THE LIBERATION OF
Preview– Background. THE LIBERATION OF
GOA : Planning and Preliminary Actions - Move to Concentration and Assembly
Areas – The Advance by 63 Infantry Brigade from the East– Advance of 50
(Independent) Parachute Brigade from the North - Capture of Panjim by 50
Parachute Brigade. SIGNALS IN THE GOA
OPERATIONS : 17 Infantry Divisional
Signal Regiment – 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade Signal Company – 1 Medium
Radio Relay Section - Southern Command Signals. DAMAN.
The Portuguese enclaves of
Goa, Daman and Diu were the last vestiges of colonial rule on the Indian
achieved independence from British rule in 1947, nationalist movements gained
momentum in these enclaves. However, despite international pressure, India
refused to vacate her possessions in Portugal , putting down
pro-independence movements with an iron hand. After diplomatic efforts to
integrate them into the Indian Union failed, military action had to be
undertaken. India Goa, the largest of the enclaves,
was liberated on 19
December 1961 by a force comprising one infantry division, in an
operation lasting less than two days. There was almost no opposition and
casualties were negligible. The much smaller enclaves of Daman
and Diu were tackled by a battalion each at
the same time, both falling on 19 December. However, unlike Goa,
the defenders of Daman and Diu
did not give up without a fight and casualties were suffered on both sides. The
Navy and Air Force played a significant role in the liberation of the three
enclaves. The conduct of the operations in Goa
has been covered in detail, from the inception stage right up to their
culmination. Daman and Diu
have been mentioned only briefly, since there was no involvement of Signals.
Though Operation ‘Vijay’, as it was code named, was of a short duration and there was little fighting, it holds special significance for Signals. The reason is the partial failure of communications during the crucial phase of the operation, which resulted in lack of command and control and necessitated change of plans. At one stage, the Army Commander had to pass orders that were contrary to those of the task force commander directly to a brigade major, due to breakdown in communications. Fortunately, since the enemy capitulated without a fight, there were no serious repercussions and Signals were spared the opprobrium that would have surely come their way had the operations not gone the way they did. The failures occurred due to faulty planning and could have been avoided. The operation brought out several important lessons for Signals, in planning and execution of tasks of a similar nature.
Though Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to
in 1498, it was only in the early sixteenth century that the Portuguese began establishing
their colonies on the West Coast. The credit for consolidation of Portuguese
presence in India
goes to Alfonso de Albuquerque, who became the Portuguese Governor in India in 1509.
He maintained cordial relations with local rulers and began to recruit locals
in his army, a practice that was copied by Clive and Dupleix for the British
and French a century later. By the end of the sixteenth century Portugal had
possessions at Goa, Daman, Diu,
Salsette, Bassein, Chaul and Bombay on the West Coast; San Thome near Madras
and Hooghly in Bengal. In course of time, she lost most of them through wars or
treaties, including India ,
which was ceded to Bombay
as part of the dowry of Princess Catherine of Braganza, when she married King
Charles II of Britain
in 1661. When British rule in England
came to an end in 1947, the only foreign colonies that remained were the Portuguese
colonies of India Goa, Daman
and Diu; and the French colony of . Pondicherry
Revolts and agitations against Portuguese rule in
had occurred sporadically from the sixteenth century onwards. These agitations
were usually violent and were ruthlessly suppressed. With the start of the
non-violent struggle for independence sponsored by Mahatma Gandhi in , a
similar movement was born in India Goa, with the
formation of the Goa National Congress in 1928 under the leadership of Dr.
Tristao Braganza Cunha. However, it was only after the end of World War II that
a civil disobedience movement came into being, on the lines of the one launched
by Mahatma Gandhi in 1930 in .
This was supported by the leaders of the freedom struggle in India ,
including Mahatma Gandhi. In The Harijan of
India 30 June 1946, he
“I would venture to advise the Portuguese Government of
to recognize the signs of time and come to honourable terms with its
inhabitants rather than function on any treaty that might exist between them
and the British Government”.
The Congress Working Committee, in its meeting on
1946 passed a strong resolution condemning the policies of in Portugal Goa, which had reduced the inhabitants to a state of
poverty, forcing them to migrate to other regions in search of a living. It declared
that ‘ Goa has always been and must inevitably
continue to be, a part of .
It must share in the freedom of the Indian people’.1 India
The struggle for independence gained momentum after
became free of British rule
in 1947. During the first couple of years, India had to face many challenges,
such as the large-scale migration of people after partition, the police action
and the operations in Hyderabad . As a result, the country’s leaders could not
do much for the people of Jammu and
Kashmir Goa, who continued
the agitation on their own. In June 1948, meetings were held in different parts
of Goa. The Goan Police carried out a lathi charge (a lathi is a long bamboo
stick, used as a weapon) and arrested the leaders, including Dr. Ram Manohar
Lohia, a prominent leader of the Socialist Party in . Though the demonstrations were broken up, it
made the people of India Goa realize that they did
not have even the right of expressing their views peacefully and holding
After the ceasefire in
Kashmir, the Government of
India approached the Portuguese Government in 1949 for a peaceful transfer of
their enclaves in
in accordance with the wishes of the people, but did not receive any response. Realising
was unwilling to grant them freedom, the people continued their peaceful agitation,
with the help of Indian nationalist leaders. At the same time, the Government
of India made efforts to resolve the issue with the Government of Portugal.
However, these efforts had absolutely no effect on the Portuguese Government,
which intensified its repressive measures and curtailed civil liberties to
crush the movement inside the enclaves. After Portugal became a Republic in January
1950, the French agreed to handover the colony of India on the East Coast to Pondicherry . This
gave an impetus to the freedom movement in India Goa
and it was hoped that
would follow suit. However, these hopes were belied and the attitude of Portugal on the
issue remained inflexible. Portugal
The Government of India opened a legation in
in 1950 and suggested to the Portuguese Government to start negotiations for
finding a peaceful solution to the Goan problem. The Portuguese Government refused
even to discuss the issue and in June 1953, the Indian Mission in Lisbon was closed. There
was a dramatic change in the situation in July 1954 when Dadra, a detached Portuguese
enclave about 100 miles north of Lisbon ,
was liberated by volunteers of the United Front of Goans. Eleven days later, a
similar event occurred at Nagar Haveli, another Portuguese pocket to the east
of Bombay Daman, separated from it by narrow strip of
an Indian territory, where the people rose and
overthrew the Portuguese rule. The liberation of these two pockets after 175 years
signalled the end of Portuguese colonial rule in . India
About a year after the liberation of Dadar and Nagar Haveli, a serious incident brought matters to a head. On
August 1955, the eighth anniversary of ’s independence, about 3000
demonstrators entered India Goa, Daman
and Diu in small groups, which included
several women. They were unarmed and wanted to offer satyagrah (a form of non-violent protest, popularized by Mahatma
Gandhi) to express their solidarity with the people’s liberation movement in Goa. The Portuguese authorities opened fire on the
demonstrators as soon as they entered their territory, killing 22 and wounding
225. Many were arrested and the remainder forcibly evicted. In sympathy with
the Indian demonstrators, many Goans hoisted the Indian flag on buildings,
distributed handbills and offered satyagrah.
The Police opened fire on them too, killing two and brutally assaulting the
rest, before arresting them. During the next few days, more satyagrahis entered Goa, many being arrested and the rest being evicted. In protest, the
underground nationalists in Goa set fire to
some government buildings and police barracks.
The brutal killing of peaceful demonstrators, including several women, generated considerable resentment and anger in
and there were demands on the Government of India to take action against the
Portuguese authorities. Conceding that the Portuguese had the right to evict
intruders, the Indian Government could do little more than seal the borders to
prevent such incidents. This move was criticized by political parties, which blamed
the government for sabotaging the nationalist movement in India Goa.
of sending ‘armed’ demonstrators to liberate the enclaves of Dadra and Nagar
Haveli, and demanded the right of free passage through India Indian
territory for her armed forces in order to re-establish her rule
there. The case reached the International Court of Justice at in 1955. After four years of
arguments, the case was finally decided on The Hague 12 August 1960. While recognizing the status
of the enclaves as Portuguese territory, the Court did not agree to the right
of free passage for armed forces, and felt that Portuguese officials could go
there after obtaining visas from the Government of India, which now had
jurisdiction over the intervening territory. The liberated enclaves remained
autonomous territories for some time after the judgment, though requests from
the people to merge them with
were continuously being made by the people since their liberation. In August
1961, the Indian Parliament passed two Bills formalizing the merger of Dadra
and Nagar Haveli with the Union of India. India
The status of
was also discussed in the United Nations, when several nations asked to
submit information about Portugal Goa and her other
colonies, as was obligatory under the UN Charter. refused, contending that
these territories were not colonies but part of metropolitan Portugal . In
November 1961, the UN Trusteeship Council passed a resolution condemning Portugal ’s
refusal and requesting all members to deny Portugal any help that could be
used for the subjugation of the people of these colonies. A month earlier, in
October 1961, Prime Minister Nehru had confessed during a seminar on Portuguese
colonialism that the policy of the Government of India to solve the Goan
question by peaceful means had failed. “We
have been forced into thinking afresh by the Portuguese – to adopt other
methods to solve this problem”, he added. “When and how we will do it cannot be forecast now. But I have no doubt
that Portugal Goa will soon be free”. 2
Though events in
and on the international stage clearly brought out the futility of further
overtures and negotiations with the Portuguese, the Government of India was
still reluctant to resort to force to solve the problem. However, the
Portuguese themselves provided the spark that lit the conflagration. On 17 November 1961, the
Portuguese opened fire on the Indian merchant coastal steamer ‘Sabarmati’ while she was on its normal
course off near Karwar,
causing injuries to the Chief Engineer. On Anjidiv
Island 25 November 1961, the Portuguese again opened
fire from and killed a
fisherman in a country craft returning along with 15 other boats after a fishing
trip. These provocative actions and the
reported arrival of troops in Anjidiv
Island Goa from could
not be ignored. Finally, the Government of India decided to act. The stage was
now set for the liberation of Mozambique Goa and other
Portuguese possessions in .
THE LIBERATION OF
Planning and Preliminary Actions
Though the Government of India did not issue any formal orders on the subject, the Army had discreetly started taking some actions on its own. Based on newspaper accounts of the unrest in Portuguese Africa and its possible repercussions in
Lieutenant General J.N. Chaudhuri, GOC-in-C Southern Command wrote to Army HQ
on India 28 April 1961,
suggesting that he be issued a directive to allow him to make a tentative plan
in case military intervention was ever required in Goa,
Daman and Diu.
Army HQ confirmed that no military action in these territories was contemplated
by the Government. Despite this reply, General
Chaudhuri felt that it was essential to build up an accurate intelligence
picture so that they were not caught napping if it was ever urgently
required. His staff discreetly started
the process of collecting intelligence. Information from military sources was
negligible and so liaison was established with Mr. G.K. Handoo, the special Inspector
General, Border Police. This liaison
produced good results, particularly on the aspects of topography and communications. In addition to the collation of information,
the process of developing an outline appreciation and plan was also begun.
29 August 1961, while General
Chaudhuri was officiating as the Chief of Army Staff at , the Defence Minister verbally told him
that military action against the Portuguese held territories in Delhi was a
distinct probability. An outline plan
for such an eventuality was to be prepared, though for the time being, this
overall plan was to be made without consulting the other two Services. After receiving these verbal instructions, a
suitable directive was also drafted for GOC-in-C Southern Command and put up to
the Army Chief when he returned from his tour abroad. General Chaudhuri also
returned to his headquarters in India
and started his planning and reconnaissance of the Goan borders. For reasons of
security, only the Chief of Staff and Brigadier General Staff at HQ Southern
Command were privy to these preparations.
7 October 1961, Army HQ asked
the GOC-in-C Southern Command for his appreciation and plan based on a main
task, which was to occupy the Portuguese held territories in with
utmost speed. On India 24 October 1961, while the formal
appreciation and plan were being prepared, the Prime Minister who was in enroute to the Bombay sent for
the GOC-in-C and asked him for his estimate of the time it would take to occupy
USA Goa, Daman
General Chaudhuri gave a figure of three days in the event of Portuguese
resistance and a considerably shorter period in the event of no resistance or
of qualified resistance. On 28 October 1961, while
both were returning to
after the Armoured Corps Conference in Ahmednagar, Lieutenant General B.M.
Kaul, the Chief of General Staff and General Chaudhuri discussed the
appreciation and outline plan. It was tentatively agreed that HQ 17 Infantry Division
with one or two brigades and 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade would be made
available for the operations against Poona Goa. These formations would come from Western and
Eastern Commands. For operations against
Daman and Diu,
troops from within Southern Command would be used.3
General Chaudhuri submitted his appreciation on
10 November 1961.
The decision of the Government to undertake military operations for the
liberation of Goa was formally conveyed to the
Army on 29 November 1961
and preparations started immediately. A task force under the command of Major
General K.P. Candeth was ordered to be assembled for the operation, which was
to be conducted under the control of HQ Southern Command. The force earmarked
for Goa was to comprise 17 Infantry Division
less a brigade; 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade; two armoured regiments; one
medium artillery regiment and some engineer units. One infantry battalion (1 Maratha
Light Infantry) was nominated for Daman and a
composite force comprising 20 Rajput and a company of 4 for Madras Diu,
under the command of a brigadier. Major General K.P. Candeth, the Director
Artillery at Army HQ was ordered to relieve Major General M. M. Khanna, GOC 17
Infantry Division, who was to proceed to to attend a training course.
Meanwhile, two warships of the Indian Navy, the Kirpan and the Rajput
– had already been sent from UK
to the Karwar coast on Bombay 28
29 November 1961, Brigadier Sagat Singh,
Commander 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade at received a telephone call from Major
General D.K. 'Monty' Palit, the Director of Military Operations at Army HQ, and
was asked to rush to Agra .
