On Monday 25th July, Lt General Bilimoria: His Life & Times – a biography of Lord Karan Bilimoria’s father, was launched at the Nehru Centre, the cultural wing of the High Commission of India, by the Indian High Commissioner, His Excellency Navtej Sarna.
The event celebrated the distinguished career of Lt General Faridoon Bilimoria, “Billy” to those who knew him best, with the book cataloguing his rise to heading the Gurkhas in India and being as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, of the Central Indian Army.
Speakers at the event included the author, Major General Ian Cardozo; H E Navtej Sarna, the Indian High Commissioner; Colonel Patrick Shervington, Chairman of the Cobra Foundation; and Field Marshal Sir John Chapple GCB, CBE who served as Chief of the General Staff of the British Army from 1988 to 1992, and who authored the book’s foreword.
The audience of leading figures from the British Army, as well as from the Bangladeshi, Gurkha, and Zoroastrian Parsi communities, were treated to anecdotes from the General’s peers about the major events that shaped General Billy’s unique personality, including his commission into the 2nd Battalion 5th Gorkha Rifles Frontier Force, a Battalion awarded 3 Victoria Crosses in the Second World War, his stint as the Indian Army Liaison Officer to the British Army, and the action he saw while commanding the 2nd/5th Gorkha Rifles Frontier Force in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.
Major General Cardozo spoke passionately about the role that the Indian Army played in the liberation of Bangladesh and even disclosed the BBC’s role in ensuring the early surrender of Pakistani forces by inadvertently over inflating the Indian Army’s strength.
He stressed that Billy turned challenges into opportunities, exemplifying the Army’s credo of placing the “Country First” and “Self Last”, noting that he was a thorough regimental officer and family man, who treasured his wife Yasmin and his two sons – Karan and Nadir.
He went on to say that it was Lieutenant General Bilimoria’s qualities that will cause him to be remembered as an inspiration to generations of Indians, both inside and outside the Army.
Lord Bilimoria commented:
“I was so proud to hear my father’s closest friends speaking with such warmth and affection about their time with him. He has been an inspirational figure to me over the years and, to this day, his advice remains a source of strength and guidance. This evening was especially significant to me as it brought the leading figures from my father’s life together to reflect and remember their shared adventures – it was wonderful to hear the impact that my father had on their lives on the 10th anniversary of his passing.”
As written in the foreword to Lt General Bilimoria: His Life & Times, Field Marshal Sir John Chapple comments:
“This book brings out the best of Billy, his family, his community and his Regiment, in the backdrop of an India and an Indian Army of which we are all so proud.”
Malcolm Deboo writes:
Dear ZTFE Members & Well-wishers
The successful book launch of ‘Lt General Bilimoria: His Life & Times’ authored by Major General Ian Cardozo AVSM, SM took place at the Nehru Centre on Monday 25th July 2016. Lt General Faridoon N Bilimoria, father of our patron Lord Karan F Bilimoria CBE, DL, was a highly decorated soldier of the Indian Army and was also well respected by the officers in the British Army, which was evident at the day of the book launch. The Nehru Centre was fully packed, standing room only, comprising of Armed Forces personnel from India and the United Kingdom, members of the Ghurkha, Bangladeshi and Indian communities including members of the ZTFE and the Zoroastrian Community. All of us were led to the auditorium by a Ghurkha soldier of the British Army playing the bagpipe. Following the book launch all of us were invited to a wonderful Indian meal by Lord Bilimoria.
Major General Ian Cardozo AVSM, SM, the author, himself is a war hero and a highly decorated soldier of the Indian Army. Few in the audience were aware that Major General Carodozo, who was a young Major in the 5th Ghurkha Rifles during the 1971 Indo – Pak war, sadly stepped on a Pakistani mine following the liberation of Sylhet in East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Since there was no medicine, thus nobody was willing to amputate his leg, so he cut his badly wounded leg with his own khukri. After the war, Major General Cardozo demonstrated to his superiors that even with one wooden leg, he was fitter then many other soldiers and officers with two legs. Through sheer will power and determination, he did not let his disability come in the way of his duty as a soldier and went on to become the first disabled officer in the Indian Army to command an infantry battalion and a brigade. Today, the Indian Armed Forces have other disabled officers, thanks to Major General Cardozo’s pioneering determination to overcome his disability.