Article By Mrs Madhu Gurung, D/o Late Col RB Gurung, VrC, THE CAPTURE OF POINT 13620 BY 2/11 GR (SHINGO)

I was twelve when my father, Col Ran Bahadur Gurung went to war in 1971. He was commanding 2/11 GR and they were deployed in Kargil.

 

Thousands of miles away in the separated family quarters in Dehradun, Ma and we three sisters came to know about father's battalion going into battle when a flustered lady whose husband was commanding a neighbouring GUARDS battalion burst into Ma's 7th December wedding anniversary party to fearfully announce the news. The party broke up soon after but I woke up that night to a sound of someone speaking into the night. I woke up to find Ma sitting in the puja room, next to the lighted diya hearing the transistor. The transistor was a constant. It was her only connect to a war and father. As a family we did everything that we normally did, the frenetic pace of leaving for school, plodding through classes and then making a beeline for home, but something had changed intricately.

 

In the army colony called Shakespeare road, framed by the station canteen and the military hospital close by, as children we began uperstitiously crossing our fingers when we would notice the green Lambretta scooter man from the Post and Telegraph as he came into the colony. The postal service worked twenty four hours relaying news from the war front. I always prayed he never came home. For wherever he went that house would erupt into hapless cries and mothers would rush to console the family. My friend Reena lost her father in Bangladesh and she never came to school for almost a month and when she did she sat staring out of the window the whole time.

 

I was fearful for father and wrote to him to come back home as I didn't want to lose him like Reena's dad. Father's reply came long after the war was over. He wrote that, 'There is one bullet for one man and mine has never been made. As an army daughter you have a choice to live in fear or fearlessly – I leave the choice to you.' In his quiet way he had instilled a kernel that I cling to at every cross road because, wordlessly, I had promised myself that I would live fearlessly.

 

When father came back from war, I remember snatches of things he shared – of fighting in waist deep snow in minus 30 degrees centigrade, where kerosene jerricans used to carry water would burst and men used their coat parka to carry snow to assuage their thirst. The bitter cold, moonlit night claimed many victims to frost bite and enemy tracer bullets. On a cold night, then aged 42, father walked through the minefields spurred by frantic calls for help by the assaulting company as their Company Commander lay critically injured. He had warned the ten men of his party, especially the young Lieutenant, to return to base as his life had just begun but he had refused.

 

The terrifying mine blast that took place midway left his young IO and radio operator screaming in pain and agony. Father immediately sent the injured back, as he continued walking through the minefield sending his party with the injured save for one man to carry spare ammunition to reach his men and assault the rogue MMG that was wrecking havoc to their attack. Of how all his men in war referred to him only as Bau or Father, never by the radio code. There were many things he left unsaid --like a pebble in a well keeps deep within darkened memory.

 

 

War makes men come closer as blood brothers and those who still live and have served with Father during the war would know that better than others who weren’t there. He was a self-effacing man who put others before himself, and never bothered about his own legend or even try and create one. When he was born in 1924 in Abbotabad as the first born son to a Gorkha Captain, his grandmother named him Ran Bahadur – the bravest warrior in war. Since then his fate was chosen – he was to follow in the footsteps of his Gorkha ancestors who came to India as conquerors way back in 1790 conquering Kumaon, Garhwal and hills of Punjab stretching the Gorkha kingdom spanning over 1700 miles from Teesta to Sutlej. The Gorkha army seen as a marauding force by the British was the first to bust the British myth of invincibility. It was the Anglo Gorkha war of 1814-15 that was to immortalise and forever romanticise the Gorkha's weapon, the khukri, and his agility in guerilla tactics as a warrior. After the British defeated them through cunning and bribery, they knew they had met a match and hence began recruiting the Gorkhas. It was into this legacy that father was born.

 

His genetics and his love for outdoors made him very astute with terrain. As boys he and his brothers had camped many nights in forests and survived hunting. So when he lay down on the blanket and pointed out the stars at night to us he would tell us the exact time the stars would fade away and sun would be out. Or where the kingfisher nested or if the bulbuls fresh batch of chicks had hatched. Years of working the gun had made him develop an extraordinary ability to shoot two birds with one bullet. He could imitate bird calls and catch fish with his bare hands or trap them in inimitable Gorkha style in a parath with asofetida and a little flour.

 

When he joined the army he opened a jungle warfare school in Taksing (India- Tibet border) along the Upper Subansiri river in then NEFA, done a tenure with Assam Rifles in its nascent stage and been posted to high altitudes. By the time he came to command 2/11 GR he had an uncanny ability to know the lay of the land and come up with plans that no one had thought of but were fool proof and slated for sure success.

 

In 2001 when father passed away we had a lot of unexpected guests who came for the thirteenth day ceremony. Many of them were unknown to us but who had served with father in war. Almost all of them spoke about his plan during the war, for which he had fought so ferociously and succeeded in executing.

 

I never understood then what they were talking about till weeks later while going through his papers I came across his hand written account of the war.  It is the only account that he has ever written on the war in his own hand. I read it with immense pride as he must have been so alone to stand on the courage of his conviction and the validation he must have felt at its success.

