A LEGENDARY SUBMARINER FADES AWAY
- RADM ARUN AUDITTO
Of all the branches of men in the Forces there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than the submariners. – Sir Winston Churchill
We shall never forget that it was our submarines that held the lines against the enemy while our fleets replaced losses and repaired wounds. – Adm Chester Nimitz
Sleep well tonight because somewhere in the Ocean’s depth someone is protecting your freedom.
– A Submariner
RAdm Arun Auditto, AVSM, NM(G),(00176-Z) (NFMC, L-45) a Legendary Pioneer Submariner was the first Flag Officer of the Submaines of Indian Navy, India’s War Hero, who revealed to us the secret that prevented USS Enterprise and the Seventh fleet from entering the Bay of Bengal to rescue the 1Lakh Pak troops from East Pakistan during the 71 War.
A Legendary Submariner, who saw action during 1971 War and had played a key role in the assault on Anjadip island during the 1961 Goa liberation, transited to the higher realms of existence on the morning of 21 Apr 2021.
The departure of the legend from this planet unfolded when Mrs Rajana Auditto called up at 1115 hrs on 21 Apr 2021 during the online meeting of the NFMC CMC to convey the tragedy of Admiral’s fall in the bathroom and later his demise in the drawing room of his Malabar hill home. Cdr Vadhera informed the HQs and INS Vajrabahu and all possible assistance was rendered to the grieving family. The funeral was held at Chandanwadi cremation the next day. The assemblage at the crematorium was restricted to 20, due to the severity of the ongoing pandemic. Dignified last rites were accorded at the residence of the Admiral prior to his final departure, where Adm VS Shekhawat, PVSM,AVSM, VrC, our former CNS and a fellow Submariner laid wreath on behalf of all Veterans. VAdm RB Pandit, AVSM, COS WNC on behalf of CinC and CO Vajrabahu on behalf of all Submariners also laid the wreaths.
Adm Vijay Shekhawat, PVSM, AVSM, VrC
“I marvelled at Arun’s determination and effort, literally dragging himself every day over three flights of steps by holding on to the railings, just to exercise and keep going, his legs having given up on him. He was a thorough professional with an indomitable spirit and passionate devotion to the submarine arm and submariners as individuals. We were both in “B” squadron in 1952 and swam for the NDA team. In Vladivostok in 1966, we sat in class together, I translated and faired notes, he made diagrams and the end product was shared with others.
We last met at Karanj commissioning on 10 March and agreed to meet soon over lunch. I could not foresee that my friend for over 65 years would be unable to make it, having been summoned to some higher duty.”
Cdr Vijay Vadhera, NM(G), President NFMC
In the sad demise of founding father of S/M Arm, Adm Arun Auditto, we have lost our greatest stalwart, most respected leader and a fighter who shouldered our arms upbringing from inception till the time he took over as first Flag Officer Submarine. His devotion to the s/m arm was second to none. A true professional & strict disciplinarian legend has faded away . Have innumerable memories of him having served with him as SO(O) Virbahu when he was CO Virbahu , as his Staff Officer when he was FORTAN , as Cdr (Ops) when he was FOSM and again as Hon Secy when he was President NFMC. He was like a coconut , hard from outside and soft from inside who had a humane approach in dealing with his juniors. He even sent his BLO , Virbahu Late Cmde Anil Dhir on long leave so that I as newly married got the house in Naval Park for 2 months. His great contribution to the S/M can be assessed by the fact that the present leadership of the Arm has been trained by officers who were trained by them. The S/M arm will for long mourne the fading away of a great dolphin. He will remain immortal on the Kursura Museum beached at Vizag as the Commissioning CO .He shall remain live in our heart forever .My heartfelt condolences to his grieved family. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Our prayers , gratitude and respect for a beacon , stalwart and legend of our great Submarine Arm . Om Shanti.🙏🏽🕉
The greatest tribute that we can pay to a Legend who has faded away, is by remembering the glorious time spent with him. I recently met the Admiral, good lady Ranjana and their daughter Mondira, when despite Admiral’s frail health, they came to Borivali all the way from Malabar Hill to pay their last respects to a younger fellow Submariner Cdr SR Paranjape who had passed away on 06 Apr 2021(Last post video below).
In keeping with our foundation’s ‘meet and greet campaign’ to honour our Senior Veterans, Cdr Vijay Vadhera, President NFMC suggested me to call on our pioneer Submariner RAdm Arun Auditto. I contacted Mrs Ranjana Auditto a day prior and fixed up our programme of call-on at 6pm for 17th Nov at their Malabar Hill abode. She had instructed the ‘White House’ sentry for guiding us to the Parking slot as I and Meena wheeled into the compound. The ‘White House’ enclave represents two rows of beautiful white Bunglows either side of a straight descending concrete stairway on the Malabar Hill’s southern slope. The stairway was adorned with wonderful Sculptures and a Ganesha Idol. Meena leisurely got herself snapped with her favorite Ganesha as we nonchalantly stepped down to reach the wooden gate to the Admiral’s palatial heritage Bunglow on the right, overlooking the Sea limited towards the east by the horse-shoe shaped glistening Queen’s necklace of Chowpati.
