Archive for September, 2010

The 1965 War – Sep 10/11; the Gatt Affair …

Posted on September 21, 2010. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personal Stuff |

This is the third post on the 65 Indo Pak War, as seen by a young Captain.

The Gatt Affair Sep 10/11

Evening Sep 10, we got orders to advance on Kaloi – Ghaon – Gatt axis, which was really a small road leading to the miles away major city of Sialkot. For once we knew what we were actually doing and morale was high.

My old friends, 62 Cavalry. were grouped with us. As usual, Som’s Alpha was the advance guard for the night advance. I  did not envy him since a night advance is no joke, specially if you have to clear the villages along the route. Som blazed the hell forward with machine guns plastering the area on either side. I followed cautiously.

As dawn came up, we heard tanks of the 62nd squadron coming up behind us. For no reason what ever, one of  them was firing away with its machine gun. Thankfully it was only one of our boys that got hit. Jerry hit the roof.

He was furious and called for the squadron commander. The joker was a real fatso Sardar – indeed I wondered how he could get thru the opening in the cupola. Jerry wanted to put him under arrest there and then. The guy apologized profusely and suggested that we at least reach the objective before he was stripped off his command. Mercifully, Jerry agreed.

For the first light attack on Gatt, my Bravo was on the Right and Bhagwan Mall’s Charlie was on the Left. We passed  thru poor, plaintive Alpha and attacked across a small dry canal. There was no opposition as the odd guys who had been there had pulled out. We cleared the area, reorganized and went into defence.

During  the assault, I passed a wounded soldier in civvies but was hardly in any position to help the guy. Similarly there were a couple of old civilians in the village and the poor guys had not had any food in a while. I felt sad because we ourselves had none and could hardly help. These are the tragedies of war.

As day broke, I went and found a well and had a good bath. The ever caring Bakhtawar had found a goat and for breakfast, I feasted on goat milk. By the time, I had finished checking the platoons, he had a nice command post all ready for me to catch up on my sleep.

Some guys have all the hard luck. Poor Alpha, which had led the advance    the entire night, did not get a moments respite. This was because the entire 62 had by now come up and the tanks, well hidden in the trees behind the canal, saw imaginary Pattons across the canal, when acually there were none. So obviously there was no question of any further advance, if at all needed.

The tank guys were so scared that they seemed to have Pattons on their eyelashes. Even if a leaf moved in the breeze, they would let fly their anti tank armor piercing rounds. Som’s poor Alpha was used as coolies the whole day for lugging forward their  ammunition.

Maybe they had a reason for being jittery. A day or two earlier, leading the armoured brigade thrust , 16 Cavalry’s Centurions had been steadily ploughing ahead. Suddenly and without warning all hell broke loose. The leading squadron never knew what hit them.

This was when they were crossing a small dry nullah bed, which was not even marked on the map. It suddenly seemed to them that all the anti tank guns of the Pakistan army had opened up on them. Apparently, they had run into a well planned ambush by the Recce and Sp Battalion.

They lost a whole bunch of tanks and my friend, the brilliant but shy wonder kid, Jojo Sengupta was hit on the face and lost both his eyes. However some of the tanks boldly ploughed ahead and thus saved themselves. These tanks then made a wide detour and were now coming back to rejoin the unit and brigade.

But when KK’s brigade saw Centurions charging towards them from the enemy direction, they got the shock of their lives. They thought that Pakistan now had Centurions. Luckily fire was held and the situation clarified.

So furious was KK that he strongly recommended 16 Cav be disbanded. However it was the Chief’s own regiment and there was no danger of harm. Thank fully it did not get a Battle Honor!  Such is war –  defined by Clausewitz as, ‘Movement in a resitant medium!’

I was enjoying my snooze when around 3pm, I heard the Adjutants voice over the radio, which I had kept by my side. He was saying stuff like, there would be no withdrawal, we would fight, make a stand etcetra etcetra. Still half asleep, I wondered what in hell was going on. My company was a forward company and I had not heard a shot fired from the enemy side and was wholly non plussed. Wisely I decided to first put on my socks and boots.

In time too because as I walked around my company, I heard dear OP Sindhu, who had just been exhorting us to fight to the last round etcetra, suddenly say that we should prepare to withdraw in a half hour. I noted that my depth plattoon commander, Sarweshwar Prasad and his platoon alongwith Bhagwan Mall and the whole of Charlie, were already on the small bund in the rear. And mind you, this without a shot being fired from the enemy side.

When the time came, I pulled out Bravo and we began the demoralizing trudge back. I felt angry, humiliated and bitter- as if we were taking part in the Burma retreat. Moving back the way we had so recently advanced was a lousy feeling.

The more so since our F echelon truck had been called back and we had no option but to leave a lot of non essentials behind. I later learnt that such was the case else where too. Even the unit 3 inch mortars had been left behind – for whatever reason because it was an almighty disgrace.

It was dusk when we reached the outskirts of Kaloi. I was near Jerry and I heard Sub Sain Singh inform him that the GOC, who had run into Sain Singh, had told him to ask both COs to meet him forthwith.

Jerry passed the message over the radio to BM Singh who said he could not meet the GOC as he did not have sufficient nformation about his state of tanks, ammunition and stuff. Jerry went and met the GOC who was down right yelling mad. He told Jerry there would be no more move back and tanks would reach the unit defended area within the hour. As we went into defence, the tanks trundled in and having done my rounds, I lay feeling lousy.

We learnt next day that 4 Madras from 6 infantry divisiion had reinforced our brigade sector at Phillaura. The Kaloi Sector was thus wholly under Jerry.

During the day, Rafey organized a fighting patrol under my dear shikar friend, the intrepid and gallant Harish Rautela, and tasked him to go get back our mortars. And that night Harish did just that. He had been prepared for the enemy but there was none and he came back without incident.

For some reason, most everyone was jittery in our defence position at Kaloi, the day after we returned from Gatt. Suresh Gupta asks for my Rocket Launcher, saying the tank threat on his side is greater. I was amazed he had faith in this damned weapon. Because it was  a useless weapon which depended on an electric impulse to fire and hence there were perennial misfires. Rafey asks me to loan it.

Gulab, my RL det commander later threw away the damned thing and armed himself instead with the more effective Strim/Energa antitank rifle launched anti tank grenades.

Sitting in my company locality, Rafey asks me, since I am mortar qualified, whether it would not be a good thing if I would poop off a few mortar rounds to indicate ranging of DFs. I said I would add a thousand yards for safety and fire away. Thus to raise morale, we pooped off a few mortar rounds during the dusk denoting ranging, purelyfor raising morale of our own boys.

Som called me over for a Bara Khana the next day. He offered two days old stale purrees and onions and we feasted under his ground sheet canopy. He sails into me for deploying my company this way and that way. I told him to go to climb a tree as he was no Napoleon.

We go to Rafey for decision. Rafey goes around and in his usual careful, cautious, correct way sums up and says,”If there is shelling, there will be less casualties in Bravo!”

That night without further incident we moved to Watchoke.

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1965 War – An Over View …

Posted on September 20, 2010. Filed under: From a Services Career |

This Post on the Indo Pak War of ’65, by OC B Coy, 8 Garhwalis, 43 Ld Bde, 1 Armored Div was started in a hospital way back in 1965 – but kept on being edited as more and more material became available.

It was on Sep 1st 1965, that Pakistan sent its tanks hurtling into the Chamb Jorrian Sector. They were headed straight for the ‘Chickens Neck’ with the aim of cutting India’s only land route to the entire Jammu and Kashmir region.
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It had been a phoney war right from Mar of ’65 when Pakistan made disturbing noises in the Rann of Kutch and in Aug it launched its Op Gibralter, hotting up infiltration in Kashmir.
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As far as planning at the higher level goes, its Pakistan all the way because its Second planned offensive in the Khem Karan sector caught us napping and could have been lethal had it not been for the soggy soil which bogged the Pattons of their 1 Armored Division but their Infantry did capture Khem Karan.

How ever it was leadership at the junior level at all places which evened out the playing field for India.
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The Army Chief General Chaudhary addressed the officers of the Armoured division which had moved to the Punjab in Mar, in Jalandhar, late in August. He commiserated with our boredom but said he hoped to give us orders shortly to either charge West into Pakistan or return to our base at Jhansi.
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Gen Chaudhary had earned pecuniary notoriety when he had marched into the then Nizam’s Hyderabad in order to annexe it into the Indian union. As Southern Army Commander he had carried out some strange recce while ostensibly on shikar before the Army marched into Goa. He had made Chief only because Gen Thapar had been sacked after the bashing by the Chinese in ’62. Now he was about to take the Army into war. One heck of a lucky ‘Bangala Babu’.
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There is controversy, (indeed General Chaudhary’s middle name is controversy) regarding whether he panicked during the first week of the war, when Pakistan unleashed its offensive towards Beas in the Khem Karan Sector. This brilliantly conceived operation was aimed at the Beas Bridge, so as to cut off everything of ours to its North.
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The situation was really steadied by the courage and coolness of the XI Corps Commander, Jogi Dhillon of the Sappers. This stern, no nonsense and serious soul had even located his HQ North of the Beas River, at Raiya. And of course the single Centurion regiment and the remainder Sherman regiments of Brig Thambi’s Armored Brigade.

It was in the area around Assal Uttar, that the actions of Brig Thambi’s armor, when even the poorly gunned Shermans (which had long since outlived their utility), made mincemeat of the sitting duck, bogged down Patton’s of Pakistan[s elite First Armored Division.
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Evidently GHQ Rawalpindi, had not taken into consideration the post monsoon quagmirish ground. Indeed it was this that actually saved the day for India. In fact an enemy regimental commander surrendered near my village of Mahmudpura and all he asked was for water and it was rumored that their Armored Division Commander’s tank had been knocked out near where our Havidar Abdul Hamid PVC lost his life and hs Memorial stands.
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However all this pertains to a Sector in which our Armored Division had planned and prepared for war but fought somewhere else, which is again the norm and not the exception. However all this is jumping the gun.
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Back to Gen Chaudhary and his address. What perturbed me was that the Chief seemed to be more dependent on the cocktail circuit grapevine than on any professional source for his intelligence re Pakistani aims and designs. Maybe that is the way it is or perhaps how he liked to do his stuff!
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The Official History of the 1965 war, edited by S N Prasad, blames the Indian Army’s “faulty strategy” which delivered “a large number of inconsequential jabs” and led “to stalemate on all fronts”. To be fair, India had the upper hand during the war. It captured nearly four times more territory than Pakistan, specially in Kashmir. But imagine an Army Chief who orders the destruction of all Operational Orders and Instructions at the end of the War!

According to the US Library of Congress Country Studies,“A continuation of the fighting would only have led to further losses and ultimate defeat for Pakistan”.

