Kochi, Apr 4: In a moment marked with nostalgia and pride, a group of eight Naval veterans who participated in the 1956 takeover of the strategic Minicoy Lighthouse from the British, attended a ceremony marking the golden jubilee of the event at Lakshadweep earlier this week.
Belying their seventy-plus years, the retired officers stood erect and poised as cadets of the Training Squadron paraded a 'Colour Guard', during which the Tricolour was hoisted on the lighthouse on April two, just as was done by them 50 years back.
Speaking on the occasion, Commodore M S Pavithran, Naval Officer-in-Charge (Kerala and Lakshadweep) said RAdm P P Sivamani's article 'Jyoti,' is the only written record of the naval participation.
''These veteran sea warriors, who are now in their 70s, have faced many odds to be present here. Having made this journey, I am sure, they are fondly recollecting the proceedings of their exploits of 1956,'' he added.
The Director General of Lighthouse and Light ships of India, Manmohan Singh Suman, honoured the officers by presenting a shawl.
Later, addressing the gathering, he said the lighthouses in Lakshadweep will be revamped and upgraded for better services.
The eight veteran officers who attended the function were VAdm A C Bhatia, RAdm P P Sivamani, Commodores' J P Carnerio and M Kondath, Commanders L K Mathur, H K Nag and K S Sood and Lt Cdr L Kumar.
Captain R A Jaiswal, Commanding officer INS Tir, Cdr K A Bopanna, Commanding Officer INS Krishna, naval personnel and a host of other dignitaries and inhabitants of Minicoy attended the function, a naval spokesman here said.
Talking to mediapersons onboard INS Tir here just before leaving for Minicoy on March 31, the veterans had recalled that they were ''lily white midshipmen aged 18 to 20 years and in their third year at the NDA when they were tasked to take over the Minicoy Lighthouse, a strategic beacon on one of the busiest sea routes in the world.
While India had attained independence in 1947, it took another nine years to ''liberate'' the Minicoy Lighthouse due to certain administrative hitches, including the fact that the formal handing- over required the ''assent'' of the British Queen.
''Ultimately, India did not wait for Britain to hand over the lighthouse. We were tasked to take it over and we did it,'' Commodore M S Pavithran said Describing the take-over as a ''solemn event'', Rear Admiral (Retd) P P Sivamani said it was not an offensive but a peaceful operation.
The first generation INS Tir arrived off Minicoy Island on April one, 1956. At sunset on that day, the Union Jack was lowered. At 0800 hrs the next day, the tricolour was unfurled at the top of lighthouse while the midshipmen presented arms to the sound of the bugle.
In a re-enactment of the same event, the second generation INS Tir had left Kochi for Minicoy on March 31, carrying the naval veterans and other serving officers to attend the golden jubilee event.