Sagat commandeered a Dakota of the Paratroopers' Training School, and was in
Palit's office in less than an hour. It was here that he learnt about the planned
operation for the liberation of Delhi Goa and his
own role in it. Later in the day, there was a conference in the office of the Chief
of General Staff, General Kaul, where the plans were finalized. The operation
for the liberation of Goa, code named 'Vijay',
was planned for 16 December
1961. General Chaudhuri, GOC-in-C Southern Command, was entrusted
with overall responsibility of the task. In order to prevent international
intervention and reinforcements from reaching Portugal Goa,
it was essential that the operation was quick and decisive. The plan made by
General Chaudhuri envisaged a two-pronged attack. The main force, comprising 17
Infantry Division, was to move into Goa from
the east, while 50 Parachute Brigade was to mount a subsidiary thrust from the north.
Daman and Diu
were to be simultaneously tackled by a battalion each, while the Navy was to
capture and blockade the ports of Marmugao,
Vasco and Anjidiv Island Daman. The Indian Air Force was
assigned the task of destroying the airfield at Dambolim and the wireless
station at Bambolim, in addition to providing close support to the ground
troops. To ensure that the Indian troops were not held up at the obstacles, a
large amount of bridging equipment was grouped with the main column. A para
drop by a battalion group of 50 Parachute Brigade was also planned near Panjim,
to capture vital bridges before they could be destroyed by the Portuguese.
Sagat was elated on being informed that a battalion group from his brigade would be used in an airborne role. Since time and the riverine obstacles were the main considerations, he suggested that the battalion be dropped by night in area Ponda, so that the water obstacles of rivers Sanquelim, Bicholim, Usgaon and Candepar could be avoided. However, the AOC-in-C Operational Command, who was present, expressed his inability to undertake a night drop. Sagat then suggested that one company be dropped at dawn, another at first light, and the rest of the battalion subsequently by day. This was accepted, and Sagat returned to
in high spirits. Before leaving for Agra ,
Sagat and the brigade major had devised a code to cover likely tasks so that
this could be communicated telephonically as a Warning Order. As a result, the
commanding officers were informed the same evening and preparations started.
The Warning Order for the operation was issued at 1530 hours on 29 November in the form of a ‘Personal For’ signal from the Chief of Army Staff to the Army Commanders, with copies being endorsed to Major General M.M. Khanna and Brigadier Sagat Singh. The signal bore the precedence FLASH and was signed personally by the Chief of General Staff, General Kaul. The signal is significant because apart from giving the code name of the operation, details of troops, date and time of move (No Move Before 2000 hrs on 2 December) and concentration area (Belgaum), it also gave out the reasons for undertaking the operations in these words:-
“…As a result of recent Portuguese hostile action our nationals, government propose taking certain steps in area
Portuguese likely to take retaliatory measures which may compel us to take armed
action against their territories in ANJIDIV Island ( . ) …”. INDIA
According to intelligence reports, the strength of the Portuguese Army in
Goa was three infantry battalions
comprising about 2,200 ranks. In addition, there were four squadrons of armour
equipped with armoured or scout cars and three companies of artillery, each
having six 105 mm howitzers. There was some anti aircraft artillery at Dabolim
airfield and Marmagao harbour, in addition to some coastal guns at the latter
location. In addition to the above, there were about 3,000 armed local police
personnel and customs guards in Goa, equipped
with mortars and light automatics. The naval complement consisted of three
small ships; each armed with three 120 mm cannons and four multiple Pom-Poms.
There was no air force worth the name, though the possibility of a few
transport planes could not be ruled out. However, in the event of operations
being prolonged or adequate warning being given, the Portuguese could reinforce
their naval and air force units.
Move to Concentration and Assembly Areas
HQ 17 Mountain Division had been out on a training exercise near Kapurthala that had just concluded on
November 1961. The GOC, General Khanna who was on leave, was
summoned urgently to
where he was handed a Top Secret directive giving out the role of his division.
The same evening, he sent a message from Delhi ,
ordering the immediate return of all formations and units to their permanent
locations and calling all commanders for a conference next morning at 0800
hours at Ambala. After a night-long drive, the move back was completed at 2130
hours on Delhi 30 November 1961.
As soon as he returned from
, the GOC held a
conference where he informed everyone about the impending operation for the
liberation of Delhi Goa. The concentration areas for
and Diu were , Vapi and Una respectively, where the
troops taking part were to reach by Belgaum 11 December 1961. The first train carrying the advance
party left Ambala on 2 December. Next morning, Major General K.P. Candeth took
over command of 17 Mountain Division from General Khanna and left for for a briefing by
the Army Commander. Special military trains continued to move during the next
few days and the concentration of troops was completed on 6 December, five days
ahead of schedule. This was a remarkable achievement, considering the long rail
journey that involved a change from broad to meter gauge at Poona . The vehicles and some of the troops detrained
at Poona and
completed the rest of the 400 km journey to Poona by road. The movement of supplies,
ammunition, fuel and bridging equipment, which had to be moved from depots in
different parts of the country was completed only around Belgaum 12 December 1961.
50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade began its move from Agra on 2 December 1961, the major portion moving by rail to and the rest by air to Poona and thence by rail to Belgaum. The brigade headquarters was established at Mile 4 Road Belgaum – Savantvadi immediately on arrival of the brigade commander’s party on 5 December. By the morning of 8 December, the whole brigade had concentrated in the harbour area. On the brigade’s arrival at
, certain additional units were placed
under its command. These were 7 Cavalry less one squadron (Stuarts); B Squadron
8 Cavalry (AMX tanks); P Battery 24 Medium Regiment; 64/45 Light Anti Aircraft Battery;
135 Heavy Mortar Belgaum Battery; 380 Field Company
Engineers and 2 Sikh Light Infantry. The last named unit had recently moved to
where it had been performing garrison duties and had done no collective
training for a considerable period. The battalion was also not fully equipped, even
lacking boots. Another factor was that being a non-para unit, the newcomers
were not imbued with the characteristic esprit-de-corps and élan of the 'red berets'.
However, Brigadier Sagat Singh welcomed them, and tried his best to make them
feel at home. Being designed for an airborne role, the brigade was woefully
short of transport. After much cajoling, they were allotted some Nissan 1 Ton
9 December 1961, GOC 17 Infantry Division
briefed his orders group on the impending task. This was followed by the issue
of the divisional operation order on 11 December 1961. The
operation was to be conducted in two phases. In Phase 1, Ponda was to be captured,
while Panjim and Marmagao were to be captured in Phase 2. The advance was to be
undertaken two-up on three axes, named Red, Yellow and Blue. The Red Axis (Doda
Marg- Assonara – Sanquelim – Usgao – Pilliem) was allotted to 50 Parachute
Brigade Group and the Yellow Axis (Anmod
– Molem – Pilliem - Ponda) to 17 Infantry
Division, with 63 Brigade leading and 48
Brigade in reserve. The Green Axis provided an alternate route to Ponda ahead
of Mollem and was to be used by 63 Brigade in addition to the Yellow Axis. Significantly,
D Day for the operation was not specified. 5
As the rest of 17 Infantry Division was to follow 63 Brigade on the Yellow Axis on wheels, two sets of move tables were made with different priorities dependent on the delay that was likely to be encountered due to the damage done to the roads and the repair programme of own engineers. The ghat section of the road between the border and Mollem had not been used for the last five or six years. As a result, it was over-grown with thick foliage, forming a canopy. It had precipitous slopes and hairpin bends with the culverts and two small bridges – in fact an ideal demolition country. The road was believed to be extensively cratered, mined and culverts and bridges blown. One move table catered for delay until 1430 hours on D day and the other until last light on D day.
The Army Commander had decided to establish his tactical headquarters at
to exercise intimate control over the operation. Moving in small parties,
Tactical HQ Southern Command was established at Belgaum on Belgaum 12 December 1961. The same day, HQ 17 Division
moved forward to its forward concentration area at Tinaighat. By 13 December, 50 Parachute
Brigade had moved to a location close to Savantwadi, after certain bridges had
been reinforced by the Engineers. The distance from to Savantwadi was about 100 km, of
which about 20 km lay through the narrow and steep sections of the Amboli Ghat,
which was quite a challenge for armoured and heavy vehicles. The Engineers also
improved the approaches up to the assembly area, which was east of
Dodamarg. Bridges that could not be
crossed were supplemented with diversions. Belgaum
On 15 December 1961, the COAS, General P.N. Thapar, accompanied by Lieutenant General P.P. Kumaramangalam, the Adjutant General, and the Army Commander visited 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade, where Brigadier Sagat Singh presented his plan for the operation. At the end of the presentation, the Army Commander expressed the view that the timings were too optimistic, and had reservations about them being adhered to. Sagat then gave the timings in writing, and the party left, after wishing the brigade good luck. On return to his tactical headquarters, the Army Commander conveyed his doubts to his staff. However, Air Vice Marshal E.W. Pinto, the Theatre Air Commander; Major General P.O. Dunn, the Chief of Staff; and Mr. G.N. Handoo, of the Intelligence Bureau, who knew Sagat well, supported him and he was allowed to proceed according to his plan. As it happened, Sagat had already kept a reserve of four hours and was able to remain well ahead of the estimated timings when the operations ended. 6
During his visit, the COAS addressed the troops of 17 Infantry Division and 50 Parachute Brigade and wished them luck. Next day, a Special Order of the Day from the Chief was read out to all ranks. The D Day for the operation was originally 14 December. However, this was postponed twice, for political reasons. Diplomatic efforts were still being made and it was hoped that the United Nations and other countries may act to avert an armed conflict. On 16 December, the Army Commander landed at the airstrip near 8 Cavalry and informed GOC 17 Infantry Division that the D Day would be 18 December. This was later confirmed by a signal giving the code word ‘Bull Dozer’. Troops were ordered to move forward to the assembly area on the afternoon of 16 December. The brigade assembly area of 50 Parachute Brigade was east of Dodamarg, about 50 km from the concentration area at Savantvadi. On the Eastern thrust, 63 and 48 Brigades moved to their assembly areas near Anmod. On 17 December, the order to enter
Goa was received through the
codeword ‘Varaha’. Patrolling across the border was allowed after last light on
17 December 1961
with a view to liquidating the enemy posts enroute near the border,
facilitating further advance and gaining information especially of road
communication and state of defences.
The Advance by 63 Infantry Brigade from the East
the advance guard – 3 Sikh - crossed the start point at the Customs chauki (check post) at 0400 hours and
the border at 0515 hours. Negotiating craters and scattered mines, they moved
with speed and reached Mollem at 0730 hours.
They found both the Nandraon and Mollem bridges intact and Mollem
deserted, the enemy having left a few hours earlier. Resuming the advance on
the Green Route,
the vanguard company reached Collem at 0930 hours, followed by the rest of the
battalion at 1100 hours. On learning that the Portuguese were fast withdrawing
towards Ponda, it was decided to push on as fast as possible so that they did
not get time to reorganize and offer resistance. Leaving a company at Collem to
protect their south flank, the battalion pushed on to Sirgao where some vehicles
belonging to a mining company were put at their disposal by the owners. A part of the battalion then embussed and
reached Darbandora on the Candiapar River at 1700 hours, the remainder building
up by 2200 hours. The bridge over the Candiapar on the Green Route was found demolished, so they
crossed over to the Yellow route by the lateral road.
The second battalion of 63 Brigade, 2
Bihar was to
move on the Green Axis up to Mollem and thereafter use the Yellow Axis to reach
Ponda. Leaving the start point at 0400 hours, the battalion found Tamri
vacated, the Portuguese having withdrawn after being warned by barking dogs.
Continuing the advance, the battalion passed through Surla and arrived at road
junction approximately 1500 yards west of Mollem at 0515 hours. According to
the plan, Mollem was to be cleared by 3 Sikh, which had still not arrived.
Since there was no wireless contact with the brigade headquarters, the
battalion had to wait there. Eventually after 3 Sikh had taken Mollem, 2 Bihar also reached there at 0815 hours, where they were
met by the brigade commander, Brigadier K.S. Dhillon and the Chief of General
Staff, General Kaul. The battalion was asked to continue the advance to Ponda
on the Yellow Axis. A few civilian vehicles were commandeered and one company
was made mobile, the petrol being provided by a mining company. The foot column
left at 1230 hours and the mounted column at 1300 hours. On reaching Darbandora,
about ten miles away, it was found that two adjacent culverts had been blown off,
flooding the right side of the road, with the left being mined. While a
diversion was being cleared and marked, local people pointed to an alternative
route to Ponda known as the Miner’s Route.
