The Sikhs, whose name conjures up in one's mind the image of supreme soldiers. Soldiers unsurpassed in bravery and valour and unequalled in sacrifices and who have rightly carved a niche in the annals of war by their numerous deeds of courage and gallantry in various theatres of war through¬out the world, added yet another feather to their turban when they covered themselves with glory and splendid achievement dur¬ing the recent fighting with Pakistan.
And it was natural too, for the brave Sikhs, who have the reputation of being the crack soldiers, had double the reason 10 rise to new heights on the battlefront. Because now they did not fight in Africa, Europe, Middle East or Asia for the interests of the alien powers but they fought on the sacred soil of their motherland, they had to throw the aggressor out from their own homes, and hearths and to defend the freedom of their country.
In this war, the two armies clashed with full force and fury on the plains of the Punjab after the elapse of more than a century and severe fighting raged for 22 days on a battlefield which extended to hundreds of miles from craggy peaks of Kargil in Kashmir to sandy Barmer in Rajasthan.
The achievements of the Indian Army and Air Force look all the more splendid and unique when viewed against the background of the fact that the foe they faced was equipped with far better and more sophis¬ticated weapons and was one who had been preparing for a trial of strength with our coun¬try for more than a decade with treachery and deceit as prized weapons in her arsenal.
General Harbakhsh Singh
The brain behind this intelliegent operation was none other than the Chief of the Army Staff, General J.N. Chaudhuri whose superior tactics and strategy told upon the so called better equipment, of the enemy. Next to him, the credit for the tremendous success of the battle undoubtedly goes to that tire¬less soldier, Lieut. General Harbakhsh Singh.
The 52 year old General has been in command of a large Army in combat covering an extensive area from Ladakh to Rajasthan. He so ably guided and inspired those working un¬der him that the Pakistanis were not only defeated, but they were beaten and battered also. When the operations against the enemy were at their highest pitch and the Indian army was capturing one after the other Pakistani position, severely mauling enemy’s much boosted armour, this dynamic soldier had the most uncanny habit of turning up at the most unexpected spot. This served the dual purpose of putting heart into his men and striking terror into the ranks of his foe.
Lieut General Harbakhsh Singh hit the headlines when he won Vir Chakra during the Jammu and Kashmir Operations in 1947 48. He played a very conspicuous part in the operations when the battle of Shalteng, four miles from Srinagar, was fought under his direction, in which the raiders were routed. The Officer Commanding of lst Sikh Battalion having been Killed in the operations, General (then Lt. Col) Harbakhsh Singh volunteered to take over the command Battalion. Though the battalion had suffered the of many of its JCO's and NCO’s in the Uri Sector, General Harbakhsh Singh led the battle scarred battalion into a series of decisive engagements and chased the raiders out of the Valley. He was awarded Vir Chakra in recognition of his role in fighting which resulted in the capture of Tithwal on the morning of May 23, 1948.
Lieut General, Harbakhh Singh again shot into the limelight in 1962 when he was moved to NEFA from H.Q. Western Command at a very short notice and promoted to the rank of Lt General to take charge of a Corps. Once in NEFA, he lost no time in visiting all the forward positions, some located at the height of 14000 feet and above, and infused new confidence in the jawans in those troublesome days of the Chinese aggression on country.
Lieut General Harbakhsh Singh belongs to a family having, a fine tradition of military service. And even today about a dozens of his brothers, cousins, nephews are serving in the Army. Educated at the Government College Lahore, General Harbakhsh Singh joined the Indian Military Academy in February 1933 and was commissioned into the Sikh regiment. An infantry officer, He has held a number of appointments in the army with distinction
The tall and sturdy Lieut- General J. S. Dhillion is primarily an engineering officer, but has distinguished himself in various branches of the army. Before being promoted as a corps commander, General Dhillon had been a divisional commander and Deputy Chief of the General Staff at the Army Headquarters.
A story is told of the Gene¬ral Dhillon’s uncompromising nature and strong will. As a young subaltern, General Dhillon quarrelled with the comman¬der of the first regiment he joined and refused to accept the racial segregation, which was being practised during the British rule. The Pakistanis have also found to their cost that “Jogi” Dhillon, as the Corps Commander is affectionatly called by friends, is a man of iron will and strong determination.
