Saturday, January 16, 2016


Chapter 8 

Preview – Background. KOREA (1953-54) : UN Multinational Force (1950-53) – Custodian Force India (1953-54) – Signals in Korea. INDO-CHINA : Background – International Commissions for Control and Supervision in Indo China – Signals in Indo-China. GAZA (1956-67) : Background – Operation ‘Shanti’ – Signals in Gaza. CONGO (1960-64) : Background – Arrival of Indian Troops in Congo. SIGNALS IN CONGO : Indian Signal Company ONUC (1960 - 61) – Indian Independent Brigade Group Signal Company, Congo – Indian Contingent Signal Regiment ONUC Congo – Indian Signal Company (ONUC) Elisabethville (1961-62). NATHU LA (1967) : Background – The Events of 11 September 1967 – Signals in Nathu La – The Cho La Incident. CONCLUSION.
            Apart from the four major wars (three with Pakistan and one with China) that Indian troops fought in the first 25 years after Independence, they took part in a number of relatively smaller campaigns. Most of these operations were undertaken on foreign soil under the auspices of the United Nations, of which India became one of the most active partners. Though the operations were conducted not against an enemy, they often involved a fair degree of risk and resulted in casualties.
            The first such operation was conducted in Korea in the early 1950s, when 60 Para Field Ambulance was sent as part of a UN Multinational Force. Two years later, an Indian brigade was sent to Korea as part of the Custodian Force India (CFI), under the control of the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission (NNRC), which was also headed by India. The successful conduct of this very sensitive assignment established India’s credentials in the international community, leading to several such assignments in the succeeding years.
            The next major overseas assignment was in Indo China (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) when India contributed troops for the International Commissions for Control and Supervision (ICSC) in Indo China. Of the three nations (Canada, Poland and India) that made up ICSC, India contributed the maximum troops, the major share coming from the Corps of Signals, in the form of a full-fledged signal regiment. The assignment lasted for over 15 years, from 1954 to 1970.
            In 1956 India sent troops to form part of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in Gaza during the Middle East crisis. The Indian contingent comprised an infantry battalion along with ancillary troops, including a signal section, which was turned over every year. A total of 11 Indian contingents served in Gaza from November 1956 to June 1967.
            The UN Operation in the Congo (ONUC) from July 1960 to June 1964 was the largest peace keeping operation mounted by the United Nations until that time. Initially, in 1960, India sent only supply, technical and medical personnel. This included a signal company that was located at Elisabethville. In 1961, India sent an independent brigade, along with its own signal company. The Signals complement was later increased to a regiment, located at Leopoldville. The assignment in Congo included a number of actions in which Indian troops suffered casualties. The assignment lasted until 1964.
            Another action in which Indian troops were involved took place on Indian soil at Nathu La in Sikkim in 1967. Though war was not declared, Indian troops clashed with the Chinese, leaving several dead on both sides.  A signal officer, Second Lieutenant N.C Gupta, played an important role in this skirmish.
KOREA (1950-54)
UN Multinational Force (1950-53)
During World War II, the Allies captured the Korean peninsula, which was under Japanese control. When the war ended, the United States of America and Soviet Union divided the country along the 38th Parallel, giving birth to two Koreas: the Communist-backed North, and the US-backed South. By mid-1950s, relations between the two had worsened. On 25 June 1950, North Korea launched an attack on South Korea and captured the capital, Seoul. The UN Security Council demanded an immediate end to the hostilities. However, when North Korea refused to comply, the UN asked member states to respond to the crisis by furnishing assistance to South Korea and repel the aggression by North Korea. Troops from over 20 nations joined the UN Force under the leadership of USA. By the time the force was deployed, North Korea had captured all of South Korea except a small area around Pusan where the UN command was located.
With his abhorrence for war, Prime Minister Nehru declined to send Indian combat troops to Korea. However, he agreed to send a field ambulance with an attached surgical unit. The unit chosen for this assignment, 60 Para Field Ambulance, landed at the port of Pusan on 20 November 1950, with a total strength of 346, consisting of 17 officers and 329 OR. The unit had to operate as two entities. The principal part, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel A.G. Rangaraj, was assigned to 27th Commonwealth Brigade at Uijongbu. The remainder of the unit under Major N.B. Banerjea worked at the South Korean field hospitals in the strategic town of Taegu.
60 Para Field Ambulance remained in Korea for more than three years, taking part in several important operations undertaken by the UN force. Hostilities ended after Armistice Agreement which was signed on 27 July 1953 at Panmunjom. Though the role of 60 Para Field Ambulance ended with the signing of the Armistice, it was ordered to join the Indian Custodian Force in the De-Militarised Zone. The unit returned to India in February 1954 together with the Indian Custodian Brigade. The unit performed exceedingly well during its mission, earning praise from all concerned. It won two Maha Vir Chakras, six Vir Chakras, one Bar to the Vir Chakra, and 20 Mentions-in-Dispatches, a record not equalled even by combat units on similar assignments.
Custodian Force India (1953-54)
The armistice envisaged a complete cessation of hostilities and establishment of a De-Militarised Zone between the two Koreas from which all military forces would be withdrawn. The final exchange of prisoners between the North Koreans and the UN forces commenced on 5 August 1953. The UN Command had 14,704 Chinese and 7,900 North Korean prisoners to hand over, while the joint North Korea People’s Army (NKPA) and the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPV) Command had 359. However, the exchange ran into problems when many of the NKPA and Chinese prisoners held by the UN Command, as also some UN Command prisoners with the North Koreans did not wish to be repatriated to their respective countries. A large number of Communist prisoners elected not to return to the Peoples Republic of China; and 21 American prisoners elected to stay with the Communist forces. This became a hurdle in the implementation of the Agreement. Both sides exchanged lists of prisoners, but no decision could be reached on the methods and procedures for repatriation. Since the issue could not be resolved, the UN established two organisations.  The first was the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission (NNRC), which had members from five countries - Sweden, Switzerland, Poland, Czechoslovakia and India, which was to chair the body. In addition, India was asked to send a Custodian Force, which was to take responsibility for all prisoners of both sides who did not wish to be repatriated. All military and civilian personnel of the Custodian Force India (CFI) required to assist the NNRC in carrying out its duties were to be exclusively from India. Lieutenant General K.S. Thimayya, D.S.O., was appointed the chairman of the NNRC while Major General S.P.P. Thorat, D.S.O., was nominated as the GOC, CFI.
Initially, it was visualized that the CFI would have to take over an estimated 50,000 prisoners of war and a force consisting of a divisional headquarters with two brigades would be required. However, before the Agreement was signed, about 27,000 prisoners of war were suddenly released by the South Koreans.  This left only about 24,000 prisoners that had to be guarded and the strength of the CFI was reduced to a brigade. Accordingly, 190 Infantry Brigade under Brigadier R.S. Paintal was earmarked to form the main body of the CFI.  After a visit by the advance team comprising General Thorat and the Foreign Secretary in August 1953 for an on-the spot study, the CFI left for Korea in five contingents in August-September.  The first four contingents comprising the bulk of the force left by sea from Madras, while the last contingent comprising 2 Para and a company of 3 Mahar was transported by air from Calcutta to Inchon by the US Air Force.  
The CFI was housed in canvas tents, in three groups, at a place known earlier as Tong-Jong-Ni. Thorat gave it the name Hindnagar, which soon became well known. The prisoners were housed in compounds, with each accommodating about five hundred. Each compound had tents for living, kitchen, dining hall, and latrines. There was a double wire fence around each compound, with the space between them used for patrolling. A number of compounds were grouped together into an enclosure, which also had a double wire fence around it.  Initially, prisoners of both sides were quite friendly with the Indian troops guarding them. However, this changed, as soon as some of the prisoners began to ask for repatriation. The other prisoners resented this, and beat up those who wanted to surrender to the guards, for repatriation. Sometimes, they even killed such prisoners. The Indian troops tried to prevent such incidents, and this brought them in conflict with the prisoners.
               An essential part of the NNRC’s mandate was the requirement for each side to explain fully to the benefits of being repatriated to their own countries, without using any coercion. After the explanation each prisoner was asked for his option. On 15 October 1953, explanations started. A large number of North Korean and Chinese prisoners, captured by the UN Command, refused to be repatriated. The KVA-CPV Command contended that this was because false information had been given to the prisoners regarding the conditions prevailing in their homelands. They argued that if they were given a chance to explain things to them, they would change their minds. This was to be done by teams from the parent nations, who would be allowed to talk to each prisoner, in camera. Each prisoner had to undergo the process of 'explanation', but was free to make his choice, regarding repatriation.
               When the explanations started, the prisoners refused to come out of their compounds. The troops of the CFI had a difficult time in persuading the prisoners to come to the explanation tent. The prisoners often spat on the members of the explanation team, or beat them up. Sometimes, they even tried to rough up the guards. If force was used by the troops, they were denounced by the Swiss and Swedish members of the NNRC, who considered it a violation of human rights. On the other hand, if the CFI did not do this, the Czech and Polish members accused them of not giving adequate protection to the explanation teams. Ultimately, on the insistence of the Swiss and Polish members, who threatened to withdraw if force was not used, the matter was referred to the Government of India. It was decided that no force should be used, and prisoners were to be given explanations only if they wished to. After the ninety day period for explanations had expired, prisoners were handed over by the CFI, to the side which had captured them. The UN Command released its prisoners, in January 1954. KPV-CPV Command initially refused to take back the prisoners captured by them, but eventually did so.
A total of 21,805 prisoners were handed back to the UN Command, and 347 to the Red Cross representatives of North Korea and China. During the period in CFI custody, 441 Chinese and 188 North Korean prisoners had asked for repatriation, and 10 prisoners of the NKPA-CPV Command had asked to be sent to the UN Command.  88 prisoners (12 Chinese, 74 North Korean and 2 South Korean) were brought to India with the CFI pending a final decision about their fate. Most of them were young students; others were doctors, engineers, tradesmen, technicians and farm labourers. These soldiers were camped in Delhi Cantonment till their final repatriation to other neutral countries such as Brazil which agreed to accept them. In early 1954, the CFI returned to India.

Signals in Korea

When 60 Field Ambulance went to Korea in 1950, it was not accompanied by any element of Signals and was dependant on the 27th Commonwealth Brigade for its communication requirements. However, a truncated divisional signal regiment, known as the Force Signal Unit was created to accompany the CFI. The unit was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel S.N. Banerjee with Major K.S. Dhillon as his second-in-command. The other officers in the unit were Captain D.B. Lahiri (adjutant), Captain J.S. Nanda (duty signal officer) and Captain H.W. Tornay (cipher officer). In addition, 190 Infantry Brigade Section was also available, with Captain Salig Ram as the OC and Second Lieutenant Harbans Bahadur as his second-in-command.
            The Force Signal Unit was raised in Delhi.  The speed of raising can be gauged from the fact that officers reported within a week between 30 July and 6 August. Leaving Delhi in two parts on 12 and 14 August, the unit reached Madras by 15 August 1953. Since only two Indian ships were immediately available, the United Kingdom offered to provide two additional vessels for transporting the CFI to Korea. The unit embarked on two ships at Madras. The advance party, consisting of two officers including the CO, two JCOs and 39 OR with approximately 40 tons of technical stores embarked on 18 August on the M.V. Empire Pride (UK). The technical stores included all radio equipment, mast construction stores, telephone exchanges and Typex machines. The balance of the unit embarked on the T.S.S. Jaladurga on the same day.  Unfortunately both ships encountered heavy weather.  The Jaladurga ran into a typhoon and sea water entered the holds of the ship.  The equipment carried by the unit were not packed in water tight containers as neither were the original cases available nor was there time to obtain material for making new cases.  As a result, some equipment was damaged.
On 30 August, the Empire Pride cast anchor three miles off Inchon.  Since President Syngman Rhee of South Korea had refused permission for Indian troops to disembark or travel overland, the personnel and equipment were first taken to the US aircraft carrier Point Cruz and then flown in helicopters to the camp site area, Tong-Jong-Ni, which was named Hindnagar by the Indian Force. The site selected for the camp was unsuitable from the Signals point of view.  Political considerations dictated that the site be located within the demilitarized zone and be mutually acceptable to both North and South Korea. Since no Signals representative had gone with the advance team, suitability of the area for signal communications was not taken into account while selecting the site.
The transmitter aerial being erected at Hindnagar, Korea
            The site selected for the transmitter station was all mined and the ground was soft and boggy.  The help of UN Command Engineers was sought for clearing mines and construction of approach roads and plinths for the transmitters.  The work was completed on 11 September and a transmitter BC 339 was opened on the next day. The link finally got through on 13 September.   The second transmitter SWB 11 could not be effectively used as it had got badly damaged in transit. Initially, some difficulty was experienced in the erection of the aerial masts as the ground was soft and boggy.  Later, cemented bases were made and proper rhombic aerials erected for both transmitting and receiving aerials. The size of the aerial park was gigantic with the long diagonal being 1500 yards long (almost a mile) and the short diagonal measuring 400 yards.     Having erected the aerials, what transpired on switching on the transmitter is best described by Captain (later Lieutenant General) J.S. Nanda who said:-
“I had two outstanding Foremen of Signals - Naib Subedar Nambiar and a radio mechanic Havildar Kartar Singh.  No amount of praise is really sufficient to describe their deeds in those early days at Korea.  They worked unceasingly and with great ingenuity to repair the SWB 11.
When it was thought that this transmitter had been put on road, everyone crossed their fingers and waited for the transmitter to be switched on.  As DSO, I gingerly switched on the transmitter.  Immediately, we heard a huge bang and smoke emanated from the rear side of the set.  Quickly I switched off the set.
The SWB 11 worked off a three phase power supply and it had an oil cooled power transformer in each phase.  Each transformer was immersed in a huge cistern of oil.  The transformer was housed in a small hut and the explosion had caused the roof of the hut to be blown off. We, therefore, had to obtain a crane not only to remove the transformer through the hole in the ceiling but also because the rest of the equipment had been bolted down to the plinth.  Having removed the transformer we rewound the winding, but on switching on the equipment, there was a repeat performance.  We just could not repair the power transformer.
            We then decided to work the equipment on two phases alone.  Accordingly, I loaded the third phase with electric bulbs.  When we switched on the set, to our joy the equipment worked.  It is quite likely that instead of the rated 10 KW output power we only radiated about 3 to 4 KW.  Nevertheless that was quite sufficient.”1
            Extensive line and radio communications were provided to the Custodian Force.  This included communications to infantry battalions and the enclosures established by them to HQ NNRC and to Army HQ.  Forward radio communications were based on radio sets 62/22 and the rear communications on 694/B399/SWB 11.  The main line arteries, using multi-core cable were laid by the UN Command personnel but all field cables were laid by Indian linemen. The operation of SDS between Delhi and Hindnagar was of particular interest because of the abnormal procedures, which involved handling of the bags by various agencies. The bags were cleared to Tokyo by Indian Airways and BOAC.  At Tokyo, the Military Attaché’s office handed them over to US APO for further clearance to Seoul and then on to Hindnagar.  It took nearly 10 days for the bags despatched from Delhi to reach the Custodian Force.
            It was soon realised that an alternate channel of communication was required when the radio link between Delhi and Hindnagar was disrupted, which was a frequent occurrence. When this happened, messages for the CFI were routed from Delhi to the Indian Embassy at Washington which in turn cleared it through the US Army Signal Corps channels to Korea.  This, however, was not a satisfactory arrangement.  On 3 November 1953, Brigadier C.H.I. Akehurst, the Director of Signals, wrote to Major General L.P. Sen, the Military Attaché in Tokyo, indicating the necessity of a separate radio link between Indian Embassy in Tokyo and Custodian Force Headquarters at Hindnagar to provide an alternative channel of communication. A copy of the DO letter is reproduced below:

