Towards the end of World War 2 my father was selected for an emergency commission, joining the Engineers Officers’ Training School. The war having ended, he opted for a permanent commission. Trained by the likes of iconic world-war veterans like Mahadeo Singh, Jim Wilson, Mohan Thapan, Attiqur Rehman, Tikka Khan and Inder Gill, he passed out in December 1946 with the First Course from the Indian Military Academy. 1947 saw him posted as an engineer instructor at the Infantry School. He badgered his superiors for a posting to the front in J&K later that year, clearing minefields and building bridges with a Bombay Sappers field company.
Transferred to the 3rd Jat Regiment, my father served on the ceasefire line. Moving to peace stations he trained hard with his company, mastering man management and building a strong bond with his command. This connect with his men and his battalion was so strong that after his next tenure as intelligence staff officer in 25 Infantry Division (NorthWest Jammu), he opted for the Artillery rather than going to a different unit in the same regiment. Learning the basics of gunnery and fire control with the iconic 13 Field Regiment, he became a thoroughbred Gunner. Staff College, Wellington under the inspiring guidance of Field Marshal Manekshaw followed in 1959-60.
As an operations staff officer, he was deployed along with his formation, 11 (Independent) Artillery Brigade, known as the ‘biggest punch East of the Suez’ to counter the Chinese. Promoted to raise 85 Light Regiment in 1964 he did so in a record period just in time to be deployed for the assault on the Kargil Heights in a morale-boosting operation in May 1965. While in action the regiment converted to new equipment (120mm Brandt mortars), retaining the old 107mm mortars and doubling it’s firepower. A stint on Manekshaw’s staff in Eastern Command followed where he learnt important lessons in staff work from the great commander.
Sensing that war was coming, he drove his men hard in 36 Artillery Brigade where we was posted on promotion. His formation was selected for employment of new equipment like the 160mm mortar and the 122mm Grad-P single-barrel rocket launcher. Commanding the largest artillery force ever deployed in the Indian subcontinent in the Shakargarh sector in 1971 he was able to demonstrate the use of massed artillery which he had been advocating.
The command of 54 Brigade followed, defending Amritsar during the period of no-war, no-peace soon after the ceasefire where he maintained moral ascendancy over the enemy with carefully calibrated aggression. He was then posted to command 54 Division on promotion. Rigorous training of the division for its deep strike role took up most of his time as did the formulation of the new doctrine for manoeuvre warfare and employment of combined allarms forces to achieve a decisive victory in the semi-desert area south of Ferozepur. He retired in 1979 after being the chief of staff of two corps.
About his career I can come up with nothing better than to quote General Vinay Shankar, former Director General of Artillery. “Amongst my generation of gunners General Bajwa was held in great esteem. He was a thorough professional and an inspiration to all of us.” A glittering career and a full life. No one could have asked for more. Farewell to my father, my hero.
(I would request those who served with my father to write in with their memories of him to firstname.lastname@example.org or call/WhatsApp on 093161-35343)