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Review of Battle of Chamb 1971
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Col JK Achuthan (Retd.) | Date:04 Apr , 2021 3 Comments
Col JK Achuthan (Retd.)
8 GR was commissioned in June 1980. 

ORBAT of the Indian Armed Forces in and astride Chhamb Sector1

Hq 10 Infantry Division   –  Andarwal, West of Akhnoor  (GOC – Maj Gen Jaswant Singh – Armoured Corps)

28 Infantry Brigade (Responsible for the Defence of Hills Sector in the North)

    • 5 RAJPUT  (detached and located at Troti Heights)
    • 2 JAK RIF  (Hills Sector, North of 8 JAK Militia – Sehot)
    • 8 J&K Militia (North of Chamb Sector at Red Hill, Dewa, Ghopar, Nathuan Tibba, Laleali, Point 707)
    • 56 Light Regiment (Artillery) less Battery
    • Battery ex 12 Field Regiment (Artillery)

191 Infantry Brigade (Responsible for the Defence of Chhamb Sector, West of Munawar Tawi) (Commander – Brig RK Jasbir Singh – JAT)

    • 5 SIKH (Mandiala Battalion)
    • 5 ASSAM  (Singri Battalion)
    • 4/ 1 GORKHA RIFLES  (Munawar Battalion)
    • 10 GARHWAL RIFLES  (Munawar Tawi East/ Chhathi Tahli Battalion)
    • ‘A’ Squadron (Sikh) 9H
    • 57 Battalion BSF
    • C’ Company 12 GUARDS (ATGM)
    • A’ Team of 9 Commando Battalion (Para)
    • 81 Field Regiment (Artillery)
    • 12 Field Regiment less Two Batteries (Artillery)
    • 127 Locating Battery (Artillery)
    • Company ex 61 Engineer Regiment with effect from 30 Nov 71

52 Infantry Brigade (Responsible for the Defence of Jaurian Sector, East of Munawar Tawi) (Commander – Brig KK Nayyer)

    • 14 PUNJAB
    • 7 GARHWAL RIFLES
    • 3/ 4 GORKHA RIFLES  (detached and located at Akhnoor)
    • 52 Field Regiment (Artillery)
    • ‘C’ Squadron (Dogra) 9H
    • 51 Battalion BSF less Two Companies
    • Company ex 61 Engineer Regiment with effect from 30 Nov 71

68 Infantry Brigade (Commander – Brig Tom Morlin – SIKH) – Corps Reserve. Released at 5 AM,  4th Dec 71

    • 7 KUMAON
    • 9 JAT
    • 5/ 8 GORKHA RIFLES
    • 18 Field Regiment (Artillery)

10 Div Artillery Brigade (Commander – Brig Hari Srinivasan)

    • 216 Medium Regiment (Artillery) – located at Chapriyal area, East of Munawar Tawi
    • 39 Medium Regiment (Artillery) – located at Sahamwan area, East of Munawar Tawi
    • FDC – located at Kachriyal
    • Battery ex 12 Field Regiment (Artillery) – located near Akhnoor till 06 December 71      
    • Battery ex 56 Light Regiment (Artillery) – located near Akhnoor till 06 December 71      
    • Troop ex 151 Air Defence Regiment –  located at Kachriyal
    • Battery ex 45 Air Defence Regiment –  located at Akhnoor

Armour

    • Deccan Horse (9H) – T 54s  –  Div Integral Regiment . (‘A’ Sqn – Sikh, ‘B’ Sqn – Jat, ‘C’ Sqn – Dogra)
    • 72 Armoured Regiment – T 55s  –  New Raising  –  (‘A’ Sqn – Dogra, ‘B’ Sqn – Jat, ‘C’ Sqn – Rajput)
    • 2 (I) Recce Squadron (CIH) – AMX 13

Engineers

    • 61 Engineer Regiment
    • 106 Engineer Regiment 

Introduction

The Chhamb Salient2 provided India a ‘God-given’ Launchpad to strike at the Northern Plains of Pak Punjab from our Jammu region, and disrupt movement of vital Offensive Formations from the Jhelum – Kharian – Gujrat Concentration Areas. For Pakistan, the development of offensive operations through Chhamb  and   capture   of  Akhnoor  on  the  Indian  side,  would  cut  the main Indian logistics axis to maintain its forces in Sunderbani, Naushera, Rajouri, Mendhar, and Poonch Sectors in the Hills Region, going up to the lofty Pir Panjal Range. The terrain in Chhamb and in depth towards Akhnoor is undulating and has rich agricultural tracts. It is tankable. In winter, the Munawar Tawi is fordable at Mandiala, Chhamb, Sainth, Darh and Raipur. Many stretches in this general area have high sarkanda grass, and some areas adjacent to the Munawar Tawi is boggy and swampish, requiring prior reconnaissance for armour movement. In August 1965, Pakistan had overrun two Indian Brigades in this region by launching an attack with its 7 Infantry Division under the ‘Qadiyani’ Maj Gen Akhtar Hussein Malik supported by two Patton Regiments, but they were finally stopped at the Kanik-Fatwal Ridge Area, short of Akhnoor. Midway during this offensive, the Pak GOC was changed,  and Maj Gen Yahya Khan (who was a favourite of President Ayyub Khan) replaced him. No further progress happened.

On 01 Nov 1971, Gen Manekshaw visited the Div. After he was briefed, he gave the following clear “Terms of Reference”:-

  1. The Chhamb Salient across the Munawar Tawi to be properly defended. No loss of territory will be accepted.
  2. One additional Armoured Regiment, Medium Regiment (Artillery) and Engineer Regiment to be given to 10 Div from Corps resources. No further accretions to be expected.
  3. ‘Limited Offensive’ within the existing Divisional Resources could be planned and undertaken, as and when War breaks out.

GOC 10 Div immediately ordered 191 Infantry Brigade alongwith ‘A’ Squadron armour ex 9H to deploy and prepare Defences across the Munawar Tawi. One of its Battalions (10 GARHWAL RIFLES) was deployed East of Tawi in Raipur Crossing – Chhathi Tahli – Nawan Hamirpur Area. On 01 Dec 1971, the Division’s Southern Sector was further strengthened by deploying 52 Infantry Brigade (-) with ‘C’ Squadron of 9H at Khour, to cover the Nadala Salient. One of its Infantry Battalions (3/ 4 GR) continued to be deployed at Akhnoor in depth. One Infantry Battalion ex 28 Infantry Brigade (5 RAJPUT) was located at Troti Heights, and the Recce Squadron Armour was located at Akhnoor for the defence of the vital Bridge on the Chenab River. Defensive Minefields were ordered to be laid by Hq 10 Div along the LC in 191 Infantry Brigade Sector on 30 Nov, leaving a ‘Gap’ between Barsala – Point 951 – Jhanda (ie 5 ASSAM – 4/ 1 GR Boundary area), which was to be covered with a ‘Dummy Minefield’, for future offensive use by our Force Grouping. Thus 191 Infantry Brigade’s Infantry Units got only three days and nights to lay whatever Protective and Defensive Minefields that was possible!

It is obvious that there had been a re-think at the Corps Hq and Div Hq levels by the end of Nov, to not exercise the immediate Option of going on a Limited Offensive through the Chhamb Sector. This was because of a specific Army Hqs Directive to this effect, so as not to project to the world at large that we were the ‘Aggressor’ on the Western Front. Precious weeks and Engineer resources for laying strong Defensive Minefields and Protective Minefields in the Chhamb Sector, thus got wasted.

Final Deployment of 191 Infantry Brigade before the War Started

Professional Mistakes Committed by the Indian Side …….

