THE GENESIS

 

THE GENESIS

 


SINO-INDIA WAR : 1962

KASHMIR WAR - 1965

BANGLADESH WAR - 1971


The genesis of was in the crucible of adversity and forged on the anvil of one of the most momentous and tragic trans-migrations of human populations into the two new Nations of India and Pakistan. In June 1947, Punjab Boundary Force was set up for both West and East Punjab, comprising units of both Indian and Pakistan Armies. It was disbanded on 15 Sep 1947, with the two nations assuming responsibility for their respective areas. It was then that HQ Delhi and East Punjab Command was raised for the defence of Delhi and East Punjab areas with the Command Headquarters located at Delhi. The Command was popularly known as the DEP Command and Lieutenant General Dudley Russel, CB, CBE, DSO, MC took over as the first GOC-in-C.


DEP Command was given the role of restoring law and order in riot torn Punjab in the wake of partition. As it entailed constant movement, a special self contained train comprising coaches of the old Viceregal Train was placed at the disposal of HQ DEP Command. The mobile Command Headquarters moved from place to place in Punjab to restore law and order. The Command accomplished its task with elan and dedication resulting in the saving of thousands of lives. DEP Command was redesignated as 'Western Command' on 18 Jan 48 and Lieutenant General (Later Field Marshal) KM Cariappa, OBE was appointed as the Army Cdr

Lt Gen (Later Field Marshal) KM Carriappa, OBE

 who took over the Command as GOC-in-C, Western Command  
 on 20 January 1948.
 

 

The First Test by Fire

In Aug 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Standstill Agreement with Pakistan, but remained undecided on the accession issue. Apprehending danger from Pakistan he deployed his state force (nine infantry battalion, one horsed cavalry and one mountain battery) rather thinly to defend over 700 km border from Kathua to Karakoram. Pakistan was in no mood to allow Maharaja Hari Singh the luxury of delaying accession of the State to Pakistan In the initial stage, Pakistan irregulars started nibbling at the far-flung north –western frontiers of the state.

Eventually, in October 1947, a large force of tribals from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, led by retired Pakistan Army Officers, veterans of the Second World War, simultaneously intruded into Western Jammu and the Jhelum Valley, with Srinagar as their objective. This operation was nicknamed ‘Gulmarg’. The Jhelum Valley force had planned to

Brig Rajinder Singh, MVC (Posthumous)

capture Srinagar on 26 October 1947, so that Pak leaders could celebrate ‘Id-ul-Fitr’ in Srinagar. At this stage, nothing stood between Pakistan and its objective except a few assorted companies of the J&K State Army under Brigadier Rajinder Singh, Chief of Staff of state Forces. Brigadier Rajinder Singh and his men were hopelessly outnumbered on all fronts, but by bold and determined delaying actions between Uri and Baramulla, they managed to delay the advance of the Pakistan invaders along the Jhelum Valley road. Brigadier Rajinder Singh and his force also succeeded in destroying a vital road bridge at Uri, thus completely upsetting the timetable of this Pakistan-sponsored tribal force. Consequently, they could only reach the vicinity of Baramulla by 25th October, instead of the outskirts of Srinagar. This delay enabled the Maharaja to carry out negotiations with the Indian Union for accession and moving Indian Army to save the State. Brigadier Rajinder Singh was ambushed on the night 26/27 Oct, barely six hours before the Indian Army landed at Srinagar airport. Demolition of Uri Bridge was a masterstroke that ultimately saved Kashmir. For this action Brigadier Rajinder Singh is gratefully known as 'Saviour of Kashmir' and was awarded Independent India's first gallantry award, the 'Mahavir Chakra' (posthumously).
 