That would have happened had the then Army Chief, General Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri, not miscalculated India’s ammunition stock and tank casualties, forcing the government to accept the ceasefire on September 22, 1965. This proves my point that we hardly used our Artillery whereas Pakistan pounded us with theirs.

As regards the Navy with its carrier INS Vikrant being refitted in dry docks and most other vessels under maintenance, the Indian Navy hardly played any part in the war. The Pakistan navy, in fact, destroyed the Indian radar station at Dwarka. The two air forces actively participated, but neither side was able to achieve air superiority. As part of our only Armored Div, the PAK AF gets more marks as I saw more of them than ours.
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By August the infiltration into the Kashmir Valley began in right earnest. Thinking that the iron was hot, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, egged on by the ebullient, ever ambitious Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, took the fateful plunge and ordered his initial tank offensive into the Chamb Jaurian Sector on 1st Sep.
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It was, however, not a few hours, when to the whole worlds rude shock and surprise, the puny, diminutive but steely Indian Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, ordered his Chiefs to do what they needed to do.
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Air Chief Marshal Arjun Singh sent in, I think it was the Mysteres based in Pathankot, to shoot up the tanks in their tracks – while the Gnats, flying over head gave them air cover. It was that day the Keelor brothers began notching up their kills.
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We must remember that our professional thinking was archaic, Second War orientated and bound by the Montgomery written Operations of War pamphlets – three of which, the Advance to Contact and Withdrawal, along with the River Crossing one, proved obsolete and were withdrawn at the end of the war, viz Three of Five Operations of War Bibles!
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Pak had fared better as they along with the US Aid had incorporated their organization and tactics. For instance they had a  Recce and Support Bn which held large frontages by the mobile fire power of jeep mounted MMGs and Anti tank guns. And they were also about to demonstrate how artillery is best used.
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It is my long reflected opinion that, if only the army, or any unit or formation from section to division, can do three things, then it can be considered thoroughly professional and well trained. First. Reel in and move smoothly and seamlessly and without confusion and casualties from Point A to Point B. Second. Rapidly deploy and dig down fast and deep. Third. Shoot, what ever stuff it has, in the general direction of the enemy. Indeed that is about all that is really needed to be well trained. All else is mere bull and frill.
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As a thinking soldier with some six years of service at the time of this war, I had always rated our Artillery as the most professional arm of our Army. Not least because of the outstanding gunner officers it had been my privilege to befriend viz Gurbaksh, the noted mountain gunner, Adi Homji the true Pro and then my first Brigade Major, Ben Gonzalvez. Nearer my seniority was Harry Harbhajan. All officers of character, class and calibre.

As I maintain it was in Artillery that we were totally and completely outclassed by the Pakistanis. And that from Day One and right up to the Cease Fire. Sadly this was both in concept, organization and employment as well as in the type and quantum of equipment and ammunition used with deadly effect.

The Indian Army learnt about the massed use of this great arm from Pakistan. Included was the seemingly lavish expenditure of the apparently abundant and limitless ammunition. Then we also learnt a thing or two about the bold, audacious and imaginative use of Observation Officers and their inclusion in Stay Behind Parties. Indeed in Artillery, India and Pakistan were not on the same page. We were mere also rans.
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Armored Divisions
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In those days India had one against Pakistan’s two armored divisions though their 6 Armored Div had only one brigade HQ and was not fully organized,. While Pakistan had launched its First Armored Division in the Khem Karan Sector, the location of its 6 Armored Division was not known then and, to my knowledge and horror, not known even to the end of the war. A mere Regt, 25 Armd Regt, along with elements of a R and S Bn proved more than enough to stop our Armd Div in its tracks
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However when the time for fighting came, it was fortunate that 3 CAV with its hardy and robust Centurions, which were the only real match for the Pakistani Pattons, stayed put in Punjab and helped decimate the Pakistan armored division in the Khem Karan Sector.
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In the Sialkot Sector the Eighth Garhwalis were tagged with the Shermans of 2nd Lancers and 62 Cav ex our 26 Div . For the fiasco of the Buttur Dograndi battle, we were with the Centurions of Poona Horse, for whom we were unknowns. Sadly that is what happens in war. You train alongside some and you fight alongside another!!!
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Lahore and Khem Karan Sectors.
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This relates to what was happening on the GT Road or Lahore front, where we had launched, with much fan fare, our 15 Infantry Division. And on the Khem Karan front where Pakistan had launched their Patton armed First Armored Division after capturing Khem Karan..
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When 15 Division launched India’s grand offensive for the capture of Lahore, it was soon confronted by the Ichogil Canal – the existence of which was well known. Yet its existence surprised the Indian Command and the much publicized offensive ground to a halt as no one quite knew or was prepared to reinforce Col Hayde’s 3 Jats which had managed to cross and were ensconced in a village on its far bank.
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Funnily the Indian Army, under Second War British tutelage, had practiced opposed river crossing operations and had a pamphlet on the subject yet we had not ever considered the difficulties, problems and methodology for getting over a defended canal.
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As has been said, Third Jat under their CO, the intrepid Desmond Hayde, did manage to cross and capture a village. But they were unable to stay on as they could not be reinforced. So much for our much touted professionalism when a mere canal stopped a deliberate operation of the Indian Army. And that too after the Chinese wake up call in ’62.
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South of the GT Road 15 Division offensive, 7 Inf Division was launched and all it did was capture Burki Village where 19 MLI outshone all. The sad part is that a division captured a village in the entire war! And the GOC Gen Sibal, a fine officer, got a MVC!
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Further South where we had our 4 Division under Gen Gurbaksh in general area Khem Karan, Pakistan on its part launched its own bold, cleverly conceived offensive which rather surprised and benumbed the Indian Command which with an added Armd Bde was planning to take Kasur.
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The PAK operation was brilliantly conceived with the aim of reaching and destroying the bridge at Beas. Thus everything North of Beas would be cut off and destroyed piecemeal and at leisure.
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The stern, no nonsense Bengal sapper, Jogi Dhillon had – maybe just to put the fear of God into his own staff – located his Corps Hqs North of Beas at Raiyya. Recently there was much uncalled for debate that Gen Chaudhari, the Chief had panicked and ordered a withdrawal South of Beas!

The recent books have revisited the Gen Harbaksh controversy re the then Chief ordering a Withdrawal behind the Beas. The subject was hotly debated several years ago with various heavy weights giving their two cents. Here is the noted historian and authority on Matters Military, Maj Gen KM Bhimaya (Retd) giving his authoritative summation.

“I have met and interviewed Gen Harbaksh Singh, at his Vasant Vihar residence, way back in 1987, with other members of the Inter Service Study team on the 1965 War. At no time, did he mention about the Withdrawal Orders to Beas Bridge episode. I do not remember having read about these orders in his ‘Dispatches’. If any one has read about this incident, I request it be shared.

‘That brings me to the important question of drawing inferences about momentous historical decisions. Most of the perplexities faced by an analyst arise from the inherent difficulty in divining the mind of a commander who takes such critical decisions.

‘In the instant case, the question is not about the propriety of a decision but whether or not a decision was taken at all. Therefore, in such cases, the primacy of documentary over circumstantial evidence is absolute. Alas, we do not have a semblance of documentary evidence! And with this cloud of uncertainty, a rigorous analyst would label belated claims ‘apocryphal’ – a common euphemism for unverified assertions.

‘At the expense of brevity let me illustrate one more example from the 1971 War. The controversy whether the Indian Armed Forces had planned for the liberation of Bangladesh has been discussed several times. Apart from field commanders, two important staff officers who had major roles in implementing orders were interviewed several times by our team. While Gen Jacob, who had a politico-military role (particularly in obtaining Gen Niazi’s surrender on terms most favorable to India), insisted that he had, right from July 1971, prepared for the total liberation of Bangladesh, the operational orders did not say so.

‘Gen Inderjit Singh Gill, the then DMO, also stated that he was not aware of such orders, though some contingency plans, such as the tasks for the airborne operations had been formulated. General Jacob produced a few DOs that talked about possible roles for the Parachute Battalion. Gen Sagat Singh, undoubtedly the most outstanding of all the field commanders and the first to reach Dacca, denied any knowledge of any orders for the capture of Dacca.Under these circumstances, we, in the study team, made an informed judgment that, although there were no written orders, the various DOs Gen Jacob produced, attested to the fact that some kind of informal planning had taken place”

Back to Our Narrative.

Gen Dhillon’s own words have not been kind to him. Before the 1962 War he had opined that ‘a few rounds were all that was needed to send the Chinese scampering”. And all that the official history of the 65 War has about him is that attacks should be pressed “regardless of casualties”. Most pathetic indeed. What really counts is leadership from up front but the unkindest cut was that he was at logger heads with the 15 Div GOC who he had to eventually sack. How often were he or Harbaksh, the Army Commander at the site of any brigade or divisional battle? In this context I saw my GOC Gen Sparrow at a couple times of crisis in the Sialkot Sector.
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While the Pakistan plan to advance to the Beas bridges with the Right flank resting on the Beas, was brilliantly and boldly conceived, its execution was appalling. Or maybe they were plain unlucky. Because just as our armored offensive in the Sialkot Sector crossed the IB 4 – 6 hrs late, the Pattons of the Pak First Armored Division sank in the soggy post monsoon ground of the ‘Khara’ Majha region.
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The ground, after the recently ended monsoon, was a veritable quagmire and this fact saved India and the honor of its Army. Indeed all PAK tanks got badly bogged down as soon as the offensive entered Indian territory between Khem Karan and Assal Uttar.
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The much feared Pattons were shot to pieces by our Centurions, up gunned Shermans and even the anti tank guns of guys like Abdul Hamid of the Grenadiers. This man knocked out several tanks with his 106 recoilless jeep mounted anti tank gun and was given a PVC posthumous. In fact the GOC of the PAK Armd Div was killed in his Patton a few miles North of Khem Karan on the road to Amritsar!
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My course mate Amy Sandhu was adjutant in Vaidya’s Deccan Horse Shermans and thoroughly enjoyed himslf. He had a tough time fending off my father, who forever wanted updates on the battle in progress!

It cannot be sufficiently reinforced that above all it was the soft ground that bogged the Pak armor and resulted in the Pattons becoming sitting ducks resulting in a Patton grave yard at Bhikhiwind. In fact the CO of one Pak regiment surrendered at Mahmudpura and begged for water.
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Gen Harbaksh, the Army Commander wanted ever so much to get 4 Sikh a Battle Honor! So he inducts them from 7 Inf Div and sends them to establish a block behind Khem Karan on the road to Kasur – so as to trap the enemy as an attack was being launched on Khem Karan from the front. But instead Pak attacked and captured Khem Karan. Result, the whole of this proud highly rated battalion together with the CO, went hook line and sinker into Pakistan’s POW bag. So much for this Great!
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The Sialkot Sector
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Our main armored offensive with our elite Black Elephant Division with Poona Horse, Hodson’s, 16 Cav, all with the hardy Centurions and 62 Cav and 2nd Lancers with up gunned Shermans, was opposed on the first day by nothing more than jeep mounted machine guns and the antitank recoilless guns of a Recce and Support battalion with elements of 25 Armd Regt coming in piecemeal..
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We knew of the R and S Organization as it had been gifted to them by the Yanks. This organization defended ground by mobility and fire power. The USA had also gifted Pattons and their concepts, doctrines and tactics. By and by some Pak armor did arrive, notably 25 Cav but our offensive had already stalled.