  1. 10 Div had one month’s time after the Chief’s Visit to prepare proper Defences, and keep prepared and trained an Offensive Force consisting of an Infantry Brigade, Armoured Regiment, Two Medium Regiments (Artillery), one Field Regiment (Artillery) and one Engineer Regiment in the Plains Sub-Sector; and One Infantry Battalion Group including a Para Cdo Team in the Hills Sub-Sector. Yet, it did not launch this Force on the night of 4/5 December 71 onwards, for capturing of pre-selected Objective(s)/ Spoiling Attack(s)/ Probing Attack(s). Why? 
  2. Hq 191 Infantry Brigade does not appear to have carried out a proper ‘Appreciation’ for carrying out its Defensive Deployment. All three Infantry Battalions appear to have been deployed ‘mathematically’ across the Tawi. Ideally, the ‘Mandiala Bridge’ should have been chosen as the Brigade GTI, and further deployment carried out accordingly. 
  3. Hq 10 Div does not appear to have carried out the ‘Intelligence Appreciation’ of Possible Patterns of Enemy Offensive(s) onto its Div Defended Sector, based on Enemy’s known Strength, Capabilities and Options. This would have dictated that the whole of 9H had to be deployed across the Munawar Tawi ab-initio, with effect from 22 November 71 onwards. This essential measure would have denied the Enemy ‘surprise’ and enabled better reading of ‘Battle Indications’. It would have caused ‘reading of the Enemy’s Mind’, and led him into a catastrophic Defensive Trap in Chhamb Sector. Hq 15 Corps had not bid for 10 pre-planned fighter bomber missions per day, should 10 Infantry Div Sector get activated. There were no FACs and Tentacles pre-placed in 191 Inf Bde Sector, to ensure Close Air Support. 

Pakistan Army’s Order of Battle Opposite Chhamb3   

Pak 23 Infantry Division GOC – Maj Gen Iftikhar Janjua (BALUCH) till 9 Dec 71, Brig Kemal Matin (Artillery) (officiating till 10 Dec), thereafter Maj Gen Ghulam Ummer (Armoured Corps), who was Secretary of the National Security Council and a prime contributor to the flawed Policy in East Pakistan. 

7 AK Brigade    Was mostly deployed opposite Indian 25 Div Sector. Commander  –  Brig Fazlur Raheem

    • 1 AK Battalion
    • 4 AK Battalion
    • 8 AK Battalion 
    • 1 Zhob Militia Battalion   tasked to attack and capture Point 707 & Laleali
    • 51 Composite Mountain Regiment (Artillery) consisting of 2 x Batteries 105 mm Howitzer and Battery of 3.7” (94 mm) Howitzer
    • 285 Locating Battery (Artillery)  –  6 x 3.7” Howitzer (94mm)
    • Mujahid Field Regiment (Artillery)  –  17 Pounder Guns
    • Mujahid Mortar Battery  –  120 mm Mortars 

20 Infantry Brigade  –  Holding Brigade in Plains Sector, opposite Indian 191 Infantry Brigade in Chhamb. Was tasked to attack the Southern portion of Chhamb Salient. Commander  –  Brig Sayyed Zayir Hussein

    • 14 PUNJAB
    • 17 FF
    • 11 Field Regiment (Artillery)  –  25 Pounders
    • A’ Squadron 26 CAV (Shermans)
    • 19 BALUCH (R&S) less Two Companies
    • Company ex 47 PUNJAB
    • Company SSG

4 AK Brigade  –  North Attacking Brigade in Plains Sector. Commander  –  Brig Ahmed Jemal Khan  –  2 AK Battalion of this Brigade was tasked to capture Indian 8 J&K Militia’s Defences at Red Hill, Dewa and Ghopar.

    • 2 AK Battalion
    • 6 AK Battalion
    • 47 PUNJAB less a Company (New Raising)
    • 13 AK Battalion – (Reserve Battalion of 7 AK Brigade), which was also assigned on 02 December
    • 39 Field Regiment (Artillery)  –  25 Pounders
    • 50 Field Regiment (Artillery)  –  122 mm Howitzers
    • RHQ 26 CAV
    • 12 (I) Armoured Squadron/ Troop  –  4 x Sherman Tank Destroyers 

66 Infantry Brigade  –  ex 17 Infantry Div/1 Corps. Upper Middle Assaulting Brigade in Plains Sector. Commander  –  Brig Qamur-us-Salam Khan

    • 11 CAV  –  ex 2 (I) Armoured Brigade /1 Corps.  T 59s       –  Formed a separate Group, for infiltration via Sukhtao Nala to capture Mandiala
    • 4 PUNJAB                          
    • 23 BALOCH
    • 33 FF (New Raising)
    • 63 Field Regiment (Artillery)  –  122 mm Howitzers
    • 28 Medium Regiment (Artillery)     155 mm Howitzers
    • B’ Squadron 26 CAV (Shermans)

111 Infantry Brigade  –  ex 1 Corps. Lower Middle Assaulting Brigade in Plains Sector. Commander  –  Brig Nasser-ullah Khan Babur who got wounded on night 3/4 Dec, and was replaced by Lt Col SK Tressler (CO 42 PUNJAB). Brig Abdullah Malik later came as replacement on 13 Dec.

    • 42 PUNJAB (New Raising)
    • 10 BALUCH
    • 3 FF
    • C’ Squadron 26 CAV  –  Shermans
    • 64 Medium Regiment (Artillery)  –  155 mm Howitzers
    • 71 Mountain Regiment (Artillery) – 105 mm Howitzer
    • Troop (Artillery) –  7.2” Heavy Guns

Overall Armour

    • 2 (I) Armoured Brigade ex 1 Corps – New Raising. Commander  –  Brig Sardar Ahmad
    • 11 CAV  –  Ex 2 (I) Armoured Brigade. T 59s
    • 28 CAV  –  Ex 17 Infantry Div. Made available from 4 Dec 71 evening. T 59s
    • 26 CAV  –  Div Integral Armoured Regiment. Shermans with 76 mm guns
    • 12 (I) Armoured Squadron  –  4 x running Sherman Tank Destroyers

Overall Artillery  –  A total of 31 Fire Units consisting of over 180 different types of Guns/Howitzers/Mortars, by pooling in 23 Div’s Artillery Brigade, 17 Infantry Div Artillery Brigade and 1 Corps Artillery Brigade resources. Commander  –  Brig Kemal Matin

The Pakistani Plan4

The Pakistani GHQ had given GOC 23 Division the Primary Task of clearing the Enemy held territory up to River Munawar Tawi. (Refers – Pakistan’s Crisis in Leadership – Major General Fazal-i-Muqueem Khan, National Book Foundation – Islamabad-1973 – page 197.)

We have seen that terrain in the Northern part of the Sector was more hilly and broken than in the South. Before the war started, there was a school of thought that the ideal line of advance into Chamb was from the South i.e. from North of Tanda. However, according to General Fazal-i-Muqueem, General Iftikhar rejected this idea. The General’s rationale for doing so was that although in the North, terrain was bad; this fact was balanced by the fact that in the South the Enemy was much stronger, and there was a greater chance to surprise the Enemy. (Refers-Pakistan’s Crisis in Leadership – earlier quoted – page 197). In the North, opposite what the Indians called ‘Hills Sub-Sector’ going towards Indian 25 Div Sector, there were two Pakistani brigades i.e. 4 AK Brigade and 7 AK Brigade. The GOC appreciated that no major fighting would take place in this area, and he risked pulling out 4 AK Brigade, for the Chhamb Offensive.

The ‘key idea’ of General Iftikhar’s plan was that once Mandiala Bridge was captured; the Indians would be forced to abandon Chhamb and all areas West of Munawar Tawi; since the loss of Mandiala Bridge would ‘outflank’ entire positions West of Tawi, and render it untenable.

Deception Plan carried out by Gen Iftikhar Janjua, during the last Week of November 715

  1. Pak 26 CAV presence was shown at areas Padhar, Hunj, Mattewal, Kuri and Tanda; to confuse the Indians. It was ensured that this got duly reported.
  2. A Battery of Heavy Regiment (Artillery/ ex Pak 1 Corps) presence was also shown at Tanda, to the South of Indian 10 Div Sector.
  3. Some ‘Pattons’ were observed in Nadala – Marchola Salient near the IB in the South. Some T Series tanks were also reported from Mattewala area.
  4. Pak 17 Infantry Div/ 1 Corps was located at Jalalpur Sobtian-Piroshah area. It had 66 & 67 Infantry Brigades, with another Battalion protecting the Marala Head-Works. The movement of 66 Infantry Brigade to 23 Div’s Front was kept totally concealed.
  5. Pak 2 (I) Armoured Brigade having 10 CAV & 11 CAV was located at Kharian, with easy access to the Chhamb Sector. The move of Hq 2 (I) Armoured Brigade and 11 CAV to positions opposite the Chhamb Sector 48 hours before the War started, was kept fully concealed.

