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From ‘deserter’ to abandon warrior: The story of the officer who escaped from hospital to hitch battle in opposition to Pakistan in 1971

What follows is an account of my contribution as an Armoured Corps officer in India’s nice army victory over Pakistan of 1971. I lived by these thrilling days half a century in the past however the recollections of battle stay recent

I at all times wished to be a soldier; my grandfather’s service within the cavalry of the British Indian Army was an excellent motivation. I used to be commissioned in March 1968 and was allotted The Deccan Horse, the regiment of my selection the place my forefathers had served throughout generations.

The regiment was posted to Jammu’s Chamb-Jourian sector in May 1971 at the same time as an India-Pakistan conflict was turning into likelier by the day. Most of us younger officers had been filled with josh and raring to go. I used to be exhilarated to be in a spot the place the enemy was certain to be met in battle.

Then got here a bolt from the blue: I used to be posted to the yet-to-be-raised 6 Independent Armoured Squadron on the Indian Armoured Corps Centre & School (ACC&S), Ahmednagar in November, by which era conflict had turn out to be a certainty. The squadron was commanded by Major RD Law from the seventh Cavalry that had added to its honours at Zoji La within the conflict of 1947-48. Our second-in-command was Captain AK Bhatia from the pioneering 62 Cavalry. As one of many troop leaders, I used to be made lieutenant; Second Lieutenant KR Badbade of the distinguished Central India Horse reduce a slightly dashing determine as the opposite troop chief.

The then Lieut Ved Pal Singh Dahiya of 6 Indep Armd Sqn ( ACC& S) 1971. Image courtesy Lt Col Ved Pal Singh Dahiya (Retd)

The elevating was ordered at such a breakneck tempo that officers hadn’t even eliminated the insignias of their unique models from their uniforms. Our squadron was the quickest to be raised within the historical past of the Armoured Corps. We obtained spanking new Russian-made T-55 tanks with formidable 100 mm essential weapons, though mounted anti-aircraft weapons had been missing. The Junior Commissioned Officers and troops had been of combined background however all had been from T-55 educated regiments. All in all, it was a novel and promising begin. The squadron’s quick however very intense coaching and battle-zeroing of the tanks was accomplished within the unbelievable time of per week.

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Soon sufficient, we had been off to satisfy the approaching conflict as a part of 12 Infantry Division. Loaded on a particular practice sure for dusty Jaisalmer on 13 November, 1971, we got a grand farewell at Ahmednagar Railway Station. I keep in mind the Armoured Corps Band was enjoying ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’; I keep in mind being electrified by the martial high quality of the music and the photographs it evoked.

Unfortunately, no member of the family of any officer was current apart from these of Badbade was given a heat farewell by his mother and father and sisters who had come from Poona. Sorrow does tinge the reminiscence of each nice victory. I keep in mind Captain Bhatia remarking to me as we boarded the practice: “Ved, how lucky Kishore (Badbade) is to receive such a great farewell from his family members. We don’t have any one from our families.” Little did we all know then what luck had in retailer for this younger cavalry officer.

The shifting finger of destiny data Kishore Badbade as the primary officer conflict casualty of 12 Infantry Division in enemy motion on 6 December, 1971.

My ‘Great Escape’

The squadron reached Jaisalmer by way of Ahmedabad-Bhagat-ki-Kothi (Jodhpur) and Pokhran on 18 November, 1971. The journey included operating a logistical gauntlet in altering to a metre-gauge railway observe at Ahmedabad. We had been inducted into the conflict zone close to the PWD Gang Hut on Longewala-Ghotaru Road within the common space of Asutar.

Major Law continued to encourage us through the desert coaching and upkeep of tanks by the times that adopted. Unfortunately for me, I used to be affected by a extreme case of bleeding piles on the time. I made a decision to not report sick in order that I might participate within the coming conflict. My well being deteriorated as days handed. The inevitable occurred: Captain Bhatia obtained to know of my situation, and he knowledgeable Major Law. The squadron commander would hear none of my entreaties and despatched me to the Medical Officer of 20 Lancers, Captain VK Madan, on 2 December, 1971.

