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Men of Valour

by Valmiki Faleiro

Foxes from the cane fields they might have been, going by village nickname the enterprising sons of Saligao earned for taking up large-scale sugarcane cultivation in their village. But, “Foxes of the Desert” (with due apologies to Gen. Erwin Rommel) several of them sure were. Let us, briefly, take a peek at some of the valorous sons that Saligao gave to the nation as officers in the defence services.

Thanks either to the Mutiny of 1857 or to racism, it was not easy for Indians (and more so for Goans hailing from Portuguese India!) to get into the officer ranks of the armed forces during the British era. Indians could get in only via the Auxiliary Force, whose membership was open only to Anglo-Indians. Among the first known Goans commissioned as officers in the Indian Army was Quitla-Aldona’s Brig Edward (“Jimmy”) Rodrigues and his two younger siblings, Maj Joe Rodrigues and Brig Arnold Rodrigues. But then, their father was an influential businessman based in Yavatmal, now in Maharashtra – he was Mayor, MLA, and was bestowed by the British with the title of “Sardar Bahadur.”

Ingenious Entry

Less privileged Goans had to devise more ingenious methods of gaining entry. Among the first sons of Saligao to get into the army was Brig George F D’Souza, brother of Archbishop Eugene D’Souza of Nagpur, later of Bhopal. It is said that young George tweaked his Lusitanised “Jorge Francisco de Sousa” name to the anglicized George Francis D’Souza – and got into the army as an Anglo-Indian! His peers describe both George and his wife as very positive people who spread cheer and encouragement wherever they went … until, after retiring from service and settling in Bangalore, their only son Charles – a Squadron Leader (helicopter pilot) with the Indian Air Force – died young of cancer leaving behind his widow and a 2-year old son in 1981. The gregarious parents never really recovered from the shock.

Another brother of Brig DSouza was Maj Valentine (“Vally”) D’Souza, while two of his sons-in-law are Maj H B D’Souza from Mapusa and Cmde John Carneiro from Porvorim. Quite a defence-oriented family, but not the only one from Saligao.

Maj Albert Francis Winington da Costa-Joshi, FRCS, was both in military and civil medical services. Of his sons, one is Brig Ian da Costa, another is Cmde Emile da Costa-Joshi. (The third son is Fr. Albert da Costa-Joshi, SJ.) Brig da Costa was awarded a VSM for counter insurgency operations in the North East between 1983-85. Not once, but twice before, he was recommended for gallantry awards, both in the 1965 and 1971 wars.

The son of Saligao to rise to the highest post in the Indian Army short of chief of staff was Lt Gen Eric Alexander Vaz. He commanded an operational brigade in Punjab in the 1965 war and held several other key operational and service posts in the army thereafter until retirement.

Let us now briefly look through Saligao’s Hall of Fame, service-wise, then rank-wise:

ARMY

  • Lt Gen Eric Alexander Vaz
  • Brig George Francis DSouza
  • Brig Ian D’Costa
  • Col Edwin D’Souza was with the Army Dental Corps
  • Lt Col Ivo Pinto Lobo
  • Maj Albert Francis Winington da Costa-Joshi, FRCS
  • Maj Valentine (“Vally”) D’Souza
  • Maj Vincent Fernandes

NAVY

  • Cmde Emile da Costa Joshi
  • Cdr C J D’Souza
  • Cdr Joel Cordeiro (IMS, Dental)
  • Lt Cdr Angua RG D’Melo
  • Lt Jose Figueiredo D’Melo

AIR FORCE

  • Sqn Ldr Charles D’Souza
  • Avertano P. Fernandes was a Bomber Navigator (rank at retirement not known)
  • Tereza Sequeira was a medico in the IMS (rank at retirement not known)

Author’s Note: The above list is sourced from a database, still under construction, on Goan officer ranks in the three wings of India’s defence services. It is, therefore, by no means complete. There would be far more Saligaokars who helped defend the nation’s borders and honour… readers who can add to this list, please do get in touch (valmikif on Gmail)

4 comments on Men of Valour

  • sunishkc

    Dear
    i need address n contact number of Brig Ian Dcosta. i know him when he was posted in jaipur.
    wanna talk to him.
    please help
    sunish

  • arun

    Dear sir
    i need address n contact number of Brig Ian Dcosta. i know him when he was posted in Ranikhet
    can you help?
    regards

  • Desmond da Costa

    Brig. Ian da Costa resides at his ancestral house at Saligao;

    House No. 8/122, Bairo Alto Vaddo, Saligao, Bardez, Goa – 403 511

    Res. Ph. No.: 0832 – 2409195

  • FN

    Brig. Ian can be contacted on 9422059288 or +832-2409195. It might interest you to know that he’s currently (Oct 2013) working to finalise his memoirs.

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