23
September

Rekindling the spirit

Written By: By Amir Zia

Conflicts and war often bring the best or worst out of men. The 1965 war indeed brought the best out of the Pakistani nation. This unyielding spirit needs to be celebrated... it needs to be rekindled even today when the country faces the usual conventional threat on its eastern front as well as the internal challenge of extremism and terrorism
W hen the Indian forces crossed Pakistan's international border unannounced in the dark of the night on the fateful date of September 6, 1965, they were hoping for a swift march into Lahore. Indian General, J.N. Chaudhry, had boasted that he would celebrate his victory at the Lahore Gymkhana the same evening. But the dream of the Indian General got drowned in the muddy waters of the BRB Canal where handful of Pakistani soldiers gave a heavy pounding to his 15th Infantry Division in the initial hours of the battle. The first mighty blows struck by the valiant sons of Pakistan on the aggressors set the tone of this 17-day conflict. Be it the defence of Lahore, the capture of the desert town of Munabao in Rajasthan, the grand tank battle of Chawinda near Sialkot, the bombardment of the India's radar station at the town of Dwarka by a small flotilla of Pakistan Navy, or the heroics of Pakistan Air Force – the gallantry of Pakistan Armed Forces in the 1965 War remain stuff fit for the folklore even after the passage of nearly five decades. The Indian offensive aimed at capturing major Pakistani cities of Lahore and Sialkot in one blow in the initial stage of the conflict on the back of a far superior numerical strength and firepower failed to materialize. But the Indians did manage to deflect pressure on the Akhnur and Jammu front where the Pakistani Forces were advancing at a rapid pace. Nevertheless, halting the Indian charge on the international frontier and defence of the major cities by Pakistani Armed Forces remains a feat in itself. The conflict tested the sheer resolve, courage and spirit of the mortal men that continue to resonate in our hearts even today. “The war has started,” thus spoke the then President Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan in his brief address to the nation at the start of the conflict. “Almighty Allah has provided an opportunity to the Pakistani Armed Forces to demonstrate their ability. My countrymen forge ahead and take on the enemy.” It was not just the men in uniform who answered to the call to arms, but the entire nation rose as one-man to foil the enemy designs. If our soldiers, airmen and sailors stood like a rock in the line of fire, the hearts of the entire nation were with them on each and every battlefront. Those were the times which galvanized the nation. The Indian aggression erased all the differences of class, social background, religion, ethnicity, nationality or sect. Internal wrangling and petty politics were kept on the back-burner. Defending the motherland was the only goal. In their bid to crush the legitimate freedom movement in the occupied Kashmir, the Indians thrust the war on Pakistan's international border. Pakistan responded matching fire with fire and steel with steel. It was a classical example of the Biblical tale of young David, who kills Goliath, the giant, with a stone. 14-15a Even though Pakistani Armed Forces were pitted against the much bigger enemy, there was never an element of self-doubt or lack of conviction that this war cannot be fought. The smallness of size and numerical strength got offset by the giant Pakistani spirit that believed 'yes we can.' We can defend our frontiers… we can preserve our liberty and we can give a bloody nose to our enemy. Be it the armed forces or the civilians – this conviction and sense of unity remained the hallmark of those testing times. In that short, less than three week war, if the armed forces made the nation proud, the civilians did their bit by backing the men in uniform as best as they could. Pakistani poets, artists, singers and musicians produced some of the best war time national songs that became classics in their own right that fill our hearts with pride, passion and love for our country and the armed forces even today. The Radio Pakistan bubbled with round-the-clock activity – even during the Indian air-raids – performing the task of countering the Indian propaganda blow-by-blow, disseminating information and articulating the national spirit through the national songs. If Pakistani intelligentsia worked overtime to back the war-effort, our labourers, workers, peasants, technicians, engineers, doctors, government employees, traders and shopkeepers ensured that all the vital operations and services continue unhindered during the wartime. And yes the grand Pakistani spirit that brought civilians to the rooftops of their houses to witness Pakistani eagles chasing the Indian planes. People shouted slogans, screamed and jumped with joy – many with teary eyes – as they hailed and showered their love and affection on the defenders of their motherland. Fear was and is not in our blood. Conflicts and war often bring the best or worst out of men. The 1965 war indeed brought the best out of the Pakistani nation. This unyielding spirit needs to be celebrated... it needs to be rekindled even today when the country faces the usual conventional threat on its eastern front as well as the internal challenge of extremism and terrorism. The ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azb against the Al-Qaeda-inspired local and foreign militants, who want to bring down the state and consider the Pakistani Armed Forces as their number one enemy, must be seen as vital for the unity and integrity of the country as was the 1965 war effort. To defeat this internal enemy – having tentacles not just in the treacherous mountainous regions but also in all major cities and towns of Pakistan – it is necessary that we evoke the similar spirit, which helped us repulse the attack of the Indians. Operation Zarb-e-Azb is not an isolated crackdown concerning the armed forces alone. It is Pakistan at war against the elusive enemy which is misusing the sacred name of Islam to weaken and damage the world's lone Muslim-majority nuclear state. Our stakes today remain as high as they were in 1965. Any doubts, disunity, discord among our ranks in taking on this challenge only benefit the internal as well as the external enemies of Pakistan. Our politicians need to grasp this reality and take a lead in setting the national narrative against these parochial forces which stand opposed to education, modernity, progress and development. The dream of a stable, economically vibrant and peaceful Pakistan would continue to elude us until we crush this internal enemy on a war-footing. The armed forces are doing their job and our soldiers and officers sacrificing lives in one of the most difficult terrains of the world, but are we, as a nation, backing this effort with a similar passion and single-mindedness as needed? We need to answer this question honestly. Yes, the nation stands solidly behind their armed forces despite all the turf wars being fought among our politicians and the ensuing confusion, but one hardly sees any sense of urgency and focus needed to win this internal war among our national leaders. The military operation against extremists and terrorists has provided the much-needed space to the civilian leadership to focus on reforms, and win the battle of ideas, but apart from the lip-service to this cause, there are hardly any meaningful steps being taken to exploit this window of opportunity. There should be zero tolerance against the non-state actors who try to undermine the writ of the state, take up arms and attack the armed forces, sensitive installations or target civilians. This is the minimum national consensus we need at this moment. For it is Pakistan's war, our war. It cannot be won without igniting the similar spirit which helped us in 1965. This is a chance for our generation to prove itself. We have no choice but to accept the gauntlet.

