Dograi was Won One Step at a Time

Maj Gen BR Varma, AVSM, narrates the final part of a riveting tale of grit and valour

Published: 23rd September 2015 04:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd September 2015 04:36 AM   |  A+A-

Dograi

They knew the ground step by step, the position of objectives, the positioning of  stars and they knew the enemy. In a nutshell, the troops  knew that they would have to fight for every bit of ground; but more importantly, they knew how they would do it.

Some local factors also contributed substantially towards building up a “winning” attitude in the minds of the soldiers. Firstly, they knew that due to initial success in securing the area up to and including Dograi, 3 JAT was the best battalion, operationally, in the Brigade. To prove that point they had already been across the Ichhogil canal and their CO was already a decorated soldier. 

Additionally, it was clear from the frequent visits and conduct of Brigade Commander that he was very confident of the CO and that he trusted the battalion fully.

All these factors combined, made the troops repose their complete faith in Lt Col Hayde. Obviously, therefore, any instruction issued by him received total and instant compliance by seniors and juniors alike. Everyone knew that here was a man who will lead them to victory.  Matching the zeal of the CO, was the fearlessness and dedication of officers of the battalion. While the senior officers like Maj (later Col) DS Shekhawat, Maj (later Lt Cols) NL Marwah, SR Yadav, HK Jha, RS Sandhu formed the basic pillars; young officers like AR Tyagi, Kapil Thapa, RD Vatsa, Jhabbar Singh, Hardyal Rai, AS Bali, Bhagel, KP Singh added to the enthusiasm.

Each one of them, without exception, was self-motivated with a great sense of purpose. Such a prolific  combination of the CO and other officers is not easily obtainable in any unit, but yes it was so in 3 JAT, perhaps by the will of God or the way they had been groomed by the earlier CO Lt Col JS Mundy with Maj Hayde as the  second-in-command.   During the war they were up and about at practically no notice and would often vie with each other to be given extra responsibility. In  fact I, as Adjutant, had to sometimes explain if anyone of them was not being sent out on a patrol or special mission.

With such a mindset, the impact that  they had on their command hardly needs a mention. Similarly the battalion had a very strong team of JCOs and NCOs who had been groomed over a period of time. Professionally competent, many of them like Sub Maj Pratap Singh, Sub Khajan Singh, Sub Pale Ram, Nb Sub Chottu Ram, Sub Hoshiar Singh, Hav Khema Ram, Hav Sher Singh had been instructors in various schools. They exercised complete grip on their command and provided the required experience and the binding thread in the battalion.

Perhaps, the most important factor in winning the battle of Dograi was the plan of attack, conceived exclusively by Lt Col Hayde. Audacity may not be a principal of war in the normal course, but it does play a significant role in  lowering the morale of the enemy.

In line with this thought, the attack plan made by Lt Col Hayde was audacious which required all four rifle companies to be going into assault simultaneously and capturing their assigned  objectives, independently. Such an attack enabled full weight of the battalion to be brought on the enemy simultaneously, alongwith the inherent speed that  it facilitated. Equally it dumbfounded the enemy into believing that it was, perhaps, a brigade attack. “Fortune favours the bold”, as they say and indeed the enemy was shaken the roots by the bold attack. Resistance was put up, weapons were fired and choicest abuses hurled on us, but succumbed and gave their CO as a  prisoner of war. 

Final attack on Dograi, a brigade attack this time was to be launched on Night 21/22 Sep 65, in two phases. In Phase 1, another battalion was to capture enemy position on Mile 13, GT Road, attacking from the East at 2330h. In Phase 2, 3 JAT were to attack Dograi from the North East at 0130h.  Phase 1, scheduled to commence at 2330 hours somehow did not take off.  

While discussions may have been going on in higher headquarters about Phase 2, 3 JAT was already on their way.

“Phase 1 launched or not, 3 JAT  would go in”, the CO replied to a wireless communication from Brigade Headquarters. True to their promise to their CO, “Zinda ya Murda, kal Dograi mein milna hai (Dead or alive we will meet in Dograi tomorrow), the troops  commenced their attack at 0130 hours and captured Dograi by the morning of September 22.

Subsequent counter attacks by Pakistanis were beaten back inflicting  heavy casualties on them. By the time the battle finished 3 JAT had captured the Pakistani 16  PUNJAB Commanding Officer, Col Golwala along with his Battery  Commander, two more officers, five JCOs and 108 soldiers alive and more 5 than 308 Pakistani soldiers had been killed. Pakistani 16 PUNJAB was annihilated and our victory was complete.

Though it was a very fierce battle, it is not possible to describe the ‘dog-fight’ stage in detail simply because the battle was fought in small groups from house to house in the darkness of night.

Suffice it to say, it would have been a  heroic action on part of every soldier to which he may, himself, been the only  witness. As happens in any battle, in this attack too, a number of soldiers got  injured and a number of them perished. While we the living, remain behind to  tell bits of stories, the dead have taken along with them the saga of their  deeds. It is ultimately their valour that made Dograi possible.

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