Here follow extracts from a book THE BATTLE OF CHAWINDA by Maj (Retd) AGHA HUMAYUN AMIN – with quotes of our GOC and Army Commander and Commender PAK Artillery

‘Sparrow’ Rajinder Singh’s and Gen Harbakshs’ comments are a tribute to Pak’s 25 Cavalry, the only unit along with R and S elements which opposed it. Gen Sparrow is quoted, “The first day’s battle could not have been a worse start. The Armoured Brigade had been blocked by two squadrons and elements of the R and S Bn and in the first encounter the brigade had lost more tanks than the enemy. The.whole of 1 Corps had gained only a few kilometres”

The author says that “the worst consequence of this day was the paralyzing effect it had on the minds of enemy (our) commanders. It took them near 48 hours to come up with what to do now! This gave the Pakistanis time to move and deploy elements of 6 Armored Division. The advantages of the sudden initial onslaught had been forfeited by the confused chaos of the first days actions of the Indian 1st Armoured Division”.

As per the  author, “the Indian Army Commander, summed up the Indian fiasco- “Both 16 Cavalry and 17 Horse failed to determine the strength of the opposing armor and displayed little skill in out maneuvering. The Brigade Commander made the unfortunate decision to withdraw 17 Horse from Tharoah for countering an alleged serious tank threat on the Left flank. This was a grave error of judgement as 4 Horse which by this time had been released to the Brigade by GOC 1 Armored Division, could have been used to meet any flank threat posed by enemy armor”.

More from Gen Harbaksh, “This blunder cost us dearly. We made an advance of only four miles beyond the bridgehead when a much deeper penetration could have been achieved. The fleeting chance that could have been exploited to gain striking success, was lost forever and while we were fumbling about ineffectively in a chaotic situation of our own creation, the enemy had that vital breathing space so essential for a quick rally round from the stunning impact of being surprised.

‘We courted a serious setback through faulty decisions and immature handling of armor which the enemy was not slow to exploit. From now onwards, the thrust which had been intended to keep the enemy off balance and reeling until the final blow by sheer speed of advance, turned  into a slow slogging match- a series of battering-ram actions”.

More or less the same is the opinion of Major Shamshad of 25 Cav whose Patton was immobilized by my Company on 17 Sep. He writes – “Instead of wasting two days, if Poona Horse had advanced from Dugri to Shehzada and threatened Pasroor on 9th we would have been in serious trouble. Alternatively 2 Lancers could have moved unopposed from Bhagowal to Badiana and cut off the Sialkot – Pasrur Road.

‘After 9th September when elements of Pakistan’s 6 Armoured Division had deployed it was no longer a question of surprise but unimaginative battering ram actions with the Pakistanis knowing the ground better. The result of the Indian offensive was all decided on 8 and 9 Sept 1965. The Indians had not suffered a physical defeat on 8th September. It was their commanders that had been afflicted by paralysis. In this state they ‘exaggerated the force in front of them which really was a battered regiment with R and S elements.

‘On 9th September they had two absolutely fresh regiments, 4 Horse and 2 Lancers and one reasonably fresh regiment, 62 Cavalry. Plus two regiments with weaker tank strength – all opposed by 25 Cavalry whose tank strength was down to two squadrons. In infantry they were vastly superior having some twelve battalions against one of Pakistan. Had they possessed a resolute higher leadership, nothing could have stopped them – not even Tikka Khan who had been projected by Shaukat as ‘one known for his firmness and endurance.

‘The trauma of Gadgor caused the Indian armoured brigade with their Centurions, to remain boxed in a defensive position for whole of 9 and 10 Sep. 25 Cavalry found the Indian Operation Order regarding ‘Operation Nepal’ (the 1 Corps Offensive) in one of the knocked out tanks of 16 Cavalry and learnt that they were opposed by the Indian 1st Armoured Division, 6 Mountain Division and 14 Division and that these were functioning as part of 1 Indian Corps”.
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’16 Cav is a renowned regiment and at the time one of its officers, JN Chaudhari, was the Chief of the Indian Army. On the second day of our offensive, its Centurions were blazing along as the advance elements of Brig KK’s Thrust Line when all of a sudden it reached a very small undulation marking the bed of a dry stream.
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‘Mark you this was not even marked on the map but it was enough to hide a strong camouflaged detachment of the Pak Recce and Support Battalion. This detachment held its fire until the leading tanks were sitting ducks. With the first fusillade of point blank anti tank gun fire, all hell broke loose. 16 Cav did not know what had hit them as it had been enough to damage well nigh a squadron worth. Such was the confusion that some tanks carried on full throttle forward getting the hell out of that bedeviled area”.
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It was in such an action some days later that one of the finest officers of the Indian Army, Lt Jojo Sengupta – a brilliant Rimcollian and the very best of humans – one whom I will always be proud to have known as a dear friend – lost both eyes when his turret received a direct hit and the flash and splinters scythed his face. Of course the advance of the combat group ground to a halt and the CO had a hard time getting hold of his command.
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It was after a while that another regiment was stunned when it saw a group of Centurions coming from the enemy side – no one had ever heard of Pakistan having Centurions! Luckily the Regiment held its fire because soon it became evident that these were our own 16 Cav tanks that had gone ahead and then making a wide loop were returning back.
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Though such stuff happens in war, yet Brig KK was furious and he even recommended that this great unit be disbanded. The same would no doubt have happened had it not been for the fact that the Chief belonged to this regiment. Col Sidhu Brar was a gallant and highly professional officer but he put in his papers and left the country after the war.

Maj Bhupinder. Funnily I never got to know much of Hodsons Horse happenings. Of course in the MH, Billy Dhillon sent his Mom to cheer me up when I landed as he with a shattered leg had arrived a wee earlier. Much later in Asvini Naval hospital in Bombay, I got to know the whole tank crew of Maj Bhupinder Singh. He was a most gallant and polished officer who got a posthumous MVC. His crew consisted of Dharam Singh, Bir Singh and one other Singh, whose first name escapes me.

All of them were serious burn cases. Only after they were a little recovered did they come to the physiotherapy department where I too used to land up. We had long conversations and I found them a cheerful, brave lot. They told me that when their tank was hit, it became a burning inferno with the result that even their clothes caught fire. As they jumped out of the tank, all of them rolled over and over on the ground so as to douse the flames. Unfortunately, Maj Bhupinder after jumping out kept running. As a result his burning clothes made severe scything burns in his body and he died very painfully.

The CHAWINDA Fiascos’
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Among the many other false starts were the proposed attacks on Chawinda which was eventually twice attacked by General Korla’s 6 Infantry Division with two of its own brigades and two from elsewhere. Pounded by enemy artillery the two attacks lost direction and were dismal failures. Chawinda turned out to be a strong position defended with incredible fire power.
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General Shashi Kant Korla had been the Deputy in the Academy when I was there and his lecture on leadership still rings in my ears. He had narrated that when he was a company commander in the Burma war, he had to shoot one of his own men, who was urging the others to abandon the defensive position. Later on at the same spot when the armor troop wanted to withdraw at night, he said he had to whip out a pistol to stop them. Much later he was Commandant of the Infantry School when I did some course. After that when he was in the Udhampur Corps, he personally went to the Srinagar airport to disband 2 Assam which under the NCOs, had a mutiny. A very great officer indeed.
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At Chawinda, he certainly did not stand up to be counted when ordered by Harbaksh and Dunne to launch a Divisional attack with two of the four brigades from a different division. He could have made a stand against such amateurish orders by Harbaksh and Dunne but he buckled when ordered by the amateurish Corps and the highly rated Army Commander. Alas he caved in and the two attacks on Chawinda should be on how not to attack.Same goes for the much touted brigade commander Jogi Mendher of 15 Punjab.

PAK VERSION OF CHAWINDA ATTACKS

Harbaksh Singh praised the efficiency of Pakistani artillery in dislocating the Indian attacks on Chawinda from the very beginning by effectively shelling both the assaulting Indian brigades in a decisive and effective manner. Harbaksh Singh wrote ‘Enemy shelling created such confusion that all control was lost. The leading troops lost direction and one unit barged into our own position in Wazirwali. A similar fate befell the other assaulting brigade whose‘Forming Up Place’  was so effectively shelled by the Pakistani artillery that only part of a battalion could reach Chawinda while the rest was repulsed half way”.

Artillery fire played a major role in defeating the Indian armor whose failure was made certain thanks to advancing in a restricted space. while being hit by 90 artillery pieces including twelve 8 inch howitzers for 15 hours.in contrast the Indian artillery was scattered all along the front and there was hardly any place where it could provide the quality of concentrated fire necessary for blasting a hole in Pak defences.

Pak 4 Corps Artillery under Amjad  Chaudhri –  the man who had trained the 4 Corps artillery brigade in peace and handled it in a masterful and resolute manner at Chawinda noted that ‘most of the attacks mounted by the enemy were broken up by artillery fire on our defensive positions and his will to continue the attack was broken and he was forced to withdraw.

‘East of Chawinda, the Indians was prevented from coming close to our positions by our artillery alone though he made repeated efforts to outflank Chawinda from this direction. The nearest he came to this position was approximately 600 yards when he was forced to withdraw after his leading tanks had been destroyed and accompanying infantry badly mauled. His attacks  were repulsed with massed fire of all our guns. Casualties inflicted on the attacking troops by our shelling were so heavy that in these actions even after he had left our Defenses, his will to fight seemed to have been broken.

Eighth Garhwalis.

The CO, Jerry Jhirad, the Second in Command, Rafey Khan and OC Alpha Company, the ebullient Som Jhingon and Capt Sonkar, the RMO, were great soldiers and individuals, before and during the entire war and any which where. They can with ease and aplomb hold their own in any group of great humans and professionals. They led from up front and were, in their own ways, outstanding personalities.
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Joseph Ephraim Jhirad
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Jerry was a thorough bred, top notch professional with an impeccable record and one who craved professionalism. I had a feeling that he was deeply disturbed by the lost, confused, amateurish way we were fighting the war. The smiles were rarer, mostly he seemed somber.

