Archive for May, 2011

1965 War – Khem Karan Sector Patrol …

Posted on May 20, 2011. Filed under: From a Services Career |

This is the story of a Patrol briefed and tasked by no less than the Khem Karan 4th Division Commander, who by the way was bestowed a MVC along with Gen Sibal GOC 7 Inf Div!

The patrol was led by Maj PK Jawa, Second in Command of the newly arrived Gurkha Battalion in that Sector. Jawa was NDA 10th Course King Squadron and captained the Boxing team. Later in ’73 he did the Senior Command Course from where he went onto become the second CO of the elite Naga Regiment.

Gen Harbaksh of the Sikhs, who remains in the fore front of field commanders, headed Western Army during the 65 War. Back in the 47/48 War, he commanded 1st Sikh which was part of Bikram’s brigade in the Tithwal Sector. This brigade also had 3rd Garhwal and 1st Madras. The Sikhs and Garhwalis obtained the maximum number of gallantry awards by a battalion in any war, viz 23 and 21 respectively. Zorru Bakshi, as BM got his first decoration – a Vrc.

The GOC of 4th Division was the much touted professional, Gen Gurbaksh. The Commander of the 2nd Armored Brigade was Brig Thambi, who went around after the war, with his chest bearing the badges of the Pak Armored Regiments that had been decimated in the Assal Uttar/Amar kote/Mahmudpura  area ie after they were mired in the soggy post monsoon soil and became sitting ducks for our Shermans and the anti tank recoilless guns of the likes of Abdul Hamid of the Grenadiers who got a posthumous PVC..

There were, as is the norm, some great fiascoes too. For one we had not expected Pakistan to launch their major offensive in this Sector. Hence we only had one Centurion Regiment, 3 Cavalry, in Brig Thambi’s brigade while the others including Vaidyas Deccan Horse had up gunned Shermans. Hence it was pure luck that we were saved when the Pakistan armor got mired.

Khem Karan had fallen to the Pak Infantry assault but Harbaksh thought that it could be retaken. As such he sent 4 Sikh, newly brought from 7 Div, behind Khem Karan to establish a block  on  the road to Kasur, while an attack would be launched from the front. The attack was a dismal fiasco with the result that the whole of the gallant 4 Sikh together with their Commanding Officer, went into the Pak POW bag – hook, line and sinker!

The following incident bears testimony to our pamphlet professionalism. To fully grasp the incident, one must understand the basic nuances of  patrolling. This subject has been best extolled in Fred Majdalany’s outstanding book, ‘Patrol’.

Gen Gurbaksh knew his Patrolling pamphlet and hence sent for the Second in Command of the Gurkhas, which unit had just descended into the area, helter skelter from Ladakh. As the 2nd i/c, Major PK Jawa wound his way to the GOC’s Operations Room where he was personally briefed by the great man himself. He was to go to a point marked 9r on the one inch map (meter maps had not yet reached) and check – in true copy book style – if there was any enemy there, and if so, in what strength?

Old Jawa looked at his map and sure enough the point 9r was marked there. He was ordered to report back for debriefing on return. That evening Jawa led his patrol and reached our Shermans’ pounding away at the enemy on the outskirts of Khem Karan. These guys asked him where in hell he thought he was going? Jawa told them. He was told not to be bloody stupid – of course there was enemy ahead! They were not partridge shooting. Further, they asked how in hell was he to tell 9r from anything else specially when the damn sugar cane were taller?

Seeing the practical side of things, Jawa turned back and duly told his story. The GOC hit the roof and charged him with cowardice and disobedience of orders. He said he would give him one more chance to complete his mission.

Severely shaken, Jawa returned and once again in the evening wound his way to the front where the tanks as usual were doing their stuff. Again they questioned him but he said he was gong forward and there was no way any one could stop him.

As the patrol moved forward, they suddenly found themselves in the midst of a company of the enemy. Keeping his wits about him, Jawa waved a white hand kerchief and asked to see their officer. He was taken to a young officer as the Company Commander was out.

Jawa introduced himself and shook hands saying he had come across as being professional soldiers, they should respect the Cease Fire, which was to be announced any time and he had personally come to establish contact so that no untoward incident happened once there was a cease fire. The young officer was impressed with such professionalism and insisted upon hospitality and offered tea and pakoras – much to Jawa’s dismay!

Having enjoyed the pleasant bonhomie, Jawa and his patrol were winding their way out when a Machine Gun mounted Jeep arrived and out jumped the Company Commander. He immediately arrested the entire patrol and made them prisoners of war.

Jawa told me that after the initial brutality, the POWs were treated decently. Strangely he landed in a POW Camp of downed IAF personnel and commanded by a very decent PAF Officer. The Commandant was a gentleman and treated them with kindness and courtesy.

Of course this led to some game plans for escape. In one such, Jawa along with two IAF officers wound their way to a border village near the Afghan border. They would certainly have reached it had it not been for the lunacy of one officer who wanted a ‘Fez’ Cap as  a ‘memento’ to remind him of those days.

Much against common sense, two of  them wound their way to the village where suspicions were aroused because of a denomination currency note, they offered for their purchase. As a result all of them were arrested and taken back to the Camp. The Commandant had a hearty laugh at their dumb stupidity!

In due course the repatriation plans were approved and Jawa along with others were brought to the Wagah Border Check Post. For some stupid reason or another, these POWs would be brought to the Gate and after a day long wait, they would be taken back and brought again next day.

Feeling desperate at such atrocious stupidity and standing near the Gate, Jawa was measuring the distance to the Indian Gate and calculating the seconds a sprint would take.  A UN Officer, saw what he was contemplating and told him not to be bloody stupid!

