How we Triumphed at Dograi

Maj Gen B R Varma, AVSM, recalls an epic Indo-Pak battle in 1965

Published: 22nd September 2015 04:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd September 2015 04:27 AM   |  A+A-

How we triumphed

QUEEN’S ROAD:  The Battle of Dograi, fought on the outskirts of Lahore in the 1965 war against Pakistan, was perhaps one of the hardest battles ever fought by an infantry battalion. This was a battle in which an Indian infantry battalion 3 JAT attacked a Pakistani infantry battalion plus position and dislodged them, causing more than 300 causalities, and capturing their Commanding Officer alive.

From the Pakistani point of view, Dograi was an unbreakable fortress; it had deep minefields securing all ingress routes, had the artillery support of heavy and super heavy guns, the armour giving it essential depth and the concrete  pill-boxes raining heavy automatic fire all over. To cap it all, to win Dograi, the attacking troops would have to fight inch by inch through the built up area where each house served as a bunker and every lane was an ideal killing ground.

Yet, with all this, the famous 16 Punjab fell to 3 JAT in matter of hours and their counter-attacks was beaten back.

It is a military truism that there is nothing that can stop a determined body of troops from achieving what they want to. In this case the attacking troops happened to be the famous Jats.

So, therefore, the first step to victory was in any case assured. Next to the quality of troops comes the requirement of a leader who has the intellect, capacity and the will to galvanise them into a smooth fighting machine.

This duty rests on the shoulders of the Commanding  Officer (CO) and in turn on his team of Officers and JCOs. In this regard 3 JAT were lucky to have Lt Col (later Brig) D E Hayde as their CO, when the battle started on September 6, 1965. In fact, Col Hayde had been one of the older officers in 3 JAT who had served with them in different locations and different capacities. Between him and Maj (later Lt Col) J S Mundy, another experienced and senior officer, they had started to bring in a new life in the battalion, free of influence of very old time company commanders who had either been promoted from ranks or brought in from state forces.

Professionalism, which was earlier confined to rudimentary basics, started giving way to more meaningful training and concepts. Stress started being laid on junior leadership training and operations at battalion and brigade levels.

With increased professional activity, Maj Hayde, became a man Friday for anything that happened in the battalion. Whether it was field firing or any specialist platoon competition, any sports or professional competition, any  court of inquiry or board of officers, mess party or a VIP visit, Maj Hayde was the person most suited to be given the charge.

And, indeed, he bore all these responsibilities with ease and quiet efficiency. In the process, Maj Hayde came to know practically every soldier in the battalion by name and the place that he belonged to.  Since he neither smoked nor drank and maintained a strict code of conduct, it enabled him to maintain a formal distance from the troops, yet instilling in them the awe of his efficient personality. So when on the eve of war Lt Col J S Mundy handed over command (on September 5), Maj Hayde, then the 2IC, was no stranger to the battalion. Accordingly, with added rank on his shoulders, Lt Col D E Hayde was in full command when the battalion crossed the border into Pakistan.

Following the initial surprise and a speedy advance, the battalion was able to secure Dograi by surprise and even cross the Ichhogil Canal (through a demolished bridge) and secure its western bank including Batapur and Atoke Aiwan. However, in the absence of any link up from rear, the entire effort became a waste. The battalion was ordered to pull back, thus losing the strategic advantage that had been gained. In these operations so far, the battalion earned a few gallantry awards, including a Maha-vir-Chakra (MVC) for Lt Col D E Hayde.

Having been pulled back, the battalion was brought to Santpura, a village just a few kilometers west of Wagha Check Post. Here, the battalion continued to remain deployed from September 8, 1965. While at Santpura, tactical plans at brigade-level both for defensive and offensive operations started taking shape. Over a period of time, it became clear that Dograi would have to be captured again and it would be 3 JAT who would do it. The two week's stay at Santpura (from September 8 to September 21) helped tremendously in preparing the battalion for the final assault on Dograi on the night of September 21-22, 1965.

Daily artillery shelling by Pakistani  heavy guns enabled the battalion to gain real time battle experience to the extent that such enemy activity came to be treated with scorn and disdain. The sight of the CO moving around the battalion especially during the period of intense shelling, removed from minds the fear of deafening sounds of air burst ammunition, the flying bullets or the flying shrapnels. Consequently no one in the battalion ever thought of protecting himself from any kind of injury or a grievous hurt. There were a few direct hits into the trenches but those failed to produce any consequence. Domination of enemy by means of continuous patrolling also helped in sustained motivation  of troops. By the time the battalion went into assault, every man knew, both by day and night, every bush that surrounded Dograi or was on way to it.                                     

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