The importance of Landi Khana-2

Here are a few other pictures of Landi Khana station when it was open in 1926-32:

Landi Khana camp

Landi Khana camp-2

Unlike now, there are some fortified compounds near the station as well as local habitation.

We also look at the Pakistan Railways timetable of  November 1972. It was still officially called the Pakistan Western Railway.

PWR 1972 001

This also shows the timetables of three of the narrow gauge lines which were all closed by the early 90s.

The line to Landi Kotal now had services only on Sunday, still with the hard-working HGS locos. Sometimes the SGS 0-6-0s were also seen there.

Now we return to the India-Pakistan war of 1971 which resulted in the liberation of Bangladesh. While most of the action took place in what was then called East Pakistan, there were also significant military operations involving the armies, navies and air forces of the two countries.

There were a significant number of POWs captured on both sides. The Indian army officers and other ranks were imprisoned at Lyallpur (now Faisalabad), while the relatively smaller number of 12 IAF officers were sent to a PAF prison at Rawalpindi.

The story of the escape has been covered in several books, such as:

“Death Wasn’t Painful”, by DS Jafa (who was one of the POWs, though not one of the three escapees)

“Four Miles to Freedom”, by Faith Johnston (a journalist who had access to the concerned persons in later years).

and an appendix in “My Years with the IAF” by Air Chief Marshal PC Lal, which is written by another escapee Harish Sinhji.

These are all available from Amazon in and other Amazons.

They are all worth reading, although the second one may be a little better written.

I am not going to recount the full details of the story, which you can read in the books mentioned above. There is also a film “The Great Indian Escape” which is being released in October 2019.

The three who escaped were :

Flight Lieutenant Dilip Parulkar

Flight Lieutenant MS Grewal, and

Flight Lieutenant Harish Sinhji

The actual escape from the prison was not too difficult. The question was how to get back to India. A basic map of the northern half of Pakistan may help:

Pakistan Punjab-map

If you are trying to get from Rawalpindi to India, you have to cross through a long stretch of relatively populated areas and then the well-guarded borders with large defensive positions on both sides. Even in August 1972 (long after the cease-fire) it would be extremely dangerous.

But reaching the Afghan border was simpler. The distance from Rawalpindi to the border crossing at Torkham (beyond Landi Kotal) was considerably less. Then, unlike now, Afghanistan was a relatively peaceful country and it would not have been a major problem to contact the Indian embassy in Kabul or other sources once beyond the border.

So the western route it was. The only problem is that no one was familiar with the exact route to the border. While the IAF had struck as far as Peshawar, no one had a clear idea of how to get to the border from there.

Help came in the form of a variety of books which were sent to them from the stocks of various Pakistani cantonments. One of them was “Murray’s Guide to India” which was probably from the 1920s or the 1930s. This used to be the standard handbook for traveling Brits in India during the Raj, and was packed with exquisite details and maps.

I could not locate the exact edition which the POWs used, but it may have had maps like this one from an earlier edition in 1903:

1903 Afghan Frontier by Murray

 

At that time the railway had ended at Jamrud.

Perhaps a good map would have been like this (an extract from the official Indian Railway map of 1933):

NW India 1933 001

In this map Landi Khana is shown as the terminus, as it was until 1932.

Thus, the escapees reasoned, they should make their way to Peshawar and then to Landi Khana which was only about a mile from the border. They were to pose as PAF officers on holiday.

From Harish’s account:

Landi Khana plan 001

The escape on the night of 12 August 1972 initially went like clockwork. They left through a tunnel to the adjacent road at about 00.30 on the 13th. In a short while they found a Peshawar-bound bus, which reached its destination by dawn. By 06.00 they had got to Jamrud, and then to the fort which is known as the gateway to the Khyber. A friendly local helped them to get on a bus to Landi Kotal, which was effectively the last town in Pakistan. It was then 09.30, nine hours after leaving the camp.