 

I kept his papers in my study drawer, it was my father's legacy. But it would be almost thirty eight years since the war when I recently visited Pt 13620, almost as a pilgrimage to father that I was filled with immense dismay to see the map on the main board at Pt 13620 that stated that it was captured by 9 J&K MILITIA. How history could be changed was something we could not comprehend. All our lives we had grown up knowing that Pt 13620 was captured by 2/11 GR. How this change had occurred was very disturbing. But thanks to the directions of the COAS this has been corrected. The map now states that Pt 13620 was captured by 2/11 GR in 1971.

 

In his forwarding letter No RBG : 6724: 001 dated 26 May 99 addressed to Col Hardev Singh, Kiranti Lines, Lucknow titled “War Museum”, presumably when this officer must have been posted at the Centre, my father mentioned certain highlights/problems faced by the unit during the conduct of ops in 1971. Unfortunately the second page of this letter is missing which would have carried paras 1 to 6. I have the third page with para 7, 8, and 9 on it of which I wish to mention para 7 verbatim. I quote “War Cry”.   Every Regt/Bn has its own war cry. Our bn war cry “JAI MAHAKALI AYO GORKHALI” became so famous because the enemy had seen some heads being chopped – fountains of blood gushing out from neck (beheaded head), had spread all over like wild fire. Other infantry bns started using the same war cry. Pak Army must have been perplexed to find so many battalions in their sector.” Unquote. The second page of this forwarding letter should be found in the Centre's file on the War Museum. The hand written war account should also be available with them. The same can also be found with CO 2/11 GR.

 

  1. I am now mentioning verbatim about the conduct of ops from the manuscript in my father's handwriting I found among his files. I quote:   

 

“Kargil Operations 1971: Capture of Pt 13620 and Exploits of 2/11 Gorkha Rifles

 

General

 

            Pt 13620 loc East of R Shingo in Kargil Sector (J&K) is famous and well known to def strategists and analysts because of its strategic loc whereby it overshadows and literally dominates SRINAGAR-LEH rd, the lifeline linking Srinagar (and the outside world) and Leh. It was captured twice by the Indian army in 1948 and 1965 and on both occasions it was handed back to Pakistan.

 

            The capture of Pt 13620 in the very first attempt/phase was found impractical because of the requirement of five bns. It was therefore concluded that all enemy posts in and around Pt 13620 loc in East of R Shingo and other parts on West bank of R Shingo should be captured first before touching Pt 13620.

 

            All the enemy posts in Kargil sector were loc at higher ridges,11000 ft and above where as Indian Army was deployed at lower slopes ranging in between 9000 to 10000 ft. Not a single high ground/Hill or OP was available from where enemy defs could be observed.

 

Initial Planning

 

            2/11 GR under comd Lt Col RB Gurung was moved to Kargil from Nowshera sector (25 Inf Div) in mid 1971. Before arr of the Bn prolonged and exhaustive sand model discussions/ exercises had been held, Bde Op plan finalised and seal of approval obtained from GOC 3 Inf Div. CO of the Bn which had been relieved by 2/11 GR had actively participated in the numerous Op discussions/deliberations and reportedly accepted the Bde Op plan. It was assumed and presumed that the Bde Op plan, so methodically and assiduously prepared after such great efforts, will be accepted by the new incumbent.

 

            Neither meter/inch map nor aerial photographs of Kargil sector were available. After reported requests/insistence with great difficulty CO 2/11 GR was provided with a couple of heptr sorties. He flew over the enemy area (especially his area of operation) observed enemy def layout, extensions of minefields, tracks and so on.

 

            In the interim period the enemy had occupied even those heights on the skyline which it had not occupied. In mid 1971 the CO took a bold decision to occupy HILL opposite CAMEL'S BACK by silent night approach and attack at dawn. The enemy sec was completely surprised and they ran back to CAMEL'S BACK. All Offr, JCOs and NCOs of 2/11 GR saw their area of the op from that vantage point. Similarly COs of the Bde and some of their juniors saw their area of op for the first time from there. But CO 2/11 GR was ordered to vacate the HILL which by then had been been strengthened with one sec of MMG and Mor and brought to a Pl Str. Apparently Pakistan had complained and UN observers were visiting the site of intrusion. All reasons and advantages of continued occupation incl those, in the interest of the country/nation explained personally by the CO was turned down by the Bde Cdr. Instead a written letter was sent by the Bde to comply with the verbal orders within a stipulated date and time.

 

Planning

 

            CO 2/11 GR in one of the sand model discussions explained with reasons his intention to go in for an unorthodox type of war – attack the strongest enemy Post 12, loc deep in depth, skirt enemy fwd defs and op to be carried out by silent night approach and attack at night. This idea was turned down by the Bde Cdr and GOC 3 Inf Div on the ground that it was too unorthodox, risky and impractical –attack enemy posts from the flank or front.

 

            Luckily GOC XV Corp (Lt Gen Sartaj) paid a visit to KARGIL at this juncture and once again sand model discussions commenced. Op plan of CO 2/11 GR was discussed in great detail with permission to express his free and frank views. The Bde Cdr and GOC 3 Inf Div also expressed their frank views and comments on 2/11 GR plan. Finally GOC XV Corp accepted op plan of CO 2/11 GR in toto. Both the Bde Cdr and GOC 3 Inf Div were advised to give a free hand to CO 2/11 GR by the Corp Cdr. Orders by Bde Cdr to CO 2/11 GR to vacate HILL was immediately cancelled.

