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Holding Out for a Hero – BCS Spartans

Author BCS Director Simon Weale MA (Oxon)

In 1965, Captain Robindra Dewan of the 16th Light Cavalry was commanding one of the Centurion tanks that captured the Alhar Railway station in the Punjab. This victory gave the Indian army a potentially decisive strategic advantage on that important front in the relatively short-lived but intensive war against the Pakistanis. To the disappointment of many who had fought so hard, this position was soon given up during the ensuing peace negotiations. After a distinguished military career in which he was promoted to Colonel, ‘Wendy’, as this toughest of men was amusingly nicknamed at his alma mater, became a school administrator and is now retired (with his wife Neelam – pictured on their tank), in his mid-80s, and can still occasionally be found playing golf at Naldehra.

Col Dewan (3rd from the right) with other Spartans at Bishop Cotton School, Shimla 2023

But ‘Wendy’ Dewan is not only an Indian hero, he is also a BCS hero. As a pupil, he was a legendary sportsman winning colours for five different sports as well as for five consecutive years for boxing, and he is now president of Bishop Cotton’s most exclusive institution, the Spartan Club. The Spartan Club was formed in the 1930s to celebrate sport and sportsmanship at the school. At a time when there was no social media, the school’s best sportsmen were revered as icons by the whole community – to some extent they still are.  To be awarded the dark blue tie with its emblem of the bishop’s mitre was to reach the pinnacle of hierarchy. The founding members of the club were staff and boys and the membership criteria for boys was fairly simple – to be a school prefect, to be a member of at least one first eleven and to be of good character (bearing in mind these are adolescent boys biologically programmed to be risk-taking and naughty, but it is the most important criteria). Similarly, the staff had to be outstanding sportsmen and good coaches. Since then, the membership criteria have been subject to change over time, perhaps too much. and at one point it became almost impossible to be inducted. 

Col Dewan and Mrs Dewan on his tank

In recent times, the simplicity of the club’s ethos has been restored to honour those who play sport at a high level and play it in the right spirit. In 2023 there are four new members from the pupil body – Daksh, Krish, Zorowar and Kabir and one new staff member, their coach Gurprit Singh. They have all worked incredibly hard for this honour – fair play to them.

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