Brig CHI AKEHURST, CBE                                                  DO No 56136/GS/Sigs 2
Director of Signals                                                                                          03 Nov 53

The present message traffic to/from Custodian Force Headquarters and Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission is being cleared over the wireless link that has been established between Army Headquarters and Custodian Force Headquarters.  It is imperative, however, that in the case of breakdown of the existing link, there should exist an alternative channel of routing of messages to/from KOREA. At present this is being done through the Overseas Communication Service channels to the Indian Embassy at WASHINGTON, who in turn clears it through United States Army Signal Corps channels to KOREA.  This arrangement although satisfactory is not by far the best.  As you know, routing through the Indian Embassy at TOKYO was also tried but has been found impracticable as mentioned in your signal No O 8712 dated 13 Oct 53.  Furthermore, any message traffic that the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission have for your Embassy or vice versa has to be routed through INDIA with the consequent delay.  It is therefore proposed to consider the setting up of an independent channel of communication to the Custodian Force Headquarters.
Capt MS SODHI of this Headquarters is proceeding on temporary duty to TOKYO/HINDNAGAR on or about 8 Nov 53.  While at TOKYO he has been directed to examine the possibility and implications of establishing an independent wireless link between Indian Embassy at TOKYO and Custodian Force Headquarters in HINDNAGAR.  Thus, there will be an alternative routing from DELHI to TOKYO via Overseas Communication Service channels and from there an Indian Army wireless link to KOREA which can be depended upon under all circumstances.
The issue of formal instructions in this respect by Ministry of External Affairs to the Indian Embassy at TOKYO is being arranged.
With best wishes
Maj Gen LP Sen, DSO
Military Attaché
Embassy of India, TOKYO.               
            Captain M.S.  Sodhi (he later became a lieutenant general and the SO-in-C) was sent to Korea in early November to examine the feasibility of the radio link.  On his return he submitted a detailed report, an extract of which is reproduced below:-2 
            I was deputed on special duty to Tokyo and Hindnagar on 08 Nov 53 to examine the feasibility of establishing this radio link.  Besides investigating the normal administrative problems having financial implications, I had to explore the possibility of obtaining equipment for the radio detachment at Tokyo from Japan itself.  It also involved obtaining agreement to this proposal from the Japanese Government.
            I gave a detailed briefing of the problems to the Military Attaché and he agreed to these proposals in principle.  He also indicated that the agreement of the Japanese Government for establishing this link could be obtained through UN Command Headquarters in Tokyo after a formal request was initiated by our Ministry of External Affairs.  This was received later and with liaison, the radio equipment at the Custodian Force Headquarters was obtained on loan through local UN sources and for the terminal at Tokyo from the Australian contingent of the Commonwealth Forces, who were located there.  The radio link to Tokyo was put through on 13 Jan 54.
During his visit, Captain Sodhi also went into various problems being faced by the Force Signal Unit. He noticed that a considerable amount of damage had been suffered by the equipment during shipment from India to Korea, especially the SWB 11 transmitter.  This could be attributed to improper packing, bad weather and rough seas en route, because of which salt water had seeped into the equipment.  Certain fittings inside the equipment had also got loose due to jolting and vibrations which had damaged the wiring.  In fact, he had to carry a large number of spares weighing 375 lbs for the damaged equipment.
            An interesting point brought out in the report relates to automatic Morse telegraphy. Extensive trials were carried out and after a detailed study it was found that automatic Morse telegraphy could not be successfully used in East-West or near East-West direction on a 24 hour basis because of effects of fading on this type of transmission.  Even for shorter schedules, it was necessary to have a sufficient choice of frequencies and accurate prediction charts.  It was observed in the Primary Tape Relay Station of the UN Command in Tokyo that auto Morse telegraphy was not used at all but high speed RTT was employed instead.  In his report Sodhi included the following extract from the well known book “Radio-Engineering” by Terman which throws light on this subject:-
            “Short waves propagated over great distances in an East-West direction differ markedly in their behaviour from waves travelling long distance in a North-South direction.  This is because of the way in which the distribution of sunlight varies along the transmission path at any one time. The distribution of sunlight along a great circle path lying between two points at the same latitude is non-uniform so that one part of the path can be in sunlight while another part is in darkness.  Under such a condition it is difficult to find a frequency that will propagate satisfactorily over the entire distance.  It is thus found that North-South transmission across the Equator is more reliable and easier to maintain continuously than is communication over a like distance in an East-West direction”.
Captain Sodhi spent about two weeks in Tokyo. During this period, he had the opportunity to visit the sacred and closely guarded precincts of the Joint UN and US Far East Command HQ in Pershing Heights no less than three times.  These visits gave him a glimpse into the vast organization that functioned in what must have been the largest military headquarters in the East. It also made him curious about the Signals set-up that must be meeting its demands. Not being sure in what light a request for a visit to the operational signal installations would be viewed, it was with a certain amount of hesitation that he approached the Military Attaché, in his capacity of Chief of the Indian Liaison Group in the United Nations Command HQ, to arrange the visit.  After some informal contacts and assurances to the general staff officers concerned that the visit was intended from a purely technical point of view, a formal request was sent in by the Military Attaché to the UN Command HQ.  A week of silence from the UN side convinced him that the letter must have got into the hands of some distrusting intelligence or security chief and found its place in his pending tray, while he scratched his head about Sodhi’s credentials.  It was therefore quite a welcome surprise when one morning a telephone call came through from the Military Liaison Section of the UN Command HQ to say that a conducted tour had been laid on for Captain Sodhi on 15 December 1953. Describing his experience, Sodhi writes:
On the appointed day I motored down early to Pershing Heights to avoid all the office-hours traffic jams on the ‘avenues’ and ‘streets’ of Central Tokyo and be in time.  At the Communication Section I was met by Commander Morrel and given a quick preview into the nature of my tour.  He then introduced me to a Warrant Officer Thompson of the Far East Command Signal Service Battalion (FEC Sig Svc Bn) who was to be my guide for the day.  With little waste of time I went down with him to the basement of the building to the Terminal Station Branch (equivalent of our Signal Centre) of the FEC Sig Svc Bn which was a signal unit organized on a ‘brick system’ for the provision of signal communications for the UN Command HQ.
At the Terminal Station Branch I was taken around by an officer by the name of Capt Shannon (Capt Shannon had met Brig AC Iyappa in Georgia during his visit to the US Army Signal Corps installation and evinced great interest in explaining things to me.)  This Section was sub divided into the following main sub sections:-
·         Communications – the equivalent of our terminal equipment room having about 25 teletypewriters which cleared traffic to the Primary Tape Relay Station.  There were 100% standby VHF circuits to the two 47 pair gas filled cables which provided keying lines to the relay station.
·         Operations and registration – the equivalent of our Counter Room.
·         Crypto Centre – equivalent of Cipher Office.
·         Methods and Results – a traffic scrutiny and analysis organization consisting of about two clerks per shift (‘trick’).  They, apart from collecting statistical data, checked on the percentage of errors, procedural and operational, committed by each shift and logged them on a chart in the Signal Centre.  The average number of messages handled were 10,000 per day and average time taken in clearing each message (clear and crypt included in average) about 20 minutes.
·         Tele Conference Rooms – There were two conference rooms where the Commander, and or PSOs and their staff got together to have a teleconference with their opposite numbers in other places – e.g. Washington, San Francisco, Manila and so on.  In each room there were two screens on which the ‘IN’ and ‘OUT’ messages were reproduced.  The radio link was operated by a teletypewriter which was installed next door.
·         Maintenance and Services – They looked after the standby power and maintained both the teletypewriters and cipher machines.  I was not taken there.
            An outstanding point of note was that messages were handled by Signals only for the purpose of electrical clearance.  The receipt and registration of ‘OUT messages and fair copying and distribution of ‘IN’ messages was done by AGs Branch.  The distribution of responsibility, they said, was laid down in their Standard Operating Procedure Regulation which they would give to me at the end of my visit but discreetly or otherwise forgot.  I however got a copy from the UN Command HQ later on.
Other than the Terminal Station Branch at Pershing Heights, Sodhi was also taken to several other installations, such as the Primary Tape Relay station at Camp Drake; the Receiver station at Owada; the Transmitter station at Tsukeeshma Island in Tokyo Bay; and the Photographic Section in heart of Tokyo. During the tour Sodhi covered about a 100 road miles and was able to visit all the major signal installations of the UN Command HQ in Tokyo. However, the fast pace of the tour gave him little time to absorb the details.  Furthermore, he dared not take notes from fear of offending the sense of security of the Americans.  Still it gave him an insight into the manner in which the US Signal Corps functioned.
Image (10)
Linemen of 190 Inf Bde Sig Sec making a track crossing at                                                                                     Panmunjom Bridge, in Korea
               The CFI returned to India in five ships in early 1954. They were seen off by General Maxwell Taylor and were given a guard of honour by the 8th US Army. On their arrival in Madras, they received a tumultuous welcome. The Chief Minister, C. Rajagopalachari, and his entire cabinet were at the quayside, to receive the contingent when their ship berthed. They left for Delhi by special troops trains, which were greeted at every station en route, and showered with sweets and garlands. At Nagpur, the Chief Minister of the State was present, with his ministers. At Delhi, there was a huge crowd at the railway station, when their train steamed in. The Prime Minister was also present, to greet them.
 In conclusion, it can be said that the work of the CFI in Korea has a very special place in the history of India and of the Indian Army.  Not only was it the first international peace mission undertaken by the armed forces of independent India, the problems they faced were novel and baffling.  The performance of the Force Signal Unit was commendable, even though it had been raised in a hurry and was operating in an unfamiliar environment.

Indo-China was the collective name by which the region of South East Asia roughly corresponding to the present-day countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia was known during the period of European colonial domination. Historically and culturally, the region has been influenced by India and China, hence its colonial name. The royal capital of Laos was Louang-Prabang but its administrative capital was Vientiane.  The capital of Cambodia was Phnom PenhHanoi was the capital of Vietnam until the bifurcation of the country in 1954, after which it continued to be the capital of North VietnamSaigon, popularly known as’ the Paris of the East’, was the capital of South Vietnam.          
Indo-China was under French colonial rule until the Second World War. With the German occupation of France, Vietnam became a Japanese colony. On 2 September 1945, after the August revolution, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was formed under President Ho Chi Minh. However, by this time the French forces had returned and were in control of South Vietnam and parts of North Vietnam. Then followed nine years of fighting between the French and Viet Minh until the decisive battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, where a large garrison of French forces was annihilated after fifty-five days of fighting. During this period, similar liberation movements were being carried on in Cambodia by the units of Khmer Resistance Forces and in Laos by the Pathet Lao Forces.
International Commissions for Control and Supervision in Indo China
According to the provisos of the Geneva Agreement of 20 July 1954, the country was divided into North and South Vietnam with a demarcation line approximately at the seventeenth parallel. All foreign troops were to be withdrawn and introduction into Indo-China of any troops, arms, or ammunition was prohibited. French forces in North Vietnam were to withdraw into South Vietnam and general elections were to be held in 1956 for its re-unification. To implement these provisos, three International Commissions for Control and Supervision were established, one each in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Each commission was to consist of three members (India, Canada and Poland) with India as the Chairman. The headquarters of the Control Commission for Vietnam was located at Hanoi, in North Vietnam, with an office at Saigon in South Vietnam.  The headquarters of the other two commissions were located at Phnom Penh for Cambodia and at Vientiane for Laos.  Each of the three commissions was headed by an Indian who was known as Secretary General, who carried the status of an ambassador.  There were ambassadors of the other two countries with each commission, i.e. Canada and Poland.  Each of the three countries had an alternate delegate, who was the also the military adviser to advise on defence matters. 
The first three chairmen of the commissions were Mr. M.J. Desai (Vietnam), Mr. G. Parthasarathi (Cambodia) and Dr J.N. Khosla (Laos). The first three alternate delegates to these countries were Major Generals K.P. Dhargalkar, Sarda Nand Singh and P.S. Gyani. They functioned as the overall commanders of the military contingents and chairmen of the senior military adviser’s committees. The chairmen of the commissions and their members were changed every two to three years; while the alternate delegates had tenures of less than two years.

