Unassuming, yet a visionary
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With Admiral Oscar Stanley Dawson's death in Bangalore on Sunday, the flag has been lowered on the last of the World War II veterans who burnished the office of the Chief of Naval Staff.
A surprise choice when his name was announced to succeed the much revered Ronnie Periera on March 1, 1982, Dawson was the first flag officer to reach South Block from Cochin — where he was the FOC-in-C, Southern Naval Command — without having done the honours in Bombay, HQ Western Naval Command, the traditional transition till then for elevation to the office of the Chief of Naval Staff.
But Stan Dawson, the dark horse at the time, was alleged to have been handpicked to steer the Indian Navy by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had spent a few days at sea with the Southern Naval Command in late1981 and was reportedly very impressed by the perspicacity and vision of the unassuming and stocky Admiral. In the 33 months that he was at the helm of the Navy, Admiral Dawson, better known as Stan, proved that he was indeed the wielder of a very discerning telescope.
The Navy remains the Cinderella service in the Indian military matrix and receives the smallest slice of the defence pie in comparison to the Army and the Air Force. Yet it is the only service that is truly trans-border and hence strategic in the national quiver. And if today the profile of the Indian Navy is what it is, much of the credit belongs to Stan who consolidated and built on what he had inherited from his predecessors.
The new naval establishment in Karwar, Karnataka — INS Kadamba, earlier known as Project Seabird — was Stan's baby and he not only envisaged the need for the Navy to have an alternative base to Bombay but was also able to work the maze of the government to ensure funding support for what seemed like a pipe-dream.