Tag Archives: Gallantray awards

Ireland Born officer Who Led India in Its Greatest Infantry Battle

Lieutenant Colonel Desmond E Hayde, the man who led his troops from the 3 Jat battalion into one of the greatest, yet bloodiest infantry battle ever fought in Post-Independent India during the 1965 war against Pakistan, was born in Ireland to Anglo-Indian parents on November 26, 1928. Despite his origins, it was the tricolour that coursed through his veins. Leading 550 men into battle against an enemy force twice that number and allied with support from a tank squadron, Lt Col Hayde masterminded the capture of Dograi, a township on the outskirts of Lahore, in a battle that raged from September 21-23.

This was a show of remarkable courage, smarts and pure conviction, battling the enemy with everything they had—guns, grenades and bayonets—besides engaging in some brutal hand-to-hand combat. In the process, they managed to clear out an entire township, not missing a street, gulley, house or enemy bunker. Interestingly enough, he didn’t win the Mahavir Chakra for this heroic battle, but for another, that should have easily secured Dograi two weeks earlier.

As part of Operation Riddle, the 3 Jat battalion was ordered to breach the Ichhogil Canal, which was built by the then Punjab (Pakistan) chief minister to ostensibly protect Lahore from Indian aggression eight kms inside Pakistani territory. Although Colonel Hayde and his men managed to take the Dograi township on the intervening night of September 6-7 (for which he won the Mahavir Chakra), no supporting units of the Indian armed forces were forthcoming because of a glaring communication gap. They held their ground until receiving orders from the brigade headquarters to retreat.

As a consequence of that communication gap, Colonel Hayde and his men had to fall back and wait for two weeks in Santpura village – deep inside Pakistani territory, before receiving orders to launch another offensive on Dograi. Unfortunately, in the intervening two weeks, Pakistani forces had substantially strengthened their presence in Dograi, bringing another  battalion to support the one already present and enlisting a tank squadron to help them. The odds were heavily against Colonel Hayde and his men, but in a stirring address to his troops on the night of September 21, 1965, he made just two simple demands:

1)‘Not a single man will turn back!’ and 2) ‘Dead or alive, we have to meet in Dograi!’

In approximately two days, Colonel Hayde and his brave men from the 3 Jat battalion re-captured Dograi, losing in the process 86 troops while taking out nearly 300 Pakistani soldiers.

A leader who was worshiped by his regiment, the daring hero of Dograi was awarded the Mahavir Chakra for his incredible courage and exemplary leadership.

“Brigadier Hayde never spoke about the Maha Vir Chakra or the Battle of Dograi. He thought of it as a job he had to do, and he did it,” says Colonel Singh, who runs the Hayde Heritage school in Kotdwar, Uttarakhand, in a conversation with Rediff. “He never even travelled on a free ticket that the government grants (for winners of gallantry medals). He was a rough, rugged, tough, guy for whom every day of life was the Indian Army.” Following retirement, Brigadier Hayde constantly fought in defence of better conditions for the Indian soldier and assisting former members of the Jat regiment in their day-to-day affairs, before unfortunately succumbing to skin cancer on September 25, 2013. Today, he rests alongside his wife at a cemetery in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh.

Idris Hasan Latif – IAF Chief Who Chose India over Pakistan

Former Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Idris Hasan Latif, who spurned the offer to join Pakistan Air Force after partition and rose to be the service chief, breathed his last at the ripe old age of 94, on 30th of April 2018 in Hyderabad. Air Chief Marshal Latif was appointed as the Chief of Air Staff on 31 August 1978 and he remained in saddle till 1981 when he retired. He subsequently served as the Indian Ambassador to France and the Governor of Maharashta.

The official website of IAF states that when partition brought about the division of the Indian armed forces, Latif as a Muslim officer was faced with the choice of joining both India or Pakistan. “Even though both Asghar as well as Noor Khan called him up to persuade Latif to join them in the fledgling Pakistan Air Force, Latif made it clear that for him, religion and country were not interlinked. It was no surprise that Latif made his way to become the first Muslim Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force,” the IAF website states. Air Marshal Asghar Khan later rose to become the Chief of Air Staff of Pakistan Air Force.

