Recently, Brig Gurbax Singh, Commander, 48 Brigade, in 1962, appearing on a discussion on a leading TV channel, talked about the reasons for the ignominious retreat from this seemingly formidable position.
He candidly acknowledged that the faulty orders from the headquarters and commanders, including him, were primarily to blame. He admitted that fighting running battles rather than holding the fortresses, which were Sela and Bomdila, and that sending troops out in penny packets from prepared positions rather than concentrating them in defence led to our undoing.
So what exactly happened? Bomdila at 8,500 feet was a formidable position defended by 1st Sikh LI, 1st Madras and 5th Guards stocked with ammunition and rations to last 15 days. It had adequate artillery support. Now started the series of detachments. 1 Sikh LI sent out a company to Phudung to cover that approach. 1 Madras detached a company to defend the divisional headquarters at Dirang Dzong. Gen Pathania ordered 5 Guards to Thembang to block the Chinese advance.
They caught a battalion of the PLA's special forces in a classic killing ground scenario and with guns of 6 Field Regiment and 22 Mountain Regiment firing at intense rates killed some 300-400 Chinese. However, the battalion on running out of ammunition was allowed to withdraw. Inexplicably, 5 Guards apprehending that the Chinese had inserted themselves between them and Bomdila made for the plains and safety. However, some officers and men made it back to their original defences proving that such was not the case.
Kaul, eager to assert himself, now ordered a strong column to clear the roadblock at Munna Camp. So out of touch was he with the situation that he did not even know that the Division HQ as well as 65 Brigade had decamped in confusion earlier in the day! Accordingly, two companies of 1st Sikh LI moved off with a couple of Stuart tanks of 7th Cavalry.
Bomdila's defences now stood denuded with only four out of the original 12 companies available to defend it. The Chinese lurking in the neighbourhood were quick to occupy the Sikh LI defences and opened fire on the mobile column when it returned learning of the enemy raid. A counter-attack using troops of 67 Brigade turning out to be a non-starter, Bomdila was abandoned in the early hours of November 19. Attempts thereafter to make a stand at Rupa and Chaku were abortive and the whole force made for the foothills. Thus ended another inglorious chapter in the history of the once mighty 4 Division in the 1962 war.
INS Tarkash handed over to Navy
The second of three stealth frigates that Russia is building for India at the Yantar Shipyard in the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad was handed over to the navy on November 9. Named INS Tarkash (Urdu for quiver), she bears pennant number F46. Russia and India signed a $1.6 billion contract for constructing three modified Krivak III class (also known as Talwar class) guided missile frigates in 2006. The first frigate, INS Teg, was inducted into the navy on April 27 this year.
The third frigate, INS Trikand, is currently undergoing dock trials and will be inducted into the navy in the summer of 2013 after it completes sea trials in the Baltic. The new frigates are armed with eight BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles while the earlier batch was equipped with the Klub-N system. They are also equipped with a 100-mm gun, a Shtil surface-to-air missile system, two Kashtan air-defence gun/missile systems, two twin 533-mm torpedo launchers, and an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter. Russia has previously built three Talwar class frigates for India - INS Talwar, INS Trishul and INS Tabar. Good luck to all those who sail in them.
Diwali greetings to men and women in uniform
When the citizens of India celebrate the festival of lights and good cheer, it's worthwhile for them to remember that there are those who far away from their families stand sentinel on mountain tops, are at readiness on airbases, patrol the sea lanes, insurgency-hit areas and our streets, secure borders, combat crime and keep them safe. Diwali greetings to everyone in uniform - the armed forces, border management forces, paramilitary troops, policemen, fire-fighters and the emergency services.
Writing this column on Remembrance Day (November 11), one is reminded of the 1.76 lakh Indian soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice during both World Wars. Considering that we want to sup at the high table of the world's nations it's worth reminding the world about our sacrifices and contribution in the struggle against fascism, tyranny, oppression and for world peace. High time we fully recognised these sacrifices.
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