Battle of Dograi-1965 War

I had covered the Battle of Burki in my previous post, today I look at the Indian army’s continued advance on to Dograi, just 1 km away from Lahore, right on the outskirts.For the first and perhaps only time,  the Indian Army came within striking distance of the city.  One of the bloodiest battles ever fought in the war, with guns, grenades and descending to bayonets, hand to hand street fights. The Army had captured Dograi earlier too on September 6, but had to withdraw due to lack of reinforcements.


The heroes of Dograi were the 3 Jat Battalion, led by the maverick Lt Col Desmond Hayde.  An Anglo Indian of Irish origin, whose father was with the Railways, he was noted for his derring do, leading from the front often.  Once again, the 3 Jat Battalion here was outnumbered by the much larger 16 Punjab of Pakistan, and it was a victory against all odds.


Dograi stood on the East bank of the Ichogil Canal, which was the main defence for Lahore, against the Indian army attack. The GT Road connecting Amritsar and Lahore, ran through Dograi, and it was vital for the Army to capture this town to reach the city.  Though several attempts were made to capture Dograi, the strong fortifications there made the task hard for the Indian Army. The town was strong held with two Pakistani units at Mile 13 and another two in Dograi, that had troops from 16 & 8 Punjab, 3 & 18 Baluch.


Finally on September 21, the 3 Jat under Hayde decided to go for an all out offensive to capture the heavily fortified town.

Ek bhi aadmi pichhe nahin hatega!

Zinda ya murda, Dograi mein milna hai! 

Was what Hayde ordered his troops, as they went in for a 2 phase attack, in Phase 1, 13 Punjab had to capture Mile 13 on the outskirts of the town. While 3 Jat would make a 6000 yards long detour to capture Dograi from the North.  Though 13 Punjab partially managed to secure Mile 13, Hayde adamantly pushed his unit on to the attack

Even if all of you run away, I shall continue to stand on the battlefield alone.

Facing 2 infantry battalions, and a large tank squadron, the 3 Jat consisting of 550 soldiers,  caught the Pakistani defenders by surprise, in an attack from the rear. For the next 3-4 hours, one of the bloodiest battles ever raged, where the outnumbered Indian army advanced inch by inch, using guns and bayonets.  The battle took a bloody turn when the Indian soldiers entered the town, with most of the Pakistani soldiers hidden in homes. It soon turned into a bloody street fight, with house to house fighting, and even hand to hand combat. The men of 3 Jat egged on by Hayde advanced further, and by 3 AM, the town of Dograi was taken.  86 Indian soldiers died in the assault, while 308 Pakistanis perished, in what was one of the bloodiest battles ever.


With the Indian army capturing Dograi, the defending Pakistani units at Mile 13 fled their positions and by September 22, the Punjab 13 had secured the entire area, beating back the counter attacks too.  Hayde was awarded the Mahavir Chakra for his heroic leadership, he later settled down in Kotdwara, his wife Sheela’s hometown. He set up an ex serviceman’s league there, helped many of his Jat Regiment members after retirement.  In fact Lal Bahadur Shastri gave that slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” while addressing members of Hayde’s  3 Jat Batallion.

Battle of Dograi, will go down as one of the Indian Army’s great victories ever, where they pulled it off against overwhelming odds. 4 MVC( including Hayde), 4 Vir Chakras,7 Sena Medals just about explains the intensity of the battle.  Apart from Hayde, the battle had other heroes too. Major Asaram Tyagi from Muradnagar in UP, led the assault into Dograi, was hit by bullets, but pressed on, and captured 2 tanks, before sucumbing to injuries. And the other was Captain Kapil Singh Thapa, from Dehradun, who charged across a minefield, at the enemy, engaging them in close combat, before he fell. And Lt Gen Mohinder Singh, GOC, 15 Infantry, who later became Major.


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Battle of Kolhapur


Panhala literally meaning “Home of Serpents” was one of the 15 forts built by Bhoja II, the Shilhara ruler between 1178 and 1209 AD. The famous aphorism of Raja Bhoj, Gangu Teli is believed to have been associated with this fort.  Apparently, when the walls of the fort repeatedly collapsed during construction, and the king’s astrologer, recommended the sacrifice of a woman and her newly born to appease the gods.  This was when Gangu Teli, offered to sacrifice his wife Jakkubai and her newborn, taking it as a matter of pride.

Bhoja Raja was defeated by Singhana, the most powerful ruler of the Devagiri Yadavas, who took control of the fort. It subsequently passed through many hands, before the Adil Shahi dynasty made it one of their strategic outposts in 1589, fortifying it extensively with ramparts and gateways.

One of the largest forts in the Deccan with a perimeter of 14 Km, and 110 lookout posts, located at a height of 845m above sea level, on the Sahyadris, with numerous underground tunnels. The walls are protected by steep escarpments, reinforced by parapet with stilt holes. One of the features of the fort was a hidden well called Andhar Bavadi, built by Adil Shah, a secret source of water, which could be protected from poisoning by the enemy forces. In fact this more like an emergency shelter, with living quarters, hidden passageways,  and was also the fort’s main water source.