Even before we could press the Bell, we were greeted by the fluffy Lara (Cocker Spaniel) wagging her tail. Adm Arun Auditto, Mrs Ranjana and the charming bubbly Mondira (their elder daughter) greeted us smilingly at the door. We warmly exchanged salutations and handshakes as Meena & I presented the glorious couple with a set of white carnations that Meena had crafted during our drive from Borivali. We were escorted to the ornated drawing room of the Heritage Bunglow that had a special corner designated as the Kursura corner adorning a Lifebuoy from the same Submarine that the Admiral commanded during the 71 War. The drawing room that was akin to a museum, had a study table on the opposite corner displaying various memorabilia and the Adm’s Flag reminiscent of his glorious service to our fine nation. Adjoining the drawing room was the balcony suite facing the sea and overlooking the Queen’s necklace, high rises of the Nariman Point and the Cuff Parade. We all entered this room and comfortable settled down in the Sofa and caned chairs.
Adm Auditto told us how the original ‘Aditya’ or ‘Adito’ a bengali Surname, got modified altogether to suit the British pronounciation ‘Auditto’. The Admiral went into his family history and told us that his father Shri Gyan Chander was an English Lecturer in Govt College Lahore, before shifting to Allahabad. Adm Arun was born in Allahabad on 24 Jul 1934. His elder brother Cdr Dilip Aditya joined the Indian Navy in 1940 and was from the first batch of Shivaji marine engineers. Young Arun passed out of Boys’ High School, Allahabad with 5 distinctions from Senior Cambridge. He then enroled in Ewing Christian College for a year before his selection for JSW, Dehradoon. He’s from the 5th NDA (1949) and Gen Bipin Joshi is his coursemate. After the JSW, Cadet Arun Auditto was posted to INS Tir (1954) for his cadetship and midshipmen training followed by Subscourses and Watchkeeping on board Godavari. After a little over 2 yrs tenures onboard Tir and Cannanore, Lt Arun Auditto was selected for Long TAS.
During his long course he met beautiful Rajana. daughter of an Army officer, Brig Victor Longar at the US club and they tied the knot on 21st May 1961. The couple are blessed with a Son Debashish (settled in Gurugram) and two adorable daughters Mondira and Gayatri. While Gayatri is settled in Pune and doing medical transcription in Hinjewadi, Mondira has dedicated herself in taking care of her parents.
On completion of Long TAS Lt Auditto was handpicked for HMS Dolphin to undergo Submarine specialisation. On return he was posted as sqn TAS Offr onboard INS Khukri for almost 2 yrs followed by an instructional tenure in TAS School. In 1965 he was promoted to the rank of LtCdr and underwent Russian language course and crew training for the first submarine Khanderi to be inducted from Russia. LtCdr Auditto was the commissioning ExO (1968-69) of Khanderi, that was brought around the cape of good hope. He was promoted to the rank of Cdr and took command of next S/M Kursura (Aug 1969-Mar 1972). His exploits of the Submarine during the War narrated below. Adm’s career time line after the War :
1972-76 : ExO Virbahu,
1976-78 : CO Virbahu.
1978-1980 : CO INS Trishul.
1980-84 : NHQ Director S/Ms and ACNS(Ops)
1984-85 : COS ENC
1986-87 : FORTAN
1987-Jul 1988 : First FOSM (Vizag).
Post retirement the RAdm Auditto was absorbed by VAdm KR Menon in his company AVC Dubash as its Chief Operations Officer for 8 yrs. He then headed the Bashir Associate’s Marine Insurance Company for another 8 yrs before taking over as President Navy Foundation Mumbai Chapter for two terms as President from 2011-2017, before handing over reins to RAdm RM Bhatia.
GOA LIBERATION : 1961
RAdm Auditto was a young just married Lt on Trishul when the ship was being readied for deployment for Goa liberation. He writes in ‘Periscope- Dec 2017’ : ‘On the evening of 17th Dec’61 Fleet Commander RAdm BS Soman got himself transfer by Jackstay on Trishul. I explained to him my plan of Landing on a small beach SE of Anjadiv, nicknamed Ladies beach being used for ship’s picnics prior to outbreak of hostilities. We would then ascend the plateau and proceed northerly to a position of strength overlooking their Garrison to capture it.’ The Admiral agreed to the plan. Next morning Lt Auditto and Lt (SD) Neol Koleman (2 oic) and their team were all set for the assault on Anjdip. Lt Auditto and his team landed on the Ladies Beach and sent the Boat back to get Lt Koleman and balance of the Landing Party. As the boat loaded with remaining troops was approaching they came under heavy machine gun fire. The ships firing silenced the machinegun but Lt Koleman had received gunshots on both his thighs. 5 sailors had been killed and some wounded. The young sailors, mostly seamen gunners were stunned into inaction initially when the boat beached. Lt Aditto shouted and asked them to disembark quickly, and ordered the boat to return to the ship with the dead and the injured. He then mustered his men and carried out the assault lining up his contingent line abreast and advancing leapfrogging from cover to cover.
