Autobiography of Hockey Wizard Dhyan Chand
Published by Sport & Pastime, Chennai, 1952
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To London By Sea
|It was an awe-inspiring passage through the Suez
Canal. As the boat passed the imposing statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps, the great
French engineer who built the Canal, we all filed up on deck and gave a
I experienced a similar feeling of admiration and reverence when after the 1932 Olympics we sailed from New York to London. The huge Statue of Liberty reminded us of the glory and history of the United States of America.
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he Olympic team assembled in Mumbai on March 8, and played a Bombay XI the next day. Most unexpectedly we lost the match by three goals to two. IHF president Major Burn-Murdoch and IHF vice-president C. E. Newham witnessed the match.
While I have not the slightest intention of depriving Bombay the honour of their win, three weeks of rest after the Kolkata tournament had made the Olympic team slack and out of form. With the excitement of going abroad, we did not worry much about the result of the match. I scored both the goals for my team against Bombay. We tried our best to draw level, but Cowton, the Bombay goalkeeper, played a grand game.
We sailed from Mumbai on March 10 on the P & O Kaiser-i-Hind, and what a quiet send-off it was! There were only three persons present at Mole station to bid us god-speed as the ship slowly steamed out of Ballard Pier - IHF president Major Burn-Murdoch, IHF vice-president C. E. Newham and a journalist S. Bhattacharjee. Such was the send-off accorded to India's chosen team on whose shoulders rested the responsibility of demonstrating to the world India's supremacy in this great amateur game of hockey.
Major Burn-Murdoch will be remembered from a historical sense as long as hockey is played in India. But for his drive and initiative, the Indian Hockey Federation would not have seen light of day in 1926, the Indian Army team would not have travelled to New Zealand in 1926, and finally, India might not have entered a team for the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games.
About Newham, I have to say a lot. He was largely responsible for forming the Punjab Hockey Association, and as far as I recollect, he was its first president. He was the vice-president of the IHF, and took a great deal of interest in the matter of India's participation in the Amsterdam Games. He was present throughout the 1926 Inter-Provincial tournament in Kolkata, and came all the way to Mumbai to see us off. Charles was a journalist by profession, and was the editor of the Civil and Military Gazette, Lahore, and later was the editor of The Pioneer in Allahabad.
Charles Newham took considerable interest in the 1932 Inter-Provincial tournament, accompanied the Indian team to Los Angeles and was very helpful to us. I was surprised to see him in the 1936 Berlin Games, when he was on the personal staff of His Highness the Gaekwad of Baroda. Newham was the joint manager of the British Olympic hockey team in the 1948 London Olympics.
S. Bhattacharjee was then perhaps on the staff of The Times of India. His father, the late N. R. Bhattacharjee, was the founder-secretary of the Bengal Hockey Association, and was on the staff of the now defunct Indian Daily News of Kolkata. Young Bhattacharjee inherited his interest in hockey from his father, and was instrumental in forming the Western India Hockey Association which lived for an year and then went out of existence. During World War II, Bhattacharjee joined the Army as a Public Relations Officer.
These were the three persons, out of 400 million, who thought that it was their duty to see us off at Ballard Pier, where, under the able fatherly guidance of the late A. B. Rosser, thirteen of us sailed from Mumbai in quest of Olympic honours.
The journey from Mumbai to Tilbury Docks near London was quite pleasant and a new experience to all the members of the team excepting our manager A. B. Rosser and myself. Rosser had accompanied football teams to Java once or twice before, and I had already been to New Zealand in 1926. We stayed on the deck of the Kaiser-i-Hind till we lost sight of Mumbai. The boat then started rolling and most of us starting retching and were in bed in no time. However, by the time we reached Aden we had completely recovered, and Old Man Sea had no more terrors for us.
From Aden to Suez the heat was gruelling, and the only place where one could be comfortable was one's own cabin or in the ship's lounge. The ship's officers were very kind and considerate. We had Indian food whenever we asked for it. Often we took liberties with the ship's regulations.
The voyage from Aden to Port Said through the Red Sea and Suez Canal was an experience never to be forgotten. All of us were excited as we would be seeing with our own eyes one of the world's greatest engineering feats - the Suez Canal.
It was an awe-inspiring passage through the Suez Canal. Here was a canal right in the middle of a desert, cut wide and deep enough to allow two or more steamers to pass simultaneously. A railway line runs all along the west bank of the canal. From Port Said and Suez its only a short run by train to Cairo or Alexandria.
As the boat passed the imposing statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps, the great French engineer who built the Canal, we all filed up on deck and gave a smart salute. I experienced a similar feeling of admiration and reverence when after the 1932 Olympics we sailed from New York to London. The huge Statue of Liberty reminded us of the glory and history of the United States of America.
We reached Port Said, and as the boat had a fairly long halt, we made a beeline for the famous department store Simon Artz. We had no money, but undaunted we visited Simon Artz. That was the first great department store we visited, and we were impressed by the large variety of stores. Of course after seeing Selfridges in London, Simon Artz suffered in comparison.
The weather changed suddenly as soon as we entered the Mediterranean. A cold wind began blowing and we felt chilly. We were reminded that we were leaving the tropic zone and entering the temperate zone. Few of us had overcoats. My army overcoat came in handy.
The journey was uneventful until we entered the Bay of Biscay after rounding the Cape of Gibralter. This sea, noted for its roughness, did not disappoint us. The weather became squally and many of us had another attack of sea-sickness. I had to keep a serious watch on some of my colleagues. You know the terribly morose feeling that one passes into when floored by rough seas. Some people get so bad as to think of taking one fell leap over the ship's railings.
We dropped anchor at Tilbury Docks on March 30, 1928. Like Mumbai, in London too we were not destined for any rousing reception. It was a cold and misty morning, and we disembarked wrapped up in whatever warm clothing we had - mufflers, sweaters, overcoats and even blankets. The London Press, believe me, hardly took any notice of us.
We were welcomed by Mr. W. F. Smith, honorary secretary of the English Hockey Association, Mr. Jaipal Singh, our skipper, Mr. S. M. Yusuf, who joined our team later, Mr. S. H. Shoveller, England's greatest hockey centre-forward, Major Ricketts and representatives of the Hockey Associations of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
After the Customs formalities were over, we pursued our way to London, the London about which we had dreamed of, and which we were anxiously looking forward to see. I was fascinated by the hustle and bustle of London city, its West End traffic, the lights in the shop windows, the tube railways. With a guide map to help us, we aimlessly wandered around. Whenever we were at a loss, the London bobby, with his proverbial courtesy, came to our aid. We were all housed in a small hotel and were happy.
Indian Team in Action in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics