THE INDO-PAK WAR – 1971 (EASTERN THEATRE)
Preview. EVENTS LEADING TO THE INVASION OF
Operation ‘Searchlight’– Planning and Preparations in – Pak and
Indian Strategies. SIGNALS PLANNING AND PREPARATIONS : Sigs Dte - 1 Army HQ Sig Regt - 2 Army HQ Sig Regt - Eastern Comd Sigs
– N Comn Zone Sig Regt. OPERATION ‘CACTUS LILY’ : Preliminary Operations - Outbreak of War. OPERATIONS ON THE II
CORPS FRONT : 9 Inf Div - 4 Mtn Div - OPERATIONS ON THE XXXIII CORPS FRONT : 71 Mtn Bde - 20 Mtn Div. 101 COMN ZONE
AREA : 95 Mtn Bde - The Adv Towards India . OPERATIONS ON THE IVCORPS FRONT : 8 Mtn Div -57 Mtn Div - 23 Mtn Div - Kilo
Force. THE FALL OF Dacca .
SIGNALS IN OPERATION ‘CACTUS LILY’ : Eastern
Comd Sigs – Eastern Comd Sig Regt - II
Corps Sigs - 9 Inf Div Sig Regt - 4 Inf Sig Regt - XXXIII Corps Sigs – 20 Mtn Div
Sig Regt - 6 Mtn Div Sig Regt -71 Mtn Bde Sig Coy - 101 Comn Zone Area Sigs - 2
Mtn Div Sig Regt - 95 Mtn Bde Sig Coy– 50 Para Bde Sig Coy - The Saga of
Captain P.K. Ghosh, VrC -IV Corps
Signals – 8 Mountain Divisional
Sigs – 57 Mtn Div Sig Regt - 23 Mtn Div Sig Regt - 2
Air Sp Sig Regt– L Comn Zone Sig Regt -
V Comn Zone Sig Regt - 107 Comn
Zone Sig Coy (TA) – Bravo Sig Regt (Corps). CONCLUSION. DACCA
After the partition of
in 1947, a new nation – India
– came into being. The two wings, called West and Pakistan East Pakistan,
were separated by fifteen hundred kilometres, with in between. Apart from the
physical distance between them, the two wings had wide differences in culture,
language, customs and standard of living. Generally speaking, the West
Pakistani political and military leadership looked down upon the counterparts
in India East Pakistan. These political, social and
economic disparities caused resentment and political unrest among the people of
East Bengal, giving birth to the Awami League
led by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. In the elections held in December 1970 the Awami
League won a majority of the seats in the Pakistan National Assembly, much to
the chagrin of the People’s Party led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Not willing to
concede power to Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, President Yahya Khan postponed the
session of the National Assembly indefinitely and imposed martial law. This led
to violent demonstrations which were crushed ruthlessly. On 25 March 1971 Mujib was
arrested and Operation ‘Searchlight’ was launched by the Pakistani Army, in
which thousands of innocent people were killed in cold blood.
To escape the repression unleashed by the Pakistani Army, hordes of refugees began to cross the border into the Indian states of
and Tripura. As their numbers grew, it became a severe strain on Bengal, Assam , apart
from creating problems of law and order in these states. India appealed
to the international community to resolve the problem, but found them
unresponsive and began to evaluate various options, including military
intervention. The decision to undertake military operations was taken in April
1971. However, the Army Chief, General S.H.F.J Manekshaw advised that the
operations be postponed to the winter months. The Prime Minister accepted the
advice of the Chief, and gave him a free hand in planning and executing the
The operations conducted by the Indian Army in
code named Operation ‘Cactus Lily’, were planned to be conducted in December
1971. However, several preliminary operations were carried out in November in
order to secure suitable areas which would serve as launch pads for the
formations earmarked for the offensive. On 3 December 1971 the Pakistani Air Force bombed
several Indian airfields in the Western Sector. The same evening, orders were
issued by Army HQ for the invasion of East Pakistan,
which commenced at day break on 4
December 1971. The task
given to Eastern Command was to destroy enemy forces and occupy the major
portion of East Pakistan.
one of the objectives in the plans made by Army HQ, the rapid progress of
Indian forces culminated in the fall of Dacca
and the surrender of the Pakistani Army. A major factor in fall of Dacca was the three
broadcasts made by General Manekshaw, calling on Pakistani troops to surrender
and assuring them of honourable treatment. Indian troops entered Dacca on the morning of
16 December and the formal surrender ceremony took place the same afternoon. In
front of a large crowd, General Niazi handed over his pistol to Lieutenant
General Aurora, GOC-in-C Eastern Command, and signed the Instrument of
Surrender at 1655 hours. Along with Niazi,
about 93,000 Pakistani soldiers became prisoners of war. Dacca
Signals played an important role in Operation ‘Cactus Lily’. Unlike most other operations, this was a rare occasion when Signals had almost six months to prepare and they made good use of the time, ensuring that nothing was left to chance. The SO-in-C, Lieutenant General E.G Pettengell and his deputy, Major General K.S. Garewal began working on the Signals plan as early as April 1971. The detailed planning and execution of the Signals plan was the responsibility of Brigadier K.K. Tewari, CSO Eastern Command. However, the provision of resources and synchronization with other agencies had to be done at
. This needed
coordination with a large number of government departments, such as the Ministry
of Defence, Finance, Posts and Telegraphs, Ordnance, production agencies and so
In 1971, the military communication network in the Eastern Theatre was under developed. There was an acute shortage of resources, in terms of manpower, equipment and vehicles. These had to be made up by new raisings and by ‘milking’ existing units. An additional commitment was the training and equipping of some para military forces. Signals played an important role in the deciding the locations of the headquarters of the formations taking part in the operations, which had to be built up as communication hubs, using own resources as well as those of the P&T Department. Several hundred kilometers of PL routes were constructed by signal units in the likely concentration areas of the formations that were to take part in the offensive.
The account of the campaign has been divided broadly in two parts. The preparatory phase has been covered under the heading ‘Events Leading to The Invasion of East Pakistan’. This is followed by the description of actual operations under the heading Operation ‘Cactus Lily’. The role of Signals has been described in both parts, after an account of the operations. Some units such as N Communication Zone Signal Regiment that played a major role in the preparatory phase have been covered in the first part. The units affiliated to field formations that came into the picture mostly after commencement of the actual operations have been covered in the second part. For obvious reasons, Eastern Command Signals has been dealt with in both parts.
EVENTS LEADING TO THE INVASION OF
Pak Operation ‘Searchlight’
Rattled by the victory of the Awami League in the National Assembly elections held in December 1970, Yahya Khan dissolved the cabinet and imposed martial law in
on Pakistan 21 February 1971. On 1 March he
announced indefinite postponement of the session of the National Assembly. This
led to violent demonstrations and clashes all over East
Pakistan and the Army was called out to suppress the mobs,
resulting in the death of many Bengalis. Mujib, who had tried to keep the
agitation non-violent, demanded that the troops be withdrawn, or else he would
intensify the agitation. In a ploy to gain time Yahya announced that the
National Assembly would meet at
on Dacca 25 March 1971.
The Governor of East Pakistan, Lieutenant General Sahibzada Yakub Khan was
replaced by Lieutenant General Tikka Khan, who was given the task of
suppressing the revolt, code named Operation ‘Searchlight’.
After arresting Mujib on 25 March, Tikka Khan embarked on a campaign of mass slaughter, rape and destruction that horrified the World. Beginning with the intellectuals of
Operation ‘Searchlight’ resulted in the killing of thousands of innocent people,
especially professionals and middle class Hindus. The campaign of genocide soon
moved from the towns to rural areas. Troops fanned out from Dacca University and other cantonments to the country
side, burning villages and slaughtering the inmates. The terrified and defenceless people began to
leave their homes and seek shelter in neighbouring Dacca . Starting from a trickle, the
stream of refugees entering India
became a flood. By May 1971 more than ten million refugees had crossed the
border and entered the provinces of India West Bengal
Within two weeks of the crackdown, Tikka Khan had suppressed the revolt, punishing most of the rebellious troops and non-cooperators. After carrying out his task, he handed over military control to Lieutenant General A.A.K. Niazi, who took over as GOC-in-C, Pakistan Eastern Command, Tikka Khan reverting to his role as Governor and Martial Law Administrator. By the end of May, except for a few pockets of resistance in inaccessible remote areas, the uprising appeared to have been smothered.
Planning and Preparations in
As the numbers of refugees
streaming into India
grew, the situation worsened, forcing India to evaluate various options,
including military intervention. She soon realised that the international
community was not willing to exert any pressure on India to end the genocide of her
own people, treating it as an internal problem.
During a meeting of the Cabinet on Pakistan 27 April 1971, to which General S.H.F.J. Manekshaw was invited as the Chairman of the
Chiefs of Staff Committee, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked him if the Army
was ready to go into East Pakistan. General Manekshaw
asked for more time, as the area was unsuitable for large scale operations
during the monsoons. Time was also needed to make up shortages in warlike
material that the Army was facing. He advised postponement of the operations to
the winter months, when the Himalayan passes would be blocked, ruling out any
threat from ,
in case she decided to assist China .
This would also give Pakistan
more time to carry out diplomatic initiatives and convince the World about her
cause and that of the people of India East Pakistan.
The Prime Minister decided to go by the advice of the Army Chief, assuring him
of a free hand in carrying out his task.
In return, General Manekshaw promised her a victory.
Once the decision to undertake operations was taken by the Government, the Army Chief set about it in earnest. The Government also decided to extend support to the freedom movement in
Pakistan, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. The Government of
Bangladesh, as the new nation was intended to be named once it became
independent, had started functioning in
and Colonel M.A.G. Osmani was appointed the Military Advisor and C-in-C of its
Though the Prime Minister had given him a virtual carte blanche in planning the operations, General Manekshaw realised that major questions of defence policy could not be dealt by the military alone; and would have to be coordinated with foreign, economic and internal policies of the nation. He pressed for the involvement of the government in evolving a broad strategy and laying down clear cut objectives for the armed forces. Thanks to his rapport with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, he was able to carry out several changes in the organs responsible for planning and execution at the highest level. For the first time a political representative, in the person of D.P. Dhar, designated Chairman of the Planning Committee of the Ministry of External Affairs, was inducted into war councils. A Joint Intelligence Committee was formed under the Vice Chief of Army Staff, with members from the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Intelligence Bureau and the three services. The Joint Planning Committee was reactivated and began functioning as the Combined Services Operational Headquarters.
On the civil side, a Secretaries’ Committee comprising the Secretaries of Defence, Home, Finance and Foreign Affairs was set up to take executive decisions dealing with preparations for war. The Director General of Civil Defence and heads of the para military forces were also brought in at appropriate stages of planning. However, the control, coordination and supervision at the top level remained with Manekshaw and Dhar, the Prime Minister being kept informed of the latest developments and the Political Affairs Committee being briefed whenever required. The Army Chief was always on the ball, giving direction and dealing with glitches, in the headquarters as well as in the field. He had promised the Prime Minister a victory, and he was resolved to get one.1
On the diplomatic front, the Government went all out to convince the World of the righteousness of
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited several foreign countries and personally
briefed the heads of government. Except the India Soviet Union,
none of the major powers supported 's stand. In fact, some were
critical of her actions and the India
as well as USA
came out openly in support of China .
The Prime Minister, realising the threat of intervention by Pakistan as well
as China ,
sent D.P. Dhar to USA
with feelers regarding obtaining support from the Moscow Soviet
Union. The Russians responded favourably and the Indo-Soviet
Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Co-operation was signed on 9 August 1971. This was a major
achievement and effectively neutralised the threat from and USA , giving China
considerable freedom in deciding her course of action. India
The success of Operation ‘Searchlight’, the lack of military response from
and the induction
of additional troops from India West Pakistan made
the Pakistani troops in East Pakistan more
audacious and reckless. They began to make forays across the border, resulting
in clashes with Indian para military forces manning border outposts. As these clashes
multiplied, the border posts were reinforced by the Army. This brought and
Indian Army troops in direct confrontation with each other. Pakistan
By the end of October 1971, the border clashes had escalated to proper attacks and were often accompanied by artillery and mortar fire. On
21 November 1971 Pak troops launched
an attack on a base very close to the Indian .
. The attack was supported by tanks, artillery and the Pakistan Air Force,
causing heavy casualties to Indian troops, which launched a local counter
attack destroying 13 Chaffee tanks and throwing back the Pak troops. Two Pak
pilots who had parachuted into village of Boyra Indian territory
were captured after their Sabre jets were brought by the Indian Air Force.
After the Boyra incident, the government decided to permit Indian troops to
cross the border in self defence and carry out counter attacks against Pak
forces aggression against Indian posts.2
Pak and Indian Strategies
When Operation ‘‘Searchlight’ was launched on
25 March 1971, the strength of Pak troops in East Pakistan was four infantry brigades. This was
quickly built up to four infantry divisions, approximately 25,000 irregulars,
and two regiments less a squadron of tanks. The Pak Air Force in East Pakistan comprised 20 to 25 Sabre jets and a few
helicopters. The Pak Navy had a substantial number of gunboats operating in the
coastal and inland waters.
had a total of seven infantry divisions in the East, deployed for counter
insurgency tasks and on the Indo-Tibet border. It had three regiments and two
independent squadrons of armour and a mechanised battalion. The ratio of land
forces between India
was 7:4, which was considerably less than the desired 3:1 for offensive
operations. However, Pakistan ’s
navy and air force were much superior to India ’s. Pakistan
The task assigned to General Niazi was to defend
against external aggression. With the troops available to him, he could not
defend the entire length of the border.
He decided that a fortress concept of defence was the best, under the
circumstances. This envisaged towns and communication centres ahead of the
major rivers being held in strength, which the Indians would have to reduce
before advancing to the interior. Accordingly, the important communication
centres of Jessore, Jhenida, Bogra, Rangpur, Jamalpur, Mymensingh, Sylhet,
Bhairab Bazar, Comilla and
were developed as fortresses. Being in depth, Chittagong was left virtually undefended. The
theatre fortresses were placed under the command of the brigades and divisions
in whose area they fell. Pak 16 Division was responsible for the North-Western
Sector with its headquarters at Bogra;
9 Division was to look after the
South-Western Sector with its headquarters at Jessore; while 14 and 39 Divisions
were made responsible for the Eastern Sector with their headquarters at
Ashuganj and Chandpur respectively.
Since no threat was expected from the north, only a brigade was allotted
for the defence of Mymensigh- Jamalpur Sector, with its headquarters at Dacca . Dacca
The Indian strategy conceived of offensive defence in the west, defence in the north, and a swift offensive in the east. Since
Pakistan was surrounded by on three sides, it was
planned to launch offensives from three sides with the fourth facing the sea
being blocked by the Indian Navy. The two squadrons of the Pak Air Force would
be knocked out right at the start and air superiority achieved. The ultimate
aim being the liberation of India East Pakistan, the
whole of it would have to be captured. However, initial planning was done only
up to the river line, with
being left for the subsequent phase. Accordingly, the task given to Eastern
Command by Army HQ was to destroy Pakistani forces and occupy important areas
in Dacca East Pakistan. In the event, these plans
were later modified, and orders issued to liberate the whole of East Pakistan.3
The responsibility for detailed planning of the operations rested on the Director of Military Operations, Major General K.K. Singh (later Major General I.S. Gill), who enjoyed the trust and confidence of the Army Chief. The plans were subjected to close scrutiny by General Manekshaw, who went over every detail before giving his assent, after several sittings. Though
had an edge in numbers, the superiority was not large enough to guarantee
success in a conventional attack. To achieve quick results, it was necessary to
evolve an audacious plan that relied on manoeuvre and unconventional means. The
operations had to be quick, to preclude the chance of intervention by outside
HQ XXXIII Corps, located at Siliguri, was made responsible for operations in the northwestern sector, which would be executed by 20 Mountain Division.. For the southwestern sector, the formations earmarked were 9 Infantry Division and 4 Mountain Division, which would be controlled by a new corps headquarters - HQ II Corps. In the eastern sector the requirement was three divisions, one for the thrust towards Sylhet, another for Ashuganj and the third for Chandpur-Daudkandi. The formations earmarked for this sector were 57, 23 and 8 Mountain Divisions, with control being exercised by HQ IV Corps at Tezpur, which was moved to Agartala for the operations. The northern sector, which did not appear to be heavily defended, was allotted to HQ 101 Communication Zone Area.
The plan was ready by early July, when Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, GOC-in-C Eastern Command was brought into the picture. In addition to the existing commitments against the Chinese, he was given the task of destroying Pakistani forces and occupying the major portion of
Bengal, including the ports of Chittagaong, Chalna and . General Manekshaw
personally briefed General Aurora, covering the political background, our aims,
his forecast of the shape of things to come, the outline operational plan, and
emphasis on the vigour and determination required for its execution. Written
operational instructions were later handed over to Aurora, setting in motion
the machinery for the war for the liberation of Bangladesh.4 Khulna
SIGNALS PLANNING AND PREPARATIONS
Though Prime Minister Indira Gandhi wanted to undertake military operations in
East Pakistan as early as April 1971, the Chief of Army
Staff prevailed on her to postpone them by at least six months, so that the
Army was fully prepared. This proved to be a boon, especially for Signals. This
was the first occasion after
when the Indian Army intended to go deep into enemy territory, for which it had
neither the wherewithal nor the experience. Communications infrastructure in
the East was underdeveloped and could not cater for the large number of
formations that were to take part in the operations. After crossing the border
reliance would necessarily have to be placed on wireless, resources for which
were grossly inadequate. There was a need to build up permanent line routes
within our own territory right up to the border, for which Signals were almost
totally dependent on the P&T Department. Independence
The SO-in-C, Lieutenant General E.G Pettengell; his deputy, Major General K.S. Garewal; and the Deputy Director Telecommunications (DD Tels), Brigadier M.S. Sodhi, began working on the Signals plan in April 1971. Though the tactical plan underwent several changes before it crystallized, they were able to anticipate the communication requirements and went ahead with the preparations. The detailed planning and execution of the Signals plan was the responsibility of CSO, Eastern Command. However, the provision of resources and coordination with other departments had to be done at
Once the requirements had been worked out by Eastern Command Signals, these
were reviewed through a series of meetings, after which steps were taken to
find the resources, in terms of manpower, equipment and transport. It was soon
realised that the requirements could not be made up by ‘milking’ other commands
or formations, and a number of new units would have to be raised. To meet the
shortages of equipment, import of some critical items such as radio sets was
resorted to. In addition, indigenous sources of production such as Bharat
Electronics had to be tapped. Delhi
Since construction and maintenance of PL routes, carrier stations and static exchanges was the responsibility and prerogative of the P&T Department, coordination and liaison with them had to be done at the highest level. The Deputy SO-in-C carried out a survey of the assistance required and personally visited each area accompanied by Brigadier Sodhi and Mr. Shenoy, a member of the P&T Board. Wherever the P&T infrastructure was non-existent or could not be provided in time, it was decided to provide these from Army resources. A large number of new PL routes had to be constructed, for which sanction of the Government was obtained. In areas where PL could not be laid in time, the feasibility of alternate means of communications such as microwave or radio relay was examined and adopted.
To make up the deficiency of equipment, all possible avenues were explored. The Central Ordnance Depot at
held a large amount of signal equipment, including some of World War II
vintage, which was still functional. Though not authorised to units, many items
such as radio sets 76 and R 201 were issued to units, for air to ground
communications. Other equipment such as generators, batteries and even dry
cells were also collected from various sources or locally purchased. In many
cases, since financial powers for purchase of these items were not held with
Signals, they were purchased by the EME workshops, which were responsible for
the maintenance and repair of the equipment. Agra
The Signals plan had to cater not only for the requirements of the Army formations but also those of para military forces which would be operating under Army control. There were several other organisations such as the Border Roads Task Force and Special Intelligence Bureau whose communications had to be coordinated with those of the Army.
Major H.C. Malhotra, who was posted as GSO 2 (Staff Duties) in Signals 1 Section of the Signals Directorate, recalls that some where towards the end of March 1971 when things started building up in
East Pakistan, a number of Bengali
speaking officers were moved out from the Directorate to Eastern Command. Among
them were Major S.G. Mookerjee and Major P.K. Ghosh. A large number of new
signal units were raised to meet operational requirements. In order to ensure
that the various requirements of the new raisings were met on top priority and
things did not get held up on account of procedural delays, a daily meeting of
all concerned was held in the office of Joint Secretary (G) in the Ministry of
Defence, Mr. Lulla. Every problem, however inconsequential, was raised at this
meeting and resolved. One such problem was the of non availability of cooking
utensils in ‘Bravo’ Signal Regiment that was under raising at Tezpur.
Among Malhotra’s jobs was to draw up the proposed War Establishments (WE)
of new raisings, get them approved by the Deputy SO-in-C, SO-in-C and the
General Staff and then hold discussions with the concerned officers in the
Ministry of Defence and Defence (Finance) for issue of the government letter.
There was a refreshing change in the attitude of the bureaucracy. Instead of
delaying and being ‘difficult’ while sanctioning new units, they approved cases
without too much fuss.5
1 Army HQ Signal Regiment
Army HQ Signals comprised 1 and 2 Army HQ Signal Regiments, both located at
. The Commandant
Army HQ Signals was Colonel K.K.K. Seth, the staff officer being Major S.
Vaikuntam. The primary role of 1 Army HQ
Signal Regiment was operating the communications facilities ex-Army HQ, while 2
Army HQ Signal Regiment was responsible for engineering of all circuits. 1 Army
HQ Signal Regiment was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel B.P. Murgai,
with Major D.B. Khera being the second-in-command. The other field officers in the unit were
Majors S.P. Dewan, Shyam Prasad, S.R.R. Aiyengar, D. Kumar, Kartar Singh and Ashok Khurana. The
Army HQ signal centre was then located in hutments opposite Sena Bhawan; the
telephone exchange was in the basement in South Block; and the tape relay
centre was in the Signals Enclave. Both units shared the living accommodation
and other administrative facilities in the Signals Enclave. Delhi
Like other units and formations in the Indian Army, 1 Army HQ Signal Regiment began to make preparations for the impending operations from the middle of 1971 onwards. The Deputy SO-in-C personally initiated and supervised major changes in the rooms housing the telephone exchange in South Block, which were modified and expanded to take on the additional trunk positions that would be required. Similar improvements were carried out in the signal centre and the tape relay centre. The P&T Department worked with remarkable speed, providing new speech and telegraph circuits as soon as they were demanded. By the time the operations started, there were 38 speech and 23 telegraph circuits emanating from
At that time, Army HQ Signals was heavily dependent on the P&T Department for the maintenance of speech circuits terminated at the South Block exchanges, the telegraph circuits at the tape relay centre and the RTT circuits from the transmitters and receivers to the Signals Enclave. Realising the importance of liaison with P&T Department, an ad hoc defence liaison organization comprising one officer and about 15 OR was created from within the resources of both regiments. Overall responsibility for the functioning of this organization was given to 2 Army HQ Signal Regiment. This proved its worth later during the actual operations and was subsequently made a permanent feature.
During the second half of 1971, there was large scale move of formations. Apart from the increase in traffic, it created peculiar problems for Signals. According to the procedure then in vogue, a copy of the move order was given by the Staff Duties Directorate in Army HQ to the duty signal officer. However, there was often considerable time lag between the actual move and the receipt of information. Under normal circumstances this delay did not cause much trouble but after June 1971 the number of units and formations moving became very large, leading to problems in routing of messages. The problem was aggravated when formations started moving without knowing their own final destinations. In a few cases the Indarmy signal centre came to know of the destination of formations in advance and started routing signals accordingly. However, the signal centres at the destination stations were usually not aware of such moves. A number of telephones calls at different levels had to be made before the signal centres started accepting such messages for formations that were yet to arrive. In some cases, messages had to be kept in the Indarmy signal centre for up to three days without clearance.6
Lieutenant General S.R.R. Aiyengar, who had joined the unit at the fag end of the war, narrates an interesting incident that occurred to him:-
I was on a night shift duty at the Signal Exchange. The Exchange was functioning from the basement of South Block. It was humming with activity with red lights blinking incessantly indicating some VIP call is being progressed. I guess some tempers were flying around at the delays and disruptions of calls. I suddenly saw the Exchange supervisor on duty storming into my cabin looking very visibly harassed. He mentioned that the then DMO was boiling with rage and wanted me to speak to him urgently. I made a quick enquiry about what had happened and what possibly could be the reason for his annoyance. Some important call of his to a formation commander was disrupted and he was keen to find out why his call was disconnected by the Exchange. Having got my facts from our end clear, I rang up the DMO. He was still very angry and upset and he also was not very discrete in the language he was using. I could appreciate his anger but couldn’t stand the language he was using to convey his annoyance. He even went to extent of accusing our operator for monitoring his call. After he had finished his outpourings, I thought, I should also convey how I felt about it. I had told him to be careful about the language he used and how unbecoming of an officer especially of his rank and stature. I also said that if he thinks he is the only one keeping the vigil, he better find out how others also are engaged in their work round the clock, not too far from his office This was perhaps like a red rag to a bull and as he slammed his telephone, he warned me that I better keep my CO informed about what all had transpired. It was bit late in the night to inform our CO. I decided to put it down in writing after carrying out a detailed post-mortem about the call being alleged to have been monitored and disconnected. I enclosed it an envelope and instructed the Exchange Staff to hand it over the CO when he comes on his daily round of the Exchange. I also briefed my next relief about what I had written. I did not hear anything from my CO. Later I learnt that the DMO paid a surprise visit to the Exchange and saw for himself how we were manning our exchange and seemed to be very appreciative of our dedication and commitment. He had also mentioned in the passing that he wanted me to meet him later when he is free. The meeting never took place for I guess both of us were never free!
I also recollect my short stint as OIC Tape Relay Centre (TRC) which was functioning from the Signals Enclave Complex those days. Then Major D. Kumar (Dickey) was the permanent incumbent and I was asked to officiate during his temporary absence. This I must say was a very big learning experience especially when so much signal centre traffic was being routed through the TRC. Timely clearance of SITREPS and compiling pending state of traffic was indeed very demanding. The continuous chatter of the Teleprinters was maddening and the deafening noise was still ringing in your ears when one stepped out of the TRC. I very vividly remember the towering presence of one Subedar Major Balan (he later became an Honorary Captain). His commitment and dedication was something to be seen and admired. He was a great source of inspiration to all of us at the TRC and his quiet and unassuming nature was remarkable. I also like to add here that very often we would see our Commandant, then Brigadier K.K.K. Seth walking into the TRC at night , probably in his after dinner walks and enquiring as to how things are at the TRC. His genuine and caring attitude was always very encouraging. I was a bachelor then and I felt little more comfortable with a camp-cot in my cabin being just adequate. With so much happening especially at night, sleep was a very secondary affair. Also periodic service of hot tea during the night made it all that waking hours more comfortable.7
Though 1 Army HQ Signal Regiment was physically far from the actual scene of operations, all personnel of the unit felt that they were actively engaged in fighting the war in their own way. This was mainly the result of the dynamic leadership of the CO, Lieutenant Colonel B.P. Murgai. Officers who formed part of his highly motivated team recall the tremendous enthusiasm and encouragement which they got from their CO, which ‘was bursting from his chest’, was very infectious! The performance of the unit was recognised by a rich haul of awards, perhaps the largest by any Signals unit. Colonel Murgai was awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal; while Major S.P Dewan and Major Shyam Prasada were ‘Mentioned-in-Despatches’.
2 Army HQ Signal Regiment
The unit was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Shanker Ambady, while the second-in-command was Major R.S. Lobo. Other officers holding important appointments were Majors L.K. Chopra (1 Company); G. Natarajan (2 Company); and Ranjit Singh (QM). The unit had three Technical Officers Telecommunications (TOT). They were Major Gurdial Singh (OC Transmitters); Captain G. Ponnu (OC Receivers) and Major Kartar Singh (OC ‘M’ Section). The receiver station was located at Ridge,
. The transmitter station had
recently been moved to New Delhi
from its very old location in Lodhi Estate, Meerut . The regimental headquarters, which
was in the Signals Enclave, was to move to New Delhi in April 1971 but the move was held up
because of the imminent hostilities. Meerut
2 Company was located in the wireless village on the
Upper Ridge Road opposite the . OC 2 Company was
responsible for static receiver systems (RT, RTT, and CW), radio relay and
system control. The physical and
electronic security of the wireless village - approximately 800 acres of jungle
in the heart of Buddha Jayanti
- was also part of his job. Natarajan recalls that he stayed in his office
throughout the operations and went home only for about two hours a day. They also monitored New Delhi East
Pakistan radio and were the first to receive news about Niazi’s
surrender. They rang up the Army Chief directly and informed him at about 0630 hours.
An hour later official confirmation came based on signal intelligence reports.
The maintenance of the wireless village was the responsibility of the Central Public Works Department (CPWD). They operationalised dispersal huts in record time. Similarly the Superintending Engineer of the Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking personally attended meetings called by Natarajan and ensured installation of a new generator, standby power arrangements and air conditioning. All this was done without any paper work, sanctions or payment, through mutual relationship and liaison. The Assistant Engineer, P&T, Mr. Ramaswamy, kept a permanent team of linemen to take care of local lines and remote control cables. Shortly before the operations he mentioned to an irritated Natarajan, “Sir, lines may come in, lines may go out; but man to man relation should not change.” According to Natarajan, this incident was a turning point in his life.8
The communication links from the signal centre in
to the transmitter station in Delhi
were over P&T circuits. Standby was provided over a radio
relay system established between the receiver and
transmitter stations. Since one-hop
communications was not possible a relay station was located in the Ordnance
Factory at Meerut .
It soon became clear that operating through the relay station was not an effective way of
providing the standby, and a direct link was necessary. This was
innovatively done by building a small cabin on an intermediate platform
available in one of the heavy mast structures constructed to support the
rhombic antennas. The radio relay terminal was lifted and set
up in this cabin and one-hop radio relay link between Moradabad and Delhi was immediately established. A
query was later raised whether Signals work sanction had been obtained for the
The HF links manned by the unit were operational throughout the war in 1971 but were not used in any significant way because all the trunk speech and telegraph circuits provided by the P&T remained fully functional. The only occasion when the links were used was after the end of the war, when communications had to be established with
and Dacca .
The link was established using Rawalpindi ’s
transmitters and receivers at Pakistan ,
which were taken over by the Indian Army after the surrender. The first call
and Dacca was
made by Major M.R. Narayanan of IV Corps Signal Regiment to Major Natarajan at Delhi on the A7 link at
about 0100 hours on Delhi 18
December 1971. The SO-in-C, who was waiting for the call, also
spoke to . Dacca
The technical control organisation and the fault control liaison teams had a hectic time during this period in maintaining line communication in liaison with the P&T staff. The fault control liaison teams operated in shifts round the clock at the P&T coaxial and VFT centres. An officer was detailed on each shift in view of the importance of maintaining line communications. Captain Harbans Singh was in charge of the liaison team with the P&T in
After the operations, the Deputy SO-in-C asked the Commandant and the two
COs for citations. Colonel Ambady declined to write,
maintaining that communications were provided by the entire team and individual
citations will mar the importance of team effort. Instead of individual awards,
he preferred a trophy for Army HQ Signals. Since he declined to write citations
the Commandant asked CO 1 Army HQ Signal Regiment to write one for Major Kartar
Singh, who was physically located in their complex and was directly dealing
with the tape relay centre and exchange duty officers for termination and fault
rectification. Kartar was awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal.
Eastern Command Signals
The Signals plan for Operation ‘Cactus Lily’ was prepared and executed by Brigadier K.K. Tewari, CSO Eastern Command, based at
. His SO1 (Signals) was Lieutenant
Colonel N. Ray. The two SOs2 (Signals) were Majors A.J.S. Gill and B.K.
Kataria. When he took over his new assignment in September 1970, Brigadier Tewari
noticed that communications in Eastern Command were still under developed and
there had been little change from 1962, when he was commanding 4 Infantry
Divisional Signal Regiment, and become a prisoner of war of the Chinese. Some modest improvements had been carried out
after the 1962 war in NEFA, Calcutta ,
and Nagaland, but the areas surrounding Bhutan East Pakistan,
such as Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya and were still under developed.
Apart from this, the P&T net work was not oriented for the requirements of
military communications from Assam
to the locations of subordinate military formations. This was in contrast with
Western Command where since 1947 the P&T network had been planned and
executed with a positive defence orientation. In the Eastern theatre, even
commercial or civil communications were relatively meagre. Calcutta
An important geographical factor was that all communications – P&T, road and rail - into the North- East region of India passed through the narrow ‘corridor’ between the northern parts of East Pakistan and Sikkim, which was highly vulnerable and could be easily cut off. The only reliable means of communications in 1971 was the microwave link from
to Shillong, via Calcutta .