 

            The enemy holding Post 12 (ht 13350 ft) with two pls by a sec of MMG was in mutual sp to and from CAMEL'S BACK in the North and BLACK ROCKS (enemy holding fwd defs) in front (East). It had a linear def spread over an area of approx 200 yds with uneven slopes rising from North towards South.  The post had a parapet wall (approx 9 ft in width and 7 ft in ht) running all along the post covered with extensive minefields. The rear of the post had a natural protection with cliffs steeply falling 1000 ft and beyond.The only approach to the post in the North was along a footpath connecting CAMEL'S BACK and water pt in front which entered the post through a narrow ledge 2/3 ft in width with parapet wall on one side and sheer cliff on the other.

 

Actual Operations

 

            The Bn less one coy having been relieved from its defences by 9 J&K MILITIA came at the Assembly Area in the hollow ground in the rear of the HILL by 0600 hrs on 6 Dec '71. D Coy (under Maj Vijay Mann) was ordered to continue holding the defences at Post 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 loc on the Western slopes of Pt 13620 facing enemy posts in front of Village GUNDERMAN.

 

            The mov fwd (silent night approach) commenced no sooner it became dark (Approx 1730 hrs) on 6 Dec '71. H Hr was scheduled for 0015 hrs on 7 Dec '71 subject to 18 PUNJAB kicking off their aslt on BRACHIL Pass fixed for 0015 hrs on 7 Dec '71.  Attack on Post 12  on orders of the CO commenced at 0215 hrs on 7 Dec '71 after a brief Pre H Hr shelling of Post 12.

 

            There was very stiff resistance from the enemy and hand to hand fight resulted for each step. At one stage a burly pathan with a handlebar moustache, nearly 7 ft tall caught hold of the Coy Cdr and nearly strangled him, but was saved when a jawan immediately following him managed to chop off his hands and then his head. MMG loc in the middle of the post on the upper slope brought down heavy fire. It did not allow tps to mov fwd as a result only the lower half of the post could be captured. The Coy Cdr who was personally leading the aslt tried to destroy the MMG by deploying the RL but unfortunately was shot through the head as he raised his head to take aim.

 

C Coy was now ordered to pass through A coy and press on with the attack. With the approaching dawn some visibility improved and enemy started shelling and firing at the tps found in the open.

 

            The CO with his IO ( Lt Anil Bhalla), radio operator and a small protection gp mov fwd with a view to catch up with the aslt tps. Unfortunately the IO and the radio op who were following immediately behind the CO stepped on a mine inadvertently as a result the IO lost one of his legs (the other hanging loosely) and the radio op was blinded. The CO ordered his protection gp to escort/evac both the cas, picked up the radio set and LMG and continued to mov fwd with one jawan carrying spare barrel and extra LMG magazines. Because of the enemy interference the CO had taken a slight detour finally reaching high ground approx 100 yds North of Post 12 and at nearly the same ht/elevation as that of the MMG in question. He exhorted his tps to press with the attack and commenced firing the LMG at the bunker/MMG. The MMG was silenced and the tps assaulted the enemy bunker and other defenses. By then the CO joined the assaulting tps. With the regimental war cry of  'JAI MAHAKALI AAYO GORKHALI' the tps with drawn khukris assaulted the remaining defenses. Finally the enemy Post 12 was captured at 0845 hrs on 7 Dec '71. This post was named 'VETRI POST' in honour of Maj Vetri Nathan, a brave and dedicated soldier who laid down his life and made 2/11 GR proud.

 

            BLACK ROCKS, the enemy fwd defence which had been skirted the previous night was the next objective. After consolidating our defs at Post 12 'Vetri Post' in broad day light tps moved fwd. Once again with drawn khukris in their hands and regimental war cry of 'JAI MAHAKALA AAYO GORKHALI' assaulted the post this time from the rear. The enemy at BLACK ROCKS and remnants of soldiers of Post 12 who had observed with horror, heads of colleagues being chopped with fountain of blood gushing out from the severed neck during the hand to hand fight at Vetri Post abandoned the post after some token resistance. BLACK ROCKS was captured and secured by 1645 hrs on 7 Dec '71. The Bn consolidated its gain, placed four stops of pl strength each at strategic loc to continue applying pressure on the enemy and dominate the captured area and deny water to him, so scarce and vital for him to survive.

 

Progress/Development on West of R Shingo

 

The Bde Op Plan could not be followed as laid down because of various factors such as extreme cold climate and inclement weather (temp between minus 30 to 40 degrees), stiff enemy resistance, cas due to high altitude problems – 18 PUNJAB who were to capture BRACHIL PASS by 0200 hrs on 7 Dec '71 (H Hr 0015 hrs) reached FUP at 0500 hrs and could secure left and right shoulder of the pass by 1600 hrs on 7 Dec '71. 7 GUARDS who were to pass through BRACHIL PASS after its capture and advance to OLTHINGTHANG by 1100 hrs on 7 Dec '71 had overnight suffered hy cas (over 50 percent) due to frost bite reached BRACHIL PASS only at 1630 hrs on 7 Dec '71. 5/3 GR (Ex 3 Inf Div) had been inducted into the Kargil sector as the battle in Kargil sector commenced, played a heroic role. It was mainly because of 5/3 GR that most of the enemy def on the WEST bank of R Shingo and those lower slopes of East bank could be captured. The original Bde Op Plan was modified to suit the new developments.