India provided the civilian and military leadership, security, logistics and basic communications for all the three commissions. The first batch of troops, comprising 50 officers and 280 men from 2 Guards were flown to Indo-China by the Indian Air Force. I.N.S. Magar was used to ferry the heavy equipment. By 13 June 1955, the total Indian troop strength in Indo-China was 946.  In comparison to this, the military observers who represented the Western and the Eastern Blocs (Canada and Poland), matched each others’ contribution to the ICSC, which amounted to 150 military observers each during the entire term of the Commission. The Indian component included personnel from the Corps of Signals, a medical team, an Ordnance detachment, a movement control detachment to co-ordinate and control the movement of units, cargo and personnel, a postal unit and a supply detachment. These personnel were placed in two categories, designated as international and national components. The contingent also included one observer each from the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. All personnel were rotated in September-October every year in accordance with a relief plan

The Vietnam ICSC was first established in Hanoi. In 1958, it moved to Saigon, where it was based until it moved back to Hanoi for three months in 1973. Due to paucity of funds and the ongoing war in Vietnam, the ICSC in Vietnam was closed down in December 1969, leaving a small detachment of one officer and ten OR in place. The ICSC continued to maintain a reduced presence in Saigon throughout the 1960-1975 Vietnam conflict.

In Cambodia, a Joint Commission was set up in the town of Svay Reing on 14 August 1954. Elections were held on 11 September 1955 and the political party backed by Prince Sihanouk won a majority of the seats. By the first week of October 1955, the work of the ICSC in Cambodia had ended.  Slowly the ICSC’s responsibilities in Cambodia were reduced, though the Commission was finally closed only in March 1974.

Elections in Laos were held on 4 May 1955. Three years later, at the request of the Laotian Government, the Commission was closed down in July 1958. However, it was reconvened in New Delhi on April 1961. The Commission was finally withdrawn from Laos in 1968, leaving behind a small civilian component.
As the work of the Commission continued, the officers and the staff personnel serving with the mission were replaced. Gradually, the requirements decreased. By 1970, the Indian contribution in Indo-China had come down to a handful of officers and men and all commissions ceased to exist by 1975. 3

Signals in Indo-China

The International Commissions Signal Regiment (ICSR) was raised at Delhi on 4 August 1954 to provide signal cover to the three International Commissions in Laos, Cambodia and Viet-Nam. The first CO was Lieutenant ­Colonel V. Mehta with Major S.N. Mehta as his second-in-command. The other officers posted to the unit were Major S.S. Dhaliwal (OC Signal Detachment, Hanoi); Captain R.G. Singh (adjutant); Captain M.P.  Kunjunni Nair (quartermaster); Captain C.C. Bakshi (cipher officer); Captain E.N. Ramadoss (DSO); Captain E.N. Pillai (wireless officer); Captain C. Soni (OC Signal Detachment, Cambodia) and Captain V.P. Abbi (OC Signal Detachment, Laos).
Lieutenant-Colonel Mehta flew to Indo-China for an initial reconnaissance to gather information about the local communications set-up, resources available, power supply, frequencies, etc. The load tables, composition and priorities were worked out and the advance party of two officers, four JCOs and 15 OR were flown to Indo-China on 17 August 1954. They reached well in time to receive four hundred tons of ordnance stores which arrived two days later. On 20 August elements of the advance party deplaned at Vientiane, Hanoi, Phnom Penh and Saigon. By 21 August cipher offices were established at all four locations and traffic was being passed over civil circuits. The first ‘operational immediate’ message from India received on 24 August took four days to reach Saigon over civil circuits. 
The first batch of the main party arrived on 3 September 1954, and the next day, the signal centre at Saigon was established.  Within a week, the wireless links from Saigon to Delhi, Phnom Penh, Vientiane and Hanoi had been established. Wireless communications to the inspection team sites from each commission were established within ten days of the arrival of the main party.  Most of the equipment was taken from the French Command.  Various types of sets were used.  The French provided BC-339, SCR-399, SCR-188, SCR-193 and ANGRC-9 sets.  A few ANGRC-9, VB-40 and VR-101 sets were also received from North Vietnam.  The total number of wireless stations operating at one time was 78.  
             The wireless nets were spread out over unusually large distances and each net had a large number of stations, some as many as thirteen.  The choice of frequencies was limited.  Due to the limitation on space, the dipole aerial or its modifications had to be used in place of the preferable rhombic.  The 110 volts power supply was very unreliable and unsteady, fluctuating sometimes between 60 and 150 volts.  
            The signal centres had a host of other problems. The political language used in most messages made them verbose and the precedence was unduly high.  In September 1954, 30% messages were Flash, 5% Emergency and 45% Operational Immediate.  Due to the commissions being composed of delegations of different nationalities, the layout of messages could not be standardized for quite some time.  It was also not uncommon for two similar messages to be originated by two delegations, one in clear and the other in cipher.  In the first few months, the regiment was clearing an average of 250,000 groups per month. 
            Once the communications had stabilised, matters improved. The signal communication system in Indo China consisted of a major signal centre at Saigon with smaller signal centres at the headquarters of the commissions for each state viz. Hanoi for Vietnam, Vientiane for Laos and Phnom Pen for Cambodia. The rear link wireless communication consisted of one RTT and one CW hand speed link between New Delhi and Saigon and one standby CW hand speed link between Ranchi and Saigon. The main internal wireless communication in Indo China consisted of a one-to-one CW hand speed net with Hanoi as control and Saigon, Vientiane and Phnom Pen as out stations. The three commission headquarters in turn had their forward wireless nets to fixed and mobile observer teams. An air despatch service (ADS) operated three times a week between New Delhi and Saigon.  There was also an ADS connecting the various commission headquarters and motor despatch service (MDS) between the commission headquarters and the fixed and mobile observer teams.
Operators at work in the Signal Centre, Saigon
Personal accounts by officers who served with the ICSR give a vivid picture of the conditions prevailing in Vietnam at that time. Major S.N. Mehta, the second-in-command of the unit, writes:-
            My posting as 2 I/C of the Regt (the CO was Lt Col Vinayak Mehta) was the result of the usual administrative mix-up which occurs when working under pressure.  I had just completed Staff College and had in fact been posted to 36 Inf Div Sig Regt.  In 1951 I had completed a Chinese language interpreter’s course from the School of Foreign Language in New Delhi.  Some smart guy in MS Branch promptly linked Indo-China with Chinese and I was posted as an Interpreter.  Later somebody made the horrifying discovery that nobody in Indo-China spoke Chinese (they speak either French or Tonkinese) and consequently there was no requirement for any Chinese interpreter.  My posting order was therefore changed to the ICSR (International Commission Signal Regt).  
            We were concentrated at Calcutta in the summer of 1954 and were flown in Indian commercial aircraft to Saigon.  We carried no equipment, vehicles or arms (the last was a blessing since it saved guard/kot duties) - just our personal baggage and cipher documents.  Throughout our service in Indo-China we enjoyed diplomatic immunity and nobody’s baggage (including OR) was ever checked or opened. 
            The original agreement was that the French would supply all communication equipment in the South and the Viet Minh in the North.  However, the provision of communication equipment, vehicles etc was beyond the capacity of the Viet Minh (they were basically guerrillas) and so the French provided everything both at Saigon and Hanoi. Communication was entirely by radio (CW).  At Saigon we had two links to Hanoi (later cut down to one), two control stations linking international teams located at places in the South and a link connecting Saigon with the capitals of Phnom Penh, Vientiane and Hanoi.  There was also the base link SaigonNew Delhi.  All the radio equipment provided was of American manufacture – I never saw any French equipment.  We were given only the receiver terminals to operate.  The French kept all transmitters in their own transmitter station to which we were not allowed entry.  UG keying lines enabled the receiver operator to key his transmitter.  There was no hope of any line communications because the war and guerrilla activity had long before this sabotaged all PL out of existence.  Generally too, the only mode of communication was by air, all main roads having been rendered unusable due to mining, ambushes and the like.  There was a regular air service twice a week between Hanoi-Vientiane-Phnom Penh-Saigon and a seat was always reserved for the signal courier and his SDS bag.
            The French provided staff cars (Peugeots) with drivers to the HQ of the International Commissions in Hanoi and Saigon.  The share of the Signal Regt was, I think, two staff cars – one 15 cwt. and one three-tonner.  Telephones were given generously by the French both at Saigon and to a lesser degree at Hanoi
In order to ease the language problem, the Signal Regt was allotted one English-speaking French Sergeant for liaison duties.  He was a great help since he was a signaller himself and immediately understood our problems. He was a versatile fellow and once we had established a happy working relationship, he would obtain for us anything within reason from the French.  Talking to the Canadians was of course no problem. The Poles had brought along their own English and French linguists, but the Viet Minh officials made life complicated.  Although I suspect all of them could speak French, they steadfastly refused to do so, so their speech had to be translated by one interpreter into French and then a second interpreter translated the French into English.  The return journey was equally tedious.4   
Another interesting account has been given by Brigadier E.N. Ramadoss, who was posted to the unit from the School of Signals as a captain. He writes:-
One of the planes or INS Magar - I do not now remember which- brought two SCR 399 from India. One of them was completely smashed in transit with extensive damage to the valves, chassis and wiring. Since I had been taking classes on medium power equipment in Mhow, I knew the circuits practically by heart then. I had a Radio Mechanic Class I with me. So I decided to re-wire and replace the damaged parts, by drawing the manuals and the parts from the French Depot. By working late into nights, we got the set working and put them on the circuit in a couple of weeks. Even the look of the outer cover and chassis \vas improved cosmetically by the French mechanics. It was our best set. The French Signals officers and mechanics were impressed by what we could do.  They used to borrow my mechanics to help them out.  It was a great morale- booster for our men to be treated on par by the French mechanics and be entertained by them.5
Another interesting episode relates to the flap that occurred when the SO-in-C, Major General A.C. Iyappa, wanted to talk on the wireless link between New Delhi and Saigon. Describing the incident, Brigadier E.N. Ramadoss writes:-
            Towards the end of October 1954, Capt. E. N. Pillai and I switched over as the Duty Signal Officer at Saigon and Hanoi. Brig Bhagat (he was the Chief of Staff in the Commission) and Col Mehta told me that my first job was to establish the RTT link to Delhi from Saigon. Our biggest problem was the lack of knowledge of conversational French on the telephones between the transmitter, receiver and signal centre. We had one non-technical French Warrant Officer as the interpreter but he was not adequate. As the first step, I got a triple diversity receiver and its aerials erected in our signal centre by the end of November 1954, eliminating their receiving station from our circuit. I underwent a crash course in French in the evenings at my own expense under a civilian instructor. RTT got through to Delhi for a few hours towards the end of November but the trouble was that the receiving frequency was fully 'captured' by the powerful Reuters Far Eastern World News Service station so that our printer was printing out all the news. We did not have to read a newspaper! The French Saigon-Paris link's frequency was suitable but the French would neither release their SWB 11 set nor that frequency for our link. After a lot of negotiations by Col Mehta and Maj Mehta over French wines and dinners with the French Chief Signals Officer, we got a new transmitter and chose our receiving and transmitting frequencies after trial and error. In the meantime, I had reduced our normal technical queries to two dozen, which I got translated and taught our mechanics to memorise or tell the number of query in French so that the French mechanics at their signal centre and transmitter could comprehend our circuit fault and take action to restore the circuit.
  Finally the circuit got through towards the end of December and worked a whole morning session of six hours. Next morning when we established communications I got a message from Lt SAP Rao, ADSO at Delhi signal centre, that Gen AC Iyappa, our SO-in-C, would be coming to their centre and personally converse on the circuit. We all stood by the circuit which packed up promptly 15 minutes before his arrival. I heard later that ACI arrived with a congratulatory message to hear of the 'let down'. Well-meaning Lt SAP Rao volunteered to send his message on the standby WT link - that was the last straw. I heard that the General swore at all of us and stormed out angrily. Even after the circuit stabilized, there was to be no congratulatory message from ACI. I mentioned this incident to ACI in Bangalore in 1972, when he was BEL’s Chairman. He laughed in his usual hearty way and said that probably we never deserved to be congratulated, that he meant no offence but that he was so full of pride and wished so much to congratulate us on the establishment of the first Army RTT link overseas fully manned by our own personnel. Thus the first ever Army R'TT link overseas was established. It eased our traffic clearance to India considerably. We used to work it for four to six hours daily and clear about 4000 groups either way. 6
In April-May 1955, inter-zone transfer of inspection teams was carried out.  This involved a changeover of 78 wireless stations but was carried out without any break in the communications. In August 1955 the first turnover of personnel took place. On 3 August the first plane from India an IAC Skymaster landed in Saigon carrying one officer, one JCO and 50 OR. The next day, an equal number were repatriated to India. The CO, Lieutenant Colonel Vinayak Mehta was relieved by Lieutenant Colonel V.D. Deshpande. In January 1956 communications with Houei Thao were disturbed due to frequent exchange of fire between Pathet Lao and Royal Laotian Army. In February 1956, the regiment handled a large amount of traffic concerning Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s visit to China.  This included the messages from the Cambodian delegation in Peking to Cambodia, passed via Hanoi
Indian Signals linemen maintaining lines in Cambodia
The third turnover of personnel was carried out in July 1956. On 7 July Major K.K. Tewari, the CO designate arrived in Saigon with Captain J.L. Rathan, two JCOs and 70 OR. The outgoing CO, Lieutenant Colonel V.D. Deshpande returned to India on 28 July. The French High Command in Indo-China was dissolved in 1956.  This had serious implications for Signals, as the French were so far responsible for the provision of a major portion of wireless equipment and the maintenance of the transmitter station at Saigon.  The latter task was gradually taken over by the Vietnamese Army. 
            With the improvement in the political situation in Indo-China, there was a gradual reduction in commitments of the regiment from 1957. Wireless communications to all team sites except two were closed in May 1957.  The strength of the regiment was consequently reduced to nine officers, five JCOs and 231 OR. In May 1958, the Laotian element of Signals closed down, followed by the Cambodian element in July 1958.  The size of the regiment was further shrunk to that of a company in 1960.
            During its stay in Indo China, the regiment was visited by many distinguished persons. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited the regiment on 30 and 31 October 1954 on his way to China. The unit had the privilege of providing a guard of honour for him at Saigon airport.  Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the Vice-President of India, visited the regiment in 1957. Throughout their stay, the regiment and its personnel faced many hazards. In April-May 1955, Saigon saw a lot of street fighting for two weeks, resulting in the disruption of keying lines for three days.  In July 1955, there were violent demonstrations against the Commission in Saigon. Two Commission cars were burnt. One despatch rider was surrounded and plastered with posters.  As a result, the despatch riders moved about in taxis in civil dress for a week.  In September 1955, Hanoi was hit by a typhoon with a speed of 80 miles per hour.  All receiver aerials and one transmitter aerial mast tumbled down.  Power failure continued for a few days.  It took about a week to put the things in order again.  
            The unit also had its share of physical casualties. Signalman K. S. Menon was wounded in the leg in Plain Des Jars (Laos) in 1956 and had to be evacuated to India.  Two signallers died in 1957, Signalman Gurmit Singh as a result of police firing and Signalman Venugopalan in a jeep accident.  The President’s palace in Saigon was bombed and damaged by two airplanes of the South Vietnamese Air Force in February 1962.  One of the bullets hit the Senior JCO’s office. Subedar Bur Singh was fortunately elsewhere at the time.  There was another narrow escape when the MDS courier to Cap St. Jacques was ambushed by the Viet Cong in March 1962.  Signalman Pillai was lucky to come out of it with only scorched trousers. 
            Commenting on the accidents and casualties suffered during his tenure as CO of the regiment, Major General K.K. Tewari writes:-
Two or three incidents I remember distinctly.  The first was when one of my chaps was shot dead by the civil police in Saigon on 6 March 1957.  Lots of inquiries were held, followed by a number of meetings.  I was very adamant that the South Vietnam government must pay compensation on an unarmed person being shot down like this.  South Vietnam had very large police and they used to wander all over the place.  In fact you could almost see one policeman to every two or three civilians.  They were all armed with sten guns and pistols.  It was one of those incidents, when this boy Signalman Gurmit Singh had gone out, perhaps for a walk or maybe he was out for something else; he was just shot without warning.  My efforts to get compensation for his family took about two months to succeed. But, ultimately, South Vietnam government agreed to pay full compensation.
            Another incident was about my DR, Signalman Venugopalan who was killed in a jeep accident on 21 March 1957.  He was brought back in a serious condition but we could not save his live.  He died two days later.  I remember I attended the post-mortem and I was very sad. We had two Indian officers on the Commissions who died, one was a Major who died in an accident on 11 December 1956 and the other a Colonel, a fine soldier of the Indian Army, who died in Laos on 9 April in a helicopter crash.  I was one of the pall bearers and it was a very sad occasion.  All these incidents brought a lot of load on Signals by sudden increase in traffic.  All messages reporting such incidents were marked ‘Flash’.7
The regiment earned a good name for providing reliable signal communications in Indo China. In fact, General Tewari recalls that his most vivid impression of his Indo-China tenure was that Signals was the only Arm of the Indian Army which was in prominence.  It was also the only Arm which was hankered after by each of the three delegations. According to him, the people on the staff were very jealous of this including the Indian staff in the office of the Alternate Delegate, who was a major general of the Indian Army. In contrast, officers from other countries were effusive in their praise.
At a meeting of the Commission in May 1956, the Polish Ambassador said, “I would like to mention particularly the personnel of Signals who have incessantly and perseveringly managed to send all my Flashes with my errors and mistakes, so promptly and efficiently”.
 A letter from Lieutenant Colonel R.W. Walker of the Canadian Army, popularly known as a “Sakth Gora Sahib” by the signal centre staff reads:- 
“I would be pleased if you would extend to your men that I am in contact with and those behind the scenes, my sincere admiration for their patience, skill and genuine co-operation.  In the event that I should ever serve again in war, I would be pleased to do so with the Indian Signals”. 
            In a farewell message, M.B. Williams, the Canadian Ambassador at a special meeting of the Commission in February 1956 said:-
Mr. Chairman, your delegation has borne the major burden of the Secretariat work of the Commission and we are grateful to those many unknown Indians who have processed accounts and dispatched messages and telegrams.  Your Signal Regiment is a credit to your Service”. 
            The names of COs of the International Commissions Signals Regiment, Indo-China are given below:-
Name of Officer                                                       From                           To
Lieutenant Colonel V. Mehta                                 2 Sep 54                     15 Sep 55
Lieutenant Colonel V.D. Deshpande        16 Sep 55                   27 Jul 56
Lieutenant Colonel K.K. Tewari                28 Jul 56                    24 May57
Lieutenant Colonel N.J.S. Sethi                 25 May 57                 28 Feb 58
Lieutenant Colonel Hari Singh                  1 Mar 58                    2 Oct 58
Major H.C. Heffernan                                              3 Oct 58                     15 Dec 58
Major Rattan Singh                                      16 Dec 58                  28 Sep 59
Major G.S. Sodhi                                                      29 Sep 59                   1 Jul 60
In 1960, the strength of the Signals complement was reduced to a company. The names of the officers commanding International Commissions Signals Company, Vietnam are as under:-
Major S Subrahmanyan                                           2 Jul 60                      19 Mar 61
Major P.S. Jauhal                                                     20 Mar 61                  29 Dec 61
Major Harbans Singh                                               30 Dec 61                  21 Oct 62
Major P Thakoor                                                      22 Oct 62                   4 Mar 63
Major A. L. Teri                                                        5 Mar 63                    17Aug 63
Major R.J. Patel                                                        18 Aug 63                  12 Jun 64
Major P.N. Kapoor                                       13 Jun 64              29 Nov 64
Capt B.M. Kapoor                                        30 Nov 64                  24 Dec 64
Major R.S. Trehan                                        25 Dec 64     

