Saturday, January 16, 2016




Preview– Background. THE PAKISTANI INVASION AND INDIAN RIPOSTE : Operation ‘Gulmarg’- Operation ‘Rescue’ - The Battle of  Shalateng – 161 Infantry Brigade Signal Section - Signals Planning at Command Heqdquarters. WINTER OPERATIONS  IN 1947-48 :  Operations in the Jammu Sector - The Loss of Jhangar - Operation ‘Kipper’ -  The Battle of Naushera -   Operation ‘Vijay’ - Capture of Rajauri - Activities of Signals during the Winter Operations.  THE SUMMER OFFENSIVE : 1948: Operations in the Uri Sector - Operations of the Jammu   Division (April – July 1948) - The Relief of Punch - Signals during the Summer Offensive - 2 Airborne Divisional Signal Regiment. THE NORTHERN FRONT :  The Siege of Skardu –  Loss of Kargil and Dras – The Fall of Skardu – Operation ‘Eraze’ (Recapture of Gurais)- The Threat to Leh – Crossing the Zoji La - Recapture of Dras and Kargil -SRI  Divisional Signal Regiment - Communications for the Leh Columns - Signals on the Northern Front. SIGNALS IN THE JAMMU & KASHMIR OPERATIONS.  CONCLUSION


The conflict in Jammu & Kashmir started soon after Independence and in a sense, never ended. Though the actual military operations lasted a little over a year, the problem that gave birth to the conflict remains unresolved, after more than 60 years.  India and Pakistan have fought two major wars over the issue, in addition to countless incidents of infiltration, skirmishing and firing. The conflict has claimed thousands of lives on both sides of the border, of soldiers as well as civilians. In spite of several attempts to resolve the crisis, through bilateral negotiation, third party mediation and UN intervention, the problem of Jammu & Kashmir remains unsolved.

At the time of Independence and Partition, the State of Jammu & Kashmir had not acceded to either India or Pakistan. In October 1947 Pakistan organized a tribal invasion of the State. After the ruler agreed to accede, an Indian battalion was inducted by air on 27 October 1947, when the invaders were just outside the capital Srinagar.  The immediate threat to the capital was averted on 7 November after Indian troops defeated the invaders in a decisive battle at Shalateng, on the outskirts of Srinagar. By 14 November, the invaders had been pushed back to Uri, on the highway linking Srinagar to Domel and Muzaffarabad, the two entry points to the Kashmir Valley. Due to various reasons, the momentum of the pursuit flagged and the operations for throwing the raiders outside the valley had to be postponed for the spring of 1948. Meanwhile, the British officer commanding the Gilgit garrison decided to throw in his lot with Pakistan, without consulting the ruler. This enabled the invaders to invest Skardu, a strategically important town on the Indus River, posing a threat to the Leh and Nubra valleys.

Along with Kashmir, incursions also occurred at several places in the Jammu Province, including Bhimber, Naushera, Jhangar, Mirpur, Kotli and Rajauri. The raiders invested the important town of Punch, where a garrison of the State Army was located. An attempt to relieve Punch by a two pronged advance from Uri and Jammu met with partial success, with a battalion reinforcing the beleaguered garrison, but the two columns failing link up.  During November 1947, Indian troops were able to recapture Chhamb, Beripattan, Naushera and Jhangar. However, Mirpur was occupied and sacked by the raiders, who also succeeded in recapturing Jhangar before the year ended.

During the winter, there was a lull in the operations in the north due to heavy snow. An attempt to reinforce Skardu in January 1948 failed, followed by another one in March with similar results. However, in the south, operations continued. In February Indian troops beat back a determined attack on Naushera, following it up with the recapture of Jhangar in March and Rajauri in April. A third attempt to reinforce Skardu also failed, with heavy losses. With the snow melting in May 1948, operations in the north accelerated. The enemy secured the Gurais valley, posing a threat to the Kashmir Valley from the north. Strong enemy columns launched simultaneous attacks and captured Pindras, Dras and Kargil, effectively severing the line of communication to Skardu and Leh. In addition to the Kashmir Valley, Ladakh also came under threat.  In a daring experiment on 22 May 1948, a Dakota landed on an improvised airfield at Leh, opening the way for establishment of an air link. Troops were flown in and were able to ward off the threat to Ladakh. 

In the middle of May 1948 Indian troops launched an offensive along the Jhelum to secure Domel and Muzaffarabad, along with a diversionary thrust along the Kupwara - Tithwal road. The main offensive did not make headway, but the diversionary column was able to capture Tithwal. In June the Gurais valley was cleared of the enemy. In response to an appeal by the United Nations, where India had lodged a complaint earlier, on 6 July the Government of India decided to suspend offensive operations. However, operations for the link up with Leh and the relief of Punch were permitted to continue. In November Indian troops captured Zoji La using light tanks that took the enemy by surprise. This was followed by the capture of Dras and Kargil, culminating in a link up with forces from Leh on 23 November 1948. In the south, a strong force of two brigades linked up with Punch on 20 November. On 1 January 1949 a UN sponsored cease fire came into effect and all operations in Jammu & Kashmir ceased.


With an area of almost 85,000 square miles, Jammu & Kashmir was the largest princely state in India before Independence. However, it was one the most sparsely populated with only four million inhabitants, almost eighty percent of whom were Muslims. Kashmir had become part of the Sikh kingdom after the defeat of the Afghan governor by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who had annexed Jammu three years earlier. In 1822 Ranjit Singh appointed Gulab Singh, the most prominent of the feudatory chiefs of the Duggar region, as the Raja of Jammu.  Between 1834 and 1840 Wazir Zorawar Singh, the Dogra general in the employment of Gulab Singh, mounted four expeditions into Ladakh, which was annexed to the Khalsa kingdom of Lahore in 1840. Subsequently, Baltistan, Gilgit, Chilas and Chitral were also brought under control. 

After the defeat of the Sikhs in the battles of Mudki, Feroze Shah and Sobraon in 1845-46, they were forced to cede to the British large tracts of territory and were asked to pay a sum of one and a half crore rupees as indemnity. Being unable to pay the full amount, the Khalsa Durbar ceded the hill areas between the Beas and Indus, in addition to the provinces of Hazara and Kashmir. Not wishing to administer the far flung territories, the British transferred them to Gulab Singh for a sum of seventy-five lakh rupees, through the Treaty of Amritsar on 16 March 1846. Gulab Singh was recognized as the Maharjah of Jammu and Kashmir. This marked the beginning of the Dogra rule in Kashmir. At the time of Independence, the State of Jammu & Kashmir was ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh, a descendant of Gulab Singh.

            The British decision to grant independence to India was formally announced in His Majesty’s Government’s Declaration of 3 June 1947, which clarified the position of the Indian States after the transfer of power on 15 August 1947, when the paramountcy of the British Crown would end. The Indian States were free to decide whether they would accede to one or the other of the two dominions. Almost all the states exercised their option, and signed instruments of accession as well as standstill agreements before 14 August 1947. The two prominent exceptions were Kashmir and Hyderabad, along with the three small principalities of Junagadh, Mangrol and Manavdar in Kathiawar. On 12 August 1947 the State of Jammu & Kashmir announced its intention of negotiating standstill agreements with both India and Pakistan.  However, it signed a Standstill Agreement only with Pakistan and did not enter with any agreement with India, until its accession on 26 October 1947. The post and telegraph facilities of the State were placed under the control of the Pakistan Government, which promised to continue the existing arrangements for the supply of wheat, cloth, ammunition, kerosene oil and petrol. 1

            The object of the Standstill Agreement was to continue the economic and administrative relations between the two states on the same basis as had existed before Partition. However, the relations between them soon deteriorated.  In an effort to coerce Jammu & Kashmir to join her, Pakistan cut off supplies of food, petrol and other essential commodities and stopped the free movement of people between Kashmir and Pakistan.  Economic pressure was thus applied simultaneously with military pressure in the form of border raids. Conditions in the State worsened after the communal disturbances which broke out in the Punjab after the announcement of the partition boundary.   There was a large influx of refugees into the Jammu region, which began to be used as a corridor for the passage of Muslim refugees moving from East Punjab to West Punjab and for non-Muslims moving in the opposite direction.

            On 29 August, 1947 Maharaja Hari Singh received a telegram from one Raja Yaqub Khan on behalf of the public of Hazara, alleging attacks on Muslims in Punch. Throughout the month of September, reports of infiltration into the State territory from the border districts of Pakistan continued to be received. On 3 September 1947, a band of raiders, several hundred strong, attacked the village of Kotha, 27 km south-east of Jammu. When chased by troops of the State Army, they escaped into Pakistan. On 4 September Major General Scott, GOC Jammu & Kashmir State Forces reported that several hundred  armed Sattis  from  Kahuta and Murree (both in Pakistan) had entered the State after crossing the Jhelum river in area Panjar and seven miles north and south of the Owen Ferry and were indulging in loot and murder. Similar incidents occurred near Ranbirsinghpura on 17 September and Samba on 22 September, the raiders retreating into Pakistan after exchanging fire with the State troops and armed police. Telegrams reporting these incursions were contested by the Pakistan authorities, which blamed the State Army troops for committing atrocities against the Muslims in an attempt to put down the freedom movement in the State.

            Incursions of a similar nature were observed in Mirpur.  Fort Owen was besieged by four to five thousand raiders and had to be evacuated by State troops on 15 October.   On 18 October, the Kotli-Punch road was breached and heavy fighting took place.  From Bhimbhar, large scale offensive preparation was observed across the border in Pakistan, including movement of lorries. On 20 October, the Wazir of Mirpur sent a message that armed men were gathering opposite Chechiam and Mangla.  Two days later, he reported that raids on Owen were being methodically carried out.  On the 23 October, heavy fighting was reported from Kotli which had by now been completely cut off from Punch by road blocks put up by the raiders. Meanwhile, telegrams being exchanged between the Prime Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan grew more strident, with veiled threats and warnings.

            On 24 October, 1947, the Government of India received the first request for military aid from the Government of the Jammu & Kashmir State. This was also the date on which information of the capture of Muzaffarabad was received by the C-in-C in India. No plans for sending troops to Kashmir had up to that time been considered by the Indian Army. Though some inputs about the invasion of Jammu & Kashmir had been received, these were ignored. Major (later Lieutenant General) Onkar Singh Kalkat was then serving as the brigade major of the Bannu Frontier Brigade under Brigadier C.P. Murray. A personal/top secret envelope for Brigadier Murray arrived on 20 August 1947. Since the brigade commander was away at Mirali post, Major Kalkat opened the envelope, which contained a letter from the C-in-C Pakistan Army, giving out the detailed plans for Operation ‘Gulmarg’, the code name for the invasion of Jammu & Kashmir. Kalkat immediately telephoned Brigadier Murray, who advised him not to breathe a word of it to anyone, if he wanted to leave Pakistan alive. However, the Pakistanis got to know about this, and put Kalkat under virtual house arrest. But he made a daring escape and reached Ambala on 18 October 1947. The following day he reached Delhi and revealed all that he knew to Brigadier Kalwant Singh, the CGS; Colonel P.N. Thapar, the acting DMO and Sardar Baldev Singh, the Defence Minister.  Apparently, Kalkat’s warnings were not taken seriously. On 22 October when Operation ‘Gulmarg’ started, the authorities began hunting for Kalkat, who had left for East Punjab to look for his family that had migrated from Mianwali. Kalkat was finally traced on 24 October and brought before Prime Minister Nehru, who berated the Defence Minister and the DMO for not taking his revelations seriously.2


Operation ‘Gulmarg’

Planning for the invasion of Jammu & Kashmir, code named Operation ‘Gulmarg’ had begun in Pakistan soon after Partition. When efforts to persuade Maharaja Hari Singh to accede to Pakistan failed, coercion was tried, by starving the State of essential commodities and creating disorder. The aim of the incursions and riots was to disperse the State Forces into penny packets and subvert the Muslim elements. When these measures did not bear fruit, Operation ‘Gulmarg’ was launched. The operation was to be conducted by irregular troops comprising Pathan tribesmen from the area known as the North West Frontier during British rule. The political direction of the operation was under Liaquat Ali Khan, the Prime Minister, in consultation with Sirdar Shaukat Hayat Khan, a leading political figure of Punjab. The military aspects were coordinated by Major Khurshid Anwar, who had been a commander in the militia of the Muslim League. According to the plan, which Major Kalkat had seen, each tribe was to provide one lashkar (force) of 1000 men. The motivating force for the tribesmen was religion, along with the prospect of plunder, in which they were promised a free hand. The lashkars were to concentrate at Bannu, Wana, Peshawar, Kohat, Thal and Naushera in early September 1947, where they would be issued with arms, ammunition and other essential items. Each lashkar would have two regular army officers – a major and a captain -and ten JCOs. The major would be in actual command, though he was designated as an adviser to the tribal Malik who was officially in command. The entire force was commanded by Major General Akbar Khan, who was given the code name Tariq.
The broad outline of the plan for the invasion was for six lashkars to advance on the main axis Muzaffarabad-Domel-Uri-Baramulla-Srinagar, with the task of capturing the aerodrome and then advancing to the Banihal Pass. Two lashkars were to advance from Hajipir Pass to Gulmarg, to secure the right flank of the main force. Protection of the left flank was to be provided by a similar force of two lashkars advancing along the axis Tithwal-Nastachun Pass- Sopore -Handwara- Bandipur. Another large force of ten lashkars was to operate in the south, tasked with the capture of Punch, Rajauri and Jammu. D Day for the operation was fixed as 22 October 1947 when the lashkars would cross into the territory of Jammu and Kashmir. To back up the lashkars, 7 Infantry Division of the Pakistan Army was to concentrate in the area Murree-Abbottabad by 21 October. An infantry brigade was also held in readiness at Sialkot to back up the forces heading for Jammu.     

            The invasion began in the early hours of the morning of 22 October 1947 when the main column of raiders crossed the border and attacked Muzaffarabad. The Domel front was held by 4 Jammu & Kashmir Rifles, a State Force battalion that had a mixed composition of Dogras and Punchie Muslims. The Muslim troops holding the border posts at Lohar Gali and Ramkot deserted and joined the raiders, giving them a free run and valuable information of the pickets held by the Dogras, particularly the MMG Section located on a high ground north of the city. The Dogras fought gallantly but were overwhelmed by sheer numbers, almost all being shot or put to the sword. After sacking Muzaffarabad, the raiders quickly crossed the bridge and attacked Domel, which lay on the other side of the river. Once again, the Muslim troops joined the raiders. The Dogras of the battalion headquarters and the mortar platoon fought throughout the day, but could not stem the onslaught, almost all of them laying down their lives, except for a handful who escaped to the hills.

            Lieutenant Colonel Narain Singh, CO 4 Jammu & Kashmir Rifles, had managed to inform Srinagar about the invasion shortly before Domel fell to the attackers in the afternoon of 22 October. The reserve battalion of the 4 Kashmir Brigade having already been sent as reinforcement to Punch, there were hardly any troops left in Srinagar. Collecting about 150 men from various administrative and training establishments, Brigadier Rajendra Singh, the officiating Chief of Staff of the State Army set off for Domel at about 1830 hours, reaching Uri at midnight. Next morning, a force of two platoons under Captain Prithi Singh advancing from Uri to Garhi met a few soldiers of 4 Jammu & Kashmir Rifles who informed them of the fall of Domel. By this time the road was choked with refugees fleeing towards Baramulla to escape the murderous hordes following close behind. Captain Prithi Singh’s small column was soon attacked at Garhi and fell back to Uri, where Brigadier Rajendra Singh had organized a defended position. Early next morning another small force comprising an infantry platoon, a mortar detachment and an MMG section was sent from Srinagar to reinforce the troops at Uri.

            After contacting Uri on 24 October the raiders launched several attacks, but the defenders were able to repulse them. After fighting for several hours, the defenders fell back on Mahura during the night of 24/25 October. The attackers gave them no respite, carrying out repeated attacks on the beleaguered garrison throughout the next two days. However, the defenders held on tenaciously, until they ran out of ammunition. On the night of 26/27 October, Brigadier Rajendra Singh decided to withdraw to Baramulla. However, the raiders had set up several road blocks, which had to be cleared after a stiff fight. Finally they encountered a particularly strong road block that was covered by intense enemy fire. During the ensuing battle almost all the men were killed, including their gallant commander Brigadier Rajendra Singh, who was later awarded the Maha Vir Chakra. As subsequent events were to prove, the delay of four days that Brigadier Rajendra Singh and his troops had imposed on the advancing lashkars saved Kashmir.

At nightfall on 26 October 1947, the raiders entered Baramula, a prosperous town with a large population of Hindus and Sikhs. For the next few days, the tribesmen indulged in an orgy of murder, rape and loot that has few parallels. Homes and shops were systematically plundered before being set aflame. The men were killed and the women raped, with the younger ones being carried off as war booty. The Convent and Mission hospital were not spared, with the Mother Superior and several nuns being killed, along with some patients. Lieutenant Colonel Tom Dykes, then acting Commandant of the Sikh Regimental Centre, who was on leave to be with his wife during her confinement, was also killed. Carrying sacks full of loot and young girls that they had abducted, most of the raiders started back for Pakistan. Their leaders tried to impress on them the need to advance to Srinagar without wasting time, but the Pathans were in no mood to listen. For them, the security of the plundered wealth and the abducted girls were more important than the ‘holy war’ that they were fighting to free their oppressed brethren from the rule of the infidel Dogra Maharaja. Most went back to their villages, promising to return after depositing the looted treasure.  Many of the abducted girls were sold in Rawalpindi and Peshawar, others taken to tribal villages, while some were left in a concentration camp at Alibeg in Kashmir State territory being run by the ‘Azad Kashmir Government’. Alibeg was reported to have held over a thousand Kashmiri women of all religions of which only a couple of hundred survived.3 

Operation ‘Rescue’

            Faced with the grave threat to his State, the Maharaja of Kashmir approached the Government of India for assistance on 25 October 1947.   The Maharaja’s request was considered by the Defence Committee chaired by Lord Mountbatten. It was decided that military assistance would be extended only after the Maharaja had signed the Instrument of Accession. On 26 October V.P. Menon flew to Srinagar to obtain the signature of the Maharaja. He was accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel (later Field Marshal) S.H.F.J. Manekshaw, then a staff officer in the Military Operations Directorate at Army HQ, who had been sent to assess the military situation. They returned the same night, after obtaining the signature of Maharaja Hari Singh on the Instrument of Accession. According to some accounts, the Maharaja had left for Jammu on 25 October with his family, and the Instrument of Accession was signed at Jammu.  This is at variance with the account given by Sam Manekshaw. In the preface to Major General K.S. Bajwa’s book, Jammu and Kashmir War (1947-48) – Political and Military Perspective, Sam Manekshaw writes:  “It was on the night of 26 October that the Maharaja acceded to India, and V.P. Menon and I flew back to Delhi that very night, with Sheikh Abdullah, Bakshi Gulam Mohd, DP Dhar and other lighting up the air strip with pine torches”.4
            The Army had been warned to be ready to go to Kashmir as soon as the request for military assistance had been received from Maharaja Hari Singh. However, no troops had been earmarked for this assignment. It was only after the formal accession of the State on 26 October that orders were issued to the troops. Major (later Lieutenant General) S.K. Sinha was then a staff officer in HQ Delhi & East Punjab Command. He mentions that he was attending a party in the Delhi Gymkhana Club at about 2200 hours on 26 October when he was summoned to an urgent conference at his headquarters. The Army Commander, Lieutenant General Dudley Russel, informed them that Jammu & Kashmir had acceded to India and sought military assistance to stop the raiders who had invaded the State. It had been decided that a battalion would fly to Srinagar early next morning and a brigade group move by road to Jammu. Being deployed on internal security duties in Gurgaon, close to Delhi, 1 Sikh was selected for Srinagar and 50 Parachute Brigade earmarked for Jammu. An emergency signal was sent to the 1 Sikh before the meeting broke off ordering the unit less two companies to concentrate at Palam airfield by 0400 hours next morning and be prepared to fly on an operational mission. The rest of the battalion would join them next day. The battalion was told that operation instructions would be handed over at the airfield, along with ammunition, rations and warm clothing.5

            The instructions given to Lieutenant Colonel Dewan Ranjit Rai, CO 1 Sikh, at the airfield next morning were brief and succinct, primarily due to lack of precise intelligence about the situation in Kashmir. His first task was to secure Srinagar airport and the civil aviation wireless station. Having done this, he was to drive the tribesmen away from Srinagar and aid the local government in maintaining law and order in the city. He was asked to land at Srinagar airfield only if he received clearance from the airport on wireless or by hand signals; in the absence of both, he was to circle the airfield and scan the countryside to confirm the presence of raiders. In case he found that they had occupied the airfield, he was to fly back and land at Jammu

            The first flight comprising nine Dakotas, six from private airlines and three from the RIAF, took off at 5 am, carrying the tactical headquarters and one company of 1 Sikh and one composite battery of 13 Field Regiment. They landed at Srinagar at about 0830 hours. Fortunately, the raiders had still not reached Srinagar. However, the situation was extremely critical. All that lay between the raiders and Srinagar were two platoons of State troops who were dug in about 5 km east of Baramula. Colonel Ranjit Rai appreciated that the State troops would not be able to stop the raiders, unless reinforced. He decided to send forward his sole company for this task, informing Delhi of his plan. Later in the afternoon, Rai sent another message confirming the fall of Baramula. He stressed that the raiders were likely to reach Srinagar soon and unless 1 Sikh was built up to full strength by the afternoon of 28 October, he was not confident of being able to save Srinagar. Shortly afterwards, Brigadier Hira Lal Atal, who had accompanied 1 Sikh as liaison officer with the State Government, reported that the civil administration had ceased to exist, refugees were thronging the airport and at least one brigade was required for the defence of the Valley. In reply to his messages, Ranjit Rai was informed that the Air Force would be carrying out air strafing next day. Also, a brigade headquarters and an infantry battalion would be flown to Srinagar on 29-30 October, followed by another battalion very soon.