Perhaps he saw no method in the madness of our activity. No wonder, when ever I saw Jerry in the unit HQ near the stench filled well outside Kaloi or at other places, he was always trying his level best to appear cheerful so as to inspire confidence regarding what we were being asked to do. Somber, yes. confused, never.
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When one reads about the units doings in this war, one will commiserate with what Jerry had to put up with – specially from the Indian high command.
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Abdul Rafey Khan
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Rafey was steady, sober, sensible – as always. He came from the aristocratic Rampur family – a member of which became the Pakistani Foreign Minister. His father had been deputy commissioner at Pauri Garhwal and had shot with the great Jim Corbett. Rafey was polished, poised, practical and professional. He knew no fear. Though later, in my view, he seemed to have a premonition that he was not going to make it. I held him in great admiration and he on his part, did not think of me entirely as a clown.
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Jerry had called us for orders near a well outside of a sugarcane field but he was held up. As we were waiting, the shelling began. Slowly one by one the officers started to go get into the empty trenches. I was enjoying a sugar cane and wanted badly to get into a trench as the fall of shot was coming nearer. I suggested the same to Rafey who was observing the pattern of the fall of shot. Rafey says he thinks the enemy is doing predicted fire.
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To prove it he says he will indicate where the next four rounds will fall and we should watch while taking cover on the side of a stationary tank standing under the tree near the well. Not quite as curious or interested, one way or another, and more worried re our safety, I yet wanted to humor him.
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Sure enough his indication of the fall of the next four rounds was right each and every time. We went moving from one side of the tank to the other before the firing ceased. Turning to me he says, “If we come out of this alive, what a thing we will have to tell!”. I with supreme confidence, replied that of course we would come out okay. Alas maybe he had a premonition.
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Som P Jhingon
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Som was the only one who chattered, mocked and laughed. He used me as a punching bag and poked fun at me all the while. He was indeed having a ball. Hungry for notice and recognition, he did not waste any opportunity for glory. While I was a bachelor, Som was happily married with wife and kids and I wondered at the guy. During the entire war, it was always Som’s Alpha doing this that and the other. As a wizened old pro, I had learnt the golden rule of never volunteering. I knew full well that every one’s time would come – and sooner than later, at that.
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While returning from our bath at the village well, Som pointed out a shop which had just been looted indicating that the rear elements were catching up. He picked up a poster with a local belle on it and said it would decorate his command post. I walked on and saw lying in the street, a small glucose packet. I rationalized that this was not really looting – only picking up something lying in my path. It went straight into my pack and boy was it to come in handy couple days later when I lay wounded in an open field awaiting a Pak Bayonet in my belly as the unit was breaking up and had begun to pull out.

The RMO Capt Sonkar
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The unit had no RMO but just prior to the actual fighting, old Captain Sonkar joined the unit. I went over to check him out but found nothing to be cheery about. The guy was a silent sort who loved his rum. It was said he carried rum in his water bottle and no water there!
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As things began to hot up, the RMO began to show what he was made of as he tended to all casualties with care and consideration. The 2I/C, Rafey also began to think highly of him. Sonkar was at his finest at the Battle of Buttar Dograndi. When the CO, Jerry Jhirad was hit, he tended him with care before putting him on a stretcher in a 3 Ton truck. Next day when I asked him whether I had a simple or compound fracture, busy as he was he responded, “Dont worry, it is part of both!”
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Indeed he was the very last person to leave Buttar Dograndi along with the IO, Captain Vijay Chandra. That was after tending to Rafey Khan, who himself waved him off, well knowing he had not much longer to live and the enemy were closing in. Surely an MVC was easily justified for this cool cool doctor. I would say Rafey will always merit a PVC in my Book and Jerry at the very minimum a VrC. But then Gallantry medals are only for the higher ups and of course for the Armoured Corps!!!

Melody of Movement – Eighth Garhwalis
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We moved from Sangial, where we had harbored on Sep 8, to Maharajke and Kaloi where we spent seversl days with interludes. There after we danced, it seemed aimlessly between Kaloi, Watchoke, Phillaura Cross Roads and Kalewali.
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On Sep 9, Som’s Alpha was grouped with A and B Squadrons of the Lancers which were supported by a battery of the self propelled 101 field regiment. The objective was the village of Parashayan, which was easily taken as it did not seem to be held.
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From Sep 9 to Sep 15, there was only one real operation which seemed to show sense but that too was aborted as our 62 Cav saw imaginary Pattons on their own eye lashes. This was the Gatt episode on Sep 10 -12 and is covered in some detail in a separate post.
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On Sep 13 and we were relieved by 5/9 Gurkhas at Kaloi and moved to Watchoke. There was some talk of B Coy going with 5 Jats for an attack on Uttar Kalaan but it never materialized. Scattered on one of the roads leading to the Cross Roads, were jeep trailers, which had not yet been scavenged. It was near this road that lying below his Sherman, to be safe from the shelling, Gui Verma of 2 Lancers perusing a Time Magazine. I asked him to loan it once he had finished.
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Early morning of Sep 14 saw us in our forward assembly area at Phillora Crossroads. While Jerry with Kochar, the battery commander and IO Vijay Chander carried out recce towards Kalewali, we came under severe shelling.
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Our aimless, confused hither thither moves were compounded as one night, our brigade HQs was over run. The location was hastily abandoned and Harbans Dhillon Commander 43 Lorried came under an ominous cloud. KK of 1 Armd, whose location he had reached proved of no help. Of course these things happen in peace and war but no need to take advantage of an others misfortune.
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The Garhwalis eventually harbored in Chakdeo Singh on Sep 15, prior to advance and siezure of Buttur Dograndi next day. But there after we were attacked and ousted and the unit more or less disintegrated with the loss of Jerry Jhirad and Rafi Khan and evacuation of self.
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The command then devolved on Som Jhingon. By the way, in the ’71 war too, when Som was the Second in Command and once again became the Commanding officer after the CO broke a leg.

Re Jerry. This quiet unassuming solid soldier was given no award. This speaks volumes of the system, where just about every one from the armored corps received something or other for gallantry in action – even the CO of 62nd Cav, who after the Gatt Battle was earmarked to be sacked by no less than the GOC himself. Yet the guy was polished off with a Sena Medal. The CO Poona Horse died in action and was given an immediate PVC. Another CO, Jerry Jhirad was shot within minutes and in near proximity – yet he got a Mention in Dispatches.

Some one at the time pointed out that in this war at least, Caste, Clan and Corps, had lots to do with awards. Very sad and sadly true. But luck plays its part equally. Take the case of the Gurkha PVC of the ’62 War. When he was told by the Chinese, whose POW he was, that he had been given a posthumous PVC, he was the most surprised person of all!
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There is neither rancor nor bitterness. Only when the truly deserving are neglected does one feel sad. But then that is life. Dear Som J had dearly wanted a gallantry award but like Sonkar and others, he missed out. Yet he got his due much much later in a counter insurgency action – indeed the second highest for gallantry!

Shows you just cannot keep a Good Man Down!

An Assessment Air and Arty

The F 86 Sabres used to mmke their near daily appearance beginning from the first day of the war and every day till the end. They took on our tanks, guns and B vehicles. As always, the F 104s circled high above. On Sep 9, as the Sabres flew low over us, much against Rafeys strong admonitions we began to poop away with whatever we had. If not anything, pooping away boosted morale!
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Through out the war, I noted that the first sabre always dived real low before letting off its lethal rockets. The second let go the rockets much before since his dive which was a mere half dive. The last one hardly dived at all and let go the rockets harmlessly before the level off. This speaks volumes for training and offensive spirit of the first pilot and the amateurishness, lack of training of the other pilots.
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As regards our own air, we seldom saw any of our planes. We rationalized that they were probably doing their stuff else where as its achievements of Sep 1 on the Chamb Sector had raised its stock.
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However there is hardly any incident of note of our Air activity even in the Khem Karan Sector where the Pakistan First Armored and 6 Infantry Divisions were launched. It was our armor and anti tank guns of the likes of Abdul Hamid, which saved the day. What was Air Chief Marshal Arjun Singh doing which earned him laurels?
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Artillery
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Same goes for our artillery. Of course the devastation we saw was all on civilians, cattle and houses. I also noted that the battery commanders and observation officers were seldom calling or directing shoots. Usually they were out of contact with their guns.
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On the other hand we were nearly always being pounded and hammered by the Pakistan artillery and with absolutely lethal effect. It really broke us with its non stop continuity and accuracy. As stated, the Pakistan artillery was miles ahead of us in effective devastation of worthwhile target selection and in just about Every Thing re Artillery.
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Armor
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Our Centurions stood head and shoulders above any other tank, the US Pattons and the Russian/Chinese T Series included. While the Centurions did yeoman service by us, they were upgunned and dieselized by the IsraElis and did glorious work in the ’67 War between the Arabs and the Israelis.
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The Shermans were of not much use. While our employment of armor was in the same level as Pakistan, our gunnery was much much better. This mainly because an earlier divisional commander, General Budhwar, had laid great emphasis on gunnery. He ruled that as accuracy depended on correct judging of distance, every tank must shoot off three shells with a plus minus of a hundred yards of the distance estimated. Hence error in estimating distance would be neutralized.
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Infantry
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I dare say that Pakistan and we were in the same class. Maybe we had an edge because of our young officer leadership.
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After the ’71 war, my unit was detailed to guard the largest Pak POW Camp at Dhana, near Sagar. I always found the prisoners full of spirit and even in their current state as POWs, were very proud persons. Their drill including saluting was superb. In fact I frequently heard from them say that if they had officers like us, nothing could ever defeat them.
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Maybe it was in their interest to say such stuff. But I doubt it.

Gen KM Bhimaya’s Comments on the War

My claim to offer comments stems from my posting as a member of the Inter Service Study Team, headed by the late Dr.S.N. Prasad, an erudite historian, who brought in his profound knowledge and analytical skills to the team. We had been tasked to compile the “Official History of the 1965 War.

Unfortunately, all of the operational plans/instructions at the Army HQ had been destroyed, under the orders of the highest authority.

We had to rely on published material, such as journal articles and books, and interviews. It was the considered opinion of the Study Team that the Indian Army failed to exploit the most precious principle of war: surprise. The plans (later modified to match our gains) appeared to be bold, but the execution woefully inadequate. Why would Desmond Hayde, my guru, capture the Bata Shoe Factory on the outskirts of Lahore, if there were no orders to this effect?

Why should 26 Inf Div capture Rasulpur, barely 4 miles from Sialkot, and sit tight, without even probing toward the city?

In the I Corps Zone, surprise was not exploited. In one of the articles, a Pakistan defense analyst, facetiously attributed the limited success, or a lack thereof, of the Indian Army to three factors: ALLAH, ARTILLERY and the INDIAN ARMY!

Reverting to the 1965 war, I am afraid I have to agree with Shekar Gupta’s succint summarization (even when I deplore his partisan attitude toward OROP) “A war which Pakistan lost, and India did not win.”

Pakistan Journos like Ayaz Amir, Ahmed Rashid, Najam Sethi seem far superior to their Indian counterparts. Here is Sep 12, 2012 –Islamabad diary by Ayaz Amir.

