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Obituary: Brig. Gen. Sita Ram Nautiyal

Press Release

Brigadier General (Retd.) Sita Ram Nautiyal, the first Indian to be commissioned to the Corps of Engineers in the British Army, who rose to become Chief Engineer of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army in independent India and later also Chief Engineer (Naval Command), died peacefully in his sleep on Christmas morning at age 95. He is survived by his wife Rani, his sons Dr. Ashoka Nautiyal and Ajay Wadhwa; and his daughters Ragini Seth and Shiamin Melville of Northboro, MA, Bina Mohan and Minakshi Capur; thirteen grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Brig. Nautiyal was born in rural north India. His parents died while he was young and he took it upon himself to support his two younger brothers while attending Ghentuate Chaufin High School, a Chinese Mission school in his home town, and, later, Meerut College, Agra University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in 1935.  

After graduation, he joined the British Indian Army. He was selected by the army to attend the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun. Upon graduation in 1940, he was the first Indian to be commissioned to the Corps of Engineers by the British Army.  He graduated from the British Staff Services College in Quetta (then part of undivided British India) in 1946 specializing in Military Operations, Intelligence, Strategy and Command and Control. He completed his studies in Military Engineering at the prestigious Thomason College of Civil Engineering, which was the first Engineering College in the British Empire.  

He served with the British Indian Army seeing service in the field in Mesopotamia, what is now Iraq and Iran, and in Burma, until the final expulsion of the Japanese in August 1945, rising rapidly to the rank of Major. After India’s independence, he continued to serve with the Indian Army and eventually gained the rank of Brigadier General in 1959. His appointments with the Indian Army included Head of Military Survey, Army Headquarters; Deputy Chief Engineer, Planning and Design, Eastern Command when he was responsible for an 80 mile road traversing the Himalayan Ranges to Kathmandu, one of the highest elevations for a civil engineering effort; Chief Engineer, Eastern Army Command; and the first Chief Engineer of the Indian Navy where he was responsible for building a 1.5 mile breakwater to help harbor India’s first aircraft carrier, the Vikrant.

After retiring from the Army in 1966, he continued his engineering career in Bombay (now Mumbai) as Chief Civil Engineer for Century Rayon, one of the largest Indian industrial firms, where he supervised the construction of several major chemical plants and civil facilities.

He and his wife emigrated to the United States in 1985 where he continued to share his engineering knowledge, teaching classes in Hydraulic Engineering at a local community college in the Boston suburbs.

Brig. Nautiyal was a self taught Sanskrit scholar and an expert Indian astrologist. He was a devout Hindu descended from the Nautiyal Brahmins of Nautiyal Gaon village, who are traditionally selected to be priests at one of the holiest Hindu shrines in Badrinath.  He also used to practice Yoga daily for 1 to 2 hours.

In his youth he was an accomplished swimmer and soccer player, representing his Army division in both sports. He played squash at a competitive level and was also a proficient chess and bridge player.

In 1961 he was elected a Member of the Institution of Engineers (India) and a Fellow in 1971.

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