 

Capture of Pt 13620

 

            As brought out earlier Pt 13620 located East of R Shingo was the most formidable enemy post in Kargil sector. In addition to strong defences it had extended and heavily mined front. The surprise sprung by the enemy was existence of one 75 mm How. This arty piece played havoc targeting various dumps of ASC and AOC and TAC HQ of 3 Inf Div supposedly placed well beyond the known enemy arty range.

 

            Pressure on Pt 13620 was applied continously and besides being targetted by own arty it was subjected to four air strikes by our IAF on 7 and 8 Dec '71.

 

            On 9 Dec '71 at approx 1200 hrs own Stops and OPs informed us that the enemy was thinning out from Pt 13620. 2/11 GR less two coy immediately rushed up the slopes of 13620. Resistance put up by the enemy was overcome and this vital post was finally captured by 2/11 GR by 1300 hrs on 9 Dec '71.

 

            Capture of Ashoka Pillar. This enemy post loc on the Western slopes of 13620 was captured by D Coy 2/11 GR on 9 Dec '71 syncronised with aslt of Pt 13620.

 

            Camel's Back.         As the battle for Pt 13620 was progressing pl of 2/11 GR Ex HILL assaulted CAMEL'S BACK and captured it by 1400 hrs on 9 Dec '71.

 

            Ganderman.    D Coy under Maj Vijay Mann had captured heights held by one enemy section overlooking village GANDERMAN by night attack and was in full control over the area by dawn of 9 Dec '71.

 

Special Operation Wide Hook/ Flanking Move for Capture Of Bielargo

 

            Mov fwd along R Shingo as per Bde Op Plan having been modified because of the hy enemy resistance and re-deployment of enemy defences a special task was planned for 2/11 GR. The Bn was ordered to capture BIELARGO by a wide out flanking move.

 

            2/11 GR was pulled out from the defences occupied during the op since 7 Dec '71 and straight moved to BATALIK by road in a convoy on night 15/16 Dec '71 and conc at BATALIK (Bn HQ Loc of 9 J&K MILITIA) before Kargil op)by first light on 16 Dec '71. Immediately thereafter the foot coln fully loaded with first line amn, four mortars, RCL and individual weapons and 7 days ration, oxygen cylinders commenced the journey along tr CHULICHANG-SARCHE-SARCHE BROK and PT 4328. The distance of over 36 kms with hts ranging from 9000 to 14000 ft was covered by the whole bn as a forced march in a record time of 48 hrs. A task which very few Indian army bns can perform given the circumstances, climate and situation existing then. Before arr of the bn a Coy of 9 J&K MILITIA who had captured SHERQILA earlier had been held up by the enemy on the approach to BIELARGO. The Bn moved forward and with a couple of hrs rest, to recoup and reorganise, and was ready for battle for Pt 4328.

 

            The Indian Prime Minister (Mrs Indira Gandhi) had apparently declared an unilateral cease fire on 16 Dec '71 when the bn was going through a tough, strenuous, life sapping flanking move in high alt, rarified air and sub zero temp. GOC 3 Inf Div who was in bn fwd net since 6 Dec '71 and was constantly monitoring all conversations on the bn net told the bn at 1600 hrs on 18 Dec '71 regarding the ceasefire decision declared by the govt and that too when he was told by the CO after his decision to go in for assault at 1800 hrs. The GOC ordered CO 2/11 GR to not pursue the assault plan and return to Kargil as soon as possible. All labour, efforts, physical and mental tension went waste and unrecognised. The Bn finally returned to Kargil only on 22 Dec '71.” Unquote.

 

Casualties suffered by the bn during the fourteen days Indo-Pak war are shown below:

 

  • Killed in action  – Officer 1, OR 8

 

  • Wounded - Officer 1, OR 26 (two more officers were wounded who after treatment at RAP refused to be evacuated

 

  • Casualties due to frostbite and sickness due to cold – Officer 3, JCOs 2, OR 59, NCOs 7. The battalion killed 26 enemy soldiers and captured 2 alive. Besides huge stock pile of rations, ammunition and the following weapons were captured :-

 

  • 75 mm Pack How (US).

 

  • 2 x 3 in Mor.

 

  • 4 x MMG.

 

  • Rifle - 13.

 

  • LMG - 1.

 

  • Sten 9 MM - 1.

 

  • In recognition to the service the following officers were decorated in the 14 day war :-

 

  • Col RB Gurung – VrC.

 

  • Maj Vetri Nathan – VrC (Posthumous).

 

  • Hav Purba Lepcha –VrC.

 

  • Mention in dispatches :-

 

  • Hav Karnabahadur Rai.

 

  • Nk Babu Lal Rai.

 

The battaion was awarded the Shingo River Valley Battle Honour and the J&K Theatre Honour.