The other structures in the fort were the Kalvanticha Mahal, the courtesan’s palace, used as a ladies quarter by the Bahmani sultans, when they occupied the fort. The Amberkhana, or the granary, built in Bijapur style, it had 3 Kothis called Ganga, Jamuna, Saraswati, which later would help Shivaji in withstanding the long siege. With stairs leading up to top, and 16 bays with it’s own flat vault, and a hole on the top for grains to be passed.


The Teen Darwaza was one of the 3 double gateways to the fort along with Char Darwaza and Wagh Darwaja. While the Char Darwaza was destroyed during the British siege,  the Teen Darwaza is the main entrance to the fort, basically a double gateway with a court in between, decorated with arcades. The Wagh Darwaza, was designed to trick invaders into getting trapped in a small courtyard, and has an elaborate Ganesh motif.


The Battle

Rustam Zaman was the Bijapur commander in chief who was sent to face Shivaji. He had taken part in the Battle of Pratapgarh, but was allowed to go back by Tanaji Malusare, after the rout. On 27 December, 1659 he camped at the town of Miraj, near to Kolhapur, known for its classical music tradition and manufacture of musical instruments.  He was assisted by other chieftains Fazal Khan, Malik Itbar, Sadat Khan, leading a large Adilshahi army of 10,000 that had one of the best cavalry, as well as front line defence of elephants.  Zaman commanded the centre, while he was flanked by Fazal Khan on the left, Malik Itbar on the right, and  Fateh Khan,  Mullah Yahya  making up the rear.

Shivaji on the other side was assisted by Netaji Palkar, Godaji Jagtap, Sidhoji Pawar among others.  Palkar was one of his finest commanders, who had led the successful campaign at Pratapgarh, where the Adil Shahis were routed. As much of a hero among people, as Shivaji was, to the extent that he was known as Prati Shivaji (image of Shivaji).  He led many a successful campaign against the Adilshahis, and was responsible for the expansion of the Maratha Empire.  Shivaji was at the center, flanked by Siddi Hilal and Jadhavrao on the left and Ingale and Sidhoji Pawar on the right. Netaji Palkar was off the center, while Mahadik and Wagh made up the rear end.

In quick anticipation of Zaman’s plan to move to Panhala fort, Shivaji made a sudden attack in the wee hours of December 28, 1659 on the Adil Shahi forces. He led a full frontal attack on the Adilshahi forces, targeting the centre, while 2 units of his cavalry, attacked the other two flanks. It was one of the bloodiest battles ever fought, where over 7000 men fell on the Adil Shahi side, under the rapid, lightning attacks by the Marathas, who lost around 1000 too. Zaman fled from the battlefield and it turned out to be another rout after Pratapgarh for the Adil Shahis.

The Adilshahis lost around 7000 men, 2000 horses and 12 elephants at the Battle of Kolhapur. This was an even bigger rout than that of   Pratapgarh.  Shivaji later targeted another strategic fort of Khelna that was located in some real tough terrain. He also had to face far tougher resistance from the Adil Shahi soldiers defending it.  Faced with a long drawn campaign, Shivaji hit upon a plan, by which some Maratha soldiers pretended to defect, and gain the confidence of the Adilshahi Qiledar (fort in charge).   The ruse worked, as the Marathas managed to sneak into the fort, and the very next day, they revolted, causing chaos, and opening the doors for the rest of the army to come in.  The Adil Shahi defenders were overcome, and Shivaji renamed the fort as Vishalgarh.

The victory at Battle of Kolhapur and the conquest of Vishalgarh, gave Shivaji a decisive edge, as he began to occupy more and more of Adilshahi territory. It also led to Aurangzeb taking notice of him, and the rising Maratha power.




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Battle of Saragarhi


To understand the significance of Saragarhi, one needs to take a look at the backdrop. The Afridi tribe had a deal with the British to protect the strategically important Khyber Pass for 16 years, who in turn created a local regiment composed of the Afridis entirely. However the Afridi tribesmen, turned against the British, and began to capture all the outposts in the Khyber, espeically on the Samana Range near Peshawar. Saragarhi was one of the posts, here, manned by the Sikhs. The British started the Tirah campaign in response.

Saragarhi was a small outpost in Kohat, a border district now located in Pakistan, on the Samana Range, in what is called the Khyber Pakhtunkwa region, better known as NWFP, What is called as the Tirah region lies here covering Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai agencies. Dominated by the Khyber Pass, the region is pretty much mountainous, inhabited mostly by the Pashtun tribes( mainly Afridi, Orazkai, Shinwari), and is the hotbed of Jihadi extremism currently. Most of the terror outfits are based here.