            By the end of the day on 27 October, 1 Sikh had been built up almost to a battalion in strength.  Early next morning, Ranjit Rai went forward with the rest of his battalion, with the intention of intercepting the raiders and preventing their advance into the Valley.  Debussing his unit about two km short of Baramula, he deployed his troops in a defensive position on the hills. Then, he proceeded towards the town with a small escort. When they were about half way down the road, the party came under fire from a medium machine gun located on a hill to the south of the town and had to beat a hasty retreat. Ranjit Rai’s jeep got stuck and he started walking back, accompanied by some of his men who were wounded. Just then he was struck in the face by a burst of automatic fire and killed, along with the platoon commander who was by his side.

The loss of their CO at this critical juncture was a severe blow to the battalion, which embussed and made its way back to Srinagar. (Lieutenant Colonel Ranjit Rai was later posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra). Major Sampuran Bachan Singh, the Second-in-Command, promptly took over command and led the battalion back to Pattan, half way down the road to Baramula. The battalion debussed and occupied a defensive position at Pattan, which was the only piece of hilly terrain between Srinagar and Baramula. On 29 October the tactical headquarters of 161 Infantry Brigade was opened at the Srinagar airfield. Two companies if 1 Kumaon (Para) were flown in, bringing the strength of Indian troops to about 950. During the day two attempts to dislodge the Sikhs from their defensive position at Pattan were beaten back, with valuable air support from the Air Force, whose Tempests operating from Ambala caused heavy casualties and demoralization among the raiders, who withdrew in disarray. The same day, Brigadier J.C. Katoch arrived to take over command of 161 Infantry Brigade. Accompanying him on the flight from Delhi was Colonel L.P. Sen, the Deputy Director Military Intelligence at Army HQ, who was going to Srinagar to get a first hand account of the situation in order brief the Director of Military Operations, Brigadier P.N. Thapar. As he flew back to Delhi in the evening, ‘Bogey’ Sen had no inkling that he would soon going again to Srinagar, this time on a one way ticket.

            On 30 October the main headquarters of 161 Infantry Brigade arrived and Brigadier Katoch assumed command. There were no major engagements during the day and the induction of additional troops continued. On 31 October, Brigadier Katoch was slightly wounded in the leg by a stray bullet while visiting the position of 1 Sikh and had to be evacuated. Colonel Harbaksh Singh arrived next morning and assumed temporary charge. By this time 161 Infantry Brigade had been built up to its full strength of about 2000 men. It now had three infantry battalions (1 Sikh, 1 Kumaon, elements of 4 Kumaon and 1 Mahar); one artillery battery (ex 13 Field Regiment); one field ambulance and other administrative elements. On 2 November Brigadier L.P. Sen arrived and took over command of 161 Infantry Brigade from Colonel Harbaksh Singh, who became his deputy.

            On 3 November a large contingent of raiders attempting to capture the airfield at Srinagar encountered a company of 4 Kumaon that was reconnoitering the surrounding area.  There was a fierce battle near Badgam in which 15 Indian soldiers were killed, including Major Som Nath Sharma, who was awarded the first Param Vir Chakra of the operations. He was the first recipient of the highest gallantry award that had been instituted by India after independence. A company of 1 Kumaon sent as reinforcement and strafing from the air stopped the raiders, who suffered several hundred casualties. On the same day, news was received of the fall of Gilgit, which joined Pakistan, thanks to the treachery of two British officers who incited the Muslim troops of the Gilgit Scouts and 6 Jammu & Kashmir Infantry to mutiny and stage a coup, removing the recently appointed Governor, Brigadier Ghansar Singh.  The next day the Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Patel and the Defence Minister, Sardar Baldev Singh visited Srinagar. They realised that the operations in Kashmir were not a minor incursion but a planned invasion by well armed warriors. It became clear that the operations would not succeed without significant reinforcement of men and material. One 4 November the Defence Committee of the Cabinet issued directions to Major General Kalwant Singh, Commander of the newly created JAK Division, to recapture Baramula by 15 November even if the Indian Army had to lose 500 men in the action. 
The Battle of Shalateng
            Brigadier L.P. Sen had already begun preparations to clear the Valley of the raiders. To lure them to the area where he chose to give battle, he withdrew 1 Sikh from Pattan to a point about 8 km from Srinagar on the road to Baramula, in spite of violent protests from the battalion commander and the displeasure of the divisional commander. By the evening on 6 November most of the troops were in position.  Two companies of 1 Sikh, one company of 1 Kumaon and a troop of armoured cars of 7 Cavalry were holding Shalateng. The remaining elements of 1 Sikh, 4 Kumaon and B Squadron 7 Cavalry along with the brigade headquarters were located near the airfield, south of Srinagar. On 7 November, a column of two armoured cars and the Rifle Troop of 7 Cavalry under Lieutenant Noel David were sent towards Bandipura via Gandarbal on a reconnaissance mission to confirm the presence of raider in that area. Soon after this, information was received of large numbers of tribesmen concentrating at Shalateng. An air reconnaissance mission confirmed the presence of thousands of raiders and several hundred lorries parked nearby, to carry away the loot that would fall into their hands once Srinagar fell.
The firing by the raiders on positions of 1 Sikh intensified. It was now clear that they were planning to launch a major attack. Brigadier Sen ordered Lieutenant David to turn left at Krahom and head for Sumbhal, from where his column was to move towards Shalateng, so that they were positioned in the enemy’s rear. At the same time, 1 Kumaon was asked to move by stealth to the left flank. As soon as the armoured cars and 1 Kumaon were in position, Brigadier Sen ordered the two battalions and the armoured cars to open fire. Faced with murderous fire from three directions, tribesmen, comprising, Mahsuds, Wazirs, Afridis, Mohmands and defectors from 4 Jammu & Kashmir Infantry broke and started running wildly in all directions. As they fled, the infantry attacked, supported by fire from the armoured cars and strafing from the air. In less than twenty minutes, the battle of Shalateng had been won. The bodies of 472 tribesmen were counted at Shalateng, and another 146 on the road to Baramula. They also left behind 138 buses and trucks that had brought them to the Valley.6

With the raiders on the run, Brigadier Sen decided to press on, with the intention of attacking Baramula next morning. The tribesmen were pursued in their flight towards Pattan, which was occupied by 1 Sikh at 2000 hours that night, with the rest of the brigade arriving shortly afterwards, mopping up remnants of opposition on the way. After a short halt, the advance commenced at midnight. Halting the column about a mile and a half outside the town, Brigadier Sen ordered 1 Kumaon to secure the hill features to the south. Once this had been done, 1 Sikh and the armoured cars were to enter the town. In the event, 1 Kumaon occupied the hills without encountering any opposition and was ordered to move to the town along with 1 Sikh and the armoured cars.  By 1530 hours on 8 November, Baramula had been taken, without firing a shot. The Vale of Kashmir, whose fate had hung by a slender thread, had been saved.

Further advance was temporarily held up due to bridges destroyed by the retreating tribesmen. The brief respite at Baramula was utilized to carry out a quick reorganization of the brigade. Leaving 6 Rajputana Rifles to defend the airfield and 4 Kumaon at Srinagar, 2 Dogra was moved to Baramula. Another battalion, 1 Punjab joined the brigade at Baramula along with a troop of artillery.  The advance was resumed on 10 November and after overcoming opposition at a broken bridge en route, reached Rampur in the afternoon. Another demolished bridge at Milestone 79, held up the advance for more than a day by determined resistance from the enemy entrenched on the opposite side. On 12 November 1 Sikh captured Mahura, where raiders had destroyed the power house that supplied electricity to the entire valley. Next morning a fighting patrol of 1 Sikh sent to Uri reported that it was clear of enemy. The whole battalion then proceeded to Uri and occupied the town. The same day, 1 Punjab moved out of the Brigade, its defences at Baramula being taken over by 1 Kumaon. 

161 Infantry Brigade Signal Section

            The first element of Signals to be committed in the Jammu & Kashmir operations was 161 Infantry Brigade Signal Section, which was moved to Srinagar along with HQ 161 Infantry Brigade soon after the fly-in of 1 Sikh. The brigade signal section remained responsible for all signal communications in the Valley until the arrival of HQ JAK Division on 5 November, which did not have an integral signal regiment, its communication needs being met by detachments of 1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment, which became JAK Divisional Signals. The story of 161 Infantry Brigade Signal Section is best told in the words of the Officer Commanding, Captain Piara Singh. In a report entitled ‘Kashmir Operations - 161 Infantry Brigade Signal Section (October 1947 – August 1948), he writes:

            The advance party of 161 Infantry Brigade Signal Section along with HQ 161 Infantry Brigade landed at Srinagar at 0915 hrs on 29 October 1947.  On 28 October 1947 the Section was located at Hissar.  The notice for the move was very short indeed.  Brigade HQ was established at Srinagar aerodrome.  The existing communications were a civil aviation wireless Set working to Delhi, a 19 Set control station working to companies of 1 SIKHS, the only Indian troops there in Kashmir, a telephone line to Srinagar civil exchange.  We made the best use of whatever equipment our advance party had taken.  The rest of the Section did not arrive till 1 November 1947 because Signals were not allotted any priority.  By now Brigade HQ had been established in a house about half a mile away from the aerodrome.  A 399 Set along with PE-95 and a Cipher detachment had also been flown in.  On 1 November we established CW and RT communication with Delhi.   Since wireless could be the only means of communication with the battalions and companies which were out protecting Srinagar city, all available W/T detachments were out on 2 November 1947.  But demands were more than that.  However, with the active support of the Infantry battalions on 3 November 1947 we had as many as eleven out stations on the Brigade group.  Two control stations had to be established.  P&T lines were put in working order and we provided line communications to some of the battalions.  At this stage the transport shortage was felt very badly.  We had nothing except one motor cycle of our own.  The scale of transport was one civilian bus per Infantry battalion.  This was used for carrying rations/ammunition and often the Signal detachment.  Very soon we were on the offensive.  HQ J&K Division had been formed.  All existing communications at HQ 161 Infantry Brigade were taken over by Divisional HQ.  On 8 November 1947 when Baramula was captured, HQ 161 Infantry Brigade had only a detachment of 3 men with it.  On 12 November HQ J&K Division moved into the Srinagar Residency.  We had done all the wiring for the various offices.  But the next day Main HQ J&K Division moved to Jammu.  On 14 November 1947 we joined our Rear Brigade HQ at Baramula.  We had to leave a big detachment at Srinagar to man Rear Divisional communications. Tactical Brigade HQ was near Uri.  On 17 November we concentrated at Uri and established our rear links with HQ J&K Division at Jammu 7

Signals Planning at Command Headquarters

            After Partition on 15 August 1947, HQ Eastern and Southern Commands remained in India while HQ Northern Command went to Pakistan. The need of a third command headquarters in India was not felt, and it was decided that the areas that were part of the pre-1947 Northern Command would be divided between Southern and Eastern Commands and the Delhi (Independent)  Area.  However, events following Partition soon brought out the necessity for a third command, leading to the creation of the Delhi & East Punjab (DEP) Command on 15 September 1947, which was initially sanctioned for a period of three months, but subsequently extended for a year on 1 November 1947, the day the HQ JAK Force came into being. The first task of the DEP Command was to deal with the wide spread internal disturbances in the wake of Partition, and the evacuation of refugees between the countries. Later, after the invasion by Pathan tribesmen and the induction of Indian troops in Kashmir, from 26 October 1947 , DEP Command became responsible for the defence of the State of Jammu & Kashmir, the expulsion of raiders and the restoration of law and order in that State.

            At its inception the Signals Branch of DEP Command comprised only one SO 2 (Signals), Major G. H. Simoes, who manned the ‘fort’ alone for more than two months, until additional officers began to arrive after sanction of a proper authorisation consequent to the extension of the establishment on 1 November 1947. Major Harchand Singh, the SO 2 (Ciphers) joined on 25 November 1947, to be followed a few days later by Captain C.B. Bradford, M.C., who took over as SO3 (Equipment). The CSO, Brigadier B.S. Bhagat, joined on 15 December 1947, being followed shortly by Captain J. Mayadas. In the beginning, DEP Command was formed from staff provided by HQ 5 Infantry Division and handled purely operational matters, administration being looked after by the parent division in Ranchi and Army HQ (India).  Communications in the command were provided in the same manner by detachments of 5 Divisional Signal Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel A.C. Iyappa, M.B.E., assisted by Captain G. S. Sidhu, Lieutenant Hazara Singh, Lieutenant Gurdial Singh and Subedar Ghouse Mohiuddin.

            The first Signal Instruction was issued on 31 October 1947 - the number 1 was later crossed out and replaced by 2, giving rise to the conclusion that there was an earlier Signal Instruction, perhaps not dealing with the Jammu & Kashmir operations, whose details are not traceable - by Major G. H. Simoes, who signed ‘for’ the GOC-in-C, there being no CSO posted at that time. The Signal Instruction is significant, in many ways. It is perhaps the first operational Signal Instruction issued after Independence. It is also probably one of the shortest – just two pages – ever issued by a command headquarters. The Signal Instruction is reproduced below, along with the Appendix (Wireless Diagram).8

                                              COPY NO. 17
Tele No. 2001/Camp Ext. 42.                                                              No. 32012/Sigs
                                                                                                            HQ D and EP Command
                                                                                                            NEW DELHI31 Oct 47


1.         INFORMATION.

            Recent developments in KASHMIR STATE have necessitated the provision of Army Comns to the State.

2.         INTENTION

            Comns as detailed below will be established between DELHI, SRINAGAR and JAMMU, by dets being moved in by Air/Road.

3.         METHOD

            WIRELESS (See Appx ‘A’)

(a)               On arrival of dets at SRINAGAR and JAMMU, out stations will be opened on the following existing links :-

(i)         RT                   H 32 (Existing DELHI-JULLUNDUR) Link.

(ii)        CW                  H 36 (Existing DELHI-JULLUNDUR) Link

(b)        FREQUENCIES.

            (i)         H 32  RT         3510  Kc/s   
                                                 7870  -do-    DELHI-JULLUNDUR-SRINAGAR- JAMMU
                                                12405 -do-
                                                  9220 -do-
            (ii)        H 36  CW        2575  Kc/s
9130    -do-     DELHI-JULLUNDUR-SRINAGAR-                           JAMMU
                                                12225 –do-

(c)        CALL SIGNS.

            (i)         DELHI (Army HQ)                             -           JGJG
            (ii)        JULLUNDUR(HQ EP Area)                         -           JGXP 

            (iii)       SRINAGAR (HQ 161 Bde)                 -           JGMC
            (iv)       Kashmir State Forces (In Srinagar)    -           JGFI (For infm only)

            (v)        JAMMU (HQ 50 Para Bde)                -           JGFH.

            (vi)       Kashmir State Forces (in Jammu)      -           JGFH (For infm only)

(d)        As soon as communications are established between SRINAGAR and DELHI, and JAMMU and DELHI, on H 32 and H 36 links, the JULLUNDUR terminal will remain on 24 hour listening watch. If SRINAGAR, JAMMU or DELHI terminals experience difficulty in clearing traffic, JULLUNDUR terminal will act as relay station.

No line communications exist to KASHMIR STATE but the route from AMRITSAR to BATALA is being extended via GURDASPUR to link up with the skeleton line-lay out in the state.


            Arrangements have been made with the civil Aviation Dept Govt of India, to utilize their existing DELHISRINAGARJAMMU wireless links.  In the event of a breakdown of the H 36 link, traffic between these terminals can be passed on this Civil aviation link.  Clearance of traffic to and from the DELHI terminal on WILLINGDON Airport, has been arranged in conjunction with GHQ Signal Office.

5.         SDS/ADS

            Arrangements are being made to run a regular ADS between DELHI and SRINAGAR.

            As soon as road PATHANKOT – JAMMU is open for through traffic, C. Sigs, EP Area will arrange to run SDS, GURDASPUR – JAMMU, linking with ADS, DELHIAMRITSAR.

6.         CIPHERS

            A cipher det is already located at SRINAGAR.  A det is being flown into JAMMU.

            Owing to the physical and technical limitations of these dets, it must be ensured that classified traffic is kept down to an absolute minimum.

7.         Acknowledge.
                                                                                                Sd/-  xxx   xxx   xxx

GHS/GN.                                                                                            Lt Gen
                                                                                    G.O.C. Delhi & East Punjab Comd.

Distribution :-

HQ  Delhi & East Punjab Area                      Copy No. 1
HQ Delhi Area.                                                ,,            2
HQ 161 Bde                                                     ,,            3
HQ 50 Para Bde                                              ,,            4
SO-In-C Army HQ, India                                ,,            5
C. Sigs, East Punjab Area                               ,,            6  & 7
O.C, Northern India Sig Regt                          ,,            8  & 9
O.C, GHQ (I) Sig Regt                                    ,,            10 & 11
O.C, D and EP Comd Sigs                              ,,            12 &  13
OC, 161 Bde Signal Section                             ,,            14    
Director of Civil Aviation                       
 (for attention Mr.Wright)                                 ,,             15
O.C, 50 Pare Bde Signal Section                     ,,            16
CSO, Southern Command, POONA                ,,            17
CSO, Eastern Command RANCHI                  ,,            18
COS, Army HQ India.                                                 ,,            19
DMO & I Army HQ India.                               ,,            20
DSD & WE, Army HQ India                           ,,            21
CGS, GHQ                                                     ,,             22
File                                                                   ,,           23
Spare                                                                ,,           24 to 36        





            Shortly after issue of the above Signal Instruction, it was decided that the tactical headquarters of DEP Command will move in the command train on 7 November, halting at Pathankot, Amritsar, Jullundur and Ambala. This necessitated the issue of another Signal Instruction on 4 November 1947. In addition to the two wireless nets connecting Delhi to Jullundur, Jammu and Srinagar, a third net was added, to cater for exclusive communication between the Main and Tactical HQ DEP Command. The command train had a signal office with a telephone exchange, from which telephone connections were given to each saloon. During halts, the command exchange was provided a connection from the nearest military or civil exchange. Facilities were provided for clearance of message traffic and Signal Despatch Service.  A cipher detachment travelled with the command train, equipped with all grades of Ciphers and Typex for use on telegraph circuits.

