Colonel Harwant Singh (retd), a World War-2 hero decorated with the Military Cross - the highest award of the British Army - died on Tuesday night here at the age of 95. He was officer in charge of the flag-hoisting ceremony on the first Independence Day in 1947.
Commissioned in 2nd battalion of the Sikh Regiment in September 1941, he served in Iraq, Palestine, North Africa, Cyprus and Italy during World War-2 for the British Army and won the Military Cross in 1944 for gallantry during an offensive against the German forces on the Gothic Line in Italy.
Later, he joined 1 Sikh at Malaya. During the Independence Day of 1947, being the most senior Indian officer in 1 Sikh, he was made in charge of the flag-hoisting ceremony at Princess Park on August 15 and at the Red Fort on August 16.
On the outbreak of hostilities with Pakistan in October 1947, colonel Harwant Singh was one of the leading company commanders airlifted to Srinagar. After lieutenant colonel DR Rai, commanding officer, 1 Sikh, was killed in action, the colonel took over officiating command of the battalion and stopped raiders at Pattan. He was felicitated as one of the saviours of Srinagar. He was in the theatre of war in Jammu and Kashmir till the declaration of the ceasefire on January 1, 1949.
Thereafter, he took over command of 4 Sikh in the Kashmir valley itself. Transferred to the Rajputana Rifles in December 1951 when the state forces began to be merged with the Indian army, he commanded 18 Rajputana Rifles, 6 Rajputana Rifles and the Rajputana Regimental Centre. He leaves behind a son and two daughters. His grandson is a fourth-generation army officer.