GAZA (1956-67)
The genesis of the Middle East crisis of 1956 was the rise of President Nasser of Egypt and his ideology that put him on a collision course with the West. The three factors that were directly responsible for the confrontation was his support for the Palestinians against Israel; the arms deal he concluded with Czechoslovakia, a key member of the Soviet bloc and finally, in early 1956, Nasser’s recognition to Mainland China. This antagonised the US, which staunchly supported Taiwan. In retaliation, the Americans halted funding for the Aswan High Dam project, a key development scheme of Nasser’s. Needing an alternate source of cash fast, Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal in July 1956. After various initiatives to avert war failed, Britain and France colluded with Israel on a plan to restore the canal to British control. With the support of Britain and France, Israel invaded Egypt on 29 October 1956, starting a chain of events that resulted in the Middle East crisis and UN intervention.8

            Unfortunately, Britain had not informed the USA about the plan to invade Egypt. President Eisenhower reacted by calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council which met on 30 October.  As expected, Britain and France vetoed the US resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of Israeli troops.  The virtually paralysed Security Council decided to refer the matter to General Assembly, which on 2 November 1956 adopted the US resolution.  Responding to an appeal from Mr. Lester Pearson, the Canadian Minister of External Affairs, the General Assembly adopted a resolution for setting up an Emergency International UN Force to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities in the Middle East.  Major General E.L.M. Burns, Chief of Staff of the United Nations’ Truce Supervision Organisation was nominated as Chief of Command of the proposed UNEF. The five permanent members of the Security Council were debarred from being part of the UNEF.          
            Several nations offered troops for the UNEF. However, finally troops from ten countries were accepted. These were Brazil, Canada, Colombia, India, Denmark, Norway, Yugoslavia, Finland, Sweden and Indonesia. In September 1957 Indonesia withdrew her troops, leaving only nine countries whose troops comprised the UNEF. The contingents were approximately of battalion strength, with the commanding officer reporting to the Commander of UNEF, Major General Burns, on all operational and administrative matters. In addition, each country was represented at HQ UNEF by a contingent liaison officer for dealing with national governments or their military headquarters on questions of policy and other administrative matters.
The headquarters of the UNEF was located in Gaza town. Apart from the Commander, there was a Deputy Commander, Chief of Staff and headquarters staff consisting of operations, logistics and personnel, each headed by grade I staff officer. The officers commanding elements of the supporting arms and services also acted as advisers to the Force Commander. There was also a civilian element with the Chief Administrative Officer and his staff consisting of personnel drawn from the United Nations' Secretariat. They dealt with administrative matters of policy, equip­ment procurement, finance etc. They acted as a link between the UNEF and UN headquarters in New York. In addition to the above a number of locally recruited civilians were also employed.9
Operation ‘Shanti’
As one of the founder members of the UN and an unqualified supporter of its activities, the Government of India responded without any reservations to the request to contribute an infantry battalion and ancillary troops for this mission. India’s participation in the mission was code-named Operation ‘Shanti’. The first Indian unit to be selected for UNEF was 3 Para, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Onkar Deva. India also received a request for ancillary troops for UNEF Headquarters. These included a signal section, a composite company of Army Service Corps, a motor transport platoon, a field post office, a public relations team, a medical team and a provost section. India also contributed a number of officers and men for service with the UNEF Headquarters. To begin with, India was represented by seven officers, one JCO and three NCOs, although this representation reduced over time.
3 Para moved to its staging area in Bombay together with other services components, where they were seen off by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who addressed all ranks at a ‘Sainik Sammelan’ and asked them ‘to remember that they were going as ambassadors of peace and friendship’. The battalion and other components were airlifted to Egypt by American Douglas Globe Master and Lockheed Super Constellation transport aircraft, in fifteen batches, between 23 November and 4 December 1956. The Indian contingent concentrated at Tiba Camp near El Ballah in Egypt by the end of December 1956 and established its headquarters at a location known as Deir-el-Balah in the Gaza strip.
As the British and French forces began to withdraw from Port Said and Port Faud, the buffer zone on the Suez Canal was taken over by 3 Para, deployed on both banks of the Canal. Once the Suez Canal area was stabilised, UNEF HQ decided to re-deploy the battalion on the Armistice Demarcation Line (ADL) in the Gaza Strip. In March 1957, the battalion took over the Gaza Strip from the Israelis. There, the battalion set up company camps, designated as Camp Delhi, Camp Lucknow, Camp Chandigarh and Camp David’s Field. Camp Delhi, which was located next to the Port Said-Gaza railway line, also housed the battalion headquarters. In August 1957, some months after the battalion had settled into its tasks, there was a morale-boosting visit by the COAS, General K.S. Thimayya, D.S.O. As is well known, Thimayya’s visits to troops were known as ‘Timmy tonic’ during those days.
When it became known that the UNEF would operate in West Asia for a prolonged duration, the contributing nations began rotating their troops periodically. The Indian battalion groups were rotated annually, and a total of 11 groups served in Gaza from November 1956 to June 1967, when Egypt asked all UNEF troops to withdraw.
Apart from contributing troops to the UNEF, Indian provided several officers to man senior appointments. Colonel (later Major General) Indar Jit Rikhye served with UNEF as commander of the Indian contingent and Chief of Staff of the Force from October 1957 to February 1960, when he was relieved by Colonel R.K. Ranjit Singh.  India contributed two of the five force commanders of the mission. Major General P.S. Gyani served in this appointment from December 1959 to January 1964. Major General Indar Jit Rikhye, then commander of the UN Observer Mission in the Dominican Republic, was asked to assume charge of UNEF in February 1966 and remained in post till the final withdrawal of the UNEF in June 1967. 10

Signals in Gaza
            On 22 November 1956 the raising of the Operation ‘Shanti’ Signal Section was ordered by Army HQ. Captain K.P.G. Kurup was nominated as the OC. The composition of the section was one officer, one JCO and 26 OR, who were drawn from various units.   The section comprised two radio detachments, one line detachment, two cipher detachments and a signal centre detachment.  Besides the above, there were four drivers, one EFS and two radio mechanics. The raising was to be in Agra as the complete Indian contingent was due to emplane from there.  Men had to be kitted with special clothing for overseas, equipment had to be collected from various Ordnance depots, checked, serviced, repacked and manifests made.  Due to a restriction on the total weight to be taken by aircraft, only the minimum essential technical equipment could be carried.
            At that time the role of the signal section was not defined, as the problems facing the United Nations Emergency Force in its infancy were not clearly visualized.  However, an assurance was given by the United Nations that items of equipment and transport which the signal section would require for its efficient operation would be provided when the section landed in Egypt.  Although the equipment was never provided, transport was provided on a limited scale to meet the requirements of the section.  A certain amount of training was carried out by the section in Agra between the period of its raising and its departure from India.  In the meanwhile the section was visited and inspected by various senior officers including the Director of Staff Duties and the Deputy Director of Signals who visited the Section on 29 November.  On 7 December 1956 the signal section together with all their equipment took off for Egypt via Beirut by a US military transport aircraft.  On 9 December the section landed on a bombed out Egyptian military airfield at Abu Suweir near Ismailia
            According to the planning at HQ UNEF, the main responsibility for the provision of communications rested with the UN Field Service Communication personnel and with the 56 Royal Canadian Signal Squadron, the latter having at that time only an advance element on the ground with little or no equipment.  The arrival of the Indian signal section, therefore, was welcomed by hard pressed UN and Canadian personnel, who had been sharing communication responsibilities during the earlier phases of the operations. 
            The signal section, with its characteristic efficiency, got on to the task of providing essential communications required by HQ UNEF and in particular to 3 Para, then deployed in the buffer zone along the Suez Canal supervising the evacuation of the Anglo-French forces.  Inter-communication within the battalion was provided from battalion headquarters to its companies on both the banks of the Suez Canal and this was followed up when the buffer zone was being shifted as the phased withdrawal of the Anglo-French forces took place.  No direct rear link was provided to HQ UNEF located at that time in Cairo.  However, a rear link was provided as a temporary measure to the UNEF administrative base at Abu Suweir and from there messages were relayed to HQ UNEF on the Field Service Communication system. 
            After the withdrawal of the Anglo-French force from Port Said on 22 December, 3 Para was re-grouped and rested in order to carry out the second phase of the operations.  The battalion headquarters was located at Shandhura, some 16 miles north of Port Suez and the remainder of the battalion proceeded along the east coast of the Gulf of Suez to El Tor to take over the town from the Israeli Defence Forces.  El Tor is the well known Egyptian port in the Sinai Peninsula from where Muslim pilgrims for centuries have taken the old pilgrim route to Mecca.  The battalion also took over the world famous St. Catherine monastery near Mount Sinai.  The distance from the battalion headquarters at Shandhura to the forward companies was approximately 150 miles and it is to the great credit of the signal section that efficient RT/CW communications were maintained on WS No 19 throughout the battalion’s stay in this area.
The telephone exchange at Rafah in Gaza manned by the Indian Signal Unit
            Not content with providing communications for the Indian contingent, the signal section found time to help out other national contingents with their communication problems.  One line detachment which was attached to the combined Danish-Norwegian battalion on the Mitla Pass road in the Central Sinai desert laid a telephone line of approximately 40 miles in length through the desert on WD1 cable providing a very efficient means of line communication from the Danish-Norwegian (DANOR) battalion headquarters to its forward companies. On relief of 3 Para by a Finnish company at El Tor, a wireless detachment of the Indian signal section provided communication for the a Finnish company, first from El Tor and later from Sharm El Sheikh to HQ UNEF.
            By mid January 1957, the Royal Canadian Signal Squadron had completed its raising and was subsequently deployed to provide all communications to the military counterpart of the UNEF thus relieving the Indian signal section of its communication commitments. The section then moved to Gaza on 15 March 1957, after the UNEF’s entry into the strip.  On the deployment of 3 Para along the Armistice Demarcation Line, covering the battalion frontage of approximately 12 miles, the signal section helped the battalion to lay lines from battalion headquarters to its companies and the platoons. The section also helped the battalion in carrying out their annual classification and in general helped not only the Indian contingent in Egypt, but other national contingents that sought its assistance. 11           
By June, 1957, the Air Transport Support Force including 115 Communication Flight of the Royal Canadian Air Force was established at El Arish which is approximately 50 miles west of Gaza. Due to the excellent rapport established between the Canadians and Indians it was decided that the signal section would not be sent back to India, but given a specific role. The section was tasked to set up a signal centre, crypto centre and exchange, and lay local lines for the UNEF air base and the Yugoslav battalion at El Arish.  They were also to provide a SDS from and to the UNEF maintenance base at Rafah a distance of about 35 miles and lastly to receive and despatch all official mail to and from India.  This was done through diplomatic channels from Cairo in conjunction with the Indian Postal Unit. The section also tried to establish direct radio communications with India using a Canadian set but it was not successful.  Radio communications with India was possible only via Karachi.
            In accordance with the role allotted to the section, cable routes were laid to the air transport unit and the Yugoslav battalion.  These routes were subsequently replaced as soon as the cables deteriorated. The section was also charged with the responsibility of clearing all official mail to India.  The SDS bag from the signal centre at El Arish was despatched to India twice a week.  However mail despatched through SDS was considerably delayed, due to the involved procedure then in vogue.  The bag from the SDS office at El Arish was sent to Cairo, where it was handed over to the Indian Embassy, which in turn sent it in their diplomatic bag to Delhi.  At Delhi, the bag was sent from the External Affairs Ministry to SDS office in Army HQ before it could be cleared to the addressees.  As the quantum of official mail was quite negligible, this delay was accepted and the procedure continued till the SDS was wound up in June 1963.
Indian signallers settling down to work on the beach near El Arish in 1957