General Tewari recalls that one of his biggest concerns was the protection of
microwave towers, which he brought up in his frequent meetings with the P&T
Department. A sabotage attempt to any of
the microwave towers in the ‘corridor’ or in places like Darjeeling which could have disrupted the
entire communications network in the region. The situation was aggravated by
the extensive thefts of telephone and telegraph lines, both over head and
underground, in the region. Darjeeling
Soon after he assumed charge, Tewari was confronted with a major communications assignment. In early 1971 the Army was asked to assist the civil authorities in the conduct of elections in
West Bengal. It was a most unusual task, where the Army
was deployed to guard the polling booths and supervise the conduct of the
elections in the whole of West Bengal. Almost
1000 radio detachments - 560 HF and 440 VHF – had to be pooled from all over , from
both Signals and non Signals units. There were a total of 221 radio nets – 100
HF and the remainder VHF. The frequency
allocation for these nets was a major problem, but fortunately there were no
cases of mutual interference. The volume
of message traffic, particularly cipher traffic, increased manifold and had to
be controlled since resources of cipher staff were limited. For Eastern Command
Signals, this served as an unplanned rehearsal for Operation ‘Cactus Lily’,
especially in the aspects of frequency allocation and message traffic control. India
clamp down in Pakistan
on Dacca 25 March 1971,
refugees started streaming into ,
many of them crossing the border into Tripura. To improve communications to the
region, Tewari ordered a radio relay link to be established between Shillong
and Agartala. There was some reservation on the security aspect of working this
link across India East Pakistan in Sylhet area, but
it was established. This move paid dividends later during actual operations,
when a VHF link had to be established from the microwave terminal at Shillong
to Teliamura in Tripura. The P&T Department wanted to locate the terminal in
Agartala but Tewari insisted on Teliamura, which was further away from the
border and outside the range of Pakistani artillery. In the event, this proved
providential and the link proved to be the life line on which the whole of IV
Corps depended for their communications for the three divisional thrust lines.
In the words of General Tewari: “We could
quote this as an example of workability, because P and T Department had refused
to consider our request for a VHF link saying that it was too long a distance and
VHF would not work. We proved it to them
that the RR was working perfectly well.
There was a particular gentleman of the P&T Department who had just
come back from . We had quite a task in convincing him because
he thought he knew everything until he saw this RR functioning from Shillong to
Agartala. He had no choice then but to
give it a try and it proved a success”. 10 America
In July 1971 Eastern Command was warned by Army HQ to be prepared for Operation ‘Cactus Lily’, which involved advance by three corps along multiple thrust lines. To cater for the formations that were to take part in the operation, administrative installations were created at Dharmanagar, Teliamura, Raiganj and Krishnagar. Communications for these administrative installations were provided by DCSO 101 Communication Zone Area, 57 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment, CSO XXXIII Corps and DCSO Bengal Area respectively. To cater for the deployment of the field formations it was decided to develop Krishnagar, Tura and Teliamura as communication centres. Out of these, Tura and Teliamura had no telecommunication facilities, where as Krishnagar was adequately connected to
Ranaghat and Majdia. Calcutta
Once an outline plan of induction and the numbers of formations involved was finalised, detailed studies were carried out to work out the requirement of resources, new line construction and installation of systems. At that time, the following units were on the order of battle of Eastern Command:-
· IV and XXXIII Corps Signal Regiments.
· L, N, S and V Communication Zone Signal Regiments.
· 2, 5, 8, 17, 20, 23, 27 and 57 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiments.
· Eastern Command Signal Regiment & Mobile Signal Company
· 2 Air Support Signal Regiment.
· Bengal Area Signal Company
· 1 Radio Monitoring Company
· 312 (I) and 342 (I) Air Defence Brigade Signal Companies.
· 107 TA (P & T) Signal Company
Most of the above units would be fully committed in case of a hot war. Whereas some spare capacity was available with IV Corps Signal Regiment, L Communication Zone Signal Regiment and 2 Air Support Signal Regiment, some other units like Eastern Command Signal Regiment and Bengal Area Signal Company were not adequately organized to meet their known tasks. It was also known that the deployment against the Chinese had to remain in a very high pitch of readiness, that the counter insurgency operations in Nagaland and Mizoram would continue and that Signals would have to be prepared to assist the P&T Department in the maintenance of essential services during internal strikes and bandhs. Keeping in mind the above, the requirement of additional resources was worked out and discussed during various meetings between the CSO and the SO-in-C. Signals Directorate indicated that only the following additional resources are likely to be made available to Eastern Command:-
· One corps signal regiment.
· One or two independent signal companies (mountain brigade)
· Air support tentacles, based on the actual number of formations deployed.
· Some increments of CSO’s branch in HQ Eastern Command.
An example of the problems being faced with regard to the shortage of manpower, and how they were overcome, is the manner in which Tewari managed to get some staff officers for the Signals Branch. The staff available to him was insufficient and he had been asking for a deputy (a full colonel) and two majors. In spite of all his pleadings he was not getting the additional staff. The SO-in-C tried his best but was not able to get additional staff sanctioned. On 31 October General Pettengell asked Brigadier Tewari to come to
to plead his case in a conference that was to be held next day in the Ministry
of Defence. The conference was held in
the office of the Joint Secretary (G), where the Additional Financial Adviser,
Mr. Joshi was also present. When Tewari
was asked to present his case, Mr. Joshi said, “I have already seen this case, why is this being brought up again? I
have said no”. Delhi
Tewari got upset and said, “Mr. Joshi, I have come all the way from
Government money to come by air to present my case and you are not even
prepared to hear me. I haven’t yet told
you why I must have the staff”. Calcutta
Joshi responded, “Well I don’t think there is any need to present the case again. It has been considered before”.
Tewari got worked up and said, “Mr. Joshi, in 1962 we, fought a war with
lost, we were humiliated. The Indian
Army was humiliated and I was the one who suffered as a prisoner of war,
because you people in finance did not give us enough resources at that time and
we were caught unprepared. Now in the
Eastern Army we are determined to win this war and we are not going to let
these small things put us off. If you
are not prepared to give us this staff, please say so in writing and then you
will be responsible if things do not go right”. China
After this outburst, Tewari realised that he had probably said too much. But it did have the desired effect. He did get some staff - a lieutenant colonel and one additional major.
The following new raisings were ordered by Army HQ for Eastern Command, with the place and date of raising shown against each:-
· II Corps Signal Regiment less 3 Company Krishnagar
4 October 1971
· Bravo Signal Regt Tezpur
7 August 1971
· 1001 (I) Mountain Brigade Signal Company Tezpur
7 August 1971
· 1002 (I) Mountain Brigade Signal Company Tezpur
7 August 1971
· Ad Hoc Company Eastern Command Signal Regiment
Calcutta 29 April 1971
· 1004 Ad Hoc Signal Company Gauhati
18 December 1971
· 8 Mountain Artillery Brigade Signal Company Panagarh Not known
Since the newly raised units were to be used in a likely war during the winter of 1971/72, there was little time even for the raising, let alone training and marrying up the equipment with manpower. In fact all these units except 1002 (I) Mountain Brigade Signal Company were immediately committed to the provisioning of operational signal communications, because though a formal war broke out only on 3 December 1971, border skirmishes had started much earlier. The raisings were delayed due to rail and road communications having been disrupted as a result of the floods. The urgency was not felt in the rear depots and areas and despatch of stores was not prompt and coordinated, leading to additional work to correct the mistakes. For instance, C 41/R222 sets used for radio relay were issued to Bravo Signal Regiment with PE 75 generators but without the transformers to step up the voltage to 230V AC as required by the equipment. It took considerable time in procuring these locally and subsequently progressing their issue through the Signals Directorate. Similarly, cable was issued without the cable laying apparatus. Due to lack of urgency on the part of dispatching depots, units were forced to send escorts to expedite the dispatches. At one time Bravo Signal Regiment had more than 30% its strength out on escort duties only
Signals played an important role in deciding the locations of the headquarters of the formations taking part in the operations viz. IV Corps, II Corps and 101 Communication Zone Area at Teliamura, Krishnanagar and Tura respectively. Apart from the various other tactical and technical factors, the two main factors that had a direct bearing on the above selection was the potential for development for planned offensive operations and the flexibility to switch axes. The requirement of a tactical headquarters for XXXIII Corps was also considered and Raiganj was considered a suitable location. No Army units, much less any signal installation existed at any of the places hence communications infrastructure had to be created from scratch. The respective formation signal units, except in case of XXXIII Corps, were not available to be moved to these places. An early decision which proved very useful was taken to move the regimental headquarters with some elements of N, V and S Communication Zone Signal Regiments to Teliamura, Krishnanagar and Tura respectively. This timely decision created a base at these places on which communications could be developed. It also enabled close liaison with the P&T Department and the construction of PL routes.
PL routes under the BOPEL scheme had been projected in the early sixties and were periodically reviewed. However, except in Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal (NEFA), very little construction had been carried in Eastern Command in the region bordering
East Pakistan, as no major
offensive operations were visualised before 1971. The resources then available
were too meagre to complete these routes within the time available. Neither the
P&T Department nor the Army was geared up to undertake this construction.
All available efforts were, therefore, concentrated to develop the main
arteries viz. Teliamura-Amarpur-Udaipur; Teliamura-Agartala-Champansar;
Dharmanagar-Patharkandi-Karimganj and Balurghat-Raiganj.
The availability of multi channel systems along the required arteries was inadequate to cater for the planned requirements. A tentative requirement of circuits that would be required was projected to the Army HQ and the P&T authorities in Eastern Zone. A certain amount of security risk was involved in this action but was accepted so that the desired systems could be installed in time. Some P&T types of multi channel equipment was also made available by the SO-in-C for use as mobile stations. The P&T Department also diverted equipment from some existing systems in areas which were either not important or where alternate and surplus capacity existed. The backup systems to the microwave arteries were particularly handy in this respect. In spite of these measures, the availability of Voice Frequency Telegraphy (VFT) equipment fell far short of the requirement, which adversely affected the provisioning of telegraph circuits. This was further aggravated by the fact that the 3-channel stackable equipment with the P&T Department was not compatible with the Army (
S+DX) 4A which was being gradually
introduced into service. The frequencies used in the (S+DX) 4A are outside the
channel bandwidth of the 3-channel stackable. The problem was solved by a simple
modification of disconnecting the audio limiting input filter of the 3-channel
stackable. The P&T Department was initially reluctant to allow such and
other ‘playing about’ with their systems. However, once things started moving
there was ample mutual cooperation and they allowed use of Army equipment over
their lines and systems without formal agreements. Some of the P&T systems
such as Agartala-Udaipur Ranaghat-Bongaon and Raiganj-Balurghat were in
unsatisfactory state of serviceability and were repaired with the help of the
Army. Similarly extensive Army assistance was provided for rehabilitation of
P&T lines and also in the form of transport to carry their equipment and
exchanges which were meant for the Army.
Since it was known that operations would be conducted deep into enemy territory, it was important to obtain information of communications infrastructure in
which could be used by the advancing troops. It was soon realised that among
the refugees who had crossed over into there were several personnel
who had this information. In June 1971 a team of officers was detailed for this
task. It comprised Lieutenant Colonel Surjit Singh, (Signals Branch, HQ XXXIII
Corps); Major N.T. Singh (17 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment); Major M.
Guin (S Communication Zone Signal Regiment); Major I.C. Singal (IV Corps Signal
Regiment); and Major R.B.S. Babulkar (N Communication Zone Signal Regiment).
Babulkar, who was subsequently promoted and appointed CO 3 Air Formation Signal
Regiment, headed the team, while Surjit was asked to check and assist in their
functioning. The team was tasked to obtain information about the organisation
and functions of Pakistan Army Signals and the telecommunications set up in India East Bengal.
Members of the team visited the refugee camps located at various
locations and interrogated personnel who could give the required information.
The information collected by the team was compiled and a Telecom Intelligence
Report was issued by CSO Eastern Command to all Signals units before the
operations commenced. The 33 page report provided valuable information on the
communication infrastructure in East Pakistan,
such as microwave links, VHF links, permanent lines, telephone exchanges etc.
It also gave details of the communication networks of the Army, Air Force,
Police and East Pakistan Rifles, along with the type and quantities of
equipment being used. Of special interest to Signals was the organisation and
functioning of Pakistan Army Signals, down to unit and sub-unit level.
To augment the signal intelligence in Eastern Command, it was decided that that the Central Monitoring Organisation (CMO) resources would be placed under the Signal Intelligence organisation. The resources available to the para military units were also to be utilised for this purpose. This was coordinated during meetings held with Brigadier Ajit Singh, MBE, Director CMO; Brigadier J.S. Kalra, Director Signal Intelligence; Brigadier S.R. Khurana, Wireless Adviser, Border Security Force and Brigadier Vinayak Mehta, who was in charge of communications for the Central Reserve Police Force. Another important decision was to place the Signal Intelligence resources directly under HQ Eastern Command. This was agreed only after Major General J.F.R Jacob, the Chief of Staff in
spoke to General Manekshaw. As a result,
Eastern Command was able to build up the complete Pakistani order of battle in
the East and read enemy intentions. During operations, it also enabled them to
respond quickly to changing situations.11 Calcutta
N Communication Zone Signal Regiment
The unit was originally raised as Nagaland Signal Regiment with only two companies in 1963. It was subsequently re-designated as ‘N’ Communication Zone Signal Regiment and moved Jorhat in
1964. From then onwards, the unit was involved in construction and maintenance
of PL routes in Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. The unit was under the technical
control of DCSO 101 Communication Zone Area located at Shillong. During
Operation ‘Cactus Lily’, the unit was placed under CSO IV Corps. In 1971, the
unit was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel B.K. Bhandari, who had assumed
charge in July 1970. Assam
As soon the Signals plan for the operation had been finalised, the construction of new PL routes was ordered. The projected location of HQ IV Corps was at Teliamura. The unit was required to build the communication infrastructure at Teliamura from scratch, since none existed until then. It was also assigned the task of constructing the new PL route Teliamura-Amarpur-Udaipur-Kakraban in Tripura. To facilitate this task and ensure better coordination with the P&T Department, the regimental headquarters and some elements were moved to Teliamura from Jorhat, where the unit continued to man the static communications.
The target date given to the unit for completion of the PL route by the SO-in-C was
5 October 1971.
The distance was 108 km and the task involved construction of two pairs of 242
lbs copper weld A4BC route, carrier transposed. The CO had some reservations
about being able to complete the task in time, but asked Major Jagmohan Khullar
and his boys to go all out and start the work. The line was constructed by 2
October, three days ahead of the target date. One pair of this route was later
extended to Sonamura, a distance of 26 km. This was duly conveyed by Brigadier
G.S. Sidhu, CSO IV Corps to Brigadier Tewari, who reported the completion of
the route to the SO-in-C, adding that the circuits were working satisfactorily.
On 6 October, General Pettengell replied:
“I am very pleased to know that the PL route from TELLIAMURA to KAKARABAN via UDAIPUR was completed by BHANDARI’s boys on 02 Oct 71 – 3 days before the target date indicated by me. You will remember that in the course of conversation the CO felt the time limit given was too short. Please congratulate them for the good work. I would like to see all their future tasks completed with the same enthusiasm and speed without having to be pressed unnecessarily. Where there’s a will there’s always a way”. 12
The unit continued to perform creditably after the commencement of the operations, laying several PL and PVC routes and rehabilitating existing routes in
constructed 103 km of PVC route, a carrier quad aerial route of 69 km and a
JWDI route of 29 km in Tripura and Bangladesh during the operations.
For rehabilitation of PL routes in Bangladesh , three ad-hoc line
construction companies were attached with various formations of IV Corps during
the operations. The task of these companies was to maintain the routes
constructed by the unit and extend the trunk arteries from HQ IV Corps to the
formations under command during their advance. To extend these arteries
speedily, extensive rehabilitation of existing but badly damaged PL routes was
carried out with the stores and personnel of the T&T Department of
erstwhile Bangladesh East Pakistan. In all 501 km of PL
routes were rehabilitated.
After the operations were over, elements of the unit were left behind till
10 May 1972 to man signal centres at Dharmanagar
and Masimpur, which they had been manning since July 1971. The good work done
by the unit was recognised by the award of the Vishisht Seva Medal to the CO,
Lieutenant Colonel B.K. Bhandari and a ‘Mention in Despatches’ to Major
OPERATION ‘CACTUS LILY’
In November 1971 Indian troops were permitted to go into
Pakistan up to a depth of ten miles to silence enemy guns that had
started shelling Indian border posts. These instructions were used to advantage
by Indian troops to secure specific areas which helped in improving our
offensive posture. HQ Eastern Command gave its formations the following tasks,
which were expanded as the situation developed:-
· II Corps - to invest enemy defences in area Afra and capture Mohammedpur; secure the
; and capture Uthali. Khalispur Bridge
· XXXIII Corps - to clear Pachagarh and advance as far south as possible towards Thaurgaon; and capture Hilli.
· 101 Communication Zone Area – to capture Jaintiapur; capture Kamalpur and advance to Bakshiganj; and threaten Mymensingh, Haluaghat, Phulpur, Shyamganj and
· IV Corps – to capture Gangasagar and clear area up to Saidabad; establish a battalion block in area Debigram; isolate Akhaura and Brahman Baria; eliminate Pakistani border posts in Narayanpur area; capture Shamshernagar and Kalhaura; and isolate Feni.
Most of the preliminary operations were completed before the commencement of hostilities on
1971. On the Chaugacha-Jessore axis, 9 Infantry Division had reached
Arpana, about half way from the border to Jessore. A bridge had been
constructed across the Bhairab river at Bayra, linking it with the road to
Chaugacha. Meanwhile, 4 Mountain Division had captured Jibanagar, Uthali and
Darsana and advanced towards Khalispur on the Jibanagar-Kotchadnpur axis and up
to Silind on the Darsana- Kotchadnpur axis.
In the North-Western Sector, parts of Hilli defences like Naoara, Monapara and Basudebpur had been occupied but Hilli itself could not be captured, due to stiff resistance by the enemy. In the area of Dinajpur, Khanpur and Mukundpur had been occupied. On the Samja-Phulbari axis, both banks of the
were secured. On the
Morgah-Dinajpur axis, 71 Mountain Brigade had captured Thakurgaon. In the
Nageshwar salient, Indian troops had cleared al the area north of the Ichamati River .
In the South-Eastern Sector, the salient east of the line Chargam-Karimganj had been secured. In the area of Kalaura, Ghazipur had been captured, Kalaura invested and the Shamsernagar airfield secured. In the Akhaura area, Gangasagar had been captured and a block established to its west. Further south, the whole of the Belonia bulge had been cleared.
In these preliminary operations, whenever attacks were launched against well prepared defences, the Pakistanis fought doggedly and did not give up easily. The attacks on Hilli defences commenced on 23 November but the position was finally captured only on 11 December, after the loss of 67 killed and 90 wounded. In the North-Eastern Sector, the garrison at Kamalpur beat back two attacks by 95 Infantry Brigade, surrendering only after their supplies ran out. The Teliakhalli post was captured at the cost of 23 killed and 35 wounded. In the South-Eastern Sector the Khalai post, held initially by a Pakistani platoon that was later built up to two companies, repulsed two consecutive attacks and was finally cleared by a whole brigade.
It had been planned to carry out an airdrop by a battalion at Tangail, where ‘Tiger’ Siddiqui was located with about 20,000 Freedom Fighters. A parachute battalion was to link up with the Freedom Fighters and 95 Infantry Brigade advancing from the north, after which the combined force was to move towards
Prior to the para drop, a preliminary operation was carried out by an advance
party with a signal detachment under the command of Captain P.K. Ghosh, of 50
Independent Parachute Brigade Signal Company. Ghosh was infiltrated into Dacca East Pakistan and contacted Siddiqui, to seek his help in
preparing the dropping zone for the air drop by the battalion. He also briefed
Siddiqui and asked for his assistance in the collection of stores that were to
be dropped as also in establishing a road block. Siddiqui was also told that in
the event of war his forces were to move with Indian troops to . In the event, Siddiqui assisted in the
para drop but took no offensive action against withdrawing Pakistani troops. He
did however, move his force to Dacca after the cease fire.13 Dacca
Outbreak of War
The Indo Pak war of 1971 began at 1740 hours on
3 December 1971, when the Pakistani Air Force
bombed several Indian airfields in West India.
At 1800 hours General Manekshaw telephoned Major General Jacob, and told him
that war had begun and he would be issuing confirmatory orders shortly. He also
asked Jacob to notify Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was then in . Jacob
immediately informed the Army Commander, General Aurora, who left for the Raj
Bhawan, where the Prime Minister was staying. Cutting short her tour, Gandhi flew back to Calcutta the same night. The corps commanders
had already been briefed on telephone and by 2030 hours HQ Eastern Command
issued orders for commencement of the offensive. By daybreak on Delhi 4 December 1971 the Indian
invasion of East Bengal was underway.
Eastern Command was given the task of destroying enemy forces and occupying the major portion of
East Pakistan. HQ Eastern Command
in turn tasked its formations as under:
· In the South – Western Sector, II Corps comprising 4 Mountain Division, 9 Mountain Division, 50 Parachute Brigade less a battalion, a regiment of armour (PT-76) and a squadron of T-55 tanks was to capture Jessore and Jhenida and subsequently secure Hardinge Bridge, Goalundo Ghat and Faridpur ferries and Khulna.
· In the North – Western Sector, XXXIII Corps comprising 20 Mountain Division and 71 Mountain Brigade was to cut the line Hilli-Gaibanda and to capture Bogra Rangpur.
· In the Central Sector, 101 Communication Zone comprising 95 Mountain Brigade and FJ Sector was to capture Jamalpur and Mymensingh and subsequently Tangail. A para drop by one battalion was to take place at Tangail.
· In the Eastern Sector, IV Corps comprising 8, 57 and 23 Mountain Divisions was to capture Maulvi Bazar, Sylhet, Daudkandi-Mynamati and Lalmai Hills (South) – Laksham and subsequently Chandpur respectively. 311 Brigade with Kilo Force was to capture
OPERATIONS ON THE II CORPS FRONT
Lieutenant General T.N. Raina, MVC, was the GOC II Corps. The divisional commanders under him were Major General Dalbir Singh (9 Infantry Division) and Major General M.S. Barar (4 Mountain Division). In addition, he had Major General P. Chowdry (Bengal Area) and Brigadier Mathew Thomas (50 Parachute Brigade). Raina considered Jessore to be the key to the defence of this Sector and planned his operations accordingly. The aim was to liberate territory west of the river Padma. He planned to do this by containing Pakistani strongholds near the border while fast-moving columns bypassed them and raced for the Madhumati river to prevent the bulk of the enemy from withdrawing across the river and making for the Meghna ferries to
The corps plan was to spread the two divisional thrusts into several columns
making for the important communication centres at Jessore, Jhenida, Dacca , and Khulna and to cut the
Khulna-Jessore-Kushtia railway to prevent the lateral move of the enemy.
Subsequently Barisal ,
Faridpur, Goalundo Ghat and Hardinge Brigade were also to be secured. Khulna
9 Infantry Division
The task allotted to 9 Infantry Division was to capture Jessore by D plus 7, followed by the capture of
with a brigade group. Thereafter, the division was to be prepared
to capture Jhenida or Magura; and then secure the ferries in the Goaluno Ghat
and Faridpur areas. The divisional
commander planned to launch a brigade each from Bayra and Gobardanga to get
behind Jhingargacha and to use the third brigade along the main Bangaon-Jessore
axis. In this manner, he would be able
to isolate and destroy the enemy forces fighting forward and capture Jessore
In a swift night operation 42 Infantry Brigade secured Garibpur, as a preliminary operation. The enemy launched a counter attack with infantry and armour but failed to dislodge 14
Punjab which had captured this position, supported by PT
76 tanks. In the process, the Pakistanis
lost a large number of tanks and personnel. Indian troops also suffered
substantial casualties, but lost only a couple of tanks. After the capture of Garibpur, the divisional
commander changed his original plan of advance to Jessore. He sent 42 and 350
Infantry Brigades on the central and northern approaches, but due to heavy
resistance these were held up at Arpara and Burinda. Though Burinda was captured by 350 Brigade on
5 December after heavy casualties, the GOC felt that the northern approach
would pay better dividends and would be less expensive in casualties.
Bringing 32 Infantry Brigade to the north, the divisional commander ordered 42 Brigade to secure Durgabarkati and 32 Brigade to pass through and capture Jessore. 2 Sikh Light Infantry supported by a squadron of 63 Cavalry captured Durgabarkati on the morning of 6 December. As planned, 32 Brigade passed through and advanced towards Jessore, clearing Afra which was vacated by the enemy on the night of 6/7 December. On 7 December Jessore was vacated by the enemy who pulled out without a fight. Jessore was held by an infantry brigade group supported by tanks and artillery and it had been estimated that its reduction would involve up to a week’s bitter fighting. Instead, it fell in a single day.
After the fall of Jessore, 32 Infantry Brigade continued its advance to
After fighting through a number of delaying positions it was held up at
Daulatpur, north of Khulna . Reports indicated that the position was held
by an enemy brigade. Appreciating that its capture would need more troops, the
divisional commander decided to move the bulk of 9 Infantry Division to this
area. He planned to employ 42 Brigade to secure Syamganj ferry across the
Bhariab river, advance along the east bank and after re-crossing south of
Daulatpur, attack and capture Khulna . 350 Brigade was to attack the enemy position
from the north. Syamganj was secured on
13 December but subsequent advance was slowed down due to enemy
interference. On Khulna 15 December, 350 Brigade was launched
from the north and 1 Jammu & Kashmir Rifles secured Syamganj, after
suffering fairly heavy casualties. In
the next phase, 4 Sikh secured Eastern Siramani
by early morning of 16 December. Subsequently, the third battalion, 13 Dogra,
captured Western Siramani on the same day.
While the attack of 13 Dogra was in progress and 14 Punjab
was about to cross the River Bhairab, orders were received for a cease fire at
1500 hours on 16 December. In a brief ceremony held next day at , almost 5000
Pakistani troops including Brigadier Hayat Khan, Commander 107 Pak Infantry
Brigade surrendered to Major General Dalbir Singh, GOC 9 Infantry Division. Khulna
4 Mountain Division
The task given to 4 Mountain Division was to capture Jhenida by D plus 8, followed by the securing of the ferry site over Madhumati river by D plus 11. The divisional commander, Major General M.S. Barar planned to advance with 41 Brigade on the Uthali-Kotchandpur axis and with 62 Brigade on the Jibannagar-Kaliganj axis. After the capture of Kotchandpur, he planned to employ 41 Brigade along the Kotchandpur-Sadhuhati axis and 62 Brigade along the Kaliganj-Jhenida axis.
Uthali and Jibanagar were secured as a preliminary operation. In order to clear the axis of maintenance, 41 Brigade decided to capture Darsana. In the early hours of 4 December, 22 Rajput captured the railway embankment followed by the capture of the railway station by 5/1 Gorkha Rifles. By mid day, Darsana town had been secured. On the Kailganj axis, 62 Brigade encountered stiff resistance at Khalipur and was ordered to advance along a minor track in the north towards Suadih, which was found to be strongly held. After a determined attack, 5 Maratha Light Infantry and 9 Dogra (ex-41 Brigade) captured Suadih by early morning on 5 December. Subsequently, 9 Dogra captured Kotchandpur in the afternoon.
The divisional commander decided to isolate Chaudanga and attack Jhenida before the troops in the front could fall back on this fortress. He sent 5 Guards (ex-41 Brigade) with an armoured squadron to establish a block in Sadhuhati area, to deal with any enemy withdrawing from Chaudanga. On 6 December, 5/1 Gorkha Rifles established a bridge head over the
after which 9 Dogra passed through and captured Jhenida on 7 December. Unable to fall back on the fortress at
Jhenida and thoroughly confused about the Indian plans, the enemy withdrew
towards Kushtia. As a result, 62 Brigade
was able to capture Kaliganj on 7 December and Magura on 8 December without
much resistance. Chitra River
The next task was the capture of Kushtia and
for which the
corps reserve (7 Brigade) was released to the division. Advancing from Jhenida,
22 Rajput were held up on the outskirts of Kushtia due to stiff resistance by
the enemy and suffered heavy casualties.
It was now clear that the remnants of Pakistani 57 Brigade had withdrawn
to Kushtia. The divisional commander concentrated
the bulk of his division for an attack on Kushtia and was also given some
additional armour and artillery. After a heavy preparatory bombardment Kushtia
was attacked on 11 December by 7 and 41 Brigades and captured easily, the enemy
having withdrawn. On the following day,
41 Brigade captured the Hardinge
Bridge , which had been
blown up by the Pakistanis on Hardinge
Information was received that an ad hoc force of the enemy was holding the east bank of
opposite Magura, on the way to Faridpur. The divisional commander decided to employ 62 and
7 brigades from the north and the south of the enemy positions in the
Kamarkhali area and trap the enemy.
Crossing the river at Duman and Komarpur respectively, 62 and 7 Brigade
secured the area on the night of 14/15 December. Subsequently, blocks were
established near Gopaldi on 15 December.
Finding his withdrawal routes obstructed, the Pakistanis became
desperate and attacked the blocks, but could not succeed in dislodging them. In the process, they suffered heavy
casualties and broke up.14 Madhumati River
OPERATIONS ON THE XXXIII CORPS FRONT
Lieutenant General M.L. Thapan was the GOC XXXIII Corps. He had under his command 20 Mountain Division (Major General Lachhman Singh, VrC) and 71 Mountain Brigade (Brigadier PN Kathpalia). At a later stage, 6 Mountain Division (Major General P.C. Reddy) was made responsible for the operations of 71 Mountain Brigade. The corps was also allotted 63 Cavalry less a squadron (T 55); 69 Armoured Regiment (PT 76) and 471 Engineer Brigade for the operation. The task given to XXXIII Corps was to cut the line Hill-Gaibanda and subsequently to capture Bogra or Rangpur, depending on the situation. Thapan planned to employ 20 Mountain Division for securing Hill-Gaibanda and thereafter for the capture of Bogra. 71 Mountain Brigade was to be utilized for the advance to Dinajpur and for the subsequent capture of Rangpur.
71 Mountain Brigade
71 Mountain Brigade was ordered to advance along the Pachagarh-Thakurgaon-Dinajpur axis and capture Dinajpur. In a preliminary operation, the brigade captured Pachagarh using 7 Maratha Light Infantry, after isolating it from the rest of the Sector by employing 21 Rajput. The enemy had in fact withdrawn from the position, when he found that he was cut off. Subsequently, 21 Rajput captured Thakurgaon, which had also been vacated after being cut off by a company of the Marathas. Continuing their advance, the brigade captured Birganj on 5 December and contacted the Kantanagar bridge on the Dhepa river on 6 December. The Pakistanis had blown up the bridge and were holding the area between the Dhepa and Atrai rivers in strength. The brigade tried to cross the river but suffered heavy casualties. On the night of 9/10 December, a battalion block was established south of the enemy position towards Dinajpur but this proved ineffective since the lines of maintenance were from the east.
After failing to make headway towards Dinajpur, it was decided to change the thrust line of the brigade to the east, towards Nilphamari. Accordingly, it crossed the Dhepa river and advanced on the Birganj-Khansama-Darwani-Saidpur axis until it reached Khansama, where it was help up by the enemy. After establishing a block behind the position, 21 Rajput attacked and captured Khansama on 13 December. The enemy tried to counter attack on 14 December, but was frustrated by air attacks and artillery fire. Continuing its advance, the brigade captured Darwani on 15 December. By the morning of
71 Brigade had reached about 8 km south-west of Nilphamari. As a
result of the relentless pressure by the brigade, the Pakistanis did not, until
the end, risk thinning out their strongholds at Saidpur, Rangpur, Parvatipur
and Dinajpur to reinforce the threatened areas further south.15
20 Mountain Division
Major General Lachhman Singh, GOC 20 Mountain Division initially planned to secure the Hilli-Gaibanda line, employing two brigades in the advance, keeping one brigade to hold the firm base and the fourth brigade as a reserve. He tasked 202 Mountain Brigade to capture Hilli and then Palasbari; 66 Mountain Brigade to advance along the axis Samjia-Phulbari-Charkai and capture Charkai, followed by Pirganj and Gaibanda; 165 Mountain Brigade to defend the area Balurghat-Malda; and 340 Mountain Brigade to be in the reserve.
As a preliminary operation, the area Nopara-Morapara, on the northern flank of Hilli was secured by 8 Guards (202 Mountain Brigade) while Garhwal Rifles secured Basudeopur. However, the advance of 202 Mountain Brigade could not proceed beyond Hilli, which had been developed into a very strong position. Meanwhile, 20 Maratha Light Infantry of 66 Brigade captured Phulbari while Charkai was captured by 69 Armoured Regiment on 4 December by a surprise move. In view of the strong resistance put up by the Pakistanis at Hilli, the divisional commander decided to move 202 Brigade back through
territory in the Balurghat bulge to the Charkai area and utilize
it for an advance to Ghoraghat via Bhaduria.
66 Brigade was to advance to Pirganj as originally planned via
Advancing on the track towards Pirganj, 66 Brigade captured Nawabganj and Hathangi ferry on 5 December and Kanchanda ferry on 6 December. However, due to the strong presence of the enemy in the Hilli area, 202 Brigade could not be moved and was thus left behind. To keep up the momentum of the advance, it was now decided that 66 Brigade would hold the area Charkai-Nawabganj-Bridgehead while 340 Brigade would advance to Pirganj. Commencing its advance early on 7 December from the Nawabganj area, 340 Brigade captured Pirganj the same evening.
The divisional commander now planned his advance to Bogra. He decided to utilize 340 Brigade to advance on the Pirganj-Gobindganj axis and to capture Gobindganj followed by Bogra. Simultaneously, 66 Brigade was to advance on the Nawabganj-Bhaduria-Goraghat axis and capture Goraghat. 202 Brigade was to capture Hilli and then link up with 66 Brigade in the Goraghat area. Subsequently, it was to advance on the Goraghat-Khetlal-Bogra axis.