 

Pt 13620 is today the most visited post for all VIPs coming into Kargil. So much so that the once formidable slopes are now completely motorable right to the very top.

I was twelve when my father, Col Ran Bahadur Gurung went to war in 1971. He was commanding 2/11 GR and they were deployed in Kargil.

 

Thousands of miles away in the separated family quarters in Dehradun, Ma and we three sisters came to know about father's battalion going into battle when a flustered lady whose husband was commanding a neighbouring GUARDS battalion burst into Ma's 7th December wedding anniversary party to fearfully announce the news. The party broke up soon after but I woke up that night to a sound of someone speaking into the night. I woke up to find Ma sitting in the puja room, next to the lighted diya hearing the transistor. The transistor was a constant. It was her only connect to a war and father. As a family we did everything that we normally did, the frenetic pace of leaving for school, plodding through classes and then making a beeline for home, but something had changed intricately.

 

In the army colony called Shakespeare road, framed by the station canteen and the military hospital close by, as children we began superstitiously crossing our fingers when we would notice the green Lambretta scooter man from the Post and Telegraph as he came into the colony. The postal service worked twenty four hours relaying news from the war front. I always prayed he never came home. For wherever he went that house would erupt into hapless cries and mothers would rush to console the family. My friend Reena lost her father in Bangladesh and she never came to school for almost a month and when she did she sat staring out of the window the whole time.

 

I was fearful for father and wrote to him to come back home as I didn't want to lose him like Reena's dad. Father's reply came long after the war was over. He wrote that, 'There is one bullet for one man and mine has never been made. As an army daughter you have a choice to live in fear or fearlessly – I leave the choice to you.' In his quiet way he had instilled a kernel that I cling to at every cross road because, wordlessly, I had promised myself that I would live fearlessly.

 

When father came back from war, I remember snatches of things he shared – of fighting in waist deep snow in minus 30 degrees centigrade, where kerosene jerricans used to carry water would burst and men used their coat parka to carry snow to assuage their thirst. The bitter cold, moonlit night claimed many victims to frost bite and enemy tracer bullets. On a cold night, then aged 42, father walked through the minefields spurred by frantic calls for help by the assaulting company as their Company Commander lay critically injured. He had warned the ten men of his party, especially the young Lieutenant, to return to base as his life had just begun but he had refused.

 

The terrifying mine blast that took place midway left his young IO and radio operator screaming in pain and agony. Father immediately sent the injured back, as he continued walking through the minefield sending his party with the injured save for one man to carry spare ammunition to reach his men and assault the rogue MMG that was wrecking havoc to their attack. Of how all his men in war referred to him only as Bau or Father, never by the radio code. There were many things he left unsaid --like a pebble in a well keeps deep within darkened memory.

 

 

War makes men come closer as blood brothers and those who still live and have served with Father during the war would know that better than others who weren’t there. He was a self-effacing man who put others before himself, and never bothered about his own legend or even try and create one. When he was born in 1924 in Abbotabad as the first born son to a Gorkha Captain, his grandmother named him Ran Bahadur – the bravest warrior in war. Since then his fate was chosen – he was to follow in the footsteps of his Gorkha ancestors who came to India as conquerors way back in 1790 conquering Kumaon, Garhwal and hills of Punjab stretching the Gorkha kingdom spanning over 1700 miles from Teesta to Sutlej. The Gorkha army seen as a marauding force by the British was the first to bust the British myth of invincibility. It was the Anglo Gorkha war of 1814-15 that was to immortalise and forever romanticise the Gorkha's weapon, the khukri, and his agility in guerilla tactics as a warrior. After the British defeated them through cunning and bribery, they knew they had met a match and hence began recruiting the Gorkhas. It was into this legacy that father was born.

 

His genetics and his love for outdoors made him very astute with terrain. As boys he and his brothers had camped many nights in forests and survived hunting. So when he lay down on the blanket and pointed out the stars at night to us he would tell us the exact time the stars would fade away and sun would be out. Or where the kingfisher nested or if the bulbuls fresh batch of chicks had hatched. Years of working the gun had made him develop an extraordinary ability to shoot two birds with one bullet. He could imitate bird calls and catch fish with his bare hands or trap them in inimitable Gorkha style in a parath with asofetida and a little flour.

 

When he joined the army he opened a jungle warfare school in Taksing (India- Tibet border) along the Upper Subansiri river in then NEFA, done a tenure with Assam Rifles in its nascent stage and been posted to high altitudes. By the time he came to command 2/11 GR he had an uncanny ability to know the lay of the land and come up with plans that no one had thought of but were fool proof and slated for sure success.

 

In 2001 when father passed away we had a lot of unexpected guests who came for the thirteenth day ceremony. Many of them were unknown to us but who had served with father in war. Almost all of them spoke about his plan during the war, for which he had fought so ferociously and succeeded in executing.

 

I never understood then what they were talking about till weeks later while going through his papers I came across his hand written account of the war.  It is the only account that he has ever written on the war in his own hand. I read it with immense pride as he must have been so alone to stand on the courage of his conviction and the validation he must have felt at its success.

