Archive for October, 2010

Amundsen vs Scott; Planning, Preparation, Organization … …

Posted on October 24, 2010. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities, Sports, The English |

As small boys in an English Boarding School, this was a story on which we cut our teeth – but told to us much differently!

Some one hundred years ago, there was this most famed race to reach the South Pole. Amundsen, the Norwegian, handily beat Scott, the Englishman and thereby became the first man to reach the South Pole on Dec 14, 1911. Incidentally he was also the first to reach the North Pole – though by air.

Scott reached the South Pole five weeks after Amundsen and was crushed when he saw the Norwegian flag flying. On his return journey, most tragically, he perished with his entire party.

Leadership, Planning, Preparation and Organization are what made the difference. This is what Amundsen had to say of his achievement.

“I may say that the greatest factor is the way in which the expedition is equipped — the way in which every difficulty is foreseen and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. 

‘Victory awaits him who has everything in order. People call it Luck. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time. This is called Bad Luck.”

Scott and his four comrades perished on the way back from a combination of exhaustion, starvation and extreme cold.

The Norwegian’s base was closer to the pole and Amundsen’s experience as a dog driver was formidable. Amundsen also eschewed the heavy wool clothing worn on earlier Antarctic attempts in favour of eskimo style skins.

Scott had the advantage of travelling over a known but longer route which had been pioneered by Shackleton.

For transport, the Norwegian banked entirely on sleds hauled by huskies and skis for personal movement. Scott decided that dogs would be one element in a complex strategy that involved horses, motor sleds and much man-hauling.

Scott’s mixed transport groups (motors, dogs, horses), with loaded sledges, travelling at different speeds, were all designed to support a final group of four men, who would make a dash for the Pole.

Scott gave no specific and precise roles – no one knew who would form the final polar team. During the journey, he sent a series of conflicting orders back to base concerning the future use of the expedition’s dogs – leaving it unclear whether they were to be saved for future scientific journeys or were to assist the polar party on its return home.

Scott’s subordinates at base were unsure of his intentions and consequently failed to use the dogs in a concerted attempt to relieve the returning polar party.

With 400 miles still to travel across the Ice Shelf, the party’s prospects steadily worsened with the deteriorating weather, leading to frostbite, snow blindness, hunger and exhaustion.

The final camp was made some 11 miles short of their advance depot.  The next day, a fierce blizzard prevented their making any progress and in the next nine days, their supplies ran out and they froze to death while the storms raged outside the tent.

In the final analysis Scott’s planning is described as ‘haphazard and flawed’ and his leadership characterized by lack of foresight. He  is depicted as a ‘heroic bungler’.

Such was the British bitterness and anger that Lord Curzon, as President of the Royal Geographic Society, sarcastically toasted Amundsen, saying “Now, Three Cheers for the Dogs!”

At this Amundsen resigned from the Society. He was killed later when his plane was lost while he was on a rescue mission.

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1965 War – The Casualty Evacuation Scene …

Posted on October 22, 2010. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personal Stuff |


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Mail …

Posted on October 19, 2010. Filed under: Business, Personal Stuff |

Have been off the net for a wee. Just Great to get such mail on return!

“Romsii dear is not doing too good. He cannot get up and the vet said he has arthritis. Now he is on pain medication. We Will Overcome!

Things are busy and I am barely able to keep up. However, the WHITES are the ‘Givens’; one has to accept that and Keep Moving    . 🙂

I was thinking and I have always maintained (and craved to prove) that I am not afraid of hard work – provided it is meaningful. Well, I sure have a plateful of that now.

Today we go and give a demo to Adobe on site. And then later is a demo to Western Digital. For a change, I think we can be a wee proud that our little product is going to be demo’ed at a Fortune-100 company. Not a bad feat by any means. But the Real Work is Just Starting.