Continuing with their plan, they enquired about transport to Landi Khana which was about four miles ahead. Many of the locals were puzzled, as no one had any reason to go there. Finally they got an offer for a taxi. By then they had aroused a lot of curiosity.

The local Tehsildar’s clerk  came up and started questioning them. What followed is summarized here in an extract from Jafa’s book:

Landi Khana capture

To cut a long story short, they were taken into custody. They were soon on their way back to the prison at Rawalpindi. If only they had known better than to ask for a long-vanished place……

The IAF officers were then sent to the larger and more secure camp at Lyallpur where the 500-odd Army prisoners were already housed. Ultimately all of them were repatriated in early December 1972 after spending almost a year in captivity.

However, if they had kept quiet and somehow made their way to the lightly-guarded border 4-5 miles away, they should have been able to enter Afghanistan and ultimately return to India. Or maybe not, since the people of Landi Kotal were familiar with stranded Bangladeshis trying to leave Pakistan by the same route.

Perhaps today’s IAF pilots have been briefed better. Wing Commander Abhinandan did not have time to plan an escape, which would have been almost impossible as he was the lone Indian prisoner at the time.

 

 

Quiz answers (29 Sep)

1. Why did Morarji Desai celebrate his first birthday when he was eight years old?

He was born on Feb 29, 1896. Thus his birthday appears only in leap years. There is also a rule that a century year such as 1900 is a leap year only if it is divisible by 400. Thus he saw Feb 29 only in 1904, when he was 8 years old.

2. There was a West Indies cricketer named Sewnarine Chattergoon. What would the original first name and second name be if his family had remained in India?

Sewnarine = Shivnarain is simple enough. Chattergoon is derived from Shatrughan, according to a Trinidadian friend of Indian ancestry.

3. Which famous American writer has a close connection with Halley’s Comet?

Arthur Hailey was a nice guess. However, the answer is:

Mark Twain

(This used to appear on US aerograms some years ago).

4. Which American President has lived the longest?

Jimmy Carter, who will celebrate his 95th birthday on Oct 1.

Earlier this year he overtook George Bush (Sr) who passed away last year at 94+.

5. Which presently famous town in Pakistan was a part of Oman until 1957?

Gwadar. See more details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwadar#Omani_rule

6. What does Mukesh Ambani have in common with British politician Keith Vaz?

They were both born in Aden, then a British colony and now a part of Yemen. There used to be a sizeable Indian population there.

7. You have heard of Christ and Antichrist. Which state in India has an (almost) anti version in the form of another country?

Goa and Antigua (strictly, Antigua and Barbuda).

8. The Karakoram Highway does not pass through the Karakoram Pass. Which pass does it go through?

The Khunjerab Pass. See this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karakoram_Highway

9. Which popular German band had a name which is the German for “power station”?

Kraftwerk (known for electronic music since the 1970s)

10. Back to 1. Morarjibhai was not the longest lived PM of India. Who was?

Remember that Gulzarilal Nanda does appear in the list of Indian prime ministers.

See this chart: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_prime_ministers_of_India

Both Morarji Desai and Gulzarilal Nanda crossed 99. If you look at their individual articles, you can see that the latter lived for 99/06/12, overtaking the former who reached 99/01/13. Manmohan Singh is a youngster who has just celebrated his 87th birthday. Next in line is HD Deve Gowda who is 86+. AB Vajpayee crossed 93.

11. The only non-human ape native to India is the Hoolock gibbon. How did it get this name?

The official answer appears to be that this is the Assamese name for it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoolock_gibbon

However, other sources mention that this is related to the sound they make. Google for audio/video of the animal and decide.

If you have heard of the Rafflesia and Russell’s Viper, you would be excused for thinking that it was discovered by an Englishman named Hoolock (as in Jackson Pollock and Shaun Pollock).

 

 

The importance of Landi Khana-1

You would have heard of Landi Kotal, long known as the terminus of the Khyber Railway and the main cantonment guarding the head of the pass.

