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The man who established a sports culture in Pakistan - Brigadier Cuthbert Harold Boyd Rodham

An Excessively Rare and Impressive C.B.E., Crossing of the Irrawaddy D.S.O. and Sibong Operations Bar, Waziristan Operations M.C. Group of Thirteen to Brigadier C.H.B. Rodham, Indian Army, The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Commander's (C.B.E.), 2nd type, Military Division, neck Badge, silver-gilt and enamel; Distinguished Service Order, G.VI.R., with Bar for Second Award, the reverse of the suspension bar officially dated '1945' and the Bar '1945'; Military Cross, G.V.R.; India General Service 1908-35, five clasps, Afghanistan N.W.F. 1919, Mahsud 1919-20, Waziristan 1919-21, Waziristan 1921-24, North West Frontier 1930-31 (Lieut., 2-25 Pjbis.); 1939-45 Star; Burma Star; War Medal 1939-45 ; India Service 1939-45; General Service 1918-62, one clasp, S.E. Asia 1945-46 (Brig., D.S.O., O.B.E., M.C., R. Garh. Rif.); Coronation 1937; Coronation 1953; Pakistan Independence 1947 (T./Brig., Staff); Pakistan Republic Medal 1956, unnamed as issued, generally very fine or better, excepting the first, mounted Court-style as worn.


By Maj Gen Syed Ali Hamid (Retd)

While surfing the net I came upon an intriguing group of medals which included a CBE, an OBE as well a Hilal-e-Quaid-i-Azam. The group also had impressive gallantry awards including the Distinguish Service Order with a bar and a Military Cross. The set was auctioned by Christies in 2000 for £5000, a fairly high price for a set of medals (because CBEs rarely come up for auction) but a paltry amount when weighed against a distinguished career of over forty years in the service of both the British India Army and Pakistan Army. These medals were awarded to

Brig Rodham with an Army athletics team c. 1950 Lahore


affectionately known as ‘Roddy’ to whom Pakistan and the Pakistan Army owe a great debt of gratitude for his immense contribution in promoting and organizing sports during the 1950s and 1960s. As a child accompanying my father around Rawalpindi, I remember a gentle giant of a man, weighing 260 pounds and over six feet tall who was forever at the sports grounds. I also remember his limp which was probably a result of the three injuries to his thigh during operations in the North West Frontier where he earned his Military Cross.

He was commissioned into the 2/39 Royal Garhwal Rifles in 1919, saw action in the Third Afghan War, in punitive operations against the tribes, and won his Military Cross at Takkizam at the tender age of 21. During WW2 he commanded the 6/18 Royal Garhwal Rifles on the North West Frontier and in April 1944 he received his first real active service posting as second-in-command of the 1st Indian Infantry Brigade at Imphal. The evidence of his finest hour on the battlefield was in the citations for his ‘double DSOs’ that he earned when he consecutively commanded two infantry brigades which witnessed hard fighting during the counter-offensive launched by Gen Slim in Burma. In the assault crossing of the Irrawaddy: “Brigadier Rodham conducted the battle with consummate skill and coolness, and refused to allow the enemy to deter him from his main object, which was to establish a Bridgehead on the South Bank of the Irrawaddy River. Throughout, Brigadier Rodham has shown the qualities of a fine Commander and his Brigade has been excellently handled”. During the Sibong operation he earned a bar to his D.S.O. “Throughout the whole period Brigadier Rodham showed untiring energy, courage and devotion to duty. His Brigade was tired but operated for six weeks in the monsoon without change of clothes or cover. In spite of this it fought magnificently. That it did so was largely due to his personal example.”

