CHENNAI:In an event to honour a fallen hero of World War II, the Colours of Glory (CoG) Foundation recently organised a commemorative meeting in memory of Subedar Subramaniam, George Cross (posthumous), a soldier of the erstwhile British Indian Army who lost his life while fighting overseas. Several members of the CoG, an organisation dedicated to promoting awareness of India’s military heritage, attended the event. The chief guest was OS Durailingam, son of the late Subedar, who was felicitated in the presence of renowned historian S Muthiah and Jose Manavalan, former commandant of Military Engineer Group (MEG), formerly called the Madras Sappers.
Born in 1912 at Keelvodivakkam village, Chengalpet, Subedar was a second generation soldier, after his father, who had served as honorary lieutenant in the British Indian Army. “He served with the Queen Victoria’s Own Madras Sappers and Miners, an engineering group that was responsible for the construction of bridges, detection and building mines. He was posted with the group to Italy during the Italian campaign of World War II,” explained Capt DP Ramachandran, founding trustee, CoG. Subedar was just 32 when he took part in the Battle of Monte Casino (1944), which is regarded as one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. However, his untimely death came not in the face of enemy fire, but in a courageous act that saved several lives of his contingent. He was operating the mine detector when a Lance Naik behind him stepped on an anti-personnel mine. Knowing they had only seconds before the explosion, Subramaniam threw himself over the mine, neutralisingthe explosion but unfortunately losing his life.
“His wife Shanmugavalli, was 27 then,” rued Ramachandran. “She accepted the George Cross (posthumous) from the then Viceroy of India, Lord Wavell, for her husband, which made him the first Indian to receive it.”
The Sangro River Cremation Memorial near Torino di Sangro, Italy, remembers the officers and men of the Indian forces who lost their lives in the Italian campaign, and Subramaniam’s name is inscribed there as well. The MEG has a mess named after him, and the Indian Army built his bust in his village. Hi statues are also seen in Bengaluru and Kashmir and a plaque with his name and deed written on it at the India Gate in New Delhi.
“We need the public to know there are heroes like this who need to be emulated, even in public life,” said Maj General Jose Manavalan. “We have many heroes in the south but unfortunately they are not well known….we need to dispel the myth that we are not a martial race — the thambis are as martial as anybody else.”
The Colours of Glory Foundation has also started a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for Military Heritage Week coming up in August.
For details, visit https://milaap.org/fundraisers/Military-Heritage-Week