In brief, the Pak 23 Division Offensive Plan was as follows :-

  1. 66 Brigade and 111 Brigade to secure lodgement in the area between Mungawali-Khalabat Jhil (opposite 5 SIKH) in the North and Ghogi (opposite 5 ASSAM) in the South. 33 FF, 23 BALUCH/66 Bde & 3 FF/111 Bde to attack in the North onto Indian 5 SIKH’s Company Localities of Gurha, Phagla and Point 994. They had to first clear the Platoon strength Advance Positions located at the Border Posts of Pir Jarpal, Moel and Paur. 42 PUNJAB/111 Bde was tasked to capture 5 ASSAM’s Company Defended Locality of Ghogi after clearing the Platoon strength Advance Position located at the Border Post of Bokan. This lodgement would result in the breakup of the main line of Indian Forward Defended Localities, and provide Pak armour with a Firm Base, for breakout at first light. This operation was to commence at 2100 hours 03 Dec, and the lodgement was to be established by first light 04 December 1971.
  2. The ‘1 Zhob Militia Battalion’ of 7 AK Brigade was tasked to launch attacks onto the Indian Battalion Defended Area of Point 707 – Laleali in the Hills Sector, overlooking Chhamb Sector.
  3. 20 Brigade in the South was to clear the Indian Advance Positions of Burejal, Bhusa and Mangotian, and thereafter attack the Jhanda (by 14 PUNJAB) and Munawar (by 17 FF) Coy Defended Localities of 4/ 1 GR.  14 PUNJAB was to begin operations by capturing Burejal Border Post/ Advance Position, 17 FF was to capture Bhusa Border Post/ Advance Position and Coy ex 47 PUNJAB was tasked to capture Mangotian Border Post/ Advance Position. According to the then Pak 23 Division’s GSO-I, the primary task of 20 Brigade was to hold ground against a possible counter offensive by the Indians in the southern half of the Chhamb salient. (Refers – Ibid – Page 15). Later on, once the main attack of 66 and 111 Brigade in the North had succeeded; the Brigade was to advance Northward capturing the Company Localities of Jhanda, Manawar, Malkay Camp and Nageal  held by 4/ 1 GR.
  4. In ‘Phase – II’ of Div Operation, planned to start at First Light of 04 December 71, 11 Cavalry Battle Group comprising 11 Cavalry, 4 PUNJAB, Company 19 BALUCH (Recce & Support), and 24 Field Company Engineers were to breakout from area Munganwali in the northern part of the lodgement, cut the road Dewa – Mandiala at Kamali Chappar, then advance and capture Mandiala North & Mandiala South, and thereafter to secure the home bank of Tawi in Mandiala Bridge area by night 4/5 December 1971. (Refers – Battle of Chamb – earlier quoted – page 15). 11 Cavalry Group was theoretically under Command 66 Brigade but practically speaking, 66 Brigade Hq had little control on the hard battles fought at Mandiala.
  5. After Gurha and Mandiala North were taken, 4 AK Brigade was tasked to secure Mandiala Crossing and establish a Bridge-Head extending upto Kachriyal Heights by last light 5 December.
  6. 111 Brigade was to capture Barsala and Point 951 Company Defended Localities (of 5 ASSAM), and carry out offensive probes towards Chhamb and Chak Pandit, to draw Enemy Reserves. 10 BALUCH was tasked to capture 5 ASSAM’s Depth Company Defended Locality of Singri. By 06 December, 111 Brigade was to finish the capture of the township of Chhamb.
  7. Following the capture of Chamb; 66 Brigade and 111 Brigade were to clear the entire Indian salient up to the west bank of Tawi.
  8. Operations across Tawi were to be carried out in relation to the actual operational situation. (Refers – Battle of Chamb – earlier quoted, page – 15).
  9.  Hq 2 (I) Armoured Brigade was the Div Reserve in the North, and was assigned 28 Cavalry (ex 17 Infantry Div, a surprise arrival, which joined after last light 04 Dec) and 6 AK. It was tasked to complete the capture of Mandiala Bridge Area, as operations progressed. 

Professional Mistakes Committed by the Indian Side …..

  1. Each deployed Indian Rifle Company had been ordered to mathematically deploy one Rifle Platoon ahead near the CFL in an Advance Position, in order to maintain vigil and to ensure that no territory was lost due to Pak aggressiveness and ‘initiative’. 57 Battalion BSF which was deployed in Chhamb and who knew this area very well, was withdrawn to Troti Heights, East of the Munawar Tawi on 01 December. Their six Regular Companies should have been distributed to the three Infantry Battalions of 191 Infantry Brigade, and deployed along-side the Regular Company Defended Localities, as additional troops. Pulling out the BSF Troops from the BOPs on 01 December was right, but sending them away was a wrong decision. 
  1. The Pakistanis had been dumping 10 second lines of artillery ammunition for approximately 31 Fire Units at-least  from 23 November onwards opposite and very close to the Chhamb Sector, during the night. Whatever may be the levels of camouflage during daytime, Indian Army’s Intelligence Branch and Air Force’s Photo Interpretation Teams had not picked up the tell-tale signs of increased vehicle tracks, sounds of convoy movements at night close to the border, accidented/broken down vehicles during daytime, dug-up gun positions, raised Ammunition, FOL and Supplies stacks etc. If the GOC 10 Indian Div had boosted up each Battalion Defended Area across the Tawi and at Laleali with Two additional Companies each, and also pushed across the complete 9H into 191 Bde Sector by 27 Nov 71, it would have spelt the Death-Trap for Pak 23 Inf Div. But as things happened, the GOC appears to have ignored timely GS (Int) Inputs and Analyses, he did not make strenuous effort to read the Enemy’s mind through the ‘clutter’, What could be his game-plan?, and likely Deception Measures. He could not foresee how a winning ‘Defensive Battle’ had to be fought, across the Munawar Tawi and in the adjacent Hills Sector. This happens when our Commanders have not been posted to serve in Formation GS (Int) Staff appointments during their career progression, and they have to face a War. 

Conduct of the Battle

2020 Hours 3rd December to 0800 Hours 5th December

The Initial Attacks and The Battle Of Mandiala4,2

The initial two days of the Battle of Chamb proved Moltke’s famous saying that “No Battle Plan ever survives on contact with the Enemy!” 66 Pak Brigade (33 FF & 23 BALUCH) started their attack after the preparatory bombardment which had commenced at 2020 hours 03 December, and by 0200 accomplished the task of capturing an area of 3000 yards depth. Thus a lodgement area wide enough for 11 Cavalry Group to break out was secured in the Northern part. 111 Pak Brigade (3 FF & 42 PUNJAB) however failed to accomplish its assigned task to capture a similar 3000 yards deep objective, adjacent to and in the South of 66 Brigade. It was held up by the Indian Advance Positions/BOPs in Moel area (5 SIKH/ Point 994 Company) and Paur (5 ASSAM/ Ghogi Company).

Meanwhile the Indians who had been alerted by the artillery preparatory bombardment took the following counter-measures on night 03/04 December:-

    1. Moved a Troop of Tanks each of ‘A’ Squadron, 9H to areas of Burejal, Jhanda and Munawar (4/ 1 GR), in order to strengthen the Southern Approach to Chhamb.
    2. ‘A’ Sqn Hq and the fourth Troop of 9H was kept as reserve at Malkay Camp.
    3. The RHQ of 9H was moved from Kachriyal to Chamb by 2300 hours 03 December, close to 191 Infantry Brigade Hq.
    4. A Tank Troop each from ‘B’ Squadron 9H previously East of Tawi, was sent to the Border Posts at Moel (5 SIKH) and Paur (5 ASSAM), where Pakistani tanks had been reported. Sqn Hq alongwith two Troops of ‘B’ Sqn 9H was moved to Barsala (5 ASSAM).
    5. One Tank Troop of ‘C’ Squadron of 9H from Khour, was detached and sent to the East side of Tawi to defend the Mandiala Crossing. (Refers-History of Indian Armour-Page-484)

These counter measures taken during early part of night 03 December illustrated that the Indians expected the Pak Attack in the South, since no armour was sent to cover the Dewa – Mandiala approach.

