2 Indian Field Regiment [later 2 Field Regiment (SP)] was raised in May 1940 at Bangalore. It moved to Persia and Iraq with 6 Indian Division in Nov 1941 and thereafter moved to Northern Syria in February 1942 to be part of 3 Indian Motor Brigade Group and took part in what is famously known as the Battle of Bir Hachiem. For its heroic deeds, the Regiment was awarded the Honour Title “Point 171” just within two years of its raising. Major (Later General and Chief of Army Staff) PP Kumaramangalam was awarded the DSO. Capt (Later Maj Gen and Director Artillery) AS Naravane and 2/Lt (Later General and Chief of Pakistan Army) Tikka Khan were taken prisoners of war.
The Regiment suffered heavy losses but its morale was higher than ever. In 1944, from the deserts of Libya it moved to Burma to take part in the war against the Japanese. Lt Col (Later Lt Gen) PS Gyani, who was the first Indian to be commissioned as an officer in the Regiment of Artillery, took over command of the Regiment, and had the unique distinction of being the first Indian Officer to command an Artillery Field Regiment. The Regiment continued to excel and was awarded the Honour Title “Letse” and Lt Col Gyani an OBE.
2 Field Regiment has the unique distinction of taking part in two different theatres of war during World War II and being awarded Honour Titles in both the theatres of war and all this within just 4 years of its raising.
Battle of Pt 171
In November 1941, 3 Indian Motor Brigade Group formed part of the Gazala—Bir Hachiem defences. On 26 May 1942, the Brigade Group with 2 Field Regiment and 1 Indian Anti-Tank Regiment as its artillery component, moved to Point 171, south of Bir Hachiem in Libya. Late in the evening of 26 May, 2 Field Regiment was warned of an impending attack by Rommel’s forces early next morning. Throughout the night the Regiment made preparations to face an impending armour attack on its gun positions.
On the morning of 27 May, 2 Field Regiment with its 25- pounder guns was ready to see its first action—and what an action it turned out to be!The defences at Point 171 were incomplete, without mines, uncoordinated and without any tanks deployed in the Brigade Box area, but were ready to face the might of Rommel’s forces which had 15 Panzer Division, 21 Panzer Division, the Italian Ariete Division and 90 Light Division. Needless to say, the defenders were hopelessly outnumbered but determined to give a fight which ended up creating history.
Early morning of 27 May saw Rommel’s forces moving out of their harbour hardly 2 miles away. The Battle at Point 171 was so swift and bloody that in about two hours time Rommel’s forces had over-run the defences of the Brigade but not before facing the wrath of the Indian Gunners who kept firing till their positions were over-run. Maj PP Kumaramangalam returned to the battlefield a few days later to retrieve the Guns. One of the officers of the Regiment counted 56 enemy tanks destroyed in the Brigade Box Area.
The ferocity of the battle can be gauged from the numbers of enemy tanks destroyed as also from the fact that the losses suffered by 2 Field Regiment included six officers killed, one officer missing and many more taken prisoners of war. In addition, a vast majority of the Viceroy Commissioned Officers and men were either killed, wounded or taken prisoners of war. As mentioned earlier, many of the surviving personnel under Maj Kumaramangalam returned to the battlefield to retrieve our guns of which eight were totally destroyed. The Regiment displayed resoluteness when it returned to the Gun position to retrieve the Guns, which are the “Colours” for the Gunners.
The battle at Point 171 had surprised Rommel who lost time and resources and his attempt to drive to the coast was checked. Sir Winston Churchill paid rich tributes to the Indian Artillery under 3 Indian Motor Brigade for their decisive role in the Battle of Bir Hachiem and for inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy and seriously delaying their advance. The Statesman announced award of the DSO to Maj PP Kumaramangalam on 30 August 1942.
For its magnificent and heroic performance 2 Field Regiment was awarded Honour Title “Point 171”.
Lt Gen PK Singh, PVSM, AVSM (Retd) was commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery on 16 Dec 1967 and joined 2 Field Regiment (SP) as a Y.O. He later commanded 101 Field Regiment (SP). He is the first YO of 2 Field Regiment (SP) and the first Commanding Officer of 101 Field Regiment (SP) to have risen to the rank of Army Commander. He retired as GOC-in-C, South Western Command and Colonel Commandant Regiment of Artillery. He is presently the Director of the United Service Institution of India.