Advancing rapidly, 340 Brigade captured Palashbari on 9 December and Gaibanda and Phulchari ferry on 10 December, securing the ‘waistline’ and isolating Pakistani forces in the Dinajpur-Rangpur belt. Pressing on further south, the brigade captured Gobindganj on 11 December with a brilliant enveloping move. Meanwhile 66 Brigade captured Bhaduria with the support of tanks on 11 December. 202 Brigade encountered stiff resistance at Hilli, but after capture of Maheshpur area in the rear of Hilli on 10 December, the enemy started showing signs of weakness. Three battalions – 22 Maratha Light Infantry, 4 Rajput and 8 Guards - closed in on the Hilli position, while a fourth battalion - 4
- posed a serious threat from the
rear. After the capture of Bhaduria, the
enemy got into a panic and began to pull out. This enabled 202 Brigade to
advance to Goraghat on 11 December and to Khetlal on 12 December. However, the
advance was held up at Khetlal due to enemy resistance across a water obstacle. Madras
Resuming its advance from Gobindgarh towards Bogra, 340 Brigade captured a bridge over the
intact on 12 December. The defences of
Bogra were contacted on 13 December. The brigade commander sent an armoured
regiment cum infantry battalion group on an outflanking movement from the east
to cut off Bogra in the early hours of 14 December. By the end of the day, 340
Brigade had captured Bogra, along with 20 officers and 500 other ranks. Karatoya River
On 13 December, 20 Mountain Division was ordered to capture Rangpur at the earliest. 66 Brigade advanced towards Rangpur via Mithapukur on 15 December, while 202 Brigade advanced on the western flank on 16 December. As the advance progressed, Pakistani resistance ceased and the war ended on 16 December 1971.16
101 COMMUNICATION ZONE AREA
Major General Gurbax Singh Gill was the GOC 101 Communication Zone Area. The formation commanders under him were Brigadier H.S. Kler (95 Mountain Brigade) and Brigadier Sant Singh (FJ Sector). Apart from Brigadier Kler, the brigade majors of both formations were also signal officers - Major G.L. Rajpal (95 Mountain Brigade) and Major (later Lieutenant General and SO-in-C) S.G. Mookerjee (FJ Sector). At a subsequent stage, 167 Mountain Brigade (Brigadier Irani) was also allotted to 101 Communication Zone Area. The task assigned to the General Gill was to capture Jamalpur-Mymensingh, followed by Tangail and thereafter establish contact with
. These tasks were in addition to its normal
commitment of providing logistic support to the formations in the region. Gill
planned to utilise 95 Mountain Brigade to capture Jamalpur by D plus 6/7 and FJ
Sector to capture Mymensingh after the capture of Jamalpur. Thereafter, he planned to capture Tangail by
D plus 8. An inland water transport task
force was to move down from Dhubri to Jamalpur down the Dacca ,
to provide logistic support for the forces.
For the capture of Tangail, a para drop by a battalion group was
planned. Brahmaputra River
95 Mountain Brigade
As a preliminary operation, 13 Guards captured Kamalpur on
December 1971. Concurrently
a force of two infantry battalions carried out a wide outflanking move and
captured Bakshiganj on 5 December, the enemy having pulled out during the
previous night. Resuming its advance on 6 December, the brigade reached the
north bank of the Brahmaputra on the evening
of 7 December, after overcoming enemy resistance along the route. During this period, Gill was injured in a
mine accident and had to be evacuated.
Major General G.C. Nagra, GOC 2 Mountain Division assumed command of 101
Communication Zone Area.
As the enemy was holding Jamalpur in strength, it was decided that while one battalion would advance from the front on the main axis, two battalions would carry out an outflanking move, cross the river west of Jamalpur and establish blocks behind the enemy. Accordingly, 1 Maratha Light Infantry and 13 Guards crossed the river Shyampur after a long march on man pack basis on 6 December. Due to the delay in the arrival of their heavy weapons which were being carried on bullock carts, the road blocks were set up only in early hours of 9 December. At this stage Kler sent a messenger to the Pakistani garrison in Jamalpur, asking them to surrender. Colonel Sultan, Commander Kamalpur Fortress, sent back a sarcastic note, accompanied by a bullet, turning down the offer, and advising Kler to fight instead of talking. He ended the note with the words: “Hoping to find you with a sten in your hand next time, instead of the pen you seem to have so much mastery over”.
As the Jamalpur garrison continued to hold out, Nagra decided to send one more battalion to the area south of Jamalpur, with a view to clearing the position from the rear. On
8 December 167 Brigade under
Brigadier Irani was allotted to him by Eastern Command. Nagra ordered Irani to
report to him with one battalion at the earliest. Irani reported to Nagra on 9
December, but 6 Sikh Light Infantry joined the force only on 10 December and
was placed under Kler who now controlled operations from the area South of
Jamalpur. The Indians increased pressure
on the enemy at Jamalpur by air attacks and artillery. The Pakistanis tried to break out but could
not overcome the block held by the Marathas. In the process, they suffered many
casualties. Finally, early in the morning on 11 December the garrison
surrendered, though Colonel Sultan and a number of his men managed to slip out
On the Mymensingh axis, 6
Bihar of FJ Sector attacked and captured Haluaght on 7
December, the enemy having withdrawn the previous night. Resuming the advance, they secured Sarchapur
on 9 December, after an earlier attempt to capture it on the night of 5/6
December failed. On 10 December the enemy vacated Mymensingh, which occupied on
the following day. Sant Singh occupied Madhupur on 12 December without a fight.
With the operations in Jamalpur and Mymensingh going on favourably, it was decided to carry out the para drop as planned. On the evening of 11 December, 2 Parachute Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel K.S. Pannu) was dropped in the Poongli area with a view to capturing the bridge over the
and destroying the
retreating enemy from Jamalpur and Mymensingh.
The battalion secured the bridge by 2000 hours and soon thereafter
intercepted about 300 enemy troops withdrawing from the area. However, it was discovered that the bulk of
the enemy had already escaped earlier before the para drop. News of the success
of the para drop reached higher headquarters only on the morning on 12
December, since the battalion was out of radio contact throughout the night. Lohajang
The Advance Towards
It was reported that the enemy had split into smaller groups and withdrawn to Kaliakar and Tungi. Resuming its advance from Tangail on 13 December, 6 Sikh Light Infantry of 95 Brigade captured Kaliakar the same night and reached the
on the morning of 14 December. The
advance was held up by the Pakistanis who were holding the bridge site with
infantry supported by tanks. Attempts to
pressurize the enemy by sending a couple of companies across the river to
threaten his flanks failed as the Pakistanis used their tanks against the
infantry. At this stage, information was
received that a good road existed linking Safipur on the main road, to the
Dhamrai-Dacca road and that there were no water obstacles along this
approach. This was exploited for
subsequent operations. Gurag River
Nagra decided to change his plans on 14 December. He ordered Kler to move down along the
and Sant Singh to move down towards Mirpur.
On 15 December, 6 Sikh Light Infantry managed to secure a bridge head
some distance to the south of the bridge site.
However, they were held up in the Chandna area. FJ Sector, suitably re-grouped with 13 Guards
and 6 Turag River Bihar and some artillery, advanced from
Kaliakar to Dharmrai area via Safipur on 14 December. After securing the
Dhamraj ferry area in the early morning of 15 December, 13 Guards, the leading
battalion, continued on to Sabhar and captured it by the evening. As 95 Brigade was held up in the Chandna
area, 167 Brigade was given the task of crossing the
in the Mena area, with a view to cutting off the enemy opposite 95
Brigade. Two battalions of this brigade
crossed the river and established a block in the Gachha area, in the early
hours of 16 December. The enemy then
withdrew from Chandna and was successfully intercepted at Gachha. By now
elements of IV Corps had crossed the Turag River and were
In order to facilitate better coordination for the battle of Dacca, the Army
Commander placed 101 Communication Zone Area under the command of IV Corps with
effect from mid-day on 15 December.18 Dacca
Brigadier H.S. Kler was awarded the MVC for this operation. His photograph and citation are given below:-
During the Indo-Pak War 1971, Brig Kler commanded a mountain brigade on the Eastern front. His braigade was asked to lead the Indian advance in Kamalpur-Turag river axis. It involved clearing of strong enemy opposition at Kamalpur, Bakshiganj, Jamalpur, Tangail, Mirzapur and river Turag and many minor obstacles in between.
During the advance Brig Kler always moved with then leading troops, directing the operations in
complete disregard of his safety. His handling of the troops during the battle of Jamalpur showed great professional skill. He provided great inspiration to his troops, who had laid siege behind the enemy positions south of Jamalpur, by his presence in the thick of the battle. He directed the operations so skilfully and courageously that all aqttempts by the enemy at breakthrough were foiled. Enemy suffered heavy casualties and lost 379 men as prisoners of war. He also lost a large quantity of weapons and ammunition to the Indians.
Brig Kler was awarded Mahavir Chakra for displaying outstanding courage and leadership.
OPERATIONS ON THE IV CORPS FRONT
Lieutenant General Sagat Singh was the GOC IV Corps, with his headquarters at Teliamura in Tripura. The formations under his command were 8 Mountain Division (Major General K.V. Krishna Rao), 57 Mountain Division (Major General B.F Gonsalves), 23 Mountain Division (Major General R.D. Hira, MVC) and Kilo Sector (Brigadier Anand Swarup). The corps was given the task of securing the area up to the line of
. Sagat Singh considered that if he could close
up with the Meghna in the area of Daudkandi-Chandpur, he could pose a serious
threat to Meghna River . At the same time, he had to ensure that the
Pakistani troops deployed in the Sylhet-Maulvi Bazar sector and Feni-Chittagong
sector did not interfere with the operations or fall back for the defence of
bowl. In accordance with this broad
strategy, he tasked his formations as under:- Dacca
· 8 Mountain Division was to capture Maulvi Bazar and thereafter the Sherpur-Sadipur ferries. Depending on the situation, the division was to capture Sylhet and secure Brahmanbaria. Subsequently, the division was to be prepared to participate in the operations for the capture of
· 57 Mountain Division was to capture Akhaura, followed by Daudkandi. Later, it was also to capture
61 Mountain Brigade of this division was to initially operate under corps
headquarters and was to isolate Comilla from the north and west and
subsequently establish a firm base for the capture of Daudkandi.. Chittagong
· 23 Mountain Division was to capture the southern portion of Lalmai Hills-Laksham. Thereafter it was to capture Chandpur. Subsequently the division was also to clear the enemy from the Lalmai Hills.
· Kilo Sector was to capture Feni and subsequently
8 Mountain Division
The divisional commander decided to launch his main thrusts from the south and south-east, i.e., Dharmanagar-Fenchuganj-Sylhet and Kailashahar-Maulvi-Bazar-Sherpur-Sylhet. Advancing on the Dharmanagar axis, 59 Mountain Brigade encountered stiff opposition at Ghazipur. 6 Rajput launched an attack but was able to capture only part of the objective, as the enemy reinforced it. 4/5 Gorkha Rifles captured the position on 5 December after some determined hand to hand fighting throughout the night. Concurrently, 9 Guards captured Kapnapahar, after some tough fighting. The enemy counter attacked but was beaten back. Kulaura was secured without a fight on 6 December, followed by Brahman Bazar. On 7 December the advance was continued towards Fenchuganj, led by 6 Rajput.
On the Kailashahar axis, 81 Mountain Brigade launched its attack on Shamshernagar. After some bitter fighting 10 Mahar secured Chatlapur, while 3
Punjab captured Bagichara. In the next phase, 4 Kumaon after overcoming
stiff resistance captured Shamshernagar.
Subsequently, the battalion captured the Shamshernagar airfield.
Although damaged from air attacks, the airfield was quickly made serviceable by
the Border Roads Organization on 4 December.
Resuming the advance, 3 Punjab captured
Munshi Bazar by the evening of 6 December.
From here, 10 Mahar took over the lead and contacted the outer defences
of Maulvi Bazar the next day.
At this stage, it was learned that the Pakistani divisional commander had instructed Pak 311 Brigade to withdraw towards Ashuganj, but the brigade commander declined to comply with these orders, due to a road block established by 81 Mountain Brigade on the Maulvi Bazar-Ashuganj road. Another report indicated that Pak 202 Brigade was trying to concentrate in Sylhet and pull out of the sector with a view to moving to the Ashuganj area.
The corps commander now saw an opportunity to seize Sylhet, and decided to do so by a heli-borne operation. 4/5 Gorkha Rifles was selected for the purpose and the operation was launched in the afternoon of 7 December. As only nine MI-4 helicopters were available, essential elements of the battalion along with two mountain guns were landed in phases. This was the first time an 'air bridge' had been employed by the Indian Army. Being a paratrooper, Sagat knew the potential of a heli-borne force and could appreciate the immense advantages that accrued from its employment at the opportune moment. The enemy was demoralised, and made no efforts to attack 4/5 Gorkha Rifles. As he had visualised, the noise of the helicopters misled the Pakistanis – it was later learned that they thought that an Indian brigade had landed.
Maulvi Bazar was held by Pak 313 Brigade, which was occupying a strong defended position on a prominent high ground. From the very beginning, Hunter aircraft operating from Kumbhigram airfield had been tasked to constantly bomb Maulvi Bazar with napalm. The heli-borne operation near Sylhet so unnerved the Pakistani Command that the Maulvi Bazar brigade group was moved away to Sylhet, which already had a brigade group of four battalions. This was reported by the Indian Air Force, which flew a tactical reconnaissance mission over Maulvi Bazar next day. On the night of
8 December, 81
Brigade launched its attack and captured Maulvi Bazar, the enemy having fled in
panic. In a Pakistani officers’ mess, they found lunch laid on the table,
In the north, Echo Sector captured Jaintiapur, but was held up at Sarighat on 7 December, as the bridge was blown and formation had no engineer support. A company of Engineers was sent on a roundabout route, and on 10 December, Echo Sector advanced up to Hemu, where again a bridge was demolished. However, the Hemu position was captured the same night. The advance was held up again at Chandighat, which was captured on 12 December. Finally, after overcoming a number of delaying positions Echo Sector attacked and captured the Khadim Nagar position north of Sylhet on 16 December. From the East Bengal Brigade, 1 East Bengal Rifles under Colonel Zia-ur-Rehman (later to become President of Bangladesh) carried out an outflanking move and secured Chicknagul area on the night of 11/12 December.
59 Mountain Brigade commenced its advance and contacted Fenchuganj position on 11 December. The far bank was strongly held and the railway bridge, though intact, was swept by fire. However, a company of 6 Rajput rushed across the bridge in a bold move and secured a small bridge head. This action, together with intense fire from the south bank, unnerved the Pakistanis who withdrew in disorder. 6 Rajput continued their advance and captured Magla Bazar early on 13 December. As the Pakistanis were on the run, the brigade commander decided to continue the advance with the Rajputs in the lead, but sent 9 Guards on an outflanking move behind the enemy. This resulted in utter confusion and breakup of the withdrawing enemy.
On 13 December, Sagat ordered the move of 81 Brigade less 3
Punjab to Agartala,
for operations in the
area. He also ordered 8 Mountain
Division less one brigade to be prepared to move to Dacca area after capture of Sylhet. In views of the changes, 3 Dacca Punjab
on the Sherpur-Sylhet axis was placed under command of 59 Mountain
Brigade. This battalion continued its
advance from Sadipur ferry and captured Daadpur position, just short of Sylhet
on 13 December. On 14 December, it made
contact with the Sylhet position along the line of the . On its eastern flank, 9 Guards captured
Sylhet railway station and also reached the line of the Surma on 14
December. 5/5 Gorkha Rifles, Echo
Sector, as also other troops around Sylhet, were all placed under 59 Brigade to
coordinate the siege and operations for the capture of Sylhet. By now, Pak 202 and 313 Brigades were bottled
up in Sylhet. On 15 December, the enemy
sent feelers to 4/5 Gorkha Rifles for surrender. Surma River
57 Mountain Division
57 Mountain was tasked to capture Akhaura area and then build up in Maynamati by D plus 5. The enemy kept shelling Agartala from the Akhaura area, which was also used to carry out sabotage and subversion operations. The divisional commander decided to mount a preliminary operation for the capture of Akhaura. He tasked 73 Mountain Brigade to contain Gangasagar and prevent any enemy interference from the Kasba area. Subsequently, it was to capture Gangasagar and link up with 311 Mountain Brigade in the north. At the same time, 311 Mountain Brigade was to capture Noapara and Lonasar. Subsequently, it was to capture Akhaura along with 73 Mountain Brigade.
Moving cross country 14 Guards of 73 Mountain Brigade established itself just south of Gangasagar, where it was joined by 19
Punjab after the capture of
Karnel Bazar. Meanwhile, 12 Kumaon also captured its objective, a
broken bridge. Subsequently, 14 Guards
attacked Gangasagar which was strongly held by the enemy and captured it after
overcoming stiff resistance and suffering heavy casualties. In this attack, the
only Param Vir Chakra of the 1971 War in the Eastern Sector was awarded to
Sepoy Albert Ekka posthumously for displaying valour and dedication to duty of
the highest order. The enemy tried to
counter attack with armour and infantry supported by his Air Force, but was repulsed. After the capture of Gangasagar, 73 Brigade
linked up with 311 Brigade in the north and established a road block on the
Kasba-Brahmanbaria road, with a view to isolating Kasba.
Bihar of 311 Brigade captured Noapara and
Lonasar, after a cross country advance. The battalion then captured Simrail in
the early hours of 5 December, after heavy fighting. Meanwhile, 4 Guards
established a block across at Kodda, west of
Akhaura. The enemy reacted strongly but the Guards held on. By now, Sierra
Force captured Rajapur and pressed forward towards Akhaura, which was attacked
by 10 Titas
River Bihar and 18 Rajput. After some tough fighting, these battalions
captured Akhaura and the railway bridge over the Titas on the morning of 5
At this stage, information was received that the railway embankment between Akhaura and Brahmanbaria was being used as a road, by lifting one of the rail tracks. This track ultimately led to Ashuganj, where a railway bridge existed. Though not decked, this was the nearest route to
, if it could be used. In the light of
this information, it was decided between to take advantage of this approach to Dacca and the thrust line
task of the division was changed to Brahmanbaria-Ashuganj instead of towards
Daudkandi. In order to get to Ashuganj bridge at the earliest, 73 Brigade was
ordered to advance to Brahmanbaria along the Kasba-Brahmanbaria approach, with
311 Brigade advancing along the Akhaura-Brahmanbaria approach. The Sierra Force
was to advance along Chandura-Sarail-Ajabpur and secure the ferry there, to
prevent interference from the north. Dacca
7 December, 73
Brigade advanced and secured the eastern bank of the river west of Brahmanbaria
while 311 Brigade advanced from Akhaura after ferrying across the .
Sierra Force, strengthened by 10 Titas River Bihar, also
moved forward and positioned itself to pose a threat to Brahmanbaria from
Sarail. On the night of 7/8 December the enemy vacated Brahmanbaria and
withdrew towards Ashuganj. On 8 December, 4 Guards captured the road railway
junction to the west of Brahmanbaria. Moving cross country, 18 Rajput reached
Ashuganj, where they were subjected to heavy fire by the enemy, who even
launched a counter attack. However,
Sierra Force also approached Ashuganj from the north and other elements of 311
Brigade kept moving forward. Unnerved
by the buildup, the enemy blew up the Ashuganj bridge on 9 December, leaving the Pakistani brigade commander
and a large number of troops on the eastern bank of the Meghna river! The
troops from Ashuganj withdrew in confusion across the ferry and the town was
captured on 10 December.
At this stage, the corps commander reviewed the situation. He flew over Daudkandi, Chandpur and Ashuganj in a helicopter on 9 December, and discussed the situation with the local commanders. He then decided to heli-lift his troops across the Meghna, and make for
appreciated that the capture of Dacca
would end the war, and the only way to achieve this was to contain Bhairab
Bazar and cross the Meghna further to the south, where no opposition was
expected. He had twelve MI-4 helicopters, and he reckoned that the element of
surprise would more than make up for the deficiency in numbers that he would be
able to get across. He had used helicopters in Mizo Hills for the last three
years, and knew their worth. He had planned for such a contingency, if the
opportunity presented itself, and had practised his troops and helicopter
pilots for night landings, using torches. Fortunately, the divisional commander
(Gonsalves) was also a pilot and well versed in their use in Mizo Hills where
57 Division had been deployed. Dacca
The air lift began on the afternoon of 9 December and continued for the next 36 hours. A total of 110 sorties were flown from the Brahmanbaria stadium and crossed the Meghna, which was 4000 yards wide, to land at helipads which had been marked by torches, with their reflectors removed. During day the troops were landed in paddy fields, with helicopters hovering low above the ground. The first battalion of 311 Mountain Brigade, 4 Guards, was landed in Raipura, while 9
crossed the river using country boats. Next day, the troops were landed
directly at Narsingdi. Meanwhile, 73 Brigade had started to cross using boats,
which had been rounded up. By 11 December, both 311 and 73 Mountain Brigades
had crossed the Meghna and were ordered to advance to , on different axes. Using all modes of
transport, including bullock carts and cycle rickshaws, both brigades advanced
rapidly, and on 14 December, the first artillery shell was fired on Dacca . On Dacca 15 December, 311 Mountain
Brigade was poised to enter ,
when orders were received from HQ Eastern Command to halt further advance.
Tactical HQ 101 Communication Zone Area, 95 and 167 Mountain Brigade Groups and
2 Para were placed under command IV Corps the same day. On the night of 15/16
was subjected to shelling by artillery, and this hastened the surrender. Dacca
General Sagat's decision to cross the Meghna proved to be crucial to the entire operation. This was also the first instance in military history of an 'air bridge' being used for crossing a major water obstacle, by a brigade group. According to Major General Lachhman Singh, “It was here that Sagat Singh exhibited the genius and initiative of a field commander. It was this decision which finally and decisively tilted the scale in our favour and led to the early surrender of the Pakistani forces at
…..This was a great
feat of strategic manoeuvre, and its boldness produced stunning effect on the
already demoralized enemy". 19 Dacca
After the war, B.B. Lal, who was the Defence Secretary, told Sagat an interesting story regarding the crossing of the Meghna. On 10 December a meeting was being held in South Block, chaired by Sardar Swaran Singh, the Minister of External Affairs. Attending the meeting were the Defence, Home and Foreign Secretaries, the Director of the IB, and the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. The meeting had just commenced when the message arrived that Sagat had crossed the Meghna. The Defence Minister, Babu Jagjiwan Ram, rushed in soon afterwards, while the Prime Minister's Principal Private Secretary ran to her office to inform her. According to Lal, very soon afterwards, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was seen running down the corridor, her hair and saree flying. They were all surprised to see the Prime Minister bubbling with joy, and for him, this was the most unforgettable moment of the 1971 war.20
23 Mountain Division
The divisional commander, Major General R.D. Hira, MVC, planned to secure the southern part of the Lalmai Hills and thereafter capture Chandpur. However, after preliminary operations the original plan was changed and it was decided to infiltrate between Lalmai Hills and Laksham instead of launching direct attacks on the two positions which were strongly held. Accordingly, 301 Mountain Brigade was tasked to infiltrate along the axis Himmatpur-Kashinagar-Bhushchi-Bhora; 181 Mountain Brigade was to follow on the same axis and isolate Laksham from the north and west; 83 Mountain Brigade was to advance along the Chauddagram-Laksham axis and isolate Laksham from the south; subsequently, 181 and 83 Brigades were to capture Laksham. Finally, 301 Brigade was to advance and capture Chandpur.
301 Brigade advanced across country with 14 Jat heading for Mian Bazar and 1/11 Gorkha Rifles heading for Kashinagar, with tanks following. Tanks were employed in the assault on Mian Bazar position on 4 December and the enemy broke up. As the enemy tried to occupy the Kashinagar defences, 1/11 Gorkha Rifles who had already sneaked into these positions opened up, surprising the Pakistanis and capturing a number of prisoners. Shortly afterwards, 301 Brigade moved up to Bhushchi, where 181 Brigade took the lead and advanced to Laksham on 5 December. Moving swiftly, 301 Brigade advanced to Mudafarganj on the night of 5 December and secured it by next morning.
In the south, 83 Brigade advanced towards Laksham. It established a block in the area of Parikot and captured Chauddagram on the morning of 5 December, the Pakistanis withdrawing from both positions in confusion. The brigade followed up and established blocks south and south east of Laksham by the morning of 7 December. To meet the new threat, 53 Pak Brigade moved by rail from Feni and concentrated at Laksham by the morning of 6 December. Concurrently, the enemy started concentrating his troops for the defence of the Maynamati area and vacated the Lalmai Hills southern position. In order to strengthen the Maynamati defences, the Pakistanis pulled out of Comilla town also. As a result of these moves of the enemy, 181 Brigade occupied the southern part of the Lalmai Hills; and 14 Jat of 301 Brigade occupied Comilla town and airfield.
After the loss of Mudafarganj, the enemy divisional commander ordered Pak 53 Brigade to recapture the town, leaving some troops for the defence of Laksham. The enemy attacked Mudafarganj repeatedly on the night of 7/8 December but failed to capture the town. Pak 53 Brigade then sent a column to secure Hajiganj further to the rear and deny it to the Indian troops. In the meantime, troops of 301 Brigade (3 Kumaon) had already reached Hajiganj. The Pakistanis tried to launch an attack but it was broken up. 301 Brigade continued its advance and captured Chandpur on 9 December. When Pakistani troops started thinning out from Laksham for attacks on Hajiganj, 181 and 83 Brigades exerted pressure on Laksham supported by artillery and air attacks. After holding out for a while, the enemy started withdrawing in small groups and Laksham was captured on 9 December. In the Maynamati area, 61 Brigade had captured Chandina on 7 December and secured Elliotganj on 8 December. Continuing the advance, the brigade captured Daudkandi by the evening of 9 December.
After Chandpur, Daudkandi and Laksham were secured, it was decided to send 301 Brigade across the Meghna to secure Baidya Bazar, while 181 and 61 Brigades were to go across and capture Maynamati. By
301 Brigade concentrated at Daudkandi. In the early hours of the
morning, 14 Jat crossed the river in some commandeered river craft and secured
Baidya Bazar without opposition. By the evening of 14 December, the better part
of 301 Brigade was concentrated in the Baidya Bazar area across the .
The same day, a ferry was secured north-east of Narayanganj and an enemy
position in Kuripara area was cleared by the evening. By the morning of 16
December, 14 Jat secured Narayanganj town after some heavy fighting. However,
in the Maynamati area, the Pakistanis had concentrated all the available forces
and were holding the position in strength. A direct attack on this well
defended position would have resulted in many casualties. It was, therefore,
decided to soften it with air attacks and artillery fire before launching the
attack which was planned for 16 December. At first light the same day, the
enemy raised a white flag and about 5000 Pakistani troops surrendered. Meghna River
THE FALL OF DACCA
From the beginning of the war on 3 December 1971, when Pakistan launched a surprise attack on Indian airfields in the west and India retaliated by commencing land operations across the borders in the east, the situation in East Pakistan grew from bad to worse. From 7 December onwards, the situation really got out of control and
could never stem the
Indian onslaught. In the South-Western
Sector, Jessore and Jhenida had been captured. In the North-Western Sector,
Pirganj was captured and Bogra was being threatened. In the Central Sector,
Indian troops reached the line of the local Pakistan .
In the Eastern Sector, a heliborne operation was mounted on Sylhet; Ashuganj
was being threatened and Mudafarganj was captured. Thereafter, the situation
rapidly deteriorated for the Pakistanis in all sectors. On 8 December, foreign
nationals were evacuated from Brahmaputra River
under United Nations arrangements, with Indian cooperation. Dacca
As the operations progressed, Pakistani resistance broke down. The Indians bypassed all strongly held positions and the isolated Pakistani troops, taken by surprise, began to withdraw or surrender. American proposals to get the United Nations to effect a cease fire were frustrated by the Soviets, who vetoed the resolutions. A major factor in fall of Dacca was the three broadcasts made by General Manekshaw, calling on Pakistani troops to surrender and assuring them of honourable treatment. The first message was broadcast on All India Radio and leaflets dropped after the fall of Jessore on 9 December. Addressed to the 'officers and jawans of the Pakistan Army', it exhorted them to lay down their arms, before it was too late. It went on to say:
"Indian forces have surrounded you. Your Air Force is destroyed. You have no hope of any help from them.
, Chalna and
Mangla ports are blocked. Nobody can reach you from the sea. Your fate is
sealed. The Mukti Bahini and the people are all prepared to take revenge for
the atrocities and cruelties you have committed....... Why waste lives? Don't
you want to go home and be with your children? Do not lose time; there is no
disgrace in laying down your arms to a soldier. We will give you the treatment
befitting a soldier." Chittagong
Two other messages, on the same lines, were broadcast on 11 and 15 December, in reply to messages from Major General Rao Farman Ali and Lieutenant General A.K. Niazi. These messages were a severe blow to the morale of the Pakistani troops and convinced them of the futility of further resistance. Accounts of Pakistani officers and men captured subsequently revealed that these messages had played a significant part in breaking Pakistani resolve to fight and it is estimated that they had shortened the war by at least two weeks.
In the early hours of 11 December, Lieutenant Iftikhar of the Pakistan Army came up on the wireless net indicating his willingness to surrender. He came out with a white flag near the Mirpur bridge and surrendered to Indian troops. The same day, Farman Ali sent a message to the United Nations asking for a cease fire. The Security Council was about to begin discussing the message when another message was received from President Yayha Khan countermanding Farman Ali's message, which it described as 'unauthorised'.
As early as 9 December, the Governor of East Pakistan, Dr. A.M. Malik, had sent a message to Yahya Khan advocating a cease fire. Yahya had replied that he was leaving the decision to Malik and had instructed Niazi accordingly. Malik could not make up his mind and continued to wait for instructions from
On 13 December, Niazi spoke to the Army Chief, General Hamid, requesting him to
arrange a cease fire. On 14 December Yahya sent instructions to Niazi to take
action as he deemed fit to stop the fighting and preserve the lives of his men.
Before this message reached Niazi, another development had taken place. Malik
convened a meeting at mid day on 14 December at Government House in Rawalpindi , to discuss the
issue. The wireless message giving the time and venue of the meeting was
intercepted by an Indian Signal Intelligence unit. The Indian Air Force bombed
the Government House, causing a lot of damage. Malik was badly shaken and his
concern for the safety of his Austrian wife and daughter, who were with him,
finally pushed him towards a decision. He immediately wrote out his resignation
and accompanied by his cabinet and other civil servants, moved to the Hotel
Intercontinental, which had been occupied by the International Red Cross and
was treated as a neutral zone. Dacca
The decision to surrender was actually taken by Niazi, who addressed a message to General Manekshaw on 15 December and requested the United States Consul General in
, Herbert Spivack, to convey it to him.
Instead of sending the message to Dacca , Spivack had it sent to India , from where
it was relayed to Washington .
When he received Niazi's message, Manekshaw broadcast a reply, indicating that
a cease fire would be acceptable only if the Pakistani troops surrendered to
the Indian Army by 0900 hours on India 16 December 1971. He gave the radio frequencies on which
Niazi could contact 's
headquarters. As a token of good faith, he also informed Niazi that he was
ordering cessation of air action over Aurora .
Niazi later requested an extension of the deadline for surrender, from 0900 to
1500 hours, which Manekshaw accepted. Around on 15 December, Niazi sent a message to all his
formation commanders to contact their Indian counter parts and negotiate a
cease fire. Dacca
Indian troops entered
on the morning of 16 December. By afternoon, 2 Para, 13 Guards, 6 Dacca Bihar, 4 Guards and 5 (Indep) Armoured Squadron were in
the city. Early in the afternoon, General Jacob reached with the draft surrender document.
Niazi at first insisted on a ceasefire and not a surrender. However, Jacob told
him very firmly that it was to be an unconditional surrender and nothing else.
Niazi finally accepted the terms, with tears in his eyes. Dacca
The formal surrender ceremony took place at
on 16 December. In front of a large crowd, General Niazi handed over his pistol
to Lieutenant General Aurora, the Army Commander, and signed the Instrument of
Surrender at 1655 hours. Along with
Niazi, about 93,000 Pakistani soldiers became prisoners of war. The war was
over and a new nation, Dacca ,
was born. Bangladesh
SIGNALS IN OPERATION ‘CACTUS LILY’
Eastern Command Signals
The CSO, Brigadier K.K. Tewari distinctly remembers the first briefing by the Army Commander early in the morning on
4 December 1971 after the pre-emptive Pakistani strike in
the West on the previous evening. After
everyone had assembled in the conference room, the Army Commander, Lieutenant
General J. S. Aurora entered and announced: “The
war is on. Jackpot is no longer Top Secret. Hereafter, there will be no office
hours. Everybody will wear uniform at all times”. This was the briefest
conference attended by Brigadier Tewari. It was quite a unique moment, which he
The radio diagram of Eastern Command at the commencement of the operations is given below/shown opposite:-
RADIO DIAGRAM – EASTERN COMMAND 1971
Tewari and his staff had some anxious moments during the operations. One was at the time of the drop by 2 Para of 50 Parachute Brigade on
11 December 1971. The drop took place
at about 1600 hours and all through the night there was no communications with
this force. According to Tewari, this
was one the worst periods of anxiety and negative part of Eastern Command
Signals history. They came up on the air without any explanation early morning
the next day and all was well thereafter.
On 12 December, 50
Parachute Brigade less 2 Para left for the Western Sector
Tewari was in the habit of recording the day’s events in a diary, which gives an insight into the conditions prevailing at that time. It will be recalled that his diary during the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict also proved to be a valuable historical document. Some entries during the war are given below (some abbreviations used by him have been expanded, for clarity): 21
· Conference with Army Commander and Deputy SO-in-C. Question of taking resources for Western Command - 2 Corps. We said no Corps Signal Regiment. Army Commander said he will be in
Taking away GR 345 for desert. We said no. (The
Deputy SO-in-C probably asked for radio set GR 345 for the desert due to
its longer range) Dacca
· IAC flights cancelled. All IAC flights to fly
Brigade and two AD Brigades.