 

I kept his papers in my study drawer, it was my father's legacy. But it would be almost thirty eight years since the war when I recently visited Pt 13620, almost as a pilgrimage to father that I was filled with immense dismay to see the map on the main board at Pt 13620 that stated that it was captured by 9 J&K MILITIA. How history could be changed was something we could not comprehend. All our lives we had grown up knowing that Pt 13620 was captured by 2/11 GR. How this change had occurred was very disturbing. But thanks to the directions of the COAS this has been corrected. The map now states that Pt 13620 was captured by 2/11 GR in 1971.

 

In his forwarding letter No RBG : 6724: 001 dated 26 May 99 addressed to Col Hardev Singh, Kiranti Lines, Lucknow titled “War Museum”, presumably when this officer must have been posted at the Centre, my father mentioned certain highlights/problems faced by the unit during the conduct of ops in 1971. Unfortunately the second page of this letter is missing which would have carried paras 1 to 6. I have the third page with para 7, 8, and 9 on it of which I wish to mention para 7 verbatim. I quote “War Cry”.   Every Regt/Bn has its own war cry. Our bn war cry “JAI MAHAKALI AYO GORKHALI” became so famous because the enemy had seen some heads being chopped – fountains of blood gushing out from neck (beheaded head), had spread all over like wild fire. Other infantry bns started using the same war cry. Pak Army must have been perplexed to find so many battalions in their sector.” Unquote. The second page of this forwarding letter should be found in the Centre's file on the War Museum. The hand written war account should also be available with them. The same can also be found with CO 2/11 GR.

 

  1. I am now mentioning verbatim about the conduct of ops from the manuscript in my father's handwriting I found among his files. I quote:   

 

“Kargil Operations 1971: Capture of Pt 13620 and Exploits of 2/11 Gorkha Rifles

 

General

 

            Pt 13620 loc East of R Shingo in Kargil Sector (J&K) is famous and well known to def strategists and analysts because of its strategic loc whereby it overshadows and literally dominates SRINAGAR-LEH rd, the lifeline linking Srinagar (and the outside world) and Leh. It was captured twice by the Indian army in 1948 and 1965 and on both occasions it was handed back to Pakistan.

 

            The capture of Pt 13620 in the very first attempt/phase was found impractical because of the requirement of five bns. It was therefore concluded that all enemy posts in and around Pt 13620 loc in East of R Shingo and other parts on West bank of R Shingo should be captured first before touching Pt 13620.

 

            All the enemy posts in Kargil sector were loc at higher ridges,11000 ft and above where as Indian Army was deployed at lower slopes ranging in between 9000 to 10000 ft. Not a single high ground/Hill or OP was available from where enemy defs could be observed.

 

Initial Planning

 

            2/11 GR under comd Lt Col RB Gurung was moved to Kargil from Nowshera sector (25 Inf Div) in mid 1971. Before arr of the Bn prolonged and exhaustive sand model discussions/ exercises had been held, Bde Op plan finalised and seal of approval obtained from GOC 3 Inf Div. CO of the Bn which had been relieved by 2/11 GR had actively participated in the numerous Op discussions/deliberations and reportedly accepted the Bde Op plan. It was assumed and presumed that the Bde Op plan, so methodically and assiduously prepared after such great efforts, will be accepted by the new incumbent.

 

            Neither meter/inch map nor aerial photographs of Kargil sector were available. After reported requests/insistence with great difficulty CO 2/11 GR was provided with a couple of heptr sorties. He flew over the enemy area (especially his area of operation) observed enemy def layout, extensions of minefields, tracks and so on.

 

            In the interim period the enemy had occupied even those heights on the skyline which it had not occupied. In mid 1971 the CO took a bold decision to occupy HILL opposite CAMEL'S BACK by silent night approach and attack at dawn. The enemy sec was completely surprised and they ran back to CAMEL'S BACK. All Offr, JCOs and NCOs of 2/11 GR saw their area of the op from that vantage point. Similarly COs of the Bde and some of their juniors saw their area of op for the first time from there. But CO 2/11 GR was ordered to vacate the HILL which by then had been been strengthened with one sec of MMG and Mor and brought to a Pl Str. Apparently Pakistan had complained and UN observers were visiting the site of intrusion. All reasons and advantages of continued occupation incl those, in the interest of the country/nation explained personally by the CO was turned down by the Bde Cdr. Instead a written letter was sent by the Bde to comply with the verbal orders within a stipulated date and time.

 

Planning

 

            CO 2/11 GR in one of the sand model discussions explained with reasons his intention to go in for an unorthodox type of war – attack the strongest enemy Post 12, loc deep in depth, skirt enemy fwd defs and op to be carried out by silent night approach and attack at night. This idea was turned down by the Bde Cdr and GOC 3 Inf Div on the ground that it was too unorthodox, risky and impractical –attack enemy posts from the flank or front.

 

            Luckily GOC XV Corp (Lt Gen Sartaj) paid a visit to KARGIL at this juncture and once again sand model discussions commenced. Op plan of CO 2/11 GR was discussed in great detail with permission to express his free and frank views. The Bde Cdr and GOC 3 Inf Div also expressed their frank views and comments on 2/11 GR plan. Finally GOC XV Corp accepted op plan of CO 2/11 GR in toto. Both the Bde Cdr and GOC 3 Inf Div were advised to give a free hand to CO 2/11 GR by the Corp Cdr. Orders by Bde Cdr to CO 2/11 GR to vacate HILL was immediately cancelled.