Pak 11 Cavalry Group commenced its advance towards Mandiala North at first light 4 December, and was reported by 5 SIKH from their Company Forward Defended Locality of Gurha, as headed for the track Mandiala-Dewa. HQ Indian 191 Brigade correctly sensed the threat to Mandiala North posed by these tanks, and ordered 9H to reinforce the northern axis. Thus from their location at Barsala (5 ASSAM), a  tank Troop of 9H’s ‘B’ Squadron was sent to Phagla and the Sqn HQ and Troop ‘B’ Sqn 9H was sent to the Platoon Locality of Mandiala North (5 SIKH), during the morning of 4th December. The remaining two tanks of RHQ Deccan Horse were also moved from Chhamb to take position at Gurha’s North Platoon Locality, which was West of Mandiala North. The sheer Indian desperation may be gauged from the fact that even the two RHQ tanks of 9H were sent to the frontline, to engage the Pak Main Attack! At late morning, a squadron of 11 Cavalry attacked Gurha and these were immediately engaged by the RHQ Tanks of Deccan Horse and Sqn Hq & Troop of ‘B’ Sqn (Jat) 9H now moved from Barsala and deployed at Mandiala North. The Indian tanks were deployed in extremely dominating positions and within few minutes 11 Cavalry lost 7 tanks. This is how the historian of the Indian Armoured Corps described the traumatic but epic battle of Mandiala North:-

“About 8.20 AM of 4 December, 11 Cavalry made its appearance in area North of Gurha … RHQ  9H tanks had selected their position well, and within a few minutes knocked out 7 x T-59 tanks and two recoilless guns … however another column of 11 Cavalry less a Squadron had followed a parallel route further North, along the bed of the Sukhtao Nala. 191 Brigade must have been then, unaware of this Thrust. Enemy tanks thereafter appeared behind (further North of) Mandiala North and Gurha ridge along this Nala-bed, and destroyed a ‘B’ Squadron 9H tank which had moved up to Mandiala North. They also shot up different Units’ B-echelons conveniently dispersed in these foothills. By 1200 hours, 11 CAV & 4 PUNJAB pressed on their attack and successfully captured Mandiala North Platoon Locality (of 5 SIKH), but they could not further exploit and capture Mandiala South {5 SIKH BHQ + Company (-)}. (Refers: History of Indian Armoured Corps-Page-485)

191 Brigade6 within its own resources launched a Weak Counter Attack at 2000 hours to retake Mandiala North, using ‘D’ Company (-) of 5 ASSAM moved from Singri, and ‘B’ Sqn less Three Troops 9H, earlier moved from Barsala. This however did not succeed.

Pak 11 Cavalry had suffered heavy casualties on 04 December i.e. in total 11 tanks were hit, with 5 tanks destroyed, 9 men killed and 7 wounded. But they had fought bravely and enabled Pak 4 PUNJAB to occupy Mandiala North.

By about 11.30 AM on 4th December, the Pak Attack on Pt 994 was beaten back. The Enemy lost 6 Tanks there. Troop ex ‘B’ Sqn 9H was in active support of the 5 SIKH Company (-) there.

Pak 111 Brigade which was tasked to capture Chamb by 05 December was still near the CFL. A situation entirely unexpected had thus developed. General Iftikhar, however remained unruffled and adopted the following ‘Modified Plan’, by late evening of 4 December :-

    1. 11 Cavalry (-) to go into Leaguer about 2 kms off Gurha on 4th December night. Its ‘A’ squadron to support  4 PUNJAB’s renewed attack on Mandiala South on 5th December.
    2. HQ 4 AK Brigade with 13 AK,  47 PUNJAB (-), RHQ 26 CAV and Troop 12 (I) Armoured Sqn to establish a bridgehead East of Tawi in the area of Mandiala Crossing before first light 05 December, and capture the high ground North of Sahamwan.
    3. 28 Cavalry & 6 AK to breakout from this Bridgehead secured by 4 AK Brigade and capture Pallanwala, and thereafter advance as Eastward as possible.
    4. 66 Brigade to continue its attacks, and capture the area up to the River Tawi in the North.
    5. 111 Brigade and 20 Brigade to continue their stuck-up efforts, as per original Battle Plan.

By mid-day 04 December the Indian commanders were clear about the ‘apparent’ Main Direction of Pakistani Attack. Thus, 9H across the Tawi was reinforced by ‘B’ Squadron 72 Armoured Regiment, which joined it by the evening of 04 December. In addition, 7 KUMAON (68 Brigade, now released to 10 Div) and ‘C’ Squadron of 72 Armoured Regiment were despatched from Akhnoor in the evening of 4 December to launch a counter attack to recapture Mandiala North. This Counter Attack Grouping reached the East bank of Tawi at about last light of 04 December, and immediately its Commanding Officer with 4 other officers of 7 KUMAON’s Orders Group got seriously injured/died, due to heavy Pakistani artillery shelling. Thus the Battalion was rendered leaderless, and could not be immediately employed. Since it had reached the Tawi area after last light, its mission was changed to take up positions on the East bank, overlooking the Mandiala Crossing and extending Northwards. On 04 December daytime and night 4/5 December, only the ‘A’ Team of 9 Para Commando was guarding the Mandiala Bridge West Bank, and this ‘vital ground’ got saved thanks to the tenacious resistance put in  by 5 SIKH’s Mandiala Company supported by the Tank Troop (ex ‘B’ Sqn) of 9H, during the heavy fighting at Mandiala South.

It may be noted that by the evening of 04 December, ‘B’ Squadron 72 Armoured Regiment which had been placed under Command 9H was deployed West of Tawi; two Troops on the Phagla ridge (5 SIKH) facing West and North-West, and the Squadron Headquarters with Two Troops in reserve at Chak Pandit. Tank Troop of ‘B’ Sqn 9H at Phagla rejoined the Sqn Hq at Mandiala South.

The 4 AK Brigade Attack across the Munawar Tawi on 05 December 19714

4 AK Brigade was assigned 13 AK and 47 PUNJAB less a Company for the attack across Tawi, at the Mandiala Crossing. RHQ 26 CAV & 12 (I) Squadron’s Troop which had 4 tanks, was also under command of 4 AK Brigade. The 4 AK Brigade’s attack plan was as follows:-

    1. 13 AK & 47 PUNJAB (-) to launch a night attack across Tawi; 47 PUNJAB (-) on the left and 13 AK on the right. Both the battalions together were to capture the ‘Spur Feature’ (Chapriyal & Sahamwan).
    2. RHQ 26 Cavalry with 12 (I) Sqn’s Troop, were to be held in Reserve.

It may be noted that there was literally no enemy in front of 4 AK Brigade, as 7 KUMAON was still a non-viable Unit due to the loss of its CO and ‘O’ Group, and just one Indian Para Company was holding the Mandiala Bridge area. At night it appeared that only a miracle could save the Indians.

13 AK launched its attack at 0300 hours on 05 December, across the Tawi. 47 PUNJAB (-) attacked across the Tawi at 0430 hours. 13 AK ran into a Company of 7 KUMAON, and dispersed it. Both Units then advanced forward to capture their objectives i.e. Spur Feature (Chapriyal & Sahamwan). In this process, they over-ran the Gun Positions of Two Indian Medium Batteries (Artillery) of 216 Medium Regiment which was deployed East of Mandiala Crossing. A Grouping of a Rifle Company of 13 AK & 12 (I) Armoured Sqn’s Troop – also succeeded in capturing the Defensive Position occupied by ‘A’ Team of 9 Para Commando deployed on the West-side of Mandiala Bridge. But as the morning of 5th December progressed, the Indians reorganised themselves, and vigorously counterattacked using 7 KUMAON & 9 JAT (ex 68 Infantry Brigade). 13 AK & 47 PUNJAB (-) were forced to organise a fighting breakout back to the West Bank of the Tawi, losing about 26 men killed and 50 taken prisoners, including 13 AK’s brave Commanding Officer Lt Col. Basharat Raja.

