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Raj Mohindra was an Indian sailor who served on HMS Gambia as a midshipman for her 1952 - 1954 Commission. Raj went on to have a very successful career in the Indian Navy and later as an education administrator.
Raj R. Mohindra
Captain Mohindra has held appointments of Staff Officer to the Chief of Naval Staffs, Naval Advisor, UK and Commander (S) INS Vikrant. INS Vikrant was a Majestic-class aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy. The ship was laid down as HMS Hercules for the British Royal Navy during World War II, but was put on hold when the war ended. India purchased the incomplete carrier in 1957, and construction was completed in 1961. Vikrant was commissioned as the first aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy and played a key role in enforcing the naval blockade of East Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. In its later years, the ship underwent major refits to embark modern aircraft, before being decommissioned in January 1997.
After leaving the Indian Navy, Captain Mindra became Chief Executive, Indian Express, Mumbai; Director, India Supply Mission, London; and General Manager (Commercial), Shipping Corporation of India. His expertise lies in the establishment on international schools, vocational education institutes and rural education complexes.
In 1997, he founded an educational consultancy, Raj Mohindra Consultants Pvt Ltd (RMC), specialising in setting up new educational institutions, especially international schools and schools affiliated to pan-India Boards. Capt Mohindra was also the Founder Director of the Mahindra United World College of India (MUWCI), its first CEO and Project Director and was associated with the UWC movement in India from 1982 to 1998. In 2016, Raj was awarded the Lifetime Achievement in Education Leadership Award by Education World, Bengaluru.
While on HMS Gambia, Raj was present in for both the rescue operations on the Greek island of Zante in August 1953 and the visit by the Queen and Prince Philip to Malta in April 1954.
Raj wrote this of the Zante operation for The Indian Express of March 3, 2023:
On August 12, an Admiralty Signal directed the Gambia to proceed to the Greek island of Cephalonia and carry out relief work in Argostoli, which had been hit by a severe earthquake. At midnight, we were suddenly diverted to Zante, an island in the Ionian Sea, off Greece’s west coast, devastated by an earthquake of a far greater magnitude. We reached Zante the following morning and anchored in the harbour. There was a dense cloud of smoke rising from the island, and fires everywhere.
The signal to proceed to the stricken island transformed the Gambia into a beehive of activity. All relief equipment, medical supplies, food, etc, were mustered and distributed between three rescue platoons. I was in the first platoon comprising seven Midshipmen (six from the Royal Navy and one, me, from the Indian Navy, all aged around 18), two Chief Petty Officers, 15 Seamen and medical staff, led by a young Royal Navy Lieutenant.
Our platoon landed ashore at about 8 am. Zante was a communist island. We were received by a commissar who requested the party to rush immediately to a shattered building about two furlongs away where voices had been heard. On the way, we came across ghastly scenes. Men and women wailed over the dead bodies of their kin. Severely wounded children wept incessantly with no medical aid in sight. I cannot find words to explain the nightmarish sights and sounds. Once we reached the building, we searched for two or three hours, but could only retrieve five dead bodies. All day we were approached by more people pleading with us to rush to nearby buildings where many others were buried under the earthquake debris.
At the end of the day in Zante, while waiting for a boat to take us back to the ship, the commissar returned and said that people had heard cries in the debris of a building behind a church. We rushed to the scene. We were able to retrieve one dead body of a woman. But much to our surprise, a young lad of around 16 crawled out behind her. He refused to be lifted and said he was in perfect order. He explained that a dead body had obstructed his way out from under the debris. He was quite cheerful and embraced me.
After this rescue operation, to my surprise, a lady came running towards me, hugged me tight and planted a huge kiss on my lips! She was the mother of the young lad we had rescued from the building behind the church.
Near the end of long Commonwealth Tour taken by the royal family between November 1953 and May 1954, the royal children were on HMS Gambia on Tuesday, April 27. HMY Britannia was brand new and left Portsmouth with Prince Charles who was 5, and Princess Anne who was 3, on Wednesday, April 14, 1954 on its maiden voyage. It arrived at Malta on Thursday, April 22. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were on their Commonwealth Tour and after leaving Malta, HMY Britannia picked them up at Tobruk on Saturday, May 1, 1954 to bring them to Malta. This was how Raj took this photo of the children on HMS Gambia in little cruisers built by members of the crew:
Princess Anne in her own little cruiser on HMS Gambia, April 27, 1954
Raj R. Mohindra met Prince Charles again in 1992. This is an extract from The Statesman of September 15, 2022
I then pulled out a photograph from my pocket and told him, in good humour that in that case I would reproduce it in picture in lieu of his message. Prince Charles looked at the photograph intently and asked, "Where the hell did you get this from?” I said that in 1953 [sic], I was a Midshipman on board HMS Gambia, the Flagship of Vice Admiral Lord Mountbatten, Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, based in Malta.
The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and their children had been invited by Lord Mountbatten to visit Malta on a holiday. Her Majesty’s Yacht HMS Britannia was tied to a buoy in the Valletta harbour, just aft of Gambia. "One of the items on the programme was ‘Prince Charles and Princess Anne play with the Midshipmen on board the Gambia’. The boats in which you and Princess Anne are joyfully sitting were built on board by the Midshipmen. I took this photograph with my box camera." Prince Charles had a hearty laugh and said: "Oh, we have a blackmailer here!"