 

            The enemy holding Post 12 (ht 13350 ft) with two pls by a sec of MMG was in mutual sp to and from CAMEL'S BACK in the North and BLACK ROCKS (enemy holding fwd defs) in front (East). It had a linear def spread over an area of approx 200 yds with uneven slopes rising from North towards South.  The post had a parapet wall (approx 9 ft in width and 7 ft in ht) running all along the post covered with extensive minefields. The rear of the post had a natural protection with cliffs steeply falling 1000 ft and beyond.The only approach to the post in the North was along a footpath connecting CAMEL'S BACK and water pt in front which entered the post through a narrow ledge 2/3 ft in width with parapet wall on one side and sheer cliff on the other.

 

Actual Operations

 

            The Bn less one coy having been relieved from its defences by 9 J&K MILITIA came at the Assembly Area in the hollow ground in the rear of the HILL by 0600 hrs on 6 Dec '71. D Coy (under Maj Vijay Mann) was ordered to continue holding the defences at Post 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 loc on the Western slopes of Pt 13620 facing enemy posts in front of Village GUNDERMAN.

 

            The mov fwd (silent night approach) commenced no sooner it became dark (Approx 1730 hrs) on 6 Dec '71. H Hr was scheduled for 0015 hrs on 7 Dec '71 subject to 18 PUNJAB kicking off their aslt on BRACHIL Pass fixed for 0015 hrs on 7 Dec '71.  Attack on Post 12  on orders of the CO commenced at 0215 hrs on 7 Dec '71 after a brief Pre H Hr shelling of Post 12.

 

            There was very stiff resistance from the enemy and hand to hand fight resulted for each step. At one stage a burly pathan with a handlebar moustache, nearly 7 ft tall caught hold of the Coy Cdr and nearly strangled him, but was saved when a jawan immediately following him managed to chop off his hands and then his head. MMG loc in the middle of the post on the upper slope brought down heavy fire. It did not allow tps to mov fwd as a result only the lower half of the post could be captured. The Coy Cdr who was personally leading the aslt tried to destroy the MMG by deploying the RL but unfortunately was shot through the head as he raised his head to take aim.

 

C Coy was now ordered to pass through A coy and press on with the attack. With the approaching dawn some visibility improved and enemy started shelling and firing at the tps found in the open.

 

            The CO with his IO ( Lt Anil Bhalla), radio operator and a small protection gp mov fwd with a view to catch up with the aslt tps. Unfortunately the IO and the radio op who were following immediately behind the CO stepped on a mine inadvertently as a result the IO lost one of his legs (the other hanging loosely) and the radio op was blinded. The CO ordered his protection gp to escort/evac both the cas, picked up the radio set and LMG and continued to mov fwd with one jawan carrying spare barrel and extra LMG magazines. Because of the enemy interference the CO had taken a slight detour finally reaching high ground approx 100 yds North of Post 12 and at nearly the same ht/elevation as that of the MMG in question. He exhorted his tps to press with the attack and commenced firing the LMG at the bunker/MMG. The MMG was silenced and the tps assaulted the enemy bunker and other defenses. By then the CO joined the assaulting tps. With the regimental war cry of  'JAI MAHAKALI AAYO GORKHALI' the tps with drawn khukris assaulted the remaining defenses. Finally the enemy Post 12 was captured at 0845 hrs on 7 Dec '71. This post was named 'VETRI POST' in honour of Maj Vetri Nathan, a brave and dedicated soldier who laid down his life and made 2/11 GR proud.

 

            BLACK ROCKS, the enemy fwd defence which had been skirted the previous night was the next objective. After consolidating our defs at Post 12 'Vetri Post' in broad day light tps moved fwd. Once again with drawn khukris in their hands and regimental war cry of 'JAI MAHAKALA AAYO GORKHALI' assaulted the post this time from the rear. The enemy at BLACK ROCKS and remnants of soldiers of Post 12 who had observed with horror, heads of colleagues being chopped with fountain of blood gushing out from the severed neck during the hand to hand fight at Vetri Post abandoned the post after some token resistance. BLACK ROCKS was captured and secured by 1645 hrs on 7 Dec '71. The Bn consolidated its gain, placed four stops of pl strength each at strategic loc to continue applying pressure on the enemy and dominate the captured area and deny water to him, so scarce and vital for him to survive.

 

Progress/Development on West of R Shingo

 

The Bde Op Plan could not be followed as laid down because of various factors such as extreme cold climate and inclement weather (temp between minus 30 to 40 degrees), stiff enemy resistance, cas due to high altitude problems – 18 PUNJAB who were to capture BRACHIL PASS by 0200 hrs on 7 Dec '71 (H Hr 0015 hrs) reached FUP at 0500 hrs and could secure left and right shoulder of the pass by 1600 hrs on 7 Dec '71. 7 GUARDS who were to pass through BRACHIL PASS after its capture and advance to OLTHINGTHANG by 1100 hrs on 7 Dec '71 had overnight suffered hy cas (over 50 percent) due to frost bite reached BRACHIL PASS only at 1630 hrs on 7 Dec '71. 5/3 GR (Ex 3 Inf Div) had been inducted into the Kargil sector as the battle in Kargil sector commenced, played a heroic role. It was mainly because of 5/3 GR that most of the enemy def on the WEST bank of R Shingo and those lower slopes of East bank could be captured. The original Bde Op Plan was modified to suit the new developments.