           On 7 November 1947 a daily Air Despatch Service (ADS) was established between Delhi and Srinagar. The aircraft left Delhi in the morning and returned in the evening, with halts at Jullundur and Jammu.  This resulted in considerable reduction in the load of signal and cipher offices, since important traffic, including operational and situation reports could be sent by air, reaching the same day. If the ADS could not function due to adverse weather and flying conditions in Kashmir, the Signal Despatch Service (SDS) was operated by road between Srinagar-Jammu-Pathankot-Amritsar, where it was linked to the air or train service to Delhi. By mid November, the Signals Order of Battle of JAK Division was as under:-
·               Detachment 1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment(Jammu)
·               161 Brigade Signal Section (Srinagar)
·               50 Para Brigade Signal Section (Jhangar)
·               268 Brigade Signal Section (Jammu)

           At this time, many ad hoc organisations had been raised which were being provided communication support by signal units of field formations, leading to confusion. On               27 November 1947, Army HQ issued instructions that laid down new forms of address in respect of certain units that specified their operational role.  These were as under:
·                     1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment (JAK Divisional Signals)
·                     2 Airborne Divisional Signals (MEO Signals)
·                     4 Divisional Signal Regiment (East Punjab Area Signals)
·                     7 Brigade Signals (Kathiawar Defence Force Signals).

By this time, the wireless communications had stabilized and were as shown below:-

Operations in the Jammu Sector

               Hostile elements from across the border had begun raids in the Jammu Province in early September 1947. By early October they had seized considerable territory close to the border threatening the State Force garrisons manning the borders. The three State Force brigades in the region were deployed at Mirpur, Jammu and Punch. The headquarters of the Mirpur Brigade was at Jhangar, with a battalion at Kotli, two companies at Naushera, and a company at Mirpur. The headquarters of the Punch Brigade was at Punch, with a battalion each at Hajira and Rawalkot, and two companies at Bagh. The Jammu Brigade had only one battalion, located alongside the headquarters at Jammu. These troops had no artillery, and the battalion had 400 men, while the company had 100. By the beginning of November, Pakistani raiders had invaded the sector in strength. Mirpur had been encircled, Jhangar was besieged, and Kotli was threatened. On 7 November, the raiders captured Rajauri, and 30,000 Hindus and Sikhs were killed, wounded or abducted. At Chingas, more than 1,500 refugees were slaughtered. There were fervent appeals from the Military Adviser, Jammu and Kashmir, to the Defence Minister, and from Mehr Chand Mahajan, the State's Premier, to Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, to relieve Kotli and Mirpur and save the lives of the State troops as well as the thousands of civilians. Due to paucity of troops, and the operations in progress in Kashmir, little succour could be given, till after the capture of Uri by Indian forces on 13 November 1947.    

               The advance headquarters of 50 Parachute Brigade had moved to Jammu by road on 1 November, along with 3 Rajput and a company of medium machine guns. The remainder of the brigade, comprising 1 Patiala, 3 Madras, a squadron of 7 Light Cavalry and 11 Field Battery were expected to concentrate by 6 November. The primary task of the brigade was to keep open the road Madhopur-Kathua-Jammu-Srinagar. Its secondary task was to maintain law and order in Jammu. Considering the long line of communications, which had several important bridges, the brigade was very thin on the ground, with hardly any troops left to maintain law and order and almost no reserves. As the situation in the region deteriorated, it became necessary to divert troops for the relief of the besieged garrisons and save the lives of innocent residents of the towns being captured by the raiders.

               On 13 November, elements 50 Parachute Brigade consisting of 1 Patiala and a troop of 7 Light Cavalry had reached Akhnur.  On 16 November Major General Kalwant Singh, GOC JAK Division, issued orders for the relief of Naushera, Jhangar, Mirpur, Kotli and Punch.  According to his plan, 50 Parachute Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Y.S. Paranjape was to relieve Naushera by 16th, Jhangar by 17th, Kotli by 18th, and Mirpur by 20th November. Another column from Uri, consisting of two battalions of 161 Infantry Brigade under Brigadier L.P. Sen was to move on the Uri-Punch axis on 16 November, reaching Punch the same day. The task of protection of the line of communication was to be taken over by 268 Infantry Brigade.     
               The plan was ambitious and had several flaws. This was pointed out by the officiating C-in-C, Lieutenant General F.R.R. Bucher, who felt that the advance of two columns was 'positively dangerous', and the despatch of a column from Uri to Punch, with the enemy still in position, was 'almost foolhardy'. Brigadier Y.S. Paranjape, Commander 50 Para Brigade, also had several objections. Apart from the dates being unrealistic, he felt that after establishing a firm base at Jhangar, Mirpur should be relieved first, so that the advance to Kotli was not interfered with by the raiders. Both his battalions, 1 Punjab and 3 Rajput were below strength, with 350 to 400 men in each. However, he was over ruled by the GOC, who got his plan approved by Lieutenant General Dudley Russell, GOC-in-C DEP Command, and the operations commenced on 16 November 1947.

            Naushera was occupied on 18 November, after a brief engagement. Paranjape had just three companies with him, and wanted to wait till the rest of the column fetched up. However, Kalwant ordered him to continue and capture Kotli. The advance was resumed on 19 November and Jhangar occupied the same day. From Jhangar, two roads forked out, one leading to Mirpur, and the other to Kotli. Paranjape was in favour of relieving Mirpur before going for Kotli, so that his flank was secure. However, Kalwant did not agree and ordered him to head for Kotli. The advance from Jhangar was resumed on 20 November but was held up after about 15 miles, due to enemy snipers and road blocks set up by the raiders. Armoured cars and field guns had to be brought up at some places to clear the blocks and Kotli was relieved only on 26 November, after negotiating 47 road blocks. Two companies of demoralised Kashmir State troops, another Muslim company that had been disarmed and about 10,000 civilians were found at Kotli. However, by this time the fate of Mirpur had been sealed. It could not be relieved, and was torched by the raiders the same day, after being evacuated. About 400 soldiers and 10,000 refugees managed to escape, and reached Jhangar. The Pathans killed several hundred soldiers and civilians, and captured hundreds of women. The abducted women were taken away to the Frontier, as war booty. En route, many of them were sold after being paraded naked through the streets of Jhelum by the exultant Pathan tribesmen.9

               On 27 November, the day after it had been relieved, the GOC decided that Kotli could not be held, due to the vulnerability of the long line of communication. It was also learned that the column of 161 Infantry Brigade advancing towards Punch from Uri had been attacked and forced to return to Uri. Hence the idea of advancing from Kotli to Punch was given up and 50 Parachute Brigade was ordered to fall back on Jhangar. This was accomplished on 28 November, with 1 Punjab occupying Jhangar, and the remainder of the brigade moving to Naushera. Soon after this, Brigadier Paranjape was hospitalised and had to be replaced. Brigadier Mohd. Usman, who was commanding 77 Parachute Brigade, was transferred and appointed Commander 50 Parachute Brigade.

            The column of 161 Infantry Brigade that was tasked to relieve Punch left Uri on 20 November 1947, simultaneously with the advance of 50 Parachute Brigade from Jhangar. Being unable to reach Punch the same day due to a delayed start, the vehicle mounted column decided to harbour for the night at Aliabad Sarai at nightfall. The long column of about 200 vehicles was split in two, with the rear portion comprising elements of 1 Kumaon and a troop of 7 Cavalry still near Milestone 5 on the Uri-Punch road. When advance was resumed next morning the convoy was ambushed by the enemy. The troops debussed and took up positions along the road. A platoon attack was put in on Point 5430 which was captured. At 0830 hours the enemy put in a strong attack supported by heavy fire. One platoon was over powered but the enemy was repulsed before reaching the convoy itself. The battle continued till about 1800 hours when the hopelessly outnumbered column was running dangerously short of ammunition. The enemy had occupied all dominating features and a withdrawal to Uri was ordered. Total casualties of own troops were 15 killed and 18 wounded. In addition 13 vehicles were destroyed by the enemy and one set fire to by own troops. The enemy casualties were estimated as 100 killed and 50 wounded.10

               Meanwhile the leading elements advancing to Punch were surprised to find the bridge over the Betar Nullah near Kahuta blown by the detachment of the State Forces who had mistaken the advancing column for an enemy force. With the bridge destroyed, there was no hope of the vehicle column reaching Punch. Finally, 1 Kumaon less a company crossed over on foot and were able to reinforce the garrison at Punch, enabling it to hold out until they were relieved a year later. The main force moved back to Uri, reaching there only in the early hours of the morning on 26 November, after spending almost three days making diversions at the sites where the bridges had been destroyed and winching the heavy vehicles across with the help of an Engineers detachment from Uri and 4 Kumaon less two companies that had been summoned from Srinagar. During this period, a picquet of 1 Sikh at Uri had beaten back an attack by 400 raiders, inflicting heavy casualties after a bitter fight lasting more than six hours.              
               With winter having set in and the situation stabilizing, there was a comparative lull in the operations in the Valley, though local skirmishes continued. During this period, which lasted from 27 November to 9 December, plans were finalized at Delhi for future operations in Jammu and Kashmir. After diplomatic efforts to persuade Pakistan to stop incursions into Indian territory failed, Prime Minister Nehru advocated a counter attack across the border in the Punjab and Jammu region but was dissuaded by Mountbatten who was horrified at the prospect of the two nations fighting an all out war. He advised Nehru to refer the matter to the United Nations, which would take immediate steps to resolve the crisis. Nehru agreed, albeit reluctantly. However, he overruled the advice of Mountbatten and the C-in-C to evacuate Punch, insisting that it would be held at all costs. Based on decisions taken by the Defence Committee and the Cabinet, it was decided to secure maximum area of the State with a view to relieve Punch and drive the raiders from the remaining State territory. Instructions on these lines were issued to Major General Kalwant Singh by Lieutenant General Dudley Russell, GOC-in-C Delhi and East Punjab Command, on 10 December 1947. The plan envisaged operations along three thrust lines, one in the Valley and two in the Jammu region. The northern thrust involved an advance from Uri to Domel; the central thrust was along the line Naushara-Kotli-Punch, while the southern thrust was along the line Akhnur-Munawwar-Bhimbar. The minimum force required for these operations was four brigades with 16 infantry battalions. However, the total force available was only three brigades, with 11 battalions. Due to logistical reasons, the force level in the valley could not exceed 4000 during the winter months. Hence, the northern thrust was planned only in spring. In the Jammu sector some important projects such as construction of a bridge at Berippattan – it had only a ferry - and the road from Pathankot to Jammu had to be completed. As a result, the next phase of the operations was primarily defensive, with the aim of consolidating gains rather than undertaking major offensive operations.

            After the abortive attempt to relieve Punch, 161 Infantry Brigade had returned to Uri. The garrison at Uri now comprised 4 Kumaon, 1 Sikh, a company each of 1 Kumaon and 1/1 Punjab and a squadron of 7 Cavalry. Srinagar was held by 6 Rajputana Rifles and 2 Dogra was spread along the line of communication from Baramulla to Uri.  Between 1 and 10 December there were several attacks on the picquets held by 4 Kumaon, which were beaten back with heavy casualties. On 13 December there was an engagement with an enemy battalion of the Frontier Scouts at Bhatigran in which 1 Sikh suffered exceptionally heavy casualties – 61 killed and 59 wounded. Among the dead was Jemadar Nand Singh, V.C., who earned a posthumous M.V.C. in the action.  The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Sampuran Bachan Singh was wounded, and was relieved by Lieutenant Colonel Harbaksh Singh, the Srinagar Garrison Commander. Being rendered unfit to fight, 1 Sikh was replaced by 6 Rajputana Rifles and moved to Srinagar

The Loss of Jhangar
               Shortly before the year 1947 ended, the enemy achieved a spectacular success by capturing the important town of Jhangar, which lay on the route from Mirpur to Kotli.  The attack was launched at on 24 December, a day before Christmas, which was also the birth day of Jinnah. Jhangar was held by 1/2 Punjab, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel G.I.S. Kullar,, who had sited his battalion to defend the two approaches from Mirpur and Kotli, with the battalion headquarters in the middle, at the cross roads. Due to the large gap between the companies, the positions did not have mutual support. The first objective to be attacked was Pir Matalsi, which was over-run in an hour, in spite of a gallant defence by the company which was holding it. The second company guarding the Mirpur road approach fell soon afterwards. After a few hours, the enemy launched another attack, from the north-west. With the road to Naushera being blocked, reinforcement was not possible. The weather being bad, even the Air force could not provide any succour to the beleaguered troops defending Jhangar. Wisely, Kullar decided to withdraw to Naushera, and sent back all available transport. He did not know that the road was blocked, since wireless communications with Naushera had broken down, after the second assault, at 0730 hours. As soon as Usman came to know of the attack on Jhangar, he despatched 1 Rajput less a company with a section each of mountain artillery and medium machine guns. However, it was too late, since the defences of Jhangar had been over run. The relief column came up against a road block after advancing just three kilometres, and had to halt. Attempts by the Rajputs to force their way were foiled by the enemy, who had occupied Kothi Dhar, which overlooked the road blocks. By the afternoon, troops who had withdrawn from Jhangar reached the road blocks, and fought their way to Naushera with the help of the relief column.

               The loss of Jhangar was the first major reverse of the operations in Jammu and Kashmir. 1 Para Punjab suffered 101 casualties - 55 killed and 46 wounded – with the enemy casualties estimated to be 1,000. Flushed with the victory at Jhangar, the enemy launched an attack on Naushera on 26 December. However, the attack was beaten back with heavy losses to the enemy. But it was clear that he would not give up easily, as the capture of Naushera would provide him with a firm base to progress operations towards Jammu. By the first week of January, all four roads leading out of Naushera were dominated by the enemy. 3 Para MLI had started arriving on 27 December, and by 3 January, the entire battalion had moved in. It was still in the process of settling down when it had an unfortunate incident. On 4 January 1948 the battalion launched an attack on Bhajnoa, on the Jhangar road. The enemy was well dug-in, and the attack was launched without artillery support. The attack was beaten back, with the battalion suffering seven casualties, including the CO Lieutenant Colonel Rawind Singh Grewal, who was wounded and had to be evacuated. He was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Harbans Singh Virk, DSO, who took over on 7 January 1948. The failure of the attack by 3 Para MLI on 4 January had raised the enemy's spirits, and he mounted an assault on Naushera the same evening, from the south-west. However, it was not pressed home, and with the help of artillery and mortars, the defenders were able to fend it off. Two days later, another daylight attack came from the north-west. This too was repulsed. Then, a force of about 5,000 was launched by the enemy the same afternoon, supported by artillery. After a bitter fight, which drained all the resources of the garrison, this too was beaten back. 

Operation ‘Kipper’                 
               In January there were many changes in the command set up, which were to have far reaching implications. The Army Commander, Lieutenant General Sir Dudley Russel, asked to be relieved – being a British officer, he was not permitted to enter the State of Jammu and Kashmir, due to political reasons. On 20 January 1948 Lieutenant General K.M. Cariappa was appointed GOC-in-C Delhi and East Punjab Command. Cariappa later moved his headquarters from Delhi to Jammu to be closer to the scene of action.  Soon after taking over as Army Commander, Cariappa visited 50 Parachute Brigade at Naushera. Accompanied by Usman, he went around the defences. With his keen eye for mountain warfare, realised the importance of Kot, an important feature held by the enemy who was building up for an attack on Naushera. Cariappa ordered Usman to capture Kot at the earliest. 

               The attack on Kot was launched at 0630 hours on 1 February 1948. By 0700 hours, it appeared that the feature had been captured, and 2/2 Punjab sent a success signal.  However, it later transpired that the battalion had gone through the village without searching it thoroughly, and missed the defenders, who were sleeping. They soon launched a fierce counter attack, and at 0715 hours, recaptured the feature. Usman had catered for this contingency, and kept two companies as the brigade reserve. These were now ordered to move up, and after a heavy artillery and air bombardment, the feature was recaptured at 1010 hours.  The enemy losses were 156 dead and 200 wounded. 2/2 Punjab had eleven casualties - seven dead, and four wounded. In the attack on Pathradi and Uparla Dandesar, 3 Para MLI had 13 casualties - three dead and ten wounded - after killing 50 of the enemy. This was the first major reverse inflicted on the enemy on prepared defences and proved costly for him. Since it cut off the supply route to Naushera, its loss was a critical factor during the battle of Naushera, which took place after six days.   
The Battle of Naushera  

               On 6 February 1948, one of the most important battles of the Jammu and Kashmir operations was fought at Naushera. Heartened by his success at Jhangar, the enemy tried to capture Naushera several times but failed, due to the strength of the garrison and the clever positioning of troops by Usman. The loss of Kot and Pathradi was big blow to the enemy and enraged by the defeat, he put everything he had in the battle at Naushera. At that time, there were five battalions at Naushera viz. 3 Para Rajput, 3 Para MLI, 1 Rajput, 2/2 Punjab and 1 Patiala. In addition, there was a squadron of 7 Cavalry and one battery each of field and mountain guns.

               On 6 February, Brigadier Usman had planned an attack on Kalal at 0600 hours. From intelligence reports, he came to know that the enemy also planned to attack Naushera the same day. He immediately alerted all picquets and asked them to double their sentries. This timely warning prevented a major catastrophe. At 0640 hours on 6 February, the enemy launched a determined attack against Naushera from three directions. After a mortar bombardment lasting 20 minutes, about 3,000 Pathans attacked Tain Dhar and an equal number hurled themselves at Kot. In addition, about 5,000 tribesmen were used to attack the surrounding picquets such as Kangota and Redian.

               Tain Dhar feature, which overlooked Naushera and was the key to the Naushera valley, was held by 1 Rajput under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Guman Singh. The brigade commander had anticipated the attack and catered for reinforcements, pre positioning the Gujar company of 3 Para Rajput under Major Gurdial Singh half way up the Tain Dhar slopes. Starting at first light, wave after wave of hostiles hurled themselves against Tain Dhar defences. The brunt of the attack was borne by picquet number 2 of 1 Rajput comprising 27 men, of whom 24 lost their lives or were severely wounded. The three surviving soldiers continued to fight hand-to-hand, till another two were fatally wounded, and there was a lone survivor. It was at this critical moment that reinforcements arrived, and the situation was saved. 

               At about 0715 hours, Brigadier Usman ordered Gurdial to move forward, and reinforce the picquet. The company reached the Tain Dhar picquet just when it was about to be annihilated and two of the three survivors of picquet No. 2 had fallen. This was the turning point of the battle. Had Tain Dhar fallen, the defence of Naushera would have become untenable. Along with the attacks on Tain Dhar and Kot a horde of about 5,000 Pathans attacked the positions from the West and South West. The tribesmen were engaged by artillery, mortars and machine guns, all of which combined to bring down deadly fire on the attackers, who continued to pour in an endless stream. The attack continued for almost four hours, before the enemy retired, leaving 963 dead bodies. Own casualties were 33 dead and 102 wounded. Naik Jadunath Singh was awarded a posthumous Param Vir Chakra. In addition, the battalion won two Maha Vir Chakras and four Vir Chakras. Apart from the gallantry displayed by the Rajputs, the artillery played a decisive role in the action, and Naushera is often called a 'gunners battle'. After this failure, the enemy withdrew, and the tide turned. The tribesmen lost the will to fight, and were replaced by regular troops.
Operation ‘Vijay’
               Soon after the battle of Naushera, Cariappa moved his tactical headquarters to Jammu. To exploit the success at Naushera, it was planned to recapture Jhangar.  It was decided to induct another brigade to hold Naushera, so that 50 Parachute Brigade could be relieved for the operations against Jhangar. In mid  February 1948, 19 Independent Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier (later Major General) Yadunath Singh, arrived and took over the defences of Naushera.  In addition, 2 Jat was moved from Beri Pattan to reinforce 50 Parachute Brigade.  Major General Kalwant Singh moved his tactical headquarters to Naushera to direct the operations, which was planned to be done in three stages. Initially, several probing actions were to be carried out, to assess the enemy strength. This was to last till the end of February, and was to be followed by the capture of Ambli Dhar and Kaman Gosha Gala, between 1-4 March. The third phase, code named operation 'Vijay', involved the capture of Jhangar, between 5-18 March.