At last they were repatriated. Imagine our own military police were not allowing the families gathered at the Delhi Railway Station, to meet their near and dear, who were now under their own Army’s detention –  and after such an ordeal as they had gone through!

After a month of being quarantined for such crappy things as delousing and debriefing were  they permitted to unite with their familiesSuch is the crass power of dumb outdated crappy officialdom!

Incidentally, Gurbaksh was awarded an MVC!

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Oldest Combatant – Both WWs…

Posted on May 8, 2011. Filed under: From a Services Career |

Claude Stanley Choules was the last surviving First World War Combat Veteran. He died at Perth on May 5th aged 110 years.

Born Mar 3, 1901, he had joined the Royal Navy in 1916 and retired from the Reserve List in 1956.

He was the last surviving veteran to have served in both World Wars.

At the time of his death, he was the third oldest military veteran in the world and the seventh oldest living man in the world.

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The Elimination of Osama Bin Laden …

Posted on May 6, 2011. Filed under: From a Services Career |

This Year’s May Day was truly ‘May Day’ for the wily OBL –  his legendary cunning and guile in eluding detection notwithstanding. At long last on this Day, he met his nemesis.

Funny how just about everyone is railing against the Yanks for most everything imaginable. To a seasoned pro, the neat surgical proficiency in the conduct of the operation, deserves kudo’s from all fair folk.

The thing which has hogged a whole lot of unworthy attention is that the guy was shot when maybe he was unarmed and hence his elimination was not legal. No one has pointed out that the guy Had Not Raised His Hands to Denote Surrender. A hostile who does not show  signs of surrender, represents clear and present danger to the force operating against him.

Rather Osama allowed his wife to take a bullet while he himself was shielded by her!

So what kind of guy was he really? This guy who incited half the world but could not even adjust to push changing into shove when he himself was personally involved?

The mild manner, soft voice,  gentle kindly smile perennially pasted, was the actual front of a diabolic, venom breathing exhorter of violence and hate and that too against the weak, abject and undefended. His charisma and wide spread following not with standing, he was most likely an over blown would be Great ala the Mussolinis of the world.

I ask, “Why O Why did this Great God of Hate not use his AK47 to defend himself and put up the semblance of a fight?” Specially since most of his Al Jazeera videos show him brandishing and practicing with the damn thing!

Surely the guy had ample warning and knew what was going on  – what with the noise of the choppers, the blowing of a hole in his compound wall and the firing on the ground level.  Yet he did not choose to use his weapon to fight or defend himself!

Maybe some small semblance of ego and pride precluded him from raising his hands in abject surrender. Yet the over riding passion for self preservation, common to all cowards, allowed him to stand behind his wife.

What is most revealing is the fact that a substantial sum of Euros and two telephone numbers were found stitched in his costume. This reveals his arrangements to run, should there be an emergency. But there were also the AK47 along with a hand gun for his personal protection.

For the remainder, he was not heavily protected as most probably, he only expected,at best his hiding place to be found but never ever  expected that it would be attacked with such violent ferocity. This may well have shell shocked him!

On the Yanks part, funnily they never expected that the guy could hide so openly and brazenly, right under the nose of a military with which the Yanks have some relationship. It took them a long while to accept the fact that he was actually there and not in the old British day NWFP.

Just shows that in the shadowy world of sleuths and counter sleuths, everything but everything is probable and possible! As for Osama, the Bards observation that, ‘Security is mortals chiefest enemy’, rings true.

Re the bit, ‘All is fair in Love and War’. An old Sergeant Major’s observation to the struggling young Bill Slim – trying hard to master stuff like strategy and tactics – cannot be beat. The guy  said, “Everything boils down to just one thing. Hit the other fellow as hard as you can, as quick as you can, where it hurts him the most and when he aint looking!”

As further elucidation take the case of Hitlers order to Otto Skorzeny to go get Eisenhower. Skorzeny is the guy who had rescued Mussolini in a glider borne operation from a hill top resort, protected and surrounded by a near British Division.

However when Skorzeny presented his plan for killing Ike, Hitler vetoed it because the plan entailed the death of Skorzeny. The plan involved Germans dressed and trained as GIs (with dead GI identities), having ‘captured’ Skorzeny to bring him to Ike and then cut him down. They too along with Skorzeny would be killed as no exit was possible.

As further elaboration here are two first hand experiences in such matters albeit at comparatively lower levels.

Way back in 1963 at Trehgam in the Kupwara Sector in Kashmir, a Pakistani operative had reportedly arrived and sources had pinpointed him in a large house in the middle of the small town. A strong patrol ringed the whole house at night with soldiers alternately facing inward and out ward while the house was searched.

An extremely thorough search failed to find the guy. Yet the source was very certain that he was there. Tempers were running high – what with a crowd having collected and berating the force. I was debating the next course when one of the men ringing the house heard a rustling in the branches above the house. Torch light lit up the man hiding there. Evidently the guy had raised himself through a sky light when he apprehended the raid.

He was taken in alive as he (and we) had no option. However the local press had a field day with lurid reports of atrocities.

Then again on the last day of 1991, strongly reliable sources revealed that a very senor commander of the dreaded ULFA in Assam was celebrating in a posh house in the elite area of Gauhati. A company of Gurkhas surrounded the house and an officer climbed onto the roof and ordered the occupants to surrender or face a rain of grenades coming through the sky lights. Promptly all lights were switched on and the Target came out with raised hands right behind a woman who shouted, “Dont Shoot!”

The guy subsequently met his end during an armed encounter.

Why these have been recalled is that information is everything and kill or capture depends on how the subject acts or reacts. And when one is racing against Time and the Subject does not surrender, the ensuing fusillade is wholly legit. 

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