Today marks the 30th anniversary of the launching of operations in Siachen. The versatility, innovation and inventiveness shown by our combat engineers to overcome the challenges posed by the high altitude, extreme climate and arduous terrain have been in their best traditions. I’ll present just two examples of the resourcefulness shown by them.
The Siachen area is dotted with crevasses making movement difficult, even dangerous. The Sappers fabricated crevasse crossing expedients (CCE) by bolting together six feet long segments of slotted iron and adding skid-boards with dimensions of 3x2 feet as the decking.
Nylon ropes fixed on both sides to provide railings afford safety to soldiers while crossing. A very innovative method was employed to give anchorages to these improvised bridges. Petrol cans were filled with water tied together with cable and buried deep then covered with snow and had hot water powered over them. The resultant massive slab of ice (after freezing) with well entrenched jerry cans provided excellent moorings.
Path-breaking innovation was used to fabricate a haulage technique to negotiate sheer cliff-walls.
The engineers conceptualised, designed and manufactured a manually operated guided delivery system that can haul a 100-kg load over a perpendicular expanse of 2,000 feet up an inclines of up to 75 degrees.
In an outstanding feat of field engineering posts at heights up to 22,000 feet were linked to helipads facilitating transport of ammunition, rations and fuel. Truly do our Sappers always rise to every challenge giving of their best.
SAM MANEKSHAW’S REGIMENTAL SOLDIERING
On commissioning with the first batch from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun on February 4, 1934 Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw did the traditional oneyear attachment with a British battalion, in this case, the 2nd Royal Scots at Lahore.
The oldest infantry regiment of the British Army, the Royal Scots take great pride in this brief association.
Thereafter he was posted to his permanent unit, 4/12 Frontier Force (the old 54th Sikhs of the Punjab Irregular Force, the famous Piffers). Put in command of a platoon of Sikhs he with his delicate features and fair skin didn’t exactly conform to their ideal of the strong, manly commander.
Within a short time however he proved, in sports competitions and later in the demanding environment of the North-West Frontier that he was second to none. Commanding the Sikh company at the Sittang River in Burma on February 22, 1942, he was severely wounded while leading a successful counter-attack against the Japanese bridgehead. His devoted men and in particular his batman, Sher Singh refused to leave him behind, carrying him a long distance to the field hospital. He was awarded the Military Cross for his leadership and courage.
After recuperation, qualifying at staff college and a stint on the staff, Manekshaw again went into battle in Burma with 9/12 Frontier Force. He remained extremely attached to the men who served with him his doors remaining open to them always. During the 1971 War, his old battalion, now 6th Frontier Force in the Pakistan Army occupied a portion of the Indian defence line in the Fazilka sector holding it despite repeated counter-attacks.
Manekshaw would beam with pride while pointing out the achievements of his old unit to everyone even though they were now the enemy. The hallmark of a true regimental soldier!
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