This is the story of our hero and our father Framroze R. Bhandara, who served with pride in the British Navy during World War II. He was born in Mumbai into a middle class Zoroastrian priestly family to Tehmina and Rustomji Bhandara. The purpose of writing this article is to motivate our Zoroastrian youth to join the armed services, be it the Army, Navy, or Air force.
Being the elder daughter, I had the good fortune of listening to my father’s adventurous stories and was completely fascinated by the diversified cultures of various islands in UK, which he had visited. The dance and costumes that he described greatly amused me. When I grew older and came across the same in school, I realized that much of what he shared was true and that I was already aware of that. Summarizing all the stories and viewing his medals, trophies and documents, made me and my little twin brothers Zarrir & Cherag feel very proud to have him as our father. He was truly a hero to us.
Fali, as he was fondly called was a young lad of 19, who after completing his matriculation, was contemplating his future, when a signboard that read: “JOIN THE NAVY AND SEE THE WORLD” got his attention. During that period, India was ruled by the British, and World War II had already started. After training he was sent to Rangoon – Burma, a jungle-like territory. While he and his comrades were there, they sometimes had nothing to eat, and, were compelled to roast and eat a dead horse to survive. Later on he was transferred to the southern region in India (I cannot recollect the specific geographical location) and from there he was positioned on a war ship as the Leading Gunner. As per his documents the year was 1940, and this was the first warship with an all Indian crew sailing towards Great Britain.
Midway through his journey, Nazi forces started bombing the British ship, by attacking the British soldiers through air strikes. The Nazi war plane swooped low on Fali’s ship and an active battle took place. Fali valiantly fired rounds at the Nazi war planes, forcing the Nazis to flee, leaving the ship he was on, unharmed. Now at a matured age, I am beginning to grasp the level of stress and determination & realize what it really must have been like, to be in the line of fire continuously, and I am amazed by the skill, judgment, fearlessness and vigilance my father had exhibited at that young age of 19. He was in England, Belfast, Dublin and Glasgow from 1940 to 1949, on active duty, serving the Royal Indian Navy.
In one of the aerial strikes on the British Isles, he was injured whilst saving a comrade’s life. He was shot in his forearm and the elbow, and he would proudly show the scar to us as his trophy for saving a life.
Since he was positioned in the British Isles for Naval warfare, the essential parts of his duties included war submarines and under water diving, in which he excelled.
After the war he continued and returned to India for good in the fifties, with war stars and medals. He was released as a Class “A” officer.
Along with the exciting adventures, there was tragic sadness and rage when fellow soldiers dropped dead and sometimes there would be strong fights amongst the Indians themselves, which was like the law of jungle. These searing emotions made him to become very stern in nature.
Fali was a very humble man, never ever boasting or telling anybody, except his children, about his life in the UK. He followed a simple lifestyle, upon first glance one would never imagine that he had spent twelve exciting, adventurous years in Great Britain, while defending his country. Furthermore, he knew some tap dancing and waltz, but at heart he was an Indian and a simple Bawaji, who loved his Parsi food.
Later on he joined the Municipal Corporation and worked in the water department for 30 years. He married a Parsi lady Khorshed from the entrepreneurial Writer family, and had three children (Hira, Zarrir & Cherag) and passed on to his spiritual journey at the age of 69.
Unfortunately, much of the noble and brave deeds of brave young Indian militia have gone unnoticed, because they were not descriptively documented by the British, in the heat of war.
Our salute to you oh Father Fali,
“The drums may not beat, the sirens may not blow, but
Our love for you will remain forever.”
Scans of documents & medals attached.
The above article was written by Hira, Zarrir, and Cherag Bhandara and forwarded to us by Meher Amalsad