The 36th Sikh was an infantry regiment created under Col J.Cook, one of the many that came out courtesy the Kitchener reforms. 5 companies of this regiment were sent to the North West frontier, where Saragarhi was one of the posts, others being Sangar, Samana, Santop Dhar.The North West frontier was one of the most volatile regions, scene to continous battles between the Sikhs and Afghans, later between the British and Pashtuns, and one of the hardest to gain control over. One of the few places where the British actually had to retreat.

Though the British had managed to gain control over the volatile North West Frontier , they still had to face regular attacks from the Pashtuns. This region had a series of forts built during Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s time, primarily as a strategic defense against the Afghans.If you take a look at the map, Saragarhi lies midway between Fort Lockhart( on the Samana Range) and Fort Gulistan(Sulaiman Range). It was set up as a communication post between these 2 forts, considering they were not able to directly communicate with each other.

The Battle of Saragarhi was preceeded by a number of attacks earlier by the Afghans between August 27- September 11, 1897, warded off by the Sikh regiment. Attacks on the strategically important Forts Gulistan and Lockhart too were repulsed by the 36th Sikh. There is a reason why Afghans attacked Saragarhi, it was the only point of communication between Gulistan and Lockhart. Capture it, both those forts are cut off from each other, and that would make it easier to attack them. Saragarhi was pretty much a modest structure, but it’s location as a midway communication point, made it absolutely vital. And the fact that there were just 21 Sikhs guarding it on September 12, gave the right opportunity to the Afghan tribesmen.

Sept 12, 1897, 9 AM- Around 10,000 Pashtuns descend on Saragarhi in hordes. Just 21 Sikhs led by Havildar Isha Singh, manning the fort. Over the next couple of hours, we would be witness to one of the greatest “last man standing” acts in military history.

Sepoy Gurmukh Singh signals to Col Haughton located in Fort Lockhart, that they are under attack. The colonel however responds with his inability to send immediate assistance, due to the terrain and lack of personell, leaving the 21 Sikhs on their own. Left on their own, the 21 Sikhs decide to fight to the last to prevent the Afghans from reaching the forts, Bhagwan Singh is the first one to be killed, his corpse is carried back inside by NK Lal Singh and Jiwa Singh. Meanwhile a portion of the picket wall is breached.

The leader of the Pashtuns entices the Sikhs to surrender, but in vain, and repeated attempts to break open the gate are unsuccesful. The wall however is breached, and the Pashtuns rush in expecting to easily overrun the smaller Sikh force. However the outnumbered Sikhs put up the fiercest resistance to the much larger Pashtun force. Some of the most intense hand to hand fighting occurs at Saragarhi, as the Sikhs defend the post like a cornered tiger, not surrendering to the end.

Havildar Ishar Singh, orders his men to fall back into the inner layer, while he faces the Afghans openly, like a true leader. However the resistance is overwhelmed, as one by one each of the Sikh defenders is killed. Sepoy Gurmukh Singh is the last to be killed. He was the one who had contacted Col Haughton for help. He however takes down 20 other Afghans, and as he lay dying he repeatedly yells out “Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal”, breathing his last like a hero.

21 Sikhs held off 10,000 Afghans, and ensured that the enemy side lost 200 of theirs. But more important, they delayed their advance to Fort Gulistan, giving time for reinforcements to arrive their. Their sacrifice did not go in vain. All these 21 Sikh heroes at Battle of Saragarhi were from Punjab’s Majha Region, and were given the Indian Order of Merit. The epic poem Khalsa Bahadur, written by Punjabi poet Chuhar Singh is in honor of this historic battle.

Two gurudwaras were built in honor of the 21 heroes of Saragarhi, one at Amritsar, another at Ferozepur, where most of these men hailed from. Saragarhi Day, is commemorated todate on Sept 12, in honor of the battle and the heroic sacrifice of those 21 men, by Sikh Regiments. As well as Sikhs all over the world, while all units of Sikh Regiment, celebrate this as Regimental Battle Honors Day. It will go down as one of the greatest last man standing, courage under fire in the annals of military history on par with Rezang La, Thermopayle, Alamo, Charge of the Light Brigade to name a few.

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Mahakavi Bharatiyar

Ettayapuram is a small town in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district, one of the well known Zamindari estates ruled by Telugu Nayaks hailing from Chandragiri. Founded in 1567, by Ettappa Naicker, after whom the place is named, it gained an infamy of sorts, when  it’s ruler sided with the British against Veera Pandya Kattabomman, giving rise to the term Ettappan meaning traitor in Tamil. The town was famous for Umaru Pulavar, a well known Muslim poet, and Mutthuswamy Dikshitar was patronized in his final years by the ruler. And the town’s most famous resident was born here on December 11, 1882 to Chinnaswami Subramania Iyer and Lakshmi Ammal.


Chinnaswami Subramania Bharathi, or better known as Mahakavi Bharatiyar, a writer, a revolutionary, a freedom fighter, a nationalist and thinker. A polyglot fluent in 14 languages, and one of the most prolific writers in Tamil, who wrote on a variety of themes. One of the pioneers of modern Tamil Literature, who used simple language to reach to the masses, and a metre called Nondi Chinu in most of his works. His proficiency in various languages earned him the title of Bharati, when he was just 11, meaning one blessed by Saraswati Devi.