· Chief of Staff being worried by someone at night. PM’s broadcast – beautiful – told
off in no
uncertain terms without naming her. USA
· Disturbing news from intercepts of Chinese and US movements.
· Message from Mother about Victory. (This refers to the Mother of Aurobindo Ashram, in
· Tac HQ 101 moved off from TURA – no communications. RR vehicles held up at ferry.
· News from CSO IV Corps at - his HQ moving to Comilla next morning.
· Preparing for threat from North. Spoke to Surjit (CSO IV Corps) that too much sent with 2 MDSR (2 Mountain Division was deployed in NEFA, facing the Chinese. The GOC, Major General Nagra had taken over 101 Communication Zone Area after Major General Gill was injured. Nagra moved a considerable portion of his headquarters and signal resources to assist him in his new appointment)
· Finalized plans for communications in
14 December – Most hectic day
· Main HQ IV Corps moving to Comilla – main body at night, Tac HQ in morning. Too many restrictions. Coordination of circuits with civil requirements, CA. Arrangements with VCK difficult (Brigadier V.C. Khanna – he was later to become a lieutenant general and the SO-in-C - was doing the course at the
The course was shortened and the participants sent to various formations as
soon as the war started. Khanna was sent to Eastern Command to assist Tewari.
After the surrender he was appointed the Administrator of Dacca.) National
· Flap on communications to leading elements of 101 CZA (Communication Zone Area). COS wanted direct communications to
Protested. 2 X GR 345 flown from XXXIII Corps to be sent with Command LO Calcutta
Mahipat Singh. Lt Col
· Communications to be established between IV Corps and 101 CZA. 101 Air support to be under IV Corps.
· Discussed shifting of P&T Carrier station from Teliamura to Comilla – then decided on
· Communications established with Comilla – spoke to CSO.
· Gill sent to 101 CZA to sort out muddle by Don’s hasty actions. Missing for 2 days in Mymensingh. (This refers to Colonel ‘Don’ Lahiri, DCSO 101 Communication Zone Area, who had been born in Mymensingh in undivided
Apparently, he decided to visit his birth place, after taking permission of his
formation commander. However, since he had not informed his departmental head –
Tewari – the latter thought he was missing!). India
On 15 December at about 1530 hours the CSO was asked to establish communications with
inform them to stand by for an important message from the Chief of Army Staff.
This concerned the information about the intention of the Pakistanis to
surrender which had reached Dacca .
The station at Delhi
kept calling Calcutta
the whole evening and all through the night on the given frequency and call
sign but there was no response. Tewari had put out two additional receivers to
listen to Dacca ,
in case they missed them on one receiver. Everyone was awake and on tenterhooks
through the night but the link was not through. It was only at about 0715 hours
on 16 December that Pakistan
answered. Tewari had just come back to
the set at that time after a little bit of rest and he himself spoke to the
Pakistani operator at Dacca ,
in Punjabi. When he asked him, “Did you not hear us at all since yesterday”,
he said ‘yes’. So he asked him as to what is wrong and why
he did not reply all through the night.
He said very frankly, “How can we
answer unless we are given permission to answer. Just now Brigadier Bakkar is here on the set
and he will talk to you”. The Chief’s message was passed and the
confirmation received, after which everyone heaved a sigh of relief. After
this, General Jacob flew by helicopter to Dacca to finalise the arrangements
for the surrender ceremony.22 Dacca
Tewari’s problems with the communication link to
were far from over. The surrender ceremony was initially planned to be held in
the Town Hall at Dacca . But seeing the unbridled enthusiasm of the
people it was decided to change the venue to the Race Course in the cantonment.
In the heat of the moment, no one thought of communications from the new
location. Even the Army Commander’s rover detachment was not taken along when
he went to the Race Course. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was scheduled to make
an announcement in Parliament at 1700 hours, once confirmation was received
that the surrender ceremony was taking place on time. When no confirmation was
received by the appointed hour, the Prime Minister decided to hold the
announcement, which was made only the next morning. Calcutta
The entries on the last few days of the war recorded in Brigadier Tewari’s diary provide an authentic record of the events that occurred in
and Calcutta . Some of these are reproduced below:- 23 Dacca
· Signal Instructions for
finalized today. Dacca
· Air Force asking for circuits to Jessore from us – responsibility.
· Message for
1530 hrs – to get ready to establish communications to Delhi at 1600 hrs on CW, frequencies 3216,
6605. Monitoring and SI alerted to listen out. Dacca
· Move forward of 4 Division to Magura – proposed HQ II Corps to move forward too.
· Given message from COAS, reply to Niazi. Kept calling PAK all evening/night.
· communications established with
Brig Bakkar Dacca COS on set.
· 9.30 – clear that surrender accepted.
· 11.10 –
Int, AOC left for Col .
· Army Commander decided to leave at - take surrender at Paper for surrender, pens, writing decided in
. Aircraft left at . Delhi
· Pressure on Signals – no communications. First news from intercept.
· 1815 heptrs returned to Agartala. Army Commander spoke.
· Army Commander returned at 9 pm. Gathered in Mess.
· Communications with
established at 9.30 though Sidhu reached there last night. Rear communications
also responsibility of Signals at HQ. Dacca
· Chat with Army Commander along with Gen Sircar. Spoke of also 16 December, lack of communications.
all installations. Met Brig Raza (2nd course) Dacca
Eastern Command Signal Regiment
Eastern Command Signal Regiment was raised on
1 March 1963 in .
The original Eastern Command Signal Regiment that had moved from Calcutta to Ranchi along with HQ
Eastern Command in 1955 was re-designated as Central Command Signal Regiment on
Lucknow 1 May 1963. The
unit functioned on a brick system of establishment up to 1965, with companies
and sections authorized on as required basis, depending on the communication
commitments. In April 1965 a new peace
establishment was issued and the unit brought on to a ‘tailored’ system.
An interesting incident that occurred during Operation ‘Cactus Lily was related by Brigadier A. Verma, who was commanding the unit at that time, in the following words:-
On 15 December at about 2000 hrs CSO Eastern Command Brigadier K. K. Tewari asked me to come to his office immediately. On arrival he handed over a typed sheet of paper to me and said that this was a message from our COAS and it had to be sent to the
Army Commander General
Niazi and the reply was required by 0730 hrs next morning. I took
the message and was about to leave when Brigadier Tewari asked me how I
would do it. I said "Sir, you have given me a task, I shall do my
best". To this he said "carry on". Bangladesh
I returned to my office and rang up the SI detachment and Radio Monitoring Section to find out if they had the frequencies used by the Army in
Fortunately they did and from the lists they gave I
selected four frequencies and passed them to
Captain Thapa (TOT), my officer-in-charge transmitter station at Bagjola
and told him to set up or re-align four aerials for transmission of a
message to Bangladesh .
This was indeed a difficult task considering the time and lack of adequate
lights in the vast aerial park of the transmitter area. I also told him to
set up four transmitters. Captain Thapa tuned a high power HP
transmitter ET4331, a SWB8X and two medium power transmitters
BC610 on the frequencies to feed the output on the realigned
aerials. At the receiver station, which was in the Dacca Complex,
we prepared teams for sending and
search operation. Radio receivers AR 88 and LTU were deployed. Fort William
At about when the transmitters were ready we started sending the message from General Manekshaw to General Niazi asking him to surrender, continuously on CW, RTT and voice. This continued the whole night. At about 0725 hrs on the 16th I picked up a signal "
calling Dacca ,
Calcutta calling Dacca " repeatedly.
To this I replied “ Calcutta
here, pass your message”. Dacca then paused a little and then started
passing a message, which was from General Niazi to General
Manekshaw. In the pause before writing out the reply I rang up the
CSO to tell him the reply was coming. Before I had written the last
sentence of the incoming message, Brigadier Tewari was in the receiver
room standing behind me. The message over, he asked me to sign it. He
then told me to check who was at the Calcutta end and to keep
the channel open. He then took the message and left.
Since there was a major of Dacca
Signals at the Pakistan
end I handed over the mike to a junior officer. Thereafter, a lot of
messages were passed on this link till a little before the
signing of the surrender at Dacca
as the officer at the Dacca
end vanished. Thus we could not get the confirmation that the surrender had
taken place. Dacca
I was later told that the original message was lost after being handed over to General Aurora by Brigadier K. K. Tewari and copies had to be made from log sheets maintained in the Receiver Station.24
The radio link established between
and Calcutta continued to
function for several hours on Dacca 16
December 1971. A number of messages were passed on the link,
including the request by General Niazi for extension of time for surrender.
Other messages pertained to the composition of the team that would proceed to , the time and venue
of the surrender ceremony and other related matters. Verma recalls that
he also sent an operator with a wireless set with the
Public Relations Officer (PRO) of HQ Eastern Command in the team that went
to Dacca to
enable the latter to send his comments regarding the surrender ceremony.
However, the PRO left the operator and the set at the airfield and proceeded
alone to the Parade Ground for the surrender ceremony. As a result, no news
about the surrender was received in Dacca ,
even on this link. Calcutta
II Corps Signals
HQ II Corps was raised at Krishnanagar in
West Bengal shortly before the commencement of Operation
‘Cactus Lily’. The head of the Signals Branch was Colonel B.S. Paintal, whose
designation was Deputy Chief Signal Officer (DCSO). This was later upgraded to
Chief Signal Officer (CSO). At the time of raising HQ II Corps did not have an
integral signal unit and its communication needs were met by V Communication
Zone Signal Regiment which was moved from Tezpur for this purpose. The raising
of II Corps Signal Regiment commenced at the same time and both units shared
the communication commitments at Krishnanagar during this period.
II Corps Signal Regiment was raised on
8 October 1971
at Krishnanagar, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel S.C. Chaudhuri. However, 3 Company of the unit was raised
and its raising was completed on Delhi 1 Dec 1971. The
company joined the unit only in 1972 under the command of Major R.B. Mistry. By
this time the unit had moved to Kotkapura in Western theatre. The other officers in the company were
Captain V.I.P. Mago and Lieutenant S.K. Basu.
Orders for raising of a truncated HQ II Corps were issued on
4 October 1971. Elements of the corps headquarters and corps
troops including its signal regiment started arriving at Krishnanagar with
effect from 8 November. The proposed organization of II Corps Signal Regiment
(less 3 Company, which was being raised at Delhi to function as Army Headquarters
reserve), together with elements of V Communication Zone Signal Regiment and
other signal bricks made available ex Eastern Command, totalled about 50
percent of the manpower resources normally available to a corps. Equipment wise, the position was even
worse. Only 50 percent of the authorized
equipment was planned to be made available.
Telecommunication facilities in the Eastern Theatre were generally under developed. PL routes were restricted to a few major highways. Multi-cored railway electrification cable and some PL routes were also available along main railway lines. Due to advance planning by CSO Eastern Command, some communication assets at Krishnanagar had been developed. These included three switchboards 50 line CBNM and two T-43 trunk boards, under installation by the P&T authorities; one radio relay detachment linking Krishnanagar with
and one medium power radio detachment to work back to HQ Eastern Command. Calcutta
Planning for the deployment of the two divisions up to concentration phase had been carried out and demand for provision of these circuits by P&T authorities had been placed by CSO Eastern Command. In addition to these circuits, the P&T Department had been asked to construct permanent line routes Bangaon – Heiencha – Bagda – Bayra and Heiencha – Dattapulia (two pairs each) and Krishnanagar –Krishnaganj (one pair).
Except for officers, JCOs and a handful of NCOs, all other postings to II Corps Signal Regiment were on the basis of figure postings. As a result, the dispatching units unloaded a lot of their inefficient and undesirable tradesmen. The unit did not get an opportunity to organize itself or even to brush up some of the very basic detachment drills. Being fully committed on operational duties, personnel had to be put on the job straight away and subsequently rotated from job to job to fit them in, in accordance with their competence. V Communication Zone Signal Regiment was in no better condition as a large percentage of manpower held by them had also been recently collected in bits and pieces, from all over Eastern Command.
As with the manpower, the entire signal equipment received was also on an inter unit transfer basis. In spite of the most active progressing action by HQ Eastern Command, dispatching units held up collection parties for long periods and transferred equipment that was usually defective or incomplete. The new unit had to put right a major portion of the equipment on their own, as the 816 Corps Troops Workshop (also under raising) had neither the tools nor the spares to undertake this major task of equipment rehabilitation.
The signal plan for the preparatory phase, visualized the use of lines as the primary means of communications supplemented by radio relay and very high frequency net radio. Radio silence on high frequency net radio could be lifted for training or when in contact with enemy on orders from the divisional commanders. The permission to lift silence on high frequency radio for training was especially given, on account of a warning of likely Pakistani preemptive strike on night 14/15 October 1971. When this warning was received on 12 October, no radio or radio relay equipment was available at the corps headquarters. Radio and radio relay equipment had to be withdrawn from the two divisions to provide essential backup to the line communication between the corps and its divisions. Forward of the divisions, radio silence on high frequency radio was observed till start of the offensive phase.
During the offensive phase, it was visualized that the rapid speed of advance would preclude laying of lines. Radio relay therefore was to be used as the primary means of communications, supplemented by net radio. Lines were to be laid where situation stabilized. The detailed signal plan was covered in a signal instruction issued on
November 1971 and modified as the operations developed by issuing
brief signal engineering instructions.
During and up to the concentration phase, it was intended that total reliance for line communications would be on P&T lines/circuits. In addition P&T hired local and trunk exchanges were installed at Krishnanagar. The performance of the P&T circuits between the corps headquarters and the divisions was poor, especially to 9 Infantry Division. The 3-channel carrier system between Ranaghat and Bangaon which carried these circuits was old and unreliable. In spite of sustained efforts by DCSO II Corps and CSO Eastern Command, no improvements on these circuits could be brought about by the P&T Department. As a result, even during the preparatory phase II Corps had to rely on radio relay.
A number of permanent line routes were constructed during the preparatory phase. The following routes were laid by the P&T during November 1971:-
· Bangaon – Helencha – Bagda and Dattapulia – Heiencha (two pairs each). Because of enemy air activity over Bayra on 19 November, the P&T had left the Bagda – Bayra portion incomplete. To bridge this gap, carrier quad was laid between Heiencha – Bagda – Bayra and between Aranghata – Dattapulia to create alternate routing.
· Krishnanagar – Majdia (one pair). This route proved to be unreliable and a carrier quad between these places also had to be laid.
Once the operations started both 4 and 9 Divisions advanced rapidly, carrying out frequent moves. By the time the operations ended on 16 December, 9 Infantry Division had carried out an advance of over 110 km, while 4 Mountain Division had advanced about 160 km. During the advance, both the divisional headquarters kept well forward so as to remain within communication range of their brigades. These frequent moves helped in maintaining effective forward communications, but strained the resources of divisional signal regiments and made communications between the corps headquarters and the divisions more difficult. In order to avoid moving the main divisional headquarters too often, 9 Infantry Division adopted the practice of establishing an enlarged tactical headquarters which functioned well ahead of their main divisional headquarters. On the other hand, 4 Mountain Division preferred moving its main divisional headquarters, rather than setting up a tactical headquarters.
The mainstay of signal communications during the operations was radio relay, which proved to be most flexible and reliable. However, lines, because of their inherent security, were frequently demanded by the commanders and their staff. During the operations, line communications to the divisions could only be extended up to Khalispur (over carrier quad) in case of 4 Mountain Division, and up to Chaugacha (over PL/carrier quad) in case of 9 Infantry Division. Beyond these points the formations were out of carrier quad range. Line communication was restored to 4 Mountain Division at Jhenida when PL route Majdia – Darsana – Kotchandpur – Kaliganj – Jhenida was rehabilitated on 11 December. The line communication to 9 Infantry Division was only restored when Bangaon – Jhingergacha – Jessore axis was cleared and PL route along this axis restored on 14 December. Unlike the divisions, the corps headquarters was unable to move forward due to lack of equipment and transport resources to make the headquarters mobile.
Radio was used extensively during the operations for communications forward of the infantry brigades and by artillery formations/units. Between brigades and the divisions radio was used mostly while the brigades were on move and till the setting up of radio relay. At corps level limited radio nets were set up. No separate rear corps headquarters was set up and the corps maintenance area (CMA) was co-located with the corps headquarters at Krishnanagar. No separate radio nets were provided for the Commander Corps Artillery, Chief Engineer, Provost or flanking formations. Even in this truncated radio layout, radio telephony communications were not used by the staff.
The line and radio diagrams of II Corps during the operations are given below:-
II Corps Signals faced a number of problems during the operations. It did not get sufficient time to complete raising, training and welding of the corps headquarters and its signal elements into one responsive and cohesive team. It had to rely totally on the P&T Department for trunk circuits within
Indian territory. It also faced a severe shortage of
equipment, especially radio relay, and lack of a system for replenishment of
field cable and carrier quad cable in the field. In spite of these handicaps,
II Corps Signals performed creditably during Operation “Cactus Lily’.
9 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment
9 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment moved from
in Ranchi Bihar
to West Bengal in early 1971, along with its
brigade signal companies. While the
regimental headquarters was at Bhadreswar, the brigade signal companies of 42
and 350 Brigades were located at Chinsura and Burdwan respectively. In April
the unit moved to Barrackpore and 42 Brigade Signal Company to
Krishnanagar. In June 350 Infantry
Brigade moved from Burdwan to Ranaghat and then to Bagdaha. By October the unit
had moved to Bangaon and 350 Brigade to Bayra. The unit was then under the
command of Lieutenant Colonel K. Dhawan
with Major J. Bagchi as the second-in-command. The other field officers in the
unit were Major M.S. Bajaj (1 Company) and Major P.K. Sengupta (2 Company).
20 November 1971 certain
preliminary operations had been planned in the Bayra area. To control the
battle the divisional tactical headquarters moved to Bagdaha, while HQ 350
Brigade moved Bayra. The attack for the capture of Garibpur was launched by a
battalion of 42 Infantry Brigade, followed by a fierce counter attack which
resulted in heavy casualties to both sides. Next day the divisional tactical
headquarters moved to Bayra, while those of 42 and 350 Brigades moved forward
to Azmatpur and Chotibharni respectively. Communications to the three tactical
headquarters was provided by laying WD -1 cable to the brigades ahead of
Bagdaha, which was then patched to the carrier quad that had already been laid
from Bayra to Bagdaha. In addition to
line, radio links were provided between the divisional tactical headquarters
and both brigades. It was on this day that the unit had its first war casualty.
While laying the cable to 350 Brigade at Chotibharni, Naib Subedar Lal Manral
sustained facial injuries when his line vehicle went over an anti-tank mine and
he had to be evacuated to the field hospital. Two days later, another JCO, Naib
Subedar M.S. Athley sustained a collar bone injury when a radio relay antenna
mast fell over him.
24 November, 350 Brigade
cleared Chaugacha and its tactical headquarters moved back to Bayra with a view
to advance on the Jhingergacha axis. One
pair carrier quad cable was laid between Bayra and Chutipur, the location of 26
. On 27 November the main divisional
headquarters moved to Bayra from Bangaon while HQ 350 Brigade moved to Uzripur.
Speech and telegraph circuits were provided from the new main divisional
headquarters to 42 and 350 Brigades, with the latter also having a radio relay
link. In addition two speech and one telegraph circuits were provided to 32
Infantry Brigade, which was now at Bangaon. At this time the strength of
officers was further depleted by the departure of Major P.K. Sengupta, OC 2
Company on temporary attachment to V Communication Zone Signal Regiment at Krishnanagar. Madras
In preparation of further operations 42 Brigade moved to Chaugacha on 1 December and the fire control centre (FCC) of 9 Artillery Brigade was established at a place about one km beyond Azmatpur. One pair of WD-1 cable was laid between Azmatpur and Chaugacha for use as a tie line and the Bayra-Azmatpur line was extended and terminated on the FCC exchange. A carrier quad pair was laid between Bayra and Chaugacha thus providing two speech circuits between main divisional headquarters and 42 Infantry Brigade. In addition, a radio relay link was also provided to the brigade. The next day 32 Brigade also moved to a location approximately two km short of Chaugacha on Road Bayra-Chaugacha. To cater for this move, one pair of WD-1 cable was laid between Bayra and 42 Brigade. From the existing carrier quad between Bayra and Chaugacha, one pair was dropped at the location of 32 Brigade. This gave them a direct line to the divisional headquarters and also a tie line between 32 and 42 Brigades. At this time, Major G.K. Singh joined the unit on temporary attachment from V Communication Zone Signal Regiment and was appointed OC 2 Company.
The advance towards Jessore commenced on
3 December 1971 along multiple axes. On 4 December the
divisional tactical headquarters moved to Chaugacha. The advance of 42 Brigade in the north was
held up at Arpara and Dungarbatti while 350 Brigade encountered stiff
opposition in the centre at Burinda. The divisional commander changed his plan
and decided to swing the weight of his advance to the north along Bayra axis.
He ordered 42 Brigade to clear a passage at Dungarbatti through which 32
Brigade would advance and capture Jessore. On 6 December the divisional
tactical headquarters shifted to Khurd-Singhajuli in the morning. One WD-1 pair
was laid between Chaugacha and Khurd-Singhajuli and the existing PL pair was
rehabilitated by patching with PVC cable under arrangements of V Communication
Zone Signal Regiment to provide two speech circuits between the two
locations. The same afternoon divisional
tactical headquarters and 42 Brigade moved to Jessore after its capture. A
radio relay link was immediately established from Bayra to Jessore, providing
connectivity to HQ II Corps. On 7 December the main and rear headquarters of 9 Infantry Division also moved to
Jessore. 350 Brigade moved from Uzripur
via Jhingergacha to a place four km short of Jessore on the Bangaon-Jessore
road. One speech circuit was arranged immediately on the existing PL.
Subsequently, one WD-1 pair was laid to 350 Brigade and the PL pair was
released to provide line communications between Jessore, Bangaon and
On 8 December 32 Brigade resumed its advance on the Jessore-Khulna road and reached Rupdia where line communications was provided. The FCC of 9 Artillery Brigade moved to Singla Railway station and was given communications on line and radio relay from the main divisional headquarters at Jessore. On
December, 32 Brigade and the FCC both moved to Nawapara. One speech circuit on PL was provided from
Jessore to Nawapara and one radio relay link established for HQ 32 Brigade. In
addition, two tie lines through the brigade exchange were provided to the FCC.
The advance of 32 Brigade was held up near Phultala and it was decided to move up the other two brigades. 42 and 350 Brigades resumed advance on the axis Jessore-Khulna on 11 December. The divisional tactical headquarters moved to Phultala. Two pairs of WD-1 cable were laid for tactical headquarters of 350 and 32 Brigades at Km 9 and 10 on Road Jessore-Khulna. These were terminated on the divisional tactical headquarters exchange at Phultala, where 42 Brigade was also located. Being unsuccessful in securing the Siyaganj ferry on the
due to heavy
opposition, 42 Brigade moved further north and crossed the river near Barakpur
on the night of 13/14 December. Its move southwards to re-cross the river south
of Daulatpur was delayed. Overhead WD-1
cable was strung over the river-line to provide line communications from the
divisional tactical headquarters at Phultala to tactical headquarters of 42
Brigade at Senhati. A radio relay chain
was also established. Bhairab
In the absence of 42 Brigade, the divisional commander decided to continue the operation with 350 Brigade, which attacked and captured Shyamganj on 15 December. The tactical headquarters of 350 Brigade moved to Shyamganj where it was later joined by tactical headquarters of 32 Brigade which moved up from Km10. Both were provided communications on line, with a radio relay being given to 350 Brigade. On 16 December it was learned that Pak troops had surrendered and operations came to an end.
On 17 December all troops of the division moved to
where a surrender ceremony was held,
in which Brigadier Hayat Khan, Commander 107
Pak Infantry Brigade with 3700 troops surrendered to Major General
Dalbir Singh, GOC 9 Infantry Division.
The unit was given the task of providing the public address system for
the ceremony, though the major portion of the unit was still at Jessore, with
the main divisional headquarters. A speech circuit was extended on WD 1 cable
to Khulna from
the PL available at Phultala. One radio
relay link was also provided between Jessore and Khulna . The unit moved by road to Barrackpore
on 18 December. By 26 December, the unit was back in its permanent location at
4 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment
4 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment was in
when it was mobilized for Operation
‘Cactus Lily’. The unit was then under the command of Lieutenant Colonel S.
Sable, who had taken over from the previous incumbent, Lieutenant Colonel S.P.
Sethi on Allahabad 18 July 1971.
The other field officers in the unit at that time were Major G.L. Chadha (1
Company) and Major R.M. Onkar (2 Company). The unit moved to Panagarh in two
special trains, which left
on 28 and Allahabad 29 August 1971.
To conceal the identity of the formation, the divisional headquarters was
referred to as Rear HQ 9 Infantry Division. Except for creating confusion, this
did not achieve much. Soon after the arrival of the formation in Panagarh,
Pakistan Radio announced that ‘red eagles
are hiding under shadeless pine trees” (The emblem of 4 Division was a red
eagle, while that of 9 Division was a pine tree).
The obsession with security was sometimes taken to extreme limits. As soon as communications were established at Panagarh, Major Chadha took a test call to
. When this came to
the notice of the Colonel General Staff, he treated it as serious breach of
security. Chadha was ‘marched up’ to the
GOC, Major General M.S. Barar, who smiled and let him off, remarking that
Signals are the best judges of security.25 Delhi
After a short stay at Panagarh, during which critical deficiencies of cable and radio sets were made up, the unit moved to Paglachindi via Plassey on 15 October. After a month, it moved again on 16 November to Krishnanagar, where the newly raised HQ II Corps was located. On interaction with II Corps Signals, the unit came to know of the impending task and the communication plans. During the last week of November, preliminary operations were conducted by the formation for the capture of Jibanagar, Uthali and Darsana, to facilitate the subsequent advance on the Axis Jibanagar – Kotchandpur – Kaliganj – Jhenida - Faridpur. For security reasons, communications for the preliminary operations were based primarily on field cable, with VHF radio as standby. On entering
Pakistan, it was found that the communications infrastructure in
the border areas was under developed. There were a few PL routes but these were
partially damaged. Roads were in a state of disrepair and the area being
marshy, laying and maintaining cable was difficult and time consuming.
The war actually started on
December 1971. However, a reconnaissance cum advance party of the
divisional headquarters and the unit under OC 1 Company entered East Pakistan on 30 November. Finding no enemy presence
en route, the advance party moved to two different locations and established
radio and radio relay communications with the divisional tactical headquarters
which was still on own side of the border. The partially damaged PL routes were
repaired by the linemen under the supervision of Captain S.S. Dhillon, who was
performing the duties of adjutant as well as OC line section. By last light on
30 November the advance party was through with the divisional tactical and main
headquarters on line, radio and radio relay. To achieve longer ranges the radio
relay and VHF radio antennae were erected on 52 foot masts, microwave towers
and tall buildings.
On 4 December the CO was injured when his jeep went over a mine. Two other officers and two OR who were accompanying him escaped with minor injuries, but Colonel Sable had to be evacuated. On 5 December, Major Hardayal Singh, who was the GSO 2 (Operations) in HQ 4 Mountain Division, was asked to take over the unit. The story has been narrated by Major General Hardayal Singh in the following words:-
In the afternoon on 4 December, GOC’s party were going to see an objective captured by 41 Mountain Brigade when suddenly a jonga overtook the GOC’s vehicle driven by GSO 2 (Ops) from the right and got blown up on a mine just 20 yards ahead. There-upon General Barar asked me, “who is this bloody fool?” Seeing the tactical number I told him, “Sir, your Commander Signals.” Then he went to say, “Hardayal, that was meant for us”. We got out to look them up. Lieutenant Colonel S. Sable had his collar bone fractured. He was also bleeding from both his ears. We arranged their evacuation and carried on. Then he asked me if I was approved for promotion to which I replied in the affirmative. After reaching the objective he had a word with Colonel General Staff and later spoke to General Raina, General Officer Commanding II Corps. Thereafter, he removed epaulettes from the shoulders of Lieutenant Colonel Bhopal Singh, Officer Commanding 22 RAJPUT, and put these on mine and announced, “you are hereby promoted while you will also continue to do your present job of GSO 2 (Ops)”. 26
By 1300 hours on
4 December, 41
Mountain Brigade had captured Darsana, which was surrounded by marshes. The
same evening, Suadih was also captured after some fierce fighting. 62 Mountain
Brigade, which had been ordered to secure Kotchandpur, found the town vacated
and occupied it on 5 December. On the same day, Kanyanagar and Khalispur were
also occupied, having been vacated by the enemy. Sahapur and Kaliganj, which
were located in marshy area, offered stiff resistance but were captured on 6 and
7 December respectively. During these operations, communications to both
brigades was mostly on VHF radio, due to the rapid rate of advance and frequent
moves of headquarters. However, lines were laid wherever possible, after the
area had been cleared of mines and enemy fire.
Jhenida and Kaliganj were captured on 7 December and Mahura on 8 December without resistance. For the capture of Kushtia and
the division was given additional troops in the form of 7 Brigade, the corps
reserve, as well as some artillery and armour resources. The enemy initially offered stiff resistance
on the outskirts of Kushtia and the attacking troops suffered heavy casualties.
Kushtia was finally captured on 11 December, after the enemy pulled out of the
town. Communications for these operations were on radio relay down to brigade
level, and VHF radio thereafter. Hardinge Bridge was captured on 12
December by a battalion of 41 Brigade. Hardinge
Even as a war was being fought, other activities continued. An interesting episode concerned the destruction of a document. On 10 December the unit received instructions from CSO’s Branch HQ Eastern Command for destruction of a cipher document which had been ‘compromised’. These instructions were passed down to brigade signal companies. In response, Major V.K. Chatterjee, OC 41 Mountain Brigade Signal Company, while confirming this also reported destruction of another document which had become obsolete in November but was not yet due for destruction. The CO discussed the matter with DCSO II Corps who agreed that there had been no breach of security but was just a procedural lapse. It was reported back to HQ Eastern Command accordingly. Soon afterwards, orders were received to take disciplinary action against Major Chatterjee. Fortunately, he got off with a Displeasure’ from the GOC. Apparently it had no adverse effect on his career – Varun Chatterjee took premature retirement as a Major General in 1997!
After the capture of Kushtia and
, 62 and 7 Brigades
crossed the Madhumati on the night of 14 December and secured the far bank.
They were advancing towards Faridpur on 16 December when orders were received
for the cease fire. A surrender ceremony was held at Kamar Khali during which
Major General Ansari, the GOC of Pakistan’s 9 Division surrendered to GOC 4
Mountain Division, General Barar. Immediately after the surrender ceremony, the
division moved to Jessore to replace 9 Infantry Division, which was moved out.
In coordination with the Pakistani T&T Department, the civil exchange and
carrier centre were made functional and linked with the Army systems. The
permanent line route from Jessore to Hardinge
on the railway alignment was rehabilitated and communications established with
HQ Easterrn Command. After a short stay at Jessore the unit moved to Calcutta on Calcutta 31 December 1971, en route
to its permanent location at .
Manpack radio set being used during the operations in Bangladesh, 1971.
XXXIII Corps Signals
HQ XXXIII Corps was located at Sukhna, near Siliguri in 1971. The CSO was Brigadier Y.S. Desai. The other officers in the Signals Branch were Lieutenant Colonel Surjit Singh and Major S.G. Rajopadhyaye. XXXIII Corps Signal Regiment was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ranbir Mohan, with Major Sudarshan Nayar as the second-in-command. The other field officers in the unit were Majors S.K. Rawla, S.K.S. Kirpekar, S.K. Paranjape and B.D. Sangal.
In the beginning of November several measures were taken by Signals in view of the impending operations. The signal centre at Gangtok was taken over by L Communication Zone Signal Regiment, which also sent a company to Kalimpong. Army mechanics were positioned at carrier and microwave stations at Siliguri, Katihar, Raiganj and Balurghat to progress faults on army hired circuits and for security reasons to prevent eavesdropping by P&T personnel. All
cipher tables were withdrawn
from brigades of 6 and 20 Mountain Divisions which were proceeding to
concentration areas for operations. These brigades were henceforth to operate
on zonal cipher tables, with the battalions ordered to use one time letter
cipher tables only. A staff message control centre was established at the corps
signal centre to control the precedence and security classification of messages
and to reduce message traffic. A direct circuit using Equipment Cipher Line
(ECL) was established between the operations rooms at HQ XXXIII Corps and HQ
Eastern Command. India
A number of additional circuits were hired for formations that had started concentrating for the operations. To reduce the load on the crypto centre, situation reports from the divisions began to be sent by SDS after 17 November. To cater for communications to 20 Mountain Division, a new PL route of 60 miles length between Raiganj and Balurghat was constructed by the P&T department using copper weld wire which was released from defence stocks. Circuits for 20 Mountain Division were derived by installing a 3 channel system on the newly constructed line. The Balurghat - Hilli speech circuit was provided between HQ 20 Mountain Division and HQ 202 Mountain Brigade.
Towards the end of November a reconnaissance was carried out by Signals for the tactical headquarters at Raiganj. The regimental headquarters and headquarters company of L Communication Zone Signal Regiment was moved from
to Bengdubi. ‘A’ Sector moved from
Cooch Bihar to Jalpaiguri. Zonal cipher
tables were withdrawn from all brigades consequent to their move forward from
the concentration area. These formations
were now to operate only on one time cipher table with the divisional
headquarters, through which all classified signal traffic to brigades and
battalions was now canalized. On Darjeeling 28 November 71 Mountain
Brigade moved to Pachagarh. A radio relay link was established and line
communications extended by rehabilitating the Pak PL beyond Bhajanpur with carrier quad
and PVC cable.
