The current tendency to depreciate the services of JCOs and NCOs notwithstanding, if used properly their instinctive, experienced leadership can prove to be a battle-winning factor.
The Deswal area (Rohtak, Jhajjar and Sonepat districts) of Haryana is renowned for its fighting men and their heroic exploits. Extremely tough, they are always an asset in battle. Subedar and Honorary Captain Pale Ram from Dabodha Kalan, Jhajjar district, cut his teeth with one of India's finest units, 3 Jat in North Africa, and Burma during World War 2.
During the latter campaign he was positioned as a sniper up a tree with orders to deny the Japanese movement along a certain ridge; he shot no less than 37 in three days before tumbling down from his perch. It was never discovered whether he came down because of lack of food or the wounds he suffered. He was awarded the Military Medal for his gallantry.
During the J&K operations of 1947-48 he was again wounded and mentioned in despatches.
My father whose Company Havildar Major he was in 1951-53 remembers him as a tall, handsome, athletic NCO always focused on producing results. He got things down through persuasion rather than laying down the law. His eternal positivism made him a great asset to his commanders. On the first day of the offensive on September 6, 1965, he led his company as a Subedar into the Bata shoe factory complex across the BRB Canal, the furthest penetration of any Indian troops towards Lahore.
Unfortunately, because of lack of support they had to withdraw.
Pale Ram's charge at Dograi
Pale Ram's considerable experience built up over two wars contributed to his performance in1965. During the night of September 21/22, Charlie Company under his command was on the right of 3 Jat's attack on Dograi. Just short of Dograi, a company of Pakistan's 12 Punjab opened up a withering fire from the BRB Canal embankment on their right flank. The attack was in grave danger of being pinned down even before reaching its objective in the face of the devastating enfilade fire.
Pale Ram did not hesitate. Above the ferocious din his voice was clearly heard, shouting 'Sarey jawan dahiney taraf ne mere saath, CHARGE!' (All jawans turn to the right with me and CHARGE!). What followed next must unquestionably be classed as one of the finest infantry charges and greatest acts of valour of all time. Not a single man hesitated, on hearing that clarion call 108 Jats turned and followed Pale Ram into that murderous barrage of fire.
Leading the charge, exhorting his men to press home the attack he was hit in the chest and stomach by a machine gun burst but undaunted continued, silencing two pillboxes with grenades. The objective was carried. Pale Ram was found on top of a bunker, his intestines hanging out, feared to be dead. But this fantastic man just pushed his intestines back with a towel. Evacuated to hospital, where six bullets were removed from his body. Happily he survived to receive the Vir Chakra for his incredible feat. This was a fit case for conferring of the highest gallantry award.
Pale Ram's fighting spirit and leadership will continue to inspire countless generations of men from Deswal and 3 Jat to give of their best on the battlefield.
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