Idris Hasan Latif was born in Hyderabad on 9th June 1923 to a well-known Suleimani Bohra family. He attended the prestigious Nizam College and applied to join the Indian Air Force as soon as he turned 17.5 years old–the earliest age permitted. Selected in 1941, he went through initial flying training at Begumpet and was commissioned in Royal Indian Air Force on 26th January 1942.On completion of his training at Ambala, he was posted to the No.2 Coastal Defence Flight in Karachi, where he flew vintage biplane aircrafts like the Wapiti, Audaxes and Harts, on Anti-Submarine flights over the Arabian Sea.

During 1943-44, he was one of the few Indian pilots to be seconded to the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom. There he underwent training on more contemporary aircraft like the Hurricane and Spitfire, with the Operational squadrons of the RAF. He returned to India in 1944 and took part in the Burma campaign, flying the Hawker Hurricane for No.3 Squadron. This involved flying interdiction sorties against ground targets. After the campaign, Latif was posted to Madras, but soon he joined No.9 Squadron in Burma, again flying the Hawker Hurricane.

In June 1946, Latif was part of an Indian contingent, which participated in a huge Victory Parade in London. After the war, Latif on, promotion to the Squadron Leader, became the Commanding Officer of No.4 Oorials, flying the Hawker Tempest. He led the first fly past over New Delhi, after India turned a republic in 1950. In 1951, the decorated Air Force Chief married Bilkees, the daughter of Nawab Ali Yavar Jung. She stood by his side for 66 years till she passed away in 2017.

India fought a war in 1965 against Pakistan. Latif, who had by then been promoted to Air Commodore, was the first Air Defence Commander for the Eastern Theatre. His combat experience saw him appointed to the new post of Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Plans), during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, during which he carried out the onerous tasks of making first line assessment of frontline combat squadrons and the modernisation plans of the air force. His role as Air Chief Marshal PC Lal’s emissary during the IAF’s operations in the Eastern Theater, saw him decorated with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal in 1974.

The IAF website also mentions that as the Chief of Air Staff, Latif was involved fully in the re-equipment and modernisation plans of the air force. He was instrumental in seeking government approval for the procurement of the Jaguar strike aircraft, a proposal which was lying dormant for over 8 years. He also held negotiations with the Russians and saw the induction of the MiG-23 and later, the MiG-25 aircraft into the IAF. One of the last acts before retirement was to fly in the trisonic MiG-25, which was then just assembled from a semi-knocked down condition by the Air Force personnel. Only in 1988, did the former Air Chief Marshal retire, and returned to Hyderabad with his wife, where they worked for social causes. The legendary Idris Hasan Latif is remembered by all as a great strategic genius, a planning maverick and an IAF hero.

Zorawar Chand Bakshi – The Greatest Wartime Hero & The Most Decorated General

He had been decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra, Vir Chakra, Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Vishisht Seva Medal and the little known but highly prized MacGregor Memorial Medal! Is it any surprise that he is India’s most decorated officer?

Fondly called “Zoru” by his friends and colleagues, Lt General Bakshi, was born in 1921 in Gulyana town, Rawalpindi district, Pakistan. His father, Bahadur Bakshi Lal Chand Lau, was a decorated soldier with the British Indian Army. Like his father, Lt General Bakshi enlisted in the British Indian Army, fighting the Japanese with the Baloch Regiment in Burma during World War II. His name was mentioned in dispatches by the British government, for conducting successful ambushes against the Japanese, says this tribute by Major General Ashok Mehta published in The Indian Express.

Following the Partition of India, while his family moved out of Pakistan and into India, he served on the Punjab Boundary Force—an ad hoc military force set up to restore law and order during the bloody communal clashes that took place along the Punjab border. After the partition, he was commissioned into the 5th Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) as a Brigade Major, and for his efforts in the war for Kashmir in 1947-48, he was awarded the Vir Chakra.

