After a decade of ‘Panch Sheel’, spirits of ‘Hindi-Chini-Bhai Bhai’ in the fifties, the cartographic war between two countries was hotting up. The tension between India and China had been building up for some years, leading to border clashes on the lofty Himalayan heights.
The Chinese Invasion
The Chinese invasion came with a bewildering suddenness. The invasion had a great impact on India and on the thinking of its leaders, the Armed Forces of India, their equipment and training. Among the Army units that fought to stem the tide of Chinese invasion were valiant battalions of the Kumaon Regiment. They fought with valour, and the gallantry of their officers and men won undying fame.
Battle of Walong - 1962 During 1962 War, a Kumaon Battalion was deployed in the Walong Sector of North East Frontier Area, (now Arunachal Pradesh), where they fought the Chinese with astounding grit and determination. The Kumaon Battalion was the only unit of the Indian Army to launch an attack on the Chinese defences with limited resources, but with unlimited ferocity and aggression.The epic Battle commenced on 14 November 1962.The attack of battalion less two companies was launched without any tangible fire support. The assault continued the whole day against very heavy resistance. Once the ammunition was exhausted, hand-to-hand battle ensued with both sides suffering heavy casualties.
Memorial at Walong
To reclaim the lost ground, the Chinese counter attacked with greater ferocity. They pressed their assault with human wave after wave. The Kumaonis stuck to their ground till the last man and the last round and caused heavy losses to the enemy. Finally, the Chinese succeeded, as there was no able bodied Kumaoni left.
This supreme saga of heroism with limited resources and in inhospitable terrain has been an inspiring example for the succeeding generations to emulate. Brigadier NC Rawlley, aptly summed up the performance of the unit with these words "The KUMAON Battalion fought, fought and fought till there was an eerie silence".
The Battalion celebrates ‘Walong Day’ every year on the 14 November, so that present generation of officers, JCOs and Other Ranks continue to draw inspiration from the heroic deeds of their predecessors, to discharge their duties towards the Nation. The battalion was awarded, five Vir Chakras for bravery and sacrifice during the battle.
Rezang La - Ladakh
It was Sunday, when the dawn broke on 18 November 1962; unusually cold, with snow falling lightly over Rezang La, since the early hours. This day saw a battle that was unique in many ways. Never before in the World’s military history had a major battle been fought at such an altitude. The forces arrayed were also unequally matched.
At about 0615 hours, all those deployed around Chushul, were attracted by the sound and sight of massive shelling on Rezang La, Gurung Hill and Spanggur gap - bringing entire Infantry Brigade to their respective battle positions.
The Battle of Rezang La commenced hours before the shelling that the rest of Brigade saw from a distance. In fact, the first Chinese attack was ‘silent’, with the intention to surprise the defenders of Rezang La, in which, the Chinese failed.
At about 0400 hours, it was noticed that a large body of enemy troops, scrambling up through gullies towards a platoon post.Within no time every man of the Kumaon Company under Maj Shaitan Singh was at ‘ready for action’ state. Every gully that descended to the dry bed of Rezang Lungpa was swarming with Chinese. It was still pretty dark. Maj Shaitan Singh and his brave men were now certain to face a big attack. With bated breath they waited, their fingers on their triggers.
An artist's impression of the Battle
Maj Shaitan Singh, PVC
The Rezang La Memorial
Brig (later Gen) TN Raina, MVC