At Independence he opted to serve in the Pakistan Army and was commanding 114th Brigade at Lahore under the charismatic commander of 10 Division Maj Gen Ifitikhar where he led the memorial ceremony on the death of the Quaid in 1948. Right from his days at school Roddy was a keen sportsmen and an all-rounder who played football, rugby and hockey, and was also captain of the athletics team. During his tenure in Lahore he pursued his passion for sports training the athletic team of the division and some of the athletes whom he mentored rose to subsequent national and international fame. From 1951 to 1957 he served as the Director of Infantry and finally Deputy Chief of General Staff Pakistan Army between 1957 and 1963. When he retired, Brigadier Rodham was the last British officer serving in the Pakistan Army. Recognizing his enthusiasm for sports, during his years at GHQ, Rodham was also appointed as President of the Army Sports Control Board. Recruitment of soldiers was generally done at Recruiting ‘Melas’ (fairs) and Rodham was a regular visitor, looking for boys who in his practiced eyes had the making of sportsmen and athletes. In an article the famous sports editor Zakir Hussain Syed says: “In those days they had boys companies with young recruits and once their talent became known, they were groomed and became great and famous sportsmen especially from Chakwal area. However, their climb to eminence owed much to a blue blooded Englishman by the name of Brig Rodham who masterminded a fabulous sports program for Army athletes including training by best foreign coaches and regular frequent competitive exposure. He understood the basic requirements of the system and dedicated himself to achieve unbelievable results. As a young kid, I used to frequently see him watch the training of athletes day in and day out at the Army Stadium Rawalpindi”. He was also the driving force organizing athletics meets and all the Army’s best players and athletes were first discovered and later attained their high standard in these meets. Brig Rodham’s coaching strategy was way ahead of his times. “Imagine in 1954, he used to get a cameraman from ISPR to shoot the training and coaching session. Later in the evening; the athletes used to get together with the coach and Brig Rodham. A white bed sheet was used as a screen for what we call video analysis today. No wonder we had top class athletes and with his caring attitude, there was never a problem of the athletes with the administration.”

So what did Pakistan achieve in field and track events under the stewardship of Brig Rodham. Sharif Butt and Mirza Khan won gold in the 200m and 400m hurdles in 1954 in the Asian Games at Manila. Pakistan’s famous sprinter, Subedar Abdul Khaliq, was twice declared the ‘Fastest Man in Asia’ winning the gold at the Asian Games at Manila in 1954 and Tokyo in 1958. Honorary Captain Nawaz won back-to-back gold medals in the javelin throw in 1954 and 1958 at both these games. Subedar Muhammad Iqbal and Jemadar Jalal Khan set a record in the British Commonwealth Games for the hammer-throw and javelin-throw respectively. 50,000 spectators at the White City Stadium in London stood up and applauded the stylish and handsome Muhammad Iqbal for three minutes for his record-breaking throw in a friendly competition in 1958. Honorary Captain Nawaz broke the British Commonwealth record for the javelin-throw in July 1960 at the same stadium during the British Athletic Associations Championship. Honorary Captain Ghulam Raziq picked up two golds in 110m hurdles at the 1958 and 1966 Asian Games and Mubarak Shah excelled in long distance, claiming two successive golds in 3,000m steeplechase in 1958 and 1962 and one in 5,000m in 1962. Of the twelve athletes selected to take part in the Olympic Games in 1960, eleven belonged to the Army, all coached by Brig Rodham. Brig Rodham’s contribution towards placing Pakistan in the top league of international hockey could fill a volume and it was his deep concern for the players that made all the difference. Prior to the 1958 Asian Games one of the star hockey players Bashir did not want to go because his father was to be operated on for hernia surgery. However, Brig Rodham persuaded Bashir to go with the promise that he would personally look after his father. He kept his promise and requested General Shaukat, the best surgeon in Pakistan Army at the time, to perform the surgery. When Bashir reached Tokyo by ship, a telegram from Brig Rodham was awaiting informing him that the operation was successful and his father was in good health. He also ensured that his players did not miss Pakistani food while abroad. In 1956, Brig Rodham asked for and obtained the services of Daffadar Cook Sher Khan from 6th Lancers who accompanied an Army Athletic Team to Germany and subsequently proceeded with the National Athletics Team to the Melbourne Olympics.

After retirement, the Government of Pakistan did not allow Brig Rodham to pass into oblivion. For ten long years from 1963 till his death in 1973, he was Director of Sports in the Government of Pakistan. Concurrently he was chairman of the Pakistan Boxing Federation and a member of the executive committee of the Pakistan Olympic Association. Brig Rodham was a confirmed bachelor and was given in perpetuity a room in Flashman's Hotel at Rawalpindi. The room was never refurbished while he lived there and remained shabby and without air conditioning. However, Rodham continued to enjoy a tremendous reputation amongst the upper echelons of the Pakistani Army, and was equally beloved by many former servicemen. Through friends in the British High Commission he was kept supplied with whisky and spares for his motor car. The brigadier died in 1973 and left his worldly goods to his bearer and friend, Mohammed. These worldly goods also probably contained his medals which were initially sold for £3,600 at an auction held by Nix, Noonan & Webb on 18 June 1997. I wonder where they are now???? They deserved to be in the Pakistan Army Museum. UNFORTUNATELY THE ARMY AND THE NATION NEVER HAD A SECOND BRIG RODHAM.

(Article originally published in The Friday Times- October 25, 2019)

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