In war, motivation and inspiration play a big role in making men perform miracles in the face of seemingly hopeless odds. It is worth examining what inspires them to do so.
The stand of Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri and Alfa Company, 23 Punjab, at Longewala on the night of December 4/5, 1971, and the morning and afternoon of December 5 stands out in the annals of small unit action in the face of a superior force. Badly outnumbered, outgunned, cut off and surrounded, they still stood their ground, their stand enabling the IAF's sky warriors to inflict deadly blows on a vastly superior Pakistani force.
In the first week of December 1971, 12th Division occupied the Jaisalmer Bulge and was poised to launch an offensive to cut Pakistan's north-south communications in the vicinity of Rahim Yar Khan. 45 Brigade, including 23 Punjab, occupied a firm base for the attack along the Kishangarh-Tanot-Sadhewala line with Chandpuri's company holding the flank of the defences at Longewala.
The division's other two brigades, 30 and 322, were concentrated for the advance to Rahim Yar Khan. The formation lacked the usual complement of medium artillery and its armour consisted of a regiment of the light, thinly armoured AMX-13 tanks though a squadron of T-55s was placed under its command from Southern Command reserve for the offensive.
Pakistani human intelligence assets were active in the area and did a good job of collecting information on Indian deployments, troop moves and dispositions and assessing Indian intentions. They correctly analysed that the posture of Indian 12 Division pointed to an advance into Pakistani territory to secure the Islamgarh-Baghla-Rahim Yar Khan line. A bold plan was contemplated to put the Indian offensive off-balance, outflank and get behind the Indian formation and capture its administrative support base as well as the airbase at Jaisalmer.
Next week: The Pakistani plan and preparations
Promotions for highest gallantry award winners
The British cherished all the brave men who were awarded the highest decoration for valour, the Victoria Cross, but somehow there were no special privileges for them in the form of out-of-turn promotions or advancement to higher ranks or to the officer cadre for those from the ranks.
Lance Naik Lala, 3rd Dogras from Hamirpur district who won the VC in Iraq in 1916 retired as a Jemadar (Naib Subedar). Similarly, Naik Darwan Singh Negi, 1st Garhwal Rifles (now 6 Mech) from Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, a VC winner in France in 1914, went on pension as a Subedar.
The situation changed with Independence. There was a desire to retain the winners of highest gallantry awards in the Army for as long as possible, in line with our cultural traditions and as a living symbol to motivate other soldiers.
Winners of the VC and our own symbol of valour, the Param Vir Chakra, from below officer rank were progressively promoted to the highest rank possible, that of Honorary Captain. The martyrdom of Naib Subedar Nand Singh, VC, 1st Sikh, during the First Kashmir War of 1947-48 while winning the Maha Vir Chakra posthumously triggered off a move to preserve the lives of such awardees.
Orders were issued to prevent the surviving awardees from going into battle ever again. This was particularly galling to Havildar (later Major) Parkash Singh, VC, 5/8 Punjab (later 16 Sikh), who cherished nothing more exhilarating than action.
Rifleman Sanjay Kumar from Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh, won a well deserved Param Vir Chakra as the leading scout in 13 Jammu & Kashmir Rifles' assault on the Flat Top area in the Mushkoh Valley during the Kargil War, 1999. However, even 14 years after the conflict, he still languishes as a Havildar.
The Army could've given him a Special List Commission in the rank of an officer. Not having chosen to do so, Sanjay should've been made a JCO at least by now. However that was not to be. Tomorrow, if he's offered a Class 1 job by his parent state, he may well chose to leave the Army. This is another matter agitating the War Decorated India and anguishes this writer too.
Battle Honour and raising days in March
Commemorations of honours won in battle and raising days of units, formations, squadrons and ships are particularly important for military men. March is a busy month for those who follow such anniversaries. This month's commemorations include:
1st March - Meiktala Day (1944) - 16th Cavalry Hai Day (1917) - 3rd Sikh
3rd March - Syria Day - 1st Engineer Regiment
10th March - Neuve Chapelle Day (1915) - 2nd Garhwal Rifles
13th March - Raising Day - 15th Punjab (1st Patiala Rajindra Sikhs)
15th March - Keren Day (1941) - 2nd Maratha LI (Kali Panchwin)
16th March - Cassino Day (1944) - 1/9 Gorkha Rifles
22th March - Tofrek Day (1885) - 2nd (Royal) Sikh
31st March - Raising Day - 62nd Cavalry
Congratulations and greetings to all these fine regiments.
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