The writer is an eminent journalist who regularly contributes for media and is Editor of a national daily

Twitter: @AmirZia1

21
September

Reflections on the 1965 WAR

Written By: Brian Cloughley

One could spend a very long time going back over the ground of the 1965 war, because, as I have written elsewhere, the origins of the war, its conduct, and, its consequences are quite complex. Most books covering the period deal in the main with the outcome of the war rather than the reasons for it. This is understandable given that there appears to have been no national aim on the part of Pakistan for going to war in the first place. In 1965, the war aim of Pakistan was neither enunciated nor apparent. 'Survival' is not an aim, it is a pious desire, and although Pakistan's Armed Forces fought well during the 1965 war, they lacked the openly-declared Clausewitzian objective that they should fight to overcome the enemy, invest his territory, and, ensure his total defeat. India's forces had no inhibitions. They attacked Pakistan on 6 September with the aim of crushing it. Destruction of Pakistan was essential, according to India's leaders, if India was to be confident of supremacy in the sub-continent. But Pakistan fought back, and the war ended on 23 September. Both countries' economies were badly affected and their defence forces had suffered severe blows. There was no winner, but important military lessons had been learnt. Perhaps the following description of one engagement might give an idea of some of them. It covers part of what went on in the Sialkot Sector. Sialkot Sector is only six miles from the border with India and is not a 'good tank country' because there is little room for mass manoeuvre due to the extensive canal system's interlock with the main rivers. Further, the Chenab and Jhelum rivers would be (and still are) major obstacles to movement north-westwards towards Islamabad. ref1 1 There are differing accounts of the reasons for the Indian advance towards Sialkot. It may be that the objectives were imprecise at the time of orders being issued, which is unlikely given long-standing plans for war in the west, or that they were concealed afterwards in the interests of avoiding criticism of the failure to attain them. One incontrovertible fact is that a captured Indian Army order indicated the intention to cut the Grand Trunk Road and railway at Gujranwala, but this was probably a local tactical objective. The overall plan was and remains undefined, but reasonable conjecture may be made concerning its details based on examination of Indian, Pakistani, and neutral sources. Notwithstanding any territorial imperatives, it is apparent that the Indian aim was to defeat the Pakistan Army in the field, and, according to one analysis by a distinguished academic, their accounts concerning the advance in the Sialkot sector had 'a cluster of general objectives' aiming to: • pre-empt a Pakistani advance on Jammu planned for 10 September; • draw off Pakistani forces from the Chhamb sector, • prevent Pakistan reinforcing on the Lahore front; and • draw into battle, then destroy, Pakistani armour. There does not appear to be evidence that a Pakistani plan existed to attack Jammu on 10 September. Their advance on Akhnur, twenty miles north of Jammu, had been halted five days previously and it was obvious that they could go no further without substantial reinforcement in the Chhamb area. It may well be that there was an Indian plan to draw away Pakistani forces from Chhamb and Lahore but, if so, it is open to question why they should have committed an entire corps of more than three divisions, including the premier armoured formation, to an area in which a feint would have been enough to achieve these objectives. The possibility that one objective was the destruction of Pakistan's armour is difficult to substantiate as existing before the advance, although it might have become an aim after the Pakistani armour was committed. The Indians admit they were unaware of the existence of 6th Armoured Division, which was south-west of Sialkot. Even had its location and identity been known, the defeat of two tank units would hardly have represented 'destruction of Pakistani armour.' The argument that the thrust would draw in all other Pakistani armour from elsewhere to meet with destruction does not stand up, because there could be no guarantee that all other armour would move into the Sialkot sector, and even were there a desire to do so, Indian pressure on Lahore would militate against complete withdrawal of Pakistani tanks from that area. As it happened, three more armoured regiments were brought in, but even this was hardly the concentration that would meet an objective of annihilation. Accounts differ as to how many tanks were put out of action by both sides, but if it was India's intention to win a battle of attrition this did not succeed. The advance was blunted and the Pakistanis were able to hold their positions and prevent penetration of the vital ground between Sialkot and Lahore. It appears that the Indian aim was simply to attack where it considered the enemy was weak and to gain as much ground as possible while endeavouring to keep the enemy off balance. Exploitation would come later, when either the Lahore or the Sialkot offensive was successful. This is a perfectly understandable aim, and one that might just have been achieved had it not been for the stubborn resistance of numerically inferior Pakistani formations. The Indian invasion of Pakistan in the Sialkot sector began on the night of 7/8 September on two axes: the Jammu-Sialkot road, and a parallel route some twelve miles to the south-east. 1 (Indian) Corps was commanded by a steady and experienced officer, Lt-General P O Dunn, who had been given only a few days to move his HQ from Delhi to Jammu, where he arrived on 3 September. His corps consisted of: • 26 Infantry Division, which advanced on the axis of the Jammu-Sialkot road via the Indian border village of Suchetgarh. Gulzar Ahmed claims that the division had four infantry brigades and two armoured regiments, rather than the conventional three plus one, and it appears from other sources that this was so in at least the early stages of the advance. It is likely that the extra brigade and armoured regiment were corps' assets allocated for a specific phase of the operation – but whatever the arrangements, there was a powerful punch on this axis. • 6 Mountain Division, on the southern axis, crossed the border near the Pakistani village of Charwa. It is claimed by one source that this formation and 1st Armoured Division were understrength, but no yardstick is given. A mountain division, by definition, does not have an integral armoured regiment, and the analyst may have mistaken the division's order of battle at the beginning of conflict with the organization that applied on 10/11 September, when one of its brigades came temporarily under command of the armoured division. • 1 Armoured Division joined the advance at first light on 8 September, crossing the border near Charwa and moving south-west towards Chawinda. It had two armoured brigades each of two tank regiments and a lorried infantry battalion; and a lorried infantry brigade of two battalions. Its artillery included medium and heavy guns. It was a well-balanced formation, but the division had exchanged one, and possibly two, of its Centurion-equipped regiments with Sherman regiments of 2 Independent Armoured brigade, thus reducing its clout. • Elements of 14 Infantry Division were in the area but there are conflicting accounts of its role. One source states that, 7 Mountain Division, and 1 Armoured Division advanced 'on a front stretching from exclusive of Bajra Garhi to just east of the Degh Nadi, apparently with the initial task of cutting the Sialkot-Narowal-Lahore railway. Another analyst claims it 'rolled down across the wide stretch Charwa-Bajra Garhi.' But it appears that the division was not complete in the area of operations until some days after the initial Indian assault, and even then that it had the task of covering the left flank of 1 Armoured and 6 Infantry Divisions, and the right flank of 15 Corps, which was attacking on the Lahore front. During its move to the Jammu sector from Saugor (in central India) it had apparently 'received a pasting from the PAF' and was, as a result, 'in poor shape.' • '7 Mountain Division' is mentioned by one academic in his excellent analysis but, so far as can be determined, by nobody else who has written about the war. 7 Infantry Division fought on the Lahore front, but it is possible that a misidentification occurred, resulting in confusion of 7 Mountain Division with a brigade of the same number that belonged to 6 Mountain Division. If anyone reading this can enlighten me about the matter – or any other matter – I would be grateful. In the opening stages of the battles, Pakistan's 1 Corps covered the Sialkot sector with 15 Infantry Division consisting of seven battalions in four brigades (24, 101, 104, and 115), with 25 Cavalry as its armoured regiment, and a good allocation of artillery. But there were problems, not the least of which was that 115 Brigade was fighting in the Jassar area, where it was required to remain for the rest of the war. 101 Brigade (19 Punjab and 13 FF) was the only formation directly defending Sialkot, and was located astride the main road to Jammu where it faced the onslaught of the Indian 26 Division. 24 Brigade (2 Punjab and 3 FF, plus 25 Cavalry under command) was between the border and Chawinda, which lies due east of an almost right-angled bend in the Sialkot-Lahore railway. 104 Brigade, which consisted of a single battalion, 9 Baloch, was in reserve in the area of Uggoke/Raipur, about four miles west of Sialkot. It seemed that in the Jammu/Sialkot sector, the Indian Army might be able to bring sufficient force to bear to carry the day and even win the war. India's 1 Corps advanced with two infantry divisions and an armoured division against a Pakistani armoured brigade and a single infantry division that had fragmented and understrength fighting units, no cohesive defensive plan, and some leaders of dubious quality who were already under considerable pressure. India's 1st Armoured Division was ready to exploit the advantage won by the infantry force preceding it. The way to the west seemed open. 6 Armoured Division, consisting of the Guides Cavalry, 22nd Cavalry, 1st (SP) Regiment of 25 pounder guns on tracked chassis, and ‘4th Battalion The Frontier Force Regiment’ (in fact no more than a brigade of eighty tanks, 12 guns, and 700 infantry in lorries), was in leaguer around Kot Daska, 15 miles south-west of Sialkot and 30 miles west of the border. Chawinda, where it was to win its spurs, was twenty miles away. The units moved quickly when it became apparent that the Indian invasion was taking place. In the north, two battalions of India's 26 Division crossed the border astride the Jammu-Sialkot road at about midnight on 7 September. They quickly overcame the outposts of the Sutlej Rangers (light scouting forces) but were brought to a halt by 101 Brigade and the weight of Pakistan's artillery. According to one writer, the approaches to Sialkot 'bristled with pill-boxes, bunkers and gun emplacements,' the latter including 'three field and one medium artillery regiments, one heavy battery and one heavy mortar regiment.' A concentration of this number of guns and mortars would cover an area of about 500 meters by 150 meters in which the weight of shells and mortar bombs from one round of fire from each equipment would be approximately two tons. Not only this, but the artillery was well-handled and 'some senior Indian army officers who had served in World War II likened the scale of Pakistani artillery fire to heavy concentrations in the latter stages of that war. While this is not borne out by inspection of battlefields, it does indicate that Pakistan's artillery fire was substantial and effective.' 26 Division managed to reach the village of Kalarawanda, about three miles west of the border, by the time of the cease-fire on 23 September. There was a massive effort on the part of the Indian Army on the northern axis of the Sialkot front, but an advance of only three miles cannot be called satisfactory when one considers the numerical superiority of 26 Division. The defence of Sialkot by 19 Punjab and 13 FF and their supporting gunners was more dogged than glamorous, more indefatigable than dramatic; but, their courage and tenacity were unmatching.