Leaving the marching column to continue along the Yellow route, the mounted column with the Commanding Officer
proceeded by the miner’s route and arrived at the
by The bridge having being blown, the leading company
waded across and established a fire base on the far bank where they firmed in
for the night. The remainder of the battalion reached the near bank by 2200
hours. A little after ,
4 Sikh Light Infantry that had been following HQ 63 Infantry Brigade had
reached the Candiapar River crossing where it
harboured for the night. This battalion was to lead the advance next day. Candiapar
During the night of 18/19 December, the main divisional headquarters column commenced its move forward along the Yellow Axis, led by bridging train for bridging of the Candiapar River and followed by 48 Infantry Brigade Group. As the bridging fleet consisted mostly of old vehicles, there were many and frequent breakdowns along the one-way road where even a motor cycle could not pass. As a result, 48 Infantry Brigade that was to pass through the 63 Infantry Brigade at Ponda could not clear Mollem during the night. The main divisional headquarters was also stranded along the road. 7
The GOC with his ‘R’ Group had reached Mollem by 2200 hours on 18 December. After taking stock of the situation and realizing that the enemy had very little will left to fight, he gave his orders for advance on 19 December. According to the Operational Order No. 2 issued at that time, 48 Infantry Brigade was to advance on Yellow Axis with a view to capture Panjim; 63 Infantry Brigade was to advance and capture Margao and Marmagao; 50 Parachute Brigade was to firm in at Ponda and be prepared to take over from 48/63 Infantry Brigades. The grouping was to be completed by 0200 hours and advance to commence at 0630 hours on 19 December. However, the Army Commander nullified these orders. Since the divisional headquarters was not in touch with Tactical HQ Southern Command, the Army Commander directly ordered 50 Parachute Brigade to advance during the night and capture Panjim as soon as possible. This fact was communicated to HQ 17 Infantry Division on telephone at 1000 hours on 19 December and by a signal, a copy of which is given below:-
From TAC HQ SOUTHCOM SEC
To 17 INF DIV 02066
50 Para Bde has been ordered by this hq to move into PANJIM as we could NOT contact you last evening (.) essential you send one bde to occupy MARMAGAO peninsula earliest possible and confirm this has been done
Although its communication vehicles were stranded all along the ghat section of the Anmod – Mollem road, by 0800 hours on 19 December the main divisional headquarters had assumed control with a relay station vehicle in area Mollem. However, 50 Parachute Brigade was still not in touch. Realizing the urgency of the task of capturing Marmagao at the earliest, and knowing that 48 Infantry Brigade units were still held up East of Mollem, orders were issued to Commander 48 Infantry Brigade to take over 3 Sikh, a battalion of 63 Infantry Brigade halted at Candiapar, and dash down to Panjim. However, the orders had to be cancelled as Panjim had already been captured by troops of 50 Parachute Brigade. The other formations of 17 Infantry Division continued with their tasks.
The task allotted to 63 Infantry Brigade was to capture Margao and Marmagao. The outline plan was for 4 Sikh Light Infantry to lead the advance at 0600 hours on foot across the
to Ponda and then
via Borim to Margao; 2 Candiapar
River Bihar to follow 4 Sikh
Light Infantry; and 3 Sikh to reach Borim and await further orders. The leading
companies of 4 Sikh Light Infantry waded across the
as scheduled and found a few civilian vehicles on the far bank. The battalion reached Borim ferry by 0830 hours
without opposition but found the bridge blown.
The river here is 600 yards wide.
A barge was found and the whole battalion was across by 0930 hours to be
greeted by jubilant Goans who were waiting with trucks and cars. The battalion pressed on and by 1030 hours had
reached Margao where it occupied vulnerable points and waited for 2 Candiapar River Bihar to pass through as ordered by the brigade commander.
For the advance on 19 December, 2
Bihar was divided into two parties. At 0730 hours two companies with the CO left
in mechanical transport by a new lateral route, which joined up with the Green route
to Ponda, while the remainder of the battalion waded through the and continued the advance to Ponda
on foot. The vehicle column route was
bad and both the columns met at Borim at 0930 hours. Having crossed Borim at 1030 hours, the
battalion reached Margao at 1230 hours and took the lead from 4 Sikh Light
Infantry. Candiapar River
Civilians in Verna informed the leading troops that about 500 Portuguese held a defensive position on the high ground north of the village. C Company was sent in an out flanking move to the left under Captain Bhandari. When they were about 300 yards away, the enemy opened small arms fire on our troops who promptly returned the fire and charged, upon which the enemy surrendered. The bag was 11 officers, 23 sergeants, 91 soldiers and large quantity of arms and equipment. While this was going on, B Company under Major Bose charged the enemy position from the right further in depth and they also surrendered. Their bag was 16 officers, 307 soldiers, 14 armoured cars, 21 jeeps and various other equipments. All this was over by 1430 hours when 4 Sikh Light Infantry was ordered to pass through and proceed to Vasco da Gama.
Starting from Verna at 1445 hours, 4 Sikh Light Infantry reached the area of road junction east of the Dabolim airfield at 1530 hours. By a swift out flanking move, the leading company commander rounded up six enemy officers and over 100 men with huge quantities of arms, ammunition and equipment. The battalion kept up the pace and reached the out skirts of Vasco da Gama at 1600 hours where a large number of Portuguese surrendered. A small party of the enemy was still holding out in the area of the Baina beach near Marmagao. A platoon sent out to deal with them captured 40 of the enemy with a large booty of arms and ammunition. The occupation of the Western tip of the peninsula was thus completed. However due to a breakdown in communication between HQ 63 Infantry Brigade and main divisional headquarters, the fact of capture of Marmagao was not known to the latter until 2300 hours on 19 December 1961.
The third battalion of 63 Infantry Brigade – 3 Sikh - was divided into mounted and unmounted columns and kept in reserve. The marching columns reached Dabolim airfield by 2200 hours on 19 December and the vehicular columns reached Margao by last light. In the early hours of 20 December when Captain R.S. Dahiya was out on a contact patrol with a small party, he rounded up 400 Portuguese soldiers who were hungry and keen to surrender.
After 1600 hours the Governor General of Goa, General Manuel Antonio Vassalo E’ Silva was found at Alparquiros camp in Vasco da Gama and he formally surrendered in the capacity of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to Brigadier K.S. Dhillon, Commander 63 Infantry Brigade at 2030 hours on 19 December 1961. The instrument of surrender was signed in the presence of COs 4 Sikh Light Infantry and 2
Bihar, Lieutenant Colonels R.B. Nanda and K.S. Chadha
Advance of 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade from the North
The brigade commander, Brigadier Sagat Singh had planned to advance into
Goa on two axes. The Red Axis (Dodamarg – Bicholim –
Sanquelim – Usgao – Piliem) was allotted to 2 Para while the Maroon Axis
(Dodamarg – Assonora – Tivim – Mapuca – Betim) was to be used by 2 Sikh Light
Infantry. The brigade headquarters was to follow on the Red Axis. The task of capturing Ponda was given 1 Para
which was the only element of the brigade to advance on foot, the rest moving
on wheels. To ensure safe initial entry of the brigade into Goa,
1 Para was to secure Ibrampur, Doddumorgu and Maulinguem before the start time
on D Day.
To carry out the pre-H Hour operations, 1 Para detailed C Company to secure Ibrampur and Doddumorogu and D Company to occupy Maulinguem by 0230 hours. Ibrampur was occupied without any opposition but Doddumorogu was found to be held by a platoon of infantry and a troop of armoured cars. The Portuguese were inside a building surrounded by trenches and fortified by barbed wire. When the company assaulted the position, they came under heavy fire from the armoured cars and the enemy inside the building. The Company Commander, Major I.R. Kumar, detailed two men to cut the wire and make gaps and also detailed parties to deal with the armoured cars. The attack was driven home, one armoured car being destroyed by a rocket launcher. Portuguese casualties were three killed, two wounded and 24 captured. Own casualty was one killed. Meanwhile D Company occupied Maulinguem, killing six and wounding three Portuguese, at a cost of one Indian soldier wounded.
Another preliminary operation was for the Sanquelim bridge by 2 Para, which is best described in the words of the brigade commander, Brigadier Sagat Singh:-
From a Portuguese map obtained through smugglers by 2 Para, we gathered information that they had constructed a 110-foot single span RCC bridge over the river flowing by the eastern boundary of the Sanquelim town. I felt strongly that if we could capture the bridge intact, it would speed up 2 Para's advance. We worked out a careful plan. A company of 2 Para led by Major Uthaya set off on man-pack basis after last light on the night of December 15/16. He was guided by seasoned smugglers who knew their clandestine tracks across country. The tasks given to Major Uthaya were to capture the bridge intact; if not, to find out a crossing place across the river. The company got to their forming up place on the eastern end of the bridge. As they started crawling forward, trouble began in the form of incessant barking of dogs. Though the Portuguese map had not shown it, some hutments of the labourers who had worked on the bridge construction had settled at the eastern end. Men of 2 Para crawled carefully forward a little at a time but the dogs would not give up.
The Portuguese guards became alert and suspicious. As our men were preparing to charge, the Portuguese blew up the demolition charges and scurried towards Usgaon. Major Uthaya was able to locate and mark a crossing place at which all vehicles, tanks and guns got through without difficulty. I can never forget the scene of Major Uthaya meeting me at the Sanquelim end of the bridge with tears rolling down his eyes and in choked voice telling me, "Sorry. I have failed you." -meaning that he had not got the bridge intact. Actually, the mission was a great success. The crossing place enabled us to maintain the momentum of our advance in motor transport. What Major Uthaya did not realize at the time was that he had prevented the Portuguese from firing all the demolition charges affixed to the long single span. They could only fire the charges in the demolition chambers at either end of the single l10-foot span. In the aftermath, the span was lifted by marine jacks and with additions to the abutments on either side; the bridge was re-commissioned economically and in a short time. I have narrated this in some detail not only to commend the performance of the 2 Para Company but to say that in war, howsoever you might plan in detail, there would be imponderables (like barking of dogs at night) to contend with. 8
Another reason for the loss of surprise that resulted in failure to capture the
was the announcement by All India
Radio at 0100 hours that Indian troops would soon be entering Sanquelim Bridge Goa. Had the radio announcement been delayed until
the morning, perhaps the bridge would not have been blown.
On 18 December, troops of 2 Para started moving out from the forward assembly area at The advance was held up as soon as it started, due to a damaged culvert near the abandoned Portuguese customs post en route to the start point. Vehicles could negotiate it with great difficulty and the AMX tanks were unable to cross it. The culvert was quickly strengthened with steel decking and the move forward resumed. The vanguard company crossed the start point at the given time and the advance continued. The rate of advance was very slow owing to darkness and the difficult nature of the track especially at the nullah crossings. By first light, the vanguard had reached Corpol, where they met C Company 1 Para which was escorting a Portuguese prisoner captured earlier. Thereafter, the going got slightly better and the speed of advance increased. At approximately 0730 hours a Portuguese armoured car was seen by the vanguard company on the track. However, before any action could be taken it turned round and sped away towards Bicholim. Unfortunately, the AMX tanks were approximately 1000 yards to the rear. At 0830 hours the vanguard cleared Bicholim where the bridge was found demolished. However, the river was crossed by a ford immediately to the north of the bridge. A good tarmac road was now available and the advance was resumed at a good speed, with a view to linking up with the company at Sanquelim which was causing some anxiety, its whereabouts not known to the battalion. The vanguard established contact with C Company on the outskirts of Sanquelim at 1030 hours. As both bridges had been blown, the vanguard was guided to a ford through which it crossed and resumed its advance to Usgao. The crossing at the ford took considerable time as the tanks of 7 Cavalry and 8 Cavalry were also using it and there were frequent breakdowns. C Squadron of 7 Cavalry, which was acting as mobile troops, had moved on to the Red Axis, ahead of the vanguard, from the area of Maulinguem.
The mobile troops and the vanguard reached Usgao at 1140 hours to find the bridge over River Madei blown. The river was a formidable water obstacle, 600 feet wide and unfordable. The banks on either side of the bridge were reported to be mined. However, with adequate caution, a landing place was reconnoitred south of the bridge. Two country boats were immediately acquired for ferrying troops who had now dismounted from vehicles and the CO decided to resume the advance on foot from the far bank. It was decided to build rafts to ferry jeeps which would be utilized to carry two detachments 106 mm RCL, one section MMG and one troop of heavy mortars. Work on construction of improvised rafts commenced and officers were dispatched to commandeer barges and landing ship tanks which were reported in the area. Troops started crossing the river in boats at . By 1330 hours, B and D companies and the CO’s party had crossed and were on their way to Ponda, which was secured by A Company at 1345 hours.
On arrival at Ponda, it was found that the Portuguese had set fire to their equipment and baggage and some buildings were burning. Hooligans were seen looting the barracks. Immediately a platoon each was posted to the three army barracks in the town and the fire was brought under control. As more troops arrived, guards were put on various public utilities like petrol pumps, municipal offices, post offices, police station and the administrator’s office. The bazaar area was patrolled and unruly crowds dispersed. Meanwhile C Company, which was at Sanquelim, was lifted in vehicles and moved to Usgao to rejoin the battalion, leaving behind one platoon for garrison duties. The CO arrived at Ponda at 1430 hours. Accompanied by the Second-in-Command and a few officers, he proceeded to reconnoitre the ferry site at Unde where a large number of barges were reported to be moored, and the bridge at Banasterim. At Unde, they found six large iron ore barges, each of which could carry 500 men in addition to two or three jeeps. The ferry owners’ agents and drivers were warned to stay with their ferries and be prepared to move at short notice during night 18/19 December 1961.
It was now dark and the party went towards the Banasterim bridge from Ponda by a detour. The bridge at Mardol had been blown and the nullah in the immediate vicinity was not easily fordable. Another bridge had been cratered but with a little engineer assistance could be made fit for transport. The CO returned to Ponda at approximately 2030 hours where he met the brigade commander who had arrived from Candiapar River and apprised him about the ferry at Unde and the state of bridges on road Ponda – Banasterim. Brigadier Sagat informed them that 1 Para had reached Banasterim and ordered the battalion to send out a contact patrol. Contact was established with rear elements of 1 Para at 0730 hours next morning, the battalion having moved towards Panjim earlier. 9
Tasked to advance on the Maroon Axis (Dodamarg – Assonora – Tivim – Mapuca – Betim), 2 Sikh Light Infantry started on time but was delayed by approximately two hours due to obstacles encountered inside the border and crossed the start point at 0900 hours on 18 December 1961. A Squadron of 7 Cavalry and a troop of B Squadron of 8 Cavalry led the advance. The advance was rapid until they reached Assonora, where the bridge was found to be demolished. The mobile troops reported the presence of eight tanks on the far bank and exercised great caution in pursuing the advance. With the engineer resources at hand and local labour and material available, the force commenced crossing the river by a diversion at 1145 hours. At 1300 hours the column reached Tivim where the bridge was again found demolished and a diversion was taken via Colvale. At 1400 hours the head of the column hit the Pernim – Mapuca road where numerous anti-tank mines were encountered. Considerable time was spent in disarming and removing these mines. However, by 1600 hours the column got well under way and reached Mapuca at 1700 hours.