Landi Khana is not so well known. We first look at a detailed map of the Khyber Railway, which featured in an article by Victor Bayley and Gordon Hearn, the men most responsible for the construction of the line:

Khyber map

This lists all the stations on the line. Most of them were not shown in timetables.

The line was completed up to Landi Kotal in 1925 and to Landi Khana in 1926. Actually the line (or at least the embankment) was built up to a point right on the border. This point is mentioned as Tora Tigga Nala in contemporary accounts, though it is unclear what exactly it was (A station? or siding? or no track at all?)

Trains ran all the way up to Landi Khana in the first few years. Then the King of Afghanistan “requested” the Indian government to close the last stretch of the line. So no trains ran beyond Landi Kotal since 1932.

Here we see the 1930 NWR timetable for the line going all the way to Landi Khana:

Landi Khana TT 1 001

My old friends from Dehradun would note the passenger train connecting Peshawar Cantt with that city. Coming to the point, we see from the small print that the trains ran between Landi Khana and Peshawar twice a week, and started from Landi Kotal on the other five days. This was the peak traffic for this line; by the time regular services ceased in 1984 the train ran up to Landi Kotal only once a week.

In the reverse direction, we see the same pattern, except that on Sundays the train left Peshawar later to provide a connection with the Frontier Mail and ran up to Landi Kotal.

Landi Khana TT2

Timetables in later years mentioned that “Passports will be examined at Jamrud”, meaning that you needed a passport to travel into the tribal territory where the British government had limited powers. However (as my father recounted), tourists from other parts of India could travel up to Jamrud, probably have their picture taken there, and say that they had visited the Khyber.

This is a picture of Landi Khana station (which obviously was taken between 1926 and 1932):

LANDI_KHANA_STATION_1932

Note the Gurumukhi script. And the ever-reliable HGS locos which tackled the Khyber and Bolan passes without much fuss.

There appears to have been a small military outpost here, but it must have closed long ago. Which is why many people (even those presently living in Pakistan) do not know of its existence. As we will see, the remnants of this station still stand but there does not seem to be anything around it. The local villagers still use water from the water pipes laid in the 1920s for watering engines.

This is a grab from a video taken a few years ago:

Landi Khana station today

No one has bothered to remove the Gurumukhi inscription, which has been done in many stations in Punjab since 1947.

You may find it interesting to watch this 9-minute video (entirely in Urdu) from 2017 to see this place as a sideline to a trip up to the Afghan border:

One of the places they passed was this station which was one of the stops on the excursion trains which ran until the floods wrecked the line in 2008.

Shahgai (Khyber)

Here another sign in Gurumukhi script still survives, unlike this one from pre-partition Lahore:

Lahore-just-before-Partition

If you approached the Afghan border, you would see this sign if you tried to cross anywhere except the official route:

Afghan border(3)

And if you did succeed in crossing, you could look back and see this:

Afghan border

It should not be difficult to understand what P, J and LKL were. In those days all distances were measured in miles.

Now, you may say, you have told us all about a corner of Pakistan so obscure that few Pakistanis (leave alone Indians) have heard of it. Why is it important?

The answer is: It was important to know about it if you were an Indian POW in Pakistan in 1972.

To be continued.

 

Cricket Obituaries-2018

Here is a list of prominent cricketers who passed away in 2018. Apart from male Test players who are covered in full, other categories covered here would be female international players, ODI and T20I players, Test umpires, administrators and major domestic players. The last two categories are subjective, depending largely on whether the compiler has heard of them earlier.

This is delayed until the end of September 2019 as some deaths are reported late-sometimes even years later for lesser-known players.

Information is summarized from the obituaries in Cricinfo and Cricketarchive.

Cricket obits-2018

Here is a note about Bevan Congdon: https://abn397.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/bevan-congdon-r-i-p-and-his-indian-connection/

Century on debut and not even a fifty again

Data correct up to Sep 16, 2019:

We have already seen the list of those who scored a century on debut and never scored a century again: https://abn397.wordpress.com/2019/09/26/century-on-debut-and-never-again/

Many of them did at least score some fifties after their debut. Some did not. Here is the list of these 19 unfortunates:

Century on debut and no fifty ever again.JPG

First is C Bannerman, the first Test century-maker.