The operations commenced on
December 1971. The radio diagram of XXXIII Corps is given below/on
the opposite page.
Most of the nets functioned well. However, at night disturbance due to atmospherics and radio stations in the HF band affected the quality of speech. It was found that RT was not used except on one day on 14/15 December when it was the only means of communications between HQ XXXIII Corps and HQ 20 Mountain Division. One RTT net was established with HQ 20 Mountain Division and RP Control Centre at Raiganj. However, it was commercial only for about 14 to 16 hours in a day. A number of radio nets worked on CW. Pakistani signallers who surrendered appeared to be greatly impressed by the strength of the signals from our C-11 sets, which swamped their nets working on ANGRC-9.
The radio relay diagram of XXXIII Corps is given below/on the opposite page showing distances.
The long ranges were feasible due to relay stations being placed at Katapahar, a high feature in
. Radio relay was generally appreciated by
commanders and staff. However, they tended to consider it as more secure than
radio. In the absence of lines, the
radio relay circuit was frequently overloaded since only one channel was
available. To overcome the problem, the
persons authorised to use radio relay were restricted by formation
headquarters. Teleprinters were also used over radio relay and functioned
To achieve longer ranges, five element antennae were fabricated under unit arrangements. However, these were cumbersome to erect and were also more difficult to conceal. There was one instance of the location of a headquarters being given away by radio relay aerials which had not been properly camouflaged. The radio relay vehicle was attacked by own aircraft but fortunately the rocket missed.
The line communication diagram of XXXIII Corps is given below/on the opposite page. This only shows the line communication to formations employed in
East Pakistan and does not indicate line circuits to 17
and 27 Mountain which were not engaged in these operations, although they had
been moved to their operational locations to counter any Chinese reaction
through . Generally, line circuits provided down to
divisional headquarters whilst they were located in Sikkim were over P&T
systems. When the formations moved into India East Pakistan lines were extended by construction of
carrier quad/PVC routes and by patching up permanent line in East
The P & T circuits were not of a high quality with the result that it was not possible to work
S+DX equipment on the two
speech circuits (when HQ 20 Mountain Division was still at Patiram) without
losing the speech. At night, when the
trunk telephone circuits were not too busy, teleprinters using S+DX equipment were used on one line. Rear HQ 20 Mountain Division was initially
next to the main divisional headquarters
at Patiram and was served by the same
circuits. On move of the main
divisional headquarters to Gobindganj, the
rear headquarters remained at Patiram
for a few days and then moved forward. During this period, the rear headquarters could not be provided with any
telegraph circuits and had only a telephone line.
Division of responsibility between XXXIII Corps Signal Regiment and L Communication Zone Signal Regiment was done on a geographical basis for provisioning of communications. XXXIII Corps Sig Regt was made responsible for all communications at HQ XXXIII Corps and south of Sukna, while L Communication Zone Signal Regiment was responsible for all communications north of Sukna, including maintenance of lines and manning of locality signal centres for operations along northern borders. A 4-set medium static radio section from L Communication Zone Signal Regiment was attached to XXXIII Corps Signal Regiment and a line construction section allotted from Eastern Command was given to L Communication Zone Signal Regiment to supplement their resources.
An ad-hoc intercept organisation was established at HQ XXXIII Corps under a major from the corps signal regiment. He had 16 operators who worked one search receiver and four other receivers (R210) for interception of Pakistani HF nets, on three shift basis. Officers and JCOs were provided by Artillery and Engineer units to be on duty with each shift. The whole organisation functioned under the GOC, who took a personal interest in the work, but under the technical direction of CSO XXXIII Corps. This ad hoc organisation maintained close liaison with the concerned intercept unit of the Signal Intelligence which received instructions to divert their main effort from
to China East Pakistan. Much valuable information, including identifications,
was obtained by the ad-hoc organisation.
An ECL line circuit was provided between operations rooms at HQ XXXIII Corps and HQ Eastern Command. This generally worked very satisfactorily. The staff did not use the ECL circuits for key conversations but passed logs. A hard local copy was prepared for every log transmitted to ensure there were no typing errors. All copies were handed over to the staff and nothing was retained by the operator. ECL was also tried on radio relay. Both ECL machines were at the corps signal centre and a loop on the radio relay circuit (which involved one relay station) was given at the distant HQ 20 Mountain Division terminal. The experiment proved that ECL can in practice be used satisfactorily on good radio relay links.
20 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment
The unit was located at Binaguri in 1971 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel S.C. Sharma, with Major Y.S. Rao as the second-in-command. The other field officers in the unit were Major Nirbhay Singh, Major R.M. Shukla and Major Bhandari. In early 1971 the unit moved to Calcutta for Operation ‘Hot Spot’, in connection with elections in West Bengal.
During the last week of November 1971, the formation conducted a number of preliminary operations to occupy lightly held or unoccupied enemy posts near the border. The attack on Hilli on 24 November failed and resulted in heavy casualties to own troops, especially 8 Guards. Signalman George Kutty and Signalman Tej Singh Bains, the rover operators of Commander 202 Mountain Brigade were injured due to enemy shelling and had to be hospitalized. The operations continued for several days but the position was held strongly and could not be taken in spite of being heavily shelled and use of armour. There were several incidents of Razakars damaging lines being apprehended by line parties.
During Operation ‘Cactus Lily, 20 Mountain Division was employed in the Bogra Sector as part of XXXIII Corps. Apart from four mountain brigades – 66, 165, 202 and 340 – the division had two regiments of armour viz. 63 Cavalry (T 55) and 69 Armoured Regiment (PT 76). To control the armour operations, an ad hoc organisation was created. This comprised a Brigadier Armour and a GSO2 Armour. A separate radio net was provided for the Brigadier Armour to control the two armoured regiments, which were also on the B1 nets of the respective brigades.
The operations involved the advance of two brigades on widely separated axes. As the operations progressed, there were frequent changes in the axes of advance and tasks allotted to brigades. Communications were mostly on radio supplemented by radio relay. However, due to shortage of terminals, radio relay could be provided only to three brigades. Wherever possible, line communication was provided by laying new lines or rehabilitating existing PL routes. A carrier quad route was built up to 66 Brigade which was moving on the divisional centre line. For 165 Brigade the existing PL was used. One VIR route was also laid up to Balurghat to provide an additional speech circuit and for local leads at Balurghat carrier station. For 202 Brigade, speech circuit on line was provided on VIR up to Balurghat and on existing PL from there to Hilli. Line communications could not be provided to 340 Brigade at its initial location at Gajol. Later, when the brigade moved to Gangarampur, line communications was extended on the existing PL.
The communications were stable and functioned well except for a few disruptions. Line communications with HQ XXXIII Corps was commercial throughout the operations except for a day when the divisional headquarters moved from Patiram to Gobindganj on 14 December. The relay station was then shifted to Hilli and the link was restored on 15 December. Radio relay and the radio links to HQ XXXIII Corps functioned well. Air support communications functioned well but the nets were frequently overloaded from the large number of queries raised due to the grid reference or target description not being indicated clearly by the originator.
Armour communications within the regiments and with the brigades functioned well. The radio link of the Brigadier Armour performed well till 12 December when the armoured regiments went out of range. Subsequently the Brigadier Armour and 63 Cavalry were moved out of the sector and 69 Armoured Regiment functioned on the concerned brigade net only. Artillery communications within the division were not satisfactory due to the multiplicity of radio sets being used. The units having AN/PRC 25 had no problems, but those using RS 62 or HM 30 did not have satisfactory communications due to the long distances involved.
After the cease fire the unit remained in
restore the disrupted communications. Three linemen of the unit – Lance
Havildar Bhag Singh, Naik J.P. Yadav and Naik Vasu Dev - were
6 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment
6 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment was located in
in 1971. On Bareilly 12 August 1971, the new CO,
Lieutenant Colonel Yatindra Pratap arrived and assumed command. His
predecessor, Lieutenant Colonel P.L. Kohli had already left the unit before his
arrival. The second-in-command, Major
C.M. Sagne, was also not present, being
away on a course. The other field officers
in the unit were Major K.V.
Suri (1 Company) and Major S.K. Chatterji
(2 Company). The officers
commanding the brigade signal companies were Major R.S. Singh (9 Mountain
Brigade); Major A.V. Joglekar (69 Mountain Brigade) and Major H.L. Banerji (99 Mountain
The unit received the warning order for move to Binaguri in connection with ‘Operation Cactus Lily’ on
August 1971, two days before the arrival of the new CO. The advance party of the unit left on 20 August and
reached Binaguri on 24 August. It started taking over signal communications
from the rear party of 20 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment that had already
moved to its concentration area. The main body of the unit arrived in two
parts. The first part under the CO reached on 31 August, while the second part
under Major K.V. Suri reached on 7 September. By this time, the rear party
under Captain J.P. Pandey had also arrived. To keep the move of 6 Mountain
Division a secret, the unit had been asked to
leave intact all radio and radio relay communications on the UP- Tibet border
and move less 69 Mountain Brigade Signal Company. On reaching Binaguri, they were renamed as 13
(Tactical No) Rear 20 Division. They
were debarred from publishing any Part 2 orders for entry into field area or
making any claims on pay authorities on this account. As a result, the officers remained without
field advance and the JCOs and OR without pay for almost two months. As it turned out these efforts at keeping the
induction of the formation a secret were in vain. Within a month of its arrival in the
operational area, Radio Bareilly
had announced its presence in Pakistan West Bengal.
Even before the move was completed, the CO went to
Bhutan with the divisional reconnaissance group and planned his
signal communications, in case the division was deployed there. Within a month, Lieutenant G.K. Syal, OC Radio
Relay Section had carried out trials for radio relay shoots Binaguri/Hashimara-
Cheemakoti- Thimpu/Paro- Dukhidzong. The
unit settled down in the new station, awaiting orders for move to the operational
area. However, instead of , 6
Mountain Division less 99 Brigade was ordered to move to Jalpaiguri for
operations in Bhutan East Pakistan. First to move was
9 Mountain Brigade with its two infantry battalions, to be placed under command
20 Mountain Division, which was deployed in Bhajanpur- Pachgarh. On 8 November, 9 Mountain Brigade with the
signal company moved from Jalpaiguri to Dinhata. Radio communications were established on D1
and D2 nets. In addition, a speech circuit was provided on line, for which a PL
was hired from the P&T Department from Cooch Bihar to Dinhata. Over the
next two days, 6 Mountain Artillery Brigade moved to Cooch Bihar and Tactical
HQ 9 Mountain Brigade moved to Sahibganj. One pair cable JWDI twisted was laid
between Dinhata and Sahibganj. On 13 November the divisional tactical
headquarters which was actually the GOC’s rover group moved to Dinhata.
On move of 9 Mountain Brigade to Dinhata, the CO started pressing the divisional commander to move his headquarters to Cooch Bihar. In view of the division’s primary task in
, the corps
headquarters did not permit this. The divisional commander then decided to move
his tactical headquarters or more correctly rover group plus to Dinhata. The Signals element comprised three vehicles
and 10 OR under Lieutenant A.J.S. Bakshi.
The tactical headquarters remained at Dinhata from 13 to 25
November. It was in direct
communications with the corps headquarters and 9 Mountain Brigade, when the latter
moved forward. The divisional
headquarters was in communication with 9 Mountain Brigade on line via Cooch
Bihar and tactical headquarters on D1 and D2 radio nets. Bhutan
In view of the dispersed locations of various elements of the headquarters the speech circuits Binaguri-Cooch Behar and Cooch Behar-Dinhata became the life line of communications. In order to patrol and maintain these lines, detachments were positioned at various locations. Captain G.K. Syal with three men and a vehicle was placed at Falfata. A similar detachment under Captain Kanjilal was positioned at Cooch Bihar, with HQ ‘A’ Sector. Another detachment comprising two vehicles and one JCO and seven OR under Second- Lieutenant A.K. Batta was placed at Dinhata. This unconventional and seemingly uneconomical method was resorted to in view of the vital need of keeping this circuit through at all costs.
To improve the quality of the speech a Repeater Field Telephone 1A was installed between Binaguri and
. To further improve communications to 9
Mountain Brigade, a PL pair Dinhata – Gitaidah -Bamanhat was hired on 15
November. After the stabilisation and improvement in quality of communications
the detachment under Captain Syal was withdrawn from Falafata on 17 November.
Shortly afterwards, 6 Mountain Artillery Brigade moved to Jalpaiguri in support
of 71 Mountain Brigade. A few days later, HQ 9 Mountain Brigade moved to
Chaudhrihat. Communications were provided by extending the PL Dinhata –
Gitaidah – Bamanhat to their new location. Cooch Behar
On 24 November, 12 Garhwal Rifles was placed under command of the division. The unit could not be given a speech circuit from Binaguri, since emergency had still not been declared. One radio detachment with RS C11/R210 was positioned with the battalion, which was controlled directly by the divisional headquarters, to work as an out station on the D1 net. On 25 November the GOCs rover group returned from Dinhata. A week later, HQ 9 Mountain Brigade moved to Jaimanirhat. Shortly afterwards, 6 Mountain Artillery Brigade also returned to Binaguri.
The unit was gradually involved in Operation ‘Cactus Lily’ but no written order was ever issued by the divisional headquarters. The main divisional headquarters moved to Jalpaiguri on
1 December 1971, along with
the artillery brigade headquarters. On 2 December, 71 Mountain Brigade was placed under command
and came up as an out station on D1. To
ensure quick passage of information, 71 Mountain Brigade was also in direct
communication with HQ XXXIII Corps on radio (D15), radio relay and line. To economise on equipment and man power, the
radio relay and line circuits to the brigade were routed through HQ XXXIII
Corps. However, as 71 Mountain Brigade
was functioning on D15 net, they could not come up on the D2 net, and all
traffic was cleared on D1 net.
As 71 Mountain Brigade was advancing, L Communication Zone Signal Regiment was trailing behind them laying a pair of 70 lbs. cadmium copper PVC cable. However, they could never catch up with the brigade. In a fast moving operation like this the tactician’s and communicator’s interests are at variance. While the tactician wants to move as fast as possible, the communicator does not want the troops to get out of range. However, this did not apply in the case of 71 Mountain Brigade. Colonel Pratap wanted the brigade to move as fast as possible, so that they could reach Nilphamari and he could connect them on the Saidpur- Jalpaiguri International Trunk route. With this in mind, he sent Lieutenant A.K. Batta with a line detachment to keep on edging forward on this route and put it through, as soon as 71 Brigade came on this axis. Sure enough, Major S.K. Chatterji, OC 2 Company reached Saidpur before the brigade and was handed over the keys of that town. Once the brigade came on this axis there was no problem in keeping them through to the divisional headquarters.
Major General Yati Pratap recalls some interesting incidents that occurred during the operation. Once he had gone to Saidpur via Haldibari. Returning to Jalpaiguri late at night, he took a perfect tarmac road presuming that it led to Haldibari. Soon the road turned into a track and kept narrowing till a point was reached from where he could not move any further. He found there were at least ten motor vehicles including some taxis following him. He got down and went back to nearest taxi to find the way to Haldibari. The taxi driver’s reply floored him completely: “Sahib we thought, you being fauji would know the way with your maps etc. We are just following you.” Sheepishly, he sneaked into his vehicle, turned around and retraced his way back to Haldibari.
During the operation, forward communication to brigades was mostly on radio. One fine morning the D1 control operator heard a lot of Punjabi abuses being hurled at him. Apparently a West Pakistani radio operator was indulging in low level electronic warfare. On being told of the happening, Lieutenant D.V. Pantvaidya detailed a Sikh radio operator to take over the control station. The slanging match started. Soon the two sides reached an understanding to take a respite when either side had any urgent traffic to pass. The CO was not aware of it till one day while standing near D1 control station; he heard his operator saying- “Oye mera sparrow mere pichhe khalotta hai. Oh nu jan de, pher men tainu wekhanga. Khote da puttar. (My sparrow is standing behind me. Let him go, and then I will see you, son of a donkey)”. Later, when they went to visit the Pakistani brigade at Saidpur after the cease fire, the operators concerned were located and a hand shake soon led to a hug and a hearty laugh, and all was forgiven.27
101 Communication Zone Area Signals
HQ 101 Communication Zone Area was located at Shillong, under the command of Major General G.S. Gill. The DCSO was Colonel D.B. Lahiri. The area of responsibility of 101 Communication Zone Area included the states of
Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya. It had under it two sub areas, with their
headquarters at Jorhat and Gauhati. There were two major units of Signals under
the Area. ‘S’ Communication Zone Signal Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel S.N.
Barooah was manning the signal centres at Gauhati and Shillong, while ‘N’
Communication Zone Signal Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel B.K. Bhandari had
signal centres at Jorhat, Dimapur, Mariani and Mohanbari and line construction
and maintenance duties in Arunachal, Nagaland and Mizoram. Assam
The first commitment of 101 Communication Zone Area in Meghalaya was in connection with Operation ‘Jackpot’. For this operation Meghalaya was divided into two sectors viz. E1 and EJ. Operations in E1 Sector (
Meghalaya) were directly controlled by GOC 101 Communication Zone
Area. The operations in Western Meghalaya were controlled by the GOC through HQ
EJ Sector, which was located about 10 km away from Tura on road Tura-Dalu. HQ 1
Artillery Brigade (East Bengal Infantry Brigade) comprising 1, 3 and 8
Artillery Regiments (East Bengal Infantry Battalions) was also located in
Western Meghalaya approximately 35 km from Tura on road Tura-Mankachar.
Initially, communications for command and control were established in both sectors. In the E1 Sector, the training camp at Jowai was extended a telephone on civil circuit from Shillong, while the ‘hides’ at Muktapur, Shella, Balat and Barspra were each provided a radio set C 11/R210 with one cipher operator, being controlled from Shillong. In the EJ Sector, the training camp at Tura was provided with speech and telegraph circuits from Shillong. In addition, a C11/R210 was provided for communication to Shillong and a BC 610 for communication to
HQ 1 Artillery Brigade was given a line from HQ EJ Sector. Calcutta
As soon as the operational role was finalized, it was decided to develop Tura, the district headquarters town of Garo Hills (Meghalaya) as the operational headquarters of 101 Communication Zone Area. Signals started work immediately to establish a trunk and local CB exchange at Tura, along with a VHF radio link to
( Cooch Behar West Bengal) so that the formation could
enter the national grid. Resuscitation
of permanent lines to the borders all along Meghalaya was taken in hand and
Cherrapunji was developed as a relay station for radio relay communications to
the south and along the border when so required.
It was decided that once operations commenced, 101 Communication Zone Area, in addition to its original role, will act as a divisional headquarters from Tura. Until then, both roles were to be performed from Shillong. The formations placed under command were 95 Mountain Brigade, 167 Mountain Brigade, F Sector with one regular brigade and a large force of irregulars, and 5/5 Gorkha Rifles in an independent role. While 95 and 167 Brigades were to operate on axis Tura – Mahendraganj – Tangail –
F Sector was to operate further east on axis Charbangla – Haluaghat and still
further east on axis Susung Durgapur – Jharia – Jhanjail, both axes leading to
Mymensingh. From Tura the distance to
the border was almost 50 km and the two axes were separated by over 80 km. This would have posed a problem for any
divisional signal regiment designed for mobile role, let alone a communication
zone signal regiment which was equipped only for static communication tasks. Dacca
One of the major problems for Signals was finding resources, both of equipment and manpower, to meet the additional demands. Initially two static medium power radio sets Siemens 400W and batteries for RS C11/R 210 which were in short supply were released and immediately dispatched to Tura. Unfortunately the vehicle carrying the equipment met with an accident and had a watery grave in one of the rivers. Two static Siemens 400W sets were then removed from the Shillong transmitter station and dispatched to Tura. Other radio equipments such as C11/R210, GR 345 and AN/PRC 25 with boosters were arranged from within the command. Initially CSO Eastern Command released four radio relay terminals, but subsequently agreed to one more. Radio relay sets were at a premium as the existing network from Shillong, the communication anchor of the North East, had to continue functioning, providing connectivity to Gauhati, Jorhat, Zakhama, Dimapur, Aijal, Masimpur and Agartala. As regards personnel it was decided that CO ‘S’ Communication Zone Signal Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel S.N. Barooah, would personally command the Signals element comprising about 50 personnel at Tura with one subaltern to assist him.
With the induction of IV Corps, the communication responsibility in that zone was taken over by IV Corps Signals. However, Cherrapunji remained as anchor for their outlets and alternate routing. N Communication Zone Signal Regiment was placed under IV Corps, which was a great loss to 101 Communication Zone Area. To make up for this loss, 1002 Independent Signal Company (Mountain Brigade) under raising was promised. However, three days before the actual outbreak of operations, this decision was rescinded. Only a few detachments from the newly raised Bravo Signal Regiment were allotted, which did not do much to boost the resources or morale of 101 Communication Zone Area Signals.
2 December 1971 Colonel
Lahiri had just reached Gauhati after a visit to Tura Sector, when an urgent
message was received summoning him for a conference chaired by the GOC. That same
evening at 1730 hours the headquarters commenced its move to the concentration
area. From the Signals Branch the only other officer stayed behind, as did
Major Biswas, who was commanding the company of S Communication Zone Signal
Regiment at Shillong. Lieutenant Colonel Barooah also moved to Tura, leaving
Major M. Guin, the second-in-command, to look after the unit and communications
at Gauhati. The Signals element made a dash and reached Tura in the early hours
of the morning of 3 December, while the headquarters reached at about 1400
hours. By the evening, the headquarters was fully functional and communications
to the two brigades, F Sector and rearwards to Shillong and were through. Calcutta
At 0600 hours on
4 December, 95
Mountain Brigade commanded by Brigadier H.S. Kler crossed the international
border. Communications worked without a
break. In the evening, on his return from the front the GOC, General Gill, called Colonel Lahiri and complimented him
for the excellent communications, adding that had it not been for Signals the
operations particularly the air strikes could not have gone that well. He
stated that after the fall of Kamalpur, the enemy’s next strong hold Bakshiganj
must be captured next day i.e. on 5 December and he wanted the communications
for the battle to be perfect. He asked Lahiri to accompany him to the front in
his helicopter next morning. Lahiri pleaded that he should move the same night
and organise things so that no time was wasted and everything was ready by the
time the attack developed. Gill agreed
and Lahiri left at 2100 hours for the front to see that the communications were
planned and executed properly.
The next morning, while returning from the forward localities, Lahiri met Gill who was going forward with Kler who was driving the jeep. After Lahiri had briefed Gill, they moved off. A few minutes later he heard a loud bang and a then saw a vehicle from the GOC’s party rushing back. It transpired that his jeep had struck a mine and Gill and Kler were both injured and had been evacuated to the Kamalpur post. On reaching there Lahiri found Gill badly injured in the feet. Kler had minor injuries but was stunned by the impact. The medical officer treated the injuries and advised immediate evacuation of the GOC. A helicopter still in the area was immediately called up and Gill was evacuated to Gauhati. Before leaving, he told Lahiri that nobody should be told that he was injured and those who knew should be told it was light. He further stated that he would be back by the evening and the attack on Bakshiganj must be pressed on hard – it must be taken that day. He asked Lahiri to keep him informed at the hospital. After Gill’s departure, Kler wanted to return to the front but seeing his condition, Lahiri persuaded him to rest a while and drove him to his main headquarters. He promised Kler that a helicopter would pick him up at 1600 hours, by which time he should be fit enough and take him to Bakshiganj. He was made to go to bed after medication and two stiff doses of brandy.
Lahiri returned to the tactical headquarters. A telephone had been provided in the GOC’s room in the hospital and when Lahiri rang up in the afternoon the first thing Gill wanted to know was whether Bakshiganj had fallen. On being answered in the negative he showered Lahiri with the choicest curses and directed that the pressure must be kept on and he will return if not that day, then on the next day. The OC Military Hospital on being contacted told Lahiri that the GOC would not be fit for discharge for some time. At 1600 hours a helicopter picked up Kler and dropped him at his tactical headquarters. On reaching there Kler rang up Lahiri and told him that he had seen a large concentration of enemy vehicles and troops at Jamalpur crossing and they were the finest target for the air if a strike could be arranged immediately. Lahiri immediately got through to the Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) of Eastern Air Command at Shillong with the information and requested for a strike. The SASO was doubtful if the effort required could be made available at this late hour. However, within 15-20 minutes the troops on the ground at Tura saw the Indian Air Force aircraft streaking overhead towards the south. Later the SASO rang up to say that the bag was wonderful. The enemy withdrew from Bakshiganj at 1730 and the GOC was informed. By now it was clear that Gill would not come back and Major General G.S. Nagra, GOC 2 Mountain Division would be taking over.28
During his first briefing Nagra insisted that plans should be made to go right up to
and as fast as
possible. When Lahiri mentioned the poverty of resources, Nagra told him that
he would get whatever he needed from his own division. He also immediately sent
a signal to HQ Eastern Command for additional resources. The text of the message
is reproduced below:- Dacca
personal for COS from NAGRA (.) firstly (.) have already visited fwd elements KLERs and SANTs sector (.) am satisfied with progress (.) secondly (.) personal assessment for scope of ops in KLER’s sector as follows (.) alfa (.) good possibility of contacting DACCA defs early (.) bravo (.) adm sp can be arranged for addl tps if inducted (.) thirdly (.) recommend induction following tps (.) alfa (.) skeleton HQ 2 mtn div with div tps not op required in a div sector (.) bravo (.) inf bde gp (.) shall prefer allotment 5 inf bde (.) echo (.) two 106 RCL for engaging concrete bunkers (.) foxtrot (.) allotment line comn resources upto DACCA (.) fourthly allotment armour and med arty essential mainly for early contacting DACCA defs
Kamalpur surrendered on 4 December and a carrier quad cable was put through to Bakshiganj by the evening of 5 December. This could not be done earlier as after the mine accident in which the GOC was injured on the road to Bakshiganj, an embargo was placed on all vehicular movement on the road till it was declared safe. In addition to laying the carrier quad, the line party was also detailed to repair the existing PL route which was extensively damaged and erect a new two-km route from Mahendraganj to Kamalpur to linkup with the existing PL for communication to Bakshiganj and beyond.
On 7 December it was learnt that HQ 95 Mountain Brigade proposed to move from Bakshiganj to Pengharchar, on the direct route to Jamalpur. A line party was immediately sent out to lay a carrier quad cable to that location about 12 km from Bakshiganj. The line was completed by . However, 95 Mountain Brigade instead of going to Pengharchar, moved to Sherpur on a completely different axis, approximately 29 km from Bakshiganj. It was decided not to lay any more carrier quad but rehabilitate the PL to Sherpur and in the meantime communications would be only on radio relay. Simultaneously, it was considered that the tactical headquarters should move direct to Bakshiganj from Tura instead of moving to Mahendraganj in the first hop. Mobile signal elements of the Tura signals complex were sent to Bakshiganj to set up communications and were ready to receive the tactical headquarters. However, at the last moment the plans were changed and it was decided to set up the tactical headquarters at Sherpur. Accordingly, the communications were shifted to Sherpur from Bakshiganj on 9 December in the morning.
HQ FJ Sector was to function as a static headquarters at Ghasupara. With the capture of Haluaghat and rapid progress of 6 Bihar and the BSF unit, the sector commander decided to make his headquarters mobile and moved to Haluaghat and thereafter it continued its move forward till it reached Dacca on 16 December. This movement of HQ FJ Sector was a major surprise to Signals as no planning had been done for this contingency. However, thanks to the flexibility of the signal plan and determination of the personnel involved, communications to the formation were provided right up to
Up to Mymensingh the formation was kept through on line and thereafter
on radio. Forward communications of FJ
Sector were on radio right throughout the operations. Dacca
10 December 167 Mountain
Brigade was inducted at Sherpur as reinforcement. Shortly afterwards, elements
of 2 Mountain Division also started arriving at Sherpur to augment the limited
resources of 101 Communication Zone Area. They included the COs
of the engineer and signal regiments along with their regimental
headquarters. A large number of staff
officers including the Colonel GS and the AQMG of HQ 2 Mountain Division also
joined. The complement of 2 Mountain
Divisional Signal Regiment comprised seven officers, eight JCOs and 209 OR.
Jamalpur surrendered on the morning of 11 December after which the speed of advance became very rapid. Communication problems multiplied as the build-up of signal resources across the river was not fast enough. On this day at 1630 hours 2 Parachute Battalion was dropped just near Tangail. Originally the battalion was to have established communications with HQ 95 Mountain Brigade under whom they were to operate after the drop. However, it was later decided that the battalion would be placed under command of 95 Mountain Brigade only after the link up had taken place. It was therefore decided to set up initial communications only with the tactical headquarters of 101 Communication Zone Area. The battalion was out of communication throughout the night and came up on the net only on 12 December in the morning. After the link up with 95 Mountain Brigade in the evening, the radio link with 2 Para was closed down. The reasons for the failure of communications with 2 Para have been covered in detail in the account of 50 Parachute Brigade Signal Company.
On 12 December, the responsibility of provision of communications was divided between S Communication Zone Signal Regiment and 2 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment, with the latter being made responsible for communications forward of the tactical headquarters and the former for communications to the rear of the tactical headquarters which was still at Sherpur. Another commitment given to Signals was the provision of communications for the Inland Water Transport convoy sailing down the
Brahmaputra from Dhubri with stores for the advancing
units beyond the river obstacle ( Brahmaputra)
at Jamalpur. As soon as hostilities started the convoy was ordered to sail and
communications were required between the convoy commander and the tactical
headquarters. Radio sets were made available to the unit from Gauhati and one
operator was provided from S Communication Zone Signal Regiment at Tura.
Communications were established on D2 and maintained till the convoy reached
Jagannathganj Ghat, between Jamalpur and Tangail on the River Jamuna.
The bottle neck at Jamalpur posed some problems for Signals. Initially, for communication across the river, one pair WD1 cable was laid in the river followed by a carrier quad cable duly water proofed and weighed down by weights. As soon as the PL was rehabilitated to the river bank, use was made of the main power grid cable running across the river as the PL span across the river was destroyed due to heavy shelling. Line parties comprising Army Signals and the East Pakistan T & T Department were sent out from Jamalpur and Tangail towards Mymensingh and line communication was restored between the three places by 14 December. The PL particularly at Jamalpur and between Tangail and Madhupur was badly damaged. The line to Mymensingh from Tura via Baluaghat was put through by the morning of 13 December.
Radio relay between Sherpur and Tangail did not get through and hence one terminal was sent across the river to Jamalpur to be established on top of a high building. The operational staff of the tactical headquarters had by now reached Jamalpur and the remainder at Sherpur was ordered to up stick and move to Tangail. Radio relay communications from Jamalpur to Tangail in a single hop was satisfactory only for a part of the day, which was not acceptable and thus it was decided to establish a relay station at Madhupur half way between Jamalpur and Tangail. It was also decided to send back one terminal from Sherpur to Tura so that direct communications could be established between Tura – Tangail and Tangail – Jamalpur, via Tura. The relay station at Madhupur was planned to be shifted to Tangail for forward communications beyond Mirzapur once the Tura – Tangail link was through.
On the evening of 13 December the GOC moved up to Mirzapur instead of remaining at Tangail. The tactical headquarters which was to be established at Tangail on 14 December had not completed its move due to the bottleneck at Jamalpur. The radio relay terminal earmarked for Madhupur was moved up for communications forward of Tangail. The terminal to work to Tangail from Tura had also not reached Tura. As a result, on 15 December there was no rearward radio relay communication from Tangail. The line from Tangail to Jamalpur via Mymensingh was rehabilitated but the speech was of poor quality and good enough only for communication between Tangail and Jamalpur. Hence, radio was the main mode of communications on 15 December. On 16 December the GOC entered
at 1040 hours and
the headquarters was ordered to up stick from Tangail and move into Dacca . The tactical headquarters moved out leaving
behind the radio relay detachment at Tangail which had got through to Tura by
the afternoon of 16 December. Dacca
On 14 December Lahiri had been told by Eastern Command Signals that 101 Communication Zone Area was being placed under HQ IV Corps with effect from on 15 December and he should establish direct communications with them. However, this could not be done as no signal instruction had been received either from HQ Eastern Command from HQ IV Corps. Ultimately frequencies and call signs were obtained on phone on 15 December. However, when the radio operator of 101 Communication Zone Area tried to join the net he was challenged by the control at IV Corps. Since the relevant docs were not held the challenge could not be answered. This was brought to the notice of IV Corps Signals. A liaison officer was immediately dispatched from IV Corps with the necessary documents. However, these could not be delivered to 101 Area Signals even on 16 December. As a result, 101 Communication Zone Area continued to function independent of IV Corps as before. 39
At 1630 hours on 16 December the surrender ceremony took place at
. Colonel Lahiri was present along with
the GOC’s rover detachment. In Dacca ,
Colonel Lahiri visited the East Pakistan Command Signal Centre. He found that
the cipher equipment and documents had been systematically destroyed. The
exchange was functional and so was the link to Dacca West
Pakistan. Lahiri asked for the CSO, Pak Eastern Command. He was
pleasantly surprised to meet Brigadier Raza, who had been his course mate at
the . Brigadier G.S. Sidhu, CSO IV Corps was in Indian Military Academy and had taken
control of the communications. The civil
communications at Dacca
were non functional as the civilian staff on communication duty with the Pak
Army were missing. Dacca
Colonel Lahiri collected a pair of brass emblems of the Pakistan Army Signals from the door of the Pak Eastern Command Signals Mess and after obtaining permission from HQ Eastern Command to retain them as war trophies, brought them to Shillong. At the request of General Nagra, one was given to 2 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment. The other ‘Jimmy’ was presented to the SO-in-C when he visited Shillong after the war. It is kept in the Headquarters Mess at Mhow.
