Know About General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya
General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya was born in Madikeri, the district town of Kodagu (formerly known as coorg), Karnataka, on 31st March 1906, to Thimayya and Sitamma. His family was one the leading coffee planters in the area. His mother, Sitamma, was highly educated and a social worker. She was the recipient of Kaisar-e-Hind Medal. Thimayya was the second child of six children in his family. The eldest was Ponappa, then Thimayya, followed by Somayya, and three younger sisters. All three boys of the family rose to become officers in the Indian Army.
General Thimayya was sent to Bishop Cotton Boy’s School in Bangalore. After completing school, General Thimayya was sent to the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Millitary College, a necessary stepping stone for a commission in the Indian Army. His elder brother Ponappa later joined INA, younger brother Somayya joined Indian Army but unfortunately died in a mine accident in 1947-48 during Kashmir operations. Following his graduation from RIMC, General Thimayya was one of the sixth Indian cadets selected for further training at the Royal Millitary College, Sandhurst.
After completing his training, he was commissioned into Indian Army on 4th Feb 1926 as a Second Lieutenant. General Thimayya was subsequently attached to the Highland Light Infantry, prior to the permanent posting with a regiment of the British Indian Army. He was soon posted to the 4th Battalion of the 19th Hyderabad Regiment (now known as Kumaon Regiment) on 28th May 1927, and was promoted to Lieutenant on 4th May 1928. General Thimayya honed his soldiering skilles on that famous training ground in the Northwest Frontier, battling recalcitrant Pathan tribals.
In January 1935, General Thimayya married Nina Cariappa who was a recipient of the Kaisar-e-Hind Medal for her philanthropic contribution during the 1935 Quetta earthquake. Meanwhile General Thimayya was promoted to Captain on 4th February. On 20th March 1936, they had a daughter, Mireille. On April 1936, General Thimayya was posted as Adjutant at the university training corps in Madras, as a fitting example for young Indian undergraduates intrested in joining the Indian Army, of what a good soilder should be.
After his tenure at University Training Corp, General Thimayya was posted to his battalion in Singapore. In early 1941, he was promoted to the acting rank of Major, and at his request, was transferred to India in October. General Thimayya was posted as the Second-in-command of a new raising at the Hyderabad Regimental Centre in Agra. He was detailed to attend the staff college at Quetta where he and his wife had earlier made a name of themselves by selfless service during the 1935 Quetta earthquake. General Thimayya was promoted to the temporary rank of Major on 1st April 1942, and to the substantive rank of Major on 4th February 1943. He then served as GSO2 (ops) (a grade II staff officer) of 25th Indian Division, the first Indian officer to get this coveted staff appointment.
His infantry division was conducting jungle warfare training and was preparing to go into Burma to face the Japanese Army during the Second World War, serving in Second Arakan campaign. General Thimayya was promoted to acting Lieutenant-Colonel on 19th May 1944 and to temporary Lieutenant-Colonel on 19th August 1944. In Burma, he was posted to his old regiment as Commanding Officer of 8/19th Hyderabad, which he led with outstanding success in battle. General Thimayya was also promoted to the acting rank of Brigadier in the field on 1st April 1945. For his outstanding service in battle, he was awarded the much coveted Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O) and also a Mention-in-Dispatches.
General Thimayya represented the country during the surrender of Japanese in Singapore, followed by the surrender of Japanese in the Philippines. At the ceremony of Japanese surrender in Singapore, he signed on behalf of India. He was awarded the ‘Keys to Manila’ when he was sent to Philippines. His innate talents of Professional soldiering and leadership where soon recognised by Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army. General Thimayya was specially selected to lead the 268th Indian Infantry Brigade as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation force in Japan after World War II. He got this assignment due to his outstanding battle experience as a Brigadier and being the only Indian to command a battle formation in the field. As a matter of policy, the British avoided giving operational command to Indians. Thimayya was the only expectation.
As an independent brigade, the 268th had done excellent work in the Burma Campaign and was detailed as a part of BRINDIV led by Maj Gen D T “Punch” Cowan. Then Brig Thimayya proved to be an outstanding commander and his diplomatic skills emerged as he had to deal with General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Allied Commander of the Southwest Pacific Theatre, the other Allies and the vanquished Japanese. Gen Thimayya’s personality, charm of manner and unassailable reputation, impressed the Japanese of the calibre of Indian Commanders. Gen Thimayya was called on to defuse the sit-down strike by the 2nd Battalion, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles at the place of the Emperor of Japan in Tokyo when the battalion refused to obey its British Officers.
As Indian Independence approached, he was recalled to India by then Commander-in-chief of British India, Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck.
During the Partition General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya returned to India in 1947 as a member of the committee to agree the allotment of weapons, equipments and regiment that were to remain in India, or to be allotted to Pakistan. Soon after the partition, he was promoted to the rank of Major-General in September 1947 and was then assigned the command of 4th Infantry Division and also to take over the Punjab Boundary Force, dealing with the exodus and intake of refugees fleeing to their respective countries. In 1948 he was one of the active officer in the actions against the forces of Pakistan in the conflict over Kashmir. Soon after he was appointed as the commander of the 19th Infantry Division in Jammu and Kashmir he succeeded in driving the raiders and the Pakistani Army out of the Kashmir Valley. He was personally leading the attack in the forward area. On 1st NOV 1948 he surprised the Zoji La by attacking with the Stuart Little Tanks of the 7th Light Cavalry and succeeded in driving out the powerful raiders and also the Pakistan Army and eventually captured Dras, Kargil and Leh. Gen Subayya maintained good relationship with Sheikh Abdullah, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and even with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Thereafter Gen Subayya Thimayya served as the commandant of the Prestigious Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun. The experience gained by Gen Subayya in Japan gave him the great opportunity and was specially selected by the United Nations to head the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission in Korea. After the success of Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission task, he returned to India and was promoted to General Officer Commanding, Southern Command, with the rank of Lieutenant-General, in JAN 1953. In 1954 he was awarded with Padma Bhushan for Civil Service.
Gen Subayya Thimayya was assumed as the charge of Indian Army, as the 6th Chief of the Army Staff, on 7th May 1957. He then briefly resigned his post in 1959 over a dispute with V K Krishna Menon, the Minister of Defence (India). Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru refused to accept his resignation and persuaded him into withdrawing it. Completing 35 years of distinguished military service, he retired from the Army in 1961, almost 15 months before the Chinese invasion of India in NOV 1962.
When Gen Subayya Thimayya retired from the Indian Army, the United Nation sought his service and once again he was appointed as the Commander of UN Forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP) in July 1964. However, he, unfortunately, died during his tenure at UNFICYP in Dec 1965 and his mortal remains with full respect was flown to Bangalore for the last rites.
General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya is survived by his wife, Nina Cariappa and his daughter, Mireille.