|A Soldier's Diary||
Sunday, October 3, 1999
ON September 6, 1965, 3 Jat had captured Dograi and put two companies across the Ichhogil canal practically in the outskirts of Lahore. In a curious mixture of failure of communications and of higher command, 3 Jat was pulled back in the afternoon. This gallant Battalion was to recapture Dograi on the night of September 21/22 in the face of very stiff opposition and with heavy casualties. This is the saga of their exceptional grit and valour.
In the Lahore Sector, in the hastily launched Indian response to the Pak attack on Chhamb Sector, 54 Infantry Brigade under 15 Infantry Division attacked on September 6, 1965, to secure the eastern bank of the Ichhogil Canal including the bridges at Dograi and Jallo. In the process the commanders and troops were not physically and mentally prepared for the battle ahead which was to have serious repercussions later. In the first phase, 3 Jat bypassed the Wagah ranger post to its North and suddenly descended upon the Pak screen at village Dial killing 21 and taking 17 prisoners. By 7 a.m., the Jats had established the brigade firm base in area Gosal Dial. Lt-Col Desmond Hayde of the Jats readily agreed to lead the advance from there as 15 Dogra, suffering from battle nerves after some minor skirmishes around the Ranger post, were found unfit to do so. With a squadron of Scinde Horse Jats made a dash for the canal.
Swinging North from Mile 13 to Lakhanke, 3 Jat attacked Dograi along the eastern bank of the canal. A Pak covering platoon on the canal bank and a company of 3 Baluch holding Dograi were put to flight. The Jats were in full control of the village, the canal bank and the partially demolished bridge. Just past mid-day, the enterprising Hayde led two companies across the demolished bridge into Batapur on the left and Attoke Awan on the right of the GT Road. Three truck loads of troops rushing to the canal were destroyed by our infantry and tank fire. Two Pak tanks that made an appearance met a similar fate. Undoubtedly, Pakistan was completely surprised by our attack.
A company of 13 Punjab sent forwards along the railway line to secure the Jallo Bridge wilted under artillery fire and rejoined the battalion which had just hung around the Attari railway station. Commander 54 Infantry Brigade was out of contact with the Jats since 9 a.m. By mid-afternoon Hayde, seriously concerned about the fate of his two companies across the canal, sent an officer to the Brigade headquarters. At about 3 p.m. he was instructed through the tank squadron to withdraw to Gosal Dial. With a heavy heart 3 Jat abandoned its spectacular operational gains and were back in Gosal-Dial by 5.15 p.m.
Their achievement of putting two companies across Ichhogil canal practically in the outskirts of Lahore becomes even more significant when it is considered that the Jats had been without artillery support and that their F-echelon vehicles carrying defence stores and heavier weapons had been shot by Pak Sabres soon after they kicked off from Dial. On this first day of the war, in a depressing operational scenario of failures of command combined with non-performance by13 Punjab and 15 Dogra, the gallant 3 Jat led by the dynamic Hayde had stood out alone in the highest traditions of valour. It was sad that their outstanding achievement was not exploited and they had to do it all over again at great cost.
On the night of September 7 and 8, Pak forces reoccupied Dograi in strength forestalling an attempt by 13 Punjab to retake it. On September 10, Pakistanis probed the defence of 54 Brigade with their armour from the direction of village Mana.
About the same time a troop of centurion tanks from 3 Cavalry approaching Attari was mistaken as an outflanking manoeuvre by the enemy. 13 Punjab and 15 Dogra panicked and abandoned their defences. They were stopped just in the nick of time. In the North, 38 Infantry Brigade pulled back from Ranian to Lopoke, opening a serious threat to Amritsar. During this critical period, 3 Jatstood firm in their defences.
The period of September 11 to 18 was taken up by regrouping to improve the defensive posture on both the Ranian and the GT Road axes. Aggressive patrolling was carried out to dominate the enemy and to stabilise the operational situation. In the meantime, Brig Niranjan Singh, MC, had assumed command of 54 Brigade. To still secure the eastern bank of the Ichhogil canal, on September 17, Hayde was given the task of recapturing Dograi September 22. The intervening period was spent in making through preparations for the attack. Hayde and his leaders carried out detailed observation of the defences of Dograi from as close as 500 yards at great personal risk. Officer-led patrols brought in a wealth of information. Aggressive fighting patrols, some even in company strength, went out to establish night domination; to simulate attacks; to gauge the enemy reaction; to force him to compact his defences, away from the proposed lines of approach of the battalion and to allow him no rest. As a consequence, the derelict old village of Dograi was found abandoned.
