Unsung Heroes of Rezang La

Here is the story of the brave soldiers of Indian army, during the Indo-China war in 1962. The story is of gallantry, patriotism and dedication of a small platoon of Indian soliders who bravely fought a battalion of Chinese army with full artillery support.

Thanks to @Peacef_Warrior and @anilkohli54 for sharing the detailed account on Twitter. 

Introduction

Rezang La was the site of the last stand of the 13 Kumaon, during the War in 1962 company led by Maj Shaitan Singh (Winner of Param Vir Chakra). On 18 November 1962, 114 Indian soldiers out of a total of 123 were killed killing 1300 Chinese soldiers in the battle.

Unsung Heroes of Rezang La
Rezang La memorial: In memory of those Unsung heroes
(Photograph courtsey: wikimapia.org)

Charlie Company of a battalion called 13 Kumaon was divided in several platoons on one ridge of two kilometres protecting the airfield of Chushul which was vital if India was to hold Ladakh. It was attacked on the morning of November 18 by maybe 5,000-6,000 Chinese Army with heavy artillery support. A crest behind this ridge prevented Indian artillery from being able to support jawans. What did these jawans do? They fought 2 last man last round.

Honorary Captain Ramchander Yadav and Havaldar Nihal Singh are the 2 of the 6 soldiers who survived this battle. Here is an account of the war as described by these two soldiers…

Yadav: I was his radio man.

Singh: And I was his personal guard with the light machine gun (LMG). I cannot sleep when those scenes come to my mind. It has been 52 years, yet it seems the war has just taken place.

After being hit by bullets I disassembled the LMG and threw it so that the enemy could not use it.

I was in terrible pain. After some time, Chinese pulled me out from the bunker. They asked my name in English. They asked for the names of my Commanding Officer and Brigade Commander. I said no.

And then they asked me to go for first aid by communicating in sign language.

Yadav and Singh: It was 18,000 ft and there was snowfall all around the wind was very cold. We were not having proper clothes.

Singh: They took me to their post around 5 p.m. I could see their artillery on the other side of the ditch. I thought of running but waited. The soldiers who took me in custody were walking around and talking. By then it became dark and it occurred to me that I should run. I slowly sneaked out from there. When I walked almost 500 metres, they fired three shots in the air.

Yadav: I was a sepoy in Charlie Company of 13 Kumaon Regiment and was with the Major at Rezang La post. At 3:30 am, firing took place at the section of Naik Gulab Singh.

(Fact : This Company had one Param Vir Chakra, five Vir Chakras, and four Sena medals, including Sepoy Yadav)

Yadav: We got alerts. When my officer asked, I said Platoon No 8 had informed that the enemy had attacked. The enemy was trying to climb but the LMG of Hukam Chand (Vir Chakra) killed four.

After 10 minutes, Platoon 7 informed me about the attack on them. I asked Surja Ram (Vir Chakra) how things were. He said they had taken their positions and that 400 people were trying to climb from 14,000 ft to 18,000 ft.

Thousands of Chinese were coming or we used to call it ‘Human Wave’ with artillery support.

The Major said if we have to withdraw, then do it. But the jawans and the JCOs said we will not leave Rezang La. We have the blessings of Lord Krishna. The Major said I am with you and I am a Yadav too, so what if my name is Bhati?

I was at the command post with platoons on either side on the two-kilometre ridge. I was with the Major.

After a while, a message came from Platoon No 8. Hari Ram (Vir Chakra) said the enemy was coming through the ridge, but we would kill them once they are in range. They repulsed that attack. Many Chinese died. They were lying scattered like berries in a market. They kept climbing up, and we were at our post. Two attacks were repulsed.

Then, Platoon 7 was attacked. They didn’t attack Platoon 9 even though it was at the front. Their plan was to isolate Platoon 9 But they didn’t know that our CO had made arrangements so that no one could climb up. We made a killing ground the third and fourth attacks on Platoon 8 were also repulsed.

Then they attacked with full force. That’s when Surja Ram declared: “Ramchander, now is the time when we will all fight out of our posts in the name of hand-to-hand combat”. My communication with Platoon 7 stopped.

Communication started with Platoon 8 when 14-15 yaks and around 700 Chinese took position on the ridge in between us and Platoon 8. Chinese now started coming from behind. First we thought it was our battalion’s Alpha Company that had come to help us. We thought the CO might have sent them for our help but when they started positioning their yaks and machine guns, then Havaldar Major Harphool Singh said this is the enemy.