The Kashmir war 1947-48

 

J&K state acceded to India on October 26, 1947. The first Indian Army contingent was flown to Srinagar on October 27. The Dakota aircraft carrying this contingent, comprising one company of the 1 Sikh under Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai, their Commanding Officer, touched down on the dusty and unkempt airstrip of Badgam (Srinagar) at 0830 hours on October 27, 1947. At this stage, no one was sure about the state of affairs in the valley. The Commanding Officer 1 Sikh had orders to turn back and land at Jammu if the Srinagar airfield was found occupied by hostile forces. God favoured the brave. 1Sikh landed safely without any mishap. While the battalion was being built up to its strength with more air landings, Baramulla was being ransacked by the tribals. The delay caused by looting and rape, however, cost the Pakistanis dearly. If the tribal force had advanced to Srinagar with with speed instead of indulging in loot and rape, they could have occupied the airfield at Srinagar before the Indian troops landed there. Immediately after landing , CO 1 Sikh rushed a company forward to join the J&K force on the outskirts of Baramulla. The so-called 'Lashkar' was however, well armed with mortars and machine guns and completely outnumbered our troops. Despite a determined fight put up by the Sikh, they had to withdraw from Pattan, approximately 11 kms down the Srinagar road. Lt Col Rai was killed in action, on the outskirts of Baramulla along with a JCO and 20 Jawans. For his gallant action and exceptional valour, Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) posthumously.

 

The Defence of Badgam Airstrip


The tribal forces soon contacted the Pattan defences. Finding them too strong to tackle, a major part of the force bypassed Pattan and headed for Srinagar. The situation in Srinagar was still fluid, though by now HQ 161 Infantry Brigade along with 1 Punjab, 1 Kumaon and two companies of 4 Kumaon had landed at Srinagar.


Commander 161 Infantry Brigade, Brig J C Katoch, was wounded at Pattan and was replaced by Brig L P (‘Bogey’) Sen, who took over command of the Brigade on November 2, 1947. Brig Sen, did not have to wait long. Tribals led by veteran Pakistan officers were now approaching Srinagar from three different directions, and had infiltrated Badgam in large numbers with the airstrip as their target.


Information received from Badgam indicated that some tribals disguised in Kashmiri attire were hiding in a village close to the airstrip. The tribals successfully concealed their identity and our patrols reported no enemy activity in the vicinity of Badgam. Consequently, all other troops except one company of 4 Kumaon were pulled out from Badgam, to join the main force at Srinagar. The tribals struck with full force on the isolated 4 Kumaon company on the night of November 3, 1947 The Kumaonis under their company commander, Majar Som Nath Sharma,took the enemy head-on, although they were hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned. A horde of wild, howling, tribesmen attacked the temporary defences repeatedly with mortars and machine guns, but were held at bay. Finally the attack was repulsed with heavy casualties. Majar Som Nath Sharma led from the front, unconcerned about his personal safety. He was seen moving from section to section, emboldening his men. He even assisted his machine gun team to mow down the advancing enemy, although one of his hands was in plaster due to a previous injury. Majar Som Nath Sharma was killed in this action and was awarded the highest gallantry award for valour, the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), posthumously, for most conspicuous bravery and daring act in the face of the enemy.
 

The Battle of Shalateng (Srinagar)

 

6 Rajputana Rifles, 2 Dogra and 37 Field Battery soon arrived in Srinagar to reinforce the garrison. The tribals were now closing in on the town in great numbers for the final battle for Srinagar. On November 7, an aerial patrol reported a large concentration of tribesmen on the outskirts of Srinagar town at Shalateng village. This force was seen digging, prior to an assault on the town. Brig L P Sen rightly decided to attack the enemy before it had time to firm in1 Sikh was deployed on the Srinagar-Baramulla road to keep an intact front. One company of 4 Kumaon held the firm base, while the remainder of the battalion held the airfield. 1 Kumaon with a troop of 7 Cavalry were chosen to attack the main enemy force under command of Colonel Harbaksh Singh.


The action commenced at midday on 07 November 1947. The tribesmen were pinned down by the assaulting columns which attacked the enemy from the flanks and rear. Encircled from three direction, the enemy panicked and ran. Our Air Force now caught them in the open fields, creating further havoc in their ranks. The Battle of Srinagar was won by 1700 hours on the same day.


Having lost the race for Srinagar, Pakistan’s ambition of making a grand entry into Srinagar failed. At Shalateng, the Pakistan forces met their Waterloo: hundreds of enemy troops were killed or wounded, and the remainder headed towards Baramulla with utmost speed, with our troops close on their heels. On November 8, when 1 (Para) Kumaon entered Baramulla town, they found only a few enemy stragglers. The rest of the enemy force had fled towards Uri. Baramulla was now a ghost city. having been plundered and burnt down earlier by the Pakistani tribesmen. On receiving news of the unceremonious retreat of the tribesmen, civilians started returning from the surrounding hills where they had taken shelter. Nehru himself, riding an armoured car all the way from Srinagar, visited Baramulla on November 11. He was welcomed heartily by the entire population when he entered the town.