One company group was detached at Mapuca to round up the Portuguese personnel still around, creating confidence amongst the public and affording protection to the town. The route from Mapuca to Betim was mined at places and obstacles had been created by demolishing culverts and felling trees. By 1745 hours the entire column reached Betim. Since permission to cross the creek at Betim had not been granted, the column was split into groups and went into night harbour. At about 200 hours a priest from Panjim came in a boat to the
7 Cavalry with a letter written in Portuguese, purporting to be an offer of surrender
from the military commander of Panjim. Major S.S. Sidhu, the squadron commander,
took the letter to Lieutenant Colonel Cherian, CO 2 Sikh Light Infantry, who
declined to cross the creek to accept the surrender at Panjim as he had not
been able to contact the brigade commander to get his clearance. harbour of A Squadron
On returning to the harbour, Major Sidhu came to know that his men had captured two men who claimed to be locals from a nearby village, which fell on the route that the squadron was to take next morning. Wishing to confirm if the men were telling the truth, Major Sidhu decided to reconnoitre up to the village. Accompanied by four officers, three OR and the two prisoners, Major Sidhu left in a Dodge 15 cwt. truck at 2230 hours. On reaching the village, the prisoners were released after they were identified by the residents. However, another local informed Major Sidhu that about 50 to 60 nationalist prisoners in the Aguada Fort were likely to be murdered during the night by the five or six Portuguese soldiers who were guarding them.
Deciding to rescue the prisoners, Major Sidhu immediately left for the Aguada Fort, about seven miles away, accompanied by the informer. The party reached the fort at about 2330 hours and found the gate closed. Major Sidhu asked the sentry to call his commander, telling him that the Portuguese authorities in Panjim had decided to surrender. The Portuguese suddenly opened fire with automatics, mortars and grenades. Major Sidhu and his party were taken by surprise but returned the fire. However, they were overwhelmed and suffered heavy casualties. A light machine gun burst hit Captain V.K. Sehgal who died instantly. The truck was loaded with ammunition which exploded, setting it on fire. Major Sidhu was also hit and ran back about 100 yards where he was caught in a medium machine gun burst. Two officers and one OR who were not seriously injured walked back to the harbour, reaching there at about 0330 hours. A troop of AMX tanks, a troop of Stuarts and two rifle troops were immediately dispatched to the fort, reaching there at 0530 hours. After a few bursts of machine gun fire, the Portuguese hoisted the white flag and surrendered. Major Sidhu and Captain V.K. Sehgal were killed in operation, with two officers and two OR being seriously wounded.10
The third battalion of 50 Parachute Brigade, 1 Para started from the assembly area at 0500 hours and arrived at Matna post of own border police at 0600 hours. After halting for an hour, when 2 Para was approaching Maulinguem, 1 Para also left for the same place, arriving there at approximately 0800hours. The battalion had to halt for another hour awaiting the success signal indicating occupation of Bicholim and allowing the brigade column to pass through. To save time, the battalion was allowed to march, keeping the track clear for vehicles, without waiting for the entire column to pass through. This enabled the battalion to reach Bicholim at about 1030 hours. After a short halt outside the town, the battalion marched to Piligao ferry reaching there at 1245 hours.
There were no local boats at the ferry site when the battalion arrived, but after a while, a large boat appeared followed by a small Z craft. In the meantime, two engineer vehicles fetched up with four storm boats. After the guns were in position to give fire support, the first company was ordered to go across. As the first company was about to shove off, it was learned from the local civilians that the ferry site on the opposite bank was mined. Actual reconnaissance on the far side proved that the site was suitable for the infantry but a diversion had to be made for vehicles to avoid the mines. This was done by the engineers with great speed. Three jeeps carrying 106 mm RCL guns were landed and the advance towards Banasterim bridge started at 1630 hours. On reaching the Banasterim bridge at 1745 hours, it was found blown and there being no boats, the battalion took up position on the eastern side. Shortly afterwards, a message was received from brigade headquarters that the Army Commander would visit the unit next morning and they were to stay put in that position till further orders.
Capture of Panjim by 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade
At about 2100 hours, the Chief of Staff Southern Command spoke to the brigade major of 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade who informed him about the latest disposition of the forward troops, which was the general line Betim, Piligao, Banasterim and Ponda. Thereafter at about 1000 hours the Army Commander spoke to the brigade major, informing him that the Government of Goa was assembling in Panjim at 0800 hours next morning to finalize the terms of surrender. He desired that Indian troops should be on the outskirts of Panjim and ordered the immediate advance by 1 Para and 2 Sikh Light Infantry into Panjim. The Army Commander wanted this to be conveyed to the GOC 17 Infantry Division also. However, as wireless communications were not through, this was communicated to the duty officer at Tactical HQ Southern Command, who sent a special officer courier to convey the message to GOC 17 Infantry Division.
In his report General Chaudhuri has explained the reasons for his decision, as under:-
On the evening of 18 December, Tactical HQ Southern Command discovered that both 63 Infantry Brigade of 17 Infantry Division and 50 (Indep) Para Brigade had been ordered by GOC Task Force to harbour for the night, and that the next morning the GOC intended to advance his reserve brigade, 48 Infantry Brigade, through the Para Brigade on to Velha Goa and Panjim. This action had probably been taken as communications within 17 Infantry Division had not been working too well and the GOC wanted to make sure of fresh troops for the advance. The GOC-in-C Southern Command, in his capacity as the overall Commander, felt however that in view of the very small resistance offered by the Portuguese there was no reason why the advance could not immediately continue, and with the same troops, after a small break for reorganization. In any case if the reserve brigade was to pass through the Para Brigade and then continue the advance into Panjim there would be a further delay. It must be remembered that 48 Infantry Brigade which was in reserve was still in the Anmod area and had not been moved behind the Para Brigade. He accordingly ordered the advance to be resumed as soon as possible, during the night, and by the troops already in the lead. Because Signal communications were still poor, HQ 50 (Indep) Para Brigade was informed of this decision, with some difficulty in the early hours of 19 December. 11
Based on the orders received from the Army Commander, 1 Para and 2 Sikh Light Infantry were ordered to cross the Banasterim and the
respectively and advance on to Panjim from the north and the east. At 0730 hours two companies of 2 Sikh Light
Infantry crossed into Panjim in local ferries and secured the police
headquarters, custom house, governor general’s residence, secretariat and
military camp. Except for some rifle
fire and two automatics which were later neutralized, no major opposition was
encountered. The civilian population
collected in large numbers. Their
enthusiasm was so great that the movement of troops to their objectives was
delayed by about an hour and a half. Meanwhile the forward elements of 1 Para also
arrived. During the day the bulk of the Portuguese were rounded up and put
inside prisons. Mandovi Rivers
Being unable to procure any boats and the ferry not operating, 1 Para decided to cross the
on their own. Two
companies were ordered to swim across on two equipment rafts. One of the
hastily prepared rafts sank, taking with it a rifle and a sten. In the meantime,
the Z craft also arrived along with a couple of small boats and this hastened
the crossing of the battalion. The rest of the story is related by the CO,
Lieutenant Colonel Sucha Singh, VrC, MC who wrote:- Banasterim
Realizing that the show was up and that I had very little time if I wanted to win the race for Panjim, I commandeered a civilian car and two trucks which had arrived on the far side with passengers apparently to welcome Indian troops. Collecting whatever men who had put their uniforms on from the two companies who swam across and my battery commander I started in that car and two trucks for Panjim. I left instructions that other companies will follow me as they come across using whatever civilian transport was available. It is worth mentioning that civilians were so enthusiastic that they were begging to be given a chance to lift troops in their vehicles.
At about 0830 hours on December 19, I arrived at Governor-General's Secretariat (The Palace), occupied it, and placed a guard there. The civilians accorded a very enthusiastic welcome and what is more it was spontaneous. Then we made for the ferry crossing in order to contact 2 Sikh Light Infantry in case they were across. When I reached the police station I noticed that 2 Sikh Light Infantry troops had entered that place.12
Lt Col Sucha Singh of 50 (I) Parachute Brigade accepts surrender of
Portuguese troops at Bambolim, Goa – 19 Dec 1961
Even as 1 Para and 2 Sikh Light Infantry were vying for the prize of Panjim, 2 Para, which was in Ponda, was preparing to cross into Velha Goa. The divisional commander visited Ponda at approximately 0900 hours and went round the town accompanied by Commander 50 Parachute Brigade. Soon after his departure, information was received that 1 Para had entered Panjim. Hence the proposed advance to Velha Goa was called off. The battalion was ordered to take over the administrative responsibility of Ponda. At 1130 hours Brigadier Sagat Singh left Ponda escorted by a platoon from C Company, taking the ferry route from Unde to Panjim.
General Chaudhuri accompanied by Air Vice Marshal E.W. Pinto and the Chief of Staff landed by a helicopter at Banasterim at 0900 hours on 19 December 1961. On being told that a battalion of 50 Parachute Brigade had already reached Panjim, he decided to drive into the town. After crossing the Banasterim by ferry, he drove straight down to Velha Goa from where he passed a wireless message to the Chief of the Army Staff giving the news of the fall of Goa. He stopped just short of Panjim to visit a hospital where the Portuguese wounded in action were being treated. Mr. Sardesai, the nationalist leader was also admitted there for treatment. The Army Commander then drove to the Secretariat where he was mobbed by the joyous civilian population. They wanted him to fly the Indian National Flag on the Secretariat building which he did.
The Army Commander then drove to the Broadcasting House, met the Goan Secretary-General in the latter’s house and then went to the Portuguese officers’ mess where he accepted the surrender from the local military commander. Thereafter, he expressed a desire to see the Mandovi Hotel, but due to small arms fire still continuing in the vicinity he decided to go back to
On the way he stopped for a while at Velha Goa to visit the Belgaum . He took off for church of St. Francis
Xavier in the helicopter at 1320 hours. Belgaum
The COAS, Gen PN Thapar (far right) with deposed Portuguese
Governor General Manual Antonis Vassalo E’ Silva (seated
centre) at a POW facility in Vasco Da Gama, Goa
SIGNALS IN THE GOA OPERATIONS
17 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment
17 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment was kept busy throughout the year of 1961 with a series of training events and inspections. The unit was located at Ambala under the command of Lieutenant Colonel S.V.S. Juneja, who had assumed command in January 1961. During the month of October 1961, the unit was inspected by the divisional commander, Major General M.M. Khanna. From 14 to 17 November, the CSO XI Corps, Brigadier M.B.K. Nair visited the unit, including the brigade signal sections of 48, 63 and 64 Infantry Brigades. On 21 November, the unit proceeded to take part in the Western Command Army/Air Cooperation Exercise ‘Parakram’. The exercise was to end on 29 November and the troops were looking forward to a welcome break after several months of hectic activity involving a series of training events and inspections. After the end of the exercise on
29 November 1961, a campfire was organized in
the unit area. Among the guests was the officiating GOC, Brigadier K.S.
Dhillon. The festivities were suddenly interrupted by a message from the divisional
headquarters directing everyone to pack up and move back to Ambala before first
light, next morning.
The CO and the command group left shortly after and reached Ambala at 0345 hours. The rest of the unit followed and by 0830 hours on
30 November 1961,
the whole regiment was back in Ambala and standing by for further orders. After
attending a conference chaired by the GOC who had just returned from , the CO informed
all officers of the impending operations for the liberation of Delhi Goa and ordered preparations for the immediate move to
the concentration areas. Telegrams and signals were sent to recall all
personnel on leave and temporary duties and Colonel Juneja left for to request the SO-in-C
to make up the deficiencies of personnel, equipment and transport. The SO-in-C
promised to do his best. He was as good as his word – the unit was provided
most of what it asked for and had almost its full complement of officers and
equipment before the operations commenced. By the time the CO returned the next
evening, the unit had completed its preparations and was ready to move. The CO issued
his orders at 2100 hours on 1 December and gave out the plan for move of the
unit and subsequent deployment. Delhi
The next morning, an advance party of the unit left for
by a special mixed train. Apart from the CO, the party comprised three officers
(Major M.D. Rana, Captain Amrik Singh and Captain R.K. Bhavnani), two JCOs and
32 OR. The step-up signal centre, cable detachment and the GOC’s Rover formed
part of the advance party. The first party from the M3 Group comprising the
Adjutant (Captain M.B. Dwivedi), Subedar Major M.S. Pondian and 39 OR left by a
troops and baggage train at 2200 hours on the same day. By this time most of the officers who were on
leave had rejoined. This included Major C.M. Nanda, Captain K.L. Bakshi and
Lieutenant M.L. Sehgal. Belgaum
The bulk of the unit’s vehicles left on
3 December 1961 by a
special vehicle train under the command of Second Lieutenant S.C. Dhawan. The
remainder of the M3 group was further split into two parties. One party under Major N.S. Chahal, OC No. 1
Company, comprising one JCO and 37 OR, left in another train in the forenoon. On
the same day Captain S.P. Khetarpal and Lieutenant I.N. Talwar reported to the
unit at Ambala on attachment from 5 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment. A cipher
officer, Captain K. Parthasarthy reported on attachment from UP Area
(Independent) Signal Company at .