4 AK Brigade HQ ordered its Reserve i.e. 6 AK & ‘A’ Sqn less Two Troops of 28 CAV to move forward and consolidate the bridgehead across the Tawi. When these elements moved forward on late 5 December, the Indians had already reoccupied in strength the areas East of the Tawi.

Gen Candeth the Indian GOC in C acknowledged 13 AK’s performance in the following words:-

“Pakistan’s 13 AK Battalion had succeeded in capturing the West side of the bridge (Mandiala) but their attempts to get their tanks across was thwarted by 9 Horse… Taking advantage of the gap caused by weak condition of 7 KUMAON, 13 AK Battalion & 47 PUNJAB (-) got through to the Gun Positions of 216 Medium and  39 Medium Regiments.” (Refers-The Western Front-Candeth-Page-79)

As per the Indian accounts, the situation of utter panic caused by 13 AK attack was only checked by the personal intervention of Brig Tom Morlin, Commander Indian 68 Brigade, who in words of Praval “reached the scene on the morning of December 5th with a Company of 9 JAT mounted on ‘A’ Squadron less two Troops of 72 Armoured Regiment (Refers-Indian Army after Independence-page-497). Absence or presence of commanders can be decisive in crisis situation! The previously mentioned Indian accounts prove that 4 AK Brigade attack across Mandiala Crossing had the potential to cause a major crisis in the Indian situation, provided Tactical Hqs Group of Commander 4 AK Brigade had exercised control on the battle.  General Shaukat Riza had the following to say about 4 AK Brigade’s conduct of the operation:-

“By first light 5 December, Brigade Major 4 AK Brigade confirmed the establishment of Bridgehead over River Tawi. This information was premature. Enemy positions were quickly reinforced. As our reserve troops neared the Tawi, the Indians counter-attacked with tanks and our troops hurriedly withdrew”. (Refers-the History of the Pakistan Army-Shaukat Riza-Services Book Club-1990-page 182). The Pak armour suffered three tank casualties in the process (Refers-Battle of Chamb-Page 45). 66 Brigade was still in the lodgement area, and had failed to close on to the River Tawi. (Refers-Battle of Chamb-Page 42).

A Counter Attack was put in later in the morning using ‘B’ Company of 5/8 GR (ex 68 Brigade) alongwith Two Troop of ‘A’ Sqn ex 72 Armoured Regiment at 0930 hours of 5th December, and the West-side of Mandiala Bridge was successfully recaptured by 1030 hours from the 13 POK Company there. During the first half of the day, haphazard & desperate fighting continued between 4 AK Brigade Unit(s) which had infiltrated across the Tawi and own 68 Brigade troops which had come in as reinforcements. The Pakistanis could not succeed in retaining the Bridgehead and had to pull back across the Tawi after noon of 5th December, having suffered heavy casualties and their armour was unable to cross the Tawi at Mandiala Crossing.

28 Cavalry (ex Pak 17 Infantry Div) had reached area Assar (20 kms from the Front, 8 kms NW of Barnala) by the evening of 03 December, and participated in this attack on 5th December.   

Professional Mistakes Committed by the Indian Side …..

  1. There were no Defensive Minefields laid in the Plains Sector North of Sardari BOP and Gurha FDL (5 SIKH). This route had been taken by the Pak Armoured regiments during the previous War in Sep 1965, to successfully surprise the Indians! Thus, a free run was again given to Pak armour. 

Conduct of the Battle from 1800 Hours 5th December to 1800 Hours 6th December

Pak Modified Plan to Capture ‘Chamb’ – 05/06 December, and Its Execution4

The operational situation on the evening of  05 December was as follows :-

    1. 13 AK & 47 PUNJAB (-) were back on West bank of Tawi having failed to hold the Bridgehead.
    2. Pak 66 Brigade was still in its lodgement area West of Phagla & Gurha (5 SIKH).
    3. 111 Brigade had failed to capture Point 994 (5 SIKH), the crucial feature dominating the approach to Chhamb. This Point had once been captured by 10 BALUCH, but was soon lost as a result of repeated and resolute Indian Counter Attacks, put in by ‘C’ & ‘A’ Companies of 5/8 GR (68 Infantry Brigade) on 5th Dec, supported by 2 x Tank Troops of ‘B’ Sqn 9H.
    4. Pak 20 Brigade had made no worthwhile progress in the South (opposite 4/ 1 GR).
    5. 11 CAV & 4 PUNJAB had failed to succeed in their efforts to capture Mandiala South which dominated the approach to the Tawi bridge, due to heavy resistance and artillery fire.

General Eftikhar, however was not unnerved by the reverses of 04/05 December. He immediately adopted the following ‘Second Modified Plan’ to carry on the Battle, which effectively converted the previous failures to make a ‘breakthrough’ into an elaborate ‘ruse’:-

    1. Bulk of the armour to be pulled out during the night of 5/6 December from the North, and regrouped in area East of Jaimal Kot under HQ 2 (I) Armoured Brigade – comprising 28 Cavalry, one Squadron of 11 Cavalry, one Squadron of 26 Cavalry ex 20 Infantry Brigade, 23 BALUCH (ex 66 Infantry Brigade), 42 PUNJAB (ex 111 Infantry Brigade) and one Company of 19 BALUCH (R&S); and to launch a fresh attack on the Chhamb Salient from the South-West direction (between Barsala-Point 951-Jhandha) with effect from 06 December First Light, aimed at reaching the Area of Chak Pandit, South of Chamb later in the Day, with or without Infantry! Most of the Pak Armour Squadrons were under-strength and had only 8-9 runners. Therefore the earlier attacks in the North came in use, as a useful ‘ruse’ to divert the bulk of Indian armour to the North!
    2. 4 AK Bde was now given the task of capturing Mandiala South & Mandiala Bridge. 4 PUNJAB/ 66 Bde & 11 CAV (-) were placed under its command.
    3.  66 Brigade Group to continue its attacks from West towards Gurha and Phagla (5 SIKH).
    4. 111 Brigade Group to continue its attacks onto Ghogi, Barsala and Point 951 (5 ASSAM), in the wake of 2 (I) Armoured Brigade Thrust.

This Attack Plan turned out to be the real ‘Game-Changer’, and pushed the cautious/lethargic Pakistani Units, to finally become victorious.