               By end of February, the first phase of the operation had been completed. In the second phase, which commenced on 1 March, 50 Para was given the task of capturing Ambli Dhar while 19 Infantry Brigade was able to dislodge the enemy from Kaman Gosha. Ever since he had known about the plans for recapture of Jhangar, Usman was in high spirits. The loss of Jhangar by his brigade had been rankling and he wanted to avenge the defeat. His battalion commanders were affected by his enthusiasm, and the operation for capture of Ambli Dhar was completed without any hitch by 2 Jat, assisted by 1 Rajput. Shortly afterwards, 4 Dogra and 2/2 Punjab of 19 Infantry Brigade were able to dislodge the enemy from Kaman Gosha Gala by 5 March. Both brigades were now poised for the final thrust, and on 10 March, Major General Kalwant Singh issued orders for the recapture of Jhangar.

                It was at this time that Usman issued his famous order of the day, quoting the famous lines from Horatious, which read as follows:-

Comrades of 50 Para Brigade,
Time has come when our planning and preparation for the recapture of JHANGAR has to be put to test. It is not an easy task but I am confident of success - because our plan is sound and our preparations have been good. More so, because I have complete confidence in you all to do your best to recapture the ground we lost on 24 December and to retrieve the honour of our arms.

               The hopes and aspirations of our countrymen are based upon our efforts. We must not falter - we must not fail them.
               To every man upon this Earth
                                       Death cometh soon or late
               And how can man die better
                                       Than facing fearful odds
               For the ashes of his fathers
                                       And the temples of his Gods.

So forward friends, fearless we go to Jhangar. India expects everyone to do his duty.
Jai Hind!
                                                                           Mohammed Usman

               Operation 'Vijay' was to commence on 12 March, but had to be delayed by two days, due to heavy rain.  50 Parachute Brigade advanced on the South of the valley, and 19 Infantry Brigade on the North, with a squadron of 7 Cavalry moving along the road in the middle. 50 Parachute Brigade had under command 3 Para MLI, 3 Para Rajput, 1 Patiala, and a company of 3/1 Punjab. 19 Infantry Brigade had 1 Rajput less a company, 4 Dogra and 1 Kumaon Rifles. By night fall, 3 Para MLI, which was in the van of the advance of 50 Parachute Brigade, reached Kothi Dhar and bivouacked there for the night. Next morning, the battalion commenced their advance towards Phir Thil Naka, where the enemy had his main line of defences. As the leading company went over the top of a hill near the village of Kea, the enemy suddenly opened fire with automatic weapons from Phir Thil Naka. Among the first casualties was the company commander, who was shot through the head even as he was trying to pass a message to the battalion HQ. Within a few hours, 3 Para MLI had suffered 18 casualties, which included two officers killed. Three lives were lost in trying to recover the body of Major Chopra, under heavy enemy fire, but the task was accomplished.

               Usman wanted to pull back 3 Para MLI, and make another attempt after arranging for artillery, which was lacking. But the CO, Lieutenant Colonel H.S. Virk insisted that he would be able to hold on, and Usman gave his consent. It was clear that the advance would not make any headway without artillery support. By the end of the day, some field guns were brought up. The company of 3 Para MLI which had been pinned down was extricated after last light. Usman decided to attack with two battalions, supported by artillery and air. 3 Para MLI was to attack from the right, while 1 Patiala was to go in from the left. A company of 3/1 Punjab was to divert the enemy's attention by engaging the feature from the South, while 3 Para Rajput was to be kept in reserve. The Air Force was requested to soften up the objective before the assault went in, and the light tanks were to operate along the road to Jhangar. The route to the objective was reconnoitered during the day by junior leaders, and also by moonlight during the night.           

               The attack on Phir Thal Naka commenced at 0730 hours on 17 March 1948 supported by a considerable amount of artillery - 24 field guns and the mortars of all three battalions, which had been brigaded. An intense 15 minute barrage was put down to cover the move of the assaulting troops, the fire lifting just as the troops reached the forward trenches of the enemy. Taken by surprise, the defenders fled without offering any resistance.  3 Para MLI did not suffer a single casualty in the attack. Without resting after capturing Phir Thil Naka, the battalion set off towards Susloti Dhar, which was captured at 1300 hours. Meanwhile, the advance of 19 Infantry Brigade had also progressed well, and by 17 March, they had cleared Gaikot forest. The way was now clear for the attack on Jhangar, and both brigades prepared for the final dash next day. However, the enemy withdrew and troops of both brigades entered Jhangar next day without any opposition. Operation 'Vijay' was over.    
            A notable achievement for Signals during these operations was the award of the Vir Chakra to Captain (later Brigadier) H.S. Bains, who was then OC 50 Para Brigade Signal Section. This was the first gallantry award won by Signals after Independence. Originally from the 5/16 Punjab Regiment, Bains had fought in Burma in World War II before transferring to Signals in 1945. Soon after the commencement of the operations in Jammu and Kashmir he was flown to the beleaguered garrison of Punch where he set up communications with practically no stores at his disposal. Since no field cable was available, he dug up the cables being used for local power supply and used them to provide permanent line (PL) communications to picquets. Shortly afterwards he was posted to 50 Parachute Brigade Signal Section where he took part in several battles for which he was awarded the coveted decoration. His citation for the Vir Chakra is given below:-11
             Major Harbhajan Singh Bains is the Brigade Signal Officer of 50 Para Brigade. This officer has been through all the Naushera Battles. It is due to this officer’s efficiency and hard work that all the operations were successfully concluded. The officer personally manned the set during the battle of Kot little caring for his personal safety when the bullets were flying all over. He again volunteered and went with the assault company of 2 Jats in the battle of Amlidhar. It was due to the officer’s calmness and courage that reinforcements could be put in time, when the enemy counter-attacked.
             Again during the battle of Jhangar this officer showed outstanding courage which inspired all his signallers who were manning the sets. Working under most difficult conditions over most difficult country it was through this officer’s extraordinary calmness and hard work that the communications were kept through throughout the operations without which the operations could not have successfully been concluded.
               This officer’s hard work under heavy enemy fire and calmness and courage call for recognition.
Military Secretary       
Capture of Rajauri

               After securing Jhangar, preparations began for the capture of Rajauri, as a prelude to the relief of Punch. 50 Parachute Brigade, which had remained in Jhangar after its capture, was ordered to carry out a feint towards Kotli to deceive the enemy. The task of advancing to Rajauri and capturing it was assigned to 19 Infantry Brigade that had been withdrawn to Naushera. In addition to its battalions – 4 Dogra, I Rajputana Rifles, 5 Jat and I Kumaon Rifles – 19 Infantry Brigade was given additional troops in the form of Central India Horse less two squadrons, 5 Jat and two pioneer platoons. The advance commenced on 8 April and 4 Dogra managed to capture Barwali Ridge with the support of the armour. The subsequent advance was on a broad front with the infantry moving along the hills on both sides and the tanks keeping to the road. Chingas was entered on 10 April but found to be in flames.
               After the capture of Chingas, enemy resistance collapsed. On 12 April, 1 Kumaon advanced to Rajauri supported by tanks. Overcoming several obstacles they entered Rajauri at 0630 hours. The troops reached just in time to save the lives of about 300 refugees who had been lined up to be shot. Three large pits full of corpses were discovered, indicating that the enemy had carried out a general massacre of the non-Muslim population prior to his withdrawal. It was estimated that about 500 of the enemy had been killed in the operation. The movement of armour along the road from Naushera to Chingas was made possible only due to the superhuman effort of the Engineers. Second Lieutenant R.R. Rane was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for carrying out mine clearing operations for a prolonged period under continuous enemy fire, which killed two and wounded five men of his party, including Rane himself.

               With summer approaching the time was ripe for undertaking offensive operations in the Kashmir Valley. It became clear that the existing command set up could not control operations in both Jammu and Kashmir Sectors due to the large distances and the numbers of units and formation involved. The JAK Force was split into two divisions – the SRI (Srinagar) Division in the Valley and JA (Jammu) Division in the Jammu sector. Major General (Later General and Chief of Army Staff) K.S. Thimayya, D.S.O., was given command of SRI Division while Major General Atma Singh was appointed the new commander of JA Division. (The two divisions were subsequently given numeric names, becoming 19 and 26 Divisions respectively). A new sub area, called J&K L of C Sub Area, under Brigadier Jai Singh, was created to look after the line of communications ahead of the railhead at Pathankot. The reorganisation was completed by 4 May 1948 and after relinquishing command of JAK Force, Major General Kalwant Singh moved to Delhi as Chief of General Staff of the Indian Army. 

Activities of Signals during the Winter Operations

           On 15 December 1947, Colonel B.S. Bhagat joined HQ DEP Command as CSO. His appointment was fortuitous, in view of his first hand knowledge of the operations in Jammu and Kashmir. From June 1947 onwards, ‘Tutu’ Bhagat, as he was affectionately known in the Corps, was a GSO 1 in Army HQ at Delhi, and had been involved with the division of the Indian Signal Corps when India was partitioned. He was thus fully in the picture regarding the availability of signal resources all over India, the knowledge coming in handy when the commitments in the Jammu and Kashmir operations escalated. In October 1947 he was appointed Deputy Director Signals at Army HQ. When the new HQ JAK Division was raised, he was selected as its first GSO 1, and accompanied the GOC, Major General Kalwant Singh when he flew to Srinagar on 5 November 1947 to take charge.  But his tenure in JAK Division was brief – on 24 November he was recalled to his previous appointment in Delhi. However, the 20 days he had spent in the crucial appointment planning operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the most critical period gave him an insight that was invaluable. After another short tenure as Deputy Director Signals at Army HQ, he was appointed CSO DEP Command on 15 December 1947

               As mentioned earlier, only limited operations were conducted in the winter months in the Kashmir Valley. However, there was considerable activity in the Jammu sector, as described above. Communications remained virtually unchanged, except when new formations were raised or inducted. One such change occurred when a new sub area headquarters was raised at Pathankot in January 1948 with the object of providing for an advance base on the line of communication to Jammu and Kashmir. The Pathankot Sub Area was to include Gurdaspur and the units and Gurkha Regimental Centres at Yol, Dharamsala, Palampur and Baklow. At this time, a detachment of 2 Airborne Divisional Signals under Lieutenant Teja Singh was located at Pathankot. To provide communication support to the sub area, additional signal resources had to be provided. This was done by moving 28 Medium Wireless Section of 3 Company, DEP Command Signals, to Pathankot to provide wireless communications until the arrival of 2 Airborne Divisional Signals which was under orders to move to Pathankot. On 23 January 1948 Captain H.S. Coultrop, OC 28 Medium Wireless Section moved with his section from Delhi to Pathankot.  By 28 January wireless communications were set up on medium power sets with Delhi, Jullundur and Amritsar. A wireless net using low power sets was established with Yol, Dharamsala, Palampur and Baklow. Low power sets were also used for links with Jammu.

               Due to deployment of a large number of formations at short notice, wireless was the primary means of communications. Line communications existed only between important towns, on lines hired from the department of Posts and Telegraphs. The DEP Command trunk line communication diagram is shown below:-12

               To meet the immediate commitments necessitated by Partition, signal resources had been deployed from several units, the criteria being proximity to the scene of action rather than the role of the unit. As a result, signal units of field formations such as 1 Armoured Divisional Signals, 4 Divisional Signals and 2 Airborne Divisional Signals had to take on ad hoc communication tasks at short notice. These units had to be later relieved so that they could revert to their operational role. A detailed Signals plan was made for this purpose by Brigadier B.S. Bhagat, CSO DEP Command, in consultation with Army HQ. This was intimated to the concerned units though a demi official letter, a copy of which is given below:-

From : Brig B.S. BHAGAT, CSO                                                                                    DO No. 32095/Sigs
                                                                                                                                                HQ Delhi & East Punjab Comd
                                                                                                                                                NEW DELHI    23 Jan 48

1.             I am writing this DO to put you all in the picture as regards the future of Sig units in DEP Comd.  Nothing in this letter is to be taken as firm authority to quote to your staff.  It is only meant to give you advance infm as to the trend of planning in this HQ.

2.             The Sig plan is to be implemented in four phases :-

                Phase 1 up to 15 Feb 48.

                3 Coy DEP Comd Sig Regt establishes at AMBALA and takes over EP Area static comns at AMBALA, JULLUNDUR, AMRITSAR, GURUDASPUR, FEROZEPUR  and later       PATHANKOT.  4 Div Sigs are relieved of all static comns and are available for an operational role.

                Phase 2 from 15 Feb 48 to a date to be notified later.

                (a)           2 Airborne Div Sig Regt complete concentration at PATHANKOT .

(b)           3 Coy DEP Comd Sig Regt complete its est and take over responsibilities of intercomn at PATHANKOT from 2 Airborne Div Sig Regt.

(c)           2 Airborne Div Sig Regt move forward to JAMMU and begin taking over from 1                Armd Div Sig Regt comns of JAK Force.

                Phase 3

                (a)           2 Airborne Div Sig Regt complete the take over from 1 Armd Div Sig Regt.

                (b)           1 Armd Div Sig Regt concentrates with HQ 1 Armd Div.

                (c)           4 Coy DEP Comd Sig Regt begins to form.

                Phase 4

(a)           4 Coy DEP Comd Sig Regt concentrates in JAMMU and take over static comns of JAK Force from 2 Airborne Div Sig Regt who are then free for an mob operational role.

(b)           It is the intention at present that when 4 Coy DEP Comd Sigs are est at JAMMU, the det of 3 Coy DEP Comd Sigs at PATHANKOT  will become part of 4 Coy DEP Comd Sig Regt.  This may then become an indep unit with a Modified Regt HQ.

3.             I hope this puts you enough into the picture as to how planning is to take place here.

Sd/-    xxx    xxx    xxx

To :         Lt. Col. H. CHUKERBUTI, OC DEP Comd Sigs, DELHI CANTT.
                Lt. Col JASWANT SINGH, OC JAK Force Sigs, JAMMU.
                Lt. Col. M.N. BATRA OC 4 Div Sig Regt, JULLUNDUR.
                Lt. Col. R. N. SEN, OC 2 Airborne Div Sig Regt, DEHRA DUN.

                Copy to:- Brig C.H. I. AKEHURST.
                                      SO-in-C, Army Headquarters (India)
                              NEW DELHI.

               An interesting development during this period was the appearance of enemy wireless stations that were interfering with our own wireless nets. On 31 December 1947 Lieutenant Colonel Jaswant Singh, CO of JAK Divisional Signals, brought this to the notice of Colonel B.S. Bhagat (who was promoted brigadier a few days later) CSO  DEP Command. He identified five frequencies on which enemy wireless stations were causing quite a bit of nuisance. Their activities consisted of coming on the air and jamming conversations and messages, especially those with high priorities;  using own link signs and giving false acknowledgements or attempting cancellation of  messages; and using obscene and foul language. Colonel Jaswant Singh informed the CSO that he was trying to locate the intruder sets with the help of the RIAF direction finding units with a view to destroy them, and wanted to know if any such equipment was available at Jullundur, Ferozepore or further west, which could be used to get three bearings and thus pin point the intruder station.  Bhagat informed Jaswant Singh that at present Signals did not have any DF operators. However, he would seek the help of the RIAF and the Director General Civil Aviation in direction finding either from Ferozepore or Jullundur. In the meantime, he advised that frequencies could be changed more frequently so as to confuse the intruding stations and directed that all operators use the Slidex Challenge procedure. 

               Strangely enough, all signal units and sub units were functioning on peace establishments when they were inducted in the Jammu & Kashmir operations. Consequently, they did not possess essential equipment to function outdoors such as transport, tentage, field messes and other mobilisation stores. It was only when it became clear that the operations would be prolonged that conversions from peace to war establishments were sanctioned. On 15 March 1948 signal units of JAK Force were reorganized from peace to war establishments. This included 19 & 80 Independent Brigade Signal Companies at Naushera and Akhnur; 50 Parachute Brigade Signal Company at Naushera; and 161 and 268 Infantry Brigade Signal Companies at Uri and Miran Saheb.  Similarly, 4 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment and 5 and 11 Infantry Brigade Signal Companies were reorganised from peace to war establishment on 1 April 1948.
               On 4 May 1948, the forces in Jammu & Kashmir were reorganized and given new responsibilities. The Jammu (JA) Division became responsible for operations from Pathankot to the Banihal Pass while the Srinagar (SRI) Division was now responsible for operations north of the Banihal Pass, including Punch and Uri. The line of communication from Pathankot onwards became the responsibility of the Jammu and Kashmir Line of Communication (J&K L of C) Sub Area at Jammu. This necessitated the issue of fresh signal instructions laying down the responsibilities of signal units in Western Command, as the DEP Command had been re-designated on 1 March 1948. 2 Airborne Signal Regiment, which had been providing communications to the JAK Force, was re-designated Jammu (2 AB) or JA Divisional Signal Regiment.  Simultaneously, Srinagar (SRI) Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment was formed, based on 6 L of C Signal Regiment, which had been formed on 1 March 1948 by re-designating  2 Company Eastern Command Signal Regiment.    


Operations in the Uri Sector

               The appointment of Major General Thimayya as GOC SRI Division was a great fillip to the morale of the troops in the Valley. Called affectionately as ‘Timmy’ by all ranks, he had won a D.S.O. in Burma and was one of the well known field commanders of the Indian Army. SRI Division then had three brigades under command. 161 Infantry Brigade, under the command of Brigadier L.P Sen was looking after the Uri Sector. The erstwhile ‘Z’ Brigade, which had been raised in February 1948 to look after Handwara- Bandipur- Skardu- Leh sector, was renamed 163 Infantry Brigade, with Brigadier Harbaksh Singh being named the new commander. 77 Parachute Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Nair, had recently been inducted in the Valley. On 13 May 1948, Thimayya held a conference, and gave out his plans for the summer offensive, which envisaged the capture of Domel.  The main thrust, by 161 Infantry Brigade, was to advance to Domel on 20 May 1948, after being relieved by 77 Parachute Brigade. A diversionary thrust by 163 Infantry Brigade was to commence on 18 May and advance to Tithwal.

               163 Brigade commenced its advance on two axes from Handwara on 18 May as planned. By the end of the next day, 1 Madras had secured the Dogarpur Ridge and 3 Garhwal Rifles had captured Trehgam. On 20 May, 1 Sikh advanced through1 Madras and captured Chowkibal at the foot of the Nastachun Pass.  Not allowing the enemy any respite, 1 Madras took the lead again and at nightfall were only 3 miles short of the Nastachun Pass, securing it next day after an hour’s fighting. The Sikhs now took over and by that evening had advanced six miles towards Tithwal, leaving the Madrassis to spend the night at the 10,000 feet high pass. On 23 May 1 Sikh captured Tithwal, bagging a large number of prisoners and weapons. The diversionary thrust of 163 Brigade had advanced 40 miles in six days, accounting for 67 enemy dead and many more wounded.  
               The main thrust of 161 Brigade started from Uri on the same day on two thrust lines – one directed from Mahura to Pandu and the other from Uri along the road to Chakothi. Moving off from Mahura on 18 May, 4 Kumaon was able to capture Chinal Dori on 21 May, followed by Chota Kazinag the next day. By 25 May, Pandu had been also captured, along with several soldiers of the regular Pakistan Army, in addition to a large dump of ammunition and supplies.  However, the operations on the second thrust line did not fare well. Advancing along the Uri-Domel Road, 2 Dogra lost its way and was held up at Salamabad on 20 May.  The reserve battalion, 6 Rajputana Rifles was rushed to its aid.   After securing the objectives, it continued to Dardkot, but the delay in capture of Salamabad and loss of surprise had given the enemy enough time to burn all the bridges on the road. A battalion of the Jammu and Kashmir Militia was sent forward to occupy Salamabd but it was found physically unfit and had to be returned. Thereafter 7 Sikh was sent forward to join up with 6 Rajputana Rifles at Dardkot. 