            As the life of the contingent was extended, the cable routes laid earlier were gradually transferred to permanent alignment on telegraph poles.  The cable used initially was the American WD ITT reel which was later replaced by cable telephone four conductor in September 1962. Most of the equipment for the section was carried from India except for vehicles and clothing which were provided by the Canadian Ordnance company located at the administrative base at Rafah.
            After spending about a year in Gaza the signal section was turned over in December 1957. Captain B.P. Upasani was the OC of the second contingent. One of the drawbacks of the first Indian contingent was that there was no overall commander.  The contingents from the nine other nations had a commander designated as such before they left their countries.  This was not the case with the Indian contingent where the senior Indian officer had only been designated as liaison officer and not contingent commander.  This was not a satisfactory arrangement and did not project a good image of the country.  Just as it took one year to allot a role to the signal section, it took about the same amount of time to rectify this anomaly of not appointing a contingent commander.  The second contingent which replaced the first in December 1957 was headed by Colonel I.J. Rikhye, who was designated as commander of the Indian contingent.
            Some interesting details have been given by Captain S.P. Sethi, who went with the 5th contingent in November 1960. He writes:-
“The ration scales were plentiful and all modern facilities and amenities were provided for the OR.  Indians in Egypt were quite a privileged lot.  They enjoyed tremendous amount of good-will in Egypt.  The influence of Pandit Nehru, the then Prime Minister, was at its zenith.  Anywhere the Indian troops went, they were always welcomed with chanting of “Nehru Nasser Swa Swa” (Bhai Bhai).
“Al Hindi” was a magical pass word which permitted move of Indian personnel and vehicles without much hindrance.  No doubt the contingent members had a very heavy responsibility in that they were ambassadors of the country and had to project the Indian image in the correct perspective.  Nevertheless, there were some amusing incidents when our troops were suddenly confronted with the Western ways abroad.
Some of our troops had never seen or known of lifts.  They were thrilled and amused to see these function and quite frequently got into one and started riding up and down without permitting anybody else to use it.  Our section located at El Arish excelled in traditional Indian Hospitality.  Members from units of UNEF were invited at functions hosted to celebrate National Days. Periodic screening of Hindi films was a great attraction to locals who literally thronged the improvised open air theatre”.12
            While the UNEF troops were finally withdrawn in June 1967, the signal section was withdrawn and disbanded a year earlier, in February 1966. Though the scales of communications provided in Gaza were not large, the section carried out its tasks efficiently, speedily and with the characteristic modesty in keeping with the ethos and traditions of the Corps. The performance of Indian signallers was admirable. Their efficiency, smart turn-out and good behaviour endeared them to personnel of all nations, who thought very highly of them. The names of the officers who commanded the Operation ‘Shanti’ Signal Section in Gaza are given below:-
  • Captain K.P.G. Kurup                                    November 1956 to December 1957
  • Captain B.P. Upasani                          December 1957 to November 1958
  • Captain K.V. Singh                            November 1958 to December 1959
  • Captain  K.K.K. Seth                         December 1959 to November 1960
  • Captain S.P. Sethi                               November 1960 to November 1961
  • Captain S.C. Sharma                           November 1961 to November 1962
  • Captain K.S. Caveeshar                      November 1962 to October 1963
  • Captain Shiv Raj Kumar                     October 1963 to October 1964
  • Captain M.S.K. Mohan                       October 1964 to October 1965
  • Captain J.S. Narsimhan                       October 1965 to February 1966

CONGO (1960-64)
The UN Operation in the Congo (Operation des Nations Unies au Congo or ONUC) from July 1960 to June 1964 was the largest peacekeeping operation mounted by the UN until that time. The Democratic Republic of Congo (presently called Zaire) is the third largest country in Africa with an area of about one million square miles (nearly three-fourth the size of India). This country has an important strategic position and is exceptionally rich in minerals, most of which are found and extracted in the province of Katanga. This especially drew the interest of its neighbours as well as that of the European powers during the colonial period. In 1960, when she became free of Belgian rule, Congo, with fourteen million inhabitants comprising 200 tribes, was one of the most sparsely populated nations in Africa.

In January 1959, anti-colonial riots began in Leopoldville, the colonial capital. These were followed by more radical movements, such as the Congolese National Movement (Mouvement National Congolais or MNC), led by Patrice Lumumba. At a round-table conference held in Brussels in January 1960, Belgium agreed to grant independence to the country on 30 June 1960. During elections for the Congolese Parliament and provincial assemblies, two rival dominant Congolese leaders were elected to two key positions - Joseph Kasavubu became President of the Republic while Patrice Lumumba became the Prime Minister. On 29 June 1960, in a clever manoeuvre to retain a stranglehold on the mineral rich country, a treaty of friendship, assistance and cooperation was signed (but never ratified) between Belgium and Congo.

Confusion enveloped the country soon after independence. The euphoria rapidly vanished and tribal violence broke out in Kasai. Clearly, the common Congolese felt that their aspirations and expectations had been ignored. There was also trouble in the Force Publique, which was intended to promote and maintain internal stability. On 4 July 1960, Congolese troops at Camp Hardy in Thysville demanded that all Belgian officers of the Force be expelled, and that the troops’ pay be increased. On 5 July, a mutiny broke out in the Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) garrison and spread to several other cities in the country. In the course of these mutinies, some attacks and atrocities were perpetrated against Belgians and other westerners in the country. As a result of this, there was an exodus of Europeans from the Congo.

Belgium in the meanwhile sent its troops into Congo for the declared purpose of restoring law and order and protecting Belgian nationals without the agreement of the Congolese Government. The resulting clashes with the Congolese forces increased the level of tension and disorder in the nation. In a well-planned move, Moise Tshombe, the president of mineral-rich Katanga Province, proclaimed independence from the Congo on 11 July 1960. Kasai province, under King Mulopwe Albert Kalonji, followed suit soon afterwards. Alarmed at the possible disintegration of their country, President Kasavubu and Prime Minister Lumumba sent a joint telegram to the UN Secretary-General on 12 July 1960, requesting UN military assistance to protect the national territory of the Congo against the external aggression. They further clarified that they were not asking for aid to restore the internal peace, but to respond to Belgian aggression.

On 13 July 1960, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, relying on the lessons of first UN Emergency Force (UNEF) in Gaza, recommended establishment of a UN peacekeeping force (ONUC) to assist the Congolese Government in maintaining law and order until its own national security force was able to meet these tasks. The Security Council adopted Resolution 143 (1960), calling upon Belgium to withdraw her troops from Congolese territory and UN member-states were requested to contribute forces for the new mission. By 15 July 1960, the first units from Ghana and Tunisia had arrived in Congo, and were soon joined by troops from Guinea and Morocco. Dr Ralph J. Bunche became the head of the Mission and Lieutenant General Carl C. von Horn was appointed Supreme Commander from July 1960 to December 1960.

While its original mandate as outlined in Security Council Resolution 143 (1960) remained valid, ONUC was given many new responsibilities and new tasks during the four years of its operation, as the situation on the ground changed. The Congo operations can be grouped into four phases:
·         Phase I (July – August 1960): withdrawal of Belgian forces and restoration of law and order.
·         Phase II (September 1960 – September 1961): constitutional crisis provoked by the sacking of the President by the Prime Minister, and vice-versa.
·         Phase III (September 1961 – February 1963):  implementation of the UN mandate, the restoration of freedom of movement of the people by the UN forces and dealing with the secession of Katanga Province.
·         Phase IV (February 1963 – June 1964): consolidation of the Congolese Government and the withdrawal of the UN force.

Arrival of Indian Troops in Congo

During Phase I, as a result of Bunche’s negotiations with the Belgian ambassador, UN troops first deployed at the radio and power stations, as well as along the main thoroughfares of Leopoldville. Their presence helped in defusing the tension and enabled the complete withdrawal of Belgian troops from Leopoldville by 23 July 1960. By early August 1960, Belgian forces had withdrawn from the rest of Congo except for Katanga Province and the bases at Kolwezi and Kamina.

The Government of India supported the establishment of the UN mission. Brigadier Indar Jit Rikhye was nominated as a Military Adviser to the UN Secretary-General. Mr. Hammarskjöld also requested Prime Minister Nehru to permit Mr. Rajeshwar Dayal, who had earlier served on the UN mission in Lebanon, to head the UN Operations in Congo. India’s participation in ONUC began in July 1960, with the deployment of supply, technical and medical personnel. In order to have a proper command and control, the Government of India had also appointed Colonel Harmandar Singh as commander of the Indian contingent in Congo, who also held the appointment of commander of the Station Headquarters, Leopoldville. The Indian contingent included a signal company commanded by Major N.A. Patil.

            The assassination of Patrice Lumumba on 17 January 1961 shocked the world. President Gamal Abdel Nasser confiscated all Belgian property in Egypt, and on 14 February 1961, led the first moves with the Soviet Union, to recognise the Lumumbist government in the Oriental Province of North Eastern Congo, with East Germany, Ghana and Yugoslavia following suit. The political situation became highly volatile, leading to further disintegration of Congo and civil war in many areas. In view of the withdrawal of several armed UN contingents by the contributing countries, the UN Secretary-General requested the Government of India to send armed contingents to Congo. Responding to the request, on 4 March 1961, India nominated 99 Infantry Brigade located at Kasauli to deploy in the Congo. Though it was part of 17 Infantry Division, for the Congo assignment the brigade was reconstituted as a self-contained independent brigade group with the necessary communications, supporting arms and services. The brigade was under the command of Brigadier K.A.S. Raja, who had earlier served with UNEFI, while Major P.D.S. Sawhney was commanding the signal company.
The Indian brigade group arrived in Congo in March 1961 to find the situation very confused and uncertain. No clear and feasible political and military objectives were communicated to the UN military commanders, hampering effectiveness. The brigade spent two years in Congo, during which it took part in several important operations viz. Operation ‘Rumpunch’, Operation ‘Marthor’ and Operation ‘UNOKAT’. After a successful peace mission, Indian troops started returning in early March 1963. The main components of the brigade reached Bombay between 24 March and 19 April 1963. The Indian contribution to ONUC was 28.3 percent of the total forces deployed. The Congo Mission was a remarkable chapter in Indian experiences in peacekeeping. The Indian troops displayed an exceptional sense of duty in the service of the UN and the Government of India did not withdraw the brigade, even when the casualties were mounting. It was a true reflection of India’s resolve to an international commitment. 39 personnel laid down their lives in combat action for the restoration of peace and to maintain the integrity of the country. 14