Losing his mother at the age of just five, he was bought up by his father who wanted him to become a lawyer.  Bharatiyar however was more poetically and musically inclined, and he passed out from the MDT College in Tirunelveli. Losing his father at 16, he later married Chellamma, who would be a lifelong companion and source of support to him.


Bharati’s spiritualism and nationalism, was a result of his stay at Varanasi, where he went for higher studies.  It was the time of the freedom struggle, and Bharati was deeply influenced by it’s values. He learnt Hindi, Sanskrit and English there, and grew a beard, began to sport a turban, influenced by a close Sikh friend of his. Returning to Ettayapuram in 1901, he spent some time as the court poet of the Rajah there. He also worked as a Tamil teacher at the Sethupathy High School in Madurai in 1904. It was during this time,  that he felt the need to be informed of the much larger world outside, and the events that were happening.

He joined as Assistant Editor in Swadeshimitran, a Tamil daily, however it was his meeting with Bhagini Nivedita in 1905 after returning from the Benares Congress session, that would influence his outlook.  It was Nivedita who urged him to work for the cause of women’s education. Bharatiyar saw women as Shakti, who would build a new society along with man. Along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak his political guru, Nivedita would be another great influence on him. He soon became an active member of the Congress, taking part in the Kolkata session under Dadabhai Nauroji which called for Swaraj and boycott of British goods.

He also started to edit the English  weekly India and the Tamil newspaper Bala Bharatham with M.P.T. Acharya, another great freedom fighter, who would later work with Veer Savarkar in London. Bharatiyar used the media to inculcate nationalist thoughts in the masses through his poems and articles.  From devotional hynmns to nationalist poems, from deeply philosophical works on the relation between God and Man, to songs on the French and Russian revolutions, Bharatiyar’s output was prodigious. During the historic Surat session of Congress in 1907, when the split occured between Moderates and Extremists, Bharatiyar along with VO Chidambaram Pillai and Varadhachariar, openly supported the Tilak group.



Pillai was arrested by the British in 1908, as also the propretior of the journal India. Facing the prospect of arrest, Bharatiyar fled to Pondicherry, then under French rule, living in exile, and resumed his writing. He edited the weekly journal India, a Tamil daily Vijaya, Bala Bharatam, a monthly and Suryodayam a local weekly. The British struck back stopping remitances,  letters to those outlets, both India and Vijaya were banned in 1909.

It was during his exile in Pondicherry that Bharatiyar came into contact with Aurobindo, and leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai and VVS Aiyar. He assisted Aurobindo in publication of the journals Arya and Karma Yogi. And he also learnt Vedic literature extensively during this time. It was in this period, 3 of his greatest works were written, Kuyil Pattu a romantic poem ,  inspired by John Keat’s Ode to a Nightingale. Kannan Paatu a series of poems on Krishna, and his classic  Panchali Sabatham, which is about the events leading to Draupadi’s humilation at the Kaurava court, and the pledge she takes to destroy the Kuru royal family.  Some critics, saw Panchali Sabatham as an allegory to the freedom struggle too, with Kurukshetra as the freedom struggle, waged by the Indians( Pandavas) against Kauravas( British).

He also translated the Bhagavat Gita, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra and many Vedic hymns into Tamil. Bharatiyar once again tried to make his entry back to India, but was arrested at Cuddalore in 1918. He spent three weeks in the Central Prison at Cuddalore, before being released on the intervention of Annie Beasant and CP Ramaswamy Iyer. He resumed his editing of Swadesimitran in 1920 from Chennai. However the continous imprisonments took a toll on his health, and financially too he had fallen on hard times.

He spent his last years at Triplicane Chennai, where he continued to write and speak to the people. His last speech was at  the Karungalpalayam Library in Erode, on Man is Immortal.  He used to visit the Parthasarathy Temple at Triplicane regularly, and on one such visit, he was attacked by the temple elephant, whom he used to feed regularly. Though he survived with injuries, his health began to deteriorate and on September 11, he passed away.  The Mahakavi whose poems aroused the nationalist feelings of masses, who fought against British rule, was no more. Sadly only 14 people attended the funeral of the great man, as he died unmourned and in poverty.

Bharatiyar is considered as one of the pioneers of modern Tamil literature, with his usage of simple language, and also introduced many new literary techniques. It was hard to categorize Bharatiyar, his poetry combined both the classic and contemporary elements.  While a reformist, he was deeply rooted in traditional Hindu philosophy and tradition. He wrote on topics as diverse as Indian nationalism, love songs, children’s poems, as well as poems on great leaders like Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai. He even translated speeches of Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda and Tilak to Tamil.

Even if Indians are divided, they are children of one Mother, where is the need for foreigners to interfere?