               On 22 May an air strike of two sorties was promised to assist 161 Brigade in its attack on the well prepared enemy defences. Captain J.C. D’Souza - he was a cipher officer, attached to the brigade signal section - was ordered to move forward with the VHF wireless set for ground to air communication so that the pilots could be guided to the targets. Loading the set on a mule, D’Souza reported at the foot of the feature on which the brigade headquarters was located at 11 am. Since the hill sides were steep and slippery, he was asked to unload the set and have it carried up manually to the brigade command post on top of the hill. However, the mule leader had already started moving up the slope on a narrow track. As expected, the mule slipped and came slithering down the slope. Miraculously, both the mule and the wireless set appeared to have suffered very little damage. The set was carried up to the brigade command post and much to everyone’s relief, found to be working.13

                Realising that the enemy force opposing the main thrust towards Domel was an enemy brigade of four battalions based at Chakothi, Thimayya decided to change the plans. He ordered 77 Brigade to move up to Pandu and carry out an outflanking manoeuvre north of the Jhelum River and capture Point 6065 near Kathai, about four miles behind Chakothi. This would threaten the enemy’s line of communication and force him to abandon his forward positions that were holding up the advance of 163 Brigade. To assist the move, a battalion from 163 Brigade was asked to move from Tithwal towards Muzaffarabad. Both columns started on mule pack basis but could not make much progress since the weather changed for the worse. Due to the heavy rain, movement became slow and air supply could not be resorted to. Moreover, surprise had been lost and the enemy quickly moved troops to block the routes. The operation had therefore to be called off
               Alarmed by the rapid progress of the Indian thrust in the Tithwal sector, the enemy quickly moved additional troops in the form of 9 Frontier Division under Major General Nazir Ahmed. The enemy now had a brigade each at Chakothi, Domel and opposite Tithwal. In view of these developments Thimayya changed his plans again and decided on a drive south of the Jhelum towards the Pir Panjal range. 77 Brigade was recalled to Uri to relieve 161 Brigade, which was to undertake a wide hook from the left towards Pirkanthi and Ledigalli, both dominating features located six miles south of the Uri Domel road. 77 Brigade was to guard Uri and also make an attempt to force the Haji Pir Pass. Commencing its advance on three axes on 14 June, 161 Brigade made good progress with all three battalions capturing their initial objectives. However, the attack on Pir Kanthi by 2/3 Gorkha Rifles on 21 June failed. Due to bad weather, the next attempt could be made only after week. On 28 June the Gorkhas put in a silent attack and captured the feature, killing 84 and wounding 40 of the enemy, their own losses being 11 dead and 51 wounded. The same day, the Jaipur Sawai Man Guards captured Ledi Galli. While 161 Brigade operations were on, 2 Para Madras of 77 Brigade launched attacks on 13 and 16 June on the Haji Pir Pass, reaching within 45 meters of the objective in the second attempt. However, they were driven back after sustaining heavy casualties.

               By the end of June 1948, the objectives of the Summer Offensive had been partially achieved. Nastachun Pass had been captured, and the area up to the Kishenganga River cleared by 163 Infantry Brigade. In the Uri Sector, Domel could not be captured, but 161 Infantry Brigade had taken Pirkanthi and Ledi Galli. Haji Pir Pass was still held by the enemy, but Chota Kazinag had fallen. In Northern Kashmir, Razdhanangan Pass had been captured. Almost 350 square miles of territory had been liberated from enemy occupation. At this juncture, the Government decided to cease offensive operations, as the case had been referred to the United Nations. As a result, there was a lull in the operations and the enemy regained the initiative.

               In July 1948 the Pakistanis went on the offensive. They launched a series of determined attacks against the positions held by 1 Madras forcing them to withdraw across the Kishanganga River. Shortly afterwards the enemy achieved a major success by recapturing Pandu. The feature was held by 4 Kumaon and had beaten off several attacks by the enemy. On 19 June a party led by the CO, Lieutenant Colonel M.M. Khanna was ambushed near a bridge. After a heavy exchange of fire the enemy withdrew, leaving six killed and 12 wounded. The Kumaonis lost 13 killed, and the CO was seriously wounded. For the next two weeks, the battalion beat back several attacks by the enemy. On 5/6 July 4 Kumaon was relieved by 2 Bihar, a comparatively raw battalion. After a heavy preparatory bombardment, the enemy attacked Pandu on 21 July. After two days of fierce fighting the battalion withdrew to Uri and Pandu fell to the enemy on 23 July. The CO was put under arrest by the brigade commander, Brigadier Henderson-Brooks and later court-martialled.14 

Operations of the Jammu  Division (April – July 1948)

               After the capture of Jhangar, 50 Parachute Brigade remained to defend the town, while 19 Infantry Brigade was withdrawn to Naushera. The next three months were spent in consolidating the defences, and beating back enemy attacks, which continued. Two major attacks were launched against Jhangar, on 16 April and 10 May 1948. Both were beaten back, with heavy casualties to the enemy. Along with Jhangar, the enemy launched attacks on picquets around Naushera such as Kaman Gosha Gala and Phir Thil Naka on 16 April. These were also beaten back. On 2 May, 19 Infantry Brigade captured Thana Mandi in the Rajauri sector. Major General Atma Singh, who had just taken over command of the Jammu Division, made plans to destroy the enemy in this area. During the month of May a combined force of 19 Infantry Brigade and 80 Infantry Brigade carried out several operations in the Naushera area and managed to clear some positions occupied by the enemy .

               After repulsing the enemy attack on Jhangar on 10 May, Brigadier Usman decided to clear the enemy from the area of Sabzkot, which was an advance base of the enemy being used to protect the line of communication from Mirpur.  The attack was launched at first light on 21 May 1948, and progressed well till the assaulting troops were about 150 metres from the enemy's forward defences. Then the enemy opened up with automatics, and men began to fall. It then became clear that the enemy strength was almost a battalion, and not a company, as had been estimated. Usman ordered the battalion to break contact and withdraw, with the support of tanks and artillery. This was achieved shortly after mid day. 3 Para MLI suffered 37 casualties, including eight dead.  2 Rajputana Rifles also ran into rough weather in their attack, and had to fall back, after suffering casualties.                                    
               Brigadier Usman was killed by an enemy shell on 3 July 1948. After a conference Usman and a few of his staff officers were going round the headquarters when the shelling started. They took shelter under a large overhanging rock in a terraced field, just above the signallers' bunker.  Once the shelling stopped, a few signallers, led by Lieutenant Ram Singh of the brigade signal section, came out and started repairing the aerials. Seeing them come out, Usman also decided to move to the brigade command post. En route, he stopped to have a word with the signallers and encourage them. Just then, a 25 pounder shell landed on the rock nearby, and the splinters killed him on the spot. Two of the signallers working outside, as well as Lieutenant Ram Singh were wounded. The shelling continued throughout the night, and about 800 shells were dropped on Jhangar. Besides Brigadier Usman, four men lost their lives during the shelling, while eight were wounded, including three officers.

               Usman's untimely death cast a gloom on the entire garrison. From Jammu, his body was flown to Delhi, where he was given a State Funeral, which was attended by the Governor General, Lord Mountbatten, and the Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru. Soon afterwards, the Government announced that Usman had been posthumously awarded the MVC. He was the senior most Indian officer to have lost his life during the Jammu and Kashmir operations in 1947-48. Even today, he is venerated by the people of Jammu and the surrounding region. Memorials have been built at Naushera and Jhangar, where veterans gather on the anniversary of his death to honour his memory. The memorial at Jhangar is built on the same rock, on which the shell which took his life had landed.

The Relief of Punch

               When hostilities commenced in October 1947, the Punch garrison had about 2,000 State Force troops. On 22 January 1948, the garrison was reinforced by 1 Para Kumaon less a company under Brigadier Pritam Singh. In addition there were about 40,000 civilians who had sought refuge in the town to escape the atrocities of the raiders. For the next one year, the Punch garrison faced several onslaughts by the hostiles who had laid siege to the town. Being supplied entirely by air, the besieged garrison held out, until they were relieved after exactly one year. The defence of Punch is a saga of grit, courage and leadership that has few parallels in Indian military history.

               In the first week of January 1948 Punch was reinforced by two companies of 4/9 Gorkha Rifles, with the remaining two companies joining a month later.  Brigadier Pritam Singh augmented the fighting strength of the garrison by creating militia battalions from volunteers among the refugees, whose performance was creditable.  On 17 March the enemy began shelling the defences using 3.7 inch howitzers that had recently arrived. More than 200 shells landed inside the perimeter, many landing on the runway that appeared to be the prime target. In response to a desperate call from the brigade, a section of 25 pounder guns was flown into Punch, with the indomitable Air Commodore Mehar Singh himself landing a Dakota in fading light to avoid enemy fire. These 25 pounders effectively neutralized the enemy’s artillery, leading to a temporary lull in the shelling.

               The enemy continued to harass the garrison by intermittent shelling and attacks during the months of February and March, which were repulsed. During this period the Punch Brigade carried out several local operations, which kept the morale of the residents high, part from causing casualties among the enemy.  To alleviate the shortage of food, Brigadier Pritam Singh organized harvesting operations by sending civilian volunteers under escort to the surrounding areas which were under enemy control.  In April the brigade captured some surrounding hills that had direct observation over the air strip. By May 1948, the brigade had consolidated its position in Punch. 19 Infantry Brigade advanced from Rajauri to Thana Mandi to link up with 1 Kumaon that advanced from Punch to Surankot. The operation went according to plan and another battalion, 1/2 Punjab was able to reinforce Punch on 23 June 1948. In August, the enemy brought in additional troops and stepped up his activities. In September he brought up 25 pounder guns and captured some features that gave him direct observation over the airfield, which was put out of commission. With the air link being cut, opening the land route to Punch became an urgent necessity.    
On 14 September 1948 Lieutenant General S.M. Shrinagesh was appointed GOC of V Corps that was created to control all operations in Jammu and Kashmir. He was directed to undertake operations for the relief of Punch at the earliest. The two possible routes were from Uri in the north and Rajauri in the south. Though the route from Uri was shorter, it was given up for administrative reasons – a long line of communication and the possibility of heavy snow closing the two passes, Banihal and Hajipir. Though the approach from the south was easier, it was heavily defended, with the enemy having three brigades deployed between Rajauri and Punch. At least two brigades would be required for the operation, with a third operating on the flank. The advancing troops would have to depend on animal transport for the entire move. However, it would be necessary to construct a road behind them, to facilitate maintenance and move of artillery. It was proposed to carry out the operation, which was given the code name ‘Easy’, in October 1948.

            Some limited offensive actions were carried before the actual link up operations started. I9 Infantry Brigade (Brigadier Yadunath Singh) captured Thanamandi on 22 September. In order to protect the western flank of the troops advancing from Naushera to Rajauri for Operation ‘Easy’, 268 Infantry Brigade (Brigadier Harbhajan Singh) captured Pir Badesar on   15 October. This confused the enemy about our intentions. Wireless intercepts revealed that the enemy thought that the capture of Pir Badesar was a prelude to an Indian advance from Jhangar to Kotli. To reinforce this deception, the route for the advance to Punch was changed to go through Mendhar, instead of via Sangiot. This would force the enemy to commit his reserves at Kotli. This also suited the Engineers who felt that the construction of a jeep track via Mendhar was easier than via Sangiot. In the next phase of the operation, 5 Infantry Brigade captured Pir Kalewa on 26 October.

            By 5 November the troops taking part in Operation ‘Easy’ had concentrated at Rajauri. These included 5 Infantry Brigade (Brigadier Umrao Singh); I9 Infantry Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Jagjit Singh); Durga Force (Lieutenant Colonel Ajit Singh); two troops of Central India Horse; three batteries of field and one battery of mountain artillery. Commencing their advance on the night of 6/7 November, both 5 and 19 Brigades captured their initial objectives – left and right shoulder of Bhimbar Gali – by 8 November. The Durga Force set out a day after the other two and captured Ramgarh Fort on 9 November. On the same day 19 Infantry Brigade captured Point 6207. Finding that the opposition being encountered by 5 Infantry Brigade on the right was comparatively less than that facing 19 Brigade on the left, GOC JA Division, Major General Atma Singh switched 19 Infantry Brigade also to the right, leaving one battalion to demonstrate on the left axis. The combined force of two brigades captured Point 5982 on 20 November 1948. At 1400 hours on the same day Brigadier Pritam Singh advanced south from Punch and linked up with the relief column. After the link up, 19 Infantry Brigade turned southwards and advanced to Mendhar, which was captured on 23 November. This ended Operation ‘Easy’ for the relief of Punch, which had been under siege for exactly one year. During the operation the enemy suffered 363 killed and 633 wounded.  

Signals during the Summer Offensive
With the creation of two divisional regiments, it was expected that communication support for formations deployed in Jammu and Kashmir would improve substantially. However, due to a corresponding increase in commitments and the fact that the two units were not fully equipped, this did not happen. In August 1948, Brigadier Bhagat took up the case for allotment of additional signal resources through Signals as well as General Staff channels. An extract from the letter from HQ Western Command to Army HQ is given below:-

1.         As the need for additional sig resources is very real, the following alternative proposals are put up for your urgent consideration:-

(a)        PUNCH Bde, at present, has NO Sig Sec authorized for it.  An Ad Hoc Sec has been formed and is in situ taken from within the resources of the two sig Regts (JA and SRI Div Sig Regts) in Jammu & Kashmir.  It is requested that the fmn of a Bde Sig Sec for PUNCH Bde be authorized on the scale given in Appx ‘A’ att.  This will mean that the pers for this sig sec will NOT count against the str of JA & SRI Div Sig Regts.

(b)        Owing to the fact that there are about ten Bns under 161 Bde, it is very strongly suggested that you provide another Sig Sec to look after some of the Bns in this Sector. If it is NOT possible to sanction a full Bde Sig Sec, it is suggested that an increment to 161 Bde Sig Sec be provided as shown in Appx ‘B’ to this letter. This increment is essential because an ordinary Bde Sig Sec is only catered to provide comns for a Bde of three Bns and att tps and can NOT cater for about ten Bns which 161 Bde has at present.

(c)        At Appx ‘C’ is shown an increment of pers and eqpt reqd for JA and SRI Div Sig Regts in order that they can carry out their respective roles of providing efficient comns in JAMMU & KASHMIR. It has been found that these Sig Regts with their normal WE/PE can NOT cope with the commitments they have. This increment would be in the nature of a stop gap and would NOT of course be as efficient as the provision of another Sig Regt which was asked for in our even number of 5 Aug 48.

2.         In this connection it is relevant to note that:-

(a)        The impression that Sig Commitments are fewer in a static HQ than in a mob one is NOT correct. This is due to the fact that as soon as a HQ becomes static, the adm sig tfc increases considerably. Even operational tfc, as in the present case, in no way diminishes. Sig Comns have to be maintained constantly and in point of fact it makes very little difference to Sig commitments, except in so far as their tpt is concerned, as to whether a HQ is static or NOT. The idea, therefore, that as the two Div HQ are more or less static, their Sig Regts can be depleted in str, is a very mistaken one.

(b)        The signal resources of Bns and other units are already being utilized to the full. Bns are often finding their own rear wrls links to Bdes and helping out in the maint of lines It is, however, pointed out that Bns in static roles cover very wide areas and their Sigs pls are hard put to provide efficient inter comns within their own Bns. It would NOT thus be possible to deplete Bns Sigs pls in order to provide extra pers to help in the maint of Bns and Divisional Sig comns.15

2  Airborne Divisional Signal Regiment

            At the time of Independence 2 Airborne Divisional Signal Regiment was located at Quetta. Following the partition of the country the unit provided communications to the Punjab Boundary Force. In October 1947 it moved from Quetta to Lahore and a month later to Amritsar to take over communication commitments of the Military Evacuation Organisation from            1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment. On 15 December 1947 it handed over its responsibilities to 123 Brigade Signal Section and   moved to Dehradun. In February 1948 the unit moved to Pathankot, from where it moved to Jammu in April 1948, where it relieved JAK Force Signal Regiment, which had been formed by elements of 1 Armoured Divisional Signal Regiment. The unit had the responsibility of providing communications in the whole of Jammu and Kashmir.  The following companies /sections were part of the unit:-

            50 Para Brigade Signal Section                      -           Jhangar
            19 Brigade Signal Company                           -           Naushera
            80 (I) Brigade Signal Company                      -           Akhnur
            161 Brigade Signal Section                            -           Uri
            163 Brigade Signal Section                            -           Punch
            77 Brigade Signal Section                              -           Jasmergarh (Later Srinagar)
            268 Brigade Signal Section                            -           Ranbirsingpura
            16 Field Regiment Signal Section                  -           Naushera                    
            22 Mountain Regiment Signal Section           -           Naushera
            13 Field Regiment Signal Section                  -           Srinagar

             After the creation of the Jammu or JA Division in May1948, the unit became responsible for communications in the Jammu Sector, and was re-designated Jammu  or JA Divisional Signal Regiment, which was later to become 26 Divisional Signal Regiment. It was from within the establishment of the unit that 163 Brigade Signal Section and detachments were provided for the creation of SRI Divisional Signal Regiment, until the move of  6 L of C Signal Regiment to Srinagar.  The signal office in Srinagar was set up by JA Divisional Signal Regiment, whose officers and men also helped the newly formed SRI Divisional Signal Regiment to set up communications in Baramula. Subsequently all Signals personnel in the valley were struck off the strength of the unit and posted to SRI Divisional Signal Regiment, while a few remained attached to that unit and were finally withdrawn only in July 1948.

            The unit was then under the command of Lieutenant Colonel R.N. Sen with Major R.K. Vats being the Second-in-Command. The company commanders were Major A. Mehra             (1 Company) and Major M. Cohen (3 Company). The officers in the out signal companies/ sections were Major Phalwant Singh (80 Independent Brigade Signal Company); Captain R.N. R. Sawhny (19 Independent Brigade Signal Company);  Captain G.B. Bhide (268 Brigade Signal Section); Captain H.S. Bains and Captain Brij Lal (50 Parachute Brigade Signal Section); Lieutenant Gurdharshan Singh (Punch - later 101/168 - Brigade Signal Section); Lieutenant P.S Jauhal (16 Field Regiment Signal Section); Lieutenant Gulzar Singh (22 Mountain Regiment Signal Section);  and Lieutenant  Ram Singh (8 Field Regiment Signal Section). Other officers who served in the unit at various times were Major Y.S. Desai; Major B.S. Panwar; Captain Hardev Singh; Captain P.P. Jude; Captain M.L. Sahni; Captain H.S. Kler; Captain G. Swaminathan; Captain S.S. Sidhu; Lieutenant Sher Singh; Lieutenant E.K. Sankaran Nair; Lieutenant S.S. Jha; Lieutenant Jagbir Singh; Lieutenant V. Kulandai Velu; Lieutenant S.N. Mookerjee; Lieutenant N.V. Lakshmanan Nair; and Second- Lieutenant N. G. Bakshi. 

               As has been mentioned earlier, Brigadier Usman, Commander 50 Parachute Brigade was killed by enemy shelling on 3 July 1948. Lieutenant Ram Singh and two men of the Signal Section were wounded during the shelling. The casualties would have been much higher but for the precaution taken by Captain Brij Lal, who was commanding 50 Parachute Brigade Signal Section.  At that time only the forward troops were in properly fortified bunkers. The others, such as those in the brigade headquarters and administrative units in the rear lived as in cantonments, with open trenches dug around the camp for perimeter defence.  This was because the enemy had no artillery in the sector and his small arms fire could reach only the forward troops. In the middle of June, an Indian aircraft flying over the enemy positions to the south of Jhangar saw some gun pits. Another sortie a few days later reported that the guns were now manned. Some air attacks were mounted, but these had limited effect. Orders were immediately passed that headquarters and units in the rear should improve their defences and construct bunkers with proper overhead protection. Very few people took these orders seriously, especially in the brigade headquarters, which had its office and mess in the two roomed inspection bungalow at the cross road in Jhangar. One person who followed the instructions meticulously was Captain Brij Lal – he made sure that his bunkers were strong enough to withstand enemy shells. As a result, only the signallers who were outside the bunkers were wounded in the shelling, the rest being unhurt.

