The present year, 2018, marks the 70th anniversary of the first Jammu and Kashmir war which started towards the end of 1947 when Pakistani raiders, led, aided and abetted by the Pakistan Army, invaded Kashmir. The war continued till the middle of 1948 when both India and Pakistan declared a United Nations brokered cease fire. A characteristic feature of the war was the brutality and bestiality of the Pakistan army, which remains their hallmark even till date. In February 1948, when the small force at Skardu surrendered to the invaders when they could neither be supplied nor reinforced, a Pakistani officer sent the following signal to his superiors:
“All Sikhs and children killed. All women raped.”
This mind set has stayed with the Pakistan Army and we see it on the atrocities they continue to carry out on the Baloch people, as also in the systematic genocide, murder and rape carried out by the Pakistan army in East Pakistan in a nine month period from March to December 1971.
But getting back to India’s first war after independence, I will chronicle a part of the account of the battle of Naushera as seen through the eyes of two officers of 1/7 RAJPUT (later re-designated as 4 GUARDS). In the battle of Naushera, the unit was awarded one Param Vir Chakra, two Maha Vir Chakras, nine Vir Chakras and eleven Mention in Dispatches. Let me start this account with the citation for the Param Vir Chakra for Naik Yadunath Singh who laid down his life for his country on 6 Feb 1948.
THE CITATION: NAIK YADUNATH SINGH, PVC (POSTHUMOUS)
At No 2 picket on Taindhar on February 6, 1948,No 27373 Naik Yadunath Singh was in command of a forward section post which bore the full brunt of enemy attack. The little post was garrisoned by nine men against overwhelming odds. The enemy launched his attack in successive waves with great ferocity to overcome this post. The first wave swept upto the post in a furious attack.Displaying great valour and superb qualities of leadership so used the small force at his disposal that the enemy retired in confusion. Four of his men were wounded but Naik Yadunath Singh again showed his qualities of leadership by re-organising the battered force under him for meeting another onslaught. His coolness and courage were of such an order that the men rallied and were ready for the second attack which came with greater determination and in larger numbers than the preceding one. Though hopelessly outnumbered, this post under the gallant leadership of Naik Yadunath Singh resisted, all were wounded and Naik YadunathSingh, though wounded in the right arm, personally took bren gun from the wounded bren gunner. The enemy was right on the walls of the post. But Naik Yadunath Singh once again displayed outstanding ability and valour of the highest order in action.
By his complete disregard for his personal safety and example of coolness and courage, he encouraged his men to fight. His fire was so devastating that what looked like impending defeat was turned into a victory and the enemy retreated in chaos leaving dead and wounded littered on the ground. With this act of supreme heroism and outstanding example of leadership and determination, Naik Yadunath Singh saved the post from the second assault of the enemy.
By this time all the men of the post were casualties. The enemy put in his third and final attack in undiminished numbers and determination to capture the post. Naik Yadunath Singh, though wounded, prepared literally to give single handed battle to the enemy for the third time. With great courage and determination, he came out of his bunker with his sten gun and made a most magnificent single handed charge on the advancing enemy who, completely taken by surprise fled in disorder. Naik Yadunath Singh, however met his gallant death in his third and last charge, by two bullets hitting him in the head and chest. Thus charging single handed at the advancing enemy this non-commissioned officer, performed thehighest act of gallantry and self sacrifice and by doing so he saved his section-nay his whole picket from being overrun by the enemy at the most critical stage in the battle for Naushera.
Though most of the officers and men of 4 GUARDS are from states other than Rajasthan it is perhaps by happenstance that this more than two hundred years old battalion has, at the most decisive moments of its history, had officers from Rajasthan in command. The first of these was Lt Col Nathu Singh (later Lt Gen Nathu Singh). He was from Dungarpur and was an alumnus of Mayo College and Sandhurst. He was also the first Indian to command the battalion and it was to him that the Japanese forces in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands surrendered to, at the end of the Second World War. Nathu Singh relinquished command to a British Officer, Lt Col Dimsey, who in turn was succeeded by Lt Col Bakshi Kuldip Singh. It was Col Bakshi Kuldip Singh who immediately after Independence, brought the battalion back to India from Razmak now in Pakistan. Command of the battalion then went to Lt Col Guman Singh from Banera in Mewar. Col Guman Singh was the son in law of Gen Nathu Singh and it was under his command that the battalion was inducted into Jammu and Kashmir for operations in Naushera sector.
