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.