2 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment
The unit had been raised in November 1962 in the wake of the Chinese attack in NEFA as an infantry divisional signal regiment. It was subsequently re-designated as 2 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment and moved to Dinjan in early 1966. The unit was looking after communications of 2 Mountain Division which was responsible for the defence of the present day Arunachal Pradesh, then known as NEFA (North East Frontier Agency). The divisional commander in 1971 was Major General G.S. Nagra, while the signal regiment was under the command of Major S.S. Dhillon.
Since the formation was deployed on the Chinese border, it had not been planned to be used during the invasion of
However, soon after the commencement of the operations on 4 December 1971, General Nagra had to
take over command of 101 Communication Zone Area whose GOC was injured in a
mine accident. Finding the signal resources at Tura woefully inadequate, Nagra
decided to supplement them from those from his own formation viz. 2 Mountain
Division. The unit arrived at the tactical headquarters at Sherpur on 10 December 1971 and
established communication with the forward brigades viz. 95 and 167 Mountain
Brigades and FJ Sector.
On 12 December, linemen of the unit repaired the PL route running along the railway line from Jamalpur to Mymensingh with the help of local P&T personnel. A railway motor trolley was requisitioned for speedy movement along the route. On 13 December the Jamalpur-Tangail VHF link was tested. The specialist radio vehicles carrying the control stations for D1 and D2 step-up crossed over for setting up the advance headquarters at Jamalpur. On the next day, the PL route Jamalpur-Mymensingh was also put through. Soon after wards, the officiating CO, Major Dhillon, proceeded to the new location of the advanced tactical headquarters at Tangail with two radio and three radio relay detachments. The unit established a 12-line exchange at Tangail for the advanced tactical headquarters, from which a line was extended to the forward air supply officer at the airfield.
On 16 December a liaison officer arrived from HQ Eastern Command with new signal instructions. Direct contact was established with HQ Eastern Command from the rover group. The divisional tactical headquarters and main body of the unit arrived at Tangail. The PL route Tangail-Mymensingh was through and now available for communications from Tangail. Elements of 2 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment arrived in
in the evening on
16 December. Major Dhillon accompanied by the cipher officer reached the Pak
Eastern Command HQ signal centre at about 1930 hours. They confiscated the Pak
cipher equipment such as the Typex machine and drums. The unit also captured
three vehicles, in addition to a large quantity of arms, ammunition and signal
equipment. Subedar Major Baldev Singh
Perhar was ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ for his performance during the operations. Dacca
95 Mountain Brigade Signal Company
Before its deployment in Operation ‘Cactus Lily’, 95 Mountain Brigade Signal Company was located in Paphima in Nagaland, as part of 8 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment. The company commander was Lieutenant Vinod Aggarwal. The company subsequently moved to Tura in Meghalaya, where Major Pratap Singh took over from Aggarwal. The brigade was placed under 101 Communication Zone Area. Shortly afterwards, Major G.R. Singh from ‘S’ Communication Zone Signal Regiment was posted as the new OC. The brigade commander was Brigadier H.S. Kler, from Signals.
Colonel Aggarwal relates some interesting anecdotes of the period. In the preparatory phase, the brigade was located opposite Kamalpur, which was to be captured as a preliminary operation. It was noticed that Pakistani company located at Kamalpur employed a simple substitution method to encode messages to the battalion headquarters. Using the security classification of the messages and initial substitution indicators, the Indian signallers were able to fill in the blanks by the sequential substitution being followed by the enemy. Thus after any action, they were able to get the enemy’s version even before the Pakistani battalion and brigade commanders.
After the fall of Kamaplur the next objective for the brigade was Jamalpur. Before the attack, when the brigade was deployed on the banks of River Brahmaputra, the signal company was asked to provide line communications to one of the forward battalions which was located about 40 km away. Coming to know from the locals that the power supply from Jamalpur had been available till the previous day, the signallers resorted to an innovation. They located a Pakistani lineman and with his help cut the power line U-link towards Jamalpur. Using WD 1 cable at both ends of the power line, they were able to get line through to the battalion in about 90 minutes, with strength 5 speech.
After crossing the River Brahmaputra, a line had to be slung across. However, a large number of boats that were crossing the river posed a danger to the line. The problem was solved by slinging the cable across the river at a distance from the crossing point and weighing it down with bricks so that it sank below the surface, ensuring that it was not cut by boats passing over it. Subsequently, a radio relay link was provided by 2 Mountain Division. The brigade subsequently reached Tangail, where it linked up with 2 Para that had been dropped earlier.
When the brigade was at Kalaikar, about 40 km from
Signals intercepted a wireless message addressed to all Pakistani commanders.
The message was encoded but one of the stations could not receive it properly
so the transmitting station decided to send it in clear. This message revealed
that the enemy intended to surrender. It also talked about destruction of
certain documents, ciphers and some equipment before surrendering. Since the
bridge opposite Kalaikar had been destroyed, the troops were told to take a
detour and hit the Mirpur bridge as soon as possible, bulldozing their way
through. Next morning Major General Nagra and Brigadier Kler took off in a
helicopter and landed at the Dacca , where the ground
troops linked up with them. Thus, troops of 95 Mountain Brigade were the first
to enter Mirpur
The brigade headquarters was set up in the Presidential Palace on the first
night and moved to the cantonment on the next day.29 Dacca
50 Parachute Brigade Signal Company
50 Parachute Brigade Signal Company had moved from
in February 1971 for Operation ‘Hot Spot’, in connection with elections being
held in Calcutta West Bengal. After it became known that
Operation ‘Cactus Lily’ was likely to be conducted in the later part of
the year, all specialist vehicles and
medium power radio sets were called up from Agra to Barrackpore near Calcutta
where 50 Parachute Brigade was located.
The company commander, Major Manmohan Bhatia, joined the company in early
November 1971. The three other officers in the company were Captain P.K. Ghosh,
Lieutenant A.S Bhagat and Lieutenant I.P. Singh. The brigade commander, Brigadier
Mathew Thomas had also assumed command a few days earlier.
At Barrackpore local telephones were provided from the automatic exchange already existing. Due to the non availability of underground and overhead permanent pairs for extensions, these were provided on cable laid by linemen of the company. The scale of telephones was also reduced to two for each major unit. Towards the end of November 1971 Major Bhatia was informed by Brigadier Thomas that Captain P.K. Ghosh was to go on a special mission. Apparently it was a toss-up between two Bengali officers and finally Ghosh was selected. On 28 November Ghosh moved by air along with Lieutenant Colonel K.S. Pannu to Shillong for an operational conference from where they proceeded to HQ 95 Mountain Brigade. Pannu returned on 1 December whereas Ghosh was sent on the special mission, details of which have been described elsewhere.
Another important action in which the company was involved was the para drop that was planned near Tangail. The battalion earmarked for the drop was 2 Para, communications for which were planned as shown below:
The personnel and equipment that were earmarked to be dropped were as under:-
· Pathfinder - One radio operator with RS 734
· Air support tentacle comprising eight personnel, including a driver, with a jeep and trailer. They were to carry one RS GU 734, one RS GR 345, one RS AN/PRC-25 and one receiver R 209.
· A radio detachment to work as out station on B1 link, comprising three operators and two RS GR 345.
On 3 December a one to one link was established between 2 Para and HQ 95 Mountain Brigade at Gauhati to check the radio sets and confirm suitability of frequencies. The detachment earmarked for the para drop was attached to 2 Para next day and preparations began to prepare the jeep and trailer for heavy drop. Line detachments were moved to Kalaikunda and Dum Dum air fields for establishing line communications to the mounting bases. On 5 December information was received that 2 Para was to operate under 101 Communication Zone. Since signal instructions of this formation were not held, an officer was sent by air to Shillong to collect them.
Being Army HQ reserve, 50 Parachute Brigade had not been assigned any specific role before the commencement of hostilities. It was only on 5 December that the brigade commander was called by the Chief of Staff, HQ Eastern Command and briefed about his mission to capture Jessore from the rear. They were to form part of 9 Infantry Division, under II Corps. Major Bhatia immediately left for the CSO’s Branch in HQ Eastern Command to get the signal instructions for the operation. However, his visit was fruitless. The CSO, Brigadier Tewari told Bhatia that he was not aware of this operation and advised him to contact the concerned formations. After informing the brigade commander and the BM, Bhatia left by road for HQ 9 Infantry Division on 6 December. He reached their location in the night and since the shelling was intense, decided to stay the night there. On his return to
next afternoon he found the brigade all packed up and ready to move into Calcutta .
However, by this time Jessore had been occupied. GOC 9 Infantry Division
decided to divert the 50 Parachute Brigade thrust to Bangladesh and ordered it to advance to Magura. Khulna
On 7 December the brigade less 2 Para moved along axis Dum Dum – Basirhut – Bangaon – Jessore and concentrated at Abdulpur 5 km short of Jessore. On 8 December the brigade was placed under 4 Mountain Division and commenced its advance with 7 Para leading on Axis Pakhuria-Kajura-Simkhali, maintaining communications on D1 and D2 nets. Bhatia was at the start point when Lieutenant Colonel R.P. Singh, CO 7
Para got into the
first tank. At about 1130 hours they came under intense fire from Pakistani
troops occupying a defensive position at Khajura. Taking them to be Razakars,
and being unaware of the strength of the enemy, CO 7 Para decided to launch an
attack. In the ensuing skirmish, three officers including Colonel R.P. Singh
and three OR were killed and one officer and three OR were wounded. Bhatia was
at the B-1 control and fully in the picture.
The ill fated action came to an abrupt halt. The brigade commander was
also in the B-1 vehicle trying to fathom what happened. He spoke on the D-1 for
immediate award of a Param Vir Chakra for CO 7 Para. Bhatia was asked to rush
to HQ 9 Infantry Division to arrange a helicopter for evacuating the
casualties. Fortunately, the officer commanding the helicopter squadron was
Bhatia’s course mate and the helicopter was promptly made available.
Resuming the advance that evening, they entered the domain of 4 Infantry Division which was also advancing towards Magura. Though the company had their frequencies, the operator at the D-1 control of 4 Division refused to let them join the net, since he did not have any instructions. On Bhatia’s insistence, the operator agreed to get an officer on the set. The officer turned out to be Major G.L. Chadha who was well known to Bhatia. They decided on a code sign extract for seven days and thus we were able to join the net. However, next morning 50 Parachute Brigade reverted to 9 Infantry Division and was ordered to return to its old location near Jessore. Lines were laid in the harbour and communications again established with 9 Infantry Division on D1 and D2. On 10 December the brigade moved to concentrate at Barrackpore from where it was to be air lifted to the Western Theatre. At a conference held the same evening it was informed that the brigade less 2 Para that was to carry out the para drop on 11 December would be air lifted to Palam, sorties for which would commence at next morning. Next morning the company was airlifted to
with all its equipment. The jeep carrying the brigade commander’s rover and one
line jeep were also airlifted.42 Delhi
The drop by 2 Para took place on 11 December, while the company was in Bararckpore. As has been mentioned elsewhere, the battalion was not in communication throughout the night and came up on the radio only at about 0715 hours on 12 December. While the Adjutant of 2 Para attributed the failure in communication to a mix up in the frequency being used, Major Bhatia has this to say:-
“Regarding communications after the para drop, one has to view all the facts in totality. The communications were not a failure as they were not opened!!! I had talked to the operators after they got back to the Company. The night of the para drop was pretty chaotic and on landing, they were immediately on the move. They were not given time to stop and erect the aerial for the comn link up. Knowing the force commander very well, I can fully appreciate his priority in getting on to the objective by first light. This was the reason why there was no news from them that night. In fact we too were on listening watch that whole night at Barrackpore. I did not expect much as the directions were totally different. I was hoping for some stray radiation or the remote possibility that the detachment may try to contact us in case of any emergency. This did not happen on ground and the force just pushed ahead to get to the objective. (By then it was clear that the objective was to get to Dacca first and claim the “first to enter tag”).30
In response to a query whether the cause for the link not getting through could be use of an incorrect frequency and the reason for not using alternate means such as the air support net, Bhatia has clarified :-
“We had tried out our communications with 95 Brigade prior to the operations as also the tentacle frequencies were tried out. So it stands to reason that had our detachment been given time to establish communications, we would have been through. The fact that they ‘mysteriously’ came up the next morning proves my point. How come just over the night when they were running like hell towards their target all the confusion got sorted out?? Elementary - they did not stop for anything since they had it going so good and did not want to waste time on communications - they had to get there first! The members of the communications detachment were handpicked, very capable persons who could be trusted to take all possible actions to ensure communications come what may - using alternate frequencies, other nets etc. and I don't doubt their competence, capability or integrity even for a second.”
Though Tewari confesses that he could never really get to the bottom of the story as to why it happened, he feels that the reason may be similar to that given above by OC 50 Parachute Brigade Signal Company. He writes:-
“There was a bit of a muddle because soon after the drop, they were rushed off to the West without or before any investigation into the so called lapse could be carried out. There was such a rush by different operational thrusts to reach
first that certain obligations of
informing the higher authorities were given a go-bye. With the “success” of
operations in the air, there were lapses in passage of information and I was a
worried man in the final stages even though I had the full backing of my Army
Commander”. 31 DACCA
The Saga of Captain P.K. Ghosh, VrC
The exploits of Captain Prashanta Kumar Ghosh form an important part of the history of the Corps of Signals during the operations for the liberation of
. Strangely enough, the
story has never been told, partly because of the innate modesty of the person
involved. For this lapse, the Corps also must share a part of the blame. Had he
been from any other arm or service, there is little doubt that he would have
been made much of. The task entrusted to
him required the highest standards of courage, initiative and resourcefulness.
He not only completed the mission but exceeded the expectations of those who
had planned it. The fact that he was
selected for the assignment, which involved the highest degree of risk – he had
to go behind enemy lines, alone – is itself a tribute not only to him but to
all signallers. His feat was recognised by the well deserved award of a Vir
Chakra, which he almost missed, thanks to some misunderstanding about his
parent formation. Mercifully, the confusion was sorted out in the nick of time
and Ghosh got the coveted decoration. Bangladesh
Contrary to popular belief, Ghosh was not para-dropped with a signal detachment into
East Pakistan. He crossed the border on foot, all by
himself, with only a local lad of 14 years to help him with local dialects He
infiltrated in mid November 1971 with the help of FJ Sector, then commanded by Brigadier Sant
Singh MVC**. The brigade major of the FJ Sector was a signaller - Major S.G.
Mookerjee, who later became a lieutenant general and the SO-in-C. Ghosh soon established contact with ‘Tiger’
Siddiqui near Madhupur, north of Tangail and set about carrying out his tasks. Briefly, he selected the main and alternate
dropping zones and with Siddiqui’s boys was able to secure them, and make sure
that the drop by 2 Para was organized safely. He had to ensure that the battalion was guided to Poongli Bridge
without loss of time and all the ‘heavy drop’, meaning light vehicles, guns,
ammunition and sundry logistics were recovered from water and deployed/hauled
to appropriate locations. He established road blocks on Road Madhupur-Tangail,
north and south of to prevent
pressure building up on 2 Para before they were fully deployed and guns were in
place. The drop took place on 11 December and everything went off well, thanks
to the preparatory work done by Ghosh. Siddiqui disappeared on the evening of
the air drop as he had no intention of taking orders from the Indian Army or
anyone else. With his immediate entourage he moved quickly towards Poongli
Bridge , on the night of 11
December, to exploit the situation to his best advantage. Dacca
The saga of Captain P.K. Ghosh is best described in his own words:
“By May 1971, the General Elections were over and the situation in
Pakistan was boiling over. Refugees had begun to pour into and
voices frequently heard in the media and elsewhere that war with India could
no longer be avoided. As the excitement was building up I was detailed for the
Combined Course at Pakistan in Secunderabad.
By the time I returned to Joint
(50 Para Brigade had been moved there in January 1971 in view of the Naxal
threat to disrupt the Elections), Brigadier Mathew Thomas had taken over from
Brigadier T.S. Oberoi. In October the Commander summoned me and said that I was
to report to HQ Eastern Command and meet General Jacob, the Chief of Staff. I
did so and was congratulated by the Chief of Staff for ‘volunteering’ for the ‘ Calcutta ’. Seeing the look
of utter bewilderment on my face, General Jacob smiled and proceeded to put me
at ease in the most avuncular fashion. I still recall his words, “Look young
man, you’re a paratrooper, a signaller, a commando, a Bengali and your Commander
says that you topped the last course at JAWS. I can’t think of a better lad for
this job”. The ‘job’ as it turned out was to get into enemy territory as soon
as possible in the event of a war breaking out, establish a good working
relationship with ‘Tiger’ Siddiqui, locate a couple of good DZs for a possible airborne
assault and, when the time came, to ensure the assaulting unit was led to the objective
area and that all heavy drops were secured without loss. The Chief of Staff
waved me off with a big reassuring smile and said orders would follow in due
In the middle of November I was ordered to report to HQ 101 Communication Zone Area in Shillong along with CO 2
PARA, KS Pannu and to come back to Lt
Travelling ‘hush hush’ in civvies we were met at Calcutta
by a shady looking character who took charge of our luggage and whisked us off
to Shillong in his Amby. Depositing us at the Area Officers’ Mess he
disappeared. Major Bammi the GSO2 (Ops) met us after dinner and asked us to be
ready to meet the GOC next morning at 0400 hrs! When Pannu protested he was
told that the Old Man liked to get an early start. We were ushered into General
Gurbux Gill’s bedroom next morning at four. The General lay on his bed while we
took up military postures. The bedroom looked more like a macho Command Post
than a place for carefree slumber. Taking hold of a long pointer staff he
briefed us with the help of the ‘ceiling to floor maps’ at the foot of his bed.
He then asked us to immediately proceed to Garo Bhada in the Tura Hills
District to be further briefed at HO 95 Mountain Brigade. When Pannu asked him
for further orders he was told that he should collect as much info as he could
and go back to Calcutta and wait for the ‘balloon to go up’. As for me, I was
to be launched into Guwahati Airport East Pakistan without
further delay! Pannu looked at me with a ‘better you than me, boy’ smirk on his
Landing up at HQ 95 Mountain Brigade, we realized that heavy and serious skirmishing was even then going on in border areas with
Brigadier H.S. Kler, the Commander (a former OC of 50 Para Brigade Signal
Company) briefed us and for the first time it became clear to me that, of all
the planned thrusts being aimed at Dhaka, the Northern thrust under 101
Communication Zone had a good chance of succeeding since there were no major
water obstacles impeding its projected path. The role of the planned airborne
assault in preventing a possible long drawn out ‘delaying battle’ at Tangail
also became clear. Brigadier Kler, who knew me from my days in 19 Division at
Baramulla/ Haji Pir, where he was the GSO1 (Ops) during 1965 War, then discussed with me how I planned to get on
with my job. Remarking that other than the fact that there wasn’t enough time
for me to get circumcised, I did not have the foggiest notion of how to proceed
in the matter. Brigadier Kler told me not to worry as he had had a chat with
Brigadier Sant Singh of F-J Sector and that I was to immediately report to
Major Mookerjee, the BM of F-J Sector for further briefing. Major Mookerjee
turned out to be none other than S.G. Mookerjee of Signals who I knew from my
days at Mhow while attending SODE Course. Now I came to grips with my ‘ ’. I was given
codename ‘Peter’, dressed up in a ‘lungi, a half torn shirt with a ‘jhola’ and
a sheet to cover myself. I was also given Rs.10,000/- in Pak currency and an
unmarked Sten Machine Carbine with two magazines of unmarked ammunition.
Captain T.I. Donald, the Sparrow of F-J Sector then handed over a small little
radio transreceiver which he called Radio Set HX. Working on battery cells, the
crystal tuned set could be used to send and receive messages using Morse code.
Two wire antennae came with the set, a normal end fed wire and another Y shaped
centre fed. I was told that I could expect a range of about 10 to 15 Kms with
the former and about 30 Kms with the latter. In the event I was able to get as
much as 65 to 70 Kms on good days. Of course I took the precaution of
discreetly passing it on to Donald’s boys that my Morse was a bit ‘rusty’. Mission
I do not the recall the exact date on which I set course from Tura to cross the border; it was mid Nov or thereabouts. At a personal level I do recall being a bit uneasy. I was young but not so young as not to realize that my wife was in the family way with our second child. She was due in December and it would be hard on her if something were to happen to me. I had taken the precaution of writing out about seven odd letters and sent them back to the Company with Pannu, with instructions to ‘Bags’ (late General Andy Bhagat) to post them at regular intervals to my wife. (As it turned out, this ploy failed miserably since my letters were impossibly out of ‘sync’ with her letters, not to mention the well known ‘women’s intuition’ factor). At a professional level I realized that my
was important and
that I ought to feel excited. I also realized that what I was doing was
‘clandestine’. General Gurbux had made it quite clear that once I crossed over,
the Indian Army would disclaim all knowledge of my existence. Nonetheless, all
in all, once I had spent 24 hours inside enemy territory, the urgency of ‘here
and now’ completely took over my consciousness and thereafter it was more a
question of thinking on my feet and getting on with the job. Mission
I had with me ‘Badshah’, a 14 year old boy who I had picked out from the batch of trainees in F-J Sector. He came in handy as a local guide and as an interpreter, when required. I was after all a ‘Bong’, born and brought up in
but so far as local dialects of rural Kanpur East Pakistan were concerned, I may as well have been of
Greek parentage. I soon established contact with Siddiqui, the boss of the
area. For the next 8 to 10 days we operated between Mymensingh and Tangail
passing back all information, military and otherwise, to HQ F-J Sector. During
this time I had recced two suitable locations for the para drop and had passed
this information back to F-J Sector. Needless to add, operating mainly at
night, we regularly ambushed Pakistani military convoys moving up and down the
Kamalpur/Mymensingh – Madhupur – Tangail Axis creating as much confusion and
insecurity in the Rear Areas, as we could. I have to say that the local boys
were in high spirits and fairly charged up.
I had earlier indicated to HQ Eastern Command via F-J Sector that, given the local situation, paucity of Pak troops in Tangail and road blocks that I had planned to establish, a morning drop would be feasible and advisable. The para drop, however, eventually took place after last light on 11 December. A dozen of our Signal Company boys (later called the Dirty Dozen) with a jeep based Tentacle formed part of the ‘2 PARA Battalion Group’. On looking back one does feel that with about 200 excited local boys under my control on the DZ, we did contribute substantially to the success of the operations in terms of getting the battalion to Poongli Bridge, north of Tangail, without delay and recovering all the heavy drop including arty guns, ammunition, light vehicles and other stores to respective earmarked areas, with dispatch. By mid day on 12 December advance elements of 1 MARATHA of 95 Mountain Brigade commanded by General ‘Bulbul’ Brar with General Satish Nambiar as 2IC had linked up with 2 PARA. I would have to add that had the drop taken place in the morning we would have been able to cut off a major portion of the Pakistanis falling back from Mymensingh and Kamalpur and inflict far more casualties than we actually did.
By the evening of 12 December we had occupied Tangail and advance to
resumed without further delay. Brigadier Kler, speaking to all officers on 13th
morning made it very clear that given the progress of XXXIII, IV and II Corps
he was convinced that 101 Communication Zone with 95 Mountain Brigade leading,
had the best chance of being the first to enter Dhaka and he expected nothing
less from us. The ‘Race’ for Dhaka was now
well and truly on! In the event we were the first to enter Dhaka
on 16th morning. Since 2 PARA was leading the advance at that point
of time, it was again the Red Berets who marched triumphantly into Dhaka on 16th morning to a tumultuous welcome
by the populace.
This story would have turned out even better had it not been for a slight miscalculation on my part. It was the evening of the 16th Dec and the stage was set for the Surrender Ceremony at the Ramna Race Course. A contingent each of Indian and
Army had been constituted. The Indian Contingent was taken entirely from 2 PARA
with self included. After General Niazi handed over his pistol to General
Aurora and the latter reviewed the contingents, both Generals repaired to the
table set up for the actual signing. The contingents broke off and surged
forward to get a ringside view of the historic event. It was difficult to say
who was the more excited, our boys for having trumped the enemy, or the Pakis,
relieved that the whole sordid affair was over and they could now go back home! Pakistan
Seeing that the crowd was too dense to penetrate, Nirbhay Sharma (Adjutant 2 PARA and an ex Signals officer) and I stepped aside and stood next to Niazi’s staff car. I casually stole a glance to my left to admire the shiny black Mercedes with Niazi’s flag still hoisted atop the bonnet. Suddenly it dawned on me that the flag was no longer ‘authorised’ and it was now a ‘finders –keepers – losers – weepers’ situation. This was my big chance! I saw a vision of this flag adorning the HQ Mess at Mhow (with my name in the small caption below!). As I was mustering courage and looking for a chance to swipe the thing there was a sudden swelling of the crowd with much shoving and elbowing. I soon regained proximity to the Staff Car again just in time to see a Naval officer disappearing with the flag. I believe that the darned thing is displayed prominently in the Eastern Naval Command Mess. Whenever I reminisce over the
Dhaka days this incident still rankles. Who says life is
As already mentioned, Ghosh was awarded the Vir Chakra for his exploits. The citation reads as under:-
“During the operations against Pakistan in December 1971, Captain Prashanta Kumar Ghosh was assigned a difficult task in the Eastern Sector which he completed successfully. He established road blocks, intercepted several enemy convoys and inflicted casualties on enemy men and equipment, thereby disrupting the smooth movement of the enemy.
Throughout Captain Prashant Kumar Ghosh displayed gallantry, leadership and devotion to duty of a high order.”
Ironically, Ghosh almost missed the award. When his name did not come up in initial lists of awardees, Brigadier Mathew Thomas took great umbrage and dashed off a DO (demi-official) letter to General Jacob, who immediately took up this issue with 101 Communication Zone Area. It transpired that the confusion arose since General Gurbux Gill was injured in early December and General Gandharv Nagra was brought in overnight from 2 Mountain Division to take over. As result, no one was clear whether Ghosh had fought the war under 95 Mountain Brigade or F-J Sector, each assuming that the other formation was doing the needful. Fortunately, HQ Eastern Command intervened and ruled that Ghosh had fought the war under F-J Sector! Thereafter Brigadier Sant Singh had no hesitation in dashing off the citation.
It will be noticed that citation is resoundingly silent on the para drop and dropping zone aspects of the tasks carried out by Ghosh, who gives a simple explanation for this. In normal airborne operations the dropping zone is selected off maps and suitability corroborated by other intelligence sources. It is then secured on the day of the drop by ‘Pathfinders’. However this was not a World War II ‘Operation Market Garden’ scenario and there was hardly any ground intelligence. Moreover, Major General Inder Gill, the Director of Military Operations was also the Colonel of the Parachute Regiment. This was going to be the first airborne assault of independent
wanted to make sure that it was a resounding success. If it took a lot of stage
management on the ground then so be it. General Jacob in his initial briefing
to Ghosh had said as much. His exact words were: “Inder
wants to make sure that nothing goes wrong for his boys”. Ghosh feels that
any mention, publicly, of the dropping zone being fully or partly secure, in
Gill’s view, would somehow detract from
the achievement of the airborne assault as a whole. It should be remembered
that during late 60’s there was a periodic clamour for disbanding or reducing
drastically the strength of ‘airborne’ element of the Indian army, for various
nebulous reasons. A successful airborne operation would silence the detractors
once and for all. Ghosh confesses that this is entirely his own view as gleaned
in subsequent years of service and numerous para get-togethers.32 India
IV Corps Signals
After its raising in 1962, HQ IV Corps was located at Tezpur. The CSO was Brigadier G.S Sidhu, while his SO 2 (Signals) was Major M.K. Ghosh, who subsequently rose to the rank of lieutenant general and became the SO-in-C. By the middle of 1971 it was known that an offensive would be launched during the winter months for the liberation of
which IV Corps was to play a prominent part. Tezpur being located at a distance
from the area of operations, it was decided to move to a suitable concentration
area in Tripura. Agartala being too
close to the border with Bangladesh East Pakistan, the
choice fell on Teliamura, about 45 km to the East.
In June 1971 Brigadier Sidhu and Major Ghosh accompanied by some other staff officers proceeded to Agartala to reconnoitre a suitable location for the corps headquarters. It was only after reaching Teliamura that Ghosh learned about the purpose of the visit. The CSO returned to Tezpur, leaving Ghosh at Teliamura, with instructions to liaise with the P&T Department and set up the infrastructure that would be needed for the corps headquarters when it arrived. This included engineering the speech and telegraph circuits, construction of a VHF tower, several new PL routes and the installation of a 200 line exchange. For reasons of security, Ghosh and his men wore civil clothes, ate at roadside eateries and lived at a nondescript address about 15 km away. The only support he had was a jeep loaned by the brigade signal company at Agartala.
IV Corps Signal Regiment was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Har Krishan. The other field officers in the unit were Major I.C. Singal and Major M.R. Narayanan. Along with the corps headquarters, the unit moved to Teliamura in August 1971. The commitments of the unit at Tezpur were to be taken over by Bravo Signal Regiment which was under raising, but due to the slow progress in the raising of the latter unit, IV Corps Signal Regiment continued to provide signal communications at Tezpur during the operations. The strength of the unit was further depleted by some elements being moved to
for employment under orders of CSO Eastern Command. Also, the manpower already
attached to 57 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment and on internal security
duties in Calcutta West Bengal was not available. As a
result, the total present strength of personnel was about 65%, which had to be
split between the permanent and operational locations. The state of equipment
was also not healthy – the unit had only four sets of crystals for radio relay
The main body of the corps headquarters and signal regiment comprising over 250 vehicles left Tezpur on
August 1971 under Major Narayanan, OC Engineering Company. The 1200-km
journey took four days, during which there was a mishap at Badarpur. While
crossing the the vehicle
carrying the 200 line exchange overshot the ferry and fell into the river. The
exchange could be not be retrieved and had to be written off. The advance party
of Main HQ IV Corps was initially located in a vacant refugee camp. Ad hoc
arrangements had to be made for provision of signal communications as no
P&T systems or circuits were available. The corps headquarters moved into
its proper location on 25 September. A 50 line CBNM board and three Ericsson magneto
exchanges as trunk boards were initially installed. The replacement for the 200
line CB exchange that had fallen into the river was arranged from Agartala and
was finally commissioned on Barak
The corps plan involved an advance right up to the River Meghna and communications had to be planned for move of formations along the Badarpur –Sylhet axis in the north and Feni-Chittagong axis in the south. During his move Narayanan had seen a police wireless detachment working on VHF from Badarpur to Aijal, over a line of sight distance of 120 km. Being located at a height of approximately 4000 ft, Aijal afforded an advantage which could be exploited. Narayanan suggested that a radio relay node be located at Aijal, from which both axes of advance of the corps could be covered. It involved the move of six to eight radio relay detachments over a distance of 350 km along treacherous hill roads, and would take three days to reach. Once there, the radio relay detachments would be on their own until the end of the operations. However, Brigadier Sidhu immediately saw the advantages of the plan and put it to the corps commander who accepted it. Narayanan accompanied the corps commander to Aijal on one of his trips to site the node, which was established by the middle of September 1971. It was on a mound inside the military hospital in Aijal, an ideal site with a clear line of sight all around. For the next three months, till the corps headquarters moved forward to Comilla, this radio relay node proved to be most reliable means of communications to all the formations under IV Corps.33
By early October communications from Teliamura had been established and fully stabilized. During the preparatory phase radio silence had been imposed which was lifted at 1100 hours on 14 October. By 0300 hours next day six medium power radio links with their triple folded dipole aerials and had been activated and test calls taken through the remote control lines. It was felt that the radio relay communication from Aijal would become marginal once the formations crossed the International Border, and another node was planned to be located at Sonamura. However, this could be established only in early November, when eight radio relay terminals were obtained from Bravo Signal Regiment which was under raising at Tezpur. Apart from establishing the node at Sonamura, an additional terminal each was given to 23 and 57 Divisions, to enable them to work on radio relay from their main as well as tactical headquarters.
The corps offensive was launched on
December 1971. By 5 December the leading elements had reached three
key points on the Meghna, i.e. Ashuganj, Daudkandi and Chandpur. By 9/10 December the leading formations of 23
and 57 Divisions had secured the east bank of the river and captured Akhaura,
Brahmanbaria, Bhairab Bazar, Comilla and Laksham, opening up the approaches to
Dacca. In view of the speed of the advance, the corps commander decided to move
his headquarters to Comilla. Thanks to the advance planning of Signals, the
move was carried out without a hitch and full scale communications were set up
at the new location which was still under the fire of Pak artillery even before
the arrival of the corps headquarters. This was an impressive achievement by
Signals, which was later publicly acknowledged by General Sagat Singh himself.
The story is best told by two of the officers who played an active part in the
move, Major Malay Ghosh and Major Nararyanan.