He felt passionately not just for India’s freedom,  but also it’s future.  He wrote about the need for a strong defense, a vibrant shipping sector, universal education and a strong industry.  He was against casteism, he performed Upanayanam for a  young Dalit boy, and spoke of bringing them into mainstream.



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Battle of Asal Uttar-1965 War

Khem Kharan is one of those typical small towns that dot the Indian landscape, located just 5 km from the India-Pakistan border, in Punjab’s Taran Taran district. It has a masoleum of a Sufi saint Pir Baba Sheikh Brahm.  The town’s claim to fame is however for what happened during the 1965 War, the Battle of Asal Uttar. One of the largest tank battles fought post World War II, after the Battle of Kursk, it was a turning point in the 1965 War, gave a huge blow to Pakistani ambitions.


Pakistan’s invading force consisted of around 200 Patton Tanks, consisting of the 1st Armored Division and 11th Infantry Division primarily, under Maj Gen Nasir Ahmed Khan and Brig A.R.Shami.  Named after the World War II hero, the M48 Patton Tanks was one of the most powerful and deadly tanks, known for it’s firepower and assault capabilities. It was used in many of the post World War II conflicts that included the Iran-Iraq War, Yom Kippur War, Vietnam War, 6 Day War among others.


India on the other hand had just 135 tanks out of which 45 were French AMX-13 a light tank, that would prove to be critical. Another 45 were the US M4 Sherman tanks, which were primarily medium range and used a lot in the Arab-Israeli wars. And finally the Centurion tanks used for nuclear weapons testing, used a lot by Israel.


Anyway which way you look at it, India was at a massive disadvantage here, against much superior Pakistani firepower.  And this is where the strategy played a crucial role. The leadership of Lt. Gen Harbaksh Singh, a giant of a man literally speaking, who was the GOC of the Western Command, made all the difference here.  Born in Sangrur district, he had been a POW during WWII, when Singapore fell to Japan, and had earlier conducted himself with distinction during the 1948 War.


As the Pakistani tanks, blasted their way through Indian defences, advancing on to Khem Karan, Maj Gen Gurbaksh Singh, GOC, Indian 4th Mountain Division, ordered the forces to fall back, and assume a horse shoe shaped defensive position, making Asal Uttar the focal point.  Under assault by 3 enemy groups, he managed to keep up the morale of the jawans, leading from the front. He was later awarded the Mahavir Chakra for his leadership.




The battle began on September 8 with the Pakistani tanks launching their attack, moving within 900 miles of Indian defenses. The Deccan Horses hidden in the sugarcane fields played a crucial role, as they began to launch the ambush attacks. The fields played a major role in hiding the Indian tanks, while they could spot the approaching Pakistani tanks. 11 Patton Tanks were destroyed for the loss of just 4 Indian tanks.

The Pakistani forces led a frontal assault on 4th Mountain, and this was were the heroism of Havaldar Abdul Hamid, came to the fore.


Born in Ghazipur district of UP, Abdul Hamid joined the Grenadiers Infantry Regiment where he served till his death. He gave note of his prowess during the Battle of Namka Chu in the 1962 War with China. Namka Chu was one stirring tale of defiance, where Hamid’s batallion, cut off by the Chinese made an escape into Bhutan on foot.Owing to his skills with the recoileless rifle, Hamid was made the NCO in charge of the 106m recoileless rifle platoon. This M40 recoileless rifle is one of the deadliest anti tank weapons, and Hamid was particularly skilled at it.


Along with Subedar M.Chand, Hamid plunged straight into enemy fire, facing the tanks directly. With his gun mounted on a jeep, Abdul Hamid, knocked out around 5 Patton tanks one after another, including the main tank.

Faced with increasing losses, Pattons of 6 Lancers, sought to envelop Indians with a flank attack along the Chima Western axis. Major Belvalkar led the Centurion tanks here, knocking out 5 Pattons, forcing the Pakistanis to withdraw. Surrounded on all sides by Indian artillery and snipers in the sugarcane fields, the Pakistani forces had no option but to retreat. More important, the myth of the Patton tank’s invincibility had been shattered by Indian forces.

September 9

The Pakistanis made a heavy assault on 18 Rajputana Rifles at 2 AM, using their infra red equipment. Brigadier Hanut, Commander, 62nd Mountain Brigade, ordered his men to hold on, and the invading tanks had to pass through mines, and firing by 5 Artillery regiments. Lt Col Raghuvir Singh showed courage under fire, moving past 3 enemy tanks, reaching forward companies and re-establishing contact with them.  There were heavy attacks all day long on 4 Grenadiers, who fought back under Lt.Col Bhatti. The counter attack was furious by the Deccan Horse, as many Pakistani tanks were knocked out, and by 10 PM, they had to retreat, facing heavy casualties.

September 10

The most intense day of the battle, when the Pakistanis launched an all out assault, to pin down 4th Moutain and Deccan Horse  and envelop the Bhura-Karimpur-Mahmudpur axis, with 4th Armored Brigade.


