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World Artillery Day: When centurion, who fought 4 wars, went down memory lane

Jallanwalia and 13 of his family members, who served in the Indian army, have the distinction of having fought all wars since the World War 1.

punjab Updated: Sep 28, 2017 14:22 IST
Amit R Joshi
Amit R Joshi
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
World Artillery Day,Artillery Day,Major (retd) Gurdial Singh Jallanwalia
Maj Gurdial Singh Jallanwalia (retd) flanked by his sons Col (retd) Harmanderjeet Singh (left) and IAF Group Captain (retd) Harjinderjeet Singh in Ludhiana on Wednesday.(Gurminder Singh/HT)

Major (retd) Gurdial Singh Jallanwalia (100), the oldest artillery man in the state and who has fought four wars, was all smiles when he was honoured here on Wednesday, a day before Indian Army’s celebrates the Artillery Day.

Jallanwalia and 13 of his family members, who served in the Indian army, have the distinction of having fought all wars since the World War 1. The veteran, who served as a gunner for more than three decades in the Indian Army and with the British Army before Independence, went down the memory lane.

Director general (artillery) sent Jallanwalia a silver salver congratulating him on completing 100 years of healthy life and for his contribution to the Indian Army. Brigadier (retd) JS Arora, director, Sainik Welfare Board, Punjab, presented him a memento and silver salver to felicitate him.

A picture of discipline and humility, Singh recalls his days fighting the wars and has vivid memories of the day he was shot in Burma during the World War 2. “We were sent to Burma by road from Bangalore to fight war against the Japanese in 1944 during World War II. We reached the Chindwin river and crossed it on a ferry. We were constantly attacked by the enemy artillery. We reached the Iraawadi river and found the bridge destroyed by the retreating Japanese. We spent two days in open fields and I was shot by a Japanese soldier. I gathered my men and charged an attack towards the direction of fire. We killed two Japanese hidden in the bushes. Luckily, the bullet from the outer part on the right side below the belt and I had a narrow escape,” he reminisced.

At 100, he suffers from no age-related problems and needs no help to manage his daily chores. Jallanwalia loves to eat ‘parantha’ with lots of butter. He said he never hesitated to eat anything and is a vegetarian and teetotaler. When asked about the secret of his healthy and long life, he said during his childhood the only thing they used to buy from market was salt. “Rest all the things were grown in the family farms,” he said.

Message to youth

As a message to the youngsters, he said discipline and integrity are two most important virtues in life. He is presently the executive member of Indian Ex-Servicemen League, Punjab and Chandigarh. His son Harminderjeet said his father went to join the agitation for One Rank One Pension and insisted on holding a hunger strike. However, Singh’s family convinced him not to do that considering his age and he donated ₹1 lakh for the agitation.

Born to Risaldaar Duleep Singh on August 21, 1917, his father fought in the World War 1 in Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq). After matriculating from the Royal Indian Military School, Jullundar Cantt, Jallanwalia joined the Mountain Artillery Training Center on June 15, 1935.


All in the family

After Independence, Gurdial Singh participated in the action against infiltration of Jammu and Kashmir in the Nowshera Sector in 1948. He continued to serve the nation in the 1962 and 1965 wars. He lost his nephew Major Bhupinder Singh (Mahavir Chakra) during the 1965 war. In 1971, his nephew Colonel Ajmer Singh fought against Pakistan.

The family tradition continued and his both sons Harmanderjeet Singh and Harjinderjeet Singh also joined the Indian Army and Indian Air Force. Both brothers fought during Operation Vijay at Kargil in 1999. Keeping the tradition alive, Harminderjeet’s son Gurminder Singh is contributing to the nation’s defence posted as Colonel in Jammu and Kashmir. Gurminder’s wife Lt Col Mandeep Kaur is also serving the Indian Army as a doctor along with her husband.

First Published: Sep 28, 2017 14:20 IST