On 6 December a worried Brigadier Sidhu asked Ghosh to go forward to the location of 23 Mountain Division, which had been out of communication on radio relay after commencing their advance. On reaching Buschi village near Kakraban where the divisional headquarters was located at about, Ghosh met the CO, Lieutenant Colonel P.S. Talwar, who told him that they had not opened the rear radio relay link on the divisional commander’s orders. Ghosh conveyed the instructions from the CSO that the radio link should be put through immediately. Ghosh then retired to the officers’ mess and tried to sleep on a tabletop. But an enemy artillery battery located nearby began firing at our own gun area and the wagon lines putting paid to his hopes of sleep. The ammunition dump in the wagon lines was hit, starting a fire, resulting in the death of the CO of the artillery unit while trying to supervise rescue operations.
By early next morning the radio relay link had been put through. When Ghosh spoke to Sidhu he asked him to return to Teliamura by way of Comilla, which was reported to have been occupied by own troops. Ghosh started back taking the Chittagong–Dacca road and reached Comilla around . Proceeding to the civil telephone exchange he met Mr. Shaukat Usman, the divisional engineer telephones who told him that his was the first Indian military vehicle that he had encountered. The platoon of the Pak Army that had been guarding the exchange had left only that morning. He took Ghosh around the Siemens 100 line auto exchange that was functioning and manned. He then accompanied Ghosh to the circuit house, a large building which had an extensive underground cable layout on which a large number of telephones could be connected. Collecting a number of blueprints showing the cable layout extended around the town, Ghosh returned to Teliamura via Belonia. En route, he visited the police communication centre which was still communicating with
, Dacca and other places. Ghosh promptly
confiscated the crystals from the VHF/UHF radio sets that were being used, much
to the chagrin of the Punjabi Muslim policemen who were manning the station. Chittagong
Arriving at the corps headquarters at about 2100 hours on 7 December, Ghosh went straight to the CSO and briefed him about the communication infrastructure at Comilla. The next day Sidhu himself went to Comilla accompanied by Major Gill of Eastern Command Signals who had brought the much-needed radio relay crystals. They met Mr. Usman and did their own reconnaissance. That night Sidhu informed Ghosh that the corps commander had told him during dinner at the A mess that the corps headquarters must be established on
by the evening of 11 December. Ghosh told Sidhu that they could move to Comilla
where the corps headquarters could be located at the circuit house premises. He
offered to accompany Narayanan who would have to set up the communications at
the new location, to work out the details with the divisional engineer
telephones. This was discussed with the COs of IV Corps Signal Regiment and N
Communication Zone Signal Regiment (Colonels Har Krishan and Bhandari) and the
move plan finalized. Bangladesh
On 9 December Major Narayanan was briefed by Brigadier Sidhu and Major Ghosh. He was asked to proceed to Comilla and examine the feasibility of extending rearward communications from Comilla to Shillong,
and Calcutta through the corps carrier centre
already functioning at Teliamura. Narayanan left for Comilla around 1000 hours
reaching there at about 1500 hours. He
met Mr. Shaukat Usman who offered him the use of the complete exchange both
trunk and local along with the operators and other essential staff. As directed
by the CSO, the construction/rehabilitation of the PL route from Comilla to
Sonamura was in progress and likely to be completed by on 11 December. Mr Usman gave an assurance
that he would also arrange link up with the route on the Indian side, which had
been completed by N Communication Zone Signal Regiment. Delhi
Satisfied with the communication facilities at Comilla, Narayanan started back at about 1700 hours. After driving for about 20 minutes they crossed a few fully armed Pakistani soldiers walking in the same direction. Then they saw a road barrier manned by Military Police. Narayanan realised that they had taken the wrong road - instead of east, they were heading west towards Mynamati Cantonment! Turning around the jeep, he made a quick getaway, reaching Teliamura at about 2100 hours. He briefed Ghosh and then Colonel Har Krishan in the officers’ mess, conveying to them his assessment that we would be able to provide communications from Comilla if the corps headquarters moved there.
On 10 December morning, Har Krishan and Narayanan were summoned by Sidhu for an urgent meeting in his office. Sidhu told them about the corps commander’s wish that the corps headquarters should move forward and establish on
soil. He wanted to be absolutely sure of our ability to build up the signal
communication from Comilla. The safer option was to move to Agartala, where
communications were assured, but forward communications to Bangladesh would be stretched. Har Krishan briefed
Sidhu about Narayanan’s visit to Comilla the previous day, the offer by Mr.
Shaukat Usman and the PL route build up from Sonamura to Comilla. When asked, Narayanan confirmed the state of
readiness of our system vehicle which had already been positioned at Sonamura
ready to move to Comilla. Dacca
Sidhu asked them to accompany him to the operations room that was close by. Asking them to wait in the next room, Sidhu entered the room where the corps commander was having a meeting with his staff, the main agenda being the move of the corps headquarters. The CSO briefed all present about the visits made by various officers to Comilla on the previous three days and the communications infrastructure available. He concluded by saying: “Sir, the CO of the corps signal regiment is waiting outside along with his company commander. They are also confident of providing the communications from Comilla.” General Sagat did not waste any time. He said, “Gentlemen, so we move to Comilla. We close our headquarters here at today, and reopen at Comilla in 48 hours.”
Early in the morning on 11 December, Ghosh and Narayanan left Teliamura with a small convoy of Signals and some elements of corps headquarters. They were followed at 1000 hours by the advance party of the corps headquarters and the unit under Major I.C. Singal, OC Operating Company. Picking up the systems vehicle en route at Sonamura, Narayanan’s party reached Comilla at about 1100 hours. To their pleasant surprise, the PL route from Sonamura to Comilla had already been patched by Major J.M. Khullar of N Communication Zone Signal Regiment and the staff of the divisional engineer telephones. By , the communications had been fully established. Telephones had been connected in all the rooms at the circuit house along with a directory and instructions for users with each instrument. The corps headquarters elements arrived in the afternoon and started functioning by the evening. The corps commander arrived in the evening and asked to be put through to his family at Jaipur. The call was connected immediately and everyone felt happy that Signals have again risen to the occasion.34
It is worth mentioning that when HQ IV Corps moved to Comilla, there was an entire Pakistani brigade located at Mynamati. The corps headquarters at the circuit house in Comilla was within mortar range of the enemy. In fact 117 Pak Brigade at Mynamati under Brigadier Atif did not surrender till 16 December. The bulk of the HQ IV Corps remained at Comilla from 12 to 20 December when it moved to Mynamati, though some essential elements moved to
after the fall of the city and
surrender of the Pakistani forces. During the stay at Comilla signal
communications remained stable. An added bonus for telephone users was the auto
dialling facility, a welcome change from operator assisted manual exchange at
Teliamura. A notable achievement was the provision of a radio relay link to the
advance headquarters established by 23 Division for control of the operations
by 83 Brigade and K Force on the Feni-Chittagong axis on 13/14 December. This
vital communication link was provided through the Aijal radio relay node. Dacca
The civil exchange taken over by IV Corps in Comilla was a Siemens automatic exchange of 5000 lines with a number of trunk boards. The lady operators operating the trunk/junction lines and assistance positions were all given leave so that Signals operators and other Army personnel could function effectively without endangering security, Because of the extensive UG cable network emanating from this exchange at the circuit house, telephone connections to the corps staff could be provided almost immediately after arrival of the advance party. This was perhaps an unique example of a city's civil exchange being taken over and used for providing military communications including trunk speech circuits. Incidentally, the junction lines to the exchange of 117 Pak Brigade at Mynamati continued to function and there were some interesting conversations between Indian and Pak operators.
Though IV Corps was poised to capture
the honour went to 101 Communication Zone Area whose troops were the first to
enter the city. However, the responsibility of providing essential
communications from Dacca
during the first few days after the surrender fell on IV Corps Signals, more by
accident than design. Apparently, no communication plans had been made by
Eastern Command in the event of the capture of Dacca , which had not been part of the
operational plans. It appears strange that this contingency had been
overlooked, especially after the rapid progress made by Indian forces in the
first few days of the operations Dacca
On 16 December everyone in Comilla was expectantly waiting for news from
At about 0800 hours, Sidhu called Narayanan and told him that he would be
flying with the corps commander to Dacca
and he wanted a mobile radio set with an operator to accompany him. A man-pack
radio set GR 345 with an improvised antenna for use inside the GOC’s helicopter
was immediately sent to the helipad, from where they took off at about 0900
hours. A set was kept open at Comilla but there was no contact with Sidhu for
the next 24 hours. Late at night, news about the formal surrender was broadcast
by All India Radio. Dacca
At about 1100 hours on 17 December Sidhu came up on the radio set. Telling Narayanan that everything in
was topsy-turvy, he
ordered him to come to Dacca
immediately with a small communication detachment. A helicopter would be coming
to Comilla to pick them at 1500 hours. He indicated that there were no
communication links from Dacca
to any other place, and IV Corps would have to establish its own radio relay
links from Dacca
to Shillong via Teliamura. Narayanan immediately informed his CO and held an
urgent meeting with Captain Nirmal Dhillon, OC radio relay section; Lieutenant
Tarun Mahendra, OC radio section, Subedar Natu, OC system and Captain Tushar
Tamhane, attached from Bravo Signal Regiment with his radio relay detachments.
After a quick appraisal of the requirement, it was decided that a radio relay
repeater would be established at Daudkandi on the east bank of River Meghna by
Captain Tamhane, who was instructed to keep his terminal for the forward link
on 24 hour listening watch and await signals from Dacca, where two radio relay
terminals were likely to reach by the evening. Dacca
Collecting the matching frequency crystals for use at
, Narayanan and his detachment
comprising nine men took off at about 1515 hours. They landed at Dacca airport and began
looking for suitable transport. An
elderly gentleman loaned them his van which took them to the cantonment about
12 km away. The road was jam packed and it took them 45 minutes to reach HQ Pakistan
Eastern Command They made their way to the signal centre and exchange building
where they were met by Brigadier Sidhu, who took Narayanan along to a meeting
being held by Brigadier K.K. Tewari, CSO Eastern Command, who had arrived in
Dacca along with his staff. Present in the conference were signal officers from
several formations. Seeing Narayanan
with Sidhu, Brigadier Tewari perhaps assumed that essential elements of IV
Corps Signal Regiment had already arrived at Dacca . Telling Narayanan to take control of
the transmitter station of the Pakistan Eastern Army Command, he asked him to
establish the radio and radio relay links to Dacca and Delhi with assistance from Pak Signals
Narayanan found that the receiver station located in the signal centre building was manned by eight Pakistani signallers under Havildar Guldast. Leaving instructions with them to stay put and not leave for the prisoner of war camp, Narayanan commandeered a jeep and left for the transmitter station at 2100 hours with a Pak soldier as a guide. When he arrived at the transmitter building he found an Indian Signals JCO who had been sent there earlier by Major Gill of Eastern Command Signals. The Pakistani JCO in charge was Subedar Riaz, who showed him round the station, which had over a dozen medium and high power transmitters mostly British SWAB8 (Marconi) and Siemens 1 KW.
Working feverishly through the night, the Indian and Pakistani signallers were able to establish the radio links to
and Delhi as
ordered. At about 0100 hours on 18 December Narayanan got through on the A7
link to Calcutta .
He spoke to Major G. Natarajan who connected him to the SO-in-C, who was
waiting for the call from Delhi . This was probably the first call connected
during the operations. By this time the radio relay link to Comilla had also
been established through the relay station at Daudakhandi. The E5 radio link to
through at 0630 hours. Shortly afterwards Major Sudarshan Nayar of Eastern
Command Signals arrived to take over the radio links. By
on 18 December, IV Corps Signals was relieved of the responsibility of
communications at Calcutta ,
ending their role in Operation ‘Cactus Lily’. Dacca
The performance of IV Corps Signals during the entire operation was truly commendable. This was highlighted by the corps commander, Lieutenant General Sagat Singh. While attending the Corps Anniversary function on
15 February 1972, he gave a
speech, which is reproduced below:-
“Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today is the Corps of Signals Day. I have conveyed my felicitations to all members of the Corps of Signals serving in IV Corps. But, this celebration tonight soon after our victory in
is of special
significance. On this occasion, I feel obligated to acknowledge gratefully all
that the Corps of Signals led by Brigadier Sidhu did for IV Corps during the
operations. I may sound emotional but I may confess and claim, I was not so in
the operations. I was a harsh man, I didn’t spare myself, I didn’t expect
anybody to be spared, whether a rifleman, signalman or a gunner; or whether he
was an EME man, or ASC for that matter. The fact, ladies and gentlemen, is
this, that IV Corps did a historic advance of 110 miles, over five water
obstacles, of which, Meghna was the widest water obstacle. Military history
books record the crossing of the Bangladesh Rhine. May I
submit to you, Rhine is one third of the water
obstacle of the Meghna. Meghna is two and half times wider than the Brahmaputra that you know here in Tezpur. However, that’s
a matter apart; a matter of topography. The Corps responsibility, lay from north
of Sylhet down to Cox’s bazaar, and the whole of Mizo hills, all of which I
think is a great geographical mass. I couldn’t possibly have exercised my
operational command, had it not been for Brigadier Sidhu and his resources. He
never failed me. He was entirely in my confidence. I would tell him, Gurdial,
this is what I have in mind, and he wouldn’t ask me any questions at all. He
rose to every occasion, every demand, and communications never, never failed. I
don’t think there is any parallel in history, where a corps headquarters moved
within enemy gun shells as we moved into Comilla. And we couldn’t have possibly
moved there, unless Brigadier Sidhu and the Corps of Signals had ensured our
communications. Now this is something, ladies and gentlemen, a fact of history
and undeniable. The whole corps headquarters moved on the night of 11/12 and we
couldn’t have functioned there, if he had not gone ahead and established the
communications within enemy gun range. May I gratefully, on behalf of the
entire Corps, the fighting Corps, submit that we couldn’t have achieved the
success that we did, had it not been for Brigadier Sidhu, IV Corps Signal
Regiment, Bravo and V Communication Zone Signals elements. Frankly I couldn’t
have achieved the success had it not been for their support and for their
efficiency. I am most grateful. Thank you Brigadier Sidhu”.35
8 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment
8 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment was located at Zakhama in Nagaland in 1971 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Kalyan Singh. The second-in-command was Major S.C. Ahuja (he subsequently became a lieutenant general and the SO-in-C) while the adjutant was Captain Bharat Parkash. The other field officers in the unit were Majors G.R. Bhardwaj, J.L. Puri and MS Dhillon.
As soon as the unit came to know of its role in Operation ‘Cactus Lily’, it started making preparations. The unit conducted feasibility trials from several locations such Dharmanagar, Rattabari and Kailashahar to the projected locations of brigades. Some PL and cable routes were constructed in the area of operations. These included a 70 lbs cadmium copper spaced PVC route from Dharmanagar to Kalashahar and a field cable route from Dharmanagar to Amtila. A G1 system of the P&T Department was mounted in a vehicle to derive circuits by integration with their circuits at Dharmanagar. This proved very useful during the operations.
The move of 8 Mountain Division to its concentration areas was carried out in strict secrecy. To conceal its identity, the divisional headquarters was referred to as Rear HQ 57 Mountain Division, which was also functioning in the area. This created a lot of confusion and it was later decided to revert to its original name. The operational commitments of the unit in Operation ‘Orchid’, including the signal centre at Zakhama were taken over by 1001 Independent Signal Company (Mountain Brigade) which had been raised for this purpose. Major Mukandan and Captain S. S. Badal who had been with the company through its raising took charge of the communication duties. Lieutenant A.K Choudhary of the unit remained at Zakhama to assist Mukandan and his team.
On 15 October the special train arrived at Baraigram railway station. By 17 October, the signal centre was fully functional, and trunk speech circuits had been provided to Main HQ IV Corps, to Rear HQ 8 Mountain Division and to 59 and 81 Mountain Brigades. On 18 October the remainder of the unit arrived by road, completing the concentration of the unit at Sherpur. Radio relay links were established with both brigades and direct channels given between the operations rooms at both ends. Radio links were also put through with corps, both brigades as well as with Zakhama. The rear divisional headquarters came up at Ratbari, where the signal centre became functional on 25 October and a 40 line Ericsson exchange was installed. Initially, traffic was cleared to corps on C2 but the link was closed down on 30 October after a telegraph circuit was engineered by mounting ACT 1+1 on the PL between Dharmanagar and Sherpur.
In addition to its own brigades, 8 Mountain Division also had a brigade of East Bengal Regiment (EBR) located at Kadamtila. Communication to the EBR brigade was provided by sending a HF/VHF radio detachment to their location on 5 November. Subsequently another radio detachment was sent to Kamalpur to provide communications to the EBR brigade at that location. By this time the teleprinter was working on the radio link to 81 Brigade. For 59 Brigade, a VFT circuit was provided on the radio relay link. Shortly afterwards, a party of the P&T Department arrived to install the G1 carrier system between Sherpur-Silchar and Sherpur-Dharmanagar, which was commissioned on 15 November. Circuits were engineered from Sherpur to Dharmanagar as well as to Teliamura and Sonamura by dropping the audio at Patherkandi. The audio channel of Sherpur-Silchar GI System was dropped at Karimganj and extended to Tactical HQ 2 Artillery Brigade at Fakirbazar, about 15 km away.
On 17 November the rear divisional element of Signals moved to Rattabari under Captain K.G. Tewari. During this period a divisional tactical headquarters was established for Operation ‘Spring Time’, the code name for the capture of Atgram and Zakiganj, in order to remove the enemy threat to Karimnagar and the Badarpur Ferry. A radio relay detachment under Second-Lieutenant Virendra Kumar was deployed for providing communications at the divisional tactical headquarters. A monitoring detachment under Captain John Cherian was also sent along. Radio communications were provided on D5 and D5A nets, for which detachments were sent from 2 Mountain Artillery Brigade Signal Company. These detachments were all withdrawn on 21 November after the capture of Atgram and Zakiganj by 59 Mountain Brigade.
Even after the capture of Atgram and Zakiganj, Pak troops continued to fire at Indian positions and carry out acts of sabotage in the area across the border. To eliminate this threat, Operation ‘Winter Flower’ was launched for the capture of area up to Kulaura by 59 Brigade and Operation ‘Black Jack’ was undertaken by 81 Brigade for the capture of Shamshernagar. For these operations, communications were provided on the same lines as for Operation ‘Spring Time’ to the divisional tactical headquarters at Bhagban Nagar. On 27 November orders were received for the move of the main divisional headquarters to Missiontila. On 29 November the main body of the unit moved to Missiontilla and established communications on line, radio and radio relay with forward elements as well as rearwards. A line construction section of N Communication Zone Signal Regiment under Captain V.K. Girdhar attached to the unit was asked to extend the PVC route from Chandipur to Chatlapur the new location of 81 Mountain Brigade and complete the task by midnight 3/4 December.
Operation ‘Cactus Lily’ commenced on
December 1971. The M1 Group moved to the new location in general
area Kailashahar at 1100 hours. Captain S.V. Jagannath, OC 81 Mountain Brigade
Signal Company visited Shamshernagar which had already been liberated and gave
information regarding the communication infrastructure available. Apart from a
40 line magneto exchange, a huge quantity of PL stores was found. There were a
number of partially damaged PL routes existing towards Kulaura, Kamalganj,
Maulvi Bazar and Chatlapur, and also some carrier quad. On 4 December the rear divisional
headquarters moved from Ratabari to Bhagban Nagar. The PVC route was extended
from Chandipur to Chatlapur, the new location of 81 Brigade. The same day a
line party of 59 Mountain Brigade Signal Company apprehended two Razakars
cutting the line running to 9 Guards.
By 5 December line communications to rear divisional headquarters had been provided by dropping the audio at that location by use of a BBFU on the circuit derived by mounting ACT 1+1 between main and tactical divisional headquarters. A 10 line magneto exchange was installed at the tactical headquarters at Shamshernagar. On 7 December line communications were provided between tactical headquarters at Shamshernagar and 81 Brigade at Munshi Bazar. A radio relay link was also established and channels dropped at Shamshernagar and connected to the tactical headquarters exchange. On the same day the famous heliborne operation took place for the capture of Sylhet. A radio detachment of 59 Mountain Brigade Signal Company accompanied 4/5 Gorkha Rifles, the battalion that carried out the heliborne operation and landed at a point north of Sylhet.
On 10 December the M1 Group moved from Missiontila to the new location at Shamshernagar. The detachment of N Communication Zone Signal Regiment laid an additional pair of 150 lbs GI (galvanised iron) wire between Shamshernagar and Munshi Bazar on the existing PL alignment. A team of the P&T Department had been positioned with the G1 system at Shamshernagar. A radio relay link was established from the new location to HQ IV Corps through the relay station at Aijal. These communications were through before the move of the main divisional headquarters from Missiontilla to Shamshernagar on 11 December.
Radio links from the main divisional headquarters were established to 59 Brigade at Sagarnal and 81 Brigade at Maulvi Bazar. The G1 system between Dharmanagar and Shamshernagar was commissioned. This provided two speech and one telegraph channels to Teliamura. The third channel was patched to 59 Brigade at Kulaura, with the audio channel dropped at rear division at Bhagban Nagar. Next day a direct line was provided to 59 Brigade at Kulaura by rehabilitating the existing PL route along the railway alignment under supervision of Major M.S. Dhillon. The third channel of the GI system was terminated at Dharmanagar exchange. Two pairs of PL route Maulvi Bazar – Sylhet were rehabilitated by 81 Brigade Signal Company to provide line communications to 3
from the brigade exchange.
Tactical HQ 59 Mountain Brigade moved to Fenchuganj after it was cleared on 12 December. A radio relay link was immediately established to the new location on 13 December. Next morning a monitoring detachment under Captain John Cherian accompanied the divisional commander to Fenchuganj. On
15 December 59 Mountain Brigade moved
to area Magla Bazar. Communications on
radio relay and radio were established with main divisional headquarters at
Shamsher Nagar over distance of 60 km. By this time the corps headquarters had
moved to Comilla. To cater for this, Channel 1 of the GI system Shamshernagar –
Dharmanagar – Teliamura was patched at Teliamura for Comilla. The operations ended on 16 December.49
57 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment
The unit was raised on
December 1969 at Masimpur, the first CO being Lieutenant Colonel
B.S. Chadha. The role of the unit was to provide communications for counter
insurgency operations over a wide area, comprising difficult and mountainous
terrain. The division at that time had 19 battalions including para-military
forces, resulting in heavy work load for the unit. After the worsening of the
political situation in East Pakistan in March
1971, large numbers of refugees started pouring in across the international
border. This led to an increase in subversive activities by the Pak Army in the
area of operational responsibility of the division. Delta and Echo Sectors were
created at Agartala and Masimpur respectively under the command of 57 Mountain
Division. The co-ordination of their communications became the responsibility
57 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment. To counter the border violations by the
Pak Army, 61 Mountain Brigade was moved from Mizo Hills to Cachar District with
its headquarters at Badarpur. After this, 73 Mountain Brigade at Aijal became
responsible for the whole of Mizo Hills.
During Operation ‘Cactus Lily’, 57 Mountain Division operated in the Akhaura-Bhairab Bazar Sector as part of IV Corps. The divisional headquarters moved from Masimpur to Jerania in Tripura on
28 August 1971.
Communications on radio, radio relay and line were established soon after
arrival. The D1 net was established on
HF as well as VHF. The VHF D1 control
using ANPRC 25 with remote control facility was set up on top of a water tank
at a height of 50 feet from the ground, as the distances were beyond the
effective range of the set. In addition, a one to one radio link using GR 345
was established for the divisional commander’s rover, so that it could get
through from any place in the area of responsibility. Radio relay links were
established to all brigades and to Main HQ IV Corps as a standby to speech
To derive speech channels with brigades a three channel composite system of the P&T Department was installed on the PL between Jirania and Agartala. A VFT system was mounted to derive the teleprinter circuit to the corps. A carrier quad route on bamboo poles was laid between Jirania and Agartala Carrier, on which a (1+4) carrier system was mounted to provide standby speech lines to brigades. Field cables routes were laid on bamboo poles, for the line to Champaknagar from Jirania, and for speech and telegraph tails to three brigades at Jirania and Agartala. Three phase power supply was taken from the civil mains and utilised for battery charging, as also for power supply to radio relay detachments and other signal installations. This obviated the need to run charging engines and generators, which were conserved for the actual operations. An underground signal centre was constructed by 15 Engineer Regiment.
During the last week of October 1971 an operation was conducted for the capture of Dhalai across the international border. The divisional tactical headquarters moved to Kamalpur on 30 October. A signal detachment with HF and VHF radio sets, a 10 line exchange, telephones and cable accompanied the tactical headquarters. The radio relay link between Jirania and Ambasa was extended to Kamalpur to provide standby line communications between Teliamura -Kamalpur and Jirania -Kamalpur. During the attack, line communication was provided to the advancing troops on manpack basis. Signal detachments from the unit did an excellent job in providing communication for this action, which brought the first major victory for the division.
Shortly before the commencement of open hostilities with
, Main HQ 57 Mountain
Division moved to Agartala on 29 November and was deployed tactically in
underground bunkers. 61 Mountain Brigade was placed under direct control of IV
Corps and ‘S’ Force came under command of 57 Mountain Division. The operation for the capture of Ganga Sagar
and Akhaura commenced on 2 December and was completed on 5 December. Field cable
routes followed the advancing troops and line communication was established
immediately. During this operation one lineman of 73 Mountain Brigade Signal
Company was killed and one wounded. A lineman of 311 Mountain Brigade Signal
Company was wounded in the operation. Pakistan
Immediately after the capture of Akhaura, line communications were extended to 311 Mountain Brigade and later to 73 Mountain Brigade even before the road axis was opened for vehicular traffic. The existing PL routes were badly damaged by the retreating enemy and due to heavy artillery shelling from both sides. Because of the urgency of getting across guns and artillery ammunition at bottle necks, very low priority was given to Signals for crossing at Akhaura ferry. All stores, cables and equipment had to be manhandled and carried on manpack basis. Even the radio relay detachments including generators and petrol were manhandled across the river and radio relay communications provided to 73 Mountain Brigade.
The divisional tactical headquarters moved to Brahmanbaria on 8 December after it was vacated by the enemy. The 73 Brigade radio relay terminal located at Brahmanbaria ferry site was converted hurriedly to establish communications with Main HQ IV Corps, until the corps detachment reached Brahmanbaria.
for this link
were sent up by a special DR and a long
local lead was laid across the river.
Thus rearward communication on radio relay was made available to the
skeleton divisional headquarters. D1 control (VHF) with remote control facility
was installed on top of a four storey building at a height of about 50 feet
from the ground, to ensure radio communications with formations under
command located beyond the effective
range of radio set ANPRC-25. Standby to
VHF D1 net was provided by RS GR-345. Crystals
The Agartala -
Teliamura PL route was later extended to Brahmanbaria
exchange by N Communication Zone Signal Regiment. Field cable lines on man pack
basis were laid to the air landing ground, helipad, 73, 311 and Artillery
Brigades. The existing PL routes were
used wherever possible. Signal traffic was mostly cleared to Teliamura through
the corps radio relay link, on which teleprinter circuit worked successfully.
The teleprinter circuit on line to Teliamura did not work properly due to
unsteady lines and the P & T carrier system.
With the fall of various strong holds of the enemy, his morale was shattered and he was on the run. To cut off enemy troops and prevent them from reaching
, 311 Mountain
Brigade was landed at Narsingdi, while 73 Mountain Brigade built up pressure to
capture Bhairab Bazar which the enemy was still holding in strength. The
tactical headquarters of 57 Mountain Division was flown to Narsingdi on 11
December. Due to urgency of the impending operation, the move of personnel and
stores was carried out in great haste.
Initially the second-in-command of the unit with one operator and one RS
AN/PRC-25 left on 11 December with the advance element of the tactical
headquarters in one helicopter. In another helicopter which was made available
in the afternoon, the Foreman of Signals could take only one radio relay
detachment, one generator, one barrel of 73 NL petrol and 10 km of cable with
two linemen. Dacca
On the following day i.e. 12 December, two more helicopters were allotted. These carried the CO and adjutant, along with the remainder of the radio relay detachment stores, 20 km of cable with four linemen, and three RS C11/R210 with operators. Another party of 15 men under Subedar K.S. Patial left Brahmanbaria by boat for Narsingdi with one radio relay detachment, one RS C11/R210 station, batteries, rations and 30 km of cable. This party took about 40 hours to reach Narsingdi jetty. Another party of four OR under a Yeoman of Signals left Brahmanbaria on 13 December with an exchange, 10 telephones, two more barrels of 73 NL petrol and rations. This party took 36 hours to reach Narsingdi. The same day another party of four officers, 25 operators, eight linemen, the corps radio relay detachment, 20 km of WD-1 cable, two type-X machines and a 5.5 KVA generator left by steamer which reached Narsingdi after 10 hours. The last party of two officers with 30 OR left Brahmanbaria on 16 December by steamer, reaching Narsingdi after eight hours.
From the helipad at Narsingdi, equipment had to be manhandled to the tactical headquarters location, which was about 7 km away. Stores coming by boat had to be manhandled from Narsingdi jetty, over a distance of 2 km. The Signals element at Narsingdi had to go without rations for two days as priority was given to important equipment and stores. Communications from Narsingdi were mainly based on radio and radio relay. Tactical headquarters of 73 and 311 Brigades and 4 Guards were placed on D1 HF net using GR 345, others being on D1 VHF. Radio relay links were established to 311 Brigade and Brahmanbaria. However, a direct link to Tactical HQ IV Corps at Comilla could not be established even after erecting the aerial on top of the United Jute Mill water tank at a height of 80 feet. Calls to IV Corps had to be routed through Brahmanbaria radio relay link which remained steady.
In addition to local lines, cable routes were laid on man pack basis to 73 Mountain Brigade, 57 Artillery Brigade and Narsingdi jetty. One operator of 73 Mountain Brigade Signal Company battalion detachment was killed due to enemy action during their crossing of the Meghna. On the morning of 14 December, 301 Mountain Brigade ex 8 Mountain Division and 95 Mountain Brigade ex 2 Mountain Division which were closing in on Dacca were placed under command 57 Mountain Division. These were added to the D1 and D2 net, though lack of road communications posed problems in coordinating communication arrangements with these formations.
15 December 1971,
our advancing troops were within 7 km of
and it became apparent that East Pakistan Army was ready for surrender. At
about 1100 hours on 16 December the Pak Army offered to surrender. By 0900
hours on 17 December the advance elements of the division reached the old
location of Pak HQ 14 Infantry Division. By the same evening skeleton Advance
HQ 57 Mountain Division became functional at Peelkhana, the erstwhile
headquarters of the Pakistan CAF. The major part of the unit that was spread
all over from Brahmanbaria to Narsingdi, moved by road and boats to reach Dacca . Due to lack of road and rail
communication, the unit was able to concentrate at Dacca only by the end of December 1971.50 Dacca
23 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment
According Lieutenant Colonel M. Sathesan who served in the unit in the early sixties, 23 Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment was originally known as GOC Assam Signal Company located in the
Naga Hills. It was subsequently renamed as 23 Infantry
Divisional Signal Company, functioning under DCSO HQ 23 Infantry Division, the
last officer to hold the appointment being Lieutenant Colonel Kulwant Singh
Deol. The brigade signal companies were independent. Soon afterwards, the
DCSO’s branch, divisional signal company
and the brigade signal companies were all grouped and reorganized into 23
Infantry Divisional Signal Regiment. The division had a large area of
responsibility, comprising five brigades and two Assam Rifles sectors. Road and
line communications were poor and communication was maintained primarily by
radio. Maintenance of lines was difficult and hazardous and line parties had at
all times to move with escorts, provided by Infantry or from unit resources. A
radio relay link to Shillong functioned using vintage AN/TRC sets. In addition
to its normal commitments, the unit manned the signal centres at Dimapur and
Jorhat. Subsequently this responsibility was taken over by N Communication Zone
Signal Regiment in 1966.
In 1971 the unit was located at Rangiya under the command of Lieutenant Colonel P.S. Talwar. When the unit received orders for move to the concentration area for Operation ‘Cactus Lily’, it was facing shortage of manpower particularly in the operator category. There were also shortages of radio and radio relay sets, secondary batteries, charging engines and cable. To complicate matters, B1 net of one brigade viz. 83 Mountain Brigade was on the HF, whereas the other two brigades were on VHF. The shortage of radio equipment of non-signal units, particularly VHF sets in the battalions was very pronounced.
With a view to ensure equitable distribution of signal equipment in the division, measures were undertaken to rationalize the holdings of all units. The Technical Officer Telecom (TOT) of the unit visited all units in the division including non-signal units in order to make maximum equipment serviceable, by carrying out repairs by cannibalization of components of unserviceable radio sets. This resulted in considerable improvement in the availability of serviceable radio sets before the commencement of operation.
The commitments of the unit during Operation ‘Cactus Lily’ can be broadly divided into two major operations viz. ‘Harvest’ and ‘Sledge Hammer’. Operation ‘Harvest’ (19 to 29 November 1971) dealt with operations in the Belonia Bulge and Operation ‘Sledge Hammer’ (3 to 15 December 1971) with the operations in the Comilla – Chandpur – Mynamati sector.
By about the second week of November, 83 Mountain Brigade took over the operational responsibilities from 73 Mountain Brigade in the general area Santir Bazar – Sabrum with the brigade headquarters at Bugafa. During the relief of 73 Brigade 83 Brigade there was heavy enemy interference resulting in considerable casualties to own troops. The divisional commander decided to put in a two battalion attack in the area around Belonia – Parsuram from where the enemy interference was reported. Due to stiff enemy resistance from area Bulgazi, this operation was held up and it was decided to put in a two brigade attack with 83 and 181 Mountain Brigades to clear the enemy from the Belonia Bulge. Since the main divisional headquarters was located at Kakraban which was over 40 km from Belonia, it was decided to move up the divisional tactical headquarters to a suitable location.