 

Capture of Pt 13620

 

            As brought out earlier Pt 13620 located East of R Shingo was the most formidable enemy post in Kargil sector. In addition to strong defences it had extended and heavily mined front. The surprise sprung by the enemy was existence of one 75 mm How. This arty piece played havoc targeting various dumps of ASC and AOC and TAC HQ of 3 Inf Div supposedly placed well beyond the known enemy arty range.

 

            Pressure on Pt 13620 was applied continously and besides being targetted by own arty it was subjected to four air strikes by our IAF on 7 and 8 Dec '71.

 

            On 9 Dec '71 at approx 1200 hrs own Stops and OPs informed us that the enemy was thinning out from Pt 13620. 2/11 GR less two coy immediately rushed up the slopes of 13620. Resistance put up by the enemy was overcome and this vital post was finally captured by 2/11 GR by 1300 hrs on 9 Dec '71.

 

            Capture of Ashoka Pillar. This enemy post loc on the Western slopes of 13620 was captured by D Coy 2/11 GR on 9 Dec '71 syncronised with aslt of Pt 13620.

 

            Camel's Back.         As the battle for Pt 13620 was progressing pl of 2/11 GR Ex HILL assaulted CAMEL'S BACK and captured it by 1400 hrs on 9 Dec '71.

 

            Ganderman.    D Coy under Maj Vijay Mann had captured heights held by one enemy section overlooking village GANDERMAN by night attack and was in full control over the area by dawn of 9 Dec '71.

 

Special Operation Wide Hook/ Flanking Move for Capture Of Bielargo

 

            Mov fwd along R Shingo as per Bde Op Plan having been modified because of the hy enemy resistance and re-deployment of enemy defences a special task was planned for 2/11 GR. The Bn was ordered to capture BIELARGO by a wide out flanking move.

 

            2/11 GR was pulled out from the defences occupied during the op since 7 Dec '71 and straight moved to BATALIK by road in a convoy on night 15/16 Dec '71 and conc at BATALIK (Bn HQ Loc of 9 J&K MILITIA) before Kargil op)by first light on 16 Dec '71. Immediately thereafter the foot coln fully loaded with first line amn, four mortars, RCL and individual weapons and 7 days ration, oxygen cylinders commenced the journey along tr CHULICHANG-SARCHE-SARCHE BROK and PT 4328. The distance of over 36 kms with hts ranging from 9000 to 14000 ft was covered by the whole bn as a forced march in a record time of 48 hrs. A task which very few Indian army bns can perform given the circumstances, climate and situation existing then. Before arr of the bn a Coy of 9 J&K MILITIA who had captured SHERQILA earlier had been held up by the enemy on the approach to BIELARGO. The Bn moved forward and with a couple of hrs rest, to recoup and reorganise, and was ready for battle for Pt 4328.

 

            The Indian Prime Minister (Mrs Indira Gandhi) had apparently declared an unilateral cease fire on 16 Dec '71 when the bn was going through a tough, strenuous, life sapping flanking move in high alt, rarified air and sub zero temp. GOC 3 Inf Div who was in bn fwd net since 6 Dec '71 and was constantly monitoring all conversations on the bn net told the bn at 1600 hrs on 18 Dec '71 regarding the ceasefire decision declared by the govt and that too when he was told by the CO after his decision to go in for assault at 1800 hrs. The GOC ordered CO 2/11 GR to not pursue the assault plan and return to Kargil as soon as possible. All labour, efforts, physical and mental tension went waste and unrecognised. The Bn finally returned to Kargil only on 22 Dec '71.” Unquote.

 

Casualties suffered by the bn during the fourteen days Indo-Pak war are shown below:

 

  • Killed in action  – Officer 1, OR 8

 

  • Wounded - Officer 1, OR 26 (two more officers were wounded who after treatment at RAP refused to be evacuated

 

  • Casualties due to frostbite and sickness due to cold – Officer 3, JCOs 2, OR 59, NCOs 7. The battalion killed 26 enemy soldiers and captured 2 alive. Besides huge stock pile of rations, ammunition and the following weapons were captured :-

 

  • 75 mm Pack How (US).

 

  • 2 x 3 in Mor.

 

  • 4 x MMG.

 

  • Rifle - 13.

 

  • LMG - 1.

 

  • Sten 9 MM - 1.

 

  • In recognition to the service the following officers were decorated in the 14 day war :-

 

  • Col RB Gurung – VrC.

 

  • Maj Vetri Nathan – VrC (Posthumous).

 

  • Hav Purba Lepcha –VrC.

 

  • Mention in dispatches :-

 

  • Hav Karnabahadur Rai.

 

  • Nk Babu Lal Rai.

 

The battaion was awarded the Shingo River Valley Battle Honour and the J&K Theatre Honour.

 

Pt 13620 is today the most visited post for all VIPs coming into Kargil. So much so that the once formidable slopes are now completely motorable right to the very top.