To Strive, to Seek, to Find, and Not to Yield  . :)”

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1965 War; Blood, Gore, Buttur Do Grandi – Sep 16/17, 1965 …

Posted on October 3, 2010. Filed under: From a Services Career |

This is a personal account of a moderately intense battle by a young Capt who himself was twice wounded while commanding B Coy, 8th Garhwalis.

This battle lasted two days, 16 and 17 Sep ’65, and saw three commanding officers killed. First there was Col Taraporewala of Poona Horse and Col Jerry Jhirad of 8th Garhwalis blown to pieces by direct tank shot just after they had finished conversing on the afternoon of Sep 16. Then on the afternoon of Sep 17, Maj Abdul Rafey Khan, who had assumed command of the Garhwalis the previous day , was killed – again by a direct hit from a tank when he was personally along with his Intelligence Officer and RMO, loading casualties onto a tank for evacuation on the after noon of Sep 17.

Col Taraporewala was awarded an immediate PVC while Col Jhirad was given a Mention in Despatches and Rafey was given a posthumous VrC. 

Read About the Black Elephant Div in 1965 War in a separate blog.

The war had started on Sep 1 and the armored division had been launched a week later. In that time, the Indian Army had accomplished little. The Pak offensives in Chamb Jaurian had been blunted. Their offensive in the Khem Karan Sector had got mired in the post monsoon wet fields when their Pattons became stuck and sitting ducks.

Hence defensively we had done better than Okay though our offensive on the Lahore front had been stopped by the Ichogil Canal. The one in the Sialkot sector had run aroud in circles and failed to make headway. Which speaks much about our professional competence at the time.

Six years later in ’71, Sam Manekshaw was to wrap up the Bangla Desh war and capture over 90,000 POWs in under two weeks. The Israelis took a week in the ’67 war and two weeks, even when they were caught on the wrong foot, to rally from behind to claim the ‘73 Yom Kippur War.

Armor offensives are supposed to do one of two things. Either, by passing around strongly held nodes, they drive deep into enemy territory and capture lightly held important areas to make the enemy react and fight by our rules. Or they destroy enemy armor in mobile fast moving tank battles prior to going in for the soft underbelly.

In the Yom Kippur War, the Israelis waited for Egyptian armor to move beyond its SAM umbrella and then made mince meat of it in a fast moving fluid tank battle. In fairness to the Egyptians, they moved forward only because the Syrians were yelling for them to do so in order to take pressure off them.

In our case, whatever the plans in the Sialkot sector, we seemed to have done neither as we neither penetrated deep nor destroyed any armor – most probably because there was none and we were stale mated by a R and S Bn and a single Armd Regt .

In the Sialkot Sector after the first week of drift, a decision seemed to have been made to use 6 infantry Division to capture Chawinda – with two of fits own brigades and two borrowed from elsewhere.

While attacking Chawinda, it would be cut off from Pasrur by Poona horse and the Garhwalis. While Poona Horse was from the armored brigade, the Garhwalis were from the Lorried brigade. They had never trained nor lived or worked together – so essential while fighting alongside.

We had mostly trained with Third Cavalry but they were still in the Khem Karan Sector where they won laurels shooting up the bogged down Pattons of the First Armored Division of Pakistan.

The Everest of professional stupidity was when the Garhwalis were launched without any transport (other than the CO’s jeep) and without even their own integral supporting weapons ie antitank guns, machine guns, mortars. The only other vehicle was the Battery Commander Maj Kochar’s jeep. This guy was awarded a VrC but since he was mostly with me on 16 Sep, I can vouch safe that he was never ever in contact with his guns. And the guy never even gave his jeep for the CO’s evacuation! 

As Slim writes, ‘the most pathetic people in the world are Gunners w/o Guns’

Now the story of ‘B’ Company 8 Garhwal Rifles.and the Buttur Battle — A Story Straight from the hip – without frills or cover ups.