The personnel of the advance party that had left Ambala on 2 December arrived at
on 4 December. On Belgaum 5 December 1961, the balance of the M3
Group under the Second-in-Command, Major C.M. Nanda, left Ambala at 1000 hours.
The party comprised five officers, three JCOs and 59 OR. A little later the
last contingent of the unit under Major H.R. Gogna, the Quartermaster, left in
another train with one JCO and 13 OR. All that remained at Ambala was a small rear
party under Captain Chanan Singh. A welcome addition to the unit’s strength was
the arrival of Lieutenant B.B. Mathur, who joined at the railway station as the
unit’s first regimental medical officer. By the evening of 5 December, the
party under Second Lieutenant S.C. Dhawan that had left two days earlier, had
reached Kirkee. By this time the divisional commander, Major General K.P.
Candeth had arrived in
and established his headquarters in the M.E.S. Inspection Bungalow. The advance
party provided essential communications through the civil telephone exchange. Belgaum
On 6 December, the Adjutant’s party arrived at
by train. The unit was deployed next
to the divisional headquarters near the golf course. On 7 December, Major
Chahal’s party that had detrained at Belgaum
by road. The same evening, Second Lieutenant Dhawan who had detrained at Belgaum also reached with
his vehicle column without any mishap. Considering that this was his first
experience leading a convoy on a difficult road, with a number of ghats (steep inclines) and without any
light vehicles or despatch riders for patrolling, the young officer’s
performance was commendable. On 8 December, Major C.M. Nanda also reached with
his road convoy. The last party under Major Gogna that carried most of the
heavy stores such as ammunition, cable, tentage and equipment arrived at night
by train. With this, the concentration of the unit at Poona was complete. Belgaum
Communications in the concentration area were provided on line and scheduled despatch service (SDS) to the main and rear divisional headquarters, the divisional administrative area, the divisional troops, and the three brigades. Only two of the division’s own brigades – 48 and 63 – had accompanied it to
, the third brigade (64) being left
behind at Kasauli. However, the deficiency had been made up by 50 (Independent)
Parachute Brigade Group which had been placed under command of 17 Infantry Division
for the operation. The combined force for operation had been designated
‘Special Task Force’ for Operation ‘Vijay’. Line communications to brigades were
provided on permanent lines hired from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.
Tactical HQ Southern Command had also been set up at Belgaum , with its own signal centre. Rearward
communications to Belgaum
and Delhi were
provided under arrangements of Southern Command Signal Regiment. Poona
A major problem faced by the unit was a shortage of secondary batteries. Against a deficiency of 700 secondary batteries of 125/175 AHC (ampere hour capacity), the unit was able to get only 102 new batteries. These had to be put through the ‘initial charge’ before they could be used. All available avenues such as the Police, Posts and Telegraphs Department and the local market at
were explored to get these batteries charged quickly. There was also an acute
shortage of portable batteries used by Signals as well as other units. Against
an overall shortage of over 2,000 portable batteries, only about 200 were
released. These were delivered on Belgaum 24 December 1961, after the operation was over. As a
result, some units were forced to carry heavier 125/175 AHC batteries on
improvised manpack carriers.
11 December 1961 the SO-in-C, Major General
R.N. Batra and CSO Southern Command, Brigadier Jaswant Singh, visited the unit
and discussed the Signals plan and the problems being faced by the unit. Most
of the demands placed by the unit earlier had already been met. Additional bids
for equipment and cable to meet the requirements of the operational plan were
examined and almost all were accepted. Brigadier Sagat Singh arrived in the
unit accompanied by Major R.R. Chatterji, OC 50 Parachute Brigade Signal
Company and joined the discussions. Two adhoc air-support tentacles had been
allotted to 50 Parachute Brigade for the operation. The Commander wanted them
to be given ASREX code documents, so that they were fully operational. This was
agreed to. Another demand of Brigadier Sagat Singh was for allotment of the
radio relay equipment that had recently been received from the .
The equipment was then located at United Kingdom
still undergoing trials. Sagat offered to provide an aircraft from Delhi to ship the
equipment so that it could reach in time. General Batra appreciated the offer
of the airlift, and agreed to provide the radio relay detachments from 1 Medium
Radio Relay Section that was already on its way for Operation ‘Vijay’. This
proved to be crucial in the success of 50 Parachute Brigade in the operations. Agra
Soon after the departure of the SO-in-C, the M1 (layout) group of the unit moved under Major M.D. Rana to the assembly area at Tinaighat on the Londa-Anmod road, near the border. At about 2130 hours that night, the CO gave out his orders to all officers. The unit moved out next morning and by afternoon of 12 December, communications had been established at the new location. Rearward communication to
was provided on the permanent line
route from Belgaum
to Tinaighat railway station, which was extended to the location of 17 Division
by a carrier quad cable laid by the line detachment under Major D.S. Bawa from
Southern Command Signal Regiment. Wireless silence had been imposed and
communication was on line and SDS. Belgaum
At Tinaighat, the unit received two important reinforcements. One was a detachment from 1 Air Support Signal Company under Captain Rangarajan. The second was No. 1 Medium Radio Relay Section under Captain A.S. Kahlon to extend and bridge gaps in line communications for 17 Infantry Division along the axis Tinaghat-Ponda-Pauda. Two detachments of No. 1 Medium Radio Relay Section had been left earlier at Belgaum under Captain G.A. Newton and allotted to 50 Parachute Brigade for similar tasks along the axis -Belgaum-Sawantwadi-Banda. A carrier quad cable was laid between Tinaighat and Custom Chauki for providing the carrier tail to the radio relay terminal to work backwards to
The next few days were spent in tying up loose ends. On 16 December the code
word ‘Bulldozer’ for commencement of the operations was received and it became
known that D Day was Belgaum 18
December 1961. This was followed on 17 December by the codeword
‘Varaha’, signifying the permission for the Task Force to enter Goa. All was now set for the commencement of Operation
‘Vijay’. The rearward communications to Tactical HQ Southern Command ( ) were as given
· Three speech circuits were derived on the two pairs of permanent line hired from the Posts and Telegraphs department by mounting ACT 1+1 on one pair and using the other pair as physical.
· One telegraph circuit was provided by mounting equipment
S+DX on the
physical pair and using a modified fullerphone, popularly known as
· A wireless link using radio telephony (RT) or speech was provided with
also as an outstation. A similar
wireless link using Radio Telegraphy (RTg), commonly referred to as a Continuous
Wave (CW) was also provided. Wireless silence was imposed on both links. Poona
Forward communications in 17 Infantry Division was as under:-
· One speech and one telegraph circuit were provided to 48 and 63 Brigades. For 50 Parachute Brigade, only a speech circuit was provided through
military exchange. Two speech circuits were provided to HQ 17 Artillery Brigade
and one speech circuit to the divisional administrative area. Between main and
rear divisional headquarters, one speech and one telegraph circuit was
provided. Fullerphones were used on all telegraph circuits. To facilitate
traffic control, a direct line using D3/D8 cable was laid for the Provost from
Tinaighat to the start point at Custom Chauki. Belgaum
· Wireless nets D1, D2, D4, D5, D8, S11 and S12 were provided. These were to stay on listening watch until wireless silence was lifted. Two SCR 399 sets were provided, one at the control of D1 net and the other for 50 Parachute Brigade. According to the unit war diary, ‘due to the distance involved and the fact that 50 Para Brigade was required to work on a different axis in difficult country, it was essential to use 399 sets’. Apparently, the limited mobility of the heavy vehicle in which the set was mounted was not taken into account, with calamitous results.
· For air support communications two air support tentacles each were given to 63 Brigade and 50 Parachute Brigade, with the control station at the main divisional headquarters where the joint operations centre (JOC) was also located. The ground liaison officers’ (GLO) net was established with airfields at
and Sambre ( Poona ).
At 1630 hours on 17 December, codeword ‘Menakshi’ was flashed to all concerned. This was the signal for all wireless links to open at 2000 hours on the day frequency with a short tuning call on CW. Meanwhile, Second-Lieutenant P.Z. Mani had joined 63 Brigade with a jeep mounted No. 19 HP set to work as a relay station on D1 net. At 2000 hours, all wireless links were opened as ordered. After establishing communications the sets were closed down, with orders to open again at 0445 hours on 18 December, shortly before the commencement of advance.
Fifteen minutes before the ‘H’ Hour on
18 December 1961,
all wireless links were opened. According to the unit’s war diary, at 0730 hours
all stations were through, with the control station using wire aerials. At 1245hours,
Captain R.K. Bhavnani was sent out with a SCR 399 station to act as a relay
station. Apparently, the state of wireless communications deteriorated and it
was felt that this was due to extended ranges. The war diary entries of the day
tell their own story:-
1400 hrs – Extended distance between forward troops to Brigade HQ and Brigade HQ to Main Division is having its effect on wireless communications. It is essential for troops using all means including Liaison Officers if necessary to keep the higher HQ informed of latest position/situation.
1600 hrs - Relay stations manned by 2/Lt P.Z. Mani and Captain R.K. Bhavnani doing well. Messages are being cleared between Ops Room Main Division, GOC’s Rover, and Commander 50 Para Brigade.
1630 hrs – 50 Para Brigade reached CANDIAPAR River far bank (TONY given). Medium Radio Relay terminal through from new location 50 Para Brigade back to BANDA. This has proved the ease of move and speedy establishment of communications by means of radio relay terminal.
1635 hrs – Divisional Recce and Layout Party left to recce new harbour area on Road MOLEM-PILIEM, inside GOA.
1800 hrs – Commander Signals gave the following orders:-
(a) Cable diagram to be made and left with detachment Southern Command Signal Regiment for reeling including brigades (63 Infantry Brigade laid 7 miles to Start Point)
(b) Rear tyre of one 399 vehicle was punctured. As there is no spare tyre, ferrying will have to be carried out. On arrival of Main HQ in new location one wheel from another 399 vehicle will be removed to ferry the first vehicle. The detachment will wait in the old area even if the Rear Division moves out in the meantime.
(c) Relay station between Divisional Administrative Area and Rear Division to stay at Start Point tonight and join Rear Division on 19 December morning. One L/Hav to be briefed in detail about the road.
2100 h - Commander Signals left with GSO 1 for area MOLEM-PILEM to join up with the GOC’s Rover.
Both main and rear headquarters moved out from their previous locations at 1130 hours. The movement was slow due to the blown up bridges and craters on the road. Between Custom Chauki and Mollem, the convoy was held up due to a damaged bridge that had earlier been built by the Engineers. Apparently, both the main and rear headquarters had no communications with anyone during this period. According to the war diary,
…the speed of advance of forward troops and lay of the land had an adverse effect on wireless communications, including relay stations. Difficulty of move on the main axis – YELLOW Route, particularly when the HQ convoy was held up made efficient communications extremely difficult. The road was so narrow throughout the ghats area that even a jeep could not cross even in the same direction. This prevented the replacement of faulty equipment. Lack of space off the road made it impossible even to sling wire aerials. The present type of Command Vehicles proved to be entirely unsuitable in hilly area with narrow and steep one way road. These vehicles are only suitable in the plains and should in any case be replaced by smaller 1 ton 4X4 vehicles.
The convoy of Main and Rear HQ 17 Infantry Division and Signals moved only at midday on 19 December, after the road was cleared. By 0730 hours, both headquarters were deployed on Road Molem – Ponda. At this time 48 Brigade was in Ponda; 63 Brigade in Margao and 50 Parachute Brigade in Mapuca. All wireless links were established but their performance was still unsatisfactory. It was felt that this was due to the effect of iron and manganese in the soil. Mobile wireless sets working on rod aerials or low slung wire aerials could not work even over short distances. The war diary of the unit records:-
The speed of advance of forward troops was particularly fast. It is however essential that for effective command and control all HQ must stop at regular intervals, put up proper wire aerials for communication to higher HQ and then move on. If this temporary halt is not acceptable for tactical reasons then commanders at all levels must ensure effective and frequent use of LOs or possess speedy means of transport e.g. helicopters to visit subordinate HQ and use of light aircraft e.g. Auster to communicate with forward troops.
Of course, there was no line communications with the brigades or rearwards. The only line that existed was between main and rear divisional headquarters on which one speech and one fullerphone circuit was functioning. However, the unit was impressed with the performance of the radio relay terminals that had been allotted. An entry in the war diary records:
The requirement of radio relay equipment as an integral part of an Infantry Division has been proved beyond doubt. It should be available down to Battalion HQ for speedy establishment of communication between Battalions and Brigade HQ and between Brigade HQ and Divisional HQ.
The unit’s suggestion to provide radio relay communications to battalions was obviously unreasonable. At that time, radio relay terminals were mounted in vehicles, with generators carried in trailers. The size of the Yagi aerials also made their use impractical in battalions. In hindsight, it could be said that the unit was literally asking for the moon. After 50 years, radio relay between brigade and battalion has not been provided even in mechanized formations let alone infantry and mountain divisions. The logic for including recommendations in a war diary, which is a record of events as and when they occur, is not clear.
3 January 1962, the unit moved into the
permanent buildings of the Portuguese Camp and established the signal centre and
exchange. On 24 January 1962,
the unit handed over all commitments at Goa to
a detachment of Southern Command Signal Regiment and left Goa
by road for Desur. The unit was divided into three groups, comprising
personnel, vehicles and specialist vehicles. The first group entrained at Desur
on 25 January while the vehicles left by road for Kirkee, where they entrained
on 30 & 31 January 1962.
By 5 February 1962,
the entire unit except for 48 Infantry Brigade Signal Company, had arrived in
Ambala, in time to celebrate the Corps Anniversary on 15 February 1962. This brought to an
end the role of the unit in Operation ‘Vijay’.