Back from a trip to Amritsar and Delhi on Wednesday evening, and too tired to go on to Chakwal as I had meant to – PIA never disappointing, the flight from Delhi late by three hours – I sought refuge under the roof of the Avari, where my poverty usually takes me when in the favored city of the Emperor Jahangir.

And as I sat down to write this on Thursday morning, from somewhere down below on the Mall – it will always be the Mall whatever patriotic name we give it – came the ever-enchanting voice of Noor Jahan the Second, the first being the royal consort of Jahangir. She was singing that haunting song, “Rah-e-haq ke shaheedo…”, a tribute to the martyrs of the 1965 war, and it came suddenly to me that this was the Defense of Pakistan Day, an anniversary remembered with less and less fervor as the years pass…not because respect for our fighting soldiers has in any way diminished but because the truth about that conflict is now more widely understood.

It was a war that Pakistan did not seek; it was a war into which it stumbled. The hawks – the two leading ones being Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the 12 Division Commander, Maj Gen Akhtar Hussain Malik – forgot to make the little calculation that any adventure undertaken in Kashmir would impel or tempt India to straighten out the balance somewhere else, at a time and place of its choosing.

When our Kashmir adventure turned into a serious threat to Indian forces in Kashmir, to no one’s surprise except ours Indian forces crossed the international border on the front stretching from Sialkot to Lahore. Our soldiers fought bravely, at places magnificently, as did junior officers up to the level of battalion commanders. A few brigadiers too distinguished themselves. (The Indian official account of the war, which can be read on the net, generously mentions the performance of some of our fighting units.)

And of course the air force acquitted itself superbly. But if one looks for Mansteins in the higher echelons of command one is likely to be disappointed. There were none, not one strategic manoeuvre worth remembering.

Our self-appointed field marshal, Ayub Khan Tareen, lived to rue his blunder. After the war he was no longer the same man and his grip on national affairs weakened.

The supreme irony of course was that Bhutto whose role in pushing the war was second to none exploited the outcome, and the subsequent Tashkent agreement, to spread the insinuation that had not Ayub chickened out our forces would have won a signal triumph, which of course was complete nonsense.

But he could have been preaching to the mountains. The ceasefire when it came, with no little pushing by the superpowers, came not a moment too soon for our exhausted high command.

But for years and years the myth persisted and it was woven into national legend, that India was out to destroy Pakistan and would have succeeded but for our brave armed forces. The Defense of Pakistan Day commemorates this historiography. This myth would not have mattered if it had not led to lasting, and baleful, consequences. We had a fairly open relationship with India until then.

But with the war the barriers went up and all ties were cut; defense spending sharply increased; more divisions were raised. The ramparts of the national security state rose higher. And barriers went up in our minds as well. India was the enemy and this doctrine superseded all others.

We had been doing fairly well economically, ahead then of such states as Malaysia and South Korea. The war put us off the rails completely. (The only good to come of it were the war songs of Noor Jahan, which are still a marvel to listen to.) With the 1971 war the dogmas learned from the 1965 conflict were reinforced.

Strange, is it not, that the brightest politician of his age should have been the prime carrier of this policy of revanchism and hate? We will fight for a thousand years, was one of his clarion calls, anti-Indianism a plank – nay, an essential component – of his extraordinary success in Punjab in the 1970 elections. And it was Punjab which catapulted him to national power, not Sindh. Think again…

Punjab dyed in the hues of chauvinism, the country as a whole wedded to the notion of undying hostility towards India…the high priest of this doctrine was the secular, de luxe whisky-sipping (occasionally guzzling) Bhutto. Who listens to the boring lectures, or the stale oratory, of the custodians of the two-nation theory headquartered permanently in Lahore? Bhutto’s oratory had a mesmeric effect on the Punjabi mind. And his oratory had two key components: pseudo-revolutionism and jingoistic nationalism.

Only now are the barriers raised then coming down slowly, not because of any fresh dawn of enlightenment but the pressure of cruel circumstance. Our army is engaged in no fake adventure on the eastern front. It is caught in a real and brutal war on our western marches, battling an enemy all the more sinister because the strength and staying power of that enemy comes not from evil Jew or conniving Hindu but from within our own ranks.

Our Indian wars, no matter the causes, were simple, black-and-white affairs. We knew who the army was and Noor Jahan had no trouble singing the glories of our valor, real or imaginary.

The war we are now engaged in is so much more complex because the enemy is not only the visible enemy we see, cutting the throats of our soldiers in the name of Islam. The enemy is also our own confusion which still cannot make out what is at stake. At stake is the nation’s soul, its direction. We emerge from the smoke and fire of this conflict and we can hope for national salvation. We lose, or remain victims of confusion, and we might as well seek a confederation with Somalia or the Sudan (with apologies to both these nations).

A Pakistan which has forsaken the tolerance sought to be inculcated by its founding fathers, a Pakistan losing no sleep at the persecution of its minorities and the killing of Shias, a country which can countenance the victimization of an Aasia Bibi or a Rimsha Masih, is a country in dire need of asking some hard questions of itself. All injustice is bad; injustice perpetrated in the name of religion is infinitely worse. We can be such hypocrites. Are the lives of the Caliphs dead pieces of parchment or living examples to follow? What would the great Omar have done if after a short absence from Makkah he had come to know of the plight of a young Christian girl, Rimsha Masih?

There and then he would have fired the interior minister, the Rehman Malik of his time, and asked the inspector general of police, the kotwal, to run round the city walls with a knapsack on his back. And he would have carried the girl Rimsha on his shoulders to her house and asked her mother if they had enough to eat, and if anything was found wanting, on bended knee he would have cried for Allah’s forgiveness. For was it not Omar who said that if a dog went hungry by the banks of the Euphrates he, the Caliph, would be asked about it on the Day of Judgment?

The Islam which spread so fast from the sands of the Hejaz was a thing of achievement and glory. And to think what we have made of it in this republic founded in the name of Islam?”

That is the end apart from a personal aside on our Arty –

There was this Lt Avtar Singh of our only Medium Regt whom I came across a few days after we had entered Pakistan. This officer, on hearing me lambasting and lamenting our artillery, took me up and promised to show me a thing or two once he was in support of our brigade – he was an OP operating from a tank.Alas a day later as he was directing fire a direct hit on the turret of his tank sent his arm swirling in the air —-

We met a half century later, courtesy Capt Amarinder, who had old 65 War Veterans for dinner as Maj Shamshad whose Patton had been disabled by a Strim from my company, was also present – again courtesy the Patiala Royal. Avtar and I chatted for over an hour and then he asks me if I knew one Capt Bhullar from the Garhwalis – I nearly killed him!

Any way he remains one Good Gunner!

PS Gen Bhimaya commends OCs A n B Coy 8 Garhwalis …

“Re the officers in the Blog Som Jhingon is my course mate, and we passed out from Sangro Coy. He has the distinction of holding the battalion together under the most adverse circumstances both in 1965 and 1971 wars- a rare honor which he richly deserves. He is a combat leader to the core. From our course, he was the first to be promoted in command of a battalion during combat operations, and I, at the MS Branch, had the privilege of signing his promotion order.

When Jogi Bhullor appeared sans his turban and beard on the parade ground, an amused Jack Dias (of Everest fame) jocularly remarked ” You look like Bert Lancaster.” From that time onwards, Jogi came to be known as “Bert”. We did the weapons and the SC course together. So I know him pretty well. Jogi was wounded twice. He was also the chief architect of our very successful Centenary celebrations in 1987. In sum, a very courageous and unflappable officer.”

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1965 War – First ‘Black Elephant’ Armoured Division …

Posted on September 8, 2010. Filed under: From a Services Career |

This is a personal account of the 1965 Indo Pak War seen through the eyes of a young company commander – a Captain in Eighth Garhwalis, 43 Lorried Brigade, First Armoured Division. Events, dates, names, of persons and places, are based on notes made nearer the time. Opinions, observations, assessments are personal. Truth is the one element which has not been allowed to become a casualty.
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In the last week of March 1965 it was towards the end of a candle lit dinner in the lush lawn of the Eighth Garhwali Mess in Jhansi, for which Col Joseph Ephrahaim Jhirad and the 2i/c Maj Abdul Rafey Khan with their gracious and charming lady wives had been invited  by the constantly dueling Ajaib Mangat and self. An urgent call was received from brigade and the CO and self left for a late night conference. The crux was that next day or rather night, we and the whole First Armoured Division would move North to the Jandiala Guru area in Punjab.
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The GOC of  India’s only Armoured Division was Rajinder ‘Sparrow’. He was a simple flamboyant type who  had made a name for himself when General Thimaya ordered him, in the 47/48 war, to carry his Stuarts on trucks and numb the Pakistanis ensconced on the formidable Zojila Pass. It was the highest place tanks had been taken anywhere. Sparrow was a decent type who liked erudition. After retirement he became a Congresswala. My only interaction was when he, as colorful and flashy as ever, publicly commended, during a Divisional training event, what he termed my ‘versatility of exposition’.
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His grade one officer was RPS Randhawa of rock steady stature and commanding presence. The guy had never spoken to me but his eyes conveyed recognition. A hardened Risaldar Major when comparing him with Arun Vaidya, who made Chief, said that when Randhawa was the Commandant of the ACC&S, officers were bone scared to even tip toe behind his vacant office. When Vaidya was Commandant, there was a regular ‘mela cum tamasha’ in parade hours right in front of his office. Much later this imposing and grand officer died tragically on the GT Road while on his way to take over this same division.
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The armoured brigade commander was KK Singh, a quiet sombre  pro of the spartan variety. The lorried brigade had Harbans Dhillon, who was the aloofish sort. The other two units in the brigade were 5 Jat and 5/9 Gurkhas. My coursemate, the portly yet wonderfully agile and quick BK Das, was the Jat adjutant. He was  super sharp and later had even the upright and difficult Gen Raina, who was Chief, eating out of his hand!
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The unit camped on the out skirts of Butari village. Nothing happened over the next few months. In July, the powers that be, moved us to the  filthy, rotten, stench filled noxious fumes in the old deserted derelict part of the Hamira Distillery. It was a living hell. To queer the pitch, my posting to IMA  arrived on the last day of Aug but the Brigade rightly ruled – No Way. But I got my company command.
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During those months, most every day or two, we carried out detailed recces’ of the area South of Amritsar- the Khem Karan Sector. These were mostly with 3rd Cavalry as we were affiliated with this Regiment. Their Commandant was the sharp, alert, cryptic Salim Caleb, who, poor man, despite his MVC and becoming a Maj Gen, had all through his personal life, a very heavy cross to bear.