Buttur Dograndi is a small nondescript and inconsequential village lying off the road between Chawinda and Pasrur in Pakistan’ Sialkot Sector. On Sep 16, Poona Horse and the Eighth Garhwalis, who had never ever trained or operated together and the Garhwalis minus even their own supporting weapons, were tasked to capture it – as it lay behind Chawinda and on the road to Pasrur because 6 Infantry Division under Gen SK Korla, would be attacking Chawinda from the front.

Typical sledge and hammer tactic to isolate Chawinda from its rear while it was hammered from the front.

Sadly while both attacks on Chawinda were pathetic fiascos’, the outflanking move to block it was poorly, indeed pathetically planned and also ended in tragedy. Imagine a unit without its own supporting weapons and any transport. With an artillery battery commander, a Major Kochar, who was never ever in contact with his own guns! And Poona Horse and the Garhwalis were virtual unknowns to one another as they had never trained, operated or even lived together.

In Churchill’s ‘My Ealy Life’ I had read that it is near impossible to be twice wounded on the same day. This was to be proved wrong in Capitals because I myself was twice wounded within a couple of hours on the  same day and both times pretty nastily – once while repulsing the morning Counter attack and then while lying patched up near the Doc who was attending to the other wounded and running out of  bandages. I asked him whether it was simple or compound fracture and the guy replies, “Don’t worry –  it is part of both.”

Had not my own Platoon Commander, Lt Gurmakh Bali, not helped me walk back, maybe I would have ended up being bayoneted by the advancing Pakistanies as the position had been ordered to be abandoned. 

Before it all Started

The Garhwalis harbored at Chak Deo Singh on night of Sep 15. I had a couple goats, found in the village, slaughtered for a Company Bara Khana. Dear Bakhtawar laid out roast hen for me.

After mid night, I led a strong patrol to near Jassoran. While checking out some dilapidated houses, we found a patrol of 9 Dogra resting. We just managed not to shoot up one another. This was the motorized unit of the armored brigade, which a year back, had returned from a stint in Gaza and with its outstanding athletes, it had out shone in various events. But now these guys certainly did not know what the hell they were doing there.

That night, Som’s Alpha and Suresh’s Delta were used by Jerry to do a recce in force. They went up to the railway line, took some casualties and fell back.

Morning of 16th, Jerry looked happy as he gave his orders. He was wearing a jungle hat and for the first time had on a holstered pistol. Most of us wore steel helmets. I preferred using only the inner part which was very light but which gave no protection. As regards a weapon, I slung an SLR as the carbine was prone to stoppages.

Jerry, cheerful as ever, ordered Bravo to lead behind the Poona Horse Centurions. Bravo was to form the firm base for the attack on Buttur Dograndi. I asked, rather cheekily, as to where exactly he wanted the firm base. Jerry smiled and said I was not to worry as he would be there right beside me. Alas!

Around 9 am the tanks of Poona Horse, with their pennants fluttering, took off, two abreast, charging full steam ahead and raising clouds of dust. It was an impressive, memorable sight. After that I only saw two tanks, one of Maj Ghorpade’s and one of Capt Ajay Singh, who was, to become the Armd Div GI in mid 70s. And the one which took me on badly wounded to their night harbor.

However as the last of tanks disappeared and the dust settled, I followed with Gabar‘s platoon in the van. Morale was very high. To my surprise and shock I found Som (OC Alpha), Sindhu, the Adjutant and some others, alongside. Most everyone was urging me on despite the fact that there was some arty and mortar shells coming our way. This was specially as we crossed the Chawinda – Jasoran road.

As I have observed enemy employment of arty was super duper. There seemed to be some observation guys watching us as we advanced and they were directing accurate fire on us. There was also some air activity which showed that Pakistan was now serious and no longer amused by our antics.

There was as usual no sign of our air despite a divisional attack having been launched and our mission going in deep. Sindhu was lugging one of my LMGs, ready to poop off at any Pak plane. Som was saying I must at least get an MVC for capturing enemy mortars which he swore were just around the next grove.

There was a lot of euphoria. I had to tell myself that I was the joker in command, others being mere guests and that I must not get carried away.