Many reasons have been advanced for the failure of communications during the advance of 17 Infantry Division. Most of these reasons are valid and deserve serious consideration and study, if only to avoid similar occurrences in future operations. It may come as a surprise to many that in 17 Infantry Division, the communications within the battalions functioned well while the communications manned by Signals failed. Given that the terrain was the same, how did this happen? According to Brigadier P.Z. Mani, the communications between the infantry battalion headquarters and companies was good because of the smaller distances between them. Most of the time, the sets were between two spurs or within the same re-entrant. If one company went ahead and was out of communication with the battalion headquarters, the message was relayed by one of the other companies. Alternately, the radio operator or officer would climb up the spur and get through. On the other hand, the distances between the control and outstations on the divisional nets were larger, and often there were several spurs intervening between them. Since the radio sets were heavier and used secondary batteries, the option of carrying them manually to hill tops was not available.
As regards the reasons for the good performance of the brigade nets of 50 Parachute Brigade, Brigadier Mani feels that this was due to the difference in terrain over which they were operating. 50 Parachute Brigade was deployed from north to south along the coast or near the coast. They had a usable road and open country, as they were almost along the sea. Another factor was the type of equipment being used. Paratroopers use radio sets that are lighter and can be man packed. This enabled them to move up the spurs in case the signal strength was low.
As mentioned earlier, relay stations were deployed before the advance commenced, but these did not prove very effective. Brigadier Mani, who was manning one of the relay stations, has this to say:
Captain RK Bhavnani, OC ‘A’ Section took out a relay station even before me with a 19 HP set. The 19 HP sets use a lot of battery capacity and the batteries require frequent charging. The small charges are adequate for short periods and not for large number of batteries required by 19 HP sets. During the move of the battalions and the first brigade, Captain RK Bhavnani took a SCR 399 station to relay. That also was not effective as the SCR 399 required the generator to be working all the time and Captain Bhavnani had to stop and relay from a static node, which was in a valley again under high screening”.
Another factor was the lack of VHF sets with the formation. The signal regiment and brigade signal companies were holding HF sets such as RS 62 and RS 19 for forward communications. For rear links, they were using RS 399 or RS 53 which were mounted in specialist called Command Vehicle High Power (CVHP) or Command Vehicle Low Power (CVLP), which had large generators under tow. As the first battalion entered the zigzag hilly roads, even the 62 sets were found to be ineffective due to screening. The heavier sets were found to be useless since they were installed in heavy vehicles that could not get off the narrow roads, which were jammed. As soon as they came out of the hills and reached the plains, communications improved. But this was after the critical period was over. The only VHF sets that were available were with the infantry battalions, for communication between company and platoon. These functioned well, except for short period when they were screened by intervening features.
Perhaps the most important factor was the mental outlook of the officers and men, who had been operating in the plains of the
Punjab and had got used to the
communications that existed in that area. On being moved suddenly to a
different region, they were not able to change their techniques to suit he new
environment. This lack of flexibility in mental outlook was perhaps the most
important factor for the problems that the unit faced. This is best described
by Brigadier Mani who states:
17 Infantry Division and its brigades were located in Ambala. We had intensive training for plains warfare and we were good at it. The Signal Regiment had perfected drills and communications to brigades on the move and never failed. Since brigades could go on more than one axis (1 or 2) and if the distance to either or the front brigades were stretched, we had perfected the relay station drill which was very effective and never failed. The GSO2 (ops) who manned the D1 link at the Divisional HQ and would pass the message to me at the relay station and from the relay station I would pass on to the forward brigade or brigades and back to the division and there were no failures at all. But in Goa the situation was completely different due to the terrain i.e. zigzag roads with high spurs and hilltops. If the two sets are within a re-entrant communications were good, if the front set went beyond the spur it was completely screened. It was impossible to lift the set and go up the spur to rebroadcast as the sets and batteries were very heavy.
As far as I knew the orders from the Army HQ to HQ 17 Division was to move at fastest pace and capture Goa. They arranged the rolling stock and we were in Belgaum without delay. Thereafter we had to drive a long divisional convoy along bad underdeveloped roads. Then came the move down the steep curvy hill roads. If one vehicle stopped the convoy could not move, as there was no space for overtaking. We were not bold enough to push a broken down vehicle down the hill and go ahead. The plains movement plans and the fear of loss to the government in the loss of a vehicle and the explanation that was to be given to the auditor was also a big thought in that direction. This was paramount in our minds, as we were all in a peacetime, auditable environment. Subsequently a stalled vehicle stopping the convoy was thrown down the hill after the arms, ammunition and passengers were taken out. 13
50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade Signal Company
As mentioned earlier, Commander 50 Parachute Brigade was summoned to
on Delhi 29 November 1961. In the
afternoon all unit commanders were asked to assemble at the brigade headquarters
for a conference, which was chaired by Lieutenant Colonel Sucha Singh, VrC,
M.C., CO 1 Para, in the absence of Brigadier
Sagat Singh who was still in . The assembled unit commanders were informed that
the brigade would move for operations at short notice. For a highly trained and
motivated formation like the 50 Parachute Brigade, moves did not pose much of a
problem, as load tables, tried and tested, existed for all contingencies. The
units had done it many times earlier and each individual knew precisely what he
had to do. However, the post Delhi period was
one of acute austerity and deficiencies existed in equipment and stores. Since the details of the projected operations
were not known and the brigade commander was not present, there was a slight
feeling of apprehension and uncertainty. Independence
Major R.R. Chatterji was then commanding 50 Parachute Brigade Signal Company, with Captain Vinod Kumar as the Second-in-Command. The two section commanders, who also carried out the functions of Quarter Master and Mechanical Transport Officer, were Lieutenants G.C. Sah and M.S. ‘Tilly’ Ahluwalia. Captain Vinod Kumar was on annual leave and had just got married. Inevitably, he had to be recalled and he arrived back in
with his wife on Agra 2 December
1961 just in time to be briefed by the OC, who was leaving by the
first train. He was to bring up the
vehicles and equipment, which were to follow in a special train subsequently.
Fortunately, Agra was home not only for 50 Parachute Brigade but also the Central
Ordnance Depot which held signal equipment for the entire Army, as well
as 509 Base Workshop which specialized in repairs to such equipment. Both these
establishments were imbued with the ‘para’ spirit and went out of their way in
making up deficiencies, repairing wireless sets and initial charging of a large
number of secondary batteries. This was done on a war footing, and according to
Major R.R. Chatterji, these two establishments were the first ones in action in
Most of the men of the company left by the first military special on
2 December 1961 along with
the Major Chatterji and Lieutenant Sah. Captain Vinod Kumar and Lieutenant M.S. Ahluwalia
followed in the vehicles special that carried the vehicles and equipment. The Panditji (Religious Teacher) of the company,
Naib Subedar Dogra, was left as OC of the rear elements left at . The railway staff had
also caught the war fever and ensured that all trains moved speedily, sometimes
to the discomfiture of the troops, who complained that they hardly got a chance
to stop and cook! This was a refreshing change from the past experience of having
to chivvy the railways to keep a military special moving. Agra
By 6 December, most of the personnel of 50 Parachute Brigade Signal Company were established near between kilometres 9 and 14 on road Belgaum – Savantwadi. Since the first party had moved without its equipment, rudimentary communications were established between the major units and the brigade headquarters on an omnibus circuit using the cable of the battalions. The vehicle and equipment party caught up subsequently, having moved by road from
In spite of being short of equipment, in true para spirit the company agreed to
loan a complete SCR 399 wireless station and its associated PE 95 generator to 17
Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment, which had recently been raised and was
woefully short of equipment. Poona
On 12 December the unit moved to the forward concentration area near Savantwadi. Brigadier Jaswant Singh, CSO Southern Command, visited the company at Savantwadi and gave them the welcome news that they would be allotted a section of the new radio relay equipment, C 41/R222 which had recently been inducted and was still undergoing trials. Since the equipment was still on trial, he stressed that it should be handled with kid gloves as any damage would cause embarrassment. From path profiles that had been drawn it appeared that communications could only be established on radio relay once the forward terminal reached Bicholim. This was the only planned direct communication from HQ 50 Parachute Brigade to the Tactical HQ Southern Command at
Radio communication to the rear was to be established with HQ 17 Division once
radio silence had been broken at H Hour. Belgaum
The parachute brigade moved out of Savantwadi and was in Dodamarg by the evening of 17 December. Since radio silence had been imposed and lines could not be laid at such short notice, it was known that the brigade would be without rearward communications till H Hour, when it would come up on the wireless net of 17 Infantry Division. By a stroke of good luck, an unused permanent line route of the Posts and Telegraphs Department was found at Dodamarg, running very close to the radio relay terminal. The intrepid signallers of 50 Parachute Brigade Signal Company commandeered the line for use as a ‘tail’ from the brigade headquarters to the radio relay terminal. By evening of 17 December the brigade exchange had a direct line to Tactical HQ Southern Command at
. When the CSO was informed of this
development he was agreeably surprised. This had a sequel though – after the
operations 50 Parachute Brigade Signal Company had to explain why it had
resorted to such unauthorized tactics. In response the unit tendered its
unqualified apology and promised not to do so ever again in future operations.14 Belgaum
Radio silence was broken at 0500 hours on
18 December 1961. While forward nets functioned well, communications
to 17 Infantry Division were not satisfactory. Major Chatterji and Captain
George Newton, who was in charge of the radio relay detachment, had earlier
decided to try the equipment from Dodamarg and other intermediate positions
before reaching the planned location at Bicholim. Hence, the rear terminal had
been asked to remain on listening watch from first light on 18 December. Once the forward terminal at Dodamarg was
switched on it got through immediately and the CSO Southern Command had his
second pleasant surprise within a matter of twelve hours when the Major
Chatterji spoke to him and gave him the latest situation report. However, the
radio relay terminal had to be closed after the brigade headquarters moved
forward. Due to breakdown in radio communications with 17 Infantry Division, 50
Parachute Brigade had no rearward communications until the radio relay terminal
was again set up at Bicholim.
The major problem faced by the advancing troops was not from enemy opposition but the terrain. The infantry elements had to overcome the problem of blown bridges, which in view of the feebleness of opposition could be overcome by using water crossing expedients or rounding up ferries and boats manned by enthusiastic locals. For Signals, the biggest difficulty was the choked roads blocked by bigger vehicles of the bridging column, which had been given priority in the move plan, in anticipation of blown bridges. As a result, the brigade command vehicles got mixed up with the bridging vehicles and could not reach the brigade headquarters until after Panjim had been entered. Fortunately, the brigade major had moved ahead of the bridging convoy with the step up and a reserve radio detachment, both in jeeps, and so forward command communication to the battalions and the armour could be maintained. The brigade forward net had a 19 HP set at the control and mostly man pack 62 sets as out stations.
Though the speed of advance of 50 Parachute Brigade was swift, Tactical HQ Southern Command at Belgaum remained in the dark, due to breakdown in wireless communication in 17 Infantry Division once its communication vehicles entered a screened area in the region of Anmod and got stuck there among their own complement of broken down bridging vehicles. They managed to get through to their own brigades at about 0800 hours on 19 December by establishing a relay station at Mollem. The division got through to the parachute brigade only intermittently. In the afternoon a message was received by the brigade to halt all further advances and firm in where they were as the advance would be resumed by 48 and 63 Infantry Brigades the next day on the axes Ponda-Panjim and Margao-Mormugao respectively. The said message was cleared to the battalions.
Sometime in the afternoon of 18 December, an IAF aircraft was sent to find out what was happening on the front of 50 Parachute Brigade. It flew over the brigade headquarters and dropped a message. Unfortunately it was fired upon with small arms when it flew over 2 Sikh Light Infantry, but suffered no damage except for two bullet holes in its wings. The battalion could not be blamed as the aircraft had no identifying marks under the wings. As if in retaliation, four Vampires of the IAF put in a set piece rocket attack on 17 Para Field Regiment which was deployed in the region of Piliem. Once again, the damage was slight - a damaged trailer wheel. Here again, it was not the IAF’s fault as 50 Parachute Brigade had gone beyond the initially fixed bomb lines and corrections could not be sent as the rear links were not operational. Major Chatterji had been visiting the artillery unit and had just left when the attack was launched. He saw the attack from a few hundred meters away and rushed back to pass the information back to Tactical HQ Southern Command. Fortunately, when he got back to brigade headquarters, he found Captain Newton there with his radio relay terminal. The set was opened and communications to
established immediately. The first message passed back was to request the IAF
to “cease and desist”. Belgaum
As the sun went down, the wireless nets began to misbehave and brigade headquarters lost touch for good with 17 Infantry Division. Even the battalions, at the limit of radio range, were barely in communication. However, they had been told of 17 Division’s embargo on further advance. A message came through from Tactical HQ Southern Command that the Army Commander would visit 1 Para at Banasterim at 0930 hours on 19 December. This was communicated to 1 Para, but this was the last message that could be cleared to any battalion that night, as the ionospheric conditions made communication impossible till just before dawn the next day. Immediately after this, General Chaudhuri spoke to the brigade major on radio relay, which was still working, and told him that he had reliable information that the Portuguese were ready to surrender and ordered the parachute brigade to move into Panjim early next morning.
When this message was received at the brigade headquarters, Major R.R. Chatterji was away on reconnaissance in Bicholim to assess the tele-communication resources in the town. On his return he found his Second-in-Command, Captain Vinod Kumar, about to set off with the message to 1 Para, who were the nearest. However, both the brigade major and OC signal company felt that Vinod’s life at that juncture could not be thrown away as they had, only a few days before, torn him out of the arms of a brand new wife. Sending anyone else at that late hour was also inadvisable as the route was unmarked and there were mines on the way. Fortunately, after a tense night, the brigade forward net got through before dawn and both 1 Para and 2 Sikh Light Infantry were given the go ahead to race into Panjim.