Major General Rajinder Singh
The man, who is credited with the most spectacular success against the Pakistan and also who is responsible for destroying the largest number of Pakistani Patton tanks and other equipment and making the deepest salient into Pakistani territory, is no other than Major General Rajinder Singh “Sparrow”, the Commander of the First Armoured Division, which fought in the Sialkot Sector.
In the battle of Phillaura, troops under General Rajinder Singh destroyed as many as 67 enemy tanks in a single day. This has eclipsed Rommel’s record of destroying 70 tanks in. the famous battle of Knight’s-Bridge. As against Rommel’s 30 tanks, General Sparrows” men lost only six tanks of their own in the process. In a short spell of 15 days, the First Armoured Division destroyed 250 enemy tanks and the Division fought continuously for 15 days, thus setting a record again, for the tank formations pull back after four or five days of fighting’s.
General Rajinder Singh has always fought like an ‘Eagle”.
He led the Indian tanks on the Zoli La and cleared the road to Ladakh during the Kashmir operation in 1948. Till then nobody could have imagined that the tanks could be deployed at such a high altitude. He was awarded Maha Vir Chakra for his role in that action. General Rajinder Singh, who comes of a well known Majithia & family Of Amritsar was educated at the Khalsa College, Amritsar, and is a keen hockey and polo, player.
Maj. Gen. Gurbakhsh Singh
If Major General Rajinder Singh destroyed Pakistan's. Sixth Armoured Division at the Sialkot front, Major General
Gurbakhsh Singh decimated the even More famous First Armoured Division of Pakistan in the historic battle of Khern Karan.
The First Armoured Division was the pride of the Pakistan Army. It was the spear which was to pierce the heart. of India. In two days of grim fighting in the paddy and sugarcane fields of Khern Karan, this spear was splintered and broken to bits. Those, who doubt this, can even today go and see the splinters in the shape of burnt Patton tanks in the village near Khem Karan.
Soon after the start of the war, General Musa, Commander In-Chief of Pakistan, in an Order Of the Day had said, "You have got your your teeth into the enemy.
'Now go on and finish the job". Those much vaunted teeth were pulled out by Major General Gurbaksh Singh and his men.
If Pakistan is today a toothless and harmless tiger, we have to thank the brave defenders of Khem Karan.
General Gurbaksh Singh is a modest and almost shy person. Mild mannered, he does not at all reveal the steel that is in him.
He knocked out 7 Tanks
Major Bhupinder Singh
Major Bhupinder Singh's regiment destroyed 79. enemy tanks in the Chowinda.Pasrur sector while the gallant Major was responsible, for knocking out 7 Pakistani tanks single handed before he was severely wounded. He died in the Military Hospi¬tal, New Delhi on October 3. Paying a warm tribute to the gallant Major, Prime Minister Shastri said in a letter to the bereaved family: "I have just learnt with sorrow that Major Bhupinder Singh has succumbed to his Injuries. How terrible must it be for his wife. I know her loss is immense but the know¬ledge that he died in the defence of our freedom should provide some solace to you all."
Major Bhupinder Singh has been awarded Maha Vir Chakra for his gallantry.
A Great Tale Of Heroism
Lt Col Sampuran Singh
Lt Col Sampuran Singh of the Punjab Regiment, who has been awarded the Vir Chakra, led his men personally in the capture of the Bedori post in the Haji Pir area in Jammu and Kashmir.
In the advance of Indian troops to the Haji Pir pass it became apparent that the capture of Bedori was essential as this feature overlooked the entire area. The approaches to this tactical feature were precipitous and extremely difficult. Two attempts to capture the feature on August 26 and 27 had failed. The enemy was holding this area with two companies and was covering the approaches, with medium and light machine-guns,
On August 28th a battalion of the Punjab Regiment was ordered to capture this important feature with the utmost speed so that Indian troops could resume their advance to the 8500 foot high Haji Pir pass.
At 9 p.m. two companies of the battalion advanced but the heavy enemy fire soon pinned them down. For a moment it appeared that yet one more attempt had failed. At this crucial moment. Lt Col. Sam¬puran Singh, who was commanding the
battalion, decided to lead his men personally in the assault. Amidst intense enemy fire he led his men to the objective. By first light next morning Bedori was in Indian hands and the enemy was forced to run away. The success was entirely due to the outstanding leadership, courage and devotion to duty of Lt. Col. Sampuran Singh.