The writer is a France based retired officer of Australian Army and is an expert on South Asian affairs. He is also author of different books, and contributes extensively in international media.

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16
September

TOGETHER WE FOUGHT

Written By: Brig (Retd) Farooq Afzal

Hardly the company was settled on captured Indian positions without any F-echelon and heavy anti tank weapons when we heard enemy tanks approaching from the flanks along the bund heading for the bridge. At this time, there were no anti tank weapons except for 3.5” Rocket Launcher and Energa Grenade. Maj Shabir ordered to knock down the Indian tanks and not to allow their move towards the bridge. Two T-54 enemy tanks were coming from the left along the bund and one singular formation from the Gurmukhera village along the right bund. Hav Adalat was spirited, holding strong nerves and a bold man. He got hold of the Rocket Launcher and knocked the rear tank coming along the left flank. The first tank had stopped right in front of my half dug trench and firing in the dir of the bridge. I loaded the rifle of my runner with Energa Grenade, went down and fired at point blank range. The tank was hit and soon went into flames. The crew was Muslim as later we could identify from their document. The tank on the left was also knocked down and all three burnt till dawn. These were the first causalities of 2nd Armoured Squadron ex 18 Cavalry. The first Indian counter attack came around 8:30 p.m. and was repulsed. The second counter attack came before the first light and repulsed with heavy causalities. The enemy artillery was remarkably firing very accurately on our linear defensive position, but our brave soldiers were not impressed to leave even an inch of the captured Indian territory. Pakistan's and 6 FF sons were at their best!


Memoirs of then 2/Lieutenant Farooq Afzal who fought alongwith Major Shabir Sharif Shaheed (Nishan-e-Haider) at Sabuna Distributary, Suleimanki-Fazilka Sector, 1971

 

T he situation in (then) East Pakistan was deteriorating and the entire 105 Brigade Group moved towards Sulaimanke Head Works (HW). 6 Frontier Force Regiment (6 FF) was ordered to move and occupy its defensive position. On September 19, 1971, I passed out from Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) and joined 6 FF in the concentration area near Haveli Lakha. I was fortunate to get the unit on claim as my uncle, Honorary/Captain Mir Badshah (first Muslim Subedar Major after partition), my father (then as a “Y” cadet, later Brigadier) Mir Afzal had served in 'CHARWANJA' (6 FF) much before the partition. So it was a matter of great pride and honour to be a part of the '6th Battalion The Frontier Force Regiment.'


To my great good luck and surprise, I was placed as a Company Officer under Major Shabir Sharif in 'B Company.' He was earlier seen and watched as a dashing and a decorated Platoon Commander in PMA. I had the same fear prevailing even after commissioned to serve under Maj Shabir in the regiment. Anyway, we met very warmly; Maj Shabir welcomed and guided me to the company which was under preparation to move forward towards the HWs area. Much after last light, the company embussed and reached in the vicinity of the irrigation rest house. The company bivouacked for the night and Sepoy Noor Rehman was detailed as first buddy (batman) in my army service. A tall well build soldier, whom later I found as an 'LMG number.' His stay was short with me being more needed for his operational role.


Sulaimanke HW lies on River Sutlej and regulates water to few major canals in the area. Pakpattan, Ford Wah and Sadiqia are the three major outlets irrigating the land in the surroundings. By virtue of its locality, it's an important tactical target for the Indians to hold and capture. The distance is not more than 3 km from the Indian Sadiqia Post-6RD, located west of the HWs. The international boundary runs parallel to the river line in the north making into a big “V” shape and then runs south towards Amruka - Sadiq Ganj - Bahawalnagar. The home side is all marshy, water logged with dense undergrowth. At places the pondage areas are deep up to 15-20 feet. The only dry and high ground available is the Left Marginal Bund which originates from the mouth of the HWs and extends north and north-east along the international border. The width and height varies but generally a truck can comfortably be driven on it. Across the border, the area was partially covered with elephant grass and some undergrowth while all remaining area was cultivated with local crops. Pakka, Beriwala, Jhangar, Ghurmukhera, Nirmal, Mambake, Jhok Mambake and Khokhar are the important villages in the area. There was no barbed wire or any obstacle in the area. Ground visibility was clear except for where built up areas, or thick growth, or trees were planted. Interestingly, we often watched the Blue Bulls grazing in the Indian fields just few hundred yards away. Fish and wild ducks were available on own side in the pond areas.


Early next morning, probably September 28/29, 1971, the Company Reconnainance (R) Group left for the reconnainance (recce) of the operational area for the deployment of the B Company. Maj Shabir and I drove in white M-38 jeep and debussed on the far bank of the river where few other members of the R Group were waiting in Rangers' uniform (malatia shirt with khaki trouser). The march started on the left marginal bund with Maj Shabir in the leading role. Both sides of the bund were inundated and swamped with flood water from River Sutlej with lots of water birds, peacock, wild bores and tall shisham trees. Humidity was intense and the weather was hot. Having walked for few kilometres, we hit the bund connecting Sadiqia Tower Post on the right. This is where the international boundary runs parallel to the Left Marginal Bund (LMB). We continued to walk on the bund till the growth on ground provided cover from observation. Thereafter, we walked along the lower track of the bund and occasionally popped up to take the view of the enemy area. Rangers post then called as “Jhangar” was visited and the post commander was briefed of the purpose. Continued with the recce till all deployment was completed – Fazilka Drain was the last point. It was almost late afternoon and the sun was hot, we returned on foot back to the HWs. It was a tiring and hectic but otherwise a useful day. The platoon deployment was marked, company HQ was identified and similarly the B echelon and cook houses were located. Battalion Mortar location was also identified as it was placed under command B Company.