Soon after the entry of Indian troops into Panjim, the Army Commander arrived. His helicopter landed about three kilometres outside Panjim where he was met by the bridge major and the signal company commander, the brigade commander being away with the divisional commander. The brigade major took the Army Commander into Panjim. Major Chatterji followed in a jeep with a radio set, with the Army Commander’s pilot, Squadron Leader Liddel accompanying him. Since the roads were choked with cheering crowds, the rear jeep got separated and was misdirected on to a wrong road. As a result, Chatterji and Liddel found themselves at the Cortalim ferry miles away from Panjim and on an uncleared axis. At the ferry they found some sour faced Portuguese officers and men and also noticed a number of armoured cars in an adjacent grove with their guns painting menacingly in their direction. They did a quick about turn and got away as fast as possible. According to the Liddel, Chatterji’s Jeep moved faster than his aircraft. Just outside Panjim, they met 1 Para advancing towards them in extended order. The CO, Lieutenant Colonel Sucha Singh was not a little surprised.
The Army Commander, after visiting various installations and the Portuguese military hospital was just leaving Panjim when Major Chatterji and the pilot caught up with them. Fortunately, they had not been missed. On being noticed, a number of messages addressed to Army HQ and Tactical HQ Southern Command were handed over to Major Chatterji. He had them cleared to the brigade headquarters from where they were cleared on radio relay to Tactical HQ Southern Command. The message to the Chief of Army Staff read: “Entered PANJIM to tumultuous welcome (.) Am going to try and find 17 Div now”.
After the Army Commander took off, the brigade major took the radio Jeep and got back to the brigade headquarters Major Chatterji’s Jeep got stuck till late in the evening between two ferries, as the rear elements of 1 Para were moving up in the opposite direction. Major Chatterji and his driver had not eaten anything that day and were agreeably surprised when the cheerful proprietress of a Taverno, housed in a dilapidated mud hut in a small village brought out chilled Becks beer out of a kerosene-powered refrigerator and charged only one rupee for a bottle. Major Chatterji being fully aware of his responsibility towards government transport restricted the drivers to one bottle of beer with their lunch. There being no such constraint in his case (the driver having been reinstated to driving by then) he had a more substantial lunch. They managed to get back to the brigade headquarters by the evening. 15
1 Medium Radio Relay Section
1 Medium Radio Relay Section (1 MRRS) had been raised as an independent unit in 1959 at Delhi to conduct trials on multi channel radio relay equipment imported from UK. The initial trials were conducted on radio set SPO 50-50, which was being used by the British Post Office. The civilian system could not satisfy the stringent military requirements of terrain and climate. In 1960 the unit received eight RS C41/R222, the militarized radio relay equipment developed by ATE Bridgeworth for the British Army. The equipment provided only the radio and had to be integrated with indigenously developed multichannel equipment ACT 1+4 for multiplexing. The militarized system was found suitable and approved as the standard system for multichannel radio relay communications in the Indian Army. Additional sets were ordered and received during 1961.
Operational and technical control of 1 Medium Radio Relay Section was exercised by Signals Directorate at Army HQ. On 9 December 1961 at about 11 am the OC, Captain A.S. Kahlon was summoned urgently to the office of the SO-in-C, Major General R.N. Batra, where Brigadier Jaswant Singh, CSO Southern Command was also present. On being asked by General Batra how soon could he move for an operational task, Kahlon replied “Within two hours, Sir”. He was told to move as soon as possible and report to CSO Southern Command in
where he would be told his task. As both
subalterns posted to the section were away on course or leave, orders were
issued on telephone to attach Captain G.A. Newton, who had been assigned the
task of raising a radio relay section at Lucknow, to move overnight to 1 Medium
Radio Relay Section. Two detachments were provided by 1 Army HQ Air Support
Signal Unit at Poona . Delhi
At 0900 hours on
10 December 1961,
the personnel and equipment of 1 Medium
Radio Relay Section under Captain Rangarajan reached railway station where Captain G.A. Newton
reported on attachment. As the military
special that had been allotted to the section had spare capacity other elements
of Army, Air Force and Navy were accommodated as they arrived on the
station. The military special left at
about 1600 hours under Captain Kahlon, who was nominated as the OC Train. On
reaching Kirkee near New
on 11 December, the section detrained.
Kahlon and Rangarajan proceeded to HQ Southern Command where Lieutenant
Colonel V.C. Khanna, the SO 1 (Signals), issued them further instructions.
After topping up at Southern Command Signal Regiment overnight, the section
moved by road to Belgaum at first light on 12 December, arriving there next
afternoon after an overnight halt at Kolhapur. Poona
At Advance HQ Southern Command at Belgaum, Major Fonseca, the SO 2 (Signals) tasked the section to extend/bridge the line of communication (LOC) along Axis Tinaghat-Anmod-Panjim and Sawantwadi-Bicholim-Panjim to support the advance of 17 Infantry Division and 50 Parachute Brigade respectively. It was decided to allocate four radio relay detachments to engineer two links or a chain over two hops to support operations of 17 Infantry Division and two radio relay detachments to provide the link rear wards from HQ 50 Parachute Brigade. The section less two detachments under Captain A.S. Kahlon along with the detachments of 1 Air Support Signal Unit left at first light on 15 December for Tinaighat where HQ 17 Infantry Division was located. Captain Newton with two detachments reported to HQ 50 Parachute Brigade at Sawantwadi on the same day. The radio relay detachments were attached to the respective formations for administration, while their operational and technical control was with CSO Southern Command.
Captain Kahlon discussed the deployment and outline plan for provision of radio relay communications with the General Staff of HQ 17 Infantry Division, and obtained their approval for pre D Day reconnaissance up to Custom Chauki and grouping of radio relay detachments with the divisional reconnaissance party. Captain Kahlon and Havildar Onkar Singh, the detachment commander of the anchor station to be located in area of Custom Chauki, were escorted by 4 Sikh Light Infantry which was deployed in the area during early hours of 17 December. The anchor detachment moved into the site at Custom Chauki at last and line detachments of Southern Command Signal Regiment under Major Bawa laid the carrier quad cable from Tinaighat to the anchor station the same night.
The forward detachments advanced with the reconnaissance party of the main divisional headquarters at last light on 18 December. Due to the narrow and congested road axis the vehicular movement was slow, and the party reached Ponda only at on 19 December. The divisional headquarters representative decided to use the Portuguese Army barracks (the present location of 6 Technical Training Regiment of 2 STC) for the main divisional headquarters and the signal regiment. Since the location did not afford suitable radio line of sight (RLOS) for VHF communications, Captain Kahlon moved the radio relay detachments about a kilometre ahead towards Panjim. The detachments deployed at about 1500 hours and immediately got through to link Ponda to Custom Chauki. The line party of the divisional signal regiment laid two pairs of local tails on WD cable to terminate two channels derived over the radio relay system to Advance HQ Southern Command well before the arrival of the main divisional headquarters in the evening.
As described earlier, 50 Parachute Brigade was ordered to capture Panjim thanks to the rearward communication link provided on radio relay by Captain Newton. After the capture of
Goa on 19
December 1961, the radio relay detachments earmarked for Panjim
moved forward with Captain Kahlon on 21 December to augment the communications
being organized for the tactical divisional headquarters established for the
GOC, General Candeth, who had taken over as Military Governor. As the main axis was still not open to
vehicular traffic, the route followed was Ponda-Margo-Marmagoa-Panjim. While
passing through Bambolim, Captain Kahlon saw some high towers with aerials in the
barracks and drove in to investigate. He
discovered that it was Portuguese Defence Services wireless station for
and other enclaves. It had been engaged
earlier by the Indian Air Force and the personnel manning the installation had
fled. The mains standby power to the
SWAB 8 high power transmitter and associated Hillicraft receiver was still on
and the equipment intact. The radio
relay detachment reached Altinho in Panjim at about 1600 hours and immediately
got through to Ponda. The speech channels
were extended to the field exchange established for the tactical divisional
headquarters the same evening, providing a linkage to the main divisional
headquarters at Ponda and to Advance HQ Southern Command at Lisbon .
The radio relay terminal was located in the vicinity of the present officers’
mess of HQ 2 STC which was being used as a prisoner of war camp for captured
Portuguese soldiers. Belgaum
Elements of HQ 17 Infantry Division and 17 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment kept moving into Altinho area in Panjim over the next few days. Carrier quad tails were laid on priority from the radio relay terminal to their exchange/signal centre. The radio relay chain was re-engineered during the night on 24 December to get through directly from Panjim to Custom Chauki, to provide four channels for speech/telegraph directly to Tactical HQ Southern Command at Belgaum over the channelling equipment which had been installed by the Posts & Telegraphs Department. With the closing down of the relay station at Ponda its two radio relay detachments were moved, one each to Custom Chauki and Altinho as standby.
Prior to Operation ‘Vijay’, there was only a single wire permanent line earth return circuit from Custom Chauki to Panjim for telegraph traffic to
Posts & Telegraphs Department put in considerable effort to convert this
route to take on their multichannel equipment under Mr. A.K. Bannerjee who was working
with CSO Southern Command. On his request
on 25 December, after approval by Brigadier Jaswant Singh, as an interim measure
one speech channel derived over the radio relay system was extended for
termination on the Panjim central battery civil exchange. The termination posed a technical problem as
the ACT 1+4 working over the radio relay system catered only for magneto calling. The limitation was overcome by a minor
modification at the civil exchange. The termination of this channel patched the
Indian Posts & Telegraphs communications provisionally to Panjim the same
After the direct line from Poona to Belgaum was put through on 29 December, it was decided that one radio relay detachment be left at Panjim and another at Custom Chauki as a standby to speech and telegraph circuits that had been provided on lines. The rest of 1 Medium Radio Relay Section was ordered to move back on 30 December. Before they left, they were asked to perform another task. Soon after the liberation of
Mr. Neurikar of All India Radio had requested the help of the Army to sort out
and salvage the equipment left by Emissora de Goa, the Portuguese broadcasting
station in Goa. On directions of the Military Governor,
Captain G.A. Newton was made available for this assignment from 25 to 29
December. With his assistance, the engineers of All India Radio soon rigged up
a 5 Kilowatt transmitter at Bambolim. On completion of its task, 1 Medium Radio
Relay Section, less the two standby detachments mentioned earlier, left on 30
December 1961 for Belgaum enroute to Delhi under the OC, Captain A.S. Kahlon,
along with Captain G.A Newton who was on attachment. The 1 Air Support Signal
Unit detachments joined at
the same day for the road move next day for Belgaum , arriving there after a night halt in Poona on Kolhapur 1 January 1962. Entraining at Poona on a special train on 3
January, the section arrived at Delhi on 4 January 1962, four weeks after it had
left the station.16
By all accounts, the performance of 1 Medium Radio Relay Section during Operation ‘Vijay’ was commendable. It was a fledgling unit, still in the process of finding its feet, using equipment on which the men had not been fully trained. In spite of these handicaps, it provided reliable communications, which proved crucial for the success of the operations. Considering the lack lustre performance of signal units with considerably larger resources, the officers and men of the section deserve high praise. In fact, the performance of this small unit was one of the redeeming features of signal communications during Operation ‘Vijay’, which served to dilute the harsh criticism that Signals was subjected to for its overall performance.
Southern Command Signals
The operations for the liberation of
conceived and planned by GOC-in-C Southern Command, while the actual execution
was the responsibility of GOC 17 Infantry Division, the Task Force
Commander. A soon as Brigadier Jaswant
Singh, CSO Southern Command, came to know that the decision to undertake
military operations had been taken, he sought permission to visit Belgaum,
which was to be the concentration area for the troops taking part in the
operation as well as the Advance HQ Southern Command. His visit brought to
light certain factors that had a bearing on communications. Southern Command
Signals would have to cater for rearward communications of the Task Force. He
felt that there would be no problem providing communications from up to Poona , provided a representative
of the Posts and Telegraphs Department of reasonable seniority was placed under
Army control. Fortunately, the Government of India held a similar view. One
fine morning Brigadier Jaswant Singh received a call from the Secretary,
Ministry of Communications, Mr. Nanjappa, who informed him that one Mr. A.K.
Banerjee was going to be attached to HQ Southern Command. He requested that he
should be given all assistance in the execution of his tasks and that this had
the Government’s approval. Brigadier Jaswant Singh’s initial reaction was
negative. He had his own tasks to perform, and did not like someone from the
Posts and Telegraphs Department being foisted on him. He told Mr. Nanjappa that
he was happy to hear that Mr. Banerjee was coming to his headquarters, but he
hoped that his first priority was military requirements until the operations
were over. Very tactfully, he suggested that Mr. Banerjee should be under
control of or in support of HQ Southern Command, but if the Government’s
perception of his duties was different then he had better have a talk with the
Army Commander. This did the trick – Mr. Nanjappa agreed to place Mr. Banerjee
under CSO Southern Command. In the event, he proved to be a great asset both as
an individual and as a senior representative of his Ministry. Brigadier Jaswant
Singh informed the Army Commander who approved the arrangement. Belgaum
Brigadier Jaswant Singh was able to appreciate the difficulties that would be faced by Signals because of the terrain. He writes:-
Another factor that stood out was that on the main axis the road from the border into Goa was very narrow and only 44 miles long. Therefore heavy vehicles would be very restricted in allocation of sufficient road space. Therefore, I suggested that it would be best not to “Overload” the Divisional Signal Regiment with too much equipment and Signal stores. I offered to create a suitable ad hoc Advance Signal stores dump or Depot from where the Signal Regiment could draw equipment and stores as required. But Commander Signals 17 Division had different views: he wanted everything authorized in the Regiment’s Equipment Tables plus more – e.g., I still remember that 180 miles of D8 Twisted Cable was demanded. Even the Chief of Staff suggested that since the total distance to Panjim was only 44 miles, this demand was far too much. In the end the Regiment did get 180 miles of cable, but in the event very little of it was used if at all.