It was in such spirits that we swung along. After a while our speed slowed as we had been advancing under a blazing sun. It was around then that I got a message from my rear that there seemed to be no one following behind us. To take stock, I cried halt next to a well which had a few trees. I swung Sarweshwar Prasads platoon to another well with a broken down hut and with a scraggly clump a couple hundred yards to my left. There was a sugar cane grove a hundred or so yards to my right and I ordered Gurmukh Bali’s platoon to that area. We were about 1500 meters short of Buttur Dograndi.

As we waited, word reached us that Jerry had been hit. Evidently he had finished a pow wow with Col Taraporewala of the Poona Horse. He had then got back in his jeep. Surely some alert enemy tank or antitank gunner had spotted him because the jeep was immediately hit by an anti tank shot. The jeep was torn to pieces and Jerry was nearly cut in half. But Bir Singh the driver had his big toe injured, Vijay Chandra, the IO was unscathed. Puran, the radio operator got a slight ear injury. Surely fate!

Jerry though cut in half was breathing and alive. I am not sure how he was taken to a 3 Ton vehicle. While being evacuated in this vehicle, that late evening, he breathed his last. He had only once asked for water.

It saddens me no end to narrate that a few days after the war, Jerry’s brother in law, Mr George Solomon, came to collect the body. He was led to a hastily dug shallow pit which had Jerry’s remains bundled in a hessian cloth sand bag. These were then taken by him and buried as per Jewish custom in the Jewish cemetery near Kota House in New Delhi. A year later I attended the religious ceremony for Jerry, when Mrs Jhirad reserved the adjacent grave for herself.

Around the time Jerry was hit, the enemy gunner had probably also marked Colonel Taraporewala’s tank because that too got a direct hit, killing him instantaneously. He got a PVC and Jerry was given a Mention-in-Despatches!!!. Know that the COAS was from the Armoured Corps and Shri YB Chavan was the Defense Minister!

Funnily this operation had started on 16 Sep, and my company was the Van Guard. With Poona Horse busy fighting their own battle, we had as aI have narrated, come to a halt as we found that no one was following us. Thus with my three platoons spread eagled holding a broad front, with Lt Gurmukh Balis’ 5 Platoon near a sugar cane field on my Right and Hav Sarweshwar’s 6 Pl near a tube well on my Left, I was with Gabar’s 5 Pl also near a well – waiting for the rest of the unit to catch up.

A while later, quite alone and all by himself and without so much as informing me, Maj Abdul Rafey Khan, the unit 2I/c who is now the CO, as Jerry has been hit and evacuated in a 3 ton truck, comes  from the rear and takes Gurmukh’s platoon – without a so much as by your leave.

Abdul Rafey Khan with Gurmukh Bali’s platoon goes on to take the outskirts of the village of Buttur Dograndi with out a so much as by your leave. The platoon suffers some eight dead from the fire of a Recce and Support Battalion which pulls back. End of Story!

Back to my company. My left platoon was drawing enfilade MMG fire from its left, probably from  a machine gun on the outer fringes of Chawinda. I went over and directed the men to spread out more and away from the clump.

The stolid Abal had taken a bullet on the temple. The poor guys brain was splattered all over. Yet he lay there breathing heavily. I remembered how couple months earlier he, all by himself, had one by one, got back his whole Kabadi team after he had been left all by himself. Tall and big built for a Garhwali, he was the quiet, introverted sort. We buried him under a pile of loose bricks, thinking we would give him a better burial once the situation stabilized.

Back in my headquarters, I got a report that there were couple deserted jeeps lying in some bushes, couple hundred yards forward to the left. I went over to the nearest tank to see if we could get them functional and found myself face to face with the squadron commander, one Maj Ghorpade. This worthy at once sailed into me charging me and my men with cowardice. He said we had not adequately protected his tanks and even the skirting on his tanks had holes.