The main threat to Srinagar and the Kashmir Valley had been averted, but the enemy was still lurking in the higher ridges of the Baramulla gorge. Maj Gen Kulwant Singh, now in command of J&K Forces at Srinagar, gave the enemy no respite. The remaining tribesmen were thrown out of the Valley once and for all by November 13, 1947. Though the battle for Srinagar and the valley was over, the enemy forces continued to hold the high features around the Uri bowl, and many fierce battles had to be fought to clear this area.

 

Crucial battle of Jammu (1947- 48)


After the enemy was driven out of the Kashmir Valley in early November 1947, the main effort was diverted towards the Uri-Poonch link up in the North, Mirpur and Kotli in the South. 161 Infantry Brigade was given the task to effect the Uri-Poonch link up, across the Haji Pir Pass at 2,636 meters, while 50 Independent Para Brigade was ordered to secure Mirpur, Kotli and Jhangar area by November 20, 1947.


By the end of November, the enemy had, however, secured Mirpur and penetrated deep into the Naushera, Rajouri, Mendhar and Poonch areas. The battles of Naushera and Poonch tell a tale of grim determination and bold courage of our troops, who pursued the enemy relentlessly and eventually, drove him out of these key areas despite various handicaps. If the enemy had succeeded in holding on to these areas, he would have threatened the whole of the Jammu region, and all the routes connecting Srinagar and Jammu.
 

The Battle of Naushera Sector


50 Independent Para Brigade was given the task to relieve pressure on the State Forces detachment at Kotli. The advance commenced on November 16, along the Akhnoor- Naushera - Jhangar track. No strong opposition was encountered en route except for minor road block, but there was a sharp encounter on the outskirts of Kotli on November 26. The enemy was holding the bridge on River Bains supported by mortars and machine guns. This opposition was cleared on November 26-27, and the State Forces garrison was reinforced. Mirpur, an important communication centre south of Kotli, however fell into enemy hands the same day.

 

Due to certain political and military considerations. it was decided to abandon Kotli and take defences in the Jhangar-Naushera area. Jhangar, which was an important communication centre and considered a gateway to Naushera, was Pakistan's prime target. There were several thrusts and counter thrusts and the Jhangar defences changed hands twice.


Eventually our troops holding Jhangar had to fall back on Naushera on December 24, 1947. The enemy followed closely and occupied some important heights around Naushera. The final battle of Naushera was fought in February 1948. The enemy attacked Naushera in great strength in in the first week of February, but was repulsed. Brig M Usman, Commander 50 Para Brigade, took steps to evict the enemy from the surrounding heights, regardless of the enemy strength around Naushera. In the battle of Tain Dhar, a height near Naushera, one company of 1 Rajput Battalion, occupying this position, frustrated all enemy attempts to capture this ground. In fierce hand-to-hand fight, the tenacity of Naik Jadunath Singh of 1 Rajput and his section of nine men who kept the enemy at bay could be seen. In the process Nk Jadunath Singh was killed and was awarded the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) in recognition for his outstanding courage and determination against great odds. Lt KS Rathore, his company commander, was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC).

 

Capture of Jhangar


Lieutenant General Cariappa , who had taken over as Western Army Commander, brought his Tactical headquarters forward to Jammu to oversee the conduct of two important operations, the capture of Jhangar and Poonch.


The capture of Jhangar was of special significance for 50 Para Brigade to avenge the setback they had suffered in December 1947. The operation commenced in the last week of February 1948. 19 Infantry Brigade advanced along the Northern ridge, while 50 Para brigade cleared the hills dominating the Naushera-Jhangar road in the south. Many fierce battles were fought during this twin thrust toward Jhangar.


