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John with his daughter Penelope
My father holding me 1947

 

Edith, John and Penelope
With my Mum and Dad in Delhi

















My father and me

To sum up, first, the website gives the briefest, most superficial account of my father's time in the Indian Army. Second, there is something in the memoirs I think my father did not know he was revealing; he revealed a great deal about himself. This, consequently, has led to a fundamental change in my perception of the man my father was. After reading his memoirs I see the young man he was, and I can see the man he became.

He wasn't an easy person; there was a prickliness to him and, I now realise, a sense of sadness and loss for a way of life that had gone for ever. He didn't adapt all that well to the post-war world as his thoughts were always back in the 30s. Over the years he spoke constantly of his time in India and, sometimes I would listen and other times not, but as I read his memoirs I can hear his voice speaking to me through the words on the page, and I understand him now far more than I ever did than when he was alive. Through the memoirs I also see the life he led as an Indian Army officer, and while it is his perspective on what could be seen as a controversial time of imperialism, conquest and racism, nevertheless, I now hold a much, much higher regard for him, both as a man, and a soldier of the Raj. Above all, I recognize that his memoirs are a jewel beyond price because it has allowed me to accommodate and change my relationship with him all these years after his death.

I also believe that his time in the 2nd Battalion were the happiest days of his life, not just his bachelor life. But I'll leave the last words to him. The photograph below on the right shows him sitting in the exact spot in front of the coffee table where he did his writing, and here below is the last paragraph of the memoirs.

"I have now reached the end of my story. During the period I have covered, that is, from 1932 to 1947, I experienced a few nasty moments, but I have also lived through many humorous and interesting events. I regret that I feel I just have not had the ability to describe things as I would wish. My writing seems to me to be boring, flat and limping: this might be partly due to the fact that I have done most of my writing in the late evenings with the television blaring away. I have always considered that television is only second to the motorcar as being the worst ever invention in the world. Much more important, I think, is that during my time in India I witnessed the last days of two great institutions, the British Raj and the pre-Independence Indian Army, which have now passed into history.

It was an honour to serve both."

John Hislop in 1991

My father in 1991