Sit rep: For a lion-hearted commander

  • Mandeep Singh Bajwa, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jun 05, 2016 15:01 IST
The lion and his kill... Brigadier JS Gharaya pictured on top of a Chaffee tank of Pakistani 3 (Independent) Armoured Squadron captured by 45 Cavalry and 14 Punjab in the Battle of Garibpur in November 1971. (Photo: Brigadier RK Singh, MVC)

What does one call the only man awarded both the Maha Vir Chakra and the Kirti Chakra, the second highest awards for gallantry in wartime and peace, respectively? An officer who was wounded leading his troops into battle as a brigadier. Surely, a lion among soldiers!

Joginder Singh Gharaya, commissioned in 1946, was transferred during Partition from the Frontier Force Regiment to 1st Bihar. When his company was fired upon by Razakars (anti-India militiamen) during the Hyderabad Police Action in September 1948, he immediately engaged them killing over a dozen, forcing them to retreat. When the Razakars deployed to make a stand, Gharaya charged them with just a section and overwhelmed them. His leadership, courage and initiative were recognised with the award of the Kirti Chakra. November 197 saw him in command of 42 Brigade of 9 Division tasked with liberating South-western Bangladesh. 14 Punjab and a squadron of 45 Cavalry from his formation captured the Boyra salient and successfully defended it against four counter-attacks by the enemy’s 107 Brigade. Fourteen Chaffee tanks were destroyed or captured. His superb tactical handling and inspiring presence in the frontline contributed largely to securing a lodgement for the planned offensive. On December 6, he personally led the attack towards Jessore and was wounded by artillery fire at the head of his troops, refusing to be evacuated till he had seen the operation through. Gharaya’s valour and exemplary leadership led to the award of the Maha Vir Chakra. He later commanded 9 and 7 Divisions. Rising to three-star rank, he retired as Director-General, Infantry in 1984. Humble and unassuming, the general always kept the welfare of his troops paramount. His career is an inspiring example for all times to come.


At Mayo College, Ajmer in the early 70s Sunil Lanba excelled in studies and sports with his leadership qualities honed by the National Cadet Corps (NCC). Joining the NDA, he became a naval navigation and direction specialist.

Steadily moving up the ladder, he took over as the head of the Navy this week. It was third time lucky for his Alma Mater. In 1948, General Nathu Singh (Class of 1921) turned down the CinC’s job in favour of his senior, General KM Cariappa. General Aditya Singh (Class of 1963) retired the same day as the outgoing Chief in 2007 missing out on succeeding him.


Army Commander General KJ Singh’s visualisation and drive were very discernible at the unveiling of the Western Command Museum. Particularly impressive was the energy shown by him and his team in replicating the mobile headquarters based on a special train from where the command oversaw operations to keep the peace during Partition and later defend J&K. Certainly worth a visit.


During the Kargil War, 8 Sikh remained in contact with the enemy for over a month, provided the firm base for the attack on Tiger Hill and with their famous stand at India Gate, beat-off three determined counter-attacks. Victory effectively ended the campaign. After a number of years in field areas, the battalion will celebrate its battle honour day from July 5-7 at Chandimandir, where it serves as part of the Pine Tree Division. Meanwhile, the men of the Charh di Kala unit continue to train hard for their role; the defence of a vital stretch of the western border.

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