The enemy was eventually driven from this area and Jhangar was recaptured. Pakistan brought its regular forces into the fray in May 1948. Jhangar was once again subjected to heavy artillery bombardment and many determined attacks were launched on Jhangar by the Pakistan Army. Brig Usman, the hero of Naushera and Jhangar, however frustrated all enemy attempts to recapture Jhangar. Brig Usman unfortunately was killed in Jhangar by an enemy 25-pounder shell. For his inspiring leadership and great courage, Brigadier M Usman was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra posthumously. 7 Cavalry under Lt Col Rajinder Singh played a pivotal role in the recapture of Jhangar for which he was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra.

 

The Battle of Poonch


Poonch is a small town situated North-West of Jammu, at the confluence of Betar Nala and the Poonch River, in a bowl-shaped valley, surrounded by high hills. In November 1947, the 1st and the 8th Battalions of the J&K State Forces held the town. Well-trained Pakistani Irregulars had surrounded Poonch in November 1947 and were subjecting the town to heavy mortar and machine gun fire. On November 21,1947, 161 Infantry Brigade under Brig L P Sen, set off from Uri, cleared the Haji Pir Pass and descended towards the town of Poonch. Their aim was to reinforce the Poonch garrison with one battalion and clear the Uri-Poonch axis for maintenance.


1 Kumaon, under Lt Col Pritam Singh, MC (Military Cross), a Second World War veteran, entered Poonch town on November 21, 1947 and the State Forces located there were put under his command. Lt Col Pritam Singh who was promoted to Brigadier took immediate initiative to drive out a few enemy posts directly dominating the town. In January 1948 the enemy made six determined efforts to capture the town, but each one failed. In February 1948, 3/9 Gorkha Rifles had also landed and the garrison was now in a position to under take offensive.

 

The Link Up to Poonch


Brig Pritam Singh, MC, in the meanwhile kept on nibbling at the enemy posts on the surrounding hills. By the middle of June 1948, he had consolidated his position and kept the enemy at bay. 1 Kumaon had by now been in action for over six months and urgently needed rest and recuperation. A plan was made to effect a link-up with the Poonch garrison from the South with a view to bring in much needed supplies, rations and ammunition. This was a difficult proposition, as almost three enemy brigades were now operating in all the key areas around Poonch and Rajouri. A link up operation named ‘Operation Gulab’ was launched in June 1948 from the South for relief and resupply. Eventually two columns, one each from Rajouri and Surankot, managed to reach the outskirts of Poonch after some heavy encounters en route. A column under Brig Pritam Singh also went forward from Poonch to meet the link-up columns, but they were delayed by a stiff encounter with the enemy at Potha, a dominating position enroute. By now Mendhar, another enemy stronghold had been breached and the way to Poonch was cleared. On arrival of the relief columns there was great jubilation in Poonch, but as Rajouri and some other key areas were still in enemy hands, the siege of Poonch was still not over. It was decided to use 19 Infantry Brigade to clear the axis for good. This was achieved in September 1948. This operation resulted in the capture of nearly 5,000 square kms of territory in Rajouri, Mendhar and Poonch area, and three brigades of the enemy deployed in these areas were driven out with heavy casualties.


The long siege of Poonch was at last broken. The defence of Poonch against great odds was another outstanding example of the heroic effort of our troops and their patriotic fervour in most unfavourable circumstances.
 

The Battle of Zojila and Leh


The importance of Zojila lay in the fact that it commanded entry to Leh. Indus Valley provided a direct all weather approach to Leh and Kargil from Giligit and Skardu. Once Zojila closed in winter, there was no direct route available in Srinagar and Leh . After December 1947 , when the enemy had invested Skardu, the Indus Valley route to Leh lay open, and the capture of Leh would only be a matter of time. By March 1948 Leh was threatened both from the North and South. The enemy had occupied Zojila, Dras and Kargil in strength. Between Kargil and Leh only two state Forces platoons, guarding the bridge at Khaltse, stood in the way of the enemy.


Leh detachment was ordered to build an airstrip near leh in these difficult conditions, which they managed to complete by May 1948, as the Pakistani forces approached Khaltse, the State Forces platoons demolished the bridge, just at the nick of time to halt the enemy in its tracks. On June 1, 1948, one company of 2/4 Gorkha Rifles had been air-transported to Leh from Srinagar; the reinforced Leh garrison therefore managed to keep the enemy at bay.