Troops were to cross the border on night D-1, and the Main Divisional HQ was to be located on our side of the border up to which all line and wireless channels as required were laid and began working beautifully. However, after about 2 hrs of H Hr, no officer could be contacted and therefore no calls from Command HQ could be put through to Division on any channel line, Radio Telephony or wireless message. I therefore decided to send a senior officer from the Command Signal Regiment in a jeep wireless detachment to find out and report immediately the problem, and at least to restore some one channel to Main HQ.
What he found on reaching there was classic. All heavy vehicles, including wireless vehicles working back to Command HQ were left behind and most officers of Divisional HQ had moved forward behind the leading troops! All the important officers of the Divisional Signal Regiment similarly had moved forward minus any means of communications. And no vehicle was permitted forward of the Traffic Control point without a very high level permit.
…..On the other hand, communications with 50 Para Brigade worked all right – until they went under command 17 Division.
Perhaps 17 Division had some justification. The road was indeed bad, the second Brigade of the Division had to be pushed forward from the positions gained by the initial Brigade, and on top of it all, the Chief of the General Staff, Army HQ, was to land near the forward Brigade. On the other hand, the Commander Signals who could have made do with lighter wireless sets was keen on the higher powered sets only and these were left well behind. In any case, the operations were moving too fast for them to react really efficiently.
…..In general, it is evident from the official history of Goa Operations that not only did the links back did not work, but also their links forward, and to 50 Para Brigade were not a roaring success. Fortunately, there was little opposition from the enemy and nothing serious happened. 17
The Portuguese enclave of
Daman lay at the entrance of the Gulf
of Cambay about 100 miles north of and had an area of 22 square miles. A
tarmac road connected it to the former settlement of Nagar Haveli. The
Portuguese strength in Bombay Daman was estimated to
be three companies consisting of 360 all ranks. (It was later found to be an
underestimation). In addition there were some police and customs outposts along
the border contiguous with . The task of liberating India Daman
was given to 1 Maratha Light Infantry, which was located at . The CO was Lieutenant Colonel S.J.S.
Bhonsle. The original plan was to commence the operation in Daman some time
after Goa had been entered, but it was subsequently decided to launch it
simultaneously. The unit was allotted one battery of field guns, an air control
team and two Auster aircraft for air observation post tasks. The Navy was to
assist by blockading the Poona and the Air
Force would provide some pre-arranged sorties for close air support. The
battalion was given a Signals detachment equipped with a WS 399 for
communicating with Tactical HQ Southern Command at port
of Daman and a VHF set for ground to air
The battalion moved from
by train on 12 December and arrived at Vapi in the early hours of the morning
of 13 December, detraining silently so as not to cause alarm among the local
population. The next few days were spent in reconnoitring the border and
spreading a rumour through the local police and civil officials that the force
that had arrived was only an advance party, to be built up to a brigade
supported by armour. As a deception measure, a platoon accompanied by a party
from the State Reserve Police was to threaten Moti Daman from the south and
liquidate Portuguese outposts on that side. On 17 December, the battalion was informed
that D Day for the operation was 18 December and they could commence the
offensive. Two hours after , two companies advanced
towards their objectives, the flying control tower and Post 175. Both companies
captured their objectives, with minor casualties. However, surprise had been
lost and the Portuguese were ready to retaliate. Poona
After a rocket attack by the Air Force on the Big Fort at first light on 18 December, the operations commenced for the capture of Nani Daman. However, the Portuguese offered stiff resistance, bringing down fire on the attacking troops with medium machine guns, mortars and artillery. By the end of the day, the two attacking companies had made little progress, and the CO asked them to firm in for the night, deciding to move up the reserve companies for a fresh attack next morning. At about 0745 hours on 19 December two Mystere aircraft fired rockets at the Big Fort and some guns near a temple inside the town. Half an hour later, the Portuguese surrendered. The Governor, Antonio Jose Da Costa Pinto, who was himself wounded, signed an unconditional surrender at 0830 hours. By 1300 hours the town was occupied by Indian troops. About 600 white soldiers, seven 25 pounder guns, eight 81-mm mortars and large amount of small arms and ammunition was captured.
Goa, the local population did not greet the
Indian troops, being unsure of their conduct. Being used to atrocities at the
hands of the Portuguese, they expected similar treatment from the victors. It
was only after a few days that they began coming out of their houses and going
about their daily business. The Indian casualties in the operation were one JCO
and three OR killed; and one JCO and 13 OR wounded. The Portuguese casualties
were 10 killed and two wounded. The total number of prisoners was 853,
including 24 officers, 544 soldiers, nine Portuguese police, 268 local police
and eight Portuguese civilians.18
lies off the southern
extremity of the island
of Diu Kathiawar peninsula separated
from it by a narrow creek. It was the
smallest of the Portuguese possessions in India, having an area of about 38
square kilometres and a population of 14,280 according to the 1960 census. Like
Daman, the strength of troops holding Diu was estimated to be 360, which again turned out to be
an underestimation. The task of
capturing Diu was given to Brigadier Jaswant
Singh, Commander 112 Infantry Brigade, which was located at Ahmedabad. The troops allotted to him were 20 Rajput; a
company of 4 ;
and an air control team from Air Force station Madras . The Navy was to support the
operation by positioning the cruiser I.N.S. Delhi
off the Jamnagar , who would be prepared
to engage targets but fire in close support of troops. The Air Force would provide limited air
support in the form of some pre-arranged sorties from island of
Diu . Communications for the operation
were provided by 112 Infantry Brigade Signal Company. In addition to being an
outstation on the brigade command net, 20 Rajput was to have a direct link with
Tactical HQ Southern Command at Jamnagar .
For this purpose, a Signals detachment equipped with one WS 399 would accompany
20 Rajput. A wireless link would also be established with INS Belgaum . For air support communications, a
ground to air link between the aircraft and the air control team that would
accompany the battalion was provided, in addition to a link to the IAF station
According to the operation orders, 20 Rajput, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Bhupinder Singh, was to carry out an assault crossing of the tidal creek at low tide south of Kob at night and then move on to capture Diu airfield, followed by Diu town. An hour before the assault by 20 Rajput, C Company of 4
under Major C.W Curtis was to capture
Gogla on the mainland near the eastern border of Madras Diu
opposite the citadel, and then await further orders. The troops were to
concentrate at Una by 15
December 1961. The force commenced its move from Ahmedabad on 13
Moving in three stages, via
and Veraval, they arrived at Una on Rajkot 15 December 1961. Next
evening, Mr. Bernardo, the Police Commissioner of Diu
met Mr. Jadeja, the Deputy Superintendent of Police of Junagadh and told him:
“We know that we would be defeated but we will fight. We hope you will treat us nicely when we lose”.
At 2100 hours that night, All India Radio broadcast a distorted version of Mr. Bernardo’s conversation, announcing that the Portuguese in
Diu were ready to surrender. Shortly
afterwards, the Army Commander spoke on telephone to the brigade commander, who
gave him the correct version. On 17 December the codeword for commencement of
operations against Diu was received from
Tactical HQ Southern Command. At 0130 hours on 18 December, C Company 4 Madras
launched the assault on Gogla. However,
the enemy brought down heavy fire from small arms and 25-pounder guns on the
attacking troops, who did not have any artillery to counter it. After a bitter
fight, the company was forced to withdraw at 0400 hours. The second attack at 0630
met the same fate and several men were wounded. The attempt by 20 Rajput to
force the crossing was delayed due to the long march over soft and marshy
ground, leading to loss of surprise. Two companies launched their improvised
boats in the creek opposite at 0230 hours, an hour after the attack by the
Madrassi Company. As both companies reached the middle of the creek, the
Portuguese opened up with medium and light machine guns, sinking two of the
four boats. Two men were killed and 15 wounded including one of the company
commanders. The crossing was abandoned at 0500 hours and the troops had to
return to the home bank.
Realizing that it would be difficult to counteract the enemy’s defensive fire without artillery support, a message was flashed to I.N.S. Delhi, indicating the targets that needed to be neutralized. The Air Force also started engaging targets after first light. On being informed of the situation, the Army Commander directed that no attempt should be made to cross the creek during day. The Navy and Air Force should be asked to engage Diu Fort and the coastline opposite Gogla, which could then be captured at night. This proved to be quite effective and by evening the enemy guns fell silent. At about 0845 hours a Portuguese officer came over with a message from the Governor of Diu offering to surrender with a request that all Portuguese nationals be permitted to seek protection in Brazilian embassy. The message was relayed to the Army Commander who directed that only an unconditional surrender was to be accepted. The Portuguese were informed at 2130 hours that if they did not surrender unconditionally by 0900 hours next day, the attacks would start again. At 0830 hours on
19 December 1961 the
Governor agreed to surrender unconditionally and Indian troops began to enter Diu. At a ceremony held at 1100 hours the Governor of Diu
personally surrendered to Brigadier Jaswant Singh, with 16 officers, 43
sergeants and 333 soldiers laying down their arms. The Portuguese casualties in
the operation were one killed and 22 wounded. The Indian casualties were eight
killed and 17 wounded.
The liberation of
and Diu in 1961 was an important landmark in the
history of post independence .
Though it cannot be termed a major operation in military terms – the
overwhelming superiority of Indian troops made it an unequal contest, with the
outcome foregone – it was nevertheless important for the Indian Army. Being the
first conclusive military victory after 1947, it imbued the public with
confidence in the prowess of the armed forces. The swiftness of the operation
and the finesse with which it was conducted came in for praise from all
quarters. However, the operation was not without glitches, especially for
Signals, which suffered perhaps its first major breakdown in communications
during a military operation. For this reason, Operation ‘Vijay’ is of special
interest and significance for signallers, bringing out several important
The problems faced by 17 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment were genuine. However, they were not new. Units that took part in the
operations in 1947-48 had faced similar problems and learned how to overcome
them. For Signals, breakdown of communications is an unforgivable sin, and 17
Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment cannot be absolved of blame in this
respect. The lack of mobility of heavy vehicles in hilly terrain should have
been foreseen. The move of both main and rear divisional headquarters at the
same time violated the time-tested principle of ‘one leg on the ground’, and
should have been objected to by Signals.
The failure of the unit to cater for a spare tyre for a vehicle as
important as the command vehicle in the divisional headquarters is surprising,
considering the unstinted support it received from everyone, all its demands
being met by higher headquarters. Fortunately,
Operation ‘Vijay’ succeeded due to the absence of opposition by Portuguese
forces. Consequently, Signals escaped the embarrassment of being censured for
the breakdown of communications during a crucial phase of the operations. Jammu and Kashmir
ENDNOTES TO CHAPTER 3
(This chapter is largely based on the official history published by the History Division, Ministry of Defence viz. P.N. Khera’s, Operation Vijay – The Liberation of Goa and Other Portuguese Colonies in India; Historical Report of 50 Independent Parachute Brigade on Operation ‘Vijay’; Report on Operation ‘Vijay’ by Lieutenant General J.N. Chaudhuri, GOC-in-C Southern Command; unit histories and personal accounts).
1. Khera, P.N., Operation Vijay – The Liberation of Goa and Other Portuguese Colonies in India, History Division, Ministry of Defence (HD-MOD), New Delhi, 1974, p.31.
2. Khera, p.39
3. Report on Operation ‘Vijay’ by Lieutenant General J.N. Chaudhuri, GOC-in-C Southern Command dated
04 May 1962, (HD-MOD), , File No.
SEC/11/182/H. New Delhi
4. Historical Report of 50 Independent Parachute Brigade on Operation ‘Vijay’, (HD-MOD),
. New Delhi
5. HQ 17 Infantry Division Operation Order No 1/61 dated
December 1961, (HD-MOD), New . Delhi
6. Maj. Gen. V.K. Singh, Leadership in the Indian Army – Biographies of Twelve Soldiers, Sage Publications,
2005, p. 303. New Delhi
7. ‘Operation Vijay’, Historical Records, HQ 17 Infantry Division, (HD-MOD),
No. SEC/11/185/H. New Delhi
8. First Person Account – ‘Reminiscences of a Historic and happy Association’ by Lt. Gen. Sagat Singh, published in The Story of the Indian Airborne Troops, by Maj. Gen Afsir Karim, Lancer International, New Delhi, 1990. pp. 153-4
9. Historical Report, 50 Independent Parachute Brigade on Operation ‘Vijay’, History Division, Ministry of Defence, (HD-MOD),
. New Delhi
10. Report on Aguada Fort Incident, (HD-MOD), New Delhi, File FMN/BDE/224/H/III.
11. Report on Operation ‘Vijay’ by Lieutenant General J.N. Chaudhuri, GOC-in-C Southern Command, (HD-MOD), New Delhi, File No. SEC/11/182/H.
12. First Person Account – ‘Operation in Goa’ by Brigadier Sucha Singh, VrC, MC, published in The Story of the Indian Airborne Troops, by Maj. Gen Afsir Karim, Lancer International,
, 1990. p. 171 New Delhi
13. Personal input by Brigadier P.Z. Mani (Retd)
14. Write Up entitled ‘Operation Vijay – 18/19 December 1961’ by Major R.R. Chatterji, OC 50 Parachute Brigade Signal Company.
16. Personal input by Major General A.S. Kahlon (Retd).
17. Write Up by Brigadier Jaswant Singh, CSO Southern Command.
18. Khera, p.103.
19. HQ 112 Infantry Brigade Operation Instruction No 1 dated
17 December 1961.