Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lt Col Paul Baylon Fernandes

After schooling at Loyola-Margao and graduating from Dharwar, whence he was selected to the IMA (then 'Armed Forces Academy'), Lt Col Fernandes was com. in 1951. He graduated again from the College of Military Engineering and his first posting, in 1956, was in counter-insurgency ops in Nagaland. During the 1961 Goa Operation Vijay, he commanded a motorized column of 17 Infantry Division ("Black Cat"), entering Goa from the border at Anmod. The motorized column encountered difficulty at Sanvordem and at Quepem, where bridges had been blown off by the retreating Portuguese troops - but also a warm welcome by the local populace.

At Quepem, a substantial assemblage of civilians had turned out to greet the Indian troops. After the womenfolk performed 'aartis' to the column's leader, the menfolk approached him with folded hands, proffering directions to Margao and Vasco in whatever Hindi they could muster.

Lt Col Fernandes, then a Capt, replied in chaste Konknni. The dumbstruck audience was almost floored. A Goan, and a Catholic at that, leading the mechanized column of the Indian Army? The crowd burst into jubilation! Lt Col Fernandes has several hilarious memories of those days, when he was based at Alpalqueiros-Vasco, where the last Portuguese Governor General, Gen Vassalo e Silva was held PoW.

Lt Col Fernandes visited relatives and friends, even attended the New Year ball at Clube Harmonia-Margao. He had the colonial Guv's fleet of limousines under his command, used all but abused none!

Lt Col Fernandes went with an Infantry Brigade on a UN peacekeeping mission to Congo in early 1962 - making the Chinese aggression of that year India's only armed action he did not participate in. during the 1965 war, he was on the eastern front at Agartala. In 1971, on the western border near Wagah.

Having generally served in border areas, he was deputed for a term in Tezpur with the Border Roads Organization. Lt Col Fernandes took premature retirement when serving in Bangalore in 1979, where he was the 3rd President of the Karnataka Goan Association (1981-83). Resides in Margao. From Sarzora.

Source:  Pages 91-92

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