Leh still had no satisfactory logistic support system as the route to Srinagar was blocked with the enemy in occupation of Zojila, Dras and Kargil. Gen Thimayya decided to clear Zojila, Dras and Kargil. 77(Para) Brigade of Chindits and Burma fame, commanded by Brig KL Atal, was given the task of capturing Zojila in September 1948. This brigade comprised 3 JAT, 1/5 Gorkhas, 5 Maratha Light Infantry, a platoon of engineers, a platoon of machine gunners and a few ancillary units. 1 Patiala, which was located at Baltal after clearing the Sonamarg valley, was put under command of the Brigade for this mission.


77 (Para) Brigade first went into action on September 3, but was unable to complete the mission due to difficult terrain and snow conditions on all the heights surrounding Zojila. So strong was the enemy position, that the battalion attacking Zojila frontally could make no headway, despite adequate artillery support and strafing of enemy positions by Tempest aircraft. Another attempt on September 13 also failed. Instead of bashing their heads against this strong enemy position on the Pass, Gen Thimayya now came up with a truly ingenious and bold plan. He decided to use light armour to dislodge the enemy from Zojila, and then make a dash for Drass and Kargil. Nowhere in the world had tanks ever operated at such heights. Within a period of one month, the Engineers (Madras Sappers) built a track, which could be used by Stuart tanks from Baltal base up to the Pass. The plan, however, involved the move of a squadron located at Akhnoor across the Pir Panjal Range. The road from Jammu to Srinagar was a mere dusty track in 1947/48, with weak wooden bridges over fast-flowing streams and rivers. Engineer assistance was required at each crossing, which had to be affected by night. To keep this move secret, tank turrets were removed and transported by vehicles. While heavily camouflaged turretless armoured vehicles moved from one harbour to another under the cover of darkness. The tanks had to be winched across many bridges. After nearly a month, the Stuarts arrived in the vicinity of Srinagar. A curfew was imposed in the town so that the direction of movement of the tanks could be kept a secret. To move a squadron of tanks 400 kms over such difficult terrain was a great achievement for the Stuart squadron and the Engineers. The first heavy snowfall of the season generally takes place of Zojila after mid October. This is exactly what happened on D Day, October 20, 1948, and 'OP BISON' had to be postponed. A less determined commander than Gen Thimayya would have given up, as heavier snow were expected thereafter. Gen Thimayya, in another bold decision, declared November 1 as the next D Day, regardless of the weather conditions. Full credit must be given to the CO of 7 Cavalry, Lt Col Rajinder Singh 'Sparrow' who did not hesitate for a moment to accept this seemingly impossible mission. During the assault, tanks were closely followed by determined infantry soldiers with bared bayonets. Gen Thimayya travelled in the leading tank, up the treacherous gradients to the white hell of Zojila. It should be noted that Gen Thimayya always led from the front, often at great personal risk. Any hesitation to tackle Zojila at this juncture would have resulted in the loss of Leh and Laddakh.


On November 1, 1948 at 1440 hours. tanks reached the Ghumri basin, negotiating the steep and slippery gradients while heavy snow fell around them. The tank column followed by 1/5 (Royal) Gorkhas continued across the Pass, while 1 Patiala and 4 Rajput charged and drove out the enemy from their strongholds. The appearance of tanks came as a bolt from the blue for the enemy. Surprised and highly demoralized, heavily punished by artillery fire, and blinded by snow, the enemy ran for their lives. Thimayya, who was on the spot as usual, gave orders to the Brigade Commander to press on to Machoi, a few kms ahead. 1 Patiala reached Machoi the same night. The surprised enemy once again ran for their lives, leaving a howitzer behind.


A great victory had been won, and the troops, justly proud, celebrated it with gusto. To assault the enemy position with tanks, at minus 20 degree temperature with blowing blizzards, without any snow clothing or equipment, had never before been achieved anywhere else in the world. The commanders and the men of 7 Cavalry and the infantry units displayed outstanding courage and great determination to achieve this distinction. The success was exploited further, and 4 Rajput captured Matyan, 18 kms ahead of Zojila, on November 4. However, the advance was now held up by a very strong enemy position on dominating grounds. Once again tanks were moved up to dislodge the enemy. By November 15-16, Drass, considered to be the second-coldest inhabited place in the world, was captured.