During the advance Lt Auditto was himself hit by a bullet on his left shoulder, but with field dressing he continued the assault. Although they were pinned down, he contacted Trishul on walkie-talkie and requested them to bombard the hill top with 4-inch guns. A couple of salvos were enough to scare the daylights out of the portugese troops, who knowing that they were outnumbered came out and surrendered. The assault ultimately was succussful, albeit with some casulties. One of our own man was grievously shot in abdomen with guts spilling out. He was carried on strecher to the Mysore boat along with and other injured. Adm Soman himself received the injured troops at Mysore’s gangway. The sailor couldn’t be saved as he’d lost a lot of blood. Lt Auditto despite his own gunshot injury, stood beside him holding his hands in his last moments, the sailor requesting for his family to be cared for. Lt Auditto assured him that it was his bonded duty to do the very utmost.
RAdm Auditto writes, “The very next day we were paraded on the Flight deck of Vikrant for CNS address to our team. The CNS came to Lt Koleman on stretcher and shook hands and praised him.” Lt Auditto and his contingent was accorded a Hero’s welcome in Cochin, where he continued his TAS course and was informed of his selection for HMS Dolphin. The Republic day awards of Jan 1962 announced a Kirti chakra for Lt Koleman and CNS commendation for many others.
VAdm BS Soman took over as CNS in 1962. He made made sure to award NM(G) to Lt Auditto for for the Anjadip Operation. The citation reads, “for the calmness, ingenuity and courage displayed by you during the Anjadiv Operation on 18th Dec 1961. The Navy is proud of the fine example you set on this occasion and the qualities of leadership you displayed, which contributed to the ultimate success of the operation.”
THE SECRET OF 1971
The Hero of 1961 Goa liberation was in command of Kursura since her commissioning in Aug 1969 in Russia. Although based in Vizag as part of the 8th S/M squadron, they spent most of the time working up the Western Fleet in anticipation of the conflict. We sailed early November for Patrol and were deployment in Area for a month’s time. On 03 Dec they received instructions from WNC to return to Base, to be relieved by Karanj, being commanded by Cdr VS Shekhawat (later CNS). The R/V given was the enterance of Persian Gulf. Writes RAdm Auditto,”We stayed at Periscope depth with DF operating.Sure enough we detected Karanj on surface proceeding towards R/V totally unaware of our presence. We therefore decided to give them a shock treatment by surfacing abreast of them for handing/taking over. As their deep freeze motor had packed up we transferred the item by Bow to Bow jackstay. Meanwhile we could manage our requirements with stock in cold storage. We returned to base and got readied for deployment in bay of Bengal. The US had planned to rescue about 1 Lakh pakistani troops trapped in East Pakistan.The US enterprise group had entered Malacca straits for proceeding towards Chittagong. The Ghazi was expected by us to to be deployed off Vizag for blockade and thus prevent our Carrier group from entering the Bay of Bengal. We had however preempted their plan and our Vikrant Carrier group was operating off Chittagong. The US group however never entered the Bay of Bengal.”
“Many years later when Adm Goroshkov was on his farewell visit to India and I was his LO on his very 1st visit too, he had a soft corner for me, so as a parting gift he confided in me the information about the USSR’s role in the 1971 War in his Private suite at the Ashoka Hotel over our last toast with the traditional neat Vodka.”
“Admiral Goroshkov heading the USSR Armed Forces had planned to disrupt the US plan by positioning a nuclear S/M in the Bay of Bengal and when the US satellite passed over the surfaced Russian S/M thereby warning the US of her presence. Thereafter the Russians sent an uncoded signal to NHQ recommending that Khanderi carryout a Torpedo atack on Enterprise in posn____.(This was meant to and was intercepted by US thus knowing that US would not be able to blame the USSR of any action). Ofcourse the US were not knowing that Khanderi was no where near the Enterprise ! The plan worked resulting in the unconditional surrender of Pakistan.”
The above detailed info was not known to anyone in our Navy at that time and we wondered what made the powerful USA to withdraw from the Game.
CMDE MV SURESH WRITES ON THE LEGEND
Admiral Arun Auditto was one of the Pioneers of the Indian Naval Submarine Arm. Some men are born to be Submariners, he was one of them. I had seen his palm, he had a strong mountain of Jupiter, a thumb jutting out declaring firmness and independence. Mount of Venus soft and developed, making him intelligent, bold and sentient. He was my first S/M Commanding Officer. Some people do not retire in thought and deed. He is one of them. He is 5’5” tall, but when he speaks, he stands 7 feet tall. The office of the Captain Submarine, was awesome, not in size, but the power of the chair, the Aura, the decisions made on lethal deployment of submarines. The management of a thousand men, thousand brave Souls. When you meet him at his home, he hugs you as an elder brother, the soft Venus at play. In the office it’s the Thumb that’s pre-dominant. His nose stands straight, his eyes not only look at you, but also bore through you.”
Very true Cmde MV Suresh Sir, having personally interacted with RAdm Aun Auditto, one thought that has come to my mind, “Although Leaders may be made, but Legends are Born”.
Sam No Varunah