On 06 December morning2, Ghogi, Barsala and Point 951 (all 5 ASSAM) were bypassed by the five depleted squadrons-sized rampaging Pak armour Thrusts. In the North, the 5 SIKH ‘C’ Company Defended Locality of Gurha was attacked by Pak 33 FF/ 66 Bde and captured by noon. Singri Company Defended Locality (5 ASSAM) was also bypassed by the Pakistani armour by mid-day. Ghogi and Barsala Localities were captured by 10 BALUCH & 3 FF of 111 Infantry Brigade by early afternoon. Presence of sizeable Enemy armoured force behind these vital Company Defended Localities un-nerved the Indian 191 Infantry Brigade Commander. But on ground, both Pak and Indian Sub Units continued their haphazard fighting on the ground, without having a clear picture as to ‘who was behind whom’. Both 23 BALUCH (ex 66 Infantry Brigade) and 42 PUNJAB (ex 111 Infantry Brigade) kept following the Pak Armoured Thrust. Amidst all this confusion, 5/8 GR/ 68 Bde launched a fierce Counter Attack with its ‘D’ Company (+) alongwith Two Troops of ‘C’ Sqn 72 Armoured Regiment in ‘Text-Book’ fashion from the recaptured Point 994 Firm Base, and wrested back the ‘C’ Company 5 SIKH Gurha Defended Locality by 1800 hours of 6th December (which had earlier been lost at 1530 hours to 33 FF/ 66 Infantry Brigade), aided by heavy artillery fire support. 4/ 1 GR in the South alongwith ‘A’ Sqn 9H was kept ‘engaged’ by 20 Infantry Brigade (17 FF, 14 PUNJAB). In the afternoon of 6th December5, Commander 191 Brigade ordered CO 5 ASSAM to close in the remnants of his Ghoghi, Barsala and Point 951 Localities to Singri and employ them for the defence of Darh Crossing. Similarly he ordered CO 4/ 1 GR to close in his Burejal, Jhandha  and Bhusa Localities in order to defend Darh & Raipur Crossings. The ‘A’ Company Defended Locality & 5 SIKH Battalion Hq at Mandial South was finally captured by 4 PUNJAB & ‘A’ Sqn 11 CAV by late evening, assisted by 6 AK/ 4 AK Brigade. The loss of overall control of the Chhamb Battlefield by the ‘Holding Brigade’ after the overrunning of 5 SIKH Battalion Hq at Mandiala South by late evening of 6th December was very apparent, and this deeply perturbed GOC Indian 10 Division. The simultaneous reports being received of numerous attacks onto different Company Defended Localities, created an alarming picture in the Divisional Hq. The GOC could have handed over the control of the Chhamb Battle to the successful 68 Brigade Commander, whose two Units (5/8 GR & 9 JAT) were highly successful and intact. 4/1 GR and 10 GARHWAL of 191 Infantry Brigade were also intact, and could have been placed under command of Hq 68 Infantry Brigade, the Counter-Attacking Force. The Pak Armour Threat was exaggerated, as 72 Armoured Regiment had not been committed against this new move by Pak armour. There was not a single Tank vs Tank Battle fought at the Squadron level, between the adversaries on 6th December! Why wasn’t 9 JAT (ex 68 Infantry Brigade) assisted by ‘A’ Squadron 72 Armoured Regiment NOT committed on 6th December early morning to reinforce  Mandiala South and counterattack, begs question? Why wasn’t ‘A’ Squadron less Two Troops of 9H from Malkay Camp (4/1 GR) not directed on 6th December morning to move to Point 951 (5 ASSAM) and contest the Pak Armour advance coming through Barsala-Point 951-Jhanda, who were getting a free run right upto Chak Pandit? 5 ASSAM Battalion Defended Area did not have even a single Armour Troop during the whole of 6th December! Why wasn’t ‘B’ Sqn less Two Troops 72 Armoured Regt located at Chak Pandit not sent towards Barsala (5 ASSAM) in the morning of 6th December to contest the Pak Armour advance?

Pak Account of the Developments of 6th December 19714 

2 (I) Armoured Brigade units started moving towards the Forward Assembly Area – East of Jaimal Kot starting from evening of 05 December, and the movement continued throughout the night 05/06 December 1971. By 0445 hours of 6th December the Infantry Units (23 BALUCH ex 66 Infantry Brigade & 42 PUNJAB ex 111 Infantry Brigade) arrived in the Forward Assembly Area. 23 BALUCH and 42 PUNJAB commenced their attacks at 0530 hours, and assisted with armour soon captured Bokan and Paur Advance Positions/BOPs (of 5 ASSAM), their Objectives by 0730 hours. There was no heavy opposition, since no attack was expected by the Indians in this area. At 0800 hours, 2 Armoured Brigade commenced its advance towards Chak Pandit. Opposition again was ‘nil’, since by 05 December the Indians were convinced that the Main Pakistani Attack was coming in the North, and had shifted the bulk of their armour there. The intentionally left Indian ‘minefield gap’ between Barsala-Point 951 (5 ASSAM)- Jhanda (4/ 1 GR) proved a blessing. The tanks of 2 Armoured Brigade reached Chak Pandit by 1730 hours, and by last light of 6th December they had closed towards the Munawar Tawi. The Infantry though detached, kept fighting and following up.

Actually, once 2 Armoured Brigade had first encountered the dummy minefield between Barsala and Jhanda on 6th December morning; the progress of their advance had stopped, since they had started ‘probing’ to find a ‘gap’ in the minefield. At this juncture the Pak GOC flew in his helicopter to Chanir, where he met Commander 2 (I) Armoured Brigade. Gen Iftikhar asked him not to lose ‘momentum’ and ‘surprise’, and exhorted him to make his armour do a frontal dash and cross the minefield. Once this was done, the 45 odd tanks of this Brigade made an almost clean sweep, with the exception of just three tanks which had got hit and damaged. (Refers-The Battle of Chamb-page 58 and page 59). Colonel Saeed in his book has noted that surprisingly no tanks ran over mines! (Refers-Battle of Chamb-page-59).  The ‘Second Modified Plan’ of Pak 23 Division of 05 December evening succeeded beyond all expectations!

Professional Mistakes Committed by the Indian Side …..

  1. The disposition of Indian armour on 6th December morning was as follows. Most Sub Units have had tank casualties :- 

(a)     5 SIKH Battalion Defended Area (8 x Tank Troops).

  •  (i)    Two Troops of ‘B’ Sqn 9H at Point 994.
  • (ii)     Two Troops of ‘C’ Sqn 72 Armoured Regt at Gurha.
  • (iii)    Two Troops of ‘B’ Sqn 72 Armoured Regt at Phagla.
  • (iv)    RHQ and ‘B’ Sqn less 2 Troops  9H at Mandiala South.
  • (v)    ‘A’ Sqn less Two Troops 72 Armoured Regt at West Bank of Mandiala Bridge.  –  Out of                          
  • (vi)    Troop ex ‘C’ Sqn 9H at East Bank of Mandiala Crossing. – 5 SIKH’s Area. 

(b)    5 ASSAM Battalion Defended Area ( Nil !)

 (i)   ‘B’ Sqn  less Two Troops 72 Armoured Regt at Chak Pandit.  –  Out of 5 ASSAM’s Area. 

(c)      4/1 GR Battalion Defended Area (4 x Tank Troops).

    • (i)      Tank Troop ex ‘A’ Sqn 9H at Burejal Advance Position.
    • (ii)     Tank Troop ex ‘A’ Sqn 9H at Jhanda.
    • (iii)    Tank Troop ex ‘A’ Sqn 9H at Bhusa Advance Position.
    • (iv)    ‘A’ Sqn Hq and Tank Troop 9H at Malkay Camp. 

(d)    ‘C’ Sqn 9H less Troop at  Khour. 

(e)   RHQ, ‘C’ Sqn less Two Troops, and Two Troops of ‘A’ Sqn 72 Armoured Regt, were  located  East  of  Munawar Tawi  in  Chapriyal  Area. 

(f)     2 (I) Recce Sqn (CIH) at Akhnoor.

68 Infantry Brigade (Counter Attack Force)

(a)   5/8 GR  –  Across the Munawar Tawi for Counter Attack Tasks, with its‘A’ Company located at Point 994 (5 SIKH Area) & bulk of Battalion at Sakrana near to Chhamb. 

(b)  7 KUMAON –  Two Companies on West Side of Mandiala Bridge, and Rest of Battalion on the  East Bank  of  Munawar Tawi  in  Area Chapriyal. 

(c)    9 JAT –  In Area Kachriyal. 

  1. If these were the locations of own Armour and Infantry Reserves, then the following major Mistakes were committed:- 

(i)    After the loss of Mandiala South (5 SIKH) by 1730 hours of 6th December, Commander 191 Brigade did not give Firm Orders to keep ‘holding on’ and make efforts to isolate the Enemy penetrations. 

(ii)   GOC 10 Div did not timely reinforce on 5th December night 5 SIKH’s Mandiala South Locality which had fought such  hard battles on 4th & 5th December, with Battalion less Two Companies of 9 JAT/ 68 Brigade (alongwith ‘A’ Sqn of 72 Armoured Regt which were readily available in Kachriyal Area)/ West of Mandiala Bridge. Holding ‘Mandiala South’ was the key to fighting the successful defensive Battle in the whole of Chhamb Sector, as it dominated the sole Class 40 concrete bridge on the Tawi. As events unfolded, the weak 7 KUMAON Two Rifle Companies plus ‘A’ Sqn 72 Armoured Regt less Two Troops, fought a desperate battle on 6th December noon-time onwards to prevent the loss of Mandiala Bridge too, as Mandiala South was being captured by the Pakistanis. 