Lt. CoI. G. S. Sangha
Lt Col. Gurbans Singh Sangha, who has been awarded Maha Vir Chakra, displayed courage and leadership of a high order in meeting the Pakistani attack in the Chhamb sector.
On August 15, an. Indian Infantry Brigade group in the Chhamb sector, came under sudden and heavy enemy artillery fire. The commander of the brigade group was killed and it was feared that the enemy might be successful in dispersing Indian troops.
Lt. Col. Sangha, who was commanding a Mahar Battalion, not only extricated his battalion from under heavy shelling, but also continued to maintain the front intact throughout the day. By holding Mandiala crossing he prevented the enemy from making a back through. Subsequently, during the capture by Indian troops of three forward posts, he directed his battalion with courage, and confidence in, the face, of stubborn, enemy resistance;
On September 1, when Pakistan launched a, full scale offensive, in the Chhamb sector, LL Col. Sangha's battalion was cut off by the enemy armour and infantry thrust. He gave the, enemy stiff resistance and foiled all attempts to encircle, and destroy his force. His personal example was largely instrumen¬tal in ensuring that the battalion remained a cohesive fighting force even under sustained enemy pressure.
Hero of Haji Pir
Major Ranjit Singh Dayal
The fact that the Pakistan had become extremely panicky and demoralised by the gallantry and the success of the Indian troops is borne out, by the ins¬tances such as, that of Major (Now Lt,Col), Ranjit Singh Dayal who, showed outstanding courage and leadership in captur¬ing Sunkh Hill feature in the
Uri Sector on August 26. Co1. Dayal and his men captured two other hill features, Sar and Ladwali Gali in the northwest of Haji Pir Pass on August 27.
Lt,Col. Ranjit Singh Dayal's men started climbing up .the Haji Pir Pass at 6 30 a.m. on August 28 from a direction the enemy had never dreamt would be used by Indian troops for attack. Col. Dayal made a surprise attack on the Pass and captured it by 10.30 in the mor¬ning of August 28.
The Pakistani army had announced a prize of Rs.50.000 for the head of Col. Dayal. This Story came out accidentally one day when an Indian officer while talking to his patrol on wireless heard a Pakistani telling his friend on the same frequency: "I wish i had Major Dayal's head. 1 could get fifty thousand rupees from the Pakistani Army."
Major Ranjit Singh Dayal was awarded Maha Vir Chakra and promoted to the rank of Lt Col. in recognition, of his gallantry and role in captur¬e the Haji Pass.
Lt. Surinderpal Singh
Lieut Surinderpal Singh, who has been awarded Vir, Chakra posthumously for, gallantry, showed complete devotion to duty and upheld the highest traditions of the Indian Army.
During an attack on the bridge over the Rayi near Dera Baba Nanak on the night of September 5th, Indian Army secured a firm base on a bund. This band came under extremely heavy artillery fire as a result of which a number of Indian soldiers were wounded.
Lieut.. Surinderpal Singh, showed great courage and, in complete disregard for personal safety came out of the trench and went round helping and dressing the wounded soldiers of his company. While carrying a wounded soldier to satisfy in a trench, the Lieutenant was himself mortally wounded by enemy shelling.
Lieut. Surinderpal Singh belonged to a distinguished family of army men of Sangrur district in Patiala division. His forefathers had served as army officers and his brother, uncle and many near relatives are serving in the army.
Fired His Sten Gun
Like a Pistol
Lance Havildar Gurdev Singh
Another instance, of, the unparalleled bravery is one that of Lance Havildar Gurdev Singh, who distinguished himself when the Indian troops moved across the cease fire line in Kashmir. On August 24 a company of the Indian troops was ordered to capture a heavily defended Pakistani position in the, Tithwal sector. As the jawans advanced, a hand to hand fight ensued.
Our troops were outnumbered by the enemy and were in, the danger of being mauled when L/Hav. Gurdev Singh moved his section quickly to strenghthen the assault and charged the enemy post with a ferocious punch.
Though he was severely wounded in the left arm from splinters from an enemy grenade, L/Hav. Gurdev Singh pressed forward, bayoneting and shooting the enemy with only one hand. Indian jawans made short work of the Pakistani invaders and removed the L/Hav.from the advance post.