Most everybody had plenty of time for Bachan Garewal – the quiet, serious, arrogant, high calibre professional who, due to ill health, was destined to fade and literally pass away as a Station Staff Officer. A year earlier he had in rather cruel fashion, torn apart the CO of 16 Cav, – a Col Sidhu Brar, who was sound as well as a decent gentleman – when the latter was conducting a Div level tactical discussion. There was the young Captain Vadhera, rather like able and lively. Narender Sandhu, who went over to the Dogra’s for his MVC and squeezed more out of it than any one else. CJ Wates, the stylish youngster, who was in the next bed in the Army Hospital in Delhi at war’s end.
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And above all, also of 16 CAV was the inimitable Jojo Sengupta, one of the most genuine and greatest of souls that one can ever meet. He lost both eyes when his Centurion got a direct hit.
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However when the time for fighting came, it was fortunate that 3 CAV with its hardy and robust Centurions, which were the only real match for the Pakistani Pattons, stayed put and helped decimate the Pakistan armored division in the Khem Karan Sector.

In the battalion, the commanding officer, the modest, wholly unassuming but thoroughly professional, Jerry Jhirad, had gone on a bit of hard earned leave. The second in command – the quiet, urbane but solid – Rafey Khan was officiating. The radio news found us rivetted as that was the only source of us getting any news of what was happening out there.

On Sep 2nd the brigade put us on 6 hours notice to go God knew where. Maybe the higher ups were still getting their act together and trying to decide what to do. On the very next day we were put on one hours notice. Rafey Khan went to the brigade for orders and we at last learnt that we were going to Samba near Jammu though we had prepared for the war in the Amritsar area. But thats the way it always is and there were no surprises.

Ravi Mahajan, the suave, super duper professional brigade major, was there on the road watching as we began to move off that night. My company was in the van as Som Jhingons Alpha had gone with some Lancer tanks to guard the Madhopur bridge. These Lancers had had their main armament ‘up gunned’ but it was a pathetic idea because when ever this gun fired, the turret nearly came off – those being the very words of Gui Verma, among other squadron commanders.

We reached our concentration area,  West of Samba, by day break Sep 4. A little later Som Jhingons Alpha joined back and we got busy digging down. Because thats what any good unit does when it has nothing else to do!

To return. It was around 4pm that day that the commander of the  newly formed Corps, General Dunn of the Gurkhas, meandered into the middle of  the sprawled unit. He was as lost as we were and one could hardly blame him. The poor guy was headed for retirement but suddenly found himself raising a Corps HQ for leading a Corps into battle – all courtesy the Pakistani offensive.

Any way, as cheerful and as clueless as any Gurkha, he tried to brief Rafey on the Pak threat and seemed to think that the Ramgarh axis in the 26 Division sector should be reinforced! Evidently neither he nor we seemed to know what really was going on. As thorough professionals, we hardly seemed to care.

On Sep 5, God alone knew why, we moved a few miles to Majua village and began to dig down again and ‘marry up’ with the hapless Second Lancers and their upgunned Shermans. That day Rafey ordered me and my company to go guard the Basantar Bridge while he and the Lancer CO, a Col  Sandhu, went to reconnoitre the area upto the Indo Pak border.

Next day Sep 6th saw me deploying my company in as professional a manner as I could muster in order to see off all threats and hold the bridge safe from danger. I had the footballer cum basketballer, Subedar Rameshwar Singh as my deputy and all he seemed to be worried about was becoming SM after the current one retired. My platoon commanders were young Gurmukh Bal and Havildars Gabar, an AX in Weapons and Sarweshwar Prasad who was actually the Company QM Havildar.

The battalion spent the day in joint recces, planning and rehearsals, while on the bridge, I met a lot of officers going Northward. One such was Gen P Chaudhari, a Garhwali who took pains to talk and spend time with a young Captain.

While on this ‘independent mission’, I was sorely tested to drive to Amarkote some 200 miles South, just to check up on my parents, some six miles short of KhemKaran. I weighed my chances and wisely decided against such foolhardiness. Of course it was mainly because I was not confident of my jeep being able to do it without breading down. It would have been rank foolhardiness which could be termed as desertion of post in time of war, which is just about the  only offence in the Army Act, which has the death penalty!

I later learnt that while my father was in Amarkot, 30 miles South of Amritsar, my mother was that day travelling back from Bhatinda. The bus had off loaded all passengers at Bhikhiwind, some 9 miles short and she had first hitched a ride in a tonga, then on the back of a cycle and then stoutly walked the final miles. Such is the stuff of our stock and the plight of all who live near the international border.

Bravo Company spent a happy two days as being independent has its own highs. On Sep 7 we returned to find that Col Jerry Jhirad had joined back. Initially we had been told that the Division was to be launched on Sep 7 but maybe to coincide with the attack along the Grand Trunk Road, the launch date was moved to Sep 8.

While we chatted in the unit HQ, Som Jhingon suggested that he and I, to mark the occasion, symbolically exchange our pistols. I told him that he was being stupid as his was a 9 mm colt whereas mine was a poor czech Lama. In his usual thumping bravura, he told me to stop being a ‘bania’ specially on such a historic occasion!

In the orders for the offensive, the Commanding Officer ruled that Som Jhingon’s Alpa was to lead the unit with the Lancers on the main thrust line, MAJUA – CHANNI FATOWAL – SAIDANWALI – GANGIAL – SABZIPUR – Cross Rds – KALOI – PAGOWAL.

Bravo was grouped with 62 Cavalry for flank protection on the Right of the main thrust.

Dressed like a christmas tree – what with my compass, binocs and map case, I headed over to the HQ of 62 Cav where I found the Commandant, a Col BM Singh, promenading in the mango grove with his second in command.

The adjustant asked me my buisness but I said it was specifically with his Commandant.  Reluctantly I was ushered into the august presence and he asked as to what he could do for me.

A wee proudly, I announced that I had been put under his command and wanted to know asto where I should locate me and my men in the order of march.  He looked at me rather kindly and casually said that I could bum along in the rear as his tanks woiild blast any and every thing, that came in the way, to kingdom come!

I was taken aback and felt bad that I and my company would be left out of all the glory. But a small voice whispered that this way, I would lose less men and be spared the blood and gore. So, having   taken the time for the advance as 5am, I returned home. That evening the routes were marked.

Late evening the 3 ton lorries drove into the unit area and I got four for the platoons and the HQ. I got no jeep but only a 1 ton for my ‘F’ echelon as Sub Sain Singh, the MT JCO could spare nothing more.

In the evening all officers, major and above had gone to the Division to hear the GOC’s pep talk. When the officers returned I learnt that I had not missed much  because other than seeing the GOC flashing a red scarf and trying to exude confidence, there was little of note.

Early next morning there was a thunderous all mighty roar as our entire artillery opened up withour let up for some 30 mins. I felt glad that I was not at the receiving end but wondered as to what was being hit since we really had no clue as to what exactly was there opposite us. Before the day ended, we would find what our guns had been aimed at and what they had really hit.

We had been up since 3am and were ready to move an hour later.  However when we did try to move just before 5am, there seemed to be far more noise of screeching sherman engines than actual forward movement. This was because on either side of the dirt track, the tanks were churning the mud and rather than going forward, they seemed to be getting stuck deeper and deeper.

The tanks were getting bogged, left right and center, right next to Ranjitpura Farm. In sharp contrast, our 3 ton lorries, were moving easier on the ‘kucha’ track, though they too were at times getting bogged down. The advantage the infantry had was that I could get the troops down so that they could push the lorries as the engines strained.

During a couple of these episodes, I  saw our brigade commander, Harbans Dhillon, drive up in his  jeep, see things for himself and swirl back. In fact I saw him a couple times going forward and back. And the guys in the back seat were carrying some live fowl, most probably his dinner! An army sure marches on its belly!

As day broke and the sun began to come up, we were still near our assembly or forward assembly area. call it what you will. We  had hardly begun the move to cover the seven or eight miles to the international border which we were supposed to have crossed at 6am.

It was around then that the Pak air force showed up. The sabres had a field day while the F104s, some four of them, circled high above. The sabres in their dives, started to pick up both tanks and vehicles at will. Had they been any better, our offensive would have ended there and then.

I recollect my 1 ton along with the A-1 echelon of 62, being hit. Poor Sub Sain Singh, as sincere as ever, was well nigh in tears  seeing his beloved vehicles  become burning infernos.

I regret I am unable to sufficiently capture the chaos and confusion that prevailed that morning. At one time, when my company had moved far ahead, I felt obliged to call halt and order my men to disembark and move into a mango grove so as to rest and catch up on lost sleep whle we waited for the tanks to come up. And I remembered dear Col BM Singh telling me just yesterday, to bum along in his wake as he blasted everything to kingdom come! This is the way war is, my brothren!

After much time, the armor eventually managed to come up and we covered the few miles in own territory and began to cross the international border but only around 3pm. We had taken some 9 hrs to move seven miles in own territory! Our own sandy and soft ground had militated against our own movement.  So much for whatever recce and preparation that had been carried out.

As I was crossing the border around 3 pm, I see dear old Som Jhingon come alongside and begin lambasting me for being such a slow poke idiot! Totally nonplussed, I railed at him and asked as to what in hell was he doing on my axis and to get the hell off on to his own!

He yells back, again calling me an idiot and saying that as they could not move on their chosen line of thrust, they had been superimposed on the line of thrust of the flank guard! So much for armour flexibility! Not bad decision making at that, then and there!

I first glimpsed the casualties of war as we crossed the Pakistani police post at Saidanwali. The wounded were seen pathetically standing by a broken down vehicle ambulance.

Moving a bit forward we came across the village Charwa, just across the border. It was a large willge and seemed to have been a prosperous one. We saw the deadly effect of our artillery and what they had really been firing at! For want of any information on enemy dispositions, our gallant gunners had  chosen mere villages as targets to showcase their prowess.

We saw the devastation our early morning barrage had caused on unsuspecting civilians and animals.

The village may have been abandoned by the majority but there were still men, women, children and animals – cows, camels, bulls, buffalos and what have you! As we drove thru the stench from the corpses and carcasses, it was too much even for a hardened animal type like me. Most everyone had to muffle their faces to avoid the over powering stench.

And this had been caused by our Corps okf Artillery! The over powering barrage of which may not have harmed a single enemy soldier, let alone any type of vehicle or weapon!

In Artillery we were totally and completely outclassed by the Pakistanis.  And that from Day One and right up to the Cease Fire. Sadly this was both in concept, organization and employment as well as in the type and quantum of equipment and ammunition used with such deadly effect.

The Indian Army learnt about the massed use of this great arm from Pakistan. Included was the seemingly lavish expenditure of the apparently abundant and limitless ammunition.  Then we also learnt a thing or two about the bold, audacious and imaginative use of Observatin Officers and their inclusion in  Stay Behind Parties. Indeed in Artillery, India and Pakistan were not on  the same page. We were mere also rans.

But I am going ahead. It is only the first day and we had not had a shot fired at us in anger. Any way, as night fell we went into harbor near Sangial village, and I, without awaiting orders, rejoined my battalion. It was good to be home. More so in enemy country.

