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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Dec 2014

Servicemen' wives - epitome of grace

Mandeep Singh Bajwa, Hindustan Times   January 15, 2013
First Published: 10:42 IST(15/1/2013) | Last Updated: 10:44 IST(15/1/2013)

The wives of men in uniform are an example to their civilian sisters in the matters of grace, compassion and strength as much as in style, deportment and etiquette. They exude class and are in every way women of substance. I would support what some say that Services wives contribute 50% towards their husbands' success.


They run their homes efficiently for their family in whatever accommodation is offered - whether a Basha or Flagstaff House. Their role in motivating, encouraging and providing strengthen to their soldier-husbands is phenomenal. Not only do they add a feminine grace to the service life, but their compassion and the softness that only a woman can radiate mitigates some of the harshness of a tough Service life.

Many a times, a Service wife is called upon to take the edge off her husband's severity on his juniors and assuage hurt feelings. I recall my mother doing just that to perfection on many occasions. This isn't something that they are trained for, but they in a way grow into the job. Diplomacy is certainly a desirable trait in a soldier's better half!

With husbands away at the battlefront, they keep the home fires burning, bringing up the children and looking after the elders. If someone's husband makes the supreme sacrifice, they rally round and ensure that the bereaved family lacks in nothing. My mother was a Service wife par excellence. On the occasion of her first death anniversary, which falls tomorrow, I dedicate this issue of Sitrep to the unsung heroine - the armed forces wife.

Case for infantry regiment for the Ahirs
The stand of the men of Charlie Company, 13 Kumaon, at Rezang La has few parallels in military history. They fought to the proverbial 'last man, last round'. Hardly surprising, since the unit comprised of Ahirs - the hardy peasant community from southern Haryana, north-east Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh which is noted for valour and martial qualities. In the infantry, they're mostly found in the Kumaon Regiment where they comprise 25% of the strength in most battalions with the 11th and 13th Battalions 100% Ahirs.

In addition, they're recruited in the Guards, Mechanised Infantry, Paras, Grenadiers, Jats and a few other regiments. There are some excellent 100% Ahir composition units in the artillery, including 42 and 63 Field Regiments in addition to some old sub-units like 5 Bombay, 7 Bengal and 4 Hazara Batteries. Havildar Umrao Singh from Palra, Jhajjar district, won the Victoria Cross in the Burma campaign for uncommon valour while serving with 30 Mountain Regiment, the only such awardee in the Artillery. 66 Armoured Regiment has an Ahir squadron, as do some others.

The question is, why is there no infantry regiment specifically named after and recruiting this valorous community? Perhaps an accident of history? However justice must be done to the Ahirs and such a regiment formed. This should be without prejudice to the existing class composition of the Kumaon Regiment where a mix of Kumaonis and Ahirs have proved their worth according to veterans of the regiment keenly interested in such matters.

Revenge is a dish best served cold
Immediately after the 1971 war, my father's formation, 54 Brigade, occupied defences along the ditch-cum-bundh obstacle stretching from Attari to Kakkar north of the Amritsar-Lahore axis with some elements thrown forward. 2 Sikh holding Pulkanjri village and border outpost confronted the enemy's 43 Punjab. In the atmosphere of 'no-war, no-peace', the Pakistanis were liable to fire without provocation to restore their morale shattered by the surrender in Bangladesh. One day, a JCO and NCO were shot dead by uncalled-for fire while inspecting the wire defences. 2 Sikh, understandably upset, were all ready to launch an attack. My father restrained them, arguing that the enemy would be lying in wait, leading to unnecessary casualties on our side.

A few weeks later, one dark night, elements of 2 Sikh crept forward and established themselves around the enemy-held post. They then dug down, placing medium machineguns and deploying snipers. Early next morning, when the Pakistanis were sunning themselves on top of their bunkers, our soldiers let loose a withering fire that accounted for 18 of the enemy. A tough stand was taken thereafter at the flag meeting. The enemy was left in no doubt about the treatment they would receive in case of further misadventure. The Sector became very peaceful subsequently, the enemy having learned a tough lesson the hard way.

This is a lesson to those clamouring for immediate action in the wake of the brutal, inhuman beheading of Lance Naik Hemraj of 13 Raj Rif.

Would like to hear from fighter pilots, both serving and retired, about their experiences. Please write in at msbajwa@gmail.com or call me on 093161-35343.

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