The move started much after last light with the company commander in lead. It was pitch dark night and the company walked all the way to Jhangar Post in full Field Service Marching Order (FSMO) regardless of any fear and danger to life. B Company deployed along the Jhangar Post bund for the night. Thereafter, the company would move overnight for operational deployment and fall back to Forward Assembly Area (FAA) / concentration area after the morning 'stand to.' Night hours were used to carry out full time preparation of defences/bunkers, field of fire etc. The area was infested with all sorts of snakes, wild animals, insects and mosquitoes. Many precautions were taken to avoid snake bites or catch malaria. Luckily no casualties occurred.


I was fully inducted and trained by my Company Commander to go through the drills and procedures of a Sepoy, then as section 2nd-in-Command (2IC), Section Commander, Platoon Havildar, Platoon Commander and then as a Company Officer. I carried out night patrolling, sentry duties and even link patrolling with the neighbouring company having gap of few kilometer. In the process, I was able to know and understand the basic duties of the soldiers and exactly identify the strength of the Company in field. This all helped me to 'know my men' and they also got a chance to know their new officer.


In November, the situation in East Pakistan started deteriorating. So the Company remained permanently located on the forward positions. Overhead protection and overhead covers for trenches, weapons and pits were prepared, crawl trenches dug, field of fire cleared, and targets registered. Similarly, the area under observation was properly known and targets identified.


Coordination with C Company on the right flank and D Company on the left flank was carried out and all Company Commanders were ready with their limited offensive actions. B Company mission was to capture enemy Jhangar, Beriwala and village Noor Mohammad (in ruins). All these positions were held by strong section (plus)/ Platoon size force. Protective / defensive mine fields were also laid in front of all these locations. By the third week of November 1971, Indian regular troops started showing their presence by carrying out route marches in the full battle dress all along the border starting in morning till evening. To counter, our troops were also allowed to appear in full battle dress on the LMB wherever required.


A huge and old shisham tree existed along the LMB near the Fazilka Drain. It was selected and decided by Maj Shabir to build a machan (Observation Post) for better observation. It was an approximately 30 feet high tree with huge branches and fairly difficult to climb. It was November 22/23, 1971 and had rained the previous night. The weather had become cool and chilly, foggy in early hours but visibility cleared as the sun became hot and shiny. I was then occupying the machan post. As I started viewing the enemy area in front, I happened to identify a raised ground running north-east to south-west. Later, I saw some slit / port holes on the same locality. By mid-day as the sun became warm, I noticed troops started basking in the sun in group of 2s and 3s on their respective bunkers. I was really amazed and excited to locate new defensive position of the enemy which was neither known nor ever visualized in our plans. Some smoke behind the bund was also observed believed to be a built up area or a village.


Following the line of bund southwards, a crossing place was identified with the help of dust kicked off by the cattle and subsequently the upper railings of the bridge were also identified. Having noticed all this, I immediately sent a message for Maj Shabir with all the latest information. He immediately returned and climbed to machan and briefed on the battle front. He was much excited and pleased with the latest information about the enemy. As soon as we pulled back, Maj Shabir decided and ordered me to plan for the capture of the bridge / crossing place without informing anybody outside the company.


A fighting patrol of 14 men (best men were picked) was planned to lead the Company attack 30 minutes before the H hour on receiving code word “Tauheed“. A strong fighting patrol was organized and all men were selected personally by me. A model of the area was prepared, plan rehearsed physically on ground and actions/ counter actions fully visualised to make it a successful attempt. I was the leader for the operation. L/Nk Usman along with Sepoy Mir Badshah were the scouts, followed immediately by the patrol leader, and remaining section deployed in Diamond formation all facing outward. A Light Machine Gun (LMG) on flanks, Rocket Launcher (RL) with Section Commander at the tail and wireless silence was observed. Pre-selected butt knocks signals were assigned. Maj Shabir approved of the plan and decided to follow-in-zone with remaining 4 and 5 platoon elements. N/Sub Arif, No 6 Platoon Commander (who was an Army wrestler) was tasked to attack and capture Village Noor Mohammad (in ruins on raised ground) expected to be occupied by section plus enemy strength. He had to wade through the water channel of Fazilka Drain in order to capture his target. A strong fire base, commanded by Sub Atta, SJCO B Company located on the LMB opposite Indian Jhangar Post was ordered to fire on call. Battalion Mortars located behind own Jhangar Post were also ordered to fire on call. Complete wireless silence was observed by all call signs to achieve ‘secrecy and surprise.’


The operation started on receipt of code word Tauheed which was personally delivered by Lt Col Imam Ali Malik , Commanding Officer, 6 FF by mid- day, December 3, 1971. The H hour was 1800 hours. We had approximately 2-3 hours to prepare, pack up/close non-essentials and dump in Platoon / Company HQ locality. The fighting patrol was collected, final briefing was done, and, weapons and ammunition were checked before proceeding to Company HQ. A dua was offered for the success of the operation and all embraced each other before leaving for the attack.


It was exactly 1730 hours, the leading man, Sepoy Usman went down the bund and remaining followed to form up in diamond formation. When all was done, I ordered them to advance. Indian Jhangar Post was by-passed unnoticed and soon we encountered minefield. Formation of the patrol was changed to file and the minefield was negotiated without any mishap. Beriwala village was on the right flank and by-passed without any detection by the enemy. The patrol was few hundred yards away from the objective when it came under direct fire from right flank probably Machine Gun laid on fixed line. In order to avoid any causality the patrol was ordered to deploy. After a few moments, I decided to move and resume advance but to my surprise the elements of my patrol were reluctant to rise. I had to reach every individual to pat and order to move which happened instantly. The bright full moon was up in the sky illuminating the area, and visibility was clear up to 30-50 feet. The patrol was still short by few minutes to the bridge, when our guns on the brigade front opened up with the Defensive Fire. Silence and secrecy broke out but still the enemy had not known our locations. The Dragon Teeth on the home side of the bridge depicted bivouac on which few rounds were fired and received no return fire.


On reaching the bridge, as planned, the patrol was to assault in four waves consisting four persons in each file and I leading the first wave. As soon as the ‘Nara-e-Takbir’ was shouted on the bridge, the enemy across the distributary and the bund opened up with volley of intense fire. The fire was intense and very effective resulting three causalities from the first wave. I dropped down on the bridge pretending to be casualty but kept crawling. At the end of the bridge, enemy Machine Gun bunker watched my move and lobbed a grenade which luckily bounced and exploded down in the canal. By this time I had crossed the bridge and waited for my colleagues to join. Shortly five jawans joined and ordered to split into two groups of three each. The enemy was still firing on the bridge and I could hear the cries of my wounded soldiers yelling in pains and asking for water. Anyhow close quarter battle was fought by these brave men and initial bunkers were cleared off the enemy occupation.