After medical investigation, I used to be despatched to army Hospital, Jodhpur, for additional therapy on 3 December. More medical assessments had been performed over the next two days. It was quickly after this that I obtained to know Pakistani forces had come into our territory on the intervening night time of 5-6 December, and that heavy combating befell round our put up at Longewala Junction.

I used to be wracked by guilt at not being with my squadron presently. Official channels would have been of no avail, so there was just one course left to me: I abandoned.

By 10 am on 6 December, I used to be on the street main out of Jodhpur. I started making my method to my squadron by any means potential, utilizing a three-wheeler, bus and practice in order to achieve Jaisalmer by mid-afternoon.

From deserter to desert warrior Story of officer who escaped from hospital to join battle against Pakistan in 1971

Captain VPS Dahiya (centre) and different officers of HQ squadron, 75 Armoured Regiment, that was raised in Pakistani territory in March 1972. Also within the image is Laila, the commanding officer’s – and regiment’s – beloved cocker spaniel. Image courtesy Lt Col VPS Dahiya (Retd)

The officer commanding the induction cell on the railway station despatched me to Ramgarh by an Army truck that was taking different troopers to the identical conflict zone as my squadron. On reaching Ramgarh, I took a carry in one other truck of 23 Punjab Battalion and reached Longewala Post. The space across the put up was affected by burnt and destroyed army autos and tools of all types.

Back within the combat

I used to be standing a long way away from a still-burning Pakistani tank after I was noticed by Captain Arjun Singh (later Brigadier), from 20 Lancers. To his question, I replied I had abandoned from MH Jodhpur and wanted to hitch my squadron. When he requested me the place the squadron was, I had no reply. Captain Singh was somewhat shocked however supplied me a carry to the water assortment level within the space from the place I had likelihood to search out my unit.

My wait on the water level proved futile so I opted to take a carry within the water truck of 20 Lancers. Lt Col GS Bawa, the 20 Lancers Commandant, despatched me alongside along with his adjutant Captain AS Kler (later Major General) with a Pakistani prisoner of conflict, Sepoy Aurangzeb, to the ahead place of Headquarters 12 Infantry Division. I met the General Officer Commanding, Major General RF Khambatta, and 30 Infantry Brigade Commander Brigadier EN Ramadoss. Both senior officers appreciated the combating spirit embodied in my determined seek for my unit and despatched me ahead to the infantry battalion (6/5 Gorkha Rifles) that was shifting to occupy floor vacated by defeated Pakistani forces.

At that point, Captain Khatri from 45 Cavalry requested me to drive a Pakistani T-59 left behind by fleeing enemy forces. I drove this tank to the headquarters of 30 Infantry Brigade, amused that my search had now included driving a captured enemy T-59 in direction of the battle zone!

Once we reached our goal, I met the commanding officer of 6/5 Gorkha Rifles. We walked collectively for a long way and he requested me numerous questions, on a regular basis appreciative of my willpower. He then despatched two troopers with me as escort to help in my seek for the squadron.

It was late within the night and the solar was taking place after we entered the gun place of an artillery regiment, the place we had been instantly captured by a vigilant guard. We had been marched to the adjutant of the regiment for interrogation. I used to be in possession of my identification card and the adjutant, Captain HC Hooda, occurred to know my whole household since he too was from Rohtak.

It had obtained darkish, and Captain Hooda suggested me to remain at his place for the night time. After an early breakfast on 7 December, he despatched me on to find my squadron. Somehow, I managed to search out autos of our squadron which had been prepared to maneuver to the ahead zone for replenishment of tanks.

On the way in which, our autos had been attacked by enemy plane. Our troops suffered minor accidents, however one of many autos was destroyed.

Finally, I used to be dwelling! I jumped onto my tank and joined my troop at about 10 am. At this level, the Squadron Commander’s voice crackled over the tank radio, searching for an ‘OK Report’ from troop leaders. Major Law was pleasantly stunned when he heard my voice affirming readiness for motion. Since the motion was underway, he requested me to satisfy him proper after the assault.

After the primary ahead motion of seven December, I met the Squadron Commander. He too admired my resolve to combat. It was he then who contacted HQ 12 Infantry Division and obtained my desertion report from MH Jodhpur quashed and discharge certificates issued. The night time of seven December was spent within the upkeep and replenishment of tanks for additional operations.