I was totally taken aback and in no mood for such crap. Specially since I had lost my CO and some of my own men. I told him it was not my job to give him protection – specially by day. Tempers ran high and I found my SLR ominously pointing at him. It was the artillery battery commander, Major Kochar, who was in my area and who intervened. He separated and pacified both. This altercation notwithstanding, it saddened me  no end to learn some years later that Major Ghorpade had, for some reason, committed suicide. Major Kochar, who had separated us got a Vir Chakra despite the fact that his artillery’s contribution, this day and the next, was zilch.

Through out the action, the BC was out of radio contact with his guns and regiment while we were being bludgeoned. How could he get us any artillery support? I maintain that Pak arty made our artllery look like an also ran.

To return. After this bit of melo drama, I got another shock when some one reported that he could not see any body from Gurmukh Bali’s platoon on the Right, in the sugar cane field area. I walked across to check and sure enough there was not a soul in sight. It looked as if the whole platoon had vanished into thin air and was not to be found on the face of the earth.

More shocked than ever, yet deep down I felt ashamed of my professional competence. Here was I who had lost one third of his command without knowing a thing. What sort of a Napoleon was I? Mentally shattered, I returned to the center platoon.

There was some machine gun fire coming from the area forward of my Left Platoon. I took a few boys and went ahead to investigate. Finding one of our Centurions standing nearby, I asked to speak to the tank commander, who was no other than Ajay Singh. I later came across him as the Grade 1 of the Division and then as Corps commander in Tezpur.

I told him I suspected enemy infantry ahead and requested him to rake the area with his machine gun. A tall burly Sardar loomed up and holding the 30 Browning casually in both hands, he began to nonchalantly rake the area ahead left to right and near to far. I can recall no more memorable or inspiring sight than this stolid professional casually doing his thing  in the most professional manner.

After I had come back, I espied, coming towards us, a sole rifleman with a bandolier like load of water bottles. It was the gallant Bahadur, who had been with me in my commando days. Even with his puny frame, he was a very brave, die hard, no nonsense long distance athlete. He was to die the next day under the most gallant circumstances. Unfortunately, like our RMO, he got no award.

It was from him that I learnt that unknown to us, Rafey had come from behind and led Gurmukh Balis’ platoon to the outskirts of Buttur Dograndi. Of course this platoon had come under murderous machine gun fire and taken seven casualties out of a total strength of some 20. The platoon was pinned down and badly off for water. Bahadur had volunteered to go back and get some water..

Before I could get the bottles filled from the well, I saw Gurmukh and some boys trailing back. I gave him hell for not letting me know. He said Rafey had given him no time. Just then I saw Rafey come directly from the front. I was boiling and ready to sail into him but when I saw his face, ashen and soaked with sweat and grime with his shirt caked with mud and wet, I held my piece.

Rafey looked at me, said nothing but sailed into the other company commanders, who had by now come up, lambasting them – rather unfairly. He ordered Charlie and Delta to immediately form up and clear the area he had come from. After having reorganized I was to pass through these companies with Som’s Alpha and take up defense nearest the village.

We reached the designated area and began to dig down. It had been a long day and I was bone weary but managed to check the deployment. At midnight, Bhaktawar served me some khichri. For the first ever time, I spent the night in the open trench.  There was desultory shelling all night through and I did not think that if I slept out, I would have the energy to roll in, should need arise.

Morning of Sep 17 was bright and clear and there was a deadly stillness in the air. Having done my stuff, I wandered over to the battalion headquarters. There I found most officers had already gathered. A down cast mood prevailed and there was no contact with brigade. It was a very serious situation.

.Som tried to be cheerful but to no avail. Rafey was serious, sombre, quiet. Then the shelling started. At first slow, it gradually picked up momentum. I did not want to say it but as no one spoke, I said that it looked as if we were about to be counter attacked and had better get back to our companies. Rafey looked at me and said nothing. Slowly we got up and dispersed.

