Those were the days when Selections ruled the roost at School of Artillery Devlali. It was skimming at the highest level of the Regiment of Artillery.
When we passed out of Indian Military Academy in 1982, we were forced to return our Blue Patrols for mere Rs 100 – all because the Artillery version had a red stripe on the trousers’ side which was half an inch thicker than what was provided by Kapoor & Co at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. While officers commissioned to all other arms/ services retained their Blue Patrols, we the Gunners had to return them to Kapoor & Co.
On joining Young Officers Course at School of Artillery, Devlali, every student officer had to get a new pair of Blue Patrol and winter ceremonial uniform or Service Dress (SD) stitched – costing over a thousand rupees those days – only from Selections. The reasons – obvious. A Second Lieutenant’s pay was much less than a thousand rupees a month then. Free rations was not entitled then and monthly mess bill ate into over half a month’s salary.
Service Dress is the style of khaki serge dress uniform introduced by the British Army for use in the field from the early 1902, following the experiences of a number of imperial wars and conflicts, including the Second Boer War. The uniform was originally issued as a field uniform, later designated as SD. Variant of this uniform continues to be worn today, although only in a formal role, as No. 2 Pattern dress by the British and the Commonwealth Armies. Indian Army too continued with a similar winter SD for the officers until 1990s. Today the Indian Army officers wear a similar uniform designated as Dress No. 5SD.
No. 1 Dress , sometimes referred to as ‘blues’ or ‘blue patrol,’ is a universal ceremonial uniform which is almost consistent throughout the Commonwealth Armies. For most regiments and corps, this No. 1 dress consists of dark blue tunic and trousers. Different units are distinguished by the colouring of the cap, piping on the tunic and of the welts or stripes on the trousers, as well as badges and in certain Cavalry Regiments by the colour of the collar.
Indian Army Blue Patrol consists of a ‘bandgala’ tunic and a trouser. The shoulder pips are embroidered along with ranks on the coat except for Armoured Corps officers who wear a chain mail along with their ranks on the shoulders.
It was not until 1981 when Second Lieutenant SP Mudholkar issued a show-cause notice and raised the issue with the School of Artillery against the order of getting the SD and Blue Patrl stitched only from Selections, inclusion of a private firm in the Offices’ Mess Bills for recovery . In those days, Mess Bills of various messes at School of Artillery had a serial dedicated to Selections. You can well imagine as to the patronage Selections enjoyed from the highest levels of the Regiment of Artillery – mostly occupied by officers belonging to the Khlan.
By the time we went to Devlali to attend our Young Officers’ Course in 1983, Blue Patrol and SD procurement was done away with – thanks to Second Lieutenant SP Mudholkar – else I too would have succumbed to the pressure from the Chief/ Senior Instructor. In those good-old days, any Young Officer refusing to procure their SD and Blue Patrol were marched up to the Chief/ Senior Instructor until they relented. Another tactic was to blackmail the Young Officer with a poor grading, though most ended up with a C grading. The Great Good-Old Days!!! Who wants to begin their military career on the wrong foot?
Selections appeared on the Mess Bills during our course- luckily for us it remained at zero value.
Three years later, Lieutenant General Sood, Commandant, School of Artillery, was appointed the Director General of Artillery – and away went Selections. The ‘baby‘ of the erstwhile higher-ups of Regiment of Artillery was thrown out with the tub, water, soap, and loofah to land in Devlali market.