(iii)    7 KUMAON/ 68 Brigade had become ineffective on 4th December evening, as its Orders Group had got wiped out. GOC 10 Div did not replace this Unit on 4/5th December with 5 RAJPUT ex 28 Infantry Brigade, which was readily available and deployed at Troti Heights. 7 KUMAON should have been pulled back to Troti Heights in the Rear, to be quickly re-officered and made combat-worthy. The absence of a strong Counter Attack Force Battalion Grouping (like 5/8 GR) was sorely felt in 5 ASSAM Battalion Defended Area, on 6th December. Similarly ‘C’ Sqn less Two Troops of 72 Armoured Regt should have been immediately despatched from Kachriyal to Barsala on 6th December early morning & ‘C’ Sqn less Two Troops of 9H should also have been despatched from Khour (52 Brigade Sector) to 5 ASSAM Area by the late morning of 6th December, in order to contest the Pak Armour advance onto Chak Pandit,  as 52 Brigade Sector was dormant. 

(iv)    Nothing much was happening in the neighbouring 26 Div Sector on 05&06 December. 3 (I) Armoured Brigade was located there with 8 CAV, 20 H (CIH) and 7 GRENADIERS (Motorised). Seeing the intensity of Operations in the Chhamb Sector, GOC 15 Corps should have taken permission from Gen Kandeth & DMO, Army Hqs to despatch 1-2 x Combat Groups into the Chhamb Sector on 5/6 & 6/7 December nights, and placed these under the command of 68 Infantry Brigade (the Counter Attack Force). 

(v)    Hq 15 Corps/ Hq Western Command failed to arrange even a minimum of 10 air-strike sorties on 5th & 6th December, to destroy the Pak Offensive Force’s artillery, armour and logistics back-up supporting Chhamb Sector Operations. (After Gen Manekshah complained to the RM on 7th December, upto 48 air-strike sorties/day were provided by the Air Force from 8th December onwards, in the Chhamb Sector.) 

(vi)   10 Div had two Engineer Regiments. While mine-laying activities had stopped on 3rd December night, one finds that from 4th December, there were no Depth Defended Localities in Chhamb Sector occupied by Engineer Sub Units. Upto one Defended Locality could have been occupied/ strengthened, in each of the three Bn Defended Areas across the Tawi using Engineer Troops. 

(vii)   Company ATGM of 12 GUARDS was with 191 Bde. Instead of deploying them forward, with a Platoon each at Jhanda, Barsala, and Point 994 to cover the vital minefield Gap; these were kept away from the Enemy Tank-Runs and deployed in depth to guard the Chhamb, Darh and Raipur Crossings! 

Conduct of the Battle from 1800 Hours 6th December to 1800 Hours 9th December

After the fall of Mandiala South on 6th December evening, movement over the Mandiala Bridge became threatened. Exploitation by the Enemy towards the Mandiala Bridge were beaten back by the desperate stand of the Two Rifle Companies of 7 KUMAON supported by ‘A’ Sqn less Two Troops of 72 Armoured Regiment. The Enemy had reached upto Chak Pandit in the South and 5 ASSAM defences had become shaky, as no fresh Counter Attack Force could be sent across the Tawi. Seeing the exhausted condition of 191 Infantry Brigade by the last light of 6th December2 and to prevent an expected ‘Rout’ the following day, GOC 10 Div took the permission of the GOC 15 Corps/ GOC in C Western Command to abandon Chhamb Salient in toto, and consolidate 10 Division’s defences along the Munawar Tawi East Bank. After the permission was granted, orders for the ‘withdrawal’ of all forces West of the Munawar Tawi was issued at 2100 hours on 6th December. Time was given till 2330 hours to cross the Mandiala Bridge. All roads towards the Mandiala Bridge were clogged up with Tanks, Tractors pulling artillery pieces, Ammunition lorries, ‘B’ Echelon vehicles, ‘F’ Echelon vehicles, and various Unit columns moving on foot! The Enemy artillery was very active, especially near to the Bridge. But their Infantry and Armour were too exhausted to follow up and take advantage of this ‘panic-like’ situation. An orderly withdrawal was not possible under the circumstances. At 2345 hours of 6th December, the Engineers blew up the vital Mandiala Bridge and the Chhamb Sector was irretrievably lost. Columns of the farthest Units like 5/ 8 GR & 4/ 1 GR had to wade through the neck-deep cold waters of the Munawar Tawi and reach the East Bank before first light of 7th December. Vast numbers of broken down tanks, accidented vehicles, heavy equipment, Recoilless Anti-tank Guns, Artillery Ammunition, Mines and Defence Stores Brick, ration/fuel stockpiles, and even the Field Hospital had to be abandoned as such, due to the short notice.

General Eftikhar gave his orders at 1430 hours on 07 December for the assault across the Munawar Tawi and capture of Pallanwala. 2 (I) Armoured Brigade was to cross the Tawi that night, East of Nagiyal. General Eftikhar correctly appreciated that Pallanwala could be captured if an immediate attack was made, a fact which has been acknowledged by Indian historians too. (Refers-KC Praval Indian Army after Independence, page-498) The order to establish the bridgehead could however not be implemented, since the two battalions detailed for the Task of establishing the bridgehead (4 PUNJAB/66 Bde & 23 BALUCH/66 Bde), could not be contacted by Commander 2 (I) Armoured Brigade and brought under command, as per General Shaukat Riza. (Refers-History of Pakistan Army-1966-71 page-185). Col Saeed the GSO-I of the Division, however, categorically states in his book that both 23 BALUCH and 4 PUNJAB which were supposed to launch the fresh attacks that night knew from their Bde Hqs about Commander 2 Armoured Brigade’s directions for the ‘O’ Group to assemble. But their COs were not keen, knowing the state of their Units after the battles that they had already fought, and feigned loss of ‘radio-contact’. (Refers-The Battle of Chamb-page 67). The fact is indisputable that 23 Division lost a golden opportunity to capture Pallanwala while the Indians were disorganised, as no Indian Battalion was holding the area opposite Tawi across Chak Pandit-Nagiyal. (Refers-Battle of Chamb-pages-68,69). Commander 2 Armoured Brigade had to postpone the crucial Trans-Tawi Attack Operation to 0100 hours of 09 December. The main attacks were made across the Raipur Crossing2. But 10 GARHWAL/now under 52 Bde which was manning well prepared defences on the East Bank of the Munawar Tawi in this area supported by ‘C’ Sqn 9H, beat back 23 BALUCH’s strong bridge-head making effort, inflicting casualties of 39 dead and 6 made PW. Pak 4 PUNJAB being an old and ‘experienced’ Battalion, reported that the depth of Tawi at the selected assaulting place between Darh Crossing and Chhamb Crossing, was not suitable for Infantry & Armour to go across.

By 1500 hours of 8th December, 2 AK completed the process of capture of Dewa in the Foothills, which was held by 8 J&K Militia. In the Hills Sector earlier on 5th December,  8 J&K Militia had wrested back Point 707 which was captured by 1 Zhob Militia the previous day. They also beat back several attempts to recapture this feature in subsequent days, and inflicted heavy casualties. On 5th December, a Company of 6 AK successfully raided the Indian Artillery wagon-lines located at Batal. This Raiding Party was chased away by a Company of 2 JAK RIF which had been side-stepped to Nathuan Tibba by the 28 Brigade Commander.

