A few days ago, I returned
from the Lahore Sector
after spending there few days with the Indian Officers and Jawans in the forward areas.
By and large, this sector has produced three brilliant and memorable battle action; Dograi; Burki; and Khem Karan. The first two were infantry battles and the third, an armoured battle.
Dograi interests people for two reasons : the battle itself and the tourist attraction this little township has become. Of the battle itself, much has already been written and said.
As an ex-Army Officer, I saw if more as a battle action than a tourist attraction, though I can see why it has become the number one attraction for the civilian.
When you reach Dograi, you are prepared for something dramatic—and it does not disappoint you, for there are souvenirs littered far and wide, for empty bottles once full of sweet lemonade, to paper kites, and shoes and toys, and vegetables gone bad, and radios and China bowls and the hundred and one things that go with a prosperous smugglers’ paradise.
The township of Dograi today looks as if a tornado has swept over it twice in 24 hours.
Every building is pock-marked with shell-hole—bullet and mortar. Huge gaping holes leer at you from every standing wall. The telegraph wires are down—looking like giant balls of knitting wool after the cats have been around. The trees are charred and skeletal.
Dograi was taken by storm, under cover of darkness with an audacious night hook. The battle raged all night. By dawn it was ours.
But it is the battle itself that will be remembered. Equally matched in numbers, raw guts and surprise became the deciding factor.
First came the battle of pillboxes, formidable concrete fortresses, impervious to bombs and shells, which poured death from concealed automatic weapons through steel slits.
Then came the bunkers, all sighted for mutual support and all raining down devastating fire in enfilade.
Reconstructing in my mind the “arcs of fire” and the dispositions of our advancing troops and the enemy pillbox and bunker complex, it appeared to me, that not even a field mouse could have survived much less get through the enemy barrage.
But our men not only got through, but stormed Dograi and swept-on over the Ichhogil Canal. Each pillbox had to be taken literally by hand, the grenade tossed through the window-slits after a long crawl through shell-fire.
Some Jawans were killed while in the act of tossing their grenades, their bodies falling across part of the window slit. This created a blind spot for the enemy which was utilized by other jawans to surge forward and finish the job.
We are going to capture Dograi or die there” said Lt Col Desmond Hayde (now an MVC) to his men, on the night of the attack.
“Look for me in Dograi”, he went on. “You will find me there alive or dead.”
That is the grand tradition in which these Jats went to battle.
After the pillboxes and bunkers, came the house-to-house in fighting. Dograi had to be taken street by street, and gulley by gulley, and it was defended inch-by-inch.
But by dawn the Pak defenders were on the run. The rest lay lead, in heaps, on housetops … in narrow alleyways and in the fields around Dograi.
If Dograi proved anything it was that the man finally had the last word, in spite of the numerical superiority of sophisticated weaponry.
I will give you just two examples of the spirit of these men who captured Dograi.
There was Pale Ram, a Subedar who had just had seven bullets removed from his stomach. He had been grievously wounded during the capture of a bunker and four machine-guns.
“It was nothing much”, he said, “I had stormed and captured a bunker and was going for another one when I suddenly blacked out. My colleagues picked me up and brought me to the rear. I had not realized I had so many bullets in me.”
And there was the Naik who had his right arm blown off by shell-fire.
He turned to me in his hospital bed and in a confidential whisper said, “Sir, Please tell the Doctor Sahib to let me to back to the front. I still have one arm left to fight with.”
Dograi was the classic infantry battle which, I am sure, will be thought in the Military Academies of the world one day, but probably never in Pakistan.
Battle of Burki
The battle of Burki was
another outstanding infantry
operation in the Lahore Sector.
Burki lies 500 yards short of the Ichhogil Canal and the bridge connecting it with the Lahore Bank today lies slumped in the water, a mass of twisted girders and chunks of cement.
The battle of Burki was also a battle against enemy pillboxes-dug-outs, slit trenches carved into the canal banks and even air-strafing.
The relative strengths in this battle were fairly even. Lieut-Colonel Bhullar was the architect of the Burki victory.
He is short and stocky with a chest like a barn door. He seldom removes his battle helmet. His second name is discipline, and he takes no chances with an enemy known for its treachery.
Should the villagers of Burki return tomorrow, they will find everything as they left it. This is Bhullar’s standing order; “Nothing will be touched”.
This is in marked contrast to India’s Khem Karan, at present in Pakistani hands, where everything has been looted or burnt and still day by day, the explosions can be heard from this burned out “Shell” of a once prosperous township.
Guts and good gunnery and high morale
Dograi and Burki illustrated two things. The superiority of our infantryman over that of the enemy and the enemy’s unwise reliance on concreate pillboxes.
And there was the tank battle of Khem Karan, where the back of the enemy was broken and the first Armoured Division of Pakistan, consisting mostly of Patton tanks, was mauled and sent reeling into chaos and capture, where the Fourth Pak Cavalry Regiment was completely destroyed.
About 150 Pakistani tanks were in action here. The final tally? Eighty-four Pakistani tanks destroyed or captured many intact. Four Indian tanks destroyed.
This tank battle was decisive. Had it not been so, it may have proved disastrous for India. Captured documents revealed the enemy’s plan to launch a three-pronged attack on India.
With the failure of the tank assault by the enemy, the thrust never materialized. The enemy’s use of napalm bombs here, showed his desperation, but it made no difference to the result.
Is this just half time?” I asked an Officer, “or do you expect another flare up?”
“It better be full time for Pakistan, Sir,” he replied, “because if they start anything again, there won’t be another half-time. It will be a through train to Rawalpindi.”
I got the message. I hope
Pakistan does, too.
Because from what I have seen and heard, the enemy would be well-advised to think twice before re-starting hostilities or for that matter even aggravating the case-fire.
Let Dograi and Burki and Khem Karan be a warning.
courtesy : All India Radio
(Sainik Samachar, November 28, 1965)
Indian flag in Khemkaran area liberated from Pakistani forces
Indian troops 13 kilometres from Sialkot in Pakistan