And so ended the First Day of our great Armoured Division’s offensive. Thereafter it did little except to be held up by a Recce and Support Battalion which was soon reinforced by a   Armd Regt!

As regards the actions of elements of this Division, the Gatt Affair and the Buttur Do Grandi butchery are covered in separate posts. The only action I have not covered is of the Phillora Cross Roads..

EIGHTH GARHWALIS.

The CO, Jerry Jhirad, the Second in Command, Rafey Khan and OC Alpha Company, the ebullient Som Jhingon and Capt Sonkar, the RMO, were great soldiers and individuals, before and during the entire war and any which where.

They can with ease and aplomb hold their own in any group of great humans and professionals. They led from up front and were, in their own ways, outstanding personalities.

JOSEPH EPHRAIM JHIRAD

Jerry was a thorough bred, top notch professional with an impeccable record and one who craved professionalism. I had a feeling that he was deeply disturbed by the lost, confused, amateurish way we were fighting the war. The smiles were rarer, mostly he seemed somber. Perhaps he saw no method in the madness of our activity.

No wonder, when ever I saw Jerry in the unit HQ near the stench filled well outside Kaloi or at other places, he was always trying his level best to appear cheerful so as to inspire confidence regarding what we were being asked to do. Somber, yes. confused, never.

When one reads about the units doings in this war, one will commiserate with what Jerry had to put up with – specially from the Indian high command.

ABDUL RAFEY KHAN

Rafey was steady, sober, sensible – as always. He came from the aristocratic Rampur family a member of which became the Pakistani Foreign Minister. His father had been deputy commissioner at Pauri Garhwal and had shot with the great Jim Corbett.

Rafey was polished, poised, practical and professional. He knew no fear. Though later, in my view, he seemed to have a premonition that he was not going to make it. I held him in great admiration and he on his part, he did not think of me entirely as a clown.

I remember, may be it was on 9 Sep, when my company was resting in the compound of a brick built school, outside the mud built houses of a fairly large village, probably Maharajke. The boys had loosened their gear and were catching up on their rest.
Rafey was in my company and was watching the village. He saw a soldier couple hundred yards away squatting with his back to the mud wall and asked if it could be ours? I was not too interested as it was no one from my company.

Just then a shell landed and the guy seemed to disappear. On Rafey’s urging, I tasked the nearest section to check out the guy. Before the men could put on their gear, Rafey, with out belt or hat with cigarette in mouth, begins to walk towards the village.I grabbed an SLR and joined him. We crossed an empty 3 ton with the driver dead, seemingly from a heart attack.

As sounds of firing still came from the village, I kept my eyes peeled. The guy, apart from being covered by dust, was uninjured. I gave him a piece of my mind and ordered him to get the hell back to his subunit.

Rafey was always doing stuff like that.

Once when my company was occupying a position near Phillaura cross roads, Rafey was going around and I remember him pointing out a guy, who was standing in a trench with his rifle at the ready. Yet the guy was stone dead and without any wound. May be of a heart attack.

A day or two after the Gatt Affair, the unit was deployed near Kaloi. It was a tense time and Suresh’s Delta wanted my RL as it thought it faced a more imminent anti tank threat. I rated the RL a useless weapon as it was more prone to misfire than fire. Still only after Rafey’s approval, did I give it.

In the evening Rafey comes to my Company and says that we must lift up the morale after the humiliating withdrawal from Gatt. He suggests that since I am Mortar qualified, I add a 1000 yds and in the twilight start pooping off a few rounds as if registering DFs. Just to raise morale. What Fun!

The evening before we reached our temporary defense position North of Kaloi, we were halted and waiting for Jerry’s return. The food had as usual not fetched up and I had long finished my biscuits. Dear Som was munching to glory and sees me looking away. He nudges me and says, “Take one”. When I demur, he says, ” Have one because later when you have them, I will take ten.” How could one not like the guy?

Near Watchoke, I had located myself at Buttar. Som came over for the morning ablutions and we had a bath at the village well while Bakhtawar tried to shoot some domestic fowl since they gave him the run around.

More on Som when the Gatt Affair is covered as also the advance to Butur Dograndi.

THE UNIT AND ITS ACTIONS

We moved from Sangial, where we had harbored on Sep 8, to Maharajke and Kaloi where we spent seversl days with interludes. There after we danced, it seemed aimlessly between Kaloi, Watchoke, Phillaura Cross Roads and Kalewali.

On Sep 9, Som’s Alpha was grouped with A and B Squadrons of the Lancers which were supported by a battery of the self propelled 101 field regiment. The objective was the village of Parashayan, which was easily taken as it did not seem to be he

From Sep 9 to Sep 15, there was only one real operation which seemed to show sense but that too was aborted as our 62 Cav saw imaginary Pattons. This was the Gatt episode on Sep 10 -12 and is covered in some detail in a separate post.

On Sep 13 and we were relieved by 5/9 Gurkhas at Kaloi and moved to Watchoke. There was some talk of B Coy going with 5 Jats for an attack on Uttar Kalaan but it never materialized.

Scattered on one of the roads leading to the Cross Roads, were jeep trailers, which had not yet been scavenged. It was near this road that lying below his Sherman, to be safe from the shelling, Gui Verma of 2 Lancers perusing a Time Magazine. I asked him to loan it once he had finished.

Early morning of Sep 14 saw us in our forward assembly area at Phillaura Crossroads. While Jerry with Kochar, the battery commander and IO Vijay Chander carried out recce towards Kalewali, we came under severe shelling.

Our aimless, confused hither thither moves were compounded as one night, our brigade HQs was over run. The location was hastily abandoned and Harbans Dhillon Commander 43 Lorried came under an ominous cloud. KK of 1 Armd, whose location he had reached proved of no help.

Of course these things happen in peace and war but no need to take advantage of anothers misfortune.

The Garhwalis eventually harbored in Chakdeo Singh on Sep 15, prior to advance and siezure of Buttur Dograndi next day. But there after we were attacked and ousted and more or less disintegrated with the loss of Jerry Jhirad and Rafi Khan and evacuation of self.

The command then devolved on Som Jhingon. By the way, in the ’71 war too, when Som was the Second in Command and once again became the Commanding officer after the CO broke a leg.

Of the remainder, Bhagwan Mall was with Charlie, Suresh Gupta, who was the senior most after Rafey Khan, was with Delta. The adjutant was Om Sindhu who had taken over from me in April. The Intelligence officer was Vijay Chandra, and Ramesh Joshi, who had  taken over from Ajaib Mangat, was the Quarter Master. My dear friend Harish Rautela was the Fire Brigade Officer to be used as the CO saw fit. He got a Sena Medal for retrieving our Mortars which had been left behind as we got the hell back from GATT when 62 Cav saw Pattons on their   eyelashes.

The newly arrived RMO was Capt M Sonkar, who they said, carried rum in his water bottle. He was surely the bravest of  the brave, as this narrative will show and rightly deserved the Nation’s top award for valor in face of the enemy.

Alas, the poor guy got zilch while it was raining medals for valor on the entire armored corps, courtesy custom, camraderie,  Chaudhari and Chavan!

PAK VERSION OF OPERATIONS As obtained from Pak Sources.

Rajinder Singh Sparrow described 1 Corps task as ‘secure a bridgehead extending to line Bhagowal-Phillora cross roads junction south of Tharoah with a view to advancing to the eastern bank of the MRL canal’ with the possibility of advancing  further to line Dhalewali-Wahulai-Daska-Mandhali’.

The initial objectives of this attack were capturing  Phillora Chawinda and Pagowal areas.

1st Armoured Division was the  spearhead of the Indian offensive. This formation was much weaker in numerical/organisational terms from the 1st Pakistani Armoured Division i.e. having only four tank regiments and four mech/lorried infantry battalions and two brigade headquarters. One armor regt was  taken from 26 Division and assigned to it as the fifth tank regiment

It was tasked  to advance inside Pakistani territory  on general axis Ramgarh-Phillora-Pagowal-Chawinda-MRL from first light 8th September after the 6 Mountain Division had secured the bridgehead in Maharajke-Charwa area.As per the Divisional plan this advance was to be conducted on two axis with 43 Lorried Brigade on the right and 1st Armoured Brigade on the left. The 1st Armoured Division was organised as under –

1st Armoured Brigade:- It consisted of  two tank  regiments (17 Poona Horse, 16 Light Cavalry) one tank squadron (from 62 Cavalry), and one infantry battalion (lorry borne) which was tasked to advance in the first phase on axis Ramgarh-Harbal-Sabzkot-Chobara-Phillora. Tasks/Groupings for operations till MRL canal after capture of Phillora were to be given later.

43 Lorried Brigade:- One tank regiment (2 Lancers), one tank regiment (62 Cavalry)  and two lorried infantry battalions tasked to advance on axis Salehriyah-Saidanwali-Cross roads-Mastpur-Ahmad Pur-Pagowal.

Divisional Reserve:- One tank regiment (4 Hodson’s Horse) and one infantry battalion.

6 Mountain Division:- This division was the principal infantry component of the 1 Corps offensive battle and was tasked to secure the bridgehead inside Pakistani territory from where the 1st Armoured Division was to be launched on the thrust towards MRL canal. Its initial task was to secure the bridgehead in area Maharajke-Charwa and exploit till line Ahmadpur-Nauni. It was tasked to commence the attack at 2300 hours on 7th September 1965.18 It had the following troops for the bridgehead operation:-

69 Mountain Brigade:- The right forward assaulting brigade in the 6 MountainDivision bridgehead operation. It had three battalions and a tank squadron from 62 Cavalry and  was tasked to capture Maharajke area in the first phase of the 1 Corps operation.

99 Mountain Brigade:- The left forward assaulting brigade in the 6 Mountain Division bridgehead operation.It consisted of three infantry battalions  and was tasked to capture Charwa in the Corps phase one.

35 Infantry Brigade:- Originally from 14 Division, this brigade consisted of three infantry battalions and was placed under command 6 Mountain Division specifically for the bridgehead operation. It was the reserve brigade of the 6 Mountain Division and was earmarked for unforeseen tasks.

INDIANK ARMORED DIVISION BREAKS OUT

The Indian 1st Armoured Division which had commenced its advance from the bridgehead secured by the 6 Mountain Division in Charwa-Maharajke area after crossing the international border at 0600 hours on the morning of 8th September.It was advancing  two regiments up; with an inter regiment gap of approximately 3500 to 4000 metres in between,each regiment one squadron up, 16 Light Cavalry supported by a Gurkha infantry battalion on the right,advancing towards Phillora 17   Poona Horse on the left advancing towards Tharoah cross roads.

Both the tank regiments had a clean run during the first 15 kilometres of their advance inside Pakistan. According to the Indian armoured corps historian the Pakistan Air force attacked the leading Indian armour elements at  about 8.40 Am. at Chobara but were unable to hit any tank.

The Indian 16 Light Cavalry advancing two troops up came in contact with elements of R and S and 25 Cavalry’s tanks advancing in extended order towards Chobara without a clue that the Indian 1st Armoured Division was just a few miles away.

