Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fauji Namesakes

Today's HT had an interesting bit about the nephew of Shaheed Bhagat Singh being a Major General in the Indian Army. The interesting thing was not the pedigree but his unusual name - Sheonan Singh.

I had heard of Captain Singh and Jarnail (General) Singh but "Sheonan" was certainly a bold leap of imagination! It turns out that he had been named after a Japanese kamikaze pilot who had crashed into HMS Prince of Wales during WW-II.

"Sheonan" does not quite sound like a Japanese name... is it a corruption of "Shounen", meaning a boy or lad? Perhaps. But according to British naval records this ship was destroyed by torpedo bombers on 10 December 1941 and not by suicide attacks which started only in 1944 after significant military defeats for Japan.

In any case, the last time I heard about such a cross-border 'military inspiration' was during Operation Desert Storm, when there had been some reports that Saddam Hussein's son Uday had been named after a Punjabi soldier who fought in WW-I.

Google reveals that Sheonan Singh (then a Major with 10 para's) won his Vir Chakra during Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka. He was the only officer who survived IPKF's infamous Jaffna University Raid on the LTTE, on 12 October 1987.

But the question remains - who was the original "Sheonan"?

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