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A Historical Retrospective:


by Robert K. Olson

·  Introduction
·  The Grady Mission
·  After the Pageantry
·  Aftermath
·  ABOUT Robert Olson

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The Aftermath

When Grady left for Greece in 1948, he must have been a somewhat disappointed man. He had failed to enlist India into the ranks of the Western camp against the Soviets and world communism. India, although starved for investment and development, nevertheless refused America's embrace.

But he wasn't alone. Mountbatten's Chief of Staff, Lord Ismay, for example, angered his monarch by refusing the KGCSI (Knight Grand Cross of the Star of India) for his role in the loss of India. Thousands of ordinary British citizens lost everything—livelihood and career, home, servants, and a way of life—to return to a shabby Britain, shabby housing, and shabby jobs. India got independence, but at the price of partition and the massacres.

Partition produced a fifty-year subcontinental arms race as bitter and dangerous as the Cold War. Nevertheless, Grady concluded in his memoirs, "I feel that the future of India is bright. . . . One must regret leaving India with all its deep cultural riches and the strong and unusual appeal of its people, so gentle and so generous. . . . I go with a heavy heart . . . . God bless India."

They are all gone now. In January 1948, Gandhi was assassinated by a Sikh extremist for agreeing to partition. Grady observed,

When the news was brought to us . . . we all said, "Terrible as it is, let us hope that it was not a Muslim." . . . Mrs. Grady had the honor of placing the first wreath on his body after he fell. Vincent Sheean [a noted journalist and lecturer]was at our residence when the assassination occurred. . . . [H]e had become deeply attached to Gandhi and with his sudden death Sheean almost went to pieces, throwing himself on the bed in our residence and weeping profusely.
The morning after independence, Lord Louis became governor general of India (at Nehru's insistence).
Lord & Lady Mountbatten
Lord & Lady Mountbatten
After ceremonies at the great Durbar Hall, they were driven in the governor general's landau through the streets to the Council House through crowds cheering "Mountbatten Kai Jai" (Long live Mountbatten) and "Lady Mountbatten Kai Jai". In June 1948, the Mountbattens went home, he to resume his naval career as admiral in command of the First Cruiser Squadron in Malta and then as First Sea Lord, she to naval life and a continuation of her good works. She died suddenly in 1960 during a trip to Southeast Asia and was taken home to be buried at sea. The Indian parliament observed a minute's silence in her memory. Lord Louis was killed by an IRA bomb planted on his yacht in 1979.

Nehru, who, according to Edwina's biographer Richard Hough,3 was Edwina's first and only great love, joined her four years later following a stellar international career, seventeen years as India's prime minister, father of a tragic dynasty, and father of the nonaligned movement.

Krishna Menon became India's high commissioner to London and later a thorn in America's side as Indian delegate the UN General Assembly. Patel died of a heart attack in December 1950, leaving Nehru free to rule the Congress without further interference. Liaquat Ali Khan became prime minister of Pakistan and was assassinated in 1955. Jinnah became Pakistan's governor general and died of tuberculosis in August 1948.

Henry Grady went on to be ambassador to Greece and then to Iran, where his mission was demolished in the bitter British-Iranian dispute over nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
Mahatma Gandhi at his spinning wheel
He retired to his home in San Francisco in 1951, where he engaged in various good works until his death in 1957.

Gone but not forgotten. In my view, they all seem to have been immortalized by that "one brief shining moment" of another Camelot and an aura that somehow refuses to fade. The India they forged a half century ago developed beyond their wildest dreams. In spite of Grady's disappointments, India today is a vibrant democracy, the political leader of South Asia, self sufficient in food, an industrial giant, and with a middle class said to be as large as the population of the United States.

Copyright 1997 by Robert K. Olson. All ritghts reserved.

Continue reading: ABOUT Robert Olson


1. I draw this and all other quotations, with the one noted exception, from Henry F. Grady, "Adventures in Diplomacy," Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, Independence, MO.

2. U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, Vol. VII, 1947, Washington, DC, p. 178.

3. Richard Alexander Hough, Edwina, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, Weidenfeld and Nicolson (1983).

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