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The 1965 War with Pakistan-III
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Issue Book Excerpt: In the Line of Duty | Date : 14 Feb , 2011

Later, the same morning I moved to Headquarters 4 Division. As it was quite obvious that the enemy’s Ace Armoured Division had received a real bashing, I wished to exploit the situation by pursuing the defeated forces, by encircling Khem Karan. But Commander 4 Division had no fresh troops to do the job. I, therefore, asked General Officer Commanding 7 Division to spare 4 Sikh, which had the previous night captured Barki, and so 4 Sikh were placed under the command of 4 Division for these operations. I left it to the General Officer Commanding 4 Division to plan the Qperation. What was not realised at the time was the fact that 4 Sikh had, for the capture of Barki, spent the previous two nights without any sleep, and had, besides, suffered heavy casualties during the operation.

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But their Commanding Officer, Lt Col Anant Singh, whom I had sent for to ask if he could undertake this hazardous operation, was such a fine soldier that not even once did he raise the question of fatigue among his men, nor of the number of casualties that his battalion had already suffered. He, on the other hand, undertook the night operation planned by General Officer Commanding 4 Division on the same night, that is the 11th of September. As luck would have it, the next morning, while it was still dark, he and his battalion walked into enemy armour, taking .it to be their own. There was, naturally, no news from the battalion, and General Officer Commanding 4 Division got worried and informed me. I rushed forthwith to 4 Division area, trying to get some news of the battalion.

I, however, rang him up in Delhi, and mentioned the dire straits-in which 4 Sikh found themselves, and asked if he felt fit enough to take over command in the field. His reply was: “Of course!”

Eventually, in the afternoon, Captain Dalip Singh of the battalion appeared with some 40 men, who had managed to slip out of the enemy’s grip. I gave these men assurances that nothing untoward had happened, as these situations often occur in a war, and cited examples from the Second World War to prove my point. I asked Dalip to take his men, along with other details that were left behind and concentrate at Bikhiwind, and re-raise 4 Sikh.

I was concerned about the re-raising of 4 Sikh Battalion, as I was Colonel of the Sikh Regiment. Therefore, on return to my Headquarters, rather late that evening, I rang up the Sikh Centre Commandant, at Meerut, and asked him to send as many reinforcements to 4 Sikh at Bikhiwind as he could, describing the situation there to him. As to who would be their Commanding Officer, my mind went to Lt Col Karnail Singh Sidhu, who, I knew, had once commanded 4 Sikh. Col Sidhu was at the time commanding our TA Battalion at Delhi, as he had suffered an injury to one of his legs, and had been categorised, by a Medical Board, as Category E, that is unfit for active service. I, however, rang him up in Delhi, and mentioned the dire straits-in which 4 Sikh found themselves, and asked if he felt fit enough to take over command in the field. His reply was: “Of course!”

So, I instructed him to take a jeep from his unit and take command of 4 Sikh at Bikhiwind, as soon as he could, and report to me directly, within 48 hours, as to whether 4 Sikh were ready for war again in every respect. I mentioned to him that I had already spoken to the Commandant of the Centre, and that he would be receiving reinforcements soon. Within two days, I received a call from Col Sidhu that 4 Sikh were ready for operations in all respects! I must mention here the name of Captain Shamsher Singh Minhas, who had been wounded in his thigh as Adjutant, 4 Sikh, in the Battle of Barki, but being the good Regimental soldier he was, had refused to be evacuated beyond the battalion Air-Post, as he wished to stay with the battalion. I asked Col Sidhu to appoint him (Captain Minhas) as his Second-in-Command in the battalion, in the rank of a Major.

I pointed out to the Chief that this was war, and that I had found the officer fit- in every way for the command of a brigade in the field. I added, that if he felt it was necessary; he could re-assemble the Promotion Board, and upon my recommendation from the field, pass him fit for a Brigadiers rank.

There is an aside to this. When the Chief of Army Staff came to know of this appointment made by me, he rang me up to object and said that I could promote him, but that he would not get the pay of a Major. My rejoinder was, “Over my dead body! Since he will be doing the job of a Major in the field, he must get his pay.” I am happy to report that Major Minhas did get the pay of a Major.

While on this subject, I might mention, that at one stage in the War, a vacancy for the appointment of a Brigadier arose, and I asked Colonel Karnail Singh Sidhu, of 4 Sikh, to put on the badges of rank of a Brigadier, as I felt he was fit for the job in all respects, and ordered him to take over the Brigade. Once again the Chief of Army Staff raised an objection to this promotion, as the Selection Board had already rejected his case for promotion to the rank of Brigadier thrice. I pointed out to the Chief that this was war, and that I had found the officer fit- in every way for the command of a brigade in the field. I added, that if he felt it was necessary; he could re-assemble the Promotion Board, and upon my recommendation from the field, pass him fit for a Brigadier’s rank. I did not hear anything further about this.

What was particularly heartening about this War was the way in which the people of the country, especially the Punjabis, had risen as one. The whole province was electrified to a man. There were no reservations in offering help for the cause. On the second night of the War, the Pakistanis had, quite unexpectedly, dropped paratroopers to eliminate the forward airbases at Pathankot, Adampur and Halwara. Luckily for us, the paratroopers landed away from the airfields, and were thus unable to cause any damage to the aircraft. We did use limited force to deal with them, but the fact is that they were mostly dealt with by the local peasants, who went to the extent of bulldozing their ripening crops so as to weed them out.

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  1. GIBRALTAR , BARKI AND MAJ BHATTI’S LAST BATTLE – A VIEW FROM BOTH SIDES

    This is relevant here.——
    22 —– It therefore is inconsistent with the facts on ground when Lt Col (retd) Syed Shahid Abbas (Nine Crucial Hours – When Courage Outmaneuvered Strength) writes that ‘‘after the declaration of ceasefire on 23 September as per the information received from across the border, the Indians had suffered 400 casualities’’. Equally incongruous is that Gen Harbaksh in his book ‘War Despatches’ (Para 43,Page 49 ) mentions —‘’General Officer Commanding 7 Division appreciating that 48 Infantry Brigade had suffered fairly heavy casualities in the battle for Hudiara Drain, switched 65 Infantry Brigade Group into the lead—‘’ . This was certainly not the case as we shall see later on. Infact the same can be verified from 48 Infantry Brigade records and from the casuality returns of 7 Infantry Division even today.
    33 There were casualities on both sides but nothing like the four truckloads of corpses including the dead body of Maj Aziz Bhati—‘’ lifted from the battle field by the Pakistanis after permission was given for collection of their dead.’’ This excerpt as mentioned in Para 47 Page 53 by Gen Harbaksh in his book ‘War Despatches’ needs to be corrected.

    Further reading papyrustony.blogspot.in/2014/02/gibraltar-barki-andmaj-bhattis-last.html

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