Battles that Made History

Sub Title : Operations after the ceasefire: Roar of the Lions on the OP Hill

Issues Details : Vol 15 Issue 4 Sep – Oct 2021

Author : Maj Gen Harvijay Singh, SM (Retd)

Page No. : 70

Category : Regular Features

: October 4, 2021

Battle honours are awarded as recognition and to record a unit’s active participation in battle against a formed and armed enemy. Units eligible to be awarded such honours are those whose purpose is to close with and defeat, neutralize, or destroy the enemy.

When Naik Darshan Singh of the leading section hit a minefield, he stepped into it and said, “Let us die and clear the way for others to succeed”. Courage is not the absence of fear, but a triumph over it; brave Darshan had conquered fear.

The Second Kashmir War of 1965 lasted 19 days and a Cease Fire was called on 23 Sep. In Jammu and Kashmir however, even after the Cease Fire, skirmishes and Artillery duels continued.

During this period of an undeclared war, a significant offensive was planned by the Indian 25 Infantry Division in Mendhar Sector of the Jammu region. It involved capture of a mountainous enemy defended area called OP Hill located on the Chuni Nar feature at a height of 1524 metres (5136 Feet) South-West of the road Mendhar- Balnoi. Due to its dominant location and height it was an excellent site for bringing down observed fire against the Indians, hence the name OP Hill (Observation Post Hill). Pakistan used the feature well and stopped all day movements along road Mendhar-Balnoi making maintenance of a Battalion located at Balnoi difficult. An operational necessity therefore existed for its capture despite the Cease Fire.

Seized by the situation but unawares of the real strength of enemy defences a battalion attack was launched on the night of 6/7 Oct. The attack was repulsed with the assaulting battalion suffering heavy casualties. Consequently, a plan was prepared to launch a bigger more deliberate attack.

The Chuni Nar feature is a complex labyrinth of steep rocky outcrops and nalas with heavy undergrowth, the going for the attacker was very tough. The Pakistanis had also constructed bunkers, mined and laid wire obstacles along all approaches. The feature was well organised for all round defence.

A Brigade attack was planned to capture the objective. The objective was isolated from its reinforcement and replenishment bases. A simultaneous multi directional attack was launched to beat the time and space factor, and, neutralise the ascendency of terrain that the enemy enjoyed.

The Plan

Phase 1 on D Day.

►  2nd Battalion, The DOGRA Regiment to capture Twin Pimples and Black Rocks from the North East.

♦   Attack with two companies up.

♦   Delta Company to capture Black Rocks and Charlie Company plus a Platoon of Alfa Company to capture Twin Pimples.

♦   Bravo Company was in Reserve to Delta Company and Alfa Company less a Platoon to Charlie Company.

►   5th Battalion, the SIKH LIGHT INFANTRY Regiment to capture White Rocks from the South.

♦   Attack with two companies up.

♦   Bravo Company to capture White Rocks and exploit upto OP Hill if successful.

♦   Charlie Company to capture area between White Rocks and OP Hill.

♦   Alfa and Delta companies to remain in reserve.

Phase 2 on D+1 Day.

►   7th Battalion, the SIKH Regiment to follow behind 2 DOGRA to capture Jungle and OP Hill

♦    Attack with one company up.

♦    Alfa Company to capture Jungle Hill.

♦    Bravo Company to remain in reserve.

D Day was 2 Nov. The assault began with Delta Company of 2 DOGRA crossing the Start Line on the Night of 2/3 Nov.

The attacking platoon under Captain Gautam Mubayi came under intense and relentless fire from the enemy. Unfazed Mubayi pushed and attacked the enemy position. The enemy responded with ferocity, a Light Machine Gun was causing casualties. Captain Mubayi sensing the danger to his troops charged it with grenades and silenced the threat. Motivated by his brave assault, his platoon quickly finished the task and established a foothold for the battalion attack. The valiant Captain Mubayi was however fatally wounded and succumbed to his injuries on the objective.

The remaining company continued the assault despite stiff enemy resistance and suffered heavy casualties. A platoon under Second Lieutenant DS Sauran went for the ‘Tit’ using a difficult and unexpected route from behind the enemy who was surprised and abandoned the post in a hurry leaving behind many casualties.