25 Cavalry ‘s ‘Bravo Squadron’ commanded by Major Ahmad ,suddenly at approximately 50 to 200 metres ranges at about 0900 or 0945 hours came into contact with two leading tank troops of 16 Light Cavalry. Some of Ahmad’s tanks had taken fire positions while some were in the open. The Indians were on the move. A confused firefight followed in which both sides lost tanks, Pattons burning on being hit while Centurions getting shot through both sides!

Both the Indian leading tank troop leaders were killed, thus leaving the leading squadron commander of 16 Light Cavalry clueless. Major Ahmad of 25 Cavalry carried the day by fighting from the front, thus inspiring his men. It was during this firefight that Major Ahmad, who was also severely burnt. There is no doubt that it was Major Ahmad who saved the Pakistani position at Gadgor by fighting from the front.

16 Light Cavalry CO tried to bring up another squadron, commanded by an Indian Muslim officer Major M.A.R Shiekh to outflank the Pakistani position from the the east. Space for manoeuvre was extremely limited Poona Horse the left forward Indian unit being just 4000 metres away. This squadron exposed its flanks to 25 Cavalry tanks of ‘ Alpha Squadron’ losing many tanks including that of Major Shiekh who died on the spot.

Finally  this second squadron was held up having lost its squadron commander and unable to manoeuvre due to limited visibility.

16 Light Cavalry’s advance was checked at Gadgor by 1000 hours 8th September. 17 Poona Horse which was advancing on the left towards Tharoah commenced its advance two squadrons up but soon changed to one squadron up because of the limited fields of fire and observation that made command and control extremely difficult. It came in contact with 25 Cavalry at 0945 hours in Tharoh area and was also checked like 16 Light Cavalry. According to Indian sources some firing took place in between the tanks of 16 Light Cavalry and 17  Poona Horse.

This happened because the inter regiment gap between both the regiments was too small. 62 Cavalry which was tasked to provide left flank protection to the 1st Armoured Division’s advance was delayed as its tanks got bogged down while inside Indian territory. When half of this squadron did finally get going and crossed the border at 1300 hours it went south towards Zafarwal by some misunderstanding after crossing the Degh Nala instead of advancing parallel and north of the Degh Nala as originally ordered!

This squadron crossed the Degh Nala and reached Zafarwal in Pakistani territory absolutely unopposed and later recrossed the Degh Nala to go north once it probably realised that it was supposed to stay north of Degh Nala! Once this squadron was recrossing the Degh Nala it was engaged by an Indian artillery battery providing fire support to the 1st Armoured brigade,which naturally mistook it for Pakistani tanks seeing it approach from south of Degh Nala.

In turn this squadron also opened fire on the Indian battery which they thought to be a Pakistani battery destroying several guns and vehicles! By 1300 hours Brigadier K.K Singh Commander 1st Armoured Brigade was a mentally defeated man. He reached the conclusion that he was held up by at least two Patton regiments and that there was no possibility of advancing direct towards Phillora without suffering unacceptable losses’

All this was happening at a time when there was just 25 Cavalry in front of the whole 1st Indian Armoured Division! The readers may note that the Indians were not lacking in valour but were phenomenally incompetent at unit and brigade level.

Their right forward unit 17 Poona Horse could have easily outflanked 25 Cavalry’s ‘Alpha Squadron’. Major Shamshad a direct participant thus rightly observed that ‘There is a big gap, about six miles wide, between Hasri Nala and Degh Nala which could have provided a safe passage to 17 Poona Horse up to Pasrur. No troops were deployed to defend this area

It may be noted that the 43 Lorried Brigade advance on the other axis also was a disaster due to poor and inefficient execution. The 43 Lorried Brigade which was supposed to commence advance at 0600 hours commenced advance five hours late.

43 Lorried Brigade led by 2 Lancers finally reached Sabzpir cross roads at 1530 hours!

Gen Rajinder Sparrow’s verdict on the Indian 1st Armoured Division’s performance is worth quoting and is also a tribute to 25 Cavalry and sub units of Rand S bn, the only unit of the Pakistan Army that did on 8th September 1965 what no other unit of Pakistan Army ever did. He wrote;

‘The first days battle could not have got off to a  worse start. The Armoured Brigade had been blocked by two squadrons of Pattons and in the first encounter the brigade had lost more tanks than the enemy – whole of 1 Corps had gained a few kilometres.

The worst consequence of the days battle was its paralysing effect on the minds of the higher commanders. It took them another 48 hours to contemplate the next offensive move. This interval gave the Pakistanis time to move up and deploy their 6 Armoured Division with five additional armoured regiments.

In fact the golden opportunity that fate had offered to the 1st Armoured division to make worthwhile gains had been irretrievably lost

Gen Harbaksh has accurately summed up the Indian failure; ‘both 16 Cavalry and 17 Horse failed to determine the strength of the opposing armour and displayed little skill in outmanoeuvring it… the Brigade Commander made the unfortunate decision to withdraw 17 Horse from Tharoah for countering an alleged serious tank threat on the Left flank.

This was a grave error of judgement as 4 Horse which by this time had been released to the Brigade by GOC 1 Armoured Division, could have been used to meet any flank threat posed by the enemy armour. The blunder cost us dearly. We made an advance of only four miles beyond the bridgehead when a much deeper penetration could have been achieved. The fleeting chance that could have been exploited to gain a striking success, was lost forever….

And while we were fumbling about ineffectively in a chaotic situation of our own creation, the enemy had that vital breathing space so essential for a quick rally round from the stunning impact of surprise. We courted a serious setback through faulty decision and immature handling of armour which the enemy was not slow to exploit.

From now onwards,the thrust intended to keep the enemy off balance and reeling until the final blow by sheer speed of advance, turned into a slow slogging match—a series of  battering-ram actions’.

“I have not come across any finer summing up of the Battle of Indian Offensive than the one done by Harbaksh Singh. I have specifically quoted it to show that 8th September was the most critical day of the otherwise long series of actions around Chawinda which dragged on till cease-fire on 22 September 1965” writes a Major in his book.

‘It was on 8th September or on 9th when the Indians could have easily outflanked the Pakistanis at Chawinda, had their higher armour commanders not been paralysed into a state of inertia indecision and inaction because of 25 Cavalry’s memorable extended line stand in Gadgor area’. Major Shamshad states that ‘Instead of wasting two days in planning, If Poona Horse had advanced from Dugri to Shehzada and captured Pasroor on 9th we would have been in serious trouble. Alternatively, 2 Royal Lancers could have moved unopposed from Bhagowal to Badiana and cut Sialkot-Pasrur Road’.

After 9th September when the Pakistani 6 Armoured Division beefed up Pakistani strength it was no superior generalship but simple, unimaginative frontal battle with both sides having equal number of tanks.

Operational Situation on 9th and 10th September:– The Indians had not suffered a physical defeat on 8th September.It was their higher command that was afflicted by paralysis and in this state they ‘exaggerated’ dimensions of the force in front of them and imagined something much larger than one battered regiment in front of them!

On 9th September they had two absolutely fresh regiments (4 Horse and 2 Lancers), one reasonably fresh regiment (62 Cavalry), and two regiments with relatively weaker tank strength against 25 Cavalry whose tank strength was down to two tank squadrons. In infantry they were vastly superior having twelve battalions against one. Had they possessed a resolute general nothing could have stopped them, not even Tikka Khan projected by Shaukat as ‘one known for his firmness and endurance’.

But their brigade divisional and corps headquarters was paralysed due to the trauma of Gadgor! In words of the Indian armoured corps historian on 9th and 10th September ‘The 1st Armoured Brigade with its three Centurion regiments and its motor battalion remained ‘boxed’ in its defensive position during these two days’.

25 Cavalry found the Indian Operation Order regarding ‘Operation Nepal’ (the 1 Corps Offensive) in one of the abandoned/hit tank of 16 Light Cavalry and came to know  that the formations opposite them were the Indian 1st Armoured Division, 6 Mountain Division and 14 Division and that these were functioning as part of 1 Indian Corps.

This operation order enabled the Pakistani High Command to understand the entire Indian plan aimed at destruction of the 6 Armoured Division and the fact that Chawinda was on the axis of the main Indian line of advance. The 6 Armoured Division whose headquarters were located at Bhalowali east of MRL  was alerted in the evening of 8th September and assigned the mission ‘be prepared to destroy enemy penetration in area east of MRL canal,on further orders’ -Shaukat Riza.

And so it goes ……………….

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Khushwant Singh on ‘Happiness’ …

Posted on September 5, 2010. Filed under: Guide Posts, Indian Thought, Personalities |

At 95 yrs the hedonistic Khushwant Singh remains India’s Grand Old Man of letters. Renowned for his biting sarcasm and everlasting interest in women and sex. The irascible Khushwant’s well earned fame has made him a house hold name amongst the educated elite. In this piece on Happiness, for once sex is not mentioned. Strange, since he is talking about Happiness!

Having lived a reasonably contented life, I was musing over what a person should strive for to achieve happiness. I drew up a list of a few essentials which I put forward for the readers’ appraisal.

First and foremost is GOOD HEALTH. If you do not enjoy good health you can never be happy. Any ailment, however trivial, will reduce your happiness.

Second. A HEALTHY BANK BALANCE. It need not run into crores but should be enough to provide for creature comforts and something to spare for recreation, like eating out, going to the pictures, travelling or going on holidays on the hills or by the sea. Shortage of money can be demoralizing. Living on credit or borrowing is demeaning and lowers one in one’s own esteem.

Third. A HOME OF YOUR OWN. Rented premises can never give you the snug feeling of a nest which is yours for keeps that a home provides. If it has a garden space, all the better. Plant your own trees and flowers, see them grow and blossom, cultivate a sense of kinship with them.

Fourth. UNDERSTANDING COMPANION. Be it spouse or friend. Misunderstandings  rob you of your peace of mind. It is better to be divorced than to bicker all the time.

Fifth. CULTIVATE SOME HOBBIES. These bring you a sense of fulfillment. Like gardening, reading, writing, painting, playing or listening to music. Going to clubs or parties to get free drinks or to meet celebrities is criminal waste of time.

Sixth. INTROSPECTION. Every morning and evening, devote 15 minutes to look inwards . In the morning, 10 minutes should be spent on stilling the mind and then five in listing things you have to do that day. In the evening, five minutes to still the mind again, and ten to go over what you had undertaken to do.

Seventh. OTHERS. For Heavens sake, do not allow Others use you for irrelevant stuff like gup-shup. By the time you get rid of them, you will feel exhausted and poisoned by their gossip-mongering. Also do not Envy Others who have done better than you in life – risen higher, made more money, earned more fame. Envy is corroding. Never compare yourself with others.

RICHNESS is not Earning More, Spending More  Or Saving  More. It is Needing No More.

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