Military & Aerospace

The 1965 War with Pakistan-II
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Issue Book Excerpt: In the Line of Duty | Date : 15 Feb , 2011

After the altercation with General Officer Commanding 15 Division and the despatch of his Reserve Brigade to regain the ground lost, peace prevailed in the area. On the return journey, with General Dhillon sitting next to me in the Jonga, while I drove, I remember turning to him and remarking that it was the hand of God that had sorted out everything! And he agreed. Soon, we saw a vehicle proceeding towards Lahore with a European couple sitting in it. I thought it was odd that the vehicle had been allowed to cross the Divisional Barrier, put up just adjacent to the 15 Division Main Headquarters on the GT Road. So I turned my Jonga around and speeded behind this civilian car.

Eventually, I caught up with it, and pushing my Jonga ahead of the car, blocked its path. I then got down and asked the gentleman what he was doing there. He said he belonged to the Swiss Embassy in Delhi, and that he was going to Lahore to spend some time with his friends there. I told him firmly that he could not go by road, and that if he and his wife wished to spend some time with their friends in Lahore, they would have to go there by air. Seeing his hesitation, I pulled out my revolver and asked him to turn back and travel ahead of me. The couple was, indeed, puzzled, but all the same turned their vehicle back. On reaching the Divisional Headquarters barrier, I questioned the Police Havildar in charge as to why he had permitted a civilian vehicle to go through? He had no answer. The civilian vehicle, I noticed, was now well ahead of us.

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After crossing the Barrier, I turned into the 15 Division Main Headquarters, as the stupidity of the message I had received that morning from General Officer Commanding 15 Division was still rankling with me and I wished to warn the GSO 1 of the Division not to let such a senseless message go through. The statements made, namely, “Two Pakistani Divisions are attacking me”, “both my flanks are threatened” were totally inaccurate, as we had ascertained, while the belief that safety lay in “withdrawing behind the border” was simply ridiculous. There is no border behind which one can withdraw to safety in a war.

He said he was Captain Grover, a Gunner, who had been on leave and who had heard about the war with Pakistan over the radio, and was now rushing back to join his Artillery unit. He wanted to know where he could find it!

At Amritsar, we met crowds of people excited over the fighting that was going on in the air between our fighter 13.ircraft and those of the Pakistani side. I warned them not to let any civilian car go through to the Front, and mentioned that the war was going in our favour; which raised their enthusiasm even further. As I was telling General Dhillon about the Japanese motor cyclists, in the Second World War in Malaya, who would come hundreds of miles into your territory, undetected, by lowering their hats over their eyes and following one of our own vehicles, we suddenly spotted a motor-cyclist, in uniform, heading towards Beas. I decided to stop him and ask him for his identity. He said he was Captain Grover, a Gunner, who had been on leave and who had heard about the war with Pakistan over the radio, and was now rushing back to join his Artillery unit. He wanted to know where he could find it! I referred him to a Military Police-Post, a few miles ahead, which would help him locate his Unit.

I would like to mention here the case of a Commanding Officer of one of the Gorkha battalions, who, again on his own volition, returned to his Gorkha Battalion, deployed on the GT Axis, from leave which he was spending in the United Kingdom. He had heard of the War between India and Pakistan, and wanted to return to his Unit, to resume command. I still remember his name: Lt Col Tugnait. He, if I am not mistaken, was a heavyweight boxing champion of the Indian Army. His return had such a salutary effect on his battalion that not a single man deserted afterwards. I, as Army Commander, in the field at the time, owed him a debt of gratitude, for having acted as a true soldier. Yet another example of a patriotic son of India returning to his call of duty, without being asked to do so, was that of Captain Amarinder Singh, the son of the then Maharaja of Patiala, Yadavendra Singh. He returned, after having been discharged from the Army; on the advice of his father.

However, there were a good number of officers on leave, who upon being sent a telegram to return, did not do so. Also, during the early stages of the Operation, there were a substantial number of troops who deserted from battalions that had weak or officiating commanding officers. As a result, I had to give our tanks, which were already in the rear, orders to shoot at men trying to escape in twos and threes through the fields of cotton and fodder. This phenomenon was particularly common among the Gorkha battalions.

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But now to return to the further sequence of events. Travelling on, we saw a Jonga, with Sahib Singh Kalah in it, coming from the opposite direction. He had a very important message for us. The Brigade Commander at Dera Baba Nanak had rung up to say that a couple of squadrons of AMX tanks of the enemy, with some Infantry, had rushed through the bridge, which, incidentally, was supposed to have been in our hands since the morning. Raya, Corps Tactical Headquarters, was not very far from there, and we decided to deal with the situation on arrival. The final information, as it transpired, was that only a few AMX tanks had broken through, and without any Infantry! The Brigade was told to counter-attack and recapture the bridge. This was done during the night and the enemy left their tanks in our hands and escaped across the river. A foolish move indeed!

He had heard of the War between India and Pakistan, and wanted to return to his Unit, to resume command. I still remember his name: Lt Col Tugnait.

This was not, however, to be the end of a very eventful day. I had hardly returned to my Main Headquarters, at Ambala, at about 11 pm when I learnt that Pakistan .had played its ace card and dropped paratroopers. These were special service troops, with special equipment, supplied by America for the purpose of eliminating airfields. I must admit that we had not anticipated this. This was the ace card which Field Marshal Ayub Khan must have had up his sleeve and hoped to use, when he had declared that morning in his address to his countrymen that they would have a ‘cake-walk’ to Delhi.

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