The Brigade resumed its advance on November 17-18 with Kargil as its main objective. Kargil looked accessible now, and all enemy positions on the way were eliminated by the night of November 22-23. A company of 5 Gorkhas took a long detour, crossed a feature more than 4,000 meters high, and contacted the Kargil defences at dawn. Another company of this battalion crossed the Shingo River to deal a blow to the enemy from another direction. Later in the day, a column from Leh affected the link-up at Kargil. Kargil was finally cleared of enemy, and the direct link from Leh to Srinagar was restored.

 

 

 

SINO-INDIA WAR : 1962

 

 

In 1962, Western Command was charged with the defence of the Ladakh plateau. At heights of 3000 to 4000 metres, with inadequate resources, Western Command and its gallant troops faced a numerically superior adversary in near arctic conditions, giving as good as it got.


Operations in Ladakh


The Sino-India conflict in 1962 was triggered by a dispute over Aksai Chin. Chushul Sector, only 15 miles from the border as crow flies and with an all weather landing strip was critical to the defence of Ladakh. Chushul was the solitary Indian position east of the Ladakh range. and was an important target for the Chinese. It lay on the road to Leh. A narrow sandy valley at an altitude of 4337 meters, it was bounded to the north by the clear blue waters of the Pangong Tso (lake), the east and west by 5700 meter ranges and the Chushul airfield to the south. There is an opening in the eastern side known as the Spanggur gap, which led to Rudok a 100 kms to the east. As part of the forward policy, a number of posts were established around Chushul by the J&K militia. As tensions with the Chinese mounted, Western Command requested a division of troops (4 Brigades) for an effective defence of Leh. Instead by September 1962 only one Brigade with two battalions were deployed. These units were strung in pickets and could at the most only serve as trip wires to any Chinese advance.


Defence of Chushul


The Sirijap valley, North of the Pangong Tse in Ladakh, was considered vital for the defence of Chushul airfield. Number of outposts were established there to thwart any enemy encroachment in the area. One of these outposts named Sirijap-1 was held by a platoon under the command of Major Dhan Singh Thapa. At 0600 hours on 21 October 1962, the Chinese opened a barrage of artillery and mortar fire over Sirijap-1 post. The shelling continued till 0830 hours and the whole area was set ablaze. Some shells fell on the command post and damaged the wireless set, which put the post of communication. The Chinese then attacked the outpost in overwhelming numbers. Major Thapa and his men repulsed the attack, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. But the Chinese were not dismayed by the defeat. They mounted another attack in greater number after shelling the area with artillery and mortar fire.


Major Thapa again rose to the occasion and repulsed the attack, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. He encouraged his men to be prepared for a third assault, which came after a short while indeed. The third Chinese attack was, however, more powerful and intense. The enemy now came with tanks in support of the infantry. The platoon post was now in a much-depleted strength owing to the casualties suffered in earlier attacks. But the post held out till the ammunition lasted. When the Chinese finally overran it, Major Thapa jumped out of his trench and killed many intruders in hand-to-hand fighting. He was eventually overpowered. His cool courage, conspicuous fighting qualities and leadership were in the highest tradition of the Army. Major Thapa was believed to have been killed in this engagement, and the original citation given reflects this. He was later discovered to have been taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers and after his release from the POW camp, he resumed his military career. For his gallant act, Major Dhan Singh Thapa was honoured with the highest wartime gallantry medal, Param Vir Chakra.

Rezang La


During the 1962 Indo-China conflict, 13 Kumaon was deployed in Chushul sector. The ‘C’ Company of the battalion led by Major Shaitan Singh held a crucial position at Rezang La, at a height of 5000 metres. The expected Chinese attack on Rezang La came on November 18th in the morning. In the dim light of the morning, the Chinese were seen advancing through nullahs to attack the Indian company. The Indian troops fell on their prepared position to face the enemy offensive and opened up on the advancing enemy with rifles, light machine guns, grenades and mortars. The nullahs were littered with dead bodies. The survivors took position behind boulders and the dead bodies. The enemy was not, however, discouraged. They subjected Indian positions to intense artillery and mortar fire. Soon about 350 Chinese troops commenced advance through the nullahs, but were repulsed by the determined Indian troops. Unsuccessful in frontal attack, the enemy, approximately 400 strong, then attacked from the rear of the company position. They simultaneously opened intense medium machine gun fire. This attack was contained at the barbed wire fencing of the post. The enemy again resorted to heavy artillery and mortar shelling and launched an assault by 120 Chinese troops from the rear. Two Indian platoons were encircled and fought bravely to the last man and last round.