During the main attack that followed this action, L/Hav Gurdev Singh improvised a sling for his wounded arm and advanced to the forefront firing his sten gun with his right hand and throwing grenades with his left wounded hand.
L/Hav. Gurdev moved from one bunker to another inspiring his men and firing his sten gun with his right hand as if it were a pistol.
Although in great pain, he refused to be evacuated till our jawans were in full control of the enemy position and there was no risk of a counter attack.
Lance Havildar Gurdey Singh was awarded Vir Chakra for his bravery.
Air Marshal Arjan Singh
An important factor that contributed to the excellent co-operation between Army and he Air Force is the personality of the Air Chief, Air Marshal. Arjan Singh, who combines in himself the rare quality of genuine humility and professional competence, which makes him an excellent leader of the men, he commands.
Air Marshal Arjan Singh is a purposeful and combative leader who inspires loyalty and trust in his men. Many still remember Arjan Singh as the young, dauntless and resourceful pilot during the Burma campaign. He is a keen flier who can today fly some 62 different types of aircraft.
The Chief, of Air Staff, who passed through Cranwell and later the staff College, Branchnell, was commissioned some 25 years ago. Apart from seeing the active service, he has held many staff appointments at the Air Headquarters with distinction and was the Air Officer Commanding in Chief of the Operational Command some four years ago.
Air Marshal Arjan Singh was the Overall Commander of the Joint Air Exercise, ‘Shiksha’ held in 1963 with the U.S air force.
Sabre Slayer Sandhu
It is a national pride for me," said Squadron Leader A.J.S Sandhu, soon after wearing his coveted Vir Chakra he won in recognition of his most courage¬ous combat with Pakistani Sabre F, 86.
' My combat with the Pakis¬tani aeroplanes on September 18 has been, my most outstand¬ing and thrilling experience. Four enemy planes were patrol¬ling our skies and we were asked to intercept them. The task was accomplished with complete success," said Sqn. Ldr. Sandhu.
Describing how Pakistani pilots had become scared of our pilots, Sqn Ldr. Sandhu added. "Whenever Pakistanis were in a disadvantage, they would try, to run to their own territory."
Sqn. Ldr. A. J, S. Sandbu had very adroitly got behind a Pak Sabre in a dog fight and shot it in the air combat while directing his other pilots to chase the rest of Pakistanis planes away
Apart from an excellent pilot Sqn. Ldr.Sandbu is also a top ranking sportsman. A game in the squash court and badminton refreshes me and every time puts new vigour into me says the ace pilot.
It is but in and the nature of armed clashes battles more so in the present day war, that, the valour and sacrifices of many a soldier goes unnoticed and as such cannot be recorded in any, chronicle. Hence, this narration, for that matter any article or. book, on a similar subject, cannot claim to be comprehensive or a complete record of. deeds. We bow our heads in a silent reverence to role and sacrifices of the unknown martyrs. Neither can the contribution of members of other communities in the success of the recent operations against the Pakistanis be underestimated
Indeed, the most glorious aspect of the triumph of the, Indian Armed Forces lies in the fact that it was a truly national effort. Indians, irrespective of creed or clime, contributed their mite, sacrificed their life, and shed their blood in the defence of their country, and the principles on which stands the imposing edifice of our secular society and the democratic way of our life. And this is exactly what gives our Armed Forces and the whole effort a national character.
Apart from the men in uniform, the civilian population of the Punjab has been the recipient of eloquent tributes from Army authorities, and national leaders. Truck drivers rendered valuable assistance to the Army at considerable personal risk to themselves and the tillers of soil proved as good as the policemen in rounding up the enemy paratroopers. The womenfolk of the countryside did not lag behind, they insisted on feeding the brave jawans, right on the frontline with, hot delicious parathas, in keeping with the proverbial hospitality of the land.
All said and done, Pakistan will do well to draw a lesson or two from the latest military misadventure and debacle. Should it, however, persist in her attitude, of belligerency, Indians know how shatter Pakistan’s dreams, of ‘Marching on to Delhi.'
Was it not the Sikh Army that marched on to Jamrodh Fort beyond the Khayber Pass under the leadership of that legendary soldier, General Hari Singh Nalwa, during the Iast century. If the soldierly people of Punjab have successful, borne the brunt of successive aggression from northwest and stemmed the advances of ruthless invaders, the intrepid Sikhs also know how to crush the enemy, if need be, right in his own den