The Indian army dominates all the four passes of Siachen Glacier. To the North the road descends to the Shyok river and runs along its bed. The Glacier is located 70 kilometers from the confluence of the Shyok and the Nubra rivers, and originates from, Indira Col.
Reports in 1983 suggested that during Sep-Oct, Pakistan was planning to occupy the passes on Saltoro Ridge, and launched OPERATION ABABIL for the control of Siachen. To pre-empt this operation, Indian Army troops were rushed to occupy Bilafond La on the Saltoro ridge, West of Siachen glacier. Since then, a race started to occupy the heights that would overlook the other’s positions to disrupt each others lines of communication and logistic support. There were many attempts by Pakistan to capture Indian posts but the Indian Army foiled these attempts on every occasion. On the contrary Indian Army improved their operational deployment by the capture of important tactical features. Since cease fire in 2003, it is quiet. The fight really is for the Saltoro ridge and the passes along it as the Indian Army holds all the dominating heights.
In Siachen, the battle is against the elements as – the high altitude, lack of oxygen, the extreme cold, high velocity blizzards (upto 160 Knots) and crevasses/ice holes. There are major high altitude health hazards in the form of Pulmonary Odema, Hyper-tension, Frost-bite, Chill blains and Snow Blindness. In most cases, a casualty if not evacuated immediately, can succumb to these treacherous sicknesses. The survival here is the first challenge and then comes the tactical challenges posed by adversary.
3 MADRAS (Who call themselves ‘THAGDAS’), was the first battalion from the Regiment to be inducted into Siachen in August-September 1988, whispers did go around amongst a few cynics about the ability of Thambis to survive in those extreme cold climate (temperatures as low as Minus 55 degree Celsius) and heights. Of course, these commentators were ignorant of the mental toughness, physical robustness and adaptability of Thambis hailing from the Southern States (Where the climate is hot, hotter and hottest).
3 MADRAS accounted for 15 enemy soldiers to die for their country and 10 were wounded. In the bargain, the battalion lost 10 lives in the performance of their duties and 45 were evacuated due to high altitude problems .
The casualty rates of the Thagdas when compared to other units was one of the lowest. This confirmed the best of soldierly qualities of Thambis adaptability, perseverance and dogged determination to win and succeed against all odds and challenges.
On the eve of departure from Siachen, the Infantry Brigade Headquarters published a Special Order of the Day dated 13 March 1989 as a Tribute to 3 MADRAS for their stay in Siachen.
The second battalion from Regiment to serve in Siachen was 2 MADRAS from 12 August 1993 to 28 February 1994. The tenure of 2 MADRAS reconfirmed resoluteness of Thambis, their adaptability and will to succeed against all odds. The battalion did not suffer even a single casualty due to High Altitude sicknesses.
9 MADRAS (Travancore)
It was the turn of the “Terrors” to have a go at the Central Sector. 9 MADRAS (Travancore) moved from Kiari/Keri in October 2000. During the tenure from 01 January 2001 to 30 June 2001, the battalion had a rewarding experience in the highest battlefield in the world.
When it comes to upholding the honour and glory of the country, in the Regiment – there are no ‘IFS’ and ‘BUTS’.
“The Double First”, became the fourth battalion from the Regiment to be deployed in Siachen.
The battalion conducted a large number of fire assaults on enemy posts and caused attrition and induction of enemy’s routine maintenance activity till cease fire was declared in November 2003. The ingenuity and innovativeness of Thambis was once again highlighted, when, the battalion successfully undertook the task of constructing a kerosene pipe line from the Base Camp to the forward posts with the help of engineers.
3 MADRAS (Second tenure)
First and the only Infantry Battalion to serve in both ‘Central and North Glaciers, 3 MADRAS was inducted for OPERATION MEGHDOOT on 05 May 2005. The THAGDAS made a thumping start by opening a new route to landlocked Sonam Post. A number of VVIPs and Senior Defence Officers visited the Battalion at the Base Camp including Honourable Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh, Gen JJ Singh, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, ADC, Chief of the Army Staff.
THAGDAS is the only battalion in the Indian Army to do two tenures in Siachen.
The exceptional performance of the Battalion while deployed on Siachen Glacier was aptly recognized by the award of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command Unit Appreciation, three Chief of the Army Staff Commendation Cards, three General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command Commendation Cards.
16 MADRAS (Travancore)
16 MADRAS (Travancore) was deployed at Chumathang from 04 June 2005 for OPERATION MEGHDOOT. It carried out its operational commitments in the most trying and hazardous climatic conditions but ensured domination of areas and enemy positions across the actual ground position line.
17 MADRAS (Cochin)
The Khatras inducted into Central Glacier on 03 August 2007. Fighting against extreme cold climate with temperatures dropping to minus 45 degree Celsius, the Khatras braved the avalanches and crevasses prone glacier and conquered the heights ranging up to 21000 feet with a smile on their faces.
The battalion was entrusted with 76 kilometers of Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in highest battle field in the world. The battalion enhanced the operational and administration sustenance of troops by improving mobility within complexes by bridging crevasses, opening new routes, constructing helipads etc. The battalion is presently deployed in Northern Glacier since May 2014.
The battalion is presently deployed in Northern Glacier since May 2014.
Data and pictures provided by
Madras Regimental Centre