At this time, Maj Shabir Sharif was shouting at me to find if I was alive and captured the bridge intact. I replied in positive and requested to reach for immediate support. In no time he reached with 4 and 5 Platoon elements. He ordered me to exploit with 4 Platoon on the right shoulder whereas he would take on the left portion with 5 Platoon. I was also to control all crossing and move on the bridge. N/Sub Sadiq was the 4 Platoon Commander and I briefed him to continue clearing bunkers and trenches as he deployed his men. The enemy was on the rout. Meanwhile I was also attending to the injured on the bridge. Sepoy Usman had breathed his last, Sepoy Mir Badshah was still in pain seeking water and first aid. To some, we could attend but unfortunately all were severely and badly wounded. In less than 30 minutes there were dead bodies of nine men on the bridge. It was extremely touching moments but then they had embraced Shahadat.
Many Indian civilians, including farmers, women and children, old and young pleaded for mercy. They were allowed to go with whatever little they could carry on their heads and shoulders. However, men in uniform were made Prisoners of War (PoWs).


Meanwhile N/Sub Arif, 6 Platoon Commander had captured his objective and was ordered to report on the bridge. They were wet above waist level and Maj Shabir ordered to occupy position further left of 4 Platoon. N/Sub Arif accompanied me alongwith his runner and operator. We were passing through the deployed elements of the 4 Platoon on the top of the bund. Occasional enemy artillery and some stray Small Arms fire was coming on our position. The bund was densely covered with bushes and undergrowth and move was restricted. I handed over the area beyond 4 Platoon to N/Sub Arif for occupation and deployment of 6 Platoon. As soon as I returned back to the bridge, a shell landed near N/Sub Arif and he embraced Shahadat instantly. His death news was a big shock to Maj Shabir and, also for me.
Hardly the company was settled on captured Indian positions without any F echelon and heavy anti tank weapons when we heard enemy tanks approaching from the flanks along the bund heading for the bridge. At this time, there were no anti tank weapons except for 3.5” Rocket Launcher and Energa Grenade. Maj Shabir ordered to knock down the Indian tanks and not to allow their move towards the bridge. Two T-54 enemy tanks were coming from the left along the bund and one singular formation from the Gurmukhera village along the right bund. Hav Adalat was spirited, holding strong nerves and a bold man. He got hold of the Rocket Launcher and knocked the rear tank coming along the left flank. The first tank had stopped right in front of my half dug trench and firing in the direction of the bridge. I loaded the rifle of my runner with Energa Grenade, went down and fired at point blank range. The tank was hit and soon went into flames. The crew was Muslim as later we could identify from their document. The tank on the left was also knocked down and all three burnt till dawn. These were the first causalities of 2nd Armoured Squadron ex 18 Cavalry. The first Indian counter attack came around 8:30 p.m. and was repulsed. The second counter attack came before the first light and repulsed with heavy causalities. The enemy artillery was remarkably firing very accurately on our linear defensive position, but our brave soldiers were not impressed to leave even an inch of the captured Indian territory. Pakistan's and 6 FF sons were at their best!


Throughout the day, Indian Artillery was carrying out ranging in addition to the air attacks. The enemy tanks hidden in hull down position were hitting our position on the Bund but could cause only little damage. On night 4/5, Indian launched counter attack supported by heavy artillery shelling. In the process, Maj Narian Singh, from 4 Jat Regiment encountered with Maj Shabir Sharif and were standing face to face. He lobbed phosphorus grenade which burned the left side of Maj Shabir face. However, before the Indian officer could fire, Maj Shabir fired a burst and killed him. Next morning it was revealed that the dead body was of attacking Indian Company Commander. After the cease fire his dead body was handed over to Indian authorities and later learnt he was awarded 'Veer Chakar,' – Indian gallantry award.


In the morning I requested Maj Shabir to go back to Regiment Aid Post (RAP) for the dressing and first aid but he refused to do so. He was looking strong and motivated and instead dispatched many recommendations of his subordinates for operational awards.


By first light December 6, 1971, the Company had repulsed several counter attacks and kept the enemy at bay, whose two Battalions, 3 Assam and 4 Jat supported by a squadron of 18 Cavalry, were rendered ineffective. The same morning enemy launched another counter attack preceded by air strikes and heavy artillery shelling, Maj Shabir Sharif took over the duty of the gunner from the 106 mm Recoilless Rifle crew and started firing on the enemy tanks. While he was firing, one of the enemy tanks fired with its main and secondary guns which proved fatal for Maj Shabir Sharif and hence, 6 FF, Pakistan Army and I personally, lost one of the best and daring officers. This was the most shocking news for me to lose a brave commander and most favourite combat leader in the battlefield. I was never able to see him off from the battle front and prayed for the departed soul as he alongwith three other dead bodies were being evacuated. I was broken to lose a bright and bold soldier like him who are born very seldom. We had built very strong bonds during the three days battle on Sabuna Bund.


The Company remained on the Sabuna Bund till December 17, 1971, the day when ceasefire was enforced. During the 15 days war, B Company encountered 14 counter attacks support by heavy artillery, tanks and air support. The causalities were enormous; one officer, three Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and 56 soldiers embraced Shahadat. 134 individuals including six JCOs were wounded, mostly in severe condition. Indians suffered heavily; 3 Assam and 4 Jat were completely wiped out, over 60 persons were taken PoWs including officers and JCOs. 9 tanks of 2 Armoured Squadron ex 18 Cavalry (T-54) were destroyed. A large quantity of equipment, weapons and ammunition including two vehicles were captured.


Glorious achievements of 6 FF are today well known throughout the army. No amount of description and homage can justly depict what they did and there are many soldiers whose deeds remain unnoticed, unsung and unrecognized; such is the fog of the battle.


What I have narrated about the proud performance of 6 FF is the objective account of facts and sublime human courage, devotion and steadfastness. They achieved the impossible but I sincerely believe that such outstanding feats can be performed by any other battalion of Pakistan Army if it can display the requisite degree of faith, devotion, valour, exemplary leadership qualities by the officers and that infinite urge of personal “Ghairat” and pride in their battalion. Inspiring leadership, particularly junior leadership, is the major contributing factor for success in any operations of war.

Throughout the day, Indian Artillery was carrying out ranging in addition to the air attacks. The enemy tanks hidden in hull down position were hitting our position on the Bund but could cause only little damage. On night 4/5, Indian launched counter attack supported by heavy artillery shelling. In the process, Maj Narian Singh, from 4 Jat Regiment encountered with Maj Shabir Sharif and were standing face to face. He lobbed phosphorus grenade which burned the left side of Maj Shabir face. However, before the Indian officer could fire, Maj Shabir fired a burst and killed him. Next morning it was revealed that the dead body was of attacking Indian Company Commander. After the cease fire his dead body was handed over to Indian authorities and later learnt he was awarded 'Veer Chakar,' an Indian Award.

*****

By first light December 6, 1971, the Company had repulsed several counter attacks and kept the enemy at bay, whose two Battalions, 3 Assam and 4 Jat supported by a squadron of 18 Cavalry, were rendered ineffective. The same morning enemy launched another counter attack preceded by air strikes and heavy artillery shelling, Maj Shabir Sharif took over the duty of the gunner from the 106 mm Recoilless Rifle crew and started firing on the enemy tanks. While he was firing, one of the enemy tanks fired with its main and secondary guns which proved fatal for Maj Shabir Sharif and hence, 6 FF, Pakistan Army and I personally, lost one of the best and daring officers. This was the most shocking news for me to lose a brave commander and most favourite combat leader in the battlefield. I was never able to see him off from the battle front and prayed for the departed soul as he alongwith three other dead bodies were being evacuated. I was broken to lose a bright and bold soldier like him who are born very seldom. We had built very strong bonds during the three days battle on Sabuna Bund.