On 17 November the CO, accompanied by OC 1 Company and GSO 2 (Operations) carried out a reconnaissance and selected an area for the tactical headquarters on a high ground about 6 km from Santir Bazar along the Belonia road. The brigades commenced their moves on the night of 17/18 November and completed concentration by first light. The initial location of HQ 83 Mountain Brigade was Raj Nagar and that of HQ 181 Mountain Brigade was Amjad Nagar. HQ 301 Mountain Brigade remained at Nirbhaypur looking after the Sonamura sector. The divisional signal centre was established and started functioning by 1400 hours on
18 November 1971. Radio, radio relay
and line communications were established to 83 and 181 Brigades. The corps
radio relay detachment was also moved to the tactical headquarters location.
Radio relay was established to Main HQ IV Corps at Teliamura and the main
divisional headquarters at Kakraban.
Operation ‘Harvest’ commenced at first light on 19 November with infiltrations by 83 and 181 Brigades along the western and eastern sides of the Belonia Bulge respectively. One radio relay and one line detachment each were attached to the brigade headquarters. The tactical headquarters of the brigades moved up and established radio communications with the divisional headquarters followed by the establishment of line communications. After this the radio relay detachment moved up with the main brigade headquarters and established radio relay communications. This was the drill followed throughout the operations by which continuous and reliable communications were maintained with the brigades as they advanced. In addition to exchange lines to the brigades lateral lines were also provided whenever possible. The brigades advanced rapidly along their respective axes and the final distances of HQs Artillery Brigade, 83 Mountain Brigade and 181 Mountain Brigade from the divisional headquarters were 28, 35 and 42 km respectively. The operation ended on
28 November 1971 and the
divisional tactical headquarters returned to Kakraban after handing over the
trunk lines laid on the ground to HQ ‘K Sector’ which was made responsible for
the Belonia Bulge.
After Operation ‘Harvest’ there was rethinking regarding the advisability of attack on Lalmai Hills from the divisional headquarters location at Shobapur with brigades located around Nirbhaypur-Dhanpur. On 29 November it was decided to move the divisional tactical headquarters further south. After a reconnaissance by OC 1 Company and the GSO 2 (Operations), Nidhiya was selected as the initial location of the divisional tactical headquarters. The brigades began concentrating in their new locations on the same night. By last light on 2 December, communications to brigades were established. The divisional tactical headquarters became functional on the same day, while the main headquarters reached the location two days later.
5 December 1971, the
divisional tactical headquarters moved to area Bahadurpur. By last light that day radio and radio relay
had been established from the new location. On 7 December, main divisional
headquarters moved up to join the tactical headquarters. Communications were provided on radio and
line to HQ 23 Mountain Artillery Brigade (Bhatora); HQ 83 Mountain Brigade
(Chaudagram); HQ 181 Mountain Brigade (Harischar); and HQ 301 Mountain Brigade
(Bhatora). Radio relay was provided to 83 and 181 Brigades and rearwards to HQ
IV Corps (Teliamura).
In view of the rapid advance of 301 Mountain Brigade along Chandpur – Narayanaganj axis it was decided to move the divisional tactical headquarters to Chandpur after it fell. With the fall of Hajiganj on 8 December and Chandpur on 9 December, a reconnaissance party with OC 1 Company and essential radio and line detachments proceeded to Chandpur to establish the tactical headquarters. By the last light on 9 December, radio and radio relay to corps were established. On 10 December, the main divisional headquarters moved up to Chandpur.
With the fall of Comilla on 12 December it was anticipated that the enemy at Mynamati would surrender. However, the garrison held on, in spite of heavy battering of Lalmai and Mynamati by air. It was then decided to clear Mynamati using 61 and 181 Brigades, 83 Brigade being still under HQ IV Corps. The divisional tactical headquarters moved from Chandpur to Aileshwar. According to the drill, radio nets D1, D2 and C1 and radio relay link to corps were established at Aileshwar, followed by the other communication links which subsequently moved up from Chandpur. On
15 December 1971 the surrender of Pakistani
troops in East Pakistan was announced by a
signal from HQ IV Corps. The Mynamati
garrison surrendered at 1000 hours on 16 December 1971.
On 18 December, the divisional headquarters moved to Mynamati. With the move of Eastern Command to
which was earlier planned to be the location of HQ IV Corps, the latter moved
to Mynamati on 24 December. As a result, Main HQ 23 Mountain Division had to move out to Feni on 25 December. Communications were established on line and
radio with HQ 23 Mountain Artillery Brigade (Kakraban); HQ 83 Mountain Brigade
( Dacca );
HQ 181 Mountain Brigade (Comilla); HQ 301 Mountain Brigade (Naokhali) and HQ IV
Corps (Mynamati). Chittagong
During Operation ‘Sledge Hammer’, the advance of the brigades was very fast and usually beyond normal field cable range. The divisional headquarters moved no less than five times during the operation. In all these moves it was split into tactical and main headquarters. The usual practice of a reconnaissance by Signals before move of the tactical headquarters could not be followed. Invariably full scale communications on radio, line and radio relay had to be provided at both tactical and main divisional headquarters till the latter joined the former, which could be after 12 to 36 hours. The frequent changes in the order of battle posed problems regarding allotment of frequencies, code signs, authentication sheets, radio relay crystals and cipher documents.51
2 Air Support Signal Regiment
In 1971, the unit was located in
with a company each affiliated to the IV and XXXIII Corps. The unit was under
the command of Lieutenant Colonel J.C. Dhamija. OC 1 Company, located at
located at Phulbari near Tezpur, was Major M. A. Siddiqui. The other officers in 1 Company were Captain
S.B. Mishra and Second Lieutenant S.S. Grewal. When the company was ordered to
move with HQ IV Corps for Operation ‘Cactus Lily’, it was asked to leave behind
a skeleton joint operations centre (JOC) staff and the divisional section
allocated to 17 Mountain Division. The two divisional sections which were with
8 and 57 Mountain Divisions were to join the company on arrival at the
destination, thus completing the full complement for the three divisions that
were to be part of IV Corps. While the section
that was with 57 Mountain Division was in reasonable shape as far as equipment,
vehicles and manpower was concerned, the state of the section with 8 Mountain
Division was not very healthy. The operators of this section had been attached
permanently with the divisional signal regiment and were not conversant with
air support procedures. Their equipment was also in bad shape, with major
deficiencies of secondary batteries radio sets and tyres for the tentacle
vehicles. For the four 1-Ton tentacle vehicles, only 14 tyres were held instead
of 20. As a result, they had to leap frog during their move from Zakhama in
Nagaland. Two tentacles would cover 50 km distance at a time and then halt
while the tyre of one vehicle was removed and taken back so that the remaining
two vehicles could join them. The section took a week to join the company at
its new location in Agartala. Calcutta
To make up the shortage of about 100 odd secondary batteries, the Deputy Director Ordnance, HQ IV 4 Corps suggested that these be purchased from the local market. However, the local dealers, being unfamiliar Army procedures refused to supply the batteries on credit. Besides, some modification had to be done to the battery terminals, to permit them to be used on radio sets. Fortunately, Major Siddiqui learned that 57 Mountain Division Signal Regiment was planning to back load a large number of new batteries which were not even given the initial charge. Siddiqui promptly got orders issued transferring the batteries to his unit. That still left the problem of initial charge, which is the responsibility of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME). Since the affiliated EME workshop refused to carry out this job, Siddiqui decided to do it within his own resources. He asked his unit in
to buy the acid and send it over.
The only hurdle left was transportation. Through the good offices of Major R.S.
Chhikara, the GSO 2 Operations (Air) at HQ Eastern Command, the acid was
airlifted and delivered to the company, solving the problem of batteries. Calcutta
After arrival at the new location, the process of training in air support procedures was taken in hand. The detachments were reorganised so that each tentacle had at least one trained operator. Intensive training of operators was conducted for the next two months, at the end of which all detachments had achieved a high degree proficiency and were ready for the operations. By the time the orders came to deploy the air support tentacle detachments with their respective formations, their confidence and morale was high.
Initially, the radio set that was held for ground to air communications for the air observation post was BE 201, which used secondary batteries. The set was vehicle bound and not suitable for carriage in man pack mode. Before operations started, the company received the new portable GU 734 sets, which used portable Nickel Cadmium batteries. Out of four frequencies allotted to the company, one was an international frequency and another open for civil use. This left the company with only two reliable operational frequencies. Subsequently, HQ Eastern Command agreed to allot additional frequencies, the crystals for which were issued to the EME workshop, which was to fit them in the sets. The story of how this was done has been described by Colonel Siddiqui thus:-
By mid November 1971, all the tentacles were deployed with their respective formations. One day, the SO1 (Signals) Corps Headquarters called me and said that orders for the new frequencies have come and are to be implemented. For this new crystal sets had to be installed in our GU 734 radio sets. I told the SO1 that it was impossible as the sets were already deployed with the formations. The SO1 then suggested a novel method of getting the crystals replaced. I was told to withdraw sets from one formation, get the replacement incorporated and then do the same with the second formation and finally the third one. In his estimate, we could do this in a few days time. When I firmly told him that I cannot carry out the task as suggested by him as it was impractical, he told me that it was an order and I simply had to implement it.
I then went to the 5 TAC Commander, Group Captain Gopalan and told him about the orders that I had received, stating that I can promise no ground to air communications, in the event of hostilities breaking out, as we will have our formations on different frequencies, not compatible with those fitted in the aircraft. His reply was, “ Look Siddiqui, it has already been confirmed by your Command Headquarters to Headquarters Eastern Air Command that they are ready with new frequencies to operate and based on this all our aircraft have already been fitted with new frequencies. What do you expect me to do at this stage?” My reply was “Sir, your aircraft are at their bases but my sets are deployed with the forward formations in the field, where technical support for replacement of the crystals is not available. Therefore, I am unable to implement the orders that have been given by our Signals Branch”. Unluckily, the CSO was also away at that time and I could not seek his help. The TAC Commander understood my problem and spoke to the CSO Eastern Air Command, who was simply told that we are not ready yet for the new frequencies. Their order to the bases was thus reversed and all the aircraft were asked to switch back to old frequencies. We were thus able to avoid a major disaster, as air support to the ground troops, played a very significant role in the entire Bangladesh operations and our communications never failed.36
As part of the offensive of IV Corps, 23 Mountain Division was to launch an attack on Akhaura on 4 December. An air strike was demanded but as the ETOT (expected time over target) was being repeatedly postponed by IAF, the corps commander decided that the attack should go in without waiting any further. Finally, two Hunters took off from Bagdogra for the mission. However, instead of going towards Akhaura the aircraft headed for Sylhet which was on the front of 8 Mountain Division. Since the aircraft were way off the planned target, there was no contact with the ground troops and the pilot decided to go back to base. Since their return path was from the direction of the enemy, the Air Force radar station at Shillong declared the Hunters as hostile aircraft. This created a panic at the JOC of IV Corps, where it was assumed that the warning coming from the radar station at Shillong implied that Pakistani Sabres were coming to neutralise our Hunters. The TAC Commander asked Siddiqui do something to warn the Hunter pilots of the presence of the hostile aircraft. Siddiqui told him that all that he had was a GU 734 set. Since they were located in a depression it was highly unlikely that the pilots would hear his transmission. Just then, they saw the Hunters fly past. It was only then that they realised that what the radar had thought to be hostile aircraft were our own Hunters.
At this time the aircraft carrier I.N.S. Vikrant was in the
Bay of Bengal and joined the air
support net on the fourth day of the operations. An immediate air strike demand
was raised by HQ IV Corps with I.N.S. Vikrant.
Due to some reason, the ship suddenly went off the net and the message
could not be passed. When Siddiqui informed the GSO1 (Operations) at the corps
headquarters he said that how he passed the message was his problem and refused
to hear any excuses. Siddiqui then called the signal officer at the Naval
to find out if he had any communication with the ship. After he confirmed that
he was through, the message was dictated to him on the telephone. The message was passed and the air strike
materialized at the specified time. Later, when the ship joined the net, they
were asked the reason for their being off the air. It was learned that a fire
accident had damaged their equipment and this led to the break in
Soon afterwards, 8 Mountain Division planned a heliborne operation of 59 Mountain Brigade, about which Siddiqui was not informed. The tentacle detachment with 59 Brigade carried the bulky C11/R210 radio set with two secondary batteries and a generator. They were in the first wave which came under heavy enemy fire, could not land and came back. One soldier was hit by a bullet and died. This had visibly shaken Naik Raju, the tentacle detachment commander and it took a lot of persuasion and pep talk from Major J.L. Puri, OC 1 Company in 8 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment to build up his morale when the detachment was sent again in the next wave. Siddiqui came to know of this the next day, when he found this tentacle going off the air frequently. He then called Puri who informed him of what had happened. Siddiqui regretted that he was not informed about the heliborne operations. Had he known, he could have requested the CSO to loan him the portable HM 30 sets, a few of which were held by the corps signal regiment.
However, the tentacle detachment performed very creditably. The C11/R210 radio set of the air support tentacle was the only means of communication of 59 Brigade with outside world, as the HF set that was being used as an out station on the D1 net of 8 Mountain Division had a battery problem and could not get through. In order to conserve batteries, Naik Raju was told to open the set only when he had a message to pass. They could not start the generator to charge the batteries as the noise immediately drew enemy fire. He was able to remain on the D1 net and provide crucial communications to the brigade, switching back to his own net to pass air support demand messages. As many as six immediate air support demands were initiated by the heliborne forces and all of them materialized, thanks to the air support communications. Naik Raju was later ‘Mentioned in Despatches’.
During the last few days of the operations, everyone was racing for
and rearward communications were given
a go by. There were times when the air support tentacle was the only means of
communications with the formations. The CSO told Siddiqui to keep his
communications going and not to switch off the sets. There was also an instance
of the tentacle set being commandeered by a brigade signal officer when his own
set became faulty. Dacca
Siddiqui’s experience during the war had an element of adventure as well, when he inadvertently was made officer in charge of an escort mission to take a Pakistani general (by the name of Qazi Abdul Majeed), the GOC of 4 Pakistan Infantry Division, from Bhairab Bazar to Dacca on 15 December 1971 in a MI 4 helicopter. This was a day before the formal surrender of the Pakistani Army. The company performed creditably during the operations and Siddiqui got a 'Mention -in- Despatches'. In addition, one JCO and two OR got COAS commendation cards.
L Communication Zone Signal Regiment
The unit was raised on
1964 in Siliguri. The role of the unit was to carry out
communication tasks in the rear areas of formations deployed in and Sikkim West Bengal under XXXIII Corps. It also carried out line
construction and maintenance in far flung areas such as North
Sikkim. In 1971 the unit was located at Lebong, near under the
command of Lieutenant Colonel S.C. Roy, with Major P.K.S. Bisen as his second-in-command.
Other officers holding important appointments were Major V.K. Bajaj (adjutant);
Major A.S. Molni (2 Company); Major V.K. Gupta (3 Company); Captain S.C. Sharma
(1 Company); and Captain K.S. Nair (HQ Company). Darjeeling
Since the unit was looking after communications along the L of C, it was not actively involved in the invasion
However, it was given the responsibility of relieving units that were to take
part in the operations of their static communication responsibilities in XXXIII
Corps sector. This involved maintenance of line routes, as well as manning of
radio links, exchanges and locality signal centres. The major commitment of the
unit was maintenance of PL routes in XXXIII Corps sector. It was also asked to man locality signal
centres at Gangtok, Kalimpong and Hashimara; and locality exchanges at
Bengdubi, University Area, Sevoke
Road and Binaguri. In order to carry out these
tasks, the unit was reorganised. 1
Company was given the responsibility for communications in the sectors of
XXXIII Corps, 20 Mountain Division and North Bengal Sub Area, including P&T
carrier centres. 2 Company was made
responsible for communications in the 17 and 27 Mountain Divisional sectors.
These deployments were completed by 20 October 1971.
In mid October, 42 Light Radio Section (8 set- mobile) was sent to IV Corps Signal Regiment on temporary attachment. On 3 November, 2 Company of the unit moved to Kalimpong. Towards the end of November, the regimental headquarters along with HQ Company moved to Bengdubi near Siliguri, where 1 Company was already located. The PL route along axis Jalpaiguri – Chandra Banda – Patgram – Baora – Bara Khata was resuscitated to provide a direct line between HQ XXXIII Corps and Garhwal Rifles, the total distance being 67 km. On 2 December, the unit was given the responsibility of maintaining all PL routes north and east of Bengdubi including the PL routes in
Though the unit had not been given any role in Operation ‘Cactus Lily’ at the planning stage, once the operations started it was called upon to perform various communication tasks. On
3 December, 77 Line
Construction Section ex Bravo Signal Regiment was placed under command of the
unit. On 4 December, one officer, one JCO and 22 OR of this section were
deployed at Pachagarh. The detachment was given the responsibility to provide
line communication up to HQ 71 Mountain Brigade which was advancing on axis
Pachagarh – Birganj – Saidpur. On 7 December the line detachment was moved from
Pachagarh to Thakurgaon. A
line party of seven OR was positioned at Sevoke Road for strengthening and
maintaining the line route between Sukna and Terulia.
Consequent to the move of HQ 71 Mountain Brigade to Birganj, the existing PL route was resuscitated upto Birganj on 9 December. 77 Line Construction Section, which had joined the unit on 3 December, was detached on 12 December and allotted to XXXIII Corps Signal Regiment. On 12 December, HQ 71 Mountain Brigade moved to Khansama – Darwani and finally to Saidpur. Line communication was provided on field cable. As a PL route was existing on axis Haldibari – Chilahati – Domar – Nilphamari – Saidpur, a reconnaissance was carried out on 13 December to undertake the resuscitation of the route. A line party of one officer, one JCO and 21 OR was placed at Jalpaiguri for this purpose. The line from Jalpaiguri to Haldibari was put through on 14 December. On 15 December, one JCO and eight linemen were positioned at
to maintain the line route Sukna – Pachagarh.
After the surrender of Pakistani troops on
17 December 1971, the unit was given the responsibility of
rehabilitating several PL routes in .
These were Jalpaiguri – Domar – Saidpur; Sukna – Thakurgaon – Birganj –
Saidpur; Saidpur – Bangladesh
and Saidpur –Diaper. L Communication
Zone Signal Regiment remained in Rampur for a month after the
termination of Operation ‘Cactus Lily’, carrying out various line maintenance
and rehabilitation tasks. Though the entire unit was not committed during the
operations, its detachments provided valuable assistance to other signal units
in carrying out their communication tasks. The unit returned to Lebong on 20 January
V Communication Zone Signal Regiment
V Communication Zone Signal Regiment was located at Tezpur in mid 1971 when preparations started for Operation ‘Cactus Lily.’ The CO was Lieutenant Colonel M.L. Khanna, who was relieved by Lieutenant Colonel Baldev Aurora shortly before the commencement of the operations. The unit was given the responsibility of looking after the communications needs of the newly raised HQ II Corps till the raising of II Corps Signal Regiment was completed. To carry out this task, the unit was split in two parts. While the main body moved to Krishnanagar where HQ II Corps was being raised, the rear elements remained at Tezpur to look after the communications responsibilities of the unit before it was split.
The main body comprising six officers, five JCOs and 176 OR left Tezpur for Krishnanagar on
1971. On arrival at the new location the unit established the
signal centre and began looking after the communication requirements of II
Corps. A 150 line CB exchange with two
T-43 trunk boards was commissioned on 15 October by the P&T Department.
Radio silence was imposed during the concentration of units and
formations. As a result, communications
had to be on line. Due to the large distances cable could not be used except
for local communication and many permanent and semi-permanent line routes had
to be constructed at short notice. In addition, some already existing routes
A major problem faced by the unit was lack of resources. The unit was asked to move at short notice with very little time to make up its deficiencies in equipment, transport and personnel. Moreover the commitments of the unit at Tezpur remained unaltered. When the unit moved in September a large number of personnel were away on courses and leave. Although these personnel were recalled yet during the initial stages there was a considerable drain on the manpower resources of the unit. The situation was aggravated owing to the necessity of sending escort parties to various ordnance depots for collection of stores released to the unit at that time. The problem of manpower was alleviated through the efforts of DCSO II Corps by attachment of personnel from other units. A line construction section was attached from S Communication Signal Regiment, while a skeleton line construction section was attached from Bravo Signal Regiment which was itself under raising at Tezpur.
Since the unit was mainly responsible for construction and maintenance of permanent line routes priority was given only to line stores. When the unit was asked to establish a signal centre and man circuits to
, it faced great difficulty as it had
only two teleprinters. The problem was solved by the transfer of some
teleprinters from 9 Infantry Division. With
the gradual equipping of II Corps Signal Regiment and by resorting to local
purchase the shortage of equipment was gradually reduced. Another problem was
the shortage of secondary batteries. A large number of new batteries could not
be used due to shortage of acid and lack of initial charging. The problem was solved to some extent by
draining acid from unserviceable batteries and purchasing some from local
The unit was heavily dependent on the P&T Department, whose reaction to maintenance of equipment and lines was slow. To speed up things, additional manpower was provided by the unit at the P&T carrier centre. The unit personnel were not trained for such tasks and it took some time before they became familiar with P&T equipment. The 150 line CB exchange functioned well but the T-43 trunk boards gave a lot of trouble and developed frequent faults. Consequently, the trunk lines were transferred to two Ericsson exchanges and the T-43 boards were handed over to P&T Department for maintenance. A link panel was procured from Indian Telephone Industries,
to provide engineering facilities. The
P&T Department after considerable efforts managed to repair the trunk
boards and the trunk circuits were transferred back to the T-43 boards. There was an acute shortage of UG cable for
the local leads from Krishnanagar repeater station and this was provided with
great difficulty through personal
liaison with P&T authorities at Calcutta.55 Bangalore
107 Communication Zone Signal Company (Territorial Army)
The company was embodied for Operation ‘Cactus Lily’ on
5 December 1971. Immediately after embodiment orders were
received to deploy the company under various formations. Subsequently two officers, one JCO and 27 OR were
dispatched to HQ II 2 Corps on 8
December 1971. Out of the
above personnel one officer and three OR were sent to Jessore to repair the
carrier equipment which was damaged due to enemy action. They were able to
repair the damaged equipment and put through the line to .
Other personnel were deployed at Krishnanagar by II Corps Signal
Regiment and V Communication Zone Signal Regiment. A detachment of two Officers, one JCO and 26 OR
was sent to HQ XXXIII Corps on 8 December and they were deployed in different
places in Calcutta
to maintain communications. Another
detachment of 13 OR was sent to Eastern Command Signal Regiment for maintaining
the signal centre. Two OR were sent to
Bengal Area Signal Company. Bangladesh
After the cease fire, all personnel reported back at
by 25 December. On 27 December, the company was asked to move
to Calcutta as
Army HQ reserve. On reaching New Delhi the company was
asked to be ready to move to Kotkapura to be deployed in Western Sector. On 2 February orders were received to move to
Kotkapura and an advance party was sent on the same day. On 4 February the orders for move were
cancelled and the company was asked to return to New Delhi .
On 10 February the company returned to Calcutta and was subsequently
disembodied on 5 March 1972. Calcutta
Bravo Signal Regiment (Corps)
In anticipation of its role in Operation ‘Cactus Lily’, HQ IV Corps was split into two parts - main and rear. Main HQ IV Corps moved to Teliamura in Mizoram under Lieutenant General Sagat Singh for undertaking operations in
East Pakistan. Rear
HQ IV Corps under Major General O. P. Malhotra (who later became the COAS)
stayed behind at Tezpur to command the troops which remained deployed along
northern & eastern borders in Arunachal Pradesh and . Since IV Corps Signal Regiment did not have
adequate resources to provide communications for operations in Assam East Pakistan as well as to meet the communication needs
of Rear HQ IV 4 Corps, it became necessary to augment its resources. For this
purpose, Bravo Signal Regt (Corps) was ordered to be raised post haste at
Tezpur in August 1971.
The authorized strength of the unit was 40 officers, an equal number of JCOs and over 1350 OR. The first CO was Lieutenant Colonel Col B.G. Chakraborty who assumed command on
28 August 1971.
The first second-in command was Major Charan Singh. The other officers in the
unit during the initial years were Majors Jaswal, V.K. Sidhwani, R.K. Kak,
Mehta, and Tiwari; Captains D.M.
Tripathy, S.R. Raju, Tamhane, V.J. Gomes, Devrajan, G.C. Nair , M.K.Das,
Shanbhag, Ramachandran, Ramaswamy, V.K. Chamela, V.K. Kutty; and Lieutenants
Bhardwaj and Pritam Singh. The first OC
Light Repair Workshop was Captain Manubhai of the Electrical and Mechanical
The unit was issued new generation communication equipment and vehicles from the Central Ordnance Depot (COD),
As the operations to liberate Agra East Pakistan
were imminent, the time available to complete the raising of the unit was at a
premium. To save time collection parties were sent to various depots to collect
equipment and vehicles. On receipt the
equipment such as radio relay etc. were fitted in vehicles using the resources
of civilian workshops in Tezpur town. To train the unit personnel in operation
and maintenance of the new equipment training classes were held even at night.
With sustained efforts and hard work put in by all ranks the unit became fit
for war in a short span of just three months. When war broke out on 3 December 1971 the unit
was ready to fulfil its role. All mobile
communication elements were attached to IV Corps Signal Regiment and they
provided crucial communications to Main HQ IV Corps during its advance to . Some sections of
the unit were also attached to Eastern Command Signal Regiment. The remainder handled all communications
required by Rear HQ IV Corps at Tezpur. Dacca
After the termination of the war the unit was ordered to move from Tezpur to Nagrota near
to provide communications from scratch for HQ XVI Corps which was then under
raising there, along with HQ Northern Command at Udhampur. Moving by rail and
road, the unit was able to concentrate at its new location by mid June
1972. On reaching Nagrota the unit was
redesignated as XVI Corps Signal Regiment.37 Jammu
The Indo- Pak War of 1971 is a milestone in
’s history and has a place in
the annals of famous battles of modern times. After the two inconclusive wars
of 1947-48 and 1965 and the decisive defeat in 1962, it resulted in a clear
victory, redeeming the Indian Army’s reputation as one of the finest fighting
forces of the World. In terms of prisoners captured and territory occupied, it
has few equals in modern warfare. It was unique in another sense – it gave
birth to a new nation. Most important of all, it established India as an
Asian power. The confidence and self assurance acquired by the country in 1971
has only increased with the passage of time and enabled India to stake
her claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. India
The Corps of Signals played a stellar role in Operation ‘Cactus Lily’. Unlike the previous wars, communication failures were almost negligible. The primary reason for this splendid performance was the time available and the improvement in the quality of signal equipment. This was perhaps the first time when Signals plans were made six months before the commencement of the operations. Thanks to the free hand and support given to the Corps by Army HQ and the Government of India, various measures such as improvement of communication infrastructure, import and indigenous production of critical signal equipment and raising of new units were implemented well before the actual operations.
Perhaps the most significant factor was the availability of radio relay, which became the backbone of communications. The rapid rate of advance of formations precluded laying of lines. Though radio functioned well, it could obviously not replicate lines, especially for telephone conversations. This is where radio relay proved its worth; making converts of commanders and staff who had hitherto been allergic to the presence of radio relay aerials near their headquarters, on considerations of camouflage and concealment.
As in the 1965 war, leadership at all levels was crucial to the success of the Corps. The SO-in-C, Major General E.G Pettengell and his deputy, Brigadier K.S. Garewal, played a proactive role, going down to formations to get first hand information about their problems. Their excellent rapport with the P&T Department, the Ministry of Defence, Finance, Ordnance, production agencies etc. was instrumental in making up deficiencies and building up infrastructure. There was excellent rapport between the commanders, Signals and staff. The exemplary leadership and organizational role played by Brigadier K.K. Tewari, CSO Eastern Command, in getting the communication infrastructure established, synergizing the capabilities of so many signal units and making available human and equipment resources as per requirement, stands out in this campaign. The CSO and his staff at Eastern Command did a magnificent job, fine tuning the Signals plan for the campaign. There were many glitches, but they overcame them, ensuring that communications did not fail. Perhaps the only blame that can be laid at their door is not planning communications from
after it fell. Since the capture of Dacca
was not planned, this lack of foresight can be condoned. Dacca
There were a few cases of instances of communication failure, which could have been avoided by better planning and attention to detail. As recorded in the diary of Brigadier Tewari, when HQ 101 Communication Zone Area moved from Tura on 13 December, the radio relay vehicles were held up at the ferry, leading to disruption in communications. The radio relay link between HQ XXXIII Corps and the HQ 20 Mountain Division also did not function for two days on 14 and 15 December, when the latter moved from Patiram to Gobindganj. The link became functional after the relay station was shifted to Hilli on 15 December. Considering that radio relay communications in the plains can be planned with a fair degree of certainty with the help of path profiles and power balance calculations, the incorrect siting of the relay station was an inexcusable lapse. As had happened in Operation ‘Vijay’ in 1961, the breakdown of rearward communications from a divisional headquarters was probably overlooked in the euphoria of victory.
The reason for the breakdown of radio communications between HQ 95 Brigade and 2 Para after it was dropped near Tangail on 11 December appears to be due to the failure of the battalion to switch on the radio sets. In this particular instance, perhaps the lapse can be forgiven. As is well known, 2 Para was tasked to capture the
enemy troops withdrawing from Kamalpur and Mymensingh. Immediately after
landing, the battalion rushed off to carry out its assigned task, without
waiting for the set piece drills that are done after a para drop. Due to the
drop having taken place in the afternoon instead of the morning, the battalion could
capture only 300 of the withdrawing enemy.
Had they stopped to erect the aerial and communicate on radio with 95
Brigade, perhaps the number of captured prisoners would have been even less. It
was the prerogative of CO 2 Para to decide which of the two was more important
– reaching the objective or passing a message to the rear. One can hardly fault
a commander for giving priority to his operational tasks in such a
were characterized by
speedy advance across wide rivers, bypassing enemy opposition, use of heliborne
forces and exploitation of tactical opportunities as they arose. Corps of
Signals officers and personnel rose to the occasion and using bold and at times
unorthodox measures, ensured essential communications. As in previous
operations, it was the ‘Signalman’ who did us proud. Irrespective of his trade,
he did a magnificent job, ensuring that communications – line, radio, radio
relay, SDS – was always through. The dedication, professionalism and commitment
of signallers won accolades from commanders and staff at all levels. Without
being presumptuous, one can say that Signals deserve as much credit, if not
more, than any other arm or service, for the Indian Army’s splendid feat of
arms during the Indo- Pak War of 1971. Bangladesh
End Notes – Chapter 6
This chapter is largely based on Gen. K.V. Krishna Rao’s Prepare or Perish, (New Delhi, 1991); Lt Gen J.F.R. Jacob’s Surrender in Dacca – Birth of a Nation, (New Delhi, 1997); Brigadier M.R. Narayanan’s When Sparrows Flew Like Eagles – Memoirs of a Signal Officer; a tape recorded interview of Maj. Gen. K.K. Tewari; and personal accounts. Specific references are given below:
1. Maj. Gen.
’s Wars Since Sukhwant Singh, India - Volume 1, The Liberation of
Bangla Desh, Lancer Publishers. Independence , 1980, pp.54-56 New
2. Maj Gen D.K. Palit, The Lightning Campaign, Thomson Press,
, 1972, p. 74 New Delhi
3. Gen K.V. Krishna Rao, Prepare or Perish, Lancer Publishers, New Delhi, 1991, pp.170-71
4. Sukhwant Singh, pp. 71-73
5. Personal account, Brigadier H.C. Malhotra.
6. Personal account, Colonel M. Sathesan
7. Personal account, Lt. Gen. S.R.R. Aiyengar
8. Personal account, Brigadier G. Natarajan
9. Personal account, Lt. Col S. Ambady
10. Major General K.K. Tewari, tape recorded interview.
11. Lt Gen J.F.R. Jacob, Surrender in
– Birth of a
Nation, Manohar Publishers, Dacca , 1997, p. 47 New
12. DO Letter No 00576/EGP/SO in C of
6 October 1971.
13. Jacob, pp.71-77.
Krishna Rao, p. 176
15. Jacob, p. 113
Rao, pp. 177-180
17. Maj. Gen. Lachhman Singh, Victory in Bangla Desh, Natraj Publishers,
1981, pp. 157-8 Dehra Dun
Rao, pp. 182-183
19. Lachhman Singh, pp.207-208
20. Maj. Gen. V.K. Singh, Leadership in the Indian Army – Biographies of Twelve Soldiers, Sage Publications,
2005, p. 323. New Delhi
21. Personal Diary, Maj Gen. K.K. Tewari
22. Tewari, tape recorded interview
23. Personal Diary, Maj Gen. K.K. Tewari
24. Personal account, Brigadier A. Verma.
25. Personal account, Maj. Gen. G.L. Chadha.
26. Personal account, Maj. Gen. Hardayal Singh
27. Personal account, Maj. Gen. Yati Pratap.
28. Personal account, Brigadier D.B. Lahiri.
29. Personal account, Lieutenant Colonel Vinod Aggarwal
30. Personal account, Maj. Gen. Manmohan Bhatia
31. Personal account, Maj Gen. K.K. Tewari
32. Personal account, Brigadier P.K. Ghosh
33. Brigadier M.R. Narayanan, When Sparrows Flew Like Eagles – Memoirs of a Signal Officer. pp. 23-24
34. Narayanan, pp. 45-46
35. Narayanan, p. 118
36. Personal account, Colonel M. A. Siddiqui
37. Personal Account, Brigadier Charan Singh