Veteran recalls sinking of 'INS Kukri'
“War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory,” French War Minister Georges Benjamin Clemenceau once said and India’s most celebrated war – the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War – is no exception.
This day, 41 years ago, Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier INS Vikrant was making a lot of noise on the Eastern sector. Seaman Danny Dunstan was busy with his team working on navigation and direction aboard the ship which had already caused a considerable damage to the Chittagong harbour and airfield.
On the same day, in the Arabian Sea, INS Kukri, a frigate of the Indian Navy, was moving towards West Pakistan. Willam Ray, a telegraphist was aboard the ship.
A day later, on December 9, 1971, Danny and INS Vikrant were busy blowing away things on the Eastern side but Ray and INS Kukri had infamously sunk. This is Danny’s “catastrophe” of the great war.
Then, Danny was a young man winning a war. Now, at the age of 71, he is the Curator of the Martitime Museum in Kochi. “We were both (him and Ray) on the winning side, but my case was more literal. I still have his (Ray) image in my memory.” Commissioned into the Indian Royal Navy in 1961, Danny, was as old in the Naval service as INS Vikrant was in 1971. He was Ray’s senior from St Peter’s High School, Bombay (Mumbai). Ray was commissioned about three years later.
“Look, he was my school buddy,” Danny points at one of the many names that occupy a board at the museum, where Danny is working since 2004. It reads William Ray. Danny stands by the board, unable to take his eyes off that name.
Of all the things Danny shows around the museum, which has models of Vasco da Gama among other attractions, he spends most time at this board and the 1971 war collection.
The otherwise loquacious, fleet-footed Danny, slows down when he reaches this part of the museum. He waits till he gets everyone’s attention and says: “Look, he is my school buddy,” and narrates the story of how the INS Kukri was brought down by a Pakistani
submarine’s torpedo attack.
“The sad part was that we read about it only after everything was over on the Eastern side and we touched base in Kochi after winning the war...You know those things about morale and war, it prevented people from telling us,” Danny recollects.
Danny wishes Ray was on the other side of India, in the Bay of Bengal. But says: “I know him, it hurts. There were many more on Kukri and I know it hurts more people even today.”
His views on war are different now. "I do not know why people should indulge in war. May be it is necessary," he says. He is still a loyal soldier, but war has different connotations in his life today.