As I reached my company, the shelling became heavy and we began to get plastered. And then I saw what during exercises we had done so many times while attacking some objective or the other. In the distance, well spread out was a line of enemy walking towards us slowly but steadily. They were more towards my Left and nearest to Gabars’s platoon.

I yelled orders to hold fire – not waste ammunition – and to make each round count. More so as we were carrying only pouch ammunition, which came to 50 rounds per rifle and 500 per light machine gun. The unit reserve of 40 and 400 rounds respectively was supposed to be in our ‘F’ echelons vehicle but this had not followed us!

When the enemy line was about a hundred plus yards away, we began to fire and the line went to ground ie they lay down behind any small bund or whatever cover they could get and began to return our fire. The jokers seemed unwilling to close in and make a fight of it.

Ahead and to a little left of Gabar’s platoon was a sugar cane field and several of the enemy took cover behind these sugar cane. They came forward, stood up and waved, shouting to Gabar, who was manning a light machine gun, that they were the Jats of the Indian Army. Poor, straight forward, gullible Gabar was taken in, hook line and sinker. He ordered his platoon to stop firing..

I first thought of sending Gaina, my runner, to tell him to engage them as they damn well were the enemy. But knowing Gabar was the stubborn sort, I knew that he would argue with Gaina. So I decided to go my self. I raced forward and standing above his trench, I heard him tell me that they were our Jats  and the dust and dirt had made their olive greens turn khaki. I peremptorily told him not to be stupid and to commence firing forthwith. He did so and right then and there, an enemy machine gun burst caught him full in the chest. Seeing him slump, I raced back zigzagging.

Thus the situation remained. We were exchanging small arms fire and Pak artillery was no longer bothering us as their troops were too close. Suddenly a shiver went through the whole company because coming towards us were two Pattons, one behind the other. I was surprised to see them come rather hesitantly and very very slowly.

Poona Horse was evidently fighting its own battle somewhere and we were on our own. I got Gulab, with his antitank grenades to my command post. I thought of taking the shot myself but thinking that it would be bad for morale if I missed, I coached Gulab who was pretty jittery and forgot to rest his rifle in the corner of the trench. As he fired, we saw the grenade take a slow curved flight towards the leading tank. For a second I thought that my range estimation had been low. But no, the grenade managed to just reach the tank and it hit and burst on the tank tracks. The tank shuddered and came to a dead stop.

I told Gulab to duck deep as I expected the tank to swivel its main gun in our general direction and blow us to smithereens and kingdom come. For a second, nothing happened. Then we peeped up and to our astonishment saw the crew of the tank clamber down and run back to the rear tank. This tank then slowly pulled back in reverse.

Well nigh the whole company took pot shots. I am ashamed to say that our shooting standard was pathetic as no one hit anything.

With the damaged tank standing there, the desultory shooting by both sides went on. I thought of going onto the tank and taking charge of its machine gun, turn it towards the enemy and shoot them up ala Audie Murphy of Second War fame. Alas, I did not rate myself as a very practical sort and so had no confidence in my ability of using an unfamiliar weapon.

I found that Sarweshwar Prasads platoon on the Right was becoming jittery. I needed to infuse some courage as Subedar Rameshwar, my second in command, who was there, was also running scared. I got out of the trench and standing tall, yelled encouragement. I told them they were safe in trenches but would be shot down going back in the open. Just then a bullet singed past my right temple, missing my fore head by a mere fraction of a millimeter.

.This was getting dangerous. It sent a shiver down my spine. There was a lot of muck, artillery as well as small arms, flying around. No need to be worried as most went by harmlessly. But this near miss told me that this guy had spotted me as an officer and now had me in his sights and was aiming personally at me. I rationalized that for a while at least, I must lay low till this guy’s attention went else where. I slipped into the trench, waited and watched.