            During the next few months the main task of the unit was providing assistance to the Posts and Telegraphs Department in establishment of static communications. In May the trunk lines between Pathankot and Jammu were built, followed by the trunk lines to Naushera and Jhangar in July and August. The line to Naushera gave a lot of trouble and became commercial only after the move of the regiment to Naushera in October 1948. In view of the importance of Punch, the unit had to maintain a detachment of one officer and 30 men at that location at all times. The unit was often over stretched, since JA Division had 42 battalions, six brigades and a few ad hoc brigades, while it had only five brigade signal sections. In addition, the unit had to cater for the Jammu L of C Sub Area and Tactical HQ Western Command at Jammu, which later became HQ Jammu and Kashmir Corps. Another task assigned to the unit was intercepting and decoding enemy wireless communications without a monitoring section, which was made available only on 20 October 1948.

            In spite of intense operations under way, normal activities continued. Officers and men continued to attend training courses at Mhow and Jubbulpore; there were several visits by dignitaries; religious festivals were celebrated with customary festivity and entertainment of troops was organised whenever possible. During the month of May the Corps band visited the Sector, spending 10 days each with SRI and JA Divisional Signal Regiments. Apart from Jammu, the band also visited Naushera and Jhangar and gave performances for all troops at those locations. On 15 August a ceremonial parade was held in the station in which 60 men from the unit took part.

            One of the major commitments undertaken by the unit was for Operation ‘Easy’, for the link up with Punch. Apart 5 and 19 Brigades that were taking part in the operation, an ad hoc brigade was established at Rajauri, for which Signals were asked to provide an ad hoc brigade signal section.  Later, a Force HQ Signals, also known as Durga Divisional Signals had to be created out of the unit’s own resources. Signals performed well during Operation ‘Easy’ in spite of the difficulties it faced. Because of the terrain, wireless sets usually had to be carried to hill tops before they got ‘through’. Due to the absence of tracks and non-availability of animal transport, wireless sets, batteries and line equipment had to be man handled sometimes during night.  There were several instances of equipment falling during carriage and being damaged, but cases of breakdown in communications were rare. In a very short time, several hundred of miles of cable were laid. Maintaining this cable proved more arduous than the laying as it was continuously being broken by stray cattle, tracked vehicles and the blasting operations of the Engineers.

            On one occasion a line detachment almost came to grief. During the last stage of Operation ‘Easy’ a commander ordered his signal officer to go ahead and lay cable to Punch.  A safe route was shown to the officer on the map and he set off with four linemen and the cable stores. Unfortunately, he lost his way and strayed into enemy territory, where he was fired upon by our own troops. He kept on laying the line and eventually reached Punch. Communication was established but could not be used because of the danger of the line being tapped where it passed through enemy held territory.16

            Soon after the move of the main divisional headquarters to Naushera in October, the tactical headquarters moved to Rajauri. Orders were also received for raising of 101 Brigade Signal Section at Punch, which was subsequently re-designated 168 Brigade Signal Section in November 1948. After the successful culmination of Operation ‘Easy’, the GOC congratulated the regiment on 1 December for their excellent performance during the operation. The unit had a few casualties during this period, Signalman Kalyan Singh lost his life on 3 December as a result of injuries received in a motor  accident and Signalman Ram Lachhan Singh of 168 Brigade Signal Section was killed in action due to enemy shelling. The year ended with the departure of the CO, Lieutenant Colonel R.N.  Sen, on Christmas Day. Major H.K. Bhagwat took over the unit.
Lt Col RN Sen, CO 26 (2AB) Div Sig Regt gives out his orders to a line party,
while Maj A Mehra, OC 1 Coy on the right, listens - 1948

There was an interesting incident just a few days before the departure of Colonel R.N. Sen. Major D.R. Bhagwat was the SO 2 (Communication) in the Signals Branch in HQ Western Command. On 18 December a movement order was issued, ordering Major Bhagwat to proceed on ‘temporary inspection duty’ to Jammu on 20 December 1948. An extract of the movement order is reproduced below:-



1.         The a/n offr will proceed to JAMMU by Air leaving Delhi by 0600 Hrs on 20 Dec 48, on temporary inspection duty.

2.         On arrival at JAMMU he will inspect 5 Inf Div Sig Regt (JAMMU) and 26 (2 AB) Div Sig Regt (NAUSHERA).

3.         On completion of duty at JAMMU/NAUSHERA he will proceed to SRINAGAR under orders of Comd Sigs 5 Inf Div.

If the wording of the movement order, asking Major Bhagwat to ‘inspect’ the two signal regiments was astonishing, the response of the Commander Signals 26 Division was not. Even as a Lieutenant Colonel, ‘Roby’ Sen had built up a formidable reputation. His response was characteristic and entirely along expected lines. On 24 December 1948, a day before he was to hand over command of the unit, he sent a signal to Western Command, expressing his annoyance and anger. The signal is reproduced below:-


In the event, Major Bhagwat’s visit to Jammu did not take place.  However, he did visit Srinagar, reaching there on 24 December and returning to Delhi on 27 December 1948.


            The Northern Front of the campaign included the sectors of Gurais, Skardu, Dras and Kargil. Though operations in these sectors were usually simultaneous or with large intervals, for ease of comprehension, they have been covered sector-wise rather than chronologically. Another important town was Gilgit, which was lost as a result of a coup at the beginning of the campaign, as described earlier in this chapter.

The Siege of Skardu
            When the tribal invasion began in October 1947, the entire area from Leh to Bunji was held by a State Force battalion, the 6 Jammu & Kashmir Infantry, which had both Muslim and Sikhs in equal numbers. Roughly half the battalion was written off after the fall of Gilgit, with the Sikhs being killed and the Muslims joining the raiders. Out of the remainder, approximately two Sikh platoons each were at Leh and Kargil, with two Muslim platoons at Skardu, under Captain Nek Alam. Lieutenant Colonel Sher Jung Thapa, who had assumed command after the capture of the CO, Lieutenant Colonel Majid Alam at Gilgit, was at Leh with Captain Ganga Singh located at Kargil. After the loss of Gilgit, Thapa was ordered to collect whatever troops he could muster and move to Skardu. Starting from Leh on 23 November, he reached Skardu on 3 December 1947 with a force of two officers, two JCOs and 75 men including three Muslim signallers, who operated the only wireless set in the unit. After carrying out a detailed reconnaissance, Colonel Thapa decided to deploy two platoons in the Fort, with a platoon each guarding the approaches to the town from the direction of Gilgit. The Muslim platoon under Captain Alam was placed at Tsari, about 32 Km away on the right bank of the Indus, with a Sikh platoon under Captain Krishna Singh on the opposite left bank. The only means of communication was by runner, the sole wireless set being used for communication with Srinagar. With this, Skardu was left with 40 Sikh and 31 Muslim troops, apart from a few officers. However, the garrison was soon reinforced by 90 State Force troops under Captain Parbat Singh who reached Skardu on10 February 1948 after an arduous journey of 25 days through heavy snow. Unknown to the garrison, the outpost at Tsari had been overrun by the raiders just a few hours earlier.
On the night of 9/10 February, the Tsari outposts were attacked by a force of 600 raiders, which included 80 deserters from the State Forces. The Sikhs and Captain Krishna Singh were killed while the Muslim platoon under Nek Alam joined the raiders. The attacking force attacked Skardu on 11 February, taking the garrison completely by surprise. However, the defenders rushed to the ramparts, and after a six hour battle, the attackers retired, leaving behind 10 dead and one wounded. Inexplicably, the next attack came only after four days. During this period, Skardu was reinforced twice, by 70 men on 13 February and an equal number two days later. The strength of the garrison rose to 285 soldiers, with 270 refugees and prisoners. 

            In the following days the hostiles shelled the garrison with mortars and launched several attacks which were beaten back. In response to urgent appeals from Colonel Thapa, a company of State Force troops under Brigadier Faqir Singh was dispatched from Srinagar on 17 February, under the code name ‘Biscuit’. After collecting another platoon at Kargil, the column commenced its move towards Skardu via Parkutta and Gol. The raiders came to know of the move and ambushed the column on 17 March when it passing through a narrow gorge. Stunned by the surprise attack, the column retired, losing 26 men killed, 7 missing believed killed and 18 wounded, including Brigadier Faqir Singh. They also lost a large amount weapons and ammunition to the raiders. Meanwhile, Thapa had moved out of Skardu on 18 March with two weak platoons to receive the Biscuit column. When he came to know of the ambush of Faqir Singh’s column he turned back, only to be himself ambushed by the hostiles. However, his men fought valiantly and after a running fight for 8 km, they entered Skardu without a single casualty.

Loss of Kargil and Dras

            The desperate situation of the Skardu garrison prompted another attempt at reinforcement in April 1948. With the Indian Army units fully occupied in the Uri and Punch sectors, all available troops of 5 and 6 Jammu & Kashmir Rifles, about one and a half battalions, were collected and despatched in six columns for the relief of Skardu. The first column of one officer, one VCO and 40 OR was scheduled to reach Kargil on 1 April, with the second column of three VCOs and 37 OR one stage behind. Major Coutts, who was already at Kargil was ordered to organise a defended locality with one company, and move forward one company to Bagicha and another to Parkutta. Starting out of Kargil on 11 April, Coutts reached Parkutta on 17 April, where he met the raiders and halted, calling for reinforcements and air support. Another column under Lieutenant Colonel Sampuran Bachan Singh that had reached Kargil on 21 April was ordered to push out with rations and ammunition for Coutts. On 28 April the ‘Sugar’ column, as it was called, under Sampuran Bachan reached Parkutta. Meanwhile, yet another column under Lieutenant Colonel Kripal Singh, who was appointed the overall commander of all the columns, was also moving towards Kargil and Dras. Due to disagreement between Sampuran Bachan Singh and Kirpal Singh regarding seniority and command, there was no coordination between the columns. Finally, on 4 May 1948 Kirpal Singh was given overall command and Sampuran Bachan Singh ordered to return to Srinagar.
            Once again, the hostiles came to know of the move of the columns and made plans to deal with them. Realising that they would not be able to withstand an attack by the large forces moving towards Skardu, they decided on a bold manoeuvre, designed to capture Kargil. Leaving only 200 men to continue the siege at Skardu, the remaining 600 were organised in four columns, each with a specific task. Preceded by a feint movement towards Bandipur, the columns were to interfere with the Indian line of communication from Sonamarg to Bandipur, occupy Gurais and finally capture Dras and Kargil. All attacks were to go in together to achieve surprise. The feint towards Bandipur was executed on 28 April.  On 10 May the first column set fire to several bridges between Sonamarg and Kangan while the second column had still not reached its objective near Pindras. The third column attacked Dras, but the attack was beaten back. But the fourth column launched an attack on Kargil and captured it, the surprised troops offering little opposition. 

            With the loss of Kargil, the columns going for the relief of Skardu found themselves sandwiched between the raiders, who had succeeded in interposing themselves between the columns. The ‘Sugar’ column under Sampuran Bachan Singh and Coutts was attacked and dispersed as it tried to retrace its steps after the fall of Kargil. On 13 May the column under Lieutenant Colonel Kripal Singh reported that it was surrounded on all sides and asked for air strikes or permission to withdraw. On 15 May 1948 Major General Thimayya ordered all troops in Skardu, Parkutta and Tolti to fight their way out. However, Skardu was exempted after Thapa protested against this order, since it would have meant leaving the old, sick and wounded at Skardu at the mercy of the raiders.

            Efforts were then made to relieve Dras, where two platoons of 5 J&K Rifles under Captain Kashmir Singh wee holding out. The task of relieving Dras was given to 1 Patiala, which concentrated at Zojila on 21 May. However, by constantly interfering with their line of communication, the raiders pinned down 1 Patiala, not permitting them to move towards Dras. After gallantly holding out for four weeks, Captain Kashmir Singh and his men abandoned Dras on the night of 6/7 June. Most of them were captured or killed, but a few managed to reach the positions of 1 Patiala at Macchoi on 11 June to give news of the fall of Dras.   

Fall of Skardu

            The situation in Skardu was now critical. The garrison had run out of food and ammunition. On 17 June the raiders sent a messenger under a white flag carrying a letter from Colonel Shahzada Mata-ul-Mulk, son of the Mehtar of Chitral, asking the garrison to surrender, promising that their lives would be spared. Thapa refused and the siege continued. The garrison received some rations that were air dropped by RIAF aircraft but the problem of shortage of ammunition could not be solved. On 13 August when the ammunition had been completely exhausted and there was no hope left, many of the men slipped out at night. Next morning, Thapa sent his last message to General Thimayya and the garrison surrendered. Apart from Thapa and four other officers, there was one JCO and 35 OR. Almost all were killed, except Colonel Thapa, who was made a prisoner. Thus ended the siege of Skardu, which had lasted over six months.

Operation ‘Eraze’ (Recapture of Gurais)

            The raiders probably occupied Gurais soon after the fall of Muzaffarabad on October 1947 using the Kishanganga gorge. Some raiders who had entered the Kupwara valley and Bandipur also crossed over to Gurais over the Rajdhani Pass after the recapture of Baramulla and Tithwal. It was estimated that about 400 hostiles were deployed in the era, guarding various routes of ingress and important bridges. Preparations for the re-capture of Gurais could be taken in hand only after the winter. With the Summer Offensive towards Domel and Tithwal being conducted at the same time, very few troops were available for the Gurais Sector. In mid May 1948, 1 Grenadiers was moved from Jammu Sector and concentrated in Area Bandipur-Tragbal, occupying the Rajdhani Pass on 27 May. The obvious route to Gurais along the old caravan route from Srinagar to Gilgit was well guarded, especially at the bridge over the Kishenganga at Kanzalwan. Lieutenant Colonel Rajendra Singh, commanding 1 Grenadiers, decided to use a goat track that led from Rajdhani Pass to Gurais, which was known to a few Gujars in the area.

            On 17 June, Thimayya visited Tragbal and discussed the plan for the re-capture of Gurais, code named Operation ‘Eraze’. It was estimated that at least two battalions were required for the operation, and 2/4 Gorkha Rifles was concentrated at Rajdhani Pass on 23 June. The operations commenced on 24 June, with the Gorkhas attacking Charpathar on the caravan route to deceive the enemy, followed by the main attack on 25 June by the Grenadiers advancing along the goat track. Both battalions achieved their objectives and on 29 June Gurais was captured. An added bonus was the capture of Kanzalwan by 2/4 Gorkha Rifles.   

 The Threat to Leh

            When operations commenced in October 1947, there was a platoon of the State Forces at Leh, the capital of Ladakh. After the departure of Lieutenant Colonel Sher Jung Thapa for Skardu in November 1947, only 33 troops were left at Leh. This platoon was responsible for the defence of the entire region of Ladakh, covering thousands of square kilometers. Ladakh was sparsely populated, its inhabitants being unwarlike shepherds and nomads, who followed the Buddhist religion. There were several large monasteries reputed to possess considerable wealth. These factors made Leh an obvious target for the hostiles. The enemy attack on Skardu on 11 February caused a panic at Leh, and the officer commanding the detachment sent a frantic telegram to the Premier of the State, informing him that all of them were certain to be killed, the population massacred and the monastery looted, unless at least a thousand troops were flown in. The low state of morale of the detachment brought home the urgency of reinforcing Leh.

            Brigadier L.P. Sen made plans to send a small detachment to Leh following the only available route over the Zojila Pass, which was reportedly under thirty feet of snow and had never before been crossed in winter.  Fortunately, there were several inhabitants of Lahaul, a region contiguous to Ladakh, in 2 Dogra, including two officers, Captain Prithi Chand and Captain Khushal Chand, who readily volunteered for the assignment. A party of 40 men led by them was assembled, with another ten being kept in reserve. Apart from their own weapons and ammunition, the column carried 100 rifles which would be used to arm the local militia in Leh. A large number of ponies were collected, to carry the baggage of the party. In order to maintain secrecy, the destination was not announced. For this reason, the signal to HQ JAK Force asking for sanction to send the column was sent by courier, instead of using the wireless.17

            The column comprising about 75 men drawn from the Indian Army as well as the State Forces left Srinagar on 16 February 1948, under the command of Major Prithi Chand of 2 Dogra. The column was placed under Z Brigade, which had been set up under Brigadier Lakhinder Singh in Srinagar in the second week of February to oversee operations in parts of the Valley (Handwara - Bandipur) and Ladakh area. The Z Brigade was later named 163 Brigade.  After a gallant effort the column crossed the Zojila and reached Leh on 8 March 1948. Major Prithi Chand set about improving the defences raising a local militia. During the months of March and April, patrols were sent out in the Shyok and Indus valleys, to confirm the presence of raiders. An improvised landing strip was prepared and additional arms and ammunition demanded from Srinagar. On 27 April Captain Badri Singh reached Leh with some arms and stores.

            With the snows melting in May, news of the raiders advancing towards Leh along the Indus as well as the Shyok began to come in. The loss of Kargil closed the only route along which reinforcements could reach Leh. On 17 May Lieutenant Colonel Sampuran Bachan Singh and dispirited remnants of his party routed near Marol staggered into Leh, adding to the sense of alarm and despondency of the garrison. On 22 May the enemy overran the State Force detachment guarding the vital bridge at Khalatse, which was fortunately destroyed before falling into enemy hands. Major Prithi Chand sent urgent messages asking for reinforcements if Leh was to be saved, with the raiders now being only a day’s march away.  Thimayya had already asked for a strong column to be sent to Leh using the little used route from Manali, but this was likely to take time. The only way to send reinforcement quickly was by air, which had never been done before.

            On 24 May 1948 Air Commodore Mehar Singh accompanied by Major General Thimayya took off in a Dakota and landed at Leh, amidst wild jubilation of the local population. With the air route to Leh being opened, reinforcements were rushed in. One company of 2/4 Gorkha Rifles reached Leh by air on 1 June.  During the month of June the troops at Leh took some limited offensive action, sending out patrols to engage the enemy, who appeared to be waiting for reinforcements. On 26 June a strong force of 600 hostiles attacked the forward positions occupied by 2/4 Gorkha Rifles near Dumkhar in the Indus valley, but were beaten back losing 30 men. Meanwhile, a column of 2/8 Gorkha Rifles comprising about 150 men under Major Hari Chand left Ferozepore for Manali on 28 May, but reached Leh only on 5 July. They were immediately sent to join the company of 2/4 Gorkha Rifles manning the forward positions near Himis Shukpa. On 10 July they were subjected to heavy fire of 3-inch mortars and medium machine guns. The Gorkhas fell back, leaving some of their weapons, and staggered into Leh in ones and twos. Several officers, including Major Hari Chand, were missing and presumed dead till they reappeared at Leh.18 

            In July, there were several other encounters in which the enemy was worsted. But the threat to Leh had not decreased.  After the fall of Skardu on 14 August, it was expected that enemy forces released from Skardu would move towards Leh. To meet the threat, the rest of 2/8 Gorkha Rifles under Lieutenant Colonel H.S. Parab was ordered to move to Leh.  Between 23 and 30 August the tactical headquarters of the battalion and one company was moved by air to Leh, the remainder moving on foot on the overland route via Manali. Known as the Arjun Column, the two companies of 2/8 Gorkha Rifles numbering about 350 men reached Leh on 18 September. The garrison at Leh now comprised two regular battalions of the Indian Army and the 7 Jammu & Kashmir Militia. Another supply column, called the Chapati Column, was dispatched from Manali on 12 September. A breakdown in signal communications led to an apprehension that the column had been ambushed, but the fears turned out to be untrue after communications were restored. To ensure that the column returned before the Baralacha Pass closed, the Chawal Column was sent out from Leh to take over the supplies enroute. The columns met on 1 October at Lun and returned after transferring loads.

