative headquarters of the IMA and is also the hub of academic training. It has lecture halls, computer labs and a cafe. On the opposite side of the Drill Square is the Khetarpal Auditorium. Inaugurated in 1982, it has a seating capacity of over 2000.
A newer wing of the Chetwode Hall, added in 1938, houses the Central Library. It has over 100,000 volumes and subscriptions to hundreds of periodicals from across the world, besides multimedia sections. In addition, there are two branch libraries closer to the cadet barracks across the campus.
The IMA Museum on the campus displays artifacts of historic importance. Among other war relics, it displays the pistol of Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi of the Pakistan Army which he surrendered to Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora after signing the Instrument of Surrender to end the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.
The Commandant's residence is a handsome colonial structure with a landscaped 6 acre garden. It offers a panoramic view of the Tons River silhouetted by the Himalayas.
In the earlier years, cadets were accommodated in GC Quarters, consisting of the Kingsley and Collins Blocks. With the growth of the IMA to five battalions of cadets, some battalions are accommodated in barracks in the South and East Campus.
The IMA helipad is located in the Tons Valley in the northwest of the campus.
Developed in the 1970s, the South Campus of the IMA includes facilities for the Somnath Stadium and the Salaria Aquatic Centre. Other facilities on the South Campus include stables with a stud farm and a small arms shooting range.
The North Campus includes the Polo Ground along the Tons River. The Tons Valley to the Northwest of the campus is bounded by the forks and bends of the Tons River. It is used for para-dropping and para-gliding, besides battle training.
The IMA War Memorial, with its pillars and columns of Dholpur stone, pays homage to the alumni of the academy who have fallen in the course of action. At the sanctum sanctorum of the memorial is a bronze statue of a Gentleman Cadet with a sword presenting arms. The memorial was inaugurated by Field Marshal Manekshaw on 17 November 1999, just weeks after the Kargil War. IMA officers led and fought in the war, with some of them becoming household names in India for their gallantry. Among their ranks were two Param Vir Chakra recipients and eight Maha Vir Chakra recipients.
A trainee on admission to the IMA is referred to as a Gentleman Cadet. One reason for this is that the academy expects its graduates to uphold the highest moral and ethical values. Inscribed in the oak panelling at the Eastern entrance of the Chetwode Hall is the academy's credo, excerpted from the speech of Field Marshal Chetwode at the inauguration of the academy in 1932:
The safety, honour and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time.
The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.
Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.
IMA Cadets are organized as a Regiment with four training battalions, of three or four companies each. There were fifteen companies in 2010. Battalions are named for generals of the Indian Army, while companies are named for battles of the Army. An exception is the Sinhagad Company that refers to an earlier battle between the Marathas and the Mughals.
Cariappa Battalion: Kohima Company, Naushera Company, Poonch Company, Hajipir Company
Thimayya Battalion: Alamein Company, Meiktila Company, Dograi Company
Manekshaw Battalion: Imphal Company, Zojila Company, Jessore Company, Sangro Company
Bhagat Battalion: Sinhgarh Company, Keren Company, Cassino Company, Basantar Company
Siachen Battalion : erstwhile Army Cadet College
Cadets undergo training at the IMA for one year. An exception are trainees selected via the Combined Defence Services Exam of UPSC. These cadets who are graduates of a non-military college undergo training for one and a half years.
With the purpose of grooming future military leaders of the Indian Army, the training regime at IMA moulds the physical and mental attributes and sharpen the leadership skills of cadets. Physical training, drills, weapons training, leadership development and practices form the focus of the training.