By the evening of September 21, the Jats were fully geared up for the attack. The plan was simple and had been thoroughly absorbed by the leaders and men. In the early part of the night of September 21, 13 Punjab failed to capture enemy defences in Mile 13. Despite this development, 3 Jat was ordered to go ahead with their attack on Dograi. 3 Jat attacked from just North of Lakhanke, along the canal. At 2 a.m., on a signal from Hayde, the Jats rose as one man to go into the assault. Within the hour all the four companies were fighting their way through the formidable defences in the built-up area of Dograi. Many were the acts of individual and collective valour performed during this fierce fighting.
Sub Pale Ram leading C Company charged the enemy firing from the canal bank. After 10 minutes of fierce combat, a company of 12 Punjab (Pak) was routed. Sub Pale Ram lay on a bunker he had destroyed with six bullets in his body (Fortunately he survived and was decorated with a Vr C). Of the 73 men of C Company who had charged the enemy, only 21 were on their feet. Capt Sandhu, leading B Company put to flight a platoon of 3 Baluch guarding the temporary rope slung across the canal.
Maj Tyagi, ran on with super human determination despite receiving two bullets in his back to hit the likely enemy tank harbour. His Jats quickly dispatched the crews trying to mount two tanks. Tyagi bayonetted Maj Nazar, B Squadron Commander of 23 Cavalry (Pak), who simultaneously shot Tyagi twice with his pistol. A Pak sowar rushed forward and knifed the prone Tyagi. Sepoy Zile Singh after killing the Pak sowar carried the critically wounded Tyagi to safety but was himself killed as soon as he put him down. The brave Tyagi died in the hospital five days later and was decorated with a posthumous MVC. Lance Havildar Randhir Singh and Sepoy Ram Chander, unmindful of their own safety destroyed two pillboxes with pole charges from which machine guns were playing havoc with their company. Both these gallant men were themselves killed. Capt Thapa lobbed a grenade through a lop hole but was wounded himself. Despite his wound, he assaulted single handed three trenches but was shot through the head (decorated posthumously with an MVC).
Lance Naik Arjun Ram grabbed the barrel of a light machine gun firing from a bunker and silenced it but was killed himself. The leaders at all levels were at the forefront and the men followed them without hesitation and with little concern for their own safety.
By 4 a.m., the Pak defenders had started running away. Around 4.30 a.m. a counter-attack by a company of 3 Baluch coming over the Jalo bridge was decimated by B Company. Maj Durjan Singh Shekhawat, the second-in-command, with a very determined effort, brought up the much-needed stores to strengthen the Jat defences of Dograi. At around 5.40 a.m., Capt Jagtar Sangha of Scinde Horse, in a battle scenario reminiscent of cavalry traditions of yore, charged with his tanks, with guns and machine guns blazing away, to overrun two companies of 16 Punjab still holding out at Mile 13. By 6.15 a.m. the battle for Dograi was won. Three counter attacks during the day and night of September 22, were beaten back with heavy loss to the enemy.
The magnitude of the achievement of 3 Jat is magnified manifold when we consider the battalion had fought against an enemy not only superior in numbers and fire power but was also augmented with additional elements from four other battalions fighting from very well prepared defences in a built up area. Jats, had defied the principle that an attacker should have a superiority of two to one or even more over the defender. The final outcome was decided by the high morale, high quality of leadership and an unflagging fighting spirit of 3 Jat.
In both battles for Dograi, 3 Jat suffered 88 killed and 231 wounded. Of these 5 officers were killed and 9 wounded, involving practically all officers of the battalion, an affirmation that they had led from the front. Gallantry awards given were 3 MVC, 4 VrC, 7 Sena Medals, 12 Mention in Dispatches and 11 Chief of Staffs Commendation Cards. The casualty figures and the decorations amply bear witness to the outstanding performance by the incomparable 3 Jat in the face of very heavy odds.
I learnt some of the
vital aspects of the craft of leadership from the devoted
men of 3 Jat. It is 43 years since I left them and 34
years since the Battle for Dograi took place. The cry
still comes from the heart, "Bravo, the gallant 3
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