            Thimayya’s orders to Parab were explicit - defend Leh at any cost. To enable him to carry out his task, he was appointed the Military Governor with sweeping powers. He readjusted the defences to make them more compact.  A commando platoon under Major Hari Chand was organised, which infiltrated behind enemy lines and destroyed a 3.7 inch howitzer detachment in early September. Later, in November, they successfully ambushed an enemy supply column across Zaskar river and captured large quantities of supplies and ammunition. After the capture of Zojila and Dras in early November, Thimayya ordered Parab to remain in contact with the retreating enemy up to Khalatse and destroy him. Two company columns were sent out from Leh on 20 November, reaching Khalatse on 22 November. The enemy fought a rear guard action and was able to break contact, shedding his heavy baggage en route.  Parab left Khalatse on 23 November for Kargil, where his troops linked up with 77 Para Brigade on 25 November. The area south of the Indus river was now clear of the enemy. Shortly afterwards, the Cease Fire came into effect, on 1 January 1949.

Crossing the Zoji La

            The loss of Kargil in May followed by that of Dras in June 1948 had cut off the land route to Leh. Fortunately, the alternate route from Manali was activated and began to be used. However, it was the opening of the air link that proved crucial to the survival of Leh. With the capacity of both these links being limited, the need to open the land route via Kargil became an urgent necessity. As all available troops were fully committed, the operations for the recapture of Kargil and Dras could only be undertaken after the induction of additional battalions. The first obstacle was the formidable Zoji La pass, which was held by the enemy. The task of breaking through Zoji La was assigned to Brigadier K.L. Atal, Commander 77 Para Brigade. Comprising 5 Mahratta, 3 Jat and 1/5 Royal Gorkha Rifles, the brigade concentrated at the foot of Zoji La by end of August 1948. The operation was given the code name ‘Duck’, which proved to be an unfortunate choice.

            The first assault on Zoji La was mounted on 3 September 1948 but failed. The second attempt of 13 September met the same fate, with 77 Infantry Brigade suffering heavy casualties – 20 killed and 72 wounded – in the two assaults. With winter fast approaching, it was realised that unless Kargil and Dras were captured quickly, the fate of Leh would be sealed.  The Army Commander, Lieutenant General Cariappa held a conference on 23 September at Srinagar, which was attended by all senior commanders, including, Lieutenant General S.M. Shrinagesh, GOC of the newly raised V Corps; Major General K.S. Thimayya, GOC SRI Division; and Brigadier K.L. Atal, Commander 77 Para Brigade. Lieutenant Colonel Rajindar Singh, commanding 7 Cavalry, was specially invited for the conference. An analysis of the reasons for the failure of the two attempts to capture Zoji La revealed that air and artillery were ineffective against the well entrenched enemy positions and the only way to neutralize the deadly small arms fire during the attack was by the use of flat trajectory weapons that could move with the assaulting infantry. In a bold decision, it was agreed to use tanks for this purpose. Since the tanks could not move off the road and would have to be protected by the infantry, the assault would have to be frontal and launched during the day.19

            The new plan for the capture of Zoji La was given the code name ‘Bison’. Though General Bucher, the C-in-C, felt that the operation had little chance of success, Cariappa decided to go ahead with it. By 15 October the Engineers were able to make the track fit for tanks. To overcome the problem of weak bridges, the weight of the Stuart tanks was reduced by removing the turrets and transporting them separately to Baltal. This had the added advantage of concealing the move of armour from enemy agents among the civilians en route. The attack was planned for 20 October but had to be postponed thrice due to heavy snow. Finally, the assault was launched on 1 November 1948, with Thimayya himself in one of the leading tanks. The enemy was literally stunned by the sight of the tanks, which none of them had seen earlier. Finding their weapons useless, they were thoroughly demoralized and fled in terror, after suffering heavy casualties.  By the afternoon the tanks had reached the Gumri plains. Soon afterwards, the infantry occupied the Mukand and Chabutra ridges, which had also been vacated by the enemy. Passing through 1/5 Royal Gorkha Rifles at night, 1 Patiala captured Machoi against stiff opposition at 1000 hours and exploited another two miles northwards. They captured a large quantity of arms and ammunition including a complete 3.7 inch howitzer.  Enemy casualties were reported to be 60 killed and 30 wounded.  The five hostiles who were captured disclosed that there were approx 350-400 enemy in Zoji La area.

Recapture of Dras and Kargil

            After the capture of Zoji La, the advance was resumed on 2 November and on 4 November the Rajputs captured Matayan. However, further advance was held up near Pindras by well prepared defences occupied by the enemy on two dominating features – Batkundi and Point 12967. Two attacks on the positions failed due to lack of fire support, as the enemy had occupied positions inside caves, on which shelling by the mountain battery had little effect. It was decided to repeat the tactics used at Zoji La and use tanks for the assault. The preparation of tracks took some time and on 13 November the tanks reached near Pindras. The attack was launched next day with 4 Rajput containing Batkundi and 1/5 Royal Gorkha Rifles going for Point 12697, while 1 Patiala pushed through the valley to capture Dras. The assault was successful and by 15 November Dras had been occupied.

            With the capture of Dras, the line of communication became relatively secure. However, the threat to Leh still existed and 77 Parachute Brigade resumed the advance on 18 November, with 1 Patiala and 1/5 Royal Gorkha Rifles leapfrogging along the Dras river valley.  On 22 November a Gorkha company reached Kharal just 6 km short of Kargil, where they ran into an ambush near a broken bridge suffering 18 casualties within a few minutes. While attempts were being made to cross the river by use of rafts another company climbed a mountain peak and taking a short cut, reached Kargil at 0400 hours on 23 November, only to find it devoid of the enemy, who had already fled. On 24 November the Leh Column under Colonel Parab linked up with the Gorkhas. With this, the line of communication from Srinagar to Leh had been re-opened. Commander 77 Parachute Brigade wanted to exploit his success up to Marol, which controlled the tracks from Skardu to Kargil and Leh, but the plan had to be given up due to heavy snow and snow blizzards that made all movement difficult. Without proper clothing and snow boots, the troops suffered terribly, with more men becoming non-effective from frostbite than from enemy action.

            After the capture of Kargil and the link up with the column from Leh, active operations were suspended for the winter.  The link up with Leh had been achieved at considerable cost. Indian troops suffered 115 casualties in Operation ‘Duck’ - 23 killed, 61 wounded and 31 missing. In Operation ‘Bison’, own casualties were 17 killed, 25 wounded and 6 missing, not counting 350 cases of frostbite. The losses sustained by the enemy were heavier - 318 killed, 206 wounded and 9 captured. On 1 January 1949 the Cease Fire came into effect and all operations in Jammu and Kashmir came to an end. This marked the end of the campaign that had commenced on 26 October 1947 when 1 Sikh was flown to Srinagar after the accession of the State to the Indian Union. 

SRI  Divisional Signal Regiment

            After its arrival in the Kashmir Valley on 4 May 1948, SRI Divisional Signal Regiment was initially located at Srinagar. On 16 May, the Main HQ SRI Division moved to Baramula, leaving the Rear HQ at Srinagar. Consequently, the signal regiment was also split in two, with signal offices being manned at both locations. The Srinagar signal office had communication links to Delhi as well as JA Division in Jammu. The unit was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hazara Singh, with Major Kulwant Singh looking after the elements at Srinagar. Forward communications on line and wireless were provided to 161 Brigade (Brigadier L.P.Sen) at Uri, 163 Brigade (Brigadier J.C. Katoch) at Handwara and 77 Brigade (Brigadier P.S. Nair) which had arrived and relieved 161 Brigade for the Summer Offensive. In addition, wireless links were provided to garrisons at Skardu and Leh.

            Details of the Summer Offensive that resulted of the capture of Tithwal, Pir Kanthi, Ledi Gali, Razdhangan Pass and Gurais have already been described, along with the loss of Skardu, Kargil and Dras. The unit was fully stretched in meeting the communications requirements not only of the brigades but several garrisons and columns such as the ones that were sent for the relief of Skardu. However, the war diary of the unit reveals that normal activities, including recreation and entertainment of troops, continued. On 2 August an excursion was arranged to the Wular Lake, for a party 25 other ranks under a JCO.

There was a change of command on 1 August 1948. Lieutenant Colonel Sarup Singh Chowdhary arrived from Eastern Command Signal Regiment and relieved Lieutenant Colonel Hazara Singh. The Second-in-Command was Major H.K. Bhagwat, who also performed the duties of OC 3 Company. The other company commanders in the unit at this time were Captain K.E.C. Gillon (HQ Company); Major Sri Ram (1 Company); and Major K. S. Deol (2 Company).  The officers in the brigade signal sections were Captain C.C.H. Walters (77 Parachute Brigade Signal Company); Captain Piara Singh (161 Brigade Signal Company); Captain Harbans Singh (163 Brigade Signal Company); and Captain Kulwant Singh (165 Brigade Signal Company). Other officers who served in the unit at various times during the operations were Majors Laxman Singh and S.N. Banerjee; Captains S.S. Jones, W.S Ambardekar, R.O. Mackenzie and S.P.S. Bedi; Lieutenants K.T Bopaya, Hukam Singh, J.C. D’Souza, Gyan Singh and Gopal Krishan; Second- Lieutenants M.P. Achuta Nair and Isaac. 

            Towards the end of August 1948 the unit moved from Baramula to Srinagar, the move being carried out in three phases.  Apart from communication tasks, the unit was called upon to carry out interception of enemy links. On 11 September a very heavy shower of rain disrupted lines as well as wireless communication for almost two hours. The unit area was completely flooded and most of the tents had to be shifted.  There was a major security breach on 15 September when 3 Jat, which was then under 77 Para Brigade lost its Linex and Slidex keys which were presumed to have fallen in enemy hands. The information was conveyed to all concerned and the traffic clearance links between Western Command, JA Division and SRI Division were closed down until new keys were received.

            On 14 October the unit moved to a new location in Srinagar known as Ram Munshi Bagh. A new signal office was opened at the new location and all trunk lines transferred to the new exchange. At the same time Tactical HQ SRI Division moved to Baltal along with HQ 77 Parachute Brigade. An exchange was set up at Baltal and communications provided on line and wireless. By the end of October it had become terribly cold. Men joining the unit from the Signal Training Centre sometimes reported without winter clothing, which had to be arranged from the Divisional Ordnance Unit. This took some time, and the troops sometimes suffered. The low temperatures and moisture also affected the efficient working of the exchanges. Electric heaters had to be procured to overcome the difficulty

After the capture of Zoji La on 2 November 1948 work began on building a permanent line route behind the advancing troops. A party eight linemen under a sub inspector of the State Telephone and Telegraph Department worked alongside the unit line parties for this task. On 7 November the line was through to Gumri and on 15 November to Matayan. On 24 November the line up to Dras was working. At the same time, the line from Leh to Kargil was also through. On 30 November, the line from Srinagar to Kargil was through. With this, line communication from Srinagar to Leh was now available. 

            Another problem encountered was jamming by the enemy. During the Zoji La operations the enemy started jamming the wireless links of 77 Para Brigade. Working on radio telephony was impossible and on wireless telegraphy links it took about one hour to pass ten groups. To counter this three new links were immediately opened to 77 Brigade which worked simultaneously on three different frequencies passing the same message. In this manner messages were cleared at the rate of approximately one message per hour.  Another factor that affected communications was the cold weather. During the operations in Zoji La area the operators manning the forward links could not operate the sets after 2100 hours in spite of all possible heating arrangements. Even the operators in Srinagar could not work for more than an hour continuously without warning their hands, even though ‘bukharies’ were provided. The only alternative was to change operators more frequently.

            The successful conclusion of the Zoji La operations came as a welcome respite to everyone. Leave was opened and those who had not had any leave since August 1947 were the first to be sent.  By the end of the year there had been considerable improvement in the state of communications. A duplex wireless link was established between Delhi and Srinagar before the carnival at Delhi on 3 December 1948. A five pair permanent line route was constructed by Posts & Telegraphs Department between the carrier room and the signal office at Srinagar. This improved the communications to forward brigades and to Delhi and Jammu. Earth return circuits were put through between Srinagar-Tithwal; Srinagar-Kargil and Kargil-Leh.  Transposition of the route between the signal office at Uri and the civil carrier station was also completed.

Communications for the Leh Columns
            After the first air landing at Leh on 24 May 1948, reinforcements were rushed in, the first infantry company of 2/4 Gorkha Rifles reaching on 1 June 1948. Meanwhile, another company of 2/8 Gorkha Rifles under Major Hari Chand left Ferozepore for Manali on 28 May. Detailed instructions for communications for the column were issued by CSO Western Command on 26 May 1948. A detachment of Western Command Signal Regiment accompanied the column, comprising two operators with a wireless set 62 and a 300 watt charging engine. The set was to work on schedule on the existing net, with the control station located at Rear HQ Sri Division, the other outstations being Sonamarg and Leh. Havildar Nirmal Chand, a radio mechanic who was being posted to SRI Divisional Signals, accompanied the column as a guide. The column was to follow the route Manali - Kyelang - Bara Lachala – Sarchu - Panga – Upshi – Leh, and was expected to reach in 10 days. In the event, the column left Manali on 28 May, but reached Leh only on 5 July 1948.

            In August two more companies of 2/8  Gorkha Rifles were ordered to move along the same route from Manali to Leh.  Signal Instructions for the Arjun Column, as it was called, were issued on 21 August. The frequencies, call signs etc were exactly the same as for the earlier column. The column numbering about 350 men left Pathankot on 22 August and reached Leh on 18 September 1948. Appreciating the need for additional troops on the newly opened route, it was decided to position No. 4 East Punjab Defence Battalion at Kyelang. On 7 September a detachment from Western Command Signal Regiment was sent to Kyelang, to establish a wireless link with Pathankot. Shortly afterwards, a supply column called Chapati was sent along the same route, for which signal instructions were issued on 8 September. A detachment comprising three operators with two wireless sets was sent with the column, which was to return to Manali after delivering its loads at Leh. The Chapati column left Manali on 12 September and came up as an outstation on the same net as the Arjun Column, which had still not reached Leh. Unfortunately, there was a break in communications, causing great concern and apprehension that the column had been ambushed. However, communications were restored and the column continued towards Leh. Since Baralacha Pass was likely to close soon, the Chawal Column was sent out from Leh to take over the supplies en route and the Chapati column returned after transferring loads on 1 October 1948.

            On 3 November 1948 instructions were issued to reorganize the Srinagar-Leh-Pathankot wireless net that had been established for the Chapati Column. Called the X1 link, it was to comprise a control at Srinagar and three outstations at Leh, Manali and Pathankot, each of which was allotted a four letter code sign. 

Signals on the Northern Front

            On 5 September 1948 HQ Jammu & Kashmir Corps was established at Jammu, with Lieutenant General S.M. Shrinagesh being appointed its first GOC.  Since there was no signal unit available, the existing wireless telegraphy detachment with Tactical HQ Western Command was re-designated J & K Corps Signal Regiment. In view of the limited resources of the unit, all units and formations were advised to address messages directly to the Division/L of C Sub Area concerned, with copies being sent to J & K Corps by mail.

            With the move of Main HQ JA Division to Naushera for Operation ‘Easy’, some changes became necessary in the communication layout in the Command.  These were incorporated in CSO Western Command Signal Instruction No. 11 of 16 October 1948, which is reproduced below:-

Copy No 36
                                                                                                            No 2614/SIGS
                                                                                                            16 OCT 48


1.         Main HQ JA (2 AB) Div is moving to NAUSHERA in view of certain impending ops.

2.         Rear HQ JA (2AB) Div will remain in JAMMU.

3.         5 Inf Bde will remain under Comd JA (2 AB) Div.

4.         JA (2 AB) Div Sig Regt will provide intercomns according to Wrls and Line Diagrams W1 and L1 att by 0900 hrs 18 Oct.


5.         OC JA (2 AB) Div Sig Regt will arrange to open WS 399 on the Comd W1 and W4 links at NAUSHERA.  The wrls set at JAMMU on W1 link can be closed down if there is a shortage of WSs.


6.         Remain unchanged.

            Code Sign

7.         Fixed Code Sign for NAUSHERA ‘JGAX’.


8.         OC JA (2 AB) Div Sig Regt will arrange to provide the following line comns:-

(a)               A direct PL route from JAMMU to NAUSHERA.  NO taps will be authorized on this route.  Fuller Phones will be superimposed at JAMMU and NAUSHERA.

(b)               Line Comns for units between these two stas will be provided by cable.

(c)                A separate PL route from JAMMU to AKHNOOR will be constr on top priority.  NO taps will be authorized.

(d)               A PL route will be constr between the civ exchange at JAMMU and HQ JA (2 AB) Div JAMMU, to replace the existing cable route.


9.         All existing comns between JAMMU and PATHANKOT will remain unaltered.      


10.       Between JAMMU and NAUSHERA will be est under arrangements OC JA (2AB) Div Sig Regt.


11.       SCO Western Comd will arrange to posn 2 link OTP for special tfc between NAUSHERA – JAMMU.



12.       One working line det consisting of one NCO and 6 OR’s will be provided by OC Western Comd Sig Regt.  This det will be returned to Western Comd Sig Regt at a date to be notified later.

13.       Ten oprs are being posted ex CSO Western Comd Pool.

14.       SCO Western Comd will arrange to post three cipher ops in the first instance and three more when rfts arrive to JA (2AB) Div Sig Regt.


15.       200 miles of cable has been released.  150 miles more is being released.

16.       Two 1260 watt and three 300 watt charging engines are being dispatched.


                                                                                    Sd/-   xxx   xxx
                                                                                    CHIEF SIGNAL OFFICER
Time of Signature   1000 hrs                                       (S.N. ANTIA)
Time issued to Sig Office 1100 hrs                              Tele 2001/42
Method of dispatch    SDS

            The shortage of signal resources continued to be a cause for concern. On 22 October 1948 CSO Western Command addressed a Note to the Brigadier General Staff, endorsing a copy to the SO-in-C, in which he requested that another major signal unit be made available in view of the increased communication commitments in Jammu and Kashmir. A copy of the Note is given below:-




1.         The signal commitments in JAMMU & KASHMIR have now become so extensive that both JA (2 AB) Div Sig Regt and SRI Div Sig Regt are finding it extremely difficult to maintain efficient comns.

2.         The extent of sig comns reqd can easily be appreciated if the ORBAT of JA (2AB) Div SRI Div and other allied HQs are examined.

3.         JA (2 AB) Div Sig Regt has to provide comns for :-

(a)               50 Para Bde.
(b)               80 Indep Inf Bde.
(c)                19 Indep Inf Bde.
(d)               5 Inf Bde.
(e)                268 Inf Bde.
(f)                 101 Inf Bde.
(g)               JAMMU Bde (now under Indian Army control)

4.         SRI Div Sig Regt has to provide comns for :-

(a)               161 Bde.
(b)               163 Bde.
(c)                77 Para Bde.
(d)               165 Bde.
(e)                11 Fd Regt.
(f)                 7 Cav Regt.

5.         Additional comns are also provided for :-

(a)               The whole of L of C from KATHUA to SRINAGAR.
(b)               Advance base at UDHAMPUR.
(c)                HQ J & K Corps.
(d)               HQ J & K L of C Sub Area.
(e)                NAUSHERA and RAJOURI Grns.

6.         It will also be appreciated that with the est of Main HQ JA Div at NAUSHERA, two large sig offices have to be maintained, one at NAUSHERA and the other at Rear HQ JAMMU.  This is an additional burden on the already over worked sig Regt.  It must be borne in mind that both JA (2 AB) Div Sig Regt and SRI Div Sig Regt have to cope with commitments much larger than originally catered for both in men and eqpt.  A small increment recently authorized by Army HQ (India) as an unsatisfactory compromise is not sufficient to maintain the existing comn commitments.