Alas, after a short while, the Right Platoon was again making pulling back noises. I felt that the risk notwithstanding, I just had to  instill some confidence in the poor guys. So, once again I  stood up in the open with Bhaktawar and Gaina by my right. The enemy gunner had been waiting for this opportunity. But now there were three of us and greedy guy that he was, he wanted to take all three. His burst caught me on my right arm.

It felt as if a cannon ball had struck and my right arm was severed and falling down. Desperately I grabbed it with my left hand as I fell into the trench. Bhaktawars shoulders and Gaina’s left upper arm had been hit but luckily they only had flesh wounds. I got Gulab to take off the sling from my SLR and turned it into a make shift sling for my arm. The poor guy was scared to help me walk back in the open. I told him to keep me towards the enemy so that the bullets would have to pass through me before he got hit. He gave me his shoulder and we walked back to the make shift aid post. I yelled to Subedar Rameshwar to take command.

When I crossed Rafey, his expression was of absolute dumb founded shock. His mouth had fallen wide open and his eyes showed their whites. Maybe he thought if I could get hit, then it must be pretty bad. He seemed totally dumb struck. We had a mutual regard and may be it was just too much for him. But I  felt a deep pang as I thought I deserved at least a nod or its OK or something. It was the last time I was to see him.

A word about Rafey’s passing away. Around 3 pm or a wee later, after he had ordered the position to be abandoned, he himself remained and was busy loading our wounded onto a Poona Horse Centurion. Vijay the IO and Sonkar the doctor, were with him. It was then that an enemy tank or antitank gun caught him plumb in the middle. It was so bad that as per the RMO he could not even be lifted. Yet he was alive though unable to even whisper. He merely waved to both these officers to get the hell out. Because now they could see the enemy infantry coming – slowly and cautiously. Sonkar later said that as a professional his estimate was  that Rafey could not have lived for more than ten minutes.

They gave Rafey a VrC but I heard that there were some stupid idiots who enquired how a muslim could stay behind!!! And consider young Vijay. The poor guy had seen his two bosses decimated on two consecutive days.

.At the aid post, poor Sonkar was super busy as there were a whole lot of chaps needing his attention. He saw me and as he put a splint and bandages, I asked, “Doc, is it a simple fracture or a compound fracture?” Without bothering to smile, he responded, “Don’t worry – it is part of both!”

The morphine made me dizzy and I moved away some distance and went down in the open. There was no cover at the aid post and as I lay half conscious, an artillery shell landed so close that I probably  escaped because I was probably in its umbrella. It covered me with more mud and dust and small shrapnel pierced me all over.

Luckily my legs remained unhurt but both hands were now useless with some more broken bones and flesh wounds. To be twice hit within a couple hours shattered my sense of invulnerability but it horrified me to imagine an enemy with a bayonet..I called to the Doc to come bandage me some more. He was not amused as he seemed to be running out of bandages. But he  did come and do the needful. Watching his seriousness, I refrained from banter.

My legs being OK, I moved further away to an open sparse field which had some crop for shade. The battle went on. Some chaps came over and cheered me up. Som made several trips. I learnt that the situation was not good. Some guys gave me water. The glucose packet I had picked up in the village street some days back, came in very useful.

As I lay there I wondered that the Dear Omnipotent Almighty God had probably blinked and only then I had got hit. Once was bad enough but twice within the day was a wee much. And now, should the enemy move in, I could only expect s bayonet in the belly.

Thoughts of my folks and how they would take it came flooding in.Life had been very kind and good yet I did not seem to over much mind an early departure. The morphine effect, maybe?

Late after noon, Gurmukh came and said that time for me to get back if I could walk. He said withdrawal had been ordered as we were hurting bad. Most guys had already pulled back. Only Rafey and some others remained. Rafey was helping the wounded on to some Centurions which had come by.

With Gurmukh giving me a shoulder, I started the walk back. Each time the arty shells whistled by, I wanted to go to ground. Gurmukh berated me saying I was the joker who always said that you would never hear the shell which will hit you. Because it will do so and the sound will follow. Those whistling by were the sweet ones.