Major Shaitan Singh, the Coy Commander, displayed exemplary leadership and courage in the battle of Rezang La. He led his troops most admirably and unmindful of his personal safety moved from one platoon post to another and encouraged his men to fight during which he was seriously wounded. In this action, 114 Kumaonis out of a total of 123 were killed. The Chinese suffered many more casualties.


In January 1963 a shepherd wandered on to Rezang La. It was as it the last moment of battle had turned into a tableau. The freezing cold had frozen the dead in their battle positions and the snow had laid a shroud over the battlefield. The Indian party which recovered the dead, recorded the scene for posterity with cine and still cameras. This tableau told their countrymen what actually happened that Sunday morning. Every man had died a hero. Major Shaitan Singh was conferred the Param Vir Chakra. Eight more received the Vir Chakra while four others the Sena Medal. The 13 Kumaon received the battle honour ‘Rezang La’ that it wears so proudly.


“You rarely come across such example in the annals of world military history when braving such heavy odds, the men fought till the last bullet and the last man. Certainly the Battle of Rezang La is such a shining example.”


Rezang La Memorial


‘HOW CAN A MAN DIE BETTER THAN FACING FEARFUL ODDS FOR THE ASHES OF HIS FATHERS AND THE TEMPLES OF HIS GODS’ - To the sacred memory of the Heroes of Rezang La 114 Martyrs of 13 Kumaon who fought to the Last Man Last Round, Against Hordes of Chinese on 18 November 1962.

 


 

 

THE SECOND KASHMIR WAR - 1965

 

 

Operation Gibraltar


In 1965 Pakistan made a deliberate plan to seize Jammu & Kashmir by use of force. The plan envisaged a combination of guerrilla and conventional tactics. Massive armed infiltration into the Kashmir Valley and parts of Jammu was planned to overthrow the State Government with the help of local collaborators. In Jammu, an offensive by regular forces was also planned with a view to cut off the lines of communication to the Valley, and to seize maximum territory in the Akhnoor-Jammu region.


The first rounds of the war were, however, fired by Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. This was meant to test the newly-acquired tanks and guns supplied by USA, and draw the Indian Armed Forces away from the main theatre of operations in the North. Pleased with their effort, the Pakistanis agreed to a ceasefire in July 1965. This action was meant to lull the Indians into a false sense of security before the commencement of armed infiltration into J&K in August 1965. The plan of invasion was ready in May 1965. The operation, code-named ‘Gibraltar’ was already in an advanced stage of planning and preparation by the time ceasefire was declared in Kutch.


Ten well-trained armed groups named after various famous commanders of Islamic history and folklore were to infiltrate into nominated areas to seize the government machinery with the help of local collaborators. The group at Srinagar was to place a puppet regime in position, which would declare independence and ask for assistance and recognition from various countries.


The grandiose plans of infiltration and declaration of independence at Srinagar were foiled by the people of Kashmir, who, instead of collaborating with the invaders, reported to the Army and civil authorities. Indian action was swift. Bases of infiltration were attacked and isolated by the Army. The armed infiltrators were hunted down with the help of local people and were soon on the run in complete disarray.


Counter-infiltration operations were necessary to destroy the forward bases of Pakistan’s’ infiltrating groups. This involved capture of a number of dominating features in the Pakistan held territory including those in the Tithwal sector on the Kishanganga River.


Capture of Haji Pir


A brilliantly conceived and gallantly led ground assault by infantry, saw Western Command wrest the crucial Haji Pir pass, a constant thorn in our defences, from Pakistan. The operation was completed on 29 August 1965 by an Infantry Brigade with four battalions.