At this stage the Delta Company had also suffered heavy casualties and was relieved by the reserve Bravo Company. The assault on the ‘Black Rock’ recommenced with fresh vigour. The enemy was equally determined to defend his position and a fierce hand to hand combat ensued on the objective. The brave DOGRAS finally prevailed and the objective fell at 0430 Hours on 3 Nov. 2 DOGRA had fought a bloody battle resolutely and defeated a well-entrenched and prepared enemy. In the bargain they lost three Officers, one Junior Commissioned Officer and 59 Other Ranks and over 120 wounded. A very heavy prize but a remarkable victory against heavy odds; the DOGRA Battle cry of ‘Jwala Mata Ki Jai’ will ring in the mountains of Mendher for times immemorial. Captain Muyabi was awarded the MahaVir Chakra, the Battalion also earned three Sena Medals and seven Mentioned in Despatches.

5 SIKH LIGHT INFANTRY was a newly raised battalion and was being commanded by a very young lot of officers, only one company commander had more than three years’ service! This was indeed a big challenge for the Commanding Officer, who unfazed decided to lead the assault himself. The assault started with Bravo and Charlie Companies from the unexpected and difficult Southern Approach in platoon waves along the narrow ledge completely surprising the enemy. The approach as expected was heavily mined and supported by artillery fire. The attack was launched before midnight on 2 Nov with throaty battle cries ‘Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal’. The enemy threw everything that they had at the attackers. Heavy artillery fire and automatics rained tons of lead and fire to break the assault, they however failed to dampen the spirits of the young battalion who swooped down on the enemy like hawks.

When Naik Darshan Singh of the leading section hit a minefield, he stepped into it and said, “Let us die and clear the way for others to succeed”. Courage is not the absence of fear, but a triumph over it; brave Darshan had conquered fear. His left foot was blown off but he crawled forward, his left forearm too was severed but the resolute young Sikh was unstoppable. In a final gallant act, he took a hand grenade, pulled out its safety pin with his teeth and lobbed it into an enemy bunker silencing a machine gun. The task done, he closed his eyes on the field of glory, Naik Darshan Singh was awarded the MahaVir Chakra.

The ripples of Darshan’s valiant act spread like wildfire; the attackers now rushed towards the objective with even greater vigour. A bloody hand-to-hand engagement followed, and the Pakistani position was captured under the able command of Lieutenant Colonel Sant Singh (Later Brigadier Sant Singh, MahaVir Chakra and Bar) who was all over the objective motivating his men. He was awarded the MahaVir Chakra for exceptional bravery.

Having tasted victory, Sant Singh decided to exploit the advantage and ordered the capture of three more objectives which were assigned to 5 SIKH. The enemy was equally determined; he regrouped and put up a stiff resistance. Each bunker had to be cleared after a bloody hand to hand fight. Finally, the gamble paid off and OP Hill was captured. The hills reverberated with the sound of the success signal “Reveille on the bugle”. The battalion had won a hard fought and bloody victory against tremendous odds. The young battalion was awarded two MahaVir Chakras, One Vir Chakra, four Sena Medals and five Commendation Cards.

Brigadier Sant Singh fought in World War II, 1948 Indo Pak War, 1965 Indo Pak War and 1971 Indo Pak War. He was a MahaVir Chakra in the 1965 and 71 wars. Mendhar cantonment has been named ‘Sant Singh Lines’ in his honour.

7 Sikh was initially detailed to capture Jungle and OP Hill by 0600 Hours on D Plus 1 Day. Accordingly, the battalion formed up at about 2200 Hours on 01 Nov and waited for the success signal from 2 DOGRA at the end of the Phase 1 of the Brigade attack. Phase 1 got delayed due to stiff enemy resistance. Daylight was fast approaching, and time was a crucial factor. 7 SIKH was ordered to rush Jungle Hill and capture it before daylight.

7 SIKH launched the assault with one company up. Alfa Company moving towards the Jungle Hill faced stiff resistance and heavy enemy fire. The reserve Bravo Company following behind also faced a heavy barrage of Artillery Fire. Unfazed, the Sikhs continued with their assault. On reaching the objective they were face to face with a determined enemy and a fierce hand to hand fight ensued. The defenders would not easily leave their secure defences and fought hard to hold ground. The attack continued well into the morning and the objective was finally captured on 3 Nov, the company lost 21 brave soldiers. Captain Sansar Singh was awarded the Vir Chakra. The remaining task allotted to 7 Sikh had already been completed by 5 Sikh LI.

The OP Hill complex on the Chuh-i-Nar feature had finally been captured by the brave soldiers of 2 DOGRA, 5 SIKH LI and 7 SIKH in a fierce battle which was marked by intense and bloody hand to hand combat. All the battalions were awarded the Battle Honour OP Hill.