For the first time in these two weeks of intense activity, I had cracked. With frequent rests, Gurmukh helped all the way and without him I doubt if I could have made it. Crossing the Chawinda – Jassoran road was frightening. This area seemed to have been well registered and was apparently under observation. Because if even an ant moved, it drew a barrage.. As one such shelling ended, Gurmukh urged we cross over quick.

A little later, we saw one of our Centurions. After it got due permission, I was taken on board. I thanked and bade farewell to the gallant Gurmukh, who himself was to be killed under the most pitiful circumstances, in Kashmir in ’91. That is a really very sad pathetic tale.

The tank commander was an NCO and I had no energy for small talk. He was doing his thing and his boss had evidently asked him to reach a point on the outskirts of Chawinda and await instructions. It seems I must have dozed off because suddenly I found myself in a Jat company position. I wondered why we had come here as this was really and truly being hammered by enemy artillery.

What we had been through compared to this was table tennis. The tank crew and I went under the tank for safety and the Jats grim and gritty in their trenches. After some half hour, the tank got orders to reach the unit night harbor area. Maybe the experience was to teach me how deafening and murderous is real shelling.

I found all Poona Horse officers gathered around their officiating commanding officer who seemed a nice, kind, mature man. He was hearing every body out re the days doing. Quite a few Garhwali casualties had been brought in on their tanks and this decent soul ruled that all casualties would be loaded on two tanks under a young Lieutenant, who would then take them to the nearest medicos.

Being an officer, I was allowed in thru the commanders hatch. As I moved my foot from the seat onto the floor, I stepped on a body. I loudly requested that the dead body be removed, I heard a JCO, who was Soms platoon commander and who had trained me for my weapons course, plead saying he had a wife and kids.  Sad but plenty of such stuff which is a reality in every war.

It showed that the battalion no longer seemed to exist. I learnt that the unit had lost its cohesion and was dispersed all over. Evidently dear Som was now the commandiing officer as Suresh was reported to have gone off for some first aid.

Poor Som, or rather lucky Som, because the guy made CO in this war and then again in ’71 after Suresh, who had made CO, once again got evacuated.

Sadly for this gallant unit, the CO sent by Army HQ to get it up and going after Buttur Dograndi, was no other than a guy who had been brought down earlier for some financial impropriety when he was CO of the Third. But now he was again given command. Poor battalion!

It had gotten dark by this time and I was afraid that we might be going in circles if not  deeper into Pakistan. Bhagwan Mall, who, though not wounded, had managed to get on the other tank which had the Poona Horse officer, entered into an argument with that officer as to the direction we were going. The young officer told him to mind his business or get off the tank.

After some going around this way and that way, the guy got his bearing and without further ado, around midnight, we reached the forward medical post.

I had reached adequate medical aid after some 15 hours of being patched by the regimental medical officer. How could the more seriously hit survive such ordeals? At this medical post, the doctors were very kind but the bandages had to be removed and a fresh dressing given to all my wounds. It was very, very painful. The smaller the wound, the more pain it gave. At last after a hot cup of tea, I was put on a stretcher and in an ambulance which luckily was a new model, comfortable and capable of moving around without breaking down.

As it drove us, for the last time, at least in this war, I heard the Pak artillery open up  and this time surprisingly on such a small unimportant road. Though we could not have been under observation, yet the guys probably  knew of this road being used and hence were plastering  it at random for our general entertainment.

Some how my own second in command, Subedar Rameshwar though not wounded, had managed to get on this ambulance and seemed to be intent on getting the hell out of the theater. At each shelling, he begged the driver to drive faster and faster. But as each bump caused me immense pain, I managed to tell him to shut up or get off the damn vehicle. In a year or so the guy became the next Subedar Major of the unit!

Around six am we reached the main dressing station. Fortunately the doctors did not open my dressings. After some refreshment I was put on another ambulance which took me to the army hospital at Samba. I slept through the entire ride.

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