7.         It must be realized that JA (2AB) Div Sig Regt and SRI Div Sig Regt are carrying out these extra sig commitments in addition to normal role they are designed for.  If the above state of affairs continues for some-time due to the present heavy strain, a serious breakdown of comns in JAMMU and KASHMIR will follow.  On the other hand, any future op planning by this HQ will have no signal backing for want of tech and adm sig pers and eqpt.

8.         It is my considered opinion that the signal units which would be utilized for the present commitments would be no less than

(a)               a Corps Sig Regt
(b)        a L of C Sig Regt
            (c)        a Div Sig Regt ( emp in a L of C Sig Regt role),

            in addition to the existing two Div Sig Regts emp in their normal role.

9.         In view of these very large sig commitments the provision of another major sig unit in this theatre is absolutely essential.  It is therefore very strongly recommended that Army HQ may please be approached to make available immediately a Corps Sig Regt/ L of C Sig Regt based on the following :-

            (a)        Regt HQ based on PE IV/115/1946/1 Coln    2
            (b)        Two Coy HQ               IV/115/1946/1 Coln     3
            (c)        One TM Sec.               IV/115/1946/1 Coln     5
            (d)        *One Line Sec.            IV/115/1946/1 Coln     7
            (e)        One Line Constr Sec. IV/115/1946/1 Coln      8
            (f)         *Two Op Secs             IV/115/1946/1 Coln     9
            (g)        One Cip Sec                IV/115/1946/1 Coln       11
            (h)        *One Med Wrls Sec (8 set)                    ,,          12
            (i)         One DR Sec                                           ,,         13
            (j)         One SBO Sec based on PE IV/119/1946/1 Col 11
            (k)        One SDO Sec                      IV/119/1946/1 Col 12

            Army HQ may please also be approached to make the Secs marked * available as quickly as possible.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Brig                                                                                                                 CSO
                                                                                                            22 Oct 48
                                                                                                            (S.N. ANTIA)
                                                                                                            Tele 2001/42


     Copy to       SO in C
                         Army Headquarters (India)
                         NEW DELHI.

            Shortly after the move of HQ JA Division to Naushera and the raising of HQ J & K Corps, the Jammu & Kashmir L of C Area was formed at Jammu. In order to provide communication support to the formations and units at Jammu, an Ad Hoc Signal Company was formed at Jammu under Major Phalwant Singh, of JA Divisional Signals.  The Jammu Signal Company was tasked to cater for the communication needs of HQ J&K Corps, J&K L of C Area, local units at Jammu, rear wireless links from Jammu to Western Command and the line of communication  up to Banihal Pass.
            An important event during this period was the visit by Colonel R.N. Batra, O.B.E, Deputy Director Signals at Army HQ. During his eight day visit from 17 to 24 November 1948, Colonel Batra visited almost every signal unit in Jammu and Kashmir, including the brigade signal companies/ sections. At each location he met the formation commander and staff to learn at first hand their expectations from Signals, and to acquaint them with the plans being made at Army HQ. In the signal units he went into great detail, taking note of the problems being faced by them with regard to manpower, equipment and organizational matters. On his return to Delhi, he issued his Tour Notes, which are an excellent example of meticulous staff work. Progress on the Tour Notes had to be sent to Army HQ until the points listed in them were resolved. The Tour Notes also bring out the peculiar problems being faced by Signals during the operation in Jammu and Kashmir and the efforts made by higher HQ to resolve them.

            On 1 December 1948, consequent to the establishment of HQ J & K Corps to control all operations in Jammu and Kashmir, CSO Western Command issued fresh signal instructions. 5 Divisional Signal Regiment was ordered to concentrate at Jammu to provide inter-communications for HQ J&K Corps and J&K L of C Area. A CSO and staff was also sanctioned for HQ J&K Corps. (Shortly afterwards, Colonel H. Chukerbuti was posted as  DCSO HQ J&K Corps).

            With effect from midnight 6/7 December 1948, numerical designations were given to formations in Jammu and Kashmir. J & K Corps became 5 Corps; JA Division became 26 Division and SRI Division was to be called 19 Division. The two divisions were allotted the formation signed used by the erstwhile divisions which had the same number, with 19 Division getting the ‘dagger’ sign and 26 Division the ‘panther in triangle’ sign. 

            On 7 December 1948, 5 Divisional Signal Regiment relieved 26 Divisional Signal Regiment of all its responsibilities in Jammu. By 10 December it had taken over all communication commitments at Banihal, Ramban, Udhampur and along the Jammu-Srinagar L of C. As the operations in Jammu and Kashmir drew to a close, Signals got a well deserved ‘pat on the back’ from the Army Commander. On 12 December 1948, General Cariappa wrote to the CSO, Brigadier Bhagat:-

            In the last months, I have visited practically everyone of your units in J and K.  I write this to tell you how very satisfied I am with the efficient way in which the officers and men of your corps are carrying out their very arduous duties under most trying conditions.  The morale of everyone of them is indeed very high and their keenness, determination and desire to get on with the work in hand has indeed been a ‘tonic’ to me.  I realize a number of officers in command of your units are young and inexperienced, but at the moment, in the present conditions obtaining in J and K, they are gaining wonderful experience which will stand them in good stead in the future.  Will you please convey to them all my best congratulations on their achievements so far, and at the same time impress upon them that we should all continue to work more determinedly to finish our job expeditiously.20         


            The Jammu and Kashmir operations were important for the Indian Army, being the first major campaign it undertook after Independence. They were even more significant for the newly christened Corps of Signals, since it was their first test without the assistance of British tradesmen, who had formed the core of the technical trades before 1947. The campaign had several important lessons for Signals, which proved useful in subsequent campaigns. These were documented by most unit commanders as well as the Signals staff at headquarters. A report titled SIGNALS IN KASHMIR OPERATIONS – MAY TO DEC 1948 was initiated by Brigadier B.S. Bhagat, CSO Western Command on 15 January 1949. This was followed by another report titled LESSONS OF THE JAMMU AND KASHMIR CAMPAIGN on 4 March 1949. Copies of the report were sent to the SO-in-C, at Army HQ; the GOC-in-C Western Command; all CSOs Command; Commandants ISC School and ISC Centre and COs of signal units in Western Command. A few months later, Brigadier Bhagat prepared another paper tilted SIGNALS IN THE KASHMIR OPERATIONS, which reviewed the work of Signals in the operations.  This was also published in the Signalman of April 1950. The salient points covered in these reports are given in the succeeding paragraphs. 

            At the start of the operations in Jammu and Kashmir, all that was available was an infantry brigade signal section.  The Delhi and East Punjab Command (later Western Command) had neither a proper command signal regiment nor any Signals staff.  There were no permanent line communications in existence between India and the State of Jammu and Kashmir.  There was a civil aviation wireless link functioning between Srinagar airfield and Delhi, and this was the only means available for communications between Srinagar and Delhi for the first three or four days of the operations, until Army wireless links were established.  In the theatre of operations itself, the brigade signal section had to bear a tremendous load until such time as a divisional signal regiment was made available.  This did not happen till about two months after the start of operations.  To add to its difficulties, the brigade signal section had no transport worth the name at the start, as it had been flown in and the vehicles had to be sent by road.

            Throughout the operations the demands on Signals far exceeded the signal resources available. As the scale and tempo of operations escalated, the strength of the forces in Jammu and Kashmir increased considerably, but the strength of Signals did not show a corresponding rise owing to the lack of signal resources.  The result was that the few available signal units were burdened with commitments that would normally have taken twice the number of signal units actually deployed. This obviously resulted in lack of command and control as far as the staff were concerned and lack of efficiency as far as Signals were concerned. It is essential that a balanced force is always catered for in an operation of this kind. Signals should be a minimum of six per cent of the total forces employed in a theatre. This percentage has been arrived at after a great deal of experience in World War II.
            The operations brought out very forcefully a lesson that was learnt in the last war viz. the vital necessity for the inclusion of adequate signal units in the composition of a Force.  In the Jammu and Kashmir operations, HQ JAK Division was formed before a signal unit had been made available for providing inter-communications for this headquarters.  This was, of course, through no fault of any one individual, but due to the fact that no signal unit was immediately available at the time.  The result was that until such time as a signal unit became available, control and command by HQ JAK Div was extremely difficult. In an emergency it is nearly always possible to raise formation headquarters fairly quickly. However, raising of necessary signal units to serve these headquarters is a very different matter.  In these operations, time and time again, it was the lack of signal units which prevented the establishment of formation headquarters which were necessary for better command and control of the forces employed. 

            Due to the lack of signal resources, build up of communications in Jammu and Kashmir was gradual.  It was a constant battle of trying to meet the requirements of formations and troops with inadequate resources.  As the troops advanced and more places were captured in the difficult interior of Jammu and Kashmir, so these places were linked up.  By the time the operations came to an end the Corps of Signals had established a comprehensive and extensive communication network throughout Jammu and Kashmir.  Places like Uri, Punch, Jhangar, Naushera, Leh, etc. where nothing existed were all linked both by wireless and line.  This was no easy task when one considers the difficult country over which communications in general and permanent line routes in particular had to be established.  The establishment of a good communication system in Jammu and Kashmir linking garrisons and posts in the theatre of operations enabled them to remain in touch with their respective headquarters by both line and wireless, resulting in more effective command and control. 

            The absence of line construction sections in the Corps was a very serious handicap in the provision of line communications. It was found that the accepted policy, viz. Posts and Telegraphs Department were to be responsible for the provision of permanent line, did not work satisfactorily in operational areas. Neither the Indian Posts and Telegraphs Department nor the State Telephone and Telegraph Department could provide permanent lines as rapidly or as efficiently as was required.  As a result in some cases lines had to be built and maintained by the signal units from within their own resources. This proved a very heavy drain on the units, which were not equipped for such tasks. It was also not conducive to efficient line construction or maintenance. It was later agreed that the Army will be responsible for its own line construction and maintenance in operational areas and for this purpose line construction were raised.

            The state of communications between Delhi and the theatre of operations presented major problems, which were overcome with the help of the Posts and Telegraphs Department that was responsible for the construction of the permanent line routes connecting India to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.  The rapid construction of these routes made it possible for headquarters in Delhi to be in constant touch by telephone and teleprinter with the various formation headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir.  Communications between Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir were first based on the civil aviation wireless link.  Very soon, however, Army wireless sets (WS 399, WS 53 etc) were flown in and Army wireless communications were established between Jammu, Srinagar and Delhi.  This link was further supplemented by the establishment of additional wireless links while the construction of the permanent line route was taken in hand.  The completion of this route was given a very high priority and the Posts and Telegraphs Department deserved praise for the speed with which this important route was completed. 

            A key element in the successful establishment of the communication system in Jammu and Kashmir was improvisation, coupled with dogged determination to solve problems and overcome difficulties which at times appeared insurmountable Shortage of signal units and signal personnel and also, in the earlier stages of the operations, shortage of equipment were some of the main problems which were faced.  At first glance, there appeared to be no direct solutions to these problems.  It was realized that the old accepted standards of scale of signal units would have to be given the go by. Every unit had to fill the place of two and thus every man had to do the work of two.  In addition, efforts had to be made anticipate signal requirements by keeping in step with the staff in the planning and remaining aware of the day-to-day operational picture.  This staff-signal co-operation and liaison proved invaluable. There was, at times, a tendency to create ad hoc signal units to serve formations which had no signal units allotted to them.  The creation of such units proved unsatisfactory and did not in any way solve the problem of the shortage of signal units. 

            Replenishment of vital equipment using the laid down channels was often impractical, given the weather conditions and lack of rail and road networks. Reserves were maintained both in equipment and in personnel but these were seldom adequate.  The difficulties were overcome by making use of air, which was the only reliable means of supply in Srinagar, Punch, Leh and a few other locations. It was not an uncommon occurrence to fly equipment to these locations at very short notice, especially during the earlier stages of the operations in the Valley.

            Coupled with the lack of signal resources was the fact that distances in Jammu and Kashmir were so large that cable, and sometimes wireless communications, became difficult.  Every effort was made to utilize existing permanent lines and, in some cases, where the situation warranted, new permanent lines were built such as the route Jammu-Naushera-Punch and the one between Srinagar and Tithwal. In Punch, Captain H.S. Bains dug up power lines and used them to provide communications to picquets around the garrison.

            Inexperience of signal officers, JCOs and NCOs was also a major difficulty.  This was probably because operations in Jammu and Kashmir started in November 1947 immediately after the Corps of Signals had been partitioned, losing many experienced personnel to Pakistan. British officers and tradesmen had left and a large number of experienced Indians had been de-mobilized after World War II. A large percentage of the Corps at the time comprised freshly trained recruits and officers, JCOs and NCOs who had earned quick promotions, with little to show in the way of operational experience. But it must be said to the credit of everyone that this problem was quickly overcome and the standard of communications provided throughout the operations was of a very high order.

            Although Signals personnel were employed operationally in Jammu and Kashmir, it was realized that their training had to continue if they were not to feel disgruntled and worried about their trade, pay, etc. apart from the vital question of improving technical efficiency.  Every effort was made to repatriate those anxious to get back to India after serving in Jammu and Kashmir for one year and over.  It was, however, found that the majority of OR were quite content, even anxious, to stay on provided adequate facilities were made available for their educational and technical training so that they would not suffer financially and be eligible for promotion.  Steps were taken to ensure that educational and training facilities were available in every large unit while the smaller units and detachments were given whatever help was possible to organize training properly.  Sometimes, however, operational commitments made it impossible for personnel to attend training cadres while they were with small out-sections.  Wherever this happened, the men of these sections were interchanged with others at regular intervals from the parent unit.

            It was noticed that the staff, invariably, used line telephony almost to the exclusion of radio telephony (RT). The result was that very few staff officers had any experience in RT and when either the line went out of order or when there was no line intercommunication, they could not carry on their work. The operations brought out another lesson learnt in the last war as regards the provision of inter-communications for the Q staff.  In the beginning of a campaign the necessity for these inter-communications is not always very obvious, but if provision is not made right from the very start, then there is a grave danger of inter-communications not being able to cope with the demands that will inevitably be placed on them by Q staff.  The planning of inter-communications for Q staff includes the provision of adequate inter-communications for an L of C base and for the L of C itself.  Since no signal units were available for these inter-communications during these operations, difficulties were faced in providing adequate inter-communications for the base at Pathankot and for the L of C Pathankot – Srinagar.

           During one particular operation, considerable interference from enemy jamming was experienced. It appeared that there were enemy wireless sets with proper static aerials specially detailed to carry out this interference. They were successful to a considerable extent but in the end it was possible to pass wireless traffic by taking the following precautions:-

·                     Frequency and call signs were changed every eight hours.
·                     RT was kept to the minimum.
·                     Three separate wireless links were opened between Srinagar and 77 Para Brigade and all messages were passed on all three links simultaneously.
·                     Crystal controlled 76/R 109 sets were used on some of these links.

            A considerable amount of dislocation was caused because non-signal units went into operations without being up to scale in signal equipment.  The formation commanders called upon their signal advisers/officers to provide these non-signal units with signal equipment from within signal resources on an operational priority.  This meant that the resources of the signal units were greatly strained and CSO’s reserves were frittered away to provide equipment for non-signal units which should have been provisioned in the normal manner through Ordnance channels.

            The operations proved to be an excellent testing ground for the various types of signal equipment, such as wireless sets, generating sets, exchanges and telephones. The results were as under:-

·                     Wireless Set No. 52 proved unsatisfactory owing to its defective power-pack. This problem was so serious that all sets of this kind had to be withdrawn.

·                     Wireless Set No. 62 was found to be a good set, except for some defects. The carbon brushes in its power pack became unserviceable very quickly. The 80 Watt charging engine supplied with this set was found to have a life of only about two weeks. As a result, it could not be sent out with detachments expected to provide communications for an indefinite period.

·                     Wireless Set No. 19 proved to be very satisfactory set but had some problems with the conversion kit and rectifier valve. Owing to its weight and the absence of pack carrier conversion kit this set could not easily be converted into a pack set.

·                     Wireless Set No.  767/ R 109 proved very useful and satisfactory. .

·                     Wireless Set No.  399 proved very useful.  However, the mobile power supply of the set – PE 95 generators – did not prove satisfactory.  It had a mechanical defect in that it overheated with the result that the voltage dropped. 
·                     Telephone Set J proved the most satisfactory telephone in this theatre. It is not affected by humidity or temperature and is popular with users. .

·                     The high powered telephone was very useful in speaking over indifferent and long lines. 

·                     Exchange UC 10 lines did not prove satisfactorily owing to its relays becoming defective on account of humidity.

·                     Exchange 40 Lines F&F, though affected by humidity, was more reliable than the UC 10 Line.

            The Jammu & Kashmir operations began without warning, like a bolt from the blue. Like the rest of the Army, the Indian Signal Corps – the title was changed to Corps of Signals only in 1948 – was also unprepared. Though the Corps had gained considerable operational experience in various theatres during World War II, this was the first instance when it was called upon to undertake communication tasks at such short notice, without adequate equipment and manpower. The exodus of British personnel and Partition had led to reorganization of most units and sub units, which were still coping with the changes when the operations started in October 1947. The shortage of officers was aggravated by the fact that British officers were not permitted to enter Jammu & Kashmir after 15 August 1947. The same applied to British warrant officers and other ranks, most of who were employed in critical assignments such as foremen of signals and cipher operators. The large scale demobilization and disbandment of several units had resulted in the departure of a large number of experienced personnel, especially from the technical trades. With sources in Britain and other Commonwealth countries no longer available to replenish equipment that had become worn out during the War and for new raisings, shortages existed in almost all units. The resources of the Corps were stretched to the limit due to additional commitments such as the Punjab Boundary Force, The Military Evacuation Organization, the Indian Signals Relief Centre and the Kathiawar Defence Force, details of which have been given in the previous chapter. However, in keeping with their past record, Signals rose to the occasion and provided the essential communications whenever it was called upon to do so, which was often at short notice and much beyond the designed capability of the units.


(This chapter is largely based on History of the Operations in Jammu & Kashmir (1947-48), History Division; Lt. Gen L.P. Sen’s, Slender was the Thread – Kashmir Confrontation, 1947-48;  Lt Gen S.K. Sinha’s Operation Rescue – Military Operations in Jammu & Kashmir 1947-49; and personal accounts).

1.         Prasad S.N. and Dharam Pal, History of the Operations in Jammu & Kashmir (1947-48), History Division, Ministry of Defence, New  Delhi, 1987. p.12

2.         Prasad, p.17

3.         White Paper on Kashmir, Government of India, 26 Feb 1948, New Delhi. History Division File No 601/14189/H, p.5

4.         Maj. Gen. K.S. Bajwa, Jammu and Kashmir War (1947-48) – Political and Military Perspective, Har-Anand Publications, New Delhi, 2003, p.10

5.         Lt Gen S.K. Sinha, Operation Rescue – Military Operations in Jammu & Kashmir 1947-49, Vision Books, New Delhi, 1977, pp. 11-13.

6.         Lt. Gen L.P. Sen, Slender was the Thread – Kashmir Confrontation, 1947-48, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1969, pp. 78-101.

7.         ‘Kashmir Operations’, File J 229 (b), Corps of Signals History Cell, New Delhi, pp.212-4
8.          HQ D and EP Command Letter No. 32012/Sigs dated 31 October 1947. 

9.         Maj. Gen. V.K. Singh, Leadership in the Indian Army – Biographies of Twelve Soldiers, Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 160-62.

10.       ‘J& K Division Intelligence Summary (ISUM) No. 1 of 22 November 1947’, Document No. 601/14172/H/I, History Division, Ministry of Defence, New Delhi. 

11.       The Signalman, April 1950. pp 39-40.
12.       Appendix L1 to CSO DEP Command Signal Operational Instruction No. 1 dated           21 January 1948.
13.       Sen, p. 272.
14.       Prasad, p.207
15.       HQ Western Command letter No.2128/10/G(SD) dated 21 August1948. 
16.       Historical Report JA Divisional Signal Regiment, 04 May to 30 Nov 1948.
17.       Sen, p. 327
18.       Prasad, p.334
19.       Sinha, p. 114
20.       HQ Western Command D.O. No. 1057 dated 12 December 1948.


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