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Posted at: Oct 20, 2019, 7:40 AM; last updated: Oct 20, 2019, 7:40 AM (IST)

Well done, we did well

Col TBS Bedi (Retd)
MILITARY MATTERS
Col TBS Bedi (Retd)

Col TBS Bedi (Retd)

CITATION is a touchy subject, and there can, without a doubt, be diverse opinions on what merits it and what does not. Nevertheless, it is a task that should never be taken casually. That, in short, is the only submission.  

In the Battle of Hussainiwala during the India-Pakistan War in December 1971, 15 Punjab Regiment was deployed at Hussainiwala Enclave in Ferozepur sector for defending it, and particularly the head works. The road-rail-cum-barrage bridge was the lifeline for troops deployed across the Sutlej. The samadhi of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru was also located across the bridge. A situation had emerged in which the bridge was prepared for reserved demolition in case of regrouping of our forces so as to stop the advance of Pakistan army into Ferozepur town.

Four spans of the bridge were demolished. When the ceasefire was declared, our territory across the Sutlej was under control of the Pakistan army. The far bank of the river and bridge were occupied by the enemy forces and the home bank was with us. The river served as no-man’s land.

Winches of steel rope for pulling the sluice steel gates of the barrage were damaged during the demolition. It was not possible to lift the gates manually to allow river water to pass through without obstruction in case of floods. There was a great danger of Ferozepur town getting flooded in case heavy water flow was obstructed by the gates.

I was a Captain at the time and the workshop platoon commander of an Engineer Regiment. My CO tasked us with cutting the steel gates skilfully so as to avoid this coming to the notice of the Pakistani forces sitting on the far bank of the river. I took my welder team and entered the bridge site in between the demolished spans. The thick steel gates were cut vertically using gas cutting during day time to avoid any flash of the light. When we ran short, we arranged locally improvised acetylene. Ferozepur was saved from any flooding problems.

During a train trip to Delhi, my Corps Chief Engineer was also travelling in the same bogey. He spoke of the commendable job and expressed surprise why he had not received any recommendation of a citation.

Now, to Part Two. It relates to Siachen Glacier area. I was commanding a field company under ‘Op Meghdoot’ operations during 1985-86. We were located at Thoise. Even the smallest supply item to the glacier was to be carried in a Cheetah. After several sorties during the day, the helicopters had to return to Leh in the evening. There was no provision for night parking at Thoise. An urgent need was felt to construct a high-altitude hanger at Thoise so that four Cheetahs could be stationed. 

We were given the task to construct the hanger in adverse climate and wind conditions. An insulated pre-fabricated hanger was designed at Udhampur. Fabrication orders were placed with a firm in Chandigarh and all the parts were air-lifted.

Casting of RCC column footings was done  using a water-level tube connected to a water drum! Sand and aggregates were arranged locally since no building material was available. Cold weather concreting was done using hot water. The work was completed in a record time of 30 days. 

The AOC-in-C visited the site twice. He greatly appreciated the speed and quality of work. Our company got two AOC-in-C Command Commendation cards. The citations had been written by the local Air Force base commander without knowledge of my Regiment. The CO was surprised. 

There’s no right, no wrong. Only memorable experiences and the great honour of having served with men who did their duty tirelessly and selflessly. Unforgettable.  

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