*****

 
15
September

First World War Finding Pakistan’s Place in History

Written By: Jennifer McKay

August 4 marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of First World War (WW1) 1914-1918, one of the deadliest wars in history. Over the next four years, a series of commemorative events will be conducted around the world in remembrance of those who lived, fought and died in 'The Great War'. The commemorations are not about victory or defeat, winners or losers, it is about remembrance of courage and sacrifice, of lives lost, of suffering, and the tragedy of war.

WW1 was the first global war and the first to be fought on land, in the air, and at sea.  Modern weaponry caused mass casualties not seen before in war, and civilian populations suffered great hardships.  It was one of the most significant events of the 20th century and a turning point in history, the impacts of which are still being felt today. Under post-war treaties, the national boundaries of a number of countries in Europe and the Middle East were redefined which heightened tensions in the region, some of which continue to this day.  In Germany, this and simmering resentment about the stringent terms of the Treaty of Versailles, enabled Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party to develop an aggressive nationalist movement that ultimately led to World War II (1939-1945).

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The complex political, economic and territorial disputes between European nations that led to WW1, and its antecedents, had been simmering for several decades, dating back at least to 1890 and the German Kaiser's dismissal of the Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. But on 28 June 1914, a sunny day in Sarajevo, the assassination of the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by Gavrilio Princip – a member of a Serb militant organisation wanting independence from Austria-Hungary - set off a chain of events that, within a few weeks, triggered a world war. Austria responded to the assassination by declaring war on Serbia, having gained support from Germany.  Russia then mobilised its troops.  On 1st August, Germany declared war on Russia; on 3rd August, Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium; and on 4th August, Britain declared war on Germany. Although not the underlying cause of the war, the act of one man set off one of the deadliest conflicts in history, drawing in millions of troops from many nations.

The Entente Countries (the Allies) included the British Empire – UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Malta and what was then Rhodesia – France, and Russia. Japan, Italy, Belgium Greece, Montenegro, Romania, and the Czechoslovak legions were secondary members of the Entente. The United States entered the war on 6 April 1917 as an associated power rather than a formal ally of France or the British. The Allies were pitted against the Central Powers – the Austro-Hungarian Empire; Germany; German Colonial Empire; Ottoman Turkish Empire, and Kingdom of Bulgaria.

The war that many over-optimistically thought 'would be over by Christmas', dragged on for four years until the surrender of Germany in November 1918 when they signed the Armistice of Compiègne with the Allies, ending the war. It is estimated that the casualties reached 37 million.  Of these, 17 million died and 20 million were wounded. The death toll included some 10 million military personnel and approximately 7 million civilians. The Allies lost 6 million soldiers while the Central Powers lost 4 million. At least 2 million died from diseases and 6 million went missing, presumed dead.

So what has WW1 – and the 100th anniversary commemorations – got to do with Pakistan, a country that did not come into existence until 1947?  To most Pakistanis, WW1 is irrelevant if remembered at all, and had nothing to do with the country. They could not be more wrong. WW1 is an important part of the heritage of what is today, Pakistan. Many famous Regiments and units of the Pakistan Army – then a part of the British Indian Army pre-Partition – served with great distinction in this war. Hundreds of thousands of men from this region signed up to fight in lands far from home for a war that was not their own.

There is a distinction between seeking war and preparing contingency plans, should the worst-case scenario arise.  As a contingency, from 1902 to 1909 the Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener reformed the sub-continent's Army and created one cohesive Army with a brigade and divisional structure, instead of the old 'Presidency Armies' (Bombay, Madras, and Bengal).

Kitchener also founded the Staff College, which moved to Quetta in 1907 where even today his portrait still graces the walls of the Command and Staff College.   Thus in 1914 the British Indian Army was able to mobilise and expand with more than 1.27 million men serving overseas in WW1. Seven large expeditionary forces, lettered A to G, were dispatched overseas. The first troops landed in Marseilles in France on 30 September 1914, just a few weeks after the declaration of war. As well as serving in France and German East Africa, these Regiments also fought in the two complementary campaigns and axes against the Turkish Army: one drive from Egypt/Sinai into Palestine and Syria; and the other up the Tigris River in Mesopotamia (now Iraq), terminating at Baghdad and Mosul.

According to some war historians, in 1914 approximately 63.6% of the British Indian Army was recruited from just three areas of the sub-continent – Punjab, North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Nepal. The reason men signed up for the Army were varied but many chose to do so because of economic circumstances – a regular pay – and the opportunity to display courage and bring honour and glory to their families and villages. Also, in the Punjab and NWFP a martial tradition existed. The relevance of this tradition cannot be underestimated, nor the family connections serving in British regiments recruited from these areas.

When they arrived in the battlefields of Europe, the soldiers found themselves in a strange land, under-equipped and without appropriate clothing for the conditions, especially the freezing European winters which, in 1914, was particularly harsh. To ensure their basic comforts, the Army had sent cooks who could attend to the religious requirements of food preparation, and arrangements were made for observance of their prayers and other religious rituals.

These WW1 regiments included Battalions of the following current Pakistan Army regiments: Baloch regiment; Punjab regiment; and Frontier Force regiment.  They also included units of the Artillery and Armoured Corps regiments such as: 5 Horse (Probyn's Horse); 11th Cavalry (Prince Albert Victor's Own Cavalry (PAVO) and Daly's Horse); and 12th Cavalry (Sam Browne's - Frontier Force).

For those who have served in these regiments since, much of this history is known, but for most Pakistanis there is a complete lack of knowledge of this important piece of the country's history. It isn't possible in this one article to cover the extensive historic accounts of all the regiments and Units or the history of the war itself – these are all big and diverse stories deserving of their own space. But it is an introduction to this important topic and one that I will write more about over the four-year period as commemorative events get under way here and overseas, and as I gather further research from families and historians from the regiments.  The regiments and units have been renamed at various times over the years, sometimes more than once.  For as much clarity as possible, I have mostly used their WW1 names with the current name in brackets. 

Pakistan Army has many historic cavalry regiments, a number of which served in the 1914-1918 War. 5 Horse (Probyn's Horse) was raised in 1857 and fought in WW1 as the 11th King Edward's Own Lancers (Probyn's Horse) serving in Mesopotamia. The 11th Cavalry (Frontier Force) – raised in 1849 – served in WW1 as the 21st PAVO Cavalry (Frontier Force) (Daly's Horse), served throughout the Mesopotamia Campaign, including the capture of Kirkuk. The 12th Cavalry (Frontier Force) was raised in 1849 and served in WW1 as the 22nd Sam Browne's Cavalry (Frontier Force) and also fought in Mesopotamia. The names of these regiments perpetuate some of the great Frontier commanders of the 19th Century – General Sir Dighton Probyn, General Sir Henry Daly and General Sir Sam Browne, VC. The ceremonial belt – still worn by Commonwealth armies – the Sam Browne belt commemorates the one-armed warrior, Sam Browne. Despite their great courage and sacrifice, there were no indigenous commissioned officers in the British Indian Army until shortly after the end of WW1 and even then it was some time before they were of any significant number. In 1923, there were only 23, a number far short of the 200 that had been hoped for. However, the war was certainly a catalyst for change.

