Saturday, July 11, 2009

2nd Lieutenant Rama Raghoba Rane

2nd Lieutenant Rama Raghoba Rane, was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers on 15 December 1947. On 18 March 1948, the Indian Army recaptured Jhangar, which was lost to the enemy in December 1947. Indian troops then planned an advance from Naushahra to Rajauri to protect the natives from atrocities of the raiders. Half-way lay the Chingas, on the old Mughal route to Kashmir. The 4 Dogra commenced the advance to Rajauri on 8 April 1948. It attacked the Barwali ridge, 11 km north of Naushahra and captured it after driving out the enemy from well-prepared positions. But beyond Barwali, the increasing number of road-blocks & minefields obstructed the progress of the battalion. Even armour could not cross over these obstacles. During this critical phase, 2nd Lt. Rane and his section of 37 Assault Field Company, attached to 4 Dogra, performed yeoman service. As the section started clearing a mine-field on April 8th, two sappers were killed and five others including Rane were injured in enemy mortar fire. However, Rane and his men completed the work by the evening and enabled the tanks to push forward.

But the enemy had not been cleared from the area and road ahead was still unsafe for the advance. 2nd Lieutenant Rane worked during the night to prepare a safe lane for the tanks. On April 9th, his men continuously worked for twelve hours to clear mines and remove road-blocks. Where the road was found un-negotiable he made a diversion for the column to pass through. 2nd Lieutenant Rane continued this work in the face of enemy artillery and mortar fire. On April 10th, he woke up early to resume work on the road-block, which could not be cleared the previous night. He cleared this huge road-block of 5 big pine tress, surrounded by mines and covered by intensive machine-gun fire, within two hours. The Army advanced another 13 km on this day before they encountered another major road-block. The enemy pickets perched on the adjoining hills were guarding all approaches to this road-block. 2nd Lieutenant Rane drove to the road block in a tank and crouching under it, blasted the block with mines. He thus opened the road before the end of the night. On April 11th, they worked for 17 hours to open the road to Chingas and beyond.

2nd Lt. Rane made a substantial contribution in facilitating the Indian advance on Rajauri. It cost the enemy about 500 dead and many more wounded. It also helped in saving many innocent lives in Chingas and Rajauri. The gallant effort made by 2nd Lieutenant Rama Raghoba Rane during this critical advance to Rajauri earned him the highest war-time gallantry medal, Param Vir Chakra.

Major Somnath Sharma

Major Somnath Sharma, He was commissioned in the Kumaon Regiment on 22 February 1942. On 22 October 1947, Pakistan launched the tribal invasion of Jammu & Kashmir. The intention was to grab the Kashmir valley by force. As the State became a part of the Union on October 26th, her protection became the responsibility of India. To save the State from a tribal invasion, which was approaching the valley at a very fast pace, India dispatched troops to Srinagar. The first batch of Indian troops reached just in time on October 27th morning to stop the enemy on the outskirts of Srinagar.

The D Company of 4 Kumaon, led by Major Somnath Sharma, was airlifted to Srinagar on October 31st. When his company was asked to move to Srinagar, Major Sharma's arm was in plaster. He had suffered a fracture on the hockey ground and was advised rest till the plaster was removed. But he insisted on being with his company at this crucial hour and was allowed to go. Meanwhile, the main thrust of the tribal invasion of Srinagar had been blunted by the 1 Sikh at Patan. The enemy now resorted to guerilla tactics to sneak into the valley. But the induction of more troops into Srinagar enables the Army to take care of the surrounding areas better. On November 3rd, a strong fighting patrol compromising 3 companies was dispatched to reconnoitre the Bagdam area to look for raiders approaching Srinagar from the northern direction. By 0930 hrs the troops had established a firm base at Bagdam.

As no enemy was seen during patrolling, two companies moved back to Srinagar by 1400 hrs. D Coy led by Major Sharma which had taken up position south of Bagdam was, however, asked to stay on in the area till 1500 hours. At 1435 hours, D Coy was subjected to firing from some houses of Bagdam village. The Coy did not return fire for fear of killing innocent people of the village. While Major Sharma was discussing this threat with the Bde. Cdr., a large force of the enemy, about 700 strong, appeared from a depression to the west of his position. It attacked with coy with small arms, mortars and heavy automatics. The accurate and devastating fire of the enemy inflicted heavy casualties on D Coy. Major Somnath Sharma understood the gravity of the situation and the imminent threat to both Srinagar town and the airfield was looming large before his eyes. He rushed across the open ground to his sections, exposing himself to enemy fire. He also laid out panels to guide IAF aircraft to their targets in the face of enemy fire. The company held on for six hours against heavy odds.

When heavy casualties adversely affected the firing power of the company, Major Sharma, with his right hand in plaster, took upon himself the task of filling the magazines and issuing them to men, operating light machine guns. While he was busy fighting the enemy, a mortar shell exploded on the ammunition near him. His last message to Brigade HQ, received a few moments before he was killed was, "The enemy are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to our last man and our last round." His answer is now part of the Army lore. In the battle of Bagdam, Major Sharma, one JCO and 20 other ranks were killed. But their sacrifices did not go in vain. He and his men stemmed the tide of the enemy advance on Srinagar and the airfield for some very crucial hours. Major Somnath Sharma received India's first and highest war-time gallantry medal, Param Vir Chakra, Posthumously.