Conduct of the Battle from 1800 Hours 9th December to 1800 Hours 11th December

The task of attack across the Munawar Tawi was then given to 111 Infantry Brigade. The subject attack was to be now launched on the night of 09/10 December by 42 PUNJAB and 10 BALUCH followed by 28 CAV, and assisted by  Company Field Engineers. By now, however, the Indians were well established. Failure to make use of the ‘critical’ time span on 07-08 December had doomed the likelihood of success of Pak 23 Division’s bid for Pallanwala. The Indians in these two precious days had organised their defences as follows :-

    1. 68 Brigade to hold Northern half of the East bank of Tawi; while 52 Brigade was to hold the Southern half of the East bank of Tawi. 10 GARHWAL was placed Under Command of 52 Brigade. The remnants of 191 Brigade was pulled back to Troti Heights.
    2. 72 Armoured Regiment was placed Under Command of 68 Infantry Brigade, and was to cover the tank-runs at Mandiala and Chamb crossings.
    3. 9H was placed Under Command of 52 Brigade, and was to cover the tank-runs at Darh & Raipur crossings. ‘C’ Squadron (Dogra) 9H was placed in reserve at Khour near Pallanwala.

Meanwhile on 09 December Pak GHQ issued orders for the move of 11 CAV to the Sialkot Front, where Pak Army was doing badly. Thus the only additional Armoured Regiment available to 23 Division was 28 Cavalry which had 28 tanks left. On the evening of 09 December, General Eftikhar’s helicopter crashed and the general was seriously wounded and evacuated to Kharian. He later died on 10 December morning. Officiating command of the division was assumed by Brig Kamal Matin, the Artillery Brigade Commander. The planned attack on Palanwala got launched by 111 Brigade and 28 Cavalry. The infantry attack commenced at 0100 hours on 10 December opposite Darh and Raipur ferries. By the morning of 10 December a Bridgehead which was 4,000 yards wide and 1,000 yards deep had got established and 28 CAV had been successfully inducted into this bridge-head. This included over-running of the two forward Companies of 9 JAT as well as its Depth Company, which were over-run in the 28 CAV led assaults (Refers-The Western Front Candeth-page 82). The Indians initially launched an Immediate Counter-Attack2 in the morning employing a Company of 7 KUMAON supported by ‘A’ Sqn (-2) of 72 Armoured Regiment & Rifle Company of 10 GARHWAL supported by ‘A’ Sqn (-2) of 9H, but this failed, as the Indian tanks got bogged down. GOC 10 Div contemplated a further withdrawal to Troti Heights, Kalith and Fatwal Ridge Area (West of Akhnoor), and he ordered Recce Parties of 68 & 52 Infantry Brigades’ Units and Artillery Batteries to be sent. Gen Manekshaw however had ordered the Corps Commander to restore the situation on the Chhamb Front, and that there should be no further withdrawal. Gen Sartaj landed up at Kalith by helicopter at 1400 hours and took direct control of the situation. He ordered that all Infantry Units & Armour Sub Units which could be pulled out, be made ready for being employed at 1730 hours onwards for a renewed Counter-Attack onto the Enemy Bridgehead, with maximum Artillery fire support. All Orders for the despatch of Recce Parties  to select the New Main Retreat Positions were immediately countermanded. 5/8 GR (-2) [‘A’ & ‘B’ Companies] started the attack on Darh Crossing alongwith ‘C’ Sqn 72 Armoured Regiment, and 3/4 GR (-2) alongwith ‘C’ Sqn 9H led the attack on Raipur Crossing. The Bridgehead was contained by nightfall. Heavy fighting re-started at first light of 11 December with more Indian Infantry & Armour Sub Units participating. At 1200 hours, Pak 111 Brigade was ordered by their GOC to fall back to the West Bank of the Tawi. By 11 December evening the Indian Units cleared upto the Tawi East Bank, and restored the erstwhile defence line. As per Lt Colonel Saeed, there was a crucial misreporting on the part of BM 111 Brigade (Major Nazar Hussain); the BM had given an incorrect report in the late morning of 11th December that 28 CAV was down to 4 tanks instead of the actual number of 22 Tanks! (Refers-The Battle of Chamb-page 80).

Professional Mistakes Committed by the Indian Side …..

  1. The Corps Commander Gen Sartaj’s decisive intervention to restore the situation on 10th December, was commendable. He had to weigh in several Factors in his mind, before reacting with more Force. Foremost of these could have been7 the Order from Hq Western Command to pull out 168 Infantry Brigade of neighbouring 26 Div, to provide flank protection on the Deg Nadi for 54 Infantry Div’s Offensive in Shakargarh. He still could have used 3 (I) Armoured Brigade plus elements of 52 Infantry Brigade from 12 December onwards for a ‘Riposte’ towards ‘Tanda’ in Pakistan, to compensate for the loss of Chhamb. 
  1. 9 JAT/ 68 Infantry Brigade was a fine combat Unit. What struck them on 10 December 1971 was totally avoidable, as it was expected. Their three Companies had to take up positions along the Munawar Tawi’s East Bank. The area had 10 feet high sarkanda grass, and was interspersed with boggy patches. For the sake of administrative convenience their Platoon Localities were sited about 50 M behind the riverline without having visible fields of fire and domination over the Tawi, unlike 10 GARHWAL’s deployment. This was made use of by the attacking Pakistanis who waded across the Tawi, unhindered in the darkness. Even the 28 CAV Tanks crossing the Tawi at dawn were not contested. 
  1. The employment of the Indian Artillery Arm during the Chhamb Battle requires ‘special study’. How was it that the concentrated fire of six Medium Batteries could not be brought down on the Pak armour in 6 ASSAM Battalion Defended Area, on 6th December 1971? Why were there no Pak Tank Casualties due to Indian Medium artillery fire? Why were the OPs of Medium Artillery Regiments not grouped with our Tank Squadrons? Is there the need to give these OPs matching mobility with armour? Were all guns within range employed, to prevent the fall of Mandiala South? Was there a functional and effective FDC to control all available artillery resources? Why weren’t the Arty OPs on the heights held by 8 J&K Militia, put to good use? 

Conclusion

Pakistan Army GHQ pulled out 111 Infantry Brigade/1 Corps, 66 Infantry Brigade & 26 CAV/17 Infantry Div and Hq 2 (I) Armoured Brigade alongwith 11 CAV on 11/12 December for other Tasks. The Tawi Line was held by 20 Infantry Bde and 4 AK Bde, and an eerie peace descended on the Front. 20 Inf Div continued to be very cautious and jittery till the cease-fire came into effect on 17 December. Because of the overall Victory in the War, there was no witch-hunting carried out after the War. The Chhamb Battle has been a favourite Sand Model Presentation Study in the Indian Army. But it is doubtful if the correct lessons about carrying out a successful defensive Battle at the Infantry  Divisional-level, and orchestrating timely reinforcements at the Corps-level  in order to ruthlessly annihilate the Attacker, has been grasped by many! 

Sources/References

  1. Blogspot – http://trishul-trident.blogspot.com/2017/10/why-chhamb-continues-to-matter.html October 2, 2017 – Prasun K Sengupta
  1. 1971 War: Battle of Chhamb By Maj Gen Sukhwant Singh (Retd), Book Excerpt: India’s Wars since Independence | Date : 01 Dec, 2018  –  http://www.indiandefencereview.com/spotlights/1971-war-battle-of-chhamb/
  1. Orbat of Pak Army elements which participated in the Chhamb Offensive is sourced from Maj Gen Shaukat Riza’s book History of The Pakistan Army 1966-1973  pp 177-180 and from the book  Battle of Chhamb 1971 by Lt Col Ahmed Sayeed
  1. Major Agha Humayun Amin, Pak Army –  http://www.defencejournal.com/sept99/chamb.html
  1. http://www.indiandefencereview.com/spotlights/1971-operations-case-west-i/0/ –  1971 Operations – Case West by Major K C Praval (Retd)
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3 thoughts on “Review of Battle of Chamb 1971

  1. This article has some factual errors . There are so many details in the review , but in that maze some facts appear amiss. The writer may check with Battalions , Armoured and Artillery Regiments who fought the battle .
    This is a current elaborate “ Review” . As such it ought to be close to facts . There are some issues with numbers also . In Golden Jubilee year of 1971 , the Battle of Chhamb deserves an authentic treatment .
    After this authentication with units , the article will be worth it .

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