The counter strategy here was the brainchild of Brig General Thomas Teograj, who was in charge of the 2nd Independent Armored Brigade


Along with Lt.Col Caleb, he posted the Centurion tanks in 2 concentric horseshoe shaped semi circles, with the intention of bringing in the invading force under heavy cross fire. Further more the approaching tracks were deliberately flooded to slow down the Patton tanks. However the Pakistani tanks managed to break through the defenses, and this is where Havildar Abdul Hamid once again showed his heroism. It was sheer “Courage Under Fire” riding on a jeep fitted with the M40, Hamid knocked out 3 Pakistani tanks under heavy firing. However in the course of his counter assault, Abdul Hamid was killed by tank fire, laying down his life for the nation. His  brave sacrifice, inspired his comrades, and they launched a furious counter assault that beat back the Pakistani tanks.

Whoever remains cooler under stress for a longer time will win.Identify,take good aim and shoot’.God be with you.’’ -Lt.Col Caleb 

And this is what happened, as the Indian soldiers, spurred on by Hamid’s sacrifice, displayed exemplary courage under fire, and smart tactics to counter the invading Pakistani forces. At Dholan, 4 Pattons were knocked out by Centurions camouflaged in sugarcane fields, led by Major Sandhu, while some were knocked out at Madar, by Centurion tanks in the 2nd semi circle.  At Mahmudpura, 2nd Lt R.P.Joshi, ambushed the approaching 2nd Squadron, and 9 Pattons, 2 Recoilless guns were destroyed. Another approaching squadron, was routed, 3 Pattons being knocked out by Naib Risaldar Jagdeo Singh. It was turning out to be a massive rout for the Pakistani forces.

The Pakistani infantry, was already pinned down by Indian artillery, while the 4 Cavalry and 4 Arm brigade were squeezed in from all sides. The artillery pounded the advancing Pakistani tanks and forces, as their divisions disintegrated under the assault. Maj Gen.Nasir Ahmed Khan put up a brave fight in vain, as he watched his division collapsing right in front of his eyes, while Brigadier Shami, the artillery commander was killed in action. As dusk fell, the Indian guns bombarded the remaining Pakistani armour, shattering their morale. On September 11, the Pakistani regimental commander surrendered.

It was a massive rout for the Pakistan Army, 97 tanks were destroyed, including 75 Pattons, while India lost just 14. 2 Pakistani armored regiments were wiped out, Asal Uttar lived up to it’s name. The rout forced Pakistan into a defensive strategy, and it never recovered. The destroyed and captured Patton tanks were assembled at a place called Patton Nagar.  Pakistan in spite of having the much superior Patton tanks and night fighting equipment, lost to a combination of smart strategy, coordinated infantry attack and excellent leadership at the top. And above all the sugarcane fields, which provided an excellent hiding cover for the Indian tanks, and also the flooding of canals, which bogged down the Pakistani tanks.

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Battle of Burki-1965 War

Barki is a small village located in Pakistan’s Punjab province, right near the border. Just 11 km from the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, and located on the banks of the BRB(Bambawali-Ravi-Bedlan) Canal or Ichogil Canal.  This sleepy little village, was the site of one of the most intense battles of the 1965 War.



After the fiasco of Operation Gibraltar, Pakistan launched Operation Grand Slam to relieve the infiltrators who had been trapped in Kashmir.  In order to counter the Pakistani attack, the Indian Army decided to open up a second front towards Lahore. The Army would advance towards Lahore along three routes- Amritsar-Lahore, Khalra-Burki-Lahore and Khem Kharan-Kasur. This was to distract Pakistan from the Kashmir front and also reduce the stress on the supply lines, which were under bombardment from the Pakistani army.

Again the Indian side had just 1 Infantry division, 1 Armor Regiment, in contrast to the Pakistani side that had 3 Regiments, 150 tanks, and backed up by their Air Force. On top of that the areas around Lahore were well fortified with pillboxes, dugouts and trenches. However using a series of quick lightning strikes, the Indian Army caught the much unprepared Pakistani Army by surprise, capturing a large swathe of territory from Khalra, which was on the Indian part of Punjab. The Pakistani army used a three pronged counter attack, to force the Indian infantry into retreat much before the armed support and supply lines could come in. Indian infantry on the other hand, aimed to hold Burki, till reinforcements came in. It was along the Khalra-Burki-Lahore route, that the Battle of Burki was fought.

The advance from Khalra was led by the 5th Gorka Rifles, one of the toughest combat units, also called the Fighting 5th Battalion, whose motto was Shaurya Evam Nistha.  The men in charge were Major-General Har Krishan Sibal who led from the town of Khalra, while the tank operations were under the charge of Lt. Col Anant

September 8

The Indian army began the advance, towards Barki, under heavy shelling from the Pakistani artillery, Jahman near the border was the first Pakistani outpost to fall.  The constant shelling and resistance in every village, slowed down the Indian army, which however kept moving on, while the Pakistan army by now retreated back to Barki.