In the thick of it

Battle was joined in earnest on 8 December when our squadron and 6/5 Gorkha Rifles attacked enemy positions on the dominating heights of the sand options alongside Longewala-Ghotaru street. I led my troop in all of the assaults over the following two days, and with artillery assist in addition to floor assault sorties by IAF Hunters, we devastated the enemy forces who retreated in haste from the ferocity of our motion. We misplaced two tanks within the bloody and intense combating. Our Squadron additionally misplaced courageous and gallant tank males within the battle close to BP 638. We suffered the martyrdom of 1 officer, one JCO, one NCO, and 4 tank-men.

By the afternoon of 9 December, we had captured and occupied the final space of Kharo Tar together with the supporting infantry and artillery models. A lot of combating machines, autos and a large amount of kit had been left behind by the retreating enemy forces. This marked the tip of Pakistani aggression in Longewala sector.

On 10 December, our squadron was ordered to maneuver to the 11 Infantry Division sector, the Barmer-Naya Chor conflict zone. Again, it was a army particular practice that we used for the aim from Jaisalmer. Our tank practice was given cowl by fight air patrols of the IAF, and we reached the Pakistani railway station of Khokropar in Sindh province by way of Barmer. Our squadron then moved at night time to the defended space of 9 Madras Battalion for additional operations.

Over the following 5 days, we fought battle after battle in opposition to the Pakistani place within the common space of Parbat Ali and Parche-di-Beri on the outskirts of the township of Naya Chor. On 17 December, when a ceasefire was declared, 11 Infantry Division had superior about 54 km inside Sindh province of Pakistan.

But our job wasn’t over but. From 18 December onwards, we carried out offensive patrolling to dominate the captured Pakistan territory. On 20 December, throughout offensive patrolling we reached the world held by 15 Kumaon Battalion, the unit of my youthful brother, Captain YPS Dahiya. I used to be wanting ahead to assembly him however was disillusioned to be taught that my brother took a patrol occasion to recce the captured areas. I needed to make do with talking to him over a wi-fi set.

At one level that day, the 2 tank troops of squadron together with my brother’s ad-hoc recce and assist firm known as ‘Balwan’ had been tasked to assault Pakistani intruders who had occupied tactically sturdy positions in our captured areas. As we approached, the Pakistani commander made a renewed acquaintance with concern and quickly vacated the dominant heights. We stayed within the space until the tip of 1971 together with 9 Madras. This interval was utilised in repairs, upkeep and coaching. Above all, the tank-men obtained a lot deserved relaxation and respite on the battlefront.

Revelry and rivalry

On 31 December, I took permission from Major Law to have a good time the brand new yr with my youthful brother at his battalion location within the Gadra Road space. Major Law was variety sufficient to just accept my request, and off I went to 15 Kumaon. I used to be warmly obtained by the officers of the battalion, who had been in a jolly temper due to the variety of awards and decorations that 15 Kumaon had received within the seize of Gadra. My brother YPS Dahiya obtained a ‘Mention-in-Despatches’ for his disregard of private security in main his males from the entrance through the assault on Gadra, though I used to be advised his suggestion was for a Vir Chakra.

We had been all having a good time when the previous infantry-cavalry rivalry surfaced. Major AS Khatri from 15 Kumaon challenged me to settle the difficulty with bottoms-up of whisky drinks. I accepted the problem. We emptied our glasses a number of occasions in speedy succession, the battalion officers shouting ‘Bottoms Up’ for each drink. We will need to have had about seven or eight such bouts of hard-drinking when Major Khatri fell flat on his face: he had gone bottoms up, his rear finish pointed skywards!

The briefly inactivated captain was then loaded on to a captured Pakistani camel with all due honour, and brought to the battalion medical room. The occasion continued, and the officers of 15 Kumaon raised a toast in my honour in true army custom and magnificence. It was actually the very best new yr celebration ever in my military years.

The writer retired in 1995 and lives at Ahmednagar Cantonment (Maharashtra), additionally known as ‘Armoured Nagar’.

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