Operation Riddle


The Indian troops crossed the International Border on 06 September 1965 as an inevitable consequence of Pakistani actions. An Indian Corps was launched to capture bridges on the Ichhogil canal at Dograi, Jallo and Barki.


 

 


Patton Nagar


In a splendid parry, Western Command formations and units totally wrecked an audacious Pakistani plan seeking to cut of XI Corps at the Beas bottleneck, decimating the much vaunted Pakistan 1 Armoured Division equipped with spanking new American Patton M 48 tanks. So much so, that the sleepy hamlet of Bikhiwind became famous as ‘Patton Nagar’, a graveyard of well-nigh two regiments worth of Patton tanks.

 

 

 Battle at Phillora


The biggest tank battle of the 1965 lndo-Pak War took place at Phillora in the Sialkot sector. During the southern thrust of the Indian Army on the Kaloi-Phillora axis the 17 Horse commanded by Lt. Col A B Tarapore advanced on the right flank. On 11 September 1965, the regiment was assigned the task of delivering the main armoured thrust for capturing Phillora. It decided upon launching a surprise attack on Phillora from the rear. To achieve the surprise, when the regiment was thrusting forward between Phillora and Chawinda, it was suddenly counter-attacked by the enemy’s heavy armour from Wazirali.


Lt. Col. A B Tarapore defied the enemy’s charge, held his ground and gallantly attacked Phillora with one of his squadrons supported by an Infantry battalion. Though under continuous enemy tank and artillery fire, he remained unperturbed throughout this action. When wounded, he refused to be evacuated. On 14 September 1965, he led his regiment to capture Wazirali. Unmindful of his injury, he again led his regiment and captured Jassoran and Butur- Dograndi on 16 September 1965. In this battle his own tank was hit several times. But despite the odds, he maintained his pivots at both these places and thereby helped the supporting infantry to attack Chawinda from the rear. Inspired by his leadership, the regiment fiercely attacked the enemy armour and destroyed approximately sixty enemy tanks, suffering only nine tank casualties. However, Lt. Colonel A B Tarapore tank was in flames and he died a hero’s death. The valour displayed by him in this action, lasting 6 days, was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Indian Army. Lieutenant Colonel Ardeshir Burzarji Tarapore was awarded with the highest war-time gallantry medal, Param Vir Chakra, posthumously.

 


 

THE WAR OF LIBERATION OF BANGLADESH - 1971

 

 

With the clouds of conflict darkening over East Pakistan in November/December 1971, Western Command was on a watching brief all along its Western border with Pakistan. Finally, after Pakistan launched pre-emptive air strikes on its airfields, Western Command launched operations in the Shakargarh and Dera Baba Nanak areas.


During the operations the Indian troops made tremendous progress and by 15 December 1971, had control of all the points overlooking the Shakargarh-Zafarwal road. The big test was the crossing of the Basantar river, which was heavily mined by Pakistan. The Pakistanis also had more than four independent armoured brigades worth of armour to throw at the Indians, which was far more than what the attackers had. The most formidable task was the river crossing.


The Infantry and Engineers literally had to run through a wall of fire to establish crossing points across the river. The bridgehead was secured but the enemy subjected it to concentrated artillery fire and aerial bombing. The Indian units pressed on regardless and by 15 December had established a bridgehead.


The Pakistanis tried to destroy the bridgehead by launching a series of counter-attacks headed by tanks of Pakistan’s 8 Independent Armoured Brigade. Indian tanks were rushed on to stop the Pakistanis from breaking through. Two Indian tank regiments held the Pakistanis with the help of Infantry battalions. The fighting here was easily the most desperate in the war with the Pakistan losing as many as 46 tanks in less than a day of fighting. It was here that Maj Hoshiar Singh and Second Lieutenant Arun Kheterpal were awarded the Param Vir Chakra for their conspicuous acts of gallantry.


Had the war dragged for even a week more, things would certainly have been very different. That is why the Pakistani high command despite having lost all its strategic objectives readily agreed to a cease-fire. The Indian Army in the West proved that the Regimental Colours its men carried were still a matter of honour. The stories of 1971 war ensured that those traditions would be carried on by many generations of fighting men in the years to come. Most of all, Indian troops had learnt that after all was said and done, honour in battle meant standing one’s ground and fighting-even to the last man or tank if necessary.