Over the next two days, the Indian army would make considerable progress to Barki, amidst stiff resistance by local Pakistani army, and constant shelling. However by Sept 10, the Indian Army was able to destroy most of the Pakistani tanks en route to Burki. 84 Pakistani tanks were destroyed, compared to just 4 Indian tanks, much like at Assal Uttar. Once again the much smaller Indian tank contingent, led by Anant Singh, had shown great courage under fire.  This also meant that by the time, the main battle began at Barki, Pakistan had lost most of it’s tanks, giving India an edge here.

With the arrival of the 18th Cavalry regiment, the Indian side launched the assault on September 10th, and with Pakistan now weakened, managed to advance towards Barki. Though Pakistan called in it’s air force to give support, the strategy failed, as they sent in the fighter aircraft, that were ineffective against ground troops, as against the bombers that would  have been more effective.

Pakistan had put up a tight defense network around Lahore, and the areas of Burki, Dograi, but still could not stop the Indian infantry from advancing, the destruction of their tanks, meant they had no proper back up armor here. And ironically the trenches and dugouts that the Pakistani army had built to stop the Indian army, proved to be beneficial with the soldiers, using them as defence. The Sikh Regiment played a major role in the advance on Barki, as they fought hard, inch by inch, overpowering every defense. Burki was captured on September 11, and the Indian Army held it inspite of repeated Pakistani counter attacks and air force strafing.



Lt Gen Major H. S. Sarao led the assault on Burki, while the Fighting 5th Battalion, was later conferred with the Battle Honor of Burki, Theater Honor of Punjab. Major Raja Aziz Bhatti, who was killed in the attack on Barki, was awarded the Nishan-E-Haider posthomously.


The Indian Army would later go on to capture the town of Dograi on September 20, amidst some stiff resistance, and came within striking distance of Lahore.  However with the ceasefire being called, no attempt was made to capture Lahore.

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1965 Indo-Pak War- Aerial Conflict

Continuing my series on the 1965 War,I had earlier covered Operation Gibraltar and Operation Grand Slam in the run up to the war. In this post I take a look at the aerial conflicts in the war. As I had mentioned earlier, post WWII, the highest number of Tank battles was fought in this conflict. I think only other equivalent could be the Arab-Israel wars and 1990 Gulf War.  Also this war was when Pakistan started covert operations on a large scale.

Now this was the conflict that saw large scale aerial combat between both the sides.  In thee 1948 War, the Indian Air Force was primarily involved in logistics and transport, but during the 1965 War, they played a major role in the combat, giving support to ground forces, and dog fights. IAF evolved from what was purely a support, transport unit into a full fledged combat unit. It was also the first time aerial dogfights took place in an Indo-Pak conflict, IAF flew around 4000 sorties , while PAF flew around 2600 odd.



While both sides made wildly contrasting claims, neutral sources claim around 60-75 Indian aircraft being lost, while for the Pakistan side it was around 20. Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh was the one who guided the IAF well during this critical phase. Post World War II, this witnessed some of the most intense aerial dogfights ever, with both sides taking a large number of casualties.


September 1

The first major operation in which IAF were involved in the ’65 War, to counter the Pakistan Army during Operation Grand Slam. IAF  Squadron 45 headed by S.K.”Marshal” Dhar in Pathankot, that had been moved from Pune to Pathankot  was the one heading the airstrikes here against the Pakistan Army.  Three missions of four aircraft were tasked with carrying out the strikes on Pakistani forces, most of them the Vampire aircraft. Taking off at 17:19 hours, the Indian aircraft strafed the Pakistani airfields, tanks and on ground targets, causing extensive damage. However two PAF F-86 Sabres led Squadron Leader Sarfaraz Rafiqui and Flt Lt Imitiaz  Bhatti, enaged the IAF  in a dogfight, leading to 4 Vampires being lost, and forcing it to withdraw 130 Vampires, along with 50 Ouragons from the action.


One of the most intense air battles took place on Sept 3, 1965 when the PAF Sabres launched a large scale attack, forcing IAF to retaliate with the Folland Gnats. IAF adopted a smart strategy using  slow flying Mysteres to lure the Pak Sabres into attack by the Gnats. While two of the Sabres retreated, one of them piloted by Flt Lt Yusuf Ali Khan, tried to get the Gnats  into the  cross-hairs, before a cloud of Gnats surrounded and attacked him. However with a Lockheed F-104 StarFighter entering the fray, the Gnats had to make a retreat.