Account of Col Guman Singh
When I was posted to the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun in 1947, I received a surprise posting order in November 1947, promoting me to the rank of Lt Col and as Commanding Officer of 1/7 RAJPUT. It so happened that my father-in-law Maj Gen. (later Lt Gen.) Nathu Singh called on the Military Secretary (MS) in Army Headquarters. The MS told him that two battalions of the RAJPUT Regiment, 1/7 RAJPUT AND 4/7 RAJPUT were due for posting of new commanding officers. Of these two battalions, 1/7 RAJPUT was due to proceed to Naushera in Kashmir while 4/7 RAJPUT would be stationed in Ramgarh in Bihar (now Jharkand). As I was one of the officers due for promotion, the MS asked my father in law, which of the these two battalions he should allot to me to command.
Gen. Nathu Singh replied that he would like me to take command of his own battalion 1/7 RAJPUT. I wonder how many fathers or fathers in law would like the sons and sons-in-law to be posted to a war zone when they could easily be accommodated elsewhere. I was lucky to have got command of this famous battalion and what an honour it was to lead the battalion in India’s first war after Independence. With further luck, whilst under my command, the Battalion in the person of Naik Yadunath Singh won its first Param Vir Chakra.
From Dehradun I went to Delhi where a vehicle was given to me to take me to Gurdaspur. The partition was in full swing and I came across endless columns of men, women and children trying to reach their destinations. Many of them died of exhaustion and hostile attacks and I saw dead bodies lying all along the road. I halted for the night at Amritsar and then left the next morning for Gurdaspur. Col Bakshi Kuldip Singh gave me a warm welcome and within a short period the handing and taking over was completed. On 2 Dec 1947 I assumed command of the Battalion and Bakshi Kuldip Singh proceeded to Fatehgarh to take charge of the RAJPUT Regimental Centre. The battalion was short of officers and men. We had lost our Punjabi Mussalman troops to 8 PUNJAB (Pakistan Army) and from them received two companies of Gujjars. We were still short of men, so we received one company of Sikh troops from 8 Punjab as a temporary measure. It was thus quite a novel experience to take such a mixed body of troops into an operational area. I was new to the battalion and knew only two officers — Maj YS Chaudhary and Major Dhillon. They had both passed through a training unit, 9 RAJPUT, at Chindwara, when I was posted there.
It was not an easy task to take the battalion into an operational area without knowing the officers and troops and not having had a chance to train them. A day after taking over the command, we moved out of Gurdaspur to Jammu on 3 December, where we were required to do a flag march to reassure the citizens of the town. Later in the day, I called on Maj Gen. Kulwant Singh, the General Officer Commanding the Jammu and Kashmir Force who briefed me on the battalion’s future task. On 6 December we were lifted by vehicles to Naushera which we reached on 7 December. On the way, we were fired upon by some Pakistani raiders but no one was hurt. We learnt that they were using some primitive long barrelled guns which were manufactured in gun factories in the North West Frontier Province by the Pathans who also filled their own cartridges. This was then and still is a flourishing cottage industry in the tribal belt of the Af-Pak border. These guns when fired, made an odd sound like ‘pith-too’ when the bullets passed overhead. We reached our destination near Naushera in the evening but well before that time, we could hear the sound of our artillery 25 pounder guns booming against the positions the Pakistani raiders had occupied.