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Probyn's Horse consisted of two Regiments during this era – 11th Bengal Lancers and 12th Bengal Cavalry.  They were later amalgamated in 1921 to form 5th King Edwards VII's Own Probyn's Horse. The Adjutant's Journal from that time provides some insights into their lives and role in the war. In meticulous handwriting, the journal sets out the appointments, postings, the lives lost and the wounded. At the outbreak of the war, the 11th Lancers were stationed at Delhi where they formed part of the Security Garrison in India. The regiment historical account notes that it was to their 'everlasting regret' that they were not included in the expeditionary force to France. However, between August 1914 and April 1917, the journal notes that the regiment sent no fewer than 11 officers and 400 Indian soldiers of other ranks chiefly to the 9th Hodson's Horse, the 16th Cavalry, and the 19th Lancers.

In October 1917, the regiment was finally mobilised for overseas service and on 25th they embarked at Karachi for Basra where they arrived on 29th October.  They were then ordered to the III Corps area at Diyalah and after arriving at Shahroban, the regiment remained there until Armistice on 11th November 1918.

The outbreak of war saw 12th Bengal Cavalry at Meerut. They too regretted that they were not included in the expeditionary force to France but formed part of the internal security garrison in India.  However, between August 1914 and October 1915, the regiment sent 4 Indian officers, and 120 Indian soldiers of other ranks to various regiments, chiefly the 16th Cavalry and the 18th Lancers. In November 1915, the 12th Cavalry was finally mobilised for forward service and in December they proceeded to Mesopotamia (Iraq). On arrival at Basra, the Dogra and Muslim Squadrons marched to Qurnah and then travelled by sailing boats up the Euphrates River to Nasariyeh. They saw action in various places and in December 1918, the regiment returned to Meerut in India. 

During the regiment's service in WW1, two officers – Captain McCudden and Captain T.N. Watson – were each awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. Risaldar (Ris) Asiq Ali Khan, was awarded the Indian Distinguished Medal, and Dafeder (Dfr) Pertab Singh and Dfr Naurang Singh, were awarded the Indian Order of Merit. 

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military award for valour that a British and Commonwealth serviceman can receive. The medal is simply inscribed 'For Valour'. During WW1, three soldiers from Pakistan – Sepoy Khudadad Khan, Naik Shahamad Khan and Jemadar Mir Dast were awarded the VC for extraordinary acts of courage. Of the millions of men from the British Commonwealth who have served in all wars since the medal was introduced by Queen Victoria 158 years ago, only 1,353 individuals have been awarded this rare honour.

In October 1914, Sepoy Khudadad Khan (born Chakwal, Punjab) became the first indigenous soldier of the Army to win the VC for his bravery in the First Battle of Ypres, at Hollebeke, Belgium. He was one of only two WW1 VC recipients from what is now Baloch regiment. Khudadad Khan served in the 11th Battalion, Baloch regiment, then known as the 1/129th DCO's own Baluchis (Duke of Connaught's Own). This battalion served in France and Belgium.  In October 1914, soon after arriving in France, the Baluchis were sent to the Front Line to help the exhausted British troops prevent the Germans from advancing and taking control of the vital ports of Boulogne in France and Nieuwpoort in Belgium.  The conditions were appalling. The shallow trenches were waterlogged, they lacked adequate hand grenades and barbed wire, and were outnumbered five to one by a better equipped enemy.

On 30 October, the Germans attacked and most of the Baluchis were pushed back. However, Khudadad Khan's machine-gun team, along with one other, continued to fight on, thereby preventing the Germans from making the final breakthrough. Eventually, Khudadad Khan's team was over-run and all gunners were either shot or bayonetted to death, except Khan himself who although badly wounded, pretended to be dead until the German soldiers had gone, then made his way back to safety. The other gun crew took a direct hit and all were killed. The courage of Khudadad Khan and the Baluchis ensured that the Germans were prevented from reaching the ports, as they had held the line long enough for British and Indian reinforcements to arrive. Khan was sent to a hospital at Brighton in England where he recovered from his wounds. Three months later, King George V presented him with the Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace in London. Khudadad Khan survived the war and died in March 1971, aged 82. He is buried in Rukhan Village Cemetery at Dab, Chakwal in Punjab.  A statue of this heroic soldier stands at the entrance of the Army Museum at Rawalpindi.

The Baluchis fought in both the First and Second Battles of Ypres. They later fought at Messines, Armentieres, Festubert, Givenchy, and at Neuve Chappelle in 1915. The regiment later served in the campaign in German East Africa, and after WW1, the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919 and in the Iraqi Revolt in 1920.  Of the 4,447 men who served in its 1st and 2nd Battalions, 3,585 became casualties during their operational service from 1914 to 1920.

rdships of a battalion of 900 men spending effectively six continuous years in battle or operational areas.  This too was the service of 1st Battalion, Baloch regiment from 1914 to 1920. 1st Battalion was raised in 1798. During WW1 this Battalion was known as the 89th Punjabis. A famous image of this Battalion photographed at historic Nowshera Cantonment in 1917, shows its many winners of gallantry awards. Front and centre is Naik Shahamad Khan (born Rawalpindi) who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroic actions at Beit Aveesa on the Tigris Front in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) on 12/13 April 1916, and Lieutenant Colonel N.M. Geoghegan, DSO.

Shahamad Khan was in charge of a machine-gun section, 150 yards from the enemy line at Beit Aveesa. After all his Section comrades were killed or wounded, he manned the machine-gun single-handedly for three hours and held the gap in the defences against three enemy counter-attacks, while the gap was made secure.  Finally ordered to retire, he brought back to his own lines a severely wounded man, his gun and ammunition.  Shahamad Khan subsequently returned to remove all the remaining arms and equipment except two shovels.  But for his actions, the enemy would have penetrated the line. Shahamad Khan later reached the rank of Subedar.  He survived the war and died, aged 68 in 1948 and is buried in Takhti, his ancestral village in Punjab. His VC, purchased (presumably) from his family in 1999 by a private British collector, was displayed in the Extraordinary Heroes Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London.

Shahamad Khan's battalion – the 89th Punjabis – served in all the major theatres of the war.  They served in Aden in 1914, then in Egypt 1915 and Gallipoli in the Second Battle of Krithia in May 1915. They then deployed to the trenches in France from June to December 1915.  In 1916 they served in Mesopotamia on the Tigris Front with great distinction and suffered many casualties. In 1918 they fought in Salonika in Greece and in the British campaigns in Russian Trans-Caucasia from 1918 to 1920. They arrived home in August 1920. This was an extraordinary six years of overseas military operations, and the battalion suffered 1,018 casualties – well over its nominal strength – including 211 killed.

The Punjab regiment also served with distinction in the war. Its current 1st Battalion fought as the 62nd Punjabis during WW1. The 62nd Punjabis saw service in Egypt where, as part of the Indian 10th Division, they were sent to protect the Suez Canal. They played a major role there in repelling the Turkish offensive in 1915. This was followed by operations in Aden (Yemen) and they then arrived in Mesopotamia on New Year's Eve, 1915. Lieutenant Colonel (later Field Marshal) Claude Auchinleck was the Commanding Officer in Mesopotamia. Auchinleck (1884-1981) was later Commander-in-Chief, British Indian Army, from 1943 to 1947. He was one of the longest-lived WW2 commanders, and ultimately retired to Morocco where he died in 1981, aged 96.