After that, the Major ordered for nine platoons to be sent from the headquarters. Since the enemy was going to attack Platoon 8, we would attack them from behind and they would be trapped between Platoon 8 and us and we would finish them.

I saw many of my colleagues being martyred before my eyes, bayonets in hand, in hand-to-hand combat.

I saw some like (Naik) Singh Ram (Vir Chakra) catching hold of their heads and smashing them together. What he did to the Chinese earned him their respect. Before the Chinese left, they sank a bayonet in the ground near his head, and put a helmet on top. They gave him izzat, samman, they kept a note there.

If Major saab (Maj Shaitan Singh) had been around, they would have thought “ye morcha kahaan chalaa gayaa”. The Chinese took out Major saab’s morcha first. They were able to see everything (about the Indian position).

So, Singh Ram and the others, they were fighting with bayonets but sometimes the bayonets wouldn’t work. The Chinese were wearing thick parkas and the bayonets couldn’t penetrate them. I saw our men, stabbing repeatedly with their bayonets and the blade would not go through. So Singh Ram just grabbed them by their necks and smashed their heads together and against rocks. “Bahut tagda pehelwaan tha”. He could catch people like me by the scruff of our necks and say, ‘C’mon, heat the milk’. I was his boxer.

When we were overrun—my saab was lying motionless, and I was wounded. I remembered what (Company Havaldar Major) Harphool (Singh) had said: “Do not let the Chinese get their hands on Major saab’s body.” So I opened the sling of the rifle and tied Major saab to myself with the belt, joining our bodies together at the waist. And then slowly I started to roll. The Major was still alive. There was very little life left in him. After about 10 yards, there was gravelly ground and I started rolling down faster. I rolled for 400 yards and then there was a nullah, after that boulders again. After rolling for 400 yards, I stopped near a boulder to catch my breath. I was thinking that the Company headquarters are below, so I should try to somehow get a couple of people from there to help me so I can take saab down.

But when it was 8.15 by his watch. I noticed that the Major saab was no longer alive. Because Major saab’s watch ran by his pulse, and when the pulse stopped, the watch stopped as well.

I took off the Major’s gloves and slid his body between boulders to hide it, so that it remained safe until someone could come to fetch it. Then I made my way down. I came down about a kilometre, to the point from where our rations were supplied. I saw that the quarter master’s depot was in flames. The few people who were there had left after setting the depot on fire.

Singh: Company to khatm ho hi gayi thi…

Yadav: I was the among very few who returned alive so when I narrated the story, to my Commanders. Only one commander believed me. D D Shukla, who was the adjutant… He said “every word of what he is saying is true”. Then Dhingra saab also believed this and the brigade commander too accepted the real story.

But when I came to Delhi at the debriefing, the atmosphere in Delhi was such that I did not even feel like having food. He said I had gone crazy, he warned me I could be court-martialled. He said we could not have killed so many Chinese.

So I said: “Saab, ek baat hai. Aap haalaat ko dekhiye. You come there and I will tell you how we killed so many. I said: “you note down these three points: Major saab’s body, his gloves with his blood; in the Company, you will find every jawan with bullet wounds on his chest, you will not get wounds on their backs. Nursing assistant Dharam Pal, he put bandages on 32 wounded soldiers and he died while bandaging his comrades.

The jawan, is still holding the light machine gun, and he has bullets in his chest, and is dead. But the machine gun hasn’t fallen from his hands even when he is dead, he is clasping the machine gun.

And the jawan throwing the grenade,dead,with the grenade still in his hands, the Chinese couldn’t take the grenade off his hand.

And many were found with their bayonets in their hands, in a crouching position, bullets in their chest, dead, holding the naked bayonet in a fighting stance. Their bodies were all frozen.

Our commander saab (Brigadier Raina, who later became the Army Chief) became so emotional that his artificial eye moved from its position. He burst into tears.

He was told, ‘Sir, have courage, calm down, this is war, the jawans have done their very best.’

Those who came from Delhi were told, ‘Come with us to the quarter master’s. They said, ‘No, this is enough. We have seen what we had to see. Whatever you had said was actually an understatement. Each one of you killed 10 Chinese, and then you died.’

So, this was the battle of Rezang La. This battle changed the course of the war of 1962. Because if these brave soldiers had not fought off the Chinese, they would have captured Chushul that very day. But because they fought so bravely, the others got some time and could withdraw and some others were able to fortify defenses. And the Chinese also suffered so much that ceasefire was declared by them after this.

The nation salutes the brave soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice while guarding the motherland.

Jai Hind.

Jai Hind ki sena…

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