The most recent is TA Blundell, who is likely to play again.

The most Tests played here is 12 by van Zyl followed by 10 by DR Smith and 9 by FC Hayes.

Ganteaume played in only one Test (in fact only one innings).

Hartigan and Blundell played 2.

The highest scores here are by Kuruppu (201*), Fawad Alam (168), Khalid Ibadulla (166) and Bannerman (165*)

Pataudi (Sr) played 3 Tests each for England and India. He is probably the only captain here.

Century on debut and never again

Data correct up to Sep 16, 2019

A total of 105 batsmen have made a century on debut. They have accounted for 107 centuries (since LG Rowe and Yasir Hameed scored two centuries on their debuts).

But 40 of them never scored a century again (including Yasir Hameed). Two of them played only one Test (AG Ganteaume and RE Redmond) and many had short careers. Some had longer careers and made several fifties but no centuries. The complete list is:

Century on debut and never again

Apart from the luckless 1-Test players, many played for one or two series only.

Those members of this club who played the most Tests are “honorary member” Yasir Hameed (25) and L Amarnath (24) followed by SK Raina (18). The most fifties are by 8 by Yasir Hameed followed by SK Raina (7) and Umar Akmal (6). Only one other (Hanumant Singh) has made 5 fifties.

C Bannerman’s century in the first ever Test is well known.

Note the father and son combination of L Amarnath and S Amarnath. The other son M Amarnath had a less successful debut but ended up as a leading batsman with several crucial centuries.

Aminul Islam and KJ O’Brien emulated C Bannerman and made centuries in the first Tests of their countries.

The bottom 4 (from Blundell onwards) are likely to play again. Some Pakistan fans feel that Fawad Alam has a chance of playing again although his last Test was in 2009.

The highest scorer here was RE Foster with 287 (which is the highest score on debut and was the Test record until A Sandham made 325 over a quarter century later). The only other double century is by Kuruppu (201*) Next are HD Rutherford (171), Yasir Hameed (170) and Fawad Alam (168).

Then there was the “Indian jinx”. It stemmed from the fact that for a long time, ALL Indian players who scored a century on debut never scored another. Namely:

L Amarnath (1933)

RH Shodhan (1952)

AG Kripal Singh (1955)

AA Baig (1959)

Hanumant Singh (1964)

One could also include the senior Nawab of Pataudi who played first for England and then for India.

GR Viswanath made a century on debut in 1969 and then a second one in 1973, thus ending the jinx.

Ultimately, 15 Indian players (not including the senior Pataudi) made a century on debut. Those who made centuries after their debut were Viswanath, Azharuddin, Ganguly, Sehwag, Dhawan and RG Sharma.

Those who missed out include the 5 listed above as well as S Amarnath, Amre, Raina and Shaw (although the last is likely to play again).

Then there are the tragic cases of those who never scored even a fifty after their debut. (RE Redmond is an exception as he scored a century and a fifty in his only Test. His son AJ Redmond played 8 Tests with two fifties and a top score of 83.)

Those 19 unfortunates deserve a separate post:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2019/09/27/century-on-debut-and-not-even-a-fifty-again/

 

Preview of India-SA Test series-2019

India’s next Test engagement is against South Africa, with 3 tests scheduled as follows:

Oct 2-6: Visakhapatnam

Oct 10-14: Pune

Oct 19-23: Ranchi.

This also forms part of the World Test Championship. Here are the standings on Sep 15:

WTC table Sep 2019

This being a 3-Test series, each Test has 40 points for a win, 20 for a tie and 13 (not 13 1/3) for a draw.

We look back at Test matches between these teams:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2018/01/28/review-of-south-africa-india-tests-jan-2018-pt-1/

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2018/01/30/review-of-south-africa-india-tests-jan-2018-pt-2/