Indian Signal Company ONUC (1960 - 61)
            After it was decided to send a signal detachment with the ONUC, towards the end of August 1960 Lieutenant Colonel K.S. Garewal of Signals Directorate in Army HQ visited Congo on a reconnaissance mission to study the operational situation and to decide the extent of commitment in respect of signal communications. Based on his assessment, it was decided to raise a signal company and volunteers of appropriate trades were called for from all signal units. Major N.A. Patil was nominated as the OC and Captain S. Ghosh as the second-in-command. The strength of the company was two officers, two JCOs and 81 OR.
            DCSO Delhi and Rajasthan Area was made responsible for raising the company at Delhi Cantt, in the precincts of 1 Air Support Signal Company. Major Patil arrived in Delhi on 11 September and the personnel started arriving on 14 September. Medical boards were immediately arranged and since no technical equipment was to be carried the unit was ready to depart on 18 September.  The company was airlifted from Palam in an American Military Air Transport Service Globe Master on 26 September, reaching Leopoldville via Aden and Khartoum on 28 September. On 29 September 1960 the company was put in two C119 aircraft and despatched to Elisabethville.
            The initial role of the company was to provide wireless communications down to the battalion headquarters in Katanga and Kivu provinces and the signal centre at Elisabethville. In addition to his duties as company commander, Major Patil was appointed Chief Signal Officer for the two provinces and was made responsible for the coordination of all signal communications. The headquarters of the Sub Command Eastern Province (SCOME) was located at Elisabethville along with the Swedish battalion. The Irish battalions were at Albertville and Goma; the Ethiopian battalion at Kaminaville; two Moroccan battalions at Jadotville and Kolwezi and Moroccan troops of company or platoon strength at Manono, Mitwaba, Dilolo, and Luena. The base headquarters was at Kamina.
            Communications to the above stations was provided by four wireless nets as under:-
·                     UN net (CW) - control at Leopoldville and outstations at Elisabethville, Albertville and Goma.
·                     Canadian net (RTT) -  one to one link between Leopoldville and Elisabethville.
·                     Moroccan net (CW)  - control at Elisabethville with outstations at Jadotville, Kolwezi, Manono, Mitwaba, Dilolo and Luena.
·                     Swedish net (CW) – one to one link between Elisabethville and Kamina Base.
           The Moroccans and the Swedish were using AN/GRC9.  For the distance involved this set could not provide reliable communications.  Apart from the above wireless nets there was no alternate means of communications. The initial problem was to reorient the communications by installing medium power sets at battalion headquarters, thereby releasing the battalion wireless sets for their internal communications.  It was, therefore, decided to establish two radio nets, with the controls at Elisabethville.  The first net had out stations at Goma, Kabalo and Albertville while the second net had out stations at Kamina Base, Jadotville and Kolwezi.  The company had brought no technical equipment from India as it was to be provided by the ONUC on arrival.  The equipment arrived on 20 October but without essential components such as aerial gear, keys and earphones. Hence the detachments could not be deployed immediately.  Improvisation had to be resorted to get the communications going. The main problem was to obtain appropriate insulators, adaptors for the AN/GRC9, and earphones to make them fit on the BC610 transmitter and AR88 receivers.  By various combinations this problem was solved and detachments, depending upon the availability of the air transport, were despatched during October - November 1960. 
            Subsequently, depending on the operational deployment of troops some adjustments to the wireless network were carried out. The Kaminaville detachment was moved with the Indonesian troops to Kabongo on 25 November 1960 and closed on withdrawal of troops on 3 January 1961.The Kabalo detachment was withdrawn on 15 January 1961 when the Ethiopian battalion was placed under command of the Nigerian brigade. The Kolwezi detachment moved to Luena on 13 February and closed on 20 April when troops were withdrawn. One detachment was sent to Luluabourg on 18 July and another to Leopoldville on 5 August.
            At Kabongo interrupted electric power was available only during the night.  Communication had, therefore, to be maintained on battery operated sets.  For battery charging no battery chargers were available and the only source of charging the batteries was the charger at the railway station.  The arrangements of charging batteries at the convenience of the Belgian station master were not satisfactory and they had to be sent to Kamina for charging with the UN train guard whenever trains were despatched. 
Due to the disturbed conditions that existed permanent lines could not be used.     Since complete reliance had to be placed on wireless, selection of appropriate frequencies to provide twenty four hours communications was important.  In the absence of appropriate frequency prediction charts the frequency selection had to be done by a trial and error method. The other great hindrance to reliable wireless communication was the deliberate jamming by the local post and telegraph wireless station.  This problem had to be overcome by proper liaison and cooperation between the ONUC and the local civil authorities.
            The company took over signal centre duties on 5 October 1960.  The maximum traffic handled was 23,000 groups during the Niemba incident, the average traffic being 10,000 groups per day.  The standard of message writing was poor and originators often sent letters in the form of messages with complete disregard to use of precedence.  Strict observance of rules could not be implemented in view of the composite nature of the force. For all the men this was a first experience to serve in an international peace force and many lessons about administration and signal communication were learnt. 15
Indian Independent Brigade Group Signal Company, Congo
The decision to send 99 Infantry Brigade to the Congo was taken by the Government of India early in March 1961. 99 Infantry Brigade Signal Section was, accordingly, reorganised as an independent brigade group signal company, later redesignated as Indian Independent Brigade Group Signal Company, Congo. The section, then under the command of Captain Harcharan Singh, moved from Kasauli to Delhi on 10 March and the reorganisation commenced on receipt of the war establishment and war equipment tables on 11 March 1961. There was to be an addition of three officers, two JCOs, 60 OR and three non combatants to the existing establishment of the section to reorganise it as an independent brigade group signal company. This was done within a period of 4 to 5 days. The company was under the command of Major P.D. Sawhney.
It was initially planned that all personnel, light vehicles and essential stores would be transported by air and heavy vehicles and remaining stores by sea. However, owing to the non-availability of adequate aircraft, personnel, vehicles and stores had to be transported by sea. The air move was carried out in Globe Master aircraft of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) of the United States Air Force. Out of a total of 43 sorties, the signal company was allotted six sorties spread over 24 days. The first detachment of the company, attached to 3/1 Gorkha Rifles, left Delhi by air on 14 March and landed at Leopoldville on 16 March 1961. A total of 137 men, 11 jeeps, two wireless sets SCR 399 mounted in trailers, two charging sets 6 KW and 55,050 pounds of signal stores were moved by air. By 9 April, the air lift was completed and the company less those elements which were coming by sea, was concentrated in Leopoldville.
The ‘sea move’ included the rail move from Delhi to Bombay, the port of embarkation; Bombay to Mombasa/Dar-­es-Salaam by sea; Mombasa to Kamina­-Leopoldville by air; and Dar-es-Salaam to Kigoma by rail and finally Kigoma to Albertville (Congo) by barges over Lake Tanganyika. The personnel and stores included in the ‘sea party’ embarked from Bombay on 14 April. They were scheduled to reach Matadi by the end of April  but owing to this port being closed for United Nations traffic, the ships were diverted to Mombasa and then to Dar-es-Salaam. Personnel and stores were flown to Kamina and then to Leopoldville. The last person of the party arrived at Leopoldville on 19 May 1961. The vehicle group which had arrived at Dar-es-Salaam was despatched by rail-cum-­barge to Albertville, arriving there on 2 June 1961. The move of the company which had commenced on 14 March was completed after 81 days.
Based on the past experience of the Indian Signal Company ONUC and appreciation of the prevailing situation in the Congo by Colonel Garewal, the war establishment and war equipment table of the company was tailored to provide extensive wireless communication between formation and unit headquarters and adequate resources for the provision of the local despatch service and local line communication. Wireless sets SCR 399 were provided for communication between HQ ONUC and brigade headquarters and wireless sets C 52 for communication from brigade headquarters to battalion headquarters, and also to advanced brigade headquarters (tactical headquarters). SCR 399 was used for communication between Leopoldville and New Delhi in the initial stages until the HQ Company of Indian Contingent Signal Regiment, Congo established an ET 4331 station and took over the commitment. The distances over which satisfactory communication was provided by these sets varied up to 5000 miles with SCR 399 and up to 1,000 miles with wireless sets C 52. Aerials used were mainly dipole with SCR 399 and end-fed with wireless sets C 52. Secondary batteries were given an initial charge at Delhi and transported by air along with the wireless sets, thereby ensuring provision of communication immediately on landing. In the Congo, small battery chargers of 10 amperes capacity were obtained from United Nations Ordnance Depot; these became very handy for ‘float charging’ of batteries for wireless sets C 52 and Typex machines.
It is interesting to note that there was no specific allotment of frequencies for use in the Congo except for those allotted by Army HQ for use on the link New Delhi-Leopoldville. Frequencies found suitable for various other links were taken into use without any trouble. No interference was experienced on these frequencies.
Indian signallers in Congo