The hero of the day was  Squadron Leader Trevor Keelor, who shot down one of the Sabres, and was later awarded the Vir Chakra. Hailing from Lucknow, he studied at the prestigious La Martineire college there, joined the IAF in 1953, and was later promoted to Wing Commander, before retiring in 1978. Flying straight into a crowd of Sabres, he engaged them in a dog fight, and then had to deal with the much superior F-104 Starfighters joining in. Outnumbered, he neverthless fought back and in fact chased a Sabre all the way, bringing it down.  It was the first major victory ever for the IAF against PAF and Keelor was given the nickname of “Sabre Killer”.  Incidentally his brother Denzil Keelor, won the Vir Chakra in the same war, and later served as Air Marshal. Another Squadron leader Brij Pal Singh Sikand, landed by mistake in enemy territory at Parsur, and was taken as POW. Flt Lt Hakimullah Khan who forced the Gnat down in his Lockheed Star Fighter, was later awarded by the Pakistan Government.

September  6

On the same day, Indian Army crossed the border and came within striking distance of Lahore,  PAF launched attacks on Pathankot, Adampur and Halwara airfields. However while the attack on Pathankot was succesful, the other 2 were failures. While IAF lost 10 aircraft on the ground at Pathankot, the Adampur mission was aborted midway, while at Halwara, Indian Hunter aircraft shot down three of the raiders, forcing the rest back. Ace Squadron Leader of PAF, Sarfaraz Rafiqui, who was credited with shooting down 2 Vampires on September 1, was among those who were killed in action.

September 7

Pakistan also parachuted 135 SSG commands at the Pathankot, Adampur, Halwara airfields,  which however proved to be a major disaster. Only 10 of the commandos managed to return back, while the rest were captured as POWs.

IAF on the other hand carried out 33 sorties against the heavily guarded airfields at Sargodha, losing two Mysteres and three Hunters, in the face of stout defence from the PAF local squadrons.


The hero of the day was  Ajjamada Devaiah, of the No 1 Tigers Squadron, who shot down a Pakistani Lockheed Starfighter during an intense dogfight.  Hailing from Coorg, to Dr. Bopayya, he joined the IAF as a pilot in 1954. Posted to the legendary Tigers Squadron, he flew the Mystere IVA Fighter Bomber.  Though he was on standby, he joined the air battle, and was intercepted by a F104 Starfighter, piloted by Flt Lt Amjad Hussain. Inspite of the Starfighter being a faster aircraft. In an intense dogfight, Devayya’s Mystere Bomber was damaged by the Starfighter, yet he counter attacked it, and managed to damage the Starfighter, striking it. While Hussain managed to eject and save himself, Devayya had to crash land, with his aircraft running out of fuel. His body was later discovered by Pakistani villagers, and he was the only one to be posthomously given a Maha Vir Chakra, the only such instance. Devaiah is as much a hero in Coorg as legends like Cariappa, Thimayya, and the private bus circle in Madikeri is named after him.

The other hero of the day was Flt Lt Alfred T Cooke, who engaged 3 PAF Sabres in a straight dogfight, flying a Hawker Hunter. Pakistan Air Force had also launched attacks on the  IAF airfields at Kaliakunda located on the Kharagpur-Tatanagar railway line. Cooke like Trevor Keeler was also a La Martieniere, Lucknow alumnus. When the attack began, Cooke who was leading a patrol, plunged straight into the dog fight engaging 3 Sabres , disregarding his own personal safety. Outmanoeuvring the Sabres with skill, he shot down one of them, in mid air, and damaged the other one badly. Even though he ran out of ammunition, he went in hot chase of the 3rd Sabre, and forcing it to flee.  After September 8, the intensity of the aerial conflict, somewhat lessened, with occasional skirmishes breaking out.


The Folland Gnat nicknamed the Sabre Slayer was the star of the show, credited with shooting down at least 7 Pakistani Sabres. The Folland Gnats of No 9, 23 Squadrons especially played a significant role, while the IAF operated 200 missions simultaneously.

While the IAF did manage to hold it’s own, against the much superior PAF aircraft, it did learn many lessons, and changed it’s tactics. Two of it’s vulnerable areas, ground based defensive radar coverage and lack of air-to-air missiles were identified, and worked upon. India established Fansong-E Low level radar linking it with SA-2 Guideline SAM, and many anti aircraft guns with Soviet assistance. When war broke out in 1971, IAF by then had 36 Squadrons, of which 10 were on the Eastern Front, and over 650 combat aircraft, giving it a decisive edge.

Though the  US imposed a 10 year old arms embargo on both sides, India managed to get over it with assistance from Soviet Union, France and Britian. However the embargo was a disaster for Pakistan, which was over reliant on US and had to get obsolete second hand Sabres from Iran and Mirage IIIs from France.

And lastly the role of Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh, who led the Indian Air Force, with distinction during it’s critical period.  Inspite of Pakistan gaining early advantage, he ensured that IAF gained operational balance within 3 days and strike back. He ensured that aircraft flew over Kashmir to avoid detection, and attacked the major supply lines crippling Pakistan. Inspite of the fact that Pakistan had the more superior aircraft and massive US support, the leadership of Arjan Singh, ensured, it would not be a walk over for them. He also led the modernization of IAF, that would prove to be of critical importance.


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