The 6th Battalion, also of Punjab regiment – then the 20th DCO's Infantry/Brownlow's Punjabis – landed at Fao near Basra in 1914 and later captured Kut on the Tigris. They also served in Palestine in 1918. The current 13th Battalion – at the time the 30th Punjabis – fought in German East Africa and in Palestine. The 16th Battalion – then known as the 40th Pathans – served in France in 1915, in German East Africa, and also in the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919.

The Frontier Force regiment is forever linked to extraordinary courage under fire. Men from this regiment earned three Victoria Crosses in the war. Through its 1st, 3rd,9th, and 7th Battalion, VC's were awarded to Lieutenant William Bruce at Givenchy, France in 1914; Captain Eustace Jotham at Tochi Valley in January 1914; and the third of the indigenous recipients, Jemadar Mir Dast for his heroic actions at Wieltie, Belgium in April 1915. 

Mir Dast was born in Maidan in the Tirah region of Khyber Agency, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). He served in 55th Coke's Rifles (7th Battalion Frontier Force Regiment), but he had been seconded to the 57th Wilde's Rifles (9th Battalion Frontier Force regiment). During the Battle of Ypres, the Germans released a large cloud of deadly chlorine gas into a favourable wind. Without gas masks, the Allied soldiers, including all British officers of the 57th quickly became casualties of the chlorine gas. Mir Dast was one of a small group of soldiers who tried to hold their ground until nightfall when he was ordered to retire. He rallied a number of disparate parties under his command and, under very heavy fire, wounded, and suffering from the impacts of the gas, he risked his life in the open to carry eight wounded British and Indian comrades to safety. In doing this, he was wounded for a second time. 

Mir Dast was sent to Brighton to recover and was presented with his Victoria Cross in the grounds of the Brighton Pavilion in late August that year. He was also awarded the Order of British India, making him one of the British Indian Army's most decorated soldiers. Mir Dast survived the war and passed away in 1945, aged 71. He is buried at Warsak Road Cemetery, Shagi Landi Kyan in FATA.

The battles against the Ottoman Turkish Empire were brutal and resulted in massive casualties, no more so than at Gallipoli, Turkey, in 1915. The 89th Punjabis were not the only Pakistanis who fought there (Second Battle of Krithia in May 1915). The 26th Jacob's Battery and 21st Royal Kohat Battery were there at the beginning of the Gallipoli Campaign. Then known as 7th Artillery Brigade, under command of the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) they landed at Gallipoli at 1030 and 1800 hours respectively, on 25 April 1915. They met fierce resistance and it quickly became a stalemate, dragging on for eight months till the Allied troops were evacuated. The 26th Battery was the last artillery unit to leave Gallipoli. They also served in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia. These batteries were later renamed the 21st Mountain Regiment until partition of sub continent in 1947. The regiment was then re-designated as 1st Mountain Regiment in 1947, the senior most artillery regiment in India and Pakistan, and today is known as 1st SP Medium Regiment Artillery.

Over the eight months of the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign, which ended in a victory for the Ottoman Empire, 113,350 died and 230,605 were injured.  Illness also took its toll. The death toll included 1,358 British Indian Army soldiers with 3,421 injured.  The Ottoman Turkish Empire troops at Gallipoli were led by Atatürk (Mustafa Kemal) as commander of the 19th Division, the main reserve of the Turkish Fifth Army. Considered to be a superb strategist and courageous leader, he succeeded in defeating the Allies at Gallipoli. He went on to be a visionary leader of Turkey and was known as a great peacemaker.  In 1934 Atatürk wrote a poignant tribute to the Allied soldiers killed at Gallipoli:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours... you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

By 11 November 1918, when the guns fell silent, millions of lives had been lost. The destruction was on an immense scale and the suffering was immeasurable.  Millions of people had life-long health problems as a result of their wounds and from the effects of poisonous gas attacks. WW1 was often referred to as the 'war to end all war'. Obviously, it wasn't. Just 21 years later, the world was plunged into a second World War – an even greater global conflict – and there have been many other wars and conflicts around the globe since 1918.

The soldiers from this country who fought in WW1 have earned their place in history. Historic accounts of these Regiments are to be found in many prestigious institutions around the world such as the Imperial War Museum in London. An extraordinary amount of information is also to be found online. Here in Pakistan the regiments have collections documenting their own histories but for the obvious security reasons, these are not easily accessible to the public and unfortunately I was not able to visit them at this time. The impressive Pakistan Army Museum at Rawalpindi is also gathering an outstanding collection of historical artefacts and records of the entire Pakistan Army.  The museum is the logical home for housing the nation's military history and its pre-Partition collection will continue to be expanded as more papers and pieces from earlier times are acquired. This will provide more people with the opportunity to learn about the role of Pakistani soldiers in all theatres of war throughout the entire history of these regiments and those that have been formed since WW1.

It is important for nations to pay tribute to those who have served their country. Over the next four years, millions of people from many countries across the world, from all walks of life and from both sides of WW1, will come together on many occasions, in cities, towns and villages, cathedrals, mosques and shrines, and on the former fields of war, in remembrance of those who lived, fought and died. Children will involve themselves in school projects to discover their history and historians will look for new answers. No doubt many will reflect on the suffering of millions and perhaps, hopefully, the futility of war.

In Pakistan we should also make an effort to commemorate the many thousands of men from this country who fought in WW1. Their families are still with us and some are serving in the Pakistan Army today. The exact number of casualties from today's Pakistan is uncertain but overall, 74,187 British Indian Army soldiers were killed in the war and 69,214 seriously wounded so a large percentage of these would have been from Pakistan. In a country that has been so affected by conflict, it is a little sad that few Pakistanis take time to pay tribute to those lost in service of their country. Fostering public awareness of the courageous deeds and sacrifice of those who have served the country through all its history, and why this matters now and to future generations, is important in building a national spirit. It is hoped that these WW1 commemorations will provide new opportunities to reach out to the broader community.

Efforts have been made in recent times to ensure that these Regiments and their heroes are remembered in their own right, as Pakistanis, and not just as a part of the previous British Indian Army or India. The Memorial Gates located at the Hyde Park Corner end of Constitution Hill in London, UK commemorates the armed forces of the British Empire from Africa, the Caribbean and the five regions of the Indian subcontinent (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) who served in the First and Second World Wars. In the WW1 100th Anniversary Commemorations, political and military leaders from Pakistan are being invited to attend international commemorative ceremonies and events. A memorial plaque was recently unveiled in London honouring the three Pakistani Victoria Cross recipients. There will be conferences and symposiums exploring many aspects of the war including the contribution of troops from the sub-continent. In Pakistan some activities are already being planned – an international symposium on the war at the National Defence University, an essay competition for students to reflect on 'courage', and a commemorative copse of trees at a place of significance. As the commemorations get under way, more activities will be initiated over the four-year period.

As we celebrate Pakistan's Independence Day on 14 August – also the day when these regiments became part of the new nation – it is timely to honour their extraordinary history, their courage and sacrifice 100th years ago in WW1, and since, and their continuing and crucial role as part of the modern Pakistan Army, serving and protecting the nation.

The writer is Australian Disaster Management and Civil-Military Relations Consultant, based in Islamabad where she consults for Government and UN agencies. She has also worked with ERRA and NDMA.

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