The Tradition of Submarine Pennant Numbers

Sailors are notoriously superstitious – submariners even more so, in very personal ways. The late Commander Roy Millan, the dashing CO of IN Submarine Khanderi, had a firm belief that his lucky number was five. When the Khanderi was commissioned, her pennant number was S 122 which added up to five, so that was just fine by Roy. A couple of years later, Naval Headquarters decided to revert to two digit pennant numbers for all ships of the Navy. So one fine day Khanderi became S 22 which didn’t suit Roy at all, because his submarine no longer sported his lucky number. So the ship’s painter was called, and a tiny " 1" was added before the "22" to retain the old pennant number. And Roy stuck to his guns, even when the Captain (S/M) passed disapproving remarks about it.

Over the years, the vestigial "1" became a small spot before the "22" on Khanderi’s fin. Her fin stands on Virbahu’s parade ground today, as a memorial to the submarine, which was decommissioned in 1989. Successive commanding officers of the Khanderi respected Roy’s preference. The practice even became a tradition, and years later INS Vela, whose pennant number was S 40, promptly painted a spot before the "4" !! Similarly, another submarine "Sindhuvir", whose CO didn’t like her pennant number because it added up to thirteen. Painted a "Roy Millan" spot on her fin! Thus was born a submarine tradition.

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