Signal centre staff and operators had to re-orientate their ideas to conform to the United Nations message writing (or letter writing in a message form). Personnel had to study and comprehend the layout of various types of message forms. They also had to understand the degrees of precedence in use in India vis-a-vis those in use in the United Nations and learn how to replace one by the other. Against five degrees of precedence in vogue in India – Flash, Emergency, Operational Immediate, Priority and Routine – the UN had only three viz. Priority Nations, Priority and Routine. One aspect which had to be constantly kept in view was that there were no alter­native means of communication. Traffic pending on one wireless link could at best be routed only through another wireless circuit. The alternative means of clearance such as teleprinters, fullerphone or SDS just did not exist.
To start with, the cipher staff was over­loaded. However, the classified traffic de­creased steadily and was brought down by 1000 to 1500 groups a day in each cipher office. Owing to the non-availability of line circuits and the degree of secrecy to be maintained, especially in the initial stages, battalion headquarters were provided with a cipher operator each and rifle company commanders were trained to operate low ­grade ciphers for communication between the battalion and company headquarters. It was considered essential to continue this practice because battalion headquarters were located hundreds of miles away from the brigade headquarters and had no other means of encrypting/decrypting classified messages. United Nations ciphers were being used but were available only at important stations where civil or military headquarters were located, always away from battalions. These ciphers could be used only between civil/ military headquarters. Indian ciphers were used for all classified messages within the brigade as well as to India. 16
Indian Contingent Signal Regiment ONUC Congo
            In view of the increase in communication commitments in Congo, it was decided to raise a third signal company and a regimental headquarters in April 1961 under the command of   Lieutenant Colonel K.D. Bhasin. The other officers in the unit were Major S.N. Mookerjee (company commander); Captain S.N. Bhatia (company second-in-command); Captain A.K. Minocha (adjutant) and Captain Gurdial Singh (TOT).  The unit was raised at Delhi Cantt. at short notice and stores collected hurriedly. Colonel Bhasin preceded the move of the unit and emplaned at Palam along with the Indian Independent Brigade Group Signal Company personnel on 1 April, arriving at Leopoldville on 3 April 1961.  The balance of the unit personnel embarked at Bombay on 14 April, arriving at Leopoldville on 06 May 1961 via Dar-es-Salaam.
            On arrival at Leopoldville he discovered that HQ ONUC and HQ Indian Contingent were unaware of the formation of the regimental headquarters and HQ Company and its induction into the Congo, despite the fact that Colonel Garewal had come shortly before the move for a reconnaissance along with Brigadier K.A.S. Raja.  This was however soon sorted out and clearance for the induction of the unit obtained from New York through HQ ONUC, Leopoldville.  Policy on command and control of the sub units of the regiment was issued by the CO soon after his arrival.  HQ Company and Indian Signal Company at Elisabethville (Patil) were to be generally under regimental headquarters for all purposes whereas over the Indian Independent Brigade Signal Company (Sawhney), mainly technical control was to be exercised.  The CO of the Indian Contingent Signal Regiment was also deemed to be the Commander Signals of the Indian contingent taken as a whole.
            The Indian Signal Company at Elisabethville was being employed in providing ONUC communications under orders of the CSO ONUC.  After the formation of the regiment this arrangement was not disturbed except that hereafter executive orders on communication matters would be issued through the regimental headquarters.  With proper liaison and good relations with the CSO and his staff, this arrangement worked satisfactorily. The regiment was generally under HQ Indian Contingent for national matters, under CSO HQ ONUC for general technical control and directly under HQ ONUC for administrative purposes.  For local matters it was under Station Headquarters, Leopoldville.
            The establishment of HQ Company provided for a link working back to India plus a few sets working forward to link up with the Indian Independent Brigade Group and other stations where Indian troops were located.  It also had the capability of manning a signal centre besides necessary administrative cover.  Soon after arrival of the Indian Independent Brigade Group in the Congo a SCR 399 had been opened by the brigade signal company on 22 March working from Leopoldville to New Delhi. After arrival of the regiment in May, this link was taken over by HQ Company on 15 May 1961.  The ET 4331 provided on the establishment of HQ Company for this purpose could not be opened up due to deficiencies in essential stores required for a rhombic aerial array.   In the event after a great deal of improvisation, proper provision of power and technical accommodation, and local manufacture of certain stores, the ET 4331 station was established with effect from 15 June 1961.  The link worked on schedule for 8 hours a day in the beginning, which was increased to 12½ hours a day with effect from 1 November 1961.
            In August 1961 HQ ONUC issued a policy letter whereby contingents were not authorized to operate separate wireless links to home countries unless specially sanctioned by UN headquarters in New York.  This sanction was to be sparingly accorded, if UN circuits were inadequate or uneconomical. Contingents were expected to use the existing UN common user circuits for communicating to their respective countries.  If special UN sanction for separate a radio link to home country was accorded, the cost of operation including manpower and provision of stores, subsequent spares and so on was to be borne by the country concerned.
            Even before the issue of the above mentioned policy letter the unit had asked Army HQ whether sanction for the operation of the link to India had been obtained.   It was confirmed by Army HQ that no such sanction had been obtained.  On grounds of strength of Indian contingent, heavy traffic to India and the UN radio link not being open on a full time basis to New Delhi, a case for authorization of a separate link New Delhi operated by the regiment was put up through the Ministry of External Affairs. The UN headquarters did not agree to a separate radio link for India, since this was likely to invite similar request from other countries. However, the link continued until the contingent was finally withdrawn from the Congo
            With the formation of HQ Leopoldville Command with operational territorial jurisdiction over Leopoldville and Equator provinces of the Congo, the regiment was asked to provide the control station for Leopoldville command net besides a rover for the commander. On 5 August 1961 the unit provided an officer to function as signal officer for the command. 
            Weekly air despatch service (ADS) from Leopoldville to Albertville and subsequently to Elisabethville was introduced from middle of July 1961, consequent to brigade units having concentrated in both places.  On 27 January 1962 the couriers Havildar Prem Prakash Bhatt and Signalman M. Ganapathy who were travelling back from Albertville to Leopoldville in a UN DC 4 aircraft along with other UN personnel force landed in Luanda (Angola), the pilot having drifted off course due to bad weather.  The couriers including other passengers were detained by the Portuguese authorities and after intervention of UN headquarters in New York were allowed to take off again on 30 January.  The despatches were not interfered with.
            Congo is generally good wireless country and communications were  been maintained over distances which are not normal for the sets in use e.g. a WS C52 was used between Leopoldville and Albertville, a distance of about 900 miles with generally good results. A wireless diagram of the regiment as on 15 March 1962 is shown below:-
            During the Katanga operations in September 1961, the traffic load on all circuits increased approximately threefold.  The A31 link to INDIA was ordered on 24 hours working from 14 September. All communications were maintained although the strain on manpower was felt acutely.  When drawing up the establishment of Indian Independent Brigade Group Signal Company, a cushion of manpower had been included in that establishment and the establishment of HQ Company which was sanctioned later had been tailored down to the bare minimum.  The intention was that some of the manpower of the brigade signal company could be drawn upon as a reserve on the orders of the CO for supplementing HQ Company.  As events proved, the brigade signal company was spread out and committed at various places and drawing upon their manpower became impossible. A case for increment of one cipher JCO and three cipher NCOs for the regiment was taken up as a result of working experience during the operations. This was duly sanctioned and these personnel arrived from India by air on 13 November 1961.
            A requirement was also felt by Army HQ in New Delhi for a link from India to Albertville, for quick clearance of traffic to and from India to the Indian Infantry Brigade Group.  Trials for this were started and link Poona-Albertville (A33) on schedule working established on 24 September 1961.  The Albertville terminal used SCR 399.  On move of the Main HQ Indian Independent Brigade group to Elisabethville in April 1962 the link was re-established as Poona-Elisabethville with effect from 4 April 1962.  The traffic carrying capacity of this link was limited due to the distance and relatively low power of the set used.
            After the first Katanga operations when the Katangese interfered with the movement of UN aircraft by using a Fouga Magister Jet trainer aircraft for crude bombing and strafing, a UN combat air force comprising Swedish and Ethiopian jet fighters and Indian Canberras was introduced into the Congo.  With the Indian Canberra Squadron arrived Air Control Team No 1 and 2 which included Signals personnel and normal signal equipment of a tentacle.  No 1 ACT was based at Elisabethville and No 2 at Kamina.  These ACTs were used with effect during the second Katanga operations and the Signals personnel comprising them did a good piece of work.
            After completing a year at Leopoldville the regiment was turned over in April 1962. The officers who formed part of the relieving unit were Lieutenant Colonel M.S. Krishnamoorthy (CO); Major W.V. Ferris (second-in-command); Captain J.H. Moreau (adjutant); Captain B.P. Murgai            (company commander) and Captain Santokh Singh (TOT). The unit was raised at Ahmednagar where it was organised into cohesive elements.  From there it moved by train to Bombay and embarked on the 25,000 ton troop carrier U.S.N.S. General Blatchford, on which it was transported by sea to Dar-es-Salaam.  After disembarking, the unit had to reorganize for air lift right across the African continent to Leopoldville, where they took over from the outgoing contingent.
The regiment was accommodated out of the main city on the highway to the airport along with the Irish unit. The living arrangements were adequate and the men were reasonably comfortable.  The regiment quickly settled down and established communications as directed by HQ ONUC.  A particular achievement was that Captain Santokh Singh, despite tremendous constraints, established his RS ET 4331 transmitter as a link back to India.  The unit also had responsibilities for communication in consultation with Canadian Signals and other elements of the UN HQ located in Congo.  It also established radio links with the companies located at Elizabethville.  All of them worked satisfactorily.
            According to Major General Murgai, “The exposure to new environment, different organizational methods of working by the other nations of the World was very educative and enlarged our horizons.  All ranks benefited from such experience”.  During August 1963, Captain Murgai was selected to be a UN Military Observer in West Irian. This was a six-week assignment after which he returned to Congo and was later awarded the UN Medal for distinguished services rendered as a UN Military Observer.
            Another year passed and the tenure of the contingent came to an end.  The mercenaries had been pushed out of CongoKatanga and Kasai had joined the rest of the provinces forming part of the republic of Congo.  The task of the UN having been fulfilled, the troops were withdrawn to their respective nations.  The regiment returned to India, via Mombasa and thereafter by sea to Bombay.  Most of the ONUC Signal Regiment formed part 6 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment which was raised at Bareilly.17
Indian Signal Company (ONUC) Elisabethville (1961-62)
            The Indian Signal Company (ONUC) at Elisabethville was due for turnover in September 1961. Major P.K. Roy Chowdhury was selected as the OC and Captain S.C. Mehra as the second-in-command. The company was raised at Poona in July 1961 and the advance party under Captain Mehra moved by air on 3 August, arriving at Elisabethville on 9 August 1961. The main body embarked at Bombay on the U.S.N.S. General Blatchford on 16 August, arriving at Dar-es-Salaam on 27 August 1961 where they were greeted by the CO, Lieutenant Colonel Bhasin.  The company was transported from Dar-es-Salaam to Elisabethville by air on 3 and 4 September.
The company was responsible for manning the wireless links of the UN internal radio net work as directed by the CSO HQ ONUC, Leopoldville.  It was also manning the signal centre and exchange at ONUC Elisabethville. Even before the arrival of the main body of the company the advance party had taken part in Operation ‘Rum Punch’, which is described by Captain Mehra in the following words:-
            On 27 August 61 at 2000 hrs Captain Ghosh my predecessor and I were in our villa which was situated 500 yards behind main Gendarmerie Camp Massart while the outgoing Officer Commanding Major Patil had gone to Brig Raja’s residence for a conference.  At 2300 hrs he returned and told us that operation ‘Rum Punch’  starts as UN forces in Elisabethville area will implement the security council’s resolution of 21 Feb 61 by taking into custody and expelling white officers and mercenaries of Gendarmerie.   The operation was to take place simultaneously in all sectors of Katanga Command.
The tasks given to our company were:-
(a)        Capt S Ghosh with one telegraph mechanic to put out of action the civil telephone system from the city post office at 280500 hrs.
(b)        Jem Bhaskar Ram, F of S, to put out of action a subsidiary Radio Katanga Studio opposite Elisabethville Post Office.  The task of capturing the Post Office and above studio was given to D Company 1 Dogra and our technicians accompanied them.
(c)        Hav Packianathan and Nk Kewal Singh were to accompany 3 Company XII Swedish Battalion to put out of action Radio transmitter at Kilobelobe.
(d)        I was given the task of taking over the technical control of Radio Katanga main studio and to start broadcasting local music at 280600 hrs.  Naik Fernandez was to help me.  C Company 1 Dogra was given the task to capture, hold and control the studio.
(e)        Apart from the above additional tasks given to our company we were to provide normal signal communications.
We all reached our respective assembly areas by 280200 hrs.  All objectives were captured without any major fighting.  Exactly at 0500 hrs the telephone system of the city was out off.  Katanga Radio transmitter at Kilobelobe and studio opposite post office were also put out of commission at 0500 hrs.  Main Katanga Radio studio was tested and was ready for broadcasting at 0545 hrs.  However, during orders no mention was made to switch on the transmitters at 0600 hrs and so the broadcasting from the studio could not be heard at the specified time.  Transmitters could not be contacted as telephones were out.  Immediately an escorted SDR was sent to transmitters.  At 0625 hrs transmitters were switched on and by 0630 hrs the Radio Katanga was on the air manned exclusively by Indian Signal Company. By 1130 hrs same day political agreements were made and control of all vital points was handed back to civilian Katanga authorities”.
            The after effects of Operation ‘Rum Punch’ were not very pleasant for the UN.   The Gendarmerie who had shown no inclination for fighting so far started digging in the positions vacated by UN troops on 28 August.  On 5 September on receipt of information that the UN headquarters in Connaught Building was going to be blown up by plastic bombs the headquarters moved to a new location popularly known as the Castle, which was just a three-storied building in a large garden. The signal company          had a large quantity of heavy equipment like BC 610, generators etc. but was given only two hours to move. Major Roy Chowdhury and I decided that the signal centre should continue to function in the old building while reserve sets are installed in the new HQ. The Canadian RTTY Terminal and the skeleton signal centre where BCs 610 were replaced by ANGRC-19 sets remained while the heavy equipment was moved to the new HQ.  The company did not have any load carrying transport except a pick-up van. The signal centre was on the 2nd floor and all equipment had to be man-handled as the lift in the old headquarters building was locked up by Katanga authorities. However, working with great determination the men moved everything in five hours and the new signal centre, BC 610 transmitters and dipole aerials were ready at 1900 hours.
On 12 September the company was ordered to move to the Castle compound in preparation for Operation ‘Morthor’ which was to commence next day. Working throughout the day the men moved all heavy stores to the allotted area and started digging. The plan for Operation ‘Morthor’ was similar to that of ‘Rum Punch.’  The signal company had to provide technicians with assaulting troops to handle installations like the Katanga radio station, Elisabethville central telephone exchange and the transmitters.  Captain Mehra and Naik A. Fernandez accompanied C Company 1 Dogra to Radio Katanga studio while Jemadar Bhaskar Ram and Naik Chacko went with D Company to the GPO. Lance Naik S.K. Mahendroo accompanied a platoon of 35 Irish Battalion to the subsidiary studio of Radio Katanga opposite the GPO and Naik Kewal Singh went with A Company XII Swedish Battalion to Radio Katanga transmitters. During the assault on Radio Katanga, one Dogra sepoy was killed and three others were seriously wounded. There was no immediate arrangement for evacuating the casualties. Captain Mehra, at personal risk of coming under enemy fire, evacuated the casualties to HQ Katanga Command building for onward despatch to the hospital and went back to the studio to complete his job, taking forward some reinforcements for the assaulting company.
            The tasks allotted to the company were completed and during the next few days everyone was kept busy digging and providing overhead protection using Eucalyptus logs and sand bags.  On 16 September about 2030 hours the company was subjected to a mortar attack.  The first mortar shell landed in the mess tent killing outright Lance Naik Chanchal Singh, the mess NCO, who was getting stores ready for the next morning tea. The two cooks were unscathed. However, Havildar Sowaran Singh, Lance Naik K. Kesava Pillai and Signalman Sukumaran Nair received splinter injuries as they were getting into the trenches. 
On receipt of information of the injury to his men, Mehra rushed from the signal centre to the mess tent amidst mortar shell bursts and machine gun fire and evacuated the injured who were bleeding profusely, to the headquarters building basement and arranged first aid for them. He then took Lieutenant ­Colonel Oyen, Senior Medical Officer, to examine Lance Naik Chanchal Singh who was unconscious, and who was eventually pronounced dead.  Next he went to the neighbouring location, defended by the camp personnel of HQ Indian Independent Brigade and evacuated Jemadar Thomas, personal assistant to Brigadier Raja who was unable to walk due to a leg injury, and one OR of the Indian Independent Brigade Group Signal Company who was also injured. For his daring acts on 13 and 16 September Captain Mehra was later ‘Mentioned in Despatches’.
            At this stage the CO ordered that Major Roy Chowdhury would maintain the static communications while Major Sawhney would be responsible for the tactical communications of HQ Katanga Command.  Roy Chowdhury was directed to provide whatever assistance he could to Sawhney to carry out his task. Towards the end of November 1961 the Gendarmerie became active and starting kidnapping UN soldiers and established road blocks on the airport road at Tunnel which divided the city in two and particularly the UN dispositions on a diversionary route called ‘Route Charlie’.  Then they started interfering with the movement of UN troops and vehicles. In the meantime Sawhney was admitted in Leopoldville ONUC hospital. With the help of the COS, Major Dhar, Roy Chowdhury was able to get four C 52 detachments from the Brigade Signal Company Albertville for the tactical wireless network.
            The operation commenced on 5 December 1961 which involved mostly clearing the road blocks, capture of Camp Massart and elimination of hostile fire which mercenaries and a lot of civilians were indulging in.  During this operation Indian, Swedish and Ethiopian Air Forces co-operated which was a great morale raising factor. The company headquarters, unit lines and the 3/1 Gorkha Rifles lines which were located in the Castle were subjected to very heavy mortar firing almost daily from a mobile mortar group manned by white civilians.  As the operations progressed this hostile fire was silenced.  By Christmas the Gendarmerie was pushed outside the city.
The achievement of the five-month old company can be summarized in the Force Commander’s words when on 16 December 1961 before his departure for Leopoldville he sent for the signal officers (Major Roy Chowdhury, Major Sawhney, Captain Mehra and OC Canadian Signal Detachment, an infantry officer, Lieutenant Beau-Regard) and said “I have no words to express my feelings towards you.  The results of the operations prove your devotion to duty, efficiency and morale.  Thank you very much.  Keep it up and God bless you”. 18
            Shortly before New Year’s Day in 1962, the company composed a poem and sent it for publication in the Signalman.
New year’s eve in the town of E’ville
Not a creature astir, all appear to be still.
The khukris are hung by the tent with care
In hopes that gendarmes would not be there.

When out of the bush, to the Gorkha’s delight
charge a horde of gendarmes, at mid-night.
The alarm is sounded, each man to his post,
the signallers are ready to return a fiery toast.

The attack is repulsed, there never was a doubt
the poor beggars lost heart, and turned back in a rout.
The commander awoke in his room at HQ
he called for a drink, “what else is new?”

And when he was told, he shouted with glee
“begad! the Gorkhas are fighting for me”.
He hurries downstairs to a blacked out room
where he finds the signallers in a bit of a gloom.

“It’s a bit of a shame,” they shout aloud
“that such fun and games are ever allowed.
New year is ruined, we have to stay here
and all we can do is toil hard and sincere”.

He retorts “lads, you’re in your glory,
now it’s up to you to get out the story”,
So the cables go out, one after another
addressed to all tiger, lion, and their brother.

There were flashes in cipher and ops in plain
but throughout the ordeal, did we complain?
To the top of the list our company arose
and the wireless circuits never did close.