Here I must leave Col Guman Singh’s account and jump forward by two months to 6 Feb 1948 to the battle of Taindhar at which Naik Yadunath Singh was awarded a posthumous Param Vir Chakra. This account is from the records of the late Col Kishan Singh Rathore, MVC, who was a Company Commander in the battle and it was under him that Yadunath Singh performed his unmatched acts of heroism. Then a Lieutenant, Kishen Singh Rathore was awarded the Mahavir Chakra in the same battle.
Account of 2/Lt(Later Col) Kishan Singh Rathore
At the end of January I was sent to a picket called Taindhar, which guarded the approach to Naushera. It was the highest feature in the area and dominated the countryside. The approach to it from the enemy’s side was a gentle slope but towards Naushera it was a steep cliff. The defence of Taindhar was critical for the defence of Naushera. I had about seventy men with a section of 3inch mortars but I had no medium machine guns. We had plenty of small arms and ammunition and about a hundred and fifty 3inch mortar bombs. At this stage, neither I nor for that matter even my Brigade Commander, Brig Usman, also an MVC winner, were aware of the fact that the task allotted to the company was well beyond its capacity. Our defences had been hastily prepared and frankly, were quite pathetic. We had tried our best to build what ever we could by collecting stones which are not the best materiel to build defences, for when hit with artillery fire, the stones shatter into small pieces which cause more harm than the shelling itself. We had no sandbags to strengthen our trenches.
As a routine and standard battle procedure, two men from each section were deployed as sentries at night. At day break all personnel would stand down and go to perform their normal morning functions. Our food was terrible too, the only thing that we were supplied with besides wheat flour was tinned carrots left over in some supply depot from the Second World War stocks. During the day, the time was spent in administrative duty like checking our weapons and ammunition and also to patrol the area in front of our defences. Though mentally and physically prepared to take what ever came, I was personally a little apprehensive of the state of our defences and the limited resources available with me.
Perhaps because of this frame of mind, on the night of 5/6 February, I doubled the sentries and ordered half my men to be on stand to. This was obviously not liked by the men and my popularity plummeted. Why I did this I cannot fathom to this day for we had received no warning of any impending action by the enemy in our sector. In the morning the men wanted to relieve themselves but I ordered them to stay put in the trenches, and do their call of nature in the trenches themselves!
This indeed was fortuitous, for a few minutes after day break there was a roar of “Maro Nara Hayadari, Ya Ali, Ya Ali” and the enemy came rushing towards us. I ordered rapid fire and all my six bren guns opened up on the enemy hordes. Many fell in the initial bursts of fire, but the enemy recovered quickly and pressed on with the attack. Our troops held firm and took on the enemy at close range with rifle and bren fire and also hurling grenades, which caused the attack to falter. I could see Yadunath Singh shouting expletives at the enemy and hurling grenades at them. At this time Brig Usman called me and asked if I wanted artillery fire. I declined, as we were so mixed up with the enemy that the artillery fire would have caused more damage to my troops. We beat back the first attack with heavy casualties to the enemy, but within minutes the second wave of the enemy came rushing towards us and this too we beat back. By now, our own casualties were mounting. Amongst the wounded was Naik Yadunath Singh who, in spite of his wounds, was rallying his men and firing a bren gun. We beat back the second attack too.
But the enemy was not done yet and some of them were even able to get in between the gaps in our defences. This time I had no choice but to ask Havaldar Ishar Singh, the mortar detachment commander to fire the mortars overhead and bring down fire on our own locality. It was then that Naik Yadunath Singh, along with his men came out of their bunkers with bayonets fixed and charged the enemy, engaging him in hand to hand combat. That broke the enemy’s will. He fled in disorder never to return. Naushera was saved but Yadunath was killed in action, leading a most heroic charge for which he was awarded the Param Vir Chakra.
Commissioned in 4 Guards, Major Chandrakant Singh, VrCis a veteran of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, where he was wounded and awarded the VrC for conspicuous gallantry and courage displayed throughout the war. Popularly called ‘Paunchy’ by his friends, he took premature retirement in 1977 and is now involved in writing and speaking on environmental and defence related issues.