Two years later in 1949, Major Bakshi undertook a military reconnaissance mission into Tibet reportedly on the orders of Sardar Patel, the then Home Minister. He trekked a distance of 400 km over 80 days disguised as a Buddhist monk; traversing along some of the highest mountain passes in the world on foot. It is imperative to remember that this was a time when no foreigners were allowed inside Tibet. Entering Tibet via the famous Nathu-La pass, he brought back with him critical strategic intelligence. For his successful mission, Major Bakshi was awarded the MacGregor Memorial Medal.

In the early 1960s, he led the battalion on a United Nations peacekeeping mission in civil war-ravaged Congo. Finally, in December 1962, the Indian forces sent on behalf of the United Nations ran through Tshombe’s army in a major offensive called the Operation Grand Slam. The following year, he was awarded the distinguished Vishisht Seva Medal.

However, Lt General Bakshi’s most notable achievement was the capture of the Haji Pir Pass, a critical access point connecting Poonch to Uri in the Kashmir Valley during the 1965 war against Pakistan. It was Operation Bakshi—codenamed after him—which led to the capture of the Haji Par Pass and proved to be a significant turning point for the Indian forces. For his efforts, he was awarded the prestigious Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest gallantry award, along with the heroic Major Ranjit Singh Dayal.

Next on the list of achievements was his role as Divisional Commander during the 1971 War against Pakistan, where he led his forces to capture the narrow strip of Pakistani territory (approximately 170 miles) that extended into the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir south of Akhnoor, which Lt General Bakshi called it the ‘Chicken’s neck’ and sought to snap it into two and push the Pakistani forces back. As predicted, he was successful in making it happen, and once again led a moment that would turn the tide of the war in India’s favour. He was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal for his efforts. After leading counter-insurgency operations in Nagaland, he retired in 1979. Lieutenant General Bakshi passed away on 24th May 2018 at the ripe old age of 97. He leaves behind a remarkable legacy, fighting and serving across different theatres of battle both at home and abroad.

The Major who Single-handedly Killed Four Terrorists

Major Avinash Singh Bhadauria, was born on December 14th, 1971 in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Though he was the son of a prominent political leader in Uttar Pradesh Ganga Singh Bhadauria, he showed no inclination to join politics. Instead, since childhood, he had a passion for armed forces and always wished to join the Indian Army. In 1990, Maj Avinash joined the prestigious National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, Pune to fulfill his dream. During his time at the NDA, Major Avinash Singh Bhadauria received the award of “Battalion Cadet Captain ” and was always an outstanding performer, excelling at his training courses.

Major Avinash Singh Bhadauria was then commissioned into 18 Madras of the Madras Regiment. Subsequently, keeping in view his training profile, he was posted at Hathigarh, a Naxalite affected area in Assam, and then to Jamnagar in Kutch near the Indo-Pak border in Gujarat.  Thereafter, he was deputed to serve with 8 Rashtriya Rifles battalion, engaged in counter insurgency operations in J & K.

Maj Avinash got married to Shalini in 1997, who also joined the army later and served in the rank of Captain.

Doda Operation: Sep 2001

On September 28, 2001, Maj Avinash’s unit had received specific information from intelligence sources about the presence of some hardcore terrorists in Doda district of J & K. A decision was taken to launch a search and destroy operation to engage the terrorists under the leadership of Maj Avinash. Maj Avinash quickly assessed the situation and made out an operational to nab them. He then along with his troops swung into action and cordoned off the suspected area of the hideout.

Maj Avinash and his men soon spotted the militants, who started firing at them on being challenged. A fierce gun-battle followed and Maj Avinash fought gallantly, taking the lives of four terrorists single-handedly. However, Maj Avinash got injured in the exchange of fire and was martyred. The brave 29-year-old soldier fought till his last breath, before succumbing to his injuries. Inspired by Maj Avinash’s gallant leadership and offensive spirit, his troops successfully eliminated the terrorists and achieved the objective of the operation.  

Maj Avinash Singh Bhadauria was given the nation’s second highest peacetime gallantry award “Kirti Chakra” for his outstanding leadership, unfailing courage and supreme sacrifice.

