The Proudest Day: India's Long Road to Independence

By Anthony Read; David Fisher | Go to book overview

27
'Plan Balkan'

Ismay, Miéville and an advance party of Mountbatten's staff left London's Northolt aerodrome on the morning of 19 March 1947, aboard the York aircraft MWI0I, which had been allotted to the king during the war. The viceroy‐ designate left next day in his trusty MWI02, with Edwina, their daughter Pamela, Ronnie Brockman and Peter Howes. They arrived in Delhi three days later, only two hours after the advance party, largely because Ismay had insisted on regular stops at civilized hours in Malta, Fayid in Egypt, and Karachi. Mountbatten, of course, was in too much of a hurry to bother with such niceties.

Both parties were met at Palam airport by Auchinleck, who 'more than astonished' Ismay by appearing in a beret. 'Have you gone mad, Claude?' Ismay blurted out. 'Where is your topee?' Ismay had been brought up, he says, 'in the belief that anyone who failed to wear a pith helmet while the Indian sun was still in the sky was a lunatic'. Auchinleck replied that 'on the contrary, we had all been mad for a hundred years or more to wear such an uncomfortable and unnecessary form of head-gear'. 1 Auchinleck's beret may have seemed a small thing, but it was somehow symbolic of the radical changes that the British needed to make in their thinking on India. To his credit, Ismay was quick to adapt to the new climate, and to appreciate the enormous developments since he had last been there, not least the scale of communal bitterness, which came as a great shock.

Auchinleck had changed his beret for a regular service cap when he returned to the airport to greet Mountbatten. Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan joined him in the reception committee; Nehru in a white Gandhi cap and long sherwani coat, Liaquat in a grey Persian lamb Jinnah cap above a European lightweight suit, both thereby making their positions clear from the outset. The Mountbattens were driven through the wide, dusty avenues of New Delhi in an open landau, escorted by the governor-general's bodyguard of cavalry in full dress, to the Viceroy's House where Lord and Lady Wavell were waiting on the red-carpeted

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The Proudest Day: India's Long Road to Independence
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Proudest Day - India's Long Road to Independence *
  • Contents *
  • List of Illustrations *
  • Glossary *
  • Maps *
  • Acknowledgements *
  • Prologue *
  • 1 - In Quiet Trade *
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  • Epilogue *
  • Source Notes *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
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