Once an Indian Navy Sea Hawk took of from INS Vikrant! It’s mission – Marriage!!
Sometime in May 1965 the war clouds with our Western neighbour were building up and Vikrant steamed out into the Arabian Sea to provide some gunboat diplomacy. Such sudden deployments cause disruption in the lives of the crew but that is what the men in Uniform are about. To operate under VUCA conditions they are adept. One such disrupted young Lieutenant who was a pilot of the Sea Hawk was scheduled to proceed on leave to get married the day the ship sailed.
Possibly after a lot of discussions with his superior, his Captain ordered him to take off at dawn on the big day in his Sea Hawk and set course for Bangalore and get back to deck by 0600 hours the next morning! Off went our young bridegroom. The Navy is strict, but it likes to take care of its seamen. Fleet Commander BA Samson blessed the adventure. But how did he carry his clothes and toothpaste?
A bright technician suggested they empty out the cannon ammunition bay and that made just enough space for his clothes to be stuffed. Onto the steam catapult and off to old HAL airport at Bangalore. The bride of this arranged marriage lived close to the airport and between the nervous MIL and pensive FIL and clueless bridegroom’s parents they didn’t know what to do. Here was the auspicious day and the hero nowhere in sight. Because the ship was on a full alert patrol there was no radio communication (and age without mobiles, remember?)
Even the HAL airport control tower did not know that our man was zeroing in till he asked permission to land! Then suddenly the piercing roar of the Rolls Royce turbo jet filled their ears and thumped their hearts. Our man deftly landed, parked his flying machine and was whisked for the muhurattam with minutes to spare.
Next morining 0400 hours he took off again and in little over 90 minutes got back to the carrier deck in the middle of the sea. This young pilot was SK Gupta, who later commanded INAS 300 White Tigers in the 1971 war and was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra.
On his return to the ship there were no flowers on the ship to celebrate, his fellow pilots garlanded his with a mala made of vegetables. And his collegueas wrote ‘Just Married’ on his Sea Hawk with a pair of boots tied to the nose of the aircraft.
I love the Men in Uniform and their ways … Long Live India!