Maj Avinash Singh Bhadauria is survived by his wife Shalini, son Dhruv Singh. At 23, Shalini found herself widowed. Her 2-year-old son had lost his father. She knew she had to be strong for him. So she decided to join the Army. Her husband’s colleagues warned her of the mental and physical challenges of the job, especially with her toddler wholly dependent on her. But she was ready to do whatever it took.   Finally, on the 7th of September, 2002, twenty days short of her husband’s first death anniversary, she was commissioned as an Officer in the Indian Army. She served in the army for 6 years, before resigning to give her son a more settled life.

Major Dahiya Displayed Exemplary Courage Against Terrorists in Kashmir

Major Satish Dahiya was born on 22 Sep 1985 and hailed from Narnaul in Mahendragarh district of Haryana. Maj Dahiya completed his schooling from Uttar Pradesh and pursued higher studies from Rajasthan University. He did not belong to a military family but always yearned to be a part of one. Hence, he joined the army in 2008 and was commissioned into the Army Service Corps, the logistic supply arm of Indian Army.  After serving with his corps for a couple of years Maj Dahiya was deputed to serve with 30 RR battalion deployed in J & K area. While serving with 30 Rashtriya Rifles unit, Maj Dahiya participated in many counterinsurgency operations. He was a soldier at heart and an officer par excellence, who believed in leading from the front in an operation like a true military leader.

Right from the time militancy engulfed the otherwise peaceful state of Jammu and Kashmir in the early Nineties, Kupwara, being a border district in Kashmir valley, had been the worst affected. And it is strongly believed that due to the false notion of being alienated by the state, the Kashmiri youth, to some extent, have covertly been assisting the militants exported by Pakistan. Every Rashtriya Rifles battalion has an Army Service Corps (ASC) officer posted on its war establishment who not only looks after the supply and logistics of the battalion, but also forms part of the fighting element of the battalion. Major Satish Dahiya, an ASC officer, was one such braveheart who, before laying down his life, exhibited the stuff he was made of. For his unmatched gallantry and supreme sacrifice fighting the militants, Major Satish Dahiya was posthumously awarded the Shaurya Chakra.

Battle account of bravery in War Diary of 30 Rashtriya Rifle reads…

“On February 14, 2017, Major Satish Dahiya of 30 Rashtriya Rifles was in charge of Cordon and Search Operation in Hajan village in Kupwara district. The village is located close to Hafruda and Rajbar forest, where the terrorists usually hide before proceeding to Baramulla or Sopore in North Kashmir. At about 5.30 pm, while he was placing the cordon at the identified site, the terrorists opened indiscriminate firing from close range. Major Dahiya and his party retaliated with accurate fire in which three terrorists were killed and the remaining fled downhill towards a nullah. Major Dahiya, unmindful of his personal safety, chased the fleeing militants and killed one more but he too was injured in his right thigh. Oblivious of his injury, he kept chasing the fleeing militants and killed one more but this time he was hit in the abdomen by a militant’s fire from close range and fell unconscious. The remaining militants, by then, had escaped in the thick jungle. Immediately, Major Dahiya, in an unconscious state, was put in an ambulance for evacuation to the battalion headquarters at village Langait where a helicopter awaited to evacuate the officer to Base Hospital, Srinagar. When the ambulance was a few kilometres short of the helipad, a mob gheraoed it and started pelting stones and did not let it move forward for almost half an hour till an armoured ambulance reach the site and dispersed the mob. Major Dahiya, though unconscious, was breathing when the ambulance reached the helipad but the officer breathed his last while being put in the helicopter. Maj Satish Dahiya is survived by his wife Smt Sujata Dahiya and daughter Priya.  For their third wedding anniversary, Major Satish Dahiya had sent his wife Sujata gifts. A cake and candles, flowers, which reached her after he died. Sujata Dahiya, 27, held the gifts her husband sent close as she told NDTV, “It reached me after he died. He left a greeting for me which read, ‘I love you Poocha, you are my inspiration’, Satish.” Fighting back tears Sujata Dahiya said she is immensely proud of her husband.