BENGALURU: A grand old Pioneer who inspired the army died in Bengaluru on Sunday.
Ashwin Kumar Das (95) was family to the Pioneer Corps Training Centre in Bengaluru. He died at the Red Cross Society. Pioneer units assist the army in rail and road engineering and construction.
His family hails from Bangladesh. He is survived by a sister and a nephew, both of whom live in Scotland. One of his brothers was with the Bangladesh police and the other was a civilian.
Das was born in 1921 on the border of Bangladesh and India. He was enrolled in the Auxiliary Pioneer Corps in 1941, and saw active operations during World War II (1941-45) in Africa and Italy. He was injured in the Battle of Monte Cassino, and retired subsequently. “He had lost three fingers on his right hand,” a military officer said.
On retirement, the veteran moved to the Red Cross Home at Bengaluru. Since 2006, he was being looked after by the Pioneer Corps Training Centre.
Col B Shrinivas, commander at the centre, said, “One of our officers used to visit him once a week to keep him posted about our activities. Even I used to visit him and we shared many light moments.”
Das would not miss national events at the training centre. “He also used to attend the Rising Day of the centre on November 25,” an official said.
The veteran had no complaints and no demands. He was humble and courteous to everyone who visited him. “I had asked him several times if he had any problems. He always replied he was fine,” Shrinivas said.
Sometime in 1996, one of Das’s brothers had visited him at the Red Cross House.
The forgotten hero of World War II and the Independence struggle was proud of his army days. “He would be happy every time I went to see him, and say the uniform has a charm,” Shrinivas said.
Battle of Monte Cassino
In 1944, during World War II, Ashwin Kumar Das fought in the historic battle to gain control of Monte Cassino in Italy. The battle cost the Allies about 55,000 lives, and the Germans about 20,000. Das lost three fingers in the battle, according to a military officer who had been in regular touch with him.
Das a Man of Habit: Caregiver
Ward boy Xavier (left) remembers unloading the war veteran’s suitcase in 1991. Ever since, he has been caring for him. “He was a man of habit. Every morning, he would go for a walk and come back to eat an egg and a paratha,” he says. “He went to bed early. He often spoke of Pioneer Corps Training Centre with fondness.”