Though our hours are long and nights are dark
like jolly St. Nick our traffic do we park.
So while bullets may fly and shells may fall
a very happy new year we wish to you all
                                                                                    Indian Signal Company (ONUC)

In April 1963, the term of the ONUC came to an end and all Indian troops returned home. During their stay in the Congo, they had won the admiration of troops of all nationalities and the local population, due to their professionalism and impartiality. Shortly before the departure of the Indian contingent from Congo, the Force Commander, Lieutenant General  Kebbede Guebre wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Krishnamoorthy, commanding the Indian Contingent Signal Regiment, ONUC:-
On the eve of your departure with your unit for India, I should like to express to you my warm appreciation of the fine work done by the Indian Contingent Signal Regiment during their tour of duty with the UN Forces.
Vast distances separate various Formations and Units of UN Forces in the Congo.  The absence of good road, rail and telephonic communications means that in this country we have to rely on Signal communication to an extent which is not normal in other countries.  Your Unit therefore had a very important part to play in the whole Congo Operation. The Indian Contingent Signal Regiment carried out their duties with thoroughness and efficiency.  They showed a loyalty and dedication to their work which did credit to themselves and to India.
I understand that on repatriation you are being redesignated as 6 Indian Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment.  I therefore wish you and your Unit good luck in the tasks that lie ahead and I know that the high standards shown in the Congo will guarantee success in your new role.
NATHU LA (1967)
Nathu La lies on the Old Silk Route between Tibet and India. In 1904 Major Francis Younghusband, serving as the British Commissioner to Tibet, led a successful mission through Nathu La to capture Lhasa. This led to the setting up of trading posts at Gyantse and Gartok in Tibet, and gave control of the surrounding Chumbi Valley to the British. The following year, China and Great Britain ratified an agreement approving trade between Sikkim and Tibet. In 1947, Sikkim became an Indian protectorate. After China took control of Tibet in 1950 and suppressed a Tibetan uprising in 1959, refugees entered Sikkim through Nathu La. During the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Nathu La witnessed skirmishes between soldiers of the two countries. Shortly thereafter, the pass was sealed and was closed for trade. Five years later, Nathu La was the scene of a ‘border skirmish’ between Indian and China, which resulted in heavy casualties to both sides.                   
               In the first week of August 1967, the border out posts (BOPs) at Nathu La were occupied by 2 Grenadiers, relieving 18 Rajput. Lieutenant Colonel Rai Singh was then commanding 2 Grenadiers.  Major Bishan Singh took over as ‘Tiger Nathu La’, as the company commander holding the pass was generally known, with Captain P.S Dagar as his second-in-command.
            Even while 2 Grenadiers was in the process of taking over the defences at Nathu La, Chinese activities increased. They were noticed repairing their bunkers on North Shoulder and making preparations to construct new ones. On 13 August the observation post at Sebu La reported that the Chinese had arrived on the crest line and dug trenches on our side of the international border. When challenged, they filled up the trenches and withdrew.  On the same day they added eight more loud speakers to their already existing 21 speakers on South Shoulder.  Due to this the volume of their propaganda increased and could now be heard at Changgu.  On the Indian side 30 watt transistorized amplifiers with six speakers had been installed on South Shoulder by 112 Mountain Brigade Signal Company.  Propaganda was relayed through tape recorders from Hotel. 
            In view of the increase in Chinese activity at Nathu La, Major General Sagat Singh, GOC 17 Mountain Division ordered a three strand wire fence to be laid along the border from Nathu La to South Shoulder. This task was completed by 2 Grenadiers by the end of August 1967
            On 4 September Sagat went to Nathu La. He directed that the wire fence be converted into a Cat Wire Type 1 obstacle, using concertina coils.  The task was assigned to 2 Grenadiers. A platoon of 70 Field Company Engineers under Major Cheema was allotted to assist them.  On 5 September work started at 0500 hours but the Chinese objected. There was an argument between Colonel Rai Singh and the Chinese Political Commissar as to alignment of the border. The work was stopped at 0800 hours. However, work on Chinese defences on North and South Shoulder continued.  During the night the Chinese came up to the Bump and cut off one shoulder so that if water was poured on the other shoulder it would flow into China. Next morning when our men went to straighten out some wire a few Chinese came running up to the border with a bucket of water and poured it on the Bump indicating the watershed.
            On 7 September the work started again on the laying the wire.  This time about a hundred Chinese came to the fence and there was hand to hand fighting between the troops.  Realising that they were unequal to the Jats, the Chinese withdrew and began pelting stones, the Grenadiers responding in the same manner. Because of all this fighting there was not much progress in the laying of the wire.  The Chinese suffered a few casualties in wounded and we had two wounded. On 8 and 9 September things were relatively quiet but the Chinese continued work on their defences.
            . On the night of 10 September the GOC held a conference at HQ 112 Mountain Brigade in Changgu, where he personally briefed everyone on how the operation for laying the wire was to be carried out on 11 September.  Additional resources in men and material were moved for this purpose. One company of 18 Rajput was brought in to reinforce the defences. An ad hoc force of 90 men was organised into a protection party to charge the Chinese positions if they opened fire. Major Bishan Singh was in charge of the work with Captain P.S Dagar as his assistant. Apart from the platoon of 70 Field Company, a pioneer platoon was to assist in the construction of the fence.19
The Events of 11 September 1967
               As soon as work commenced on 11 September, the Chinese came up to the fence, and tried to stop it. There was a heated discussion between the Chinese commander, who was accompanied by the Political Commissar and CO 2 Grenadiers. Sagat had foreseen this eventuality and told Rai Singh not to expose himself but remain in his bunker, where the brigade commander, Brigadier M.M.S. Bakshi, was also present. But this was not heeded and Rai Singh, with an escort, came out in the open to stand face to face with the Chinese officers. As the arguments became more heated, tempers rose, with both sides standing their ground. Suddenly, the Chinese opened fire, causing several casualties among the troops working on the wire fence. Colonel Rai Singh was hit by a Chinese bullet, and fell down.
Chinese and Indian soldiers face-off at Nathu La, 1967
               The company of 18 Rajput, under Major Harbhajan Singh, and the sappers and pioneers working on the fence had been caught in the open, and suffered heavy casualties from the Chinese firing. Realising that the only way to neutralise the Chinese fire was a physical assault, Harbhajan shouted to his men, and led them in a charge on the Chinese position. Several of the Indian troops were mowed down by Chinese machine guns, but those who reached the Chinese bunkers used their bayonets and accounted for many of the enemy. Both Harbhajan and Dagar lost their lives in the action, which developed into a full scale battle, lasting six days. Sagat had asked for some medium guns, and these were moved up to a height of over 10,000 ft. The artillery observation posts proved their worth in bringing down effective fire on the Chinese. Because of lack of observation, and the steep incline west of Nathu La, most Chinese shells fell behind the forward defences, and did not harm the Indians. The Indian casualties in the action were just over two hundred - 65 dead and 145 wounded. The Chinese are estimated to have suffered about three hundred casualties.
Signals in Nathu La
               Second Lieutenant N.C Gupta was commanding 112 Mountain Brigade Signal Company. He had recently relieved Major R.K. Marwaha, who had proceeded on leave. Gupta had joined the brigade after completing the Commando Course at the Infantry School, and was promptly christened ‘Commando’ by the brigade commander, Brigadier M.M.S. Bakshi, M.V.C.  A soft spoken and affable officer with a diminutive frame, Gupta made up in courage and diligence what he lacked in size. For his fearless actions in the Nathu La operations, he was awarded the Sena medal. Thanks to his innate modesty, very people in the Corps of Signals know that he was in fact recommended for a Maha Vir Chakra.
               Though young in years, Gupta maintained a diary of events as they occurred. Filling several foolscap sheets of paper now yellowed with age, the record makes fascinating reading. The Author of this volume was also serving in 17 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment in 1967. Most of the details given in this account are based on the diary maintained by Gupta, and the biography. of Lieutenant General Sagat Singh written by the Author, as part of his book Leadership in the Indian Army – Biographies of Twelve Soldiers ,published in  2005
            The communications set up within the battalion was based on radio and line.  The B1 outstation was on radio set AN/GRC-9. The battalion radio net was using radio set VM-25. There were lines from the battalion exchange to all forward posts and rearwards to brigade headquarters. The line to HQ 112 Mountain Brigade at Changgu was on PL, the others consisting of WD1/D3 cable laid on the ground or on ballies. 
            The events of 11 September are described by Colonel N.C. Gupta in the following words:-
GOC’s conference of 10 September finished at around 2300 hrs. Throughout this period and over the following night the Engineers were busy moving their stores to Nathu La for the fence laying next morning.  As part of the signal plan a new line was laid overnight from Brigade HQ to Sherabthang and patched backwards directly to the Divisional HQ.  A back up Rover was created to be positioned at Brigade HQ to be used by BM in case required.  The primary Rover was to move with the Brigade Commander to Nathu La in the morning.  An additional line was also laid between Sherabthang – Nathu La Exchange at Hotel Section.
            I left at around 0500 hrs on 11 September with the Rover, one line party and an additional Radio Set VM 25 as part of the Commander’s entourage to Nathula.  We reached H Section at around 0515 hrs and were met by CO 2 Grenadiers and OC 70 Field Company.  CO of the Artillery Regiment was also with us.  After a quick review of the situation CO 2 Grenadiers, OC 70 Field Company and  CO of Artillery Regiment left for South Shoulder where the fencing was to take place and I  along with the Commander and Company Commander  of 2 Grenadiers went to area of Central Bump.  This was   an excellent vantage point.  It also housed a MMG Section.  The visibility was good and it was a clear day with a clear sky.
            By the time we reached area of Central Bump laying of fence, along the slope of North Shoulder and in this area of the pass itself, had started.  There was quite a lot of shouting going on. We had around 120 men involved in the fence laying.  They were working in small teams at around six points on the slope and the pass.  All the posts at and adjoining Nathula were at full alert and communications to these parts on battalion radio and on cable were through.  Artillery network was on and cables also through.  North Shoulder, South Shoulder, Pass, and H Section were working directly to the Brigade Commander on the B1 net, which also had CO 2 Grenadiers and Tiger Nathula on it.  The Chinese had around 150 troops opposing the wire laying in a hand to hand battle.  Barring the commotion and despite the hand to hand opposition things seemed to be moving as planned and the fence appeared to be getting into position.
             From the vantage point we noticed that the number of Chinese opposing the fence had gradually reduced.  The PA equipment on the Chinese side started a speech of Mao Tse Tung in Hindi.  The volume of the PA equipment was unusually high and had shielded the noise of the commotion on account of the hand to hand fight. Just as we thought things are in control all hell was let loose.  Every bunker and gun of the Chinese on North and South Shoulder started firing on the Indian troops laying the fence.  They were in the open and bore the initial brunt of the firing.  Our troops at South Shoulder who were hardly 30 mtrs from the Chinese were also taken by surprise.
            The Commander got onto the B1 net and started speaking to the people at the other end.  In due course of time it was learnt that the CO of 2 Grenadiers had been injured.  It was also learnt that the number of casualties amongst the troops involved in fence laying would be high but no exact figures/estimates were available.  Major Bishan Singh, Tiger Nathula, was in communication with the Commander, who instructed him to try and evacuate the CO and other casualties to H Section.
            I suddenly heard a sharp whistling sound overhead.  It appeared as though it was an aircraft that had made a quick pass. It was no aircraft - it was the sound of artillery shells that had overshot our position to land in the valley below.  It was clear the Chinese had opened up their artillery on the pass.  After some adjustments shells were falling all around us and in the entire area of Nathula.
            Soon I learnt my first lesson of war – if you hear the whistle of a shell you do not have to duck (especially in the mountains) as it will over shoot and you are safe.  The information of the Chinese opening fire was flashed to Divisional HQ and upwards to Army HQ.   However it took quite some time before permission for retaliation was received.  Our artillery fire was guided by the OP at Camels Back.  By later accounts it was learnt that our fire in the rear areas had been very effective and had resulted in a lot of casualties.
            By about 0930 hrs, Chinese fire had intensified and gradually we started getting out of touch with the troops at North Shoulder and South Shoulder.  By 0945 hrs we had no contact with anyone on the position on the shoulders even on the Artillery network.  It was a panic situation for me.  All the lines were down and so was the B1 to the pass.  I tried to enter the battalion net and the company net but failed.  There was no response on any of the almost dozen frequencies of the battalion in use that day for various nets.  I asked the operator at Brigade HQ to press in additional radio sets and keep trying for a response directly on AN/GRC-9 working to the Artillery OP and CO of the Field Regiment.
            This created a panic for us. The Commander asked me to call South Shoulder but there was no response. We tried to observe the area of South Shoulder but could see no movement.  The shelling on the South Shoulder had also increased.
            Under the circumstances perhaps there was no other option for the Commander but to ask me to send someone to South Shoulder to restore the communication. While I had a line party and spare radio sets with me it was decided that a radio be sent to South Shoulder, a distance of around 500 mtrs.  The route was open at places and involved going down around 300 mtrs and then up around 200 mtrs.  The linemen with me were new to Nathula and had never gone to South Shoulder.  Havildar Bhakuni of the Rover had gone there many times.  The choice was therefore between him and me.  Seeing the gravity of the situation and the shelling, the Commander said, “OK, Commando (my pet name in Brigade HQ), off you go”. 
            I reached South Shoulder at around 1000 hours.  To my astonishment I found the post totally abandoned.  I informed the same to the Commander. He asked me to look around for wounded if any and remain at the post and keep him in picture.  From the bunkers on South Shoulder I could see the Chinese in their bunker across.  By this time intermittent fog had started setting in. I informed the Commander that I can see a few dead soldiers in the area ahead of our defences close to the fence
            At around 1100 hrs the Commander informed me that re-enforcements are on their way but would take at least three hours to reach and that I must hold on till then.
            By 1200 hrs the fog had intensified. As I was watching from one of the bunkers I saw one of the bodies moving. He was just next to the fence barely 10 mtrs from the Chinese bunker. Taking advantage of the fog I went ahead to try and recover him. To my surprise it was Major Bishan Singh, Tiger of Nathula who had been injured in the initial firing. He was a 6 foot tall Jat. He was badly injured. With great difficulty I managed to lift him and partly drag him into our defences. Once inside I made him speak to the Commander.21 
            The shelling was on off. On my way back I was hit by shrapnel of one shell. However I never came to known of it at that point of time. I say so because that was the closest any shell had exploded near me. I came to know about it after three days when I was changing the uniform. My vest was full of dried blood with a small wound on the chest. In our family we had a tradition to give a silver coin when someone was going out on some important job. My mother had given me this coin when I left Delhi for 17 MDSR after YO’s course. This coin was in my wallet along with the ID card and had taken the brunt of the shrapnel saving me from certain death.
            By about 1330 hrs the reinforcements had reached South Shoulder. After passing necessary instructions the Rover Group decided to move to area Steps and then to Sherabthang. Before moving I left Havildar Bhakuni and the line party with the task of restoring the line in the battalion defended area including those to South Shoulder, H Section and the OP. I took the B1 radio myself and moved with the Commander.
            The events of 11 September at Nathula had been an experience for me. We lost around 70 troops in the day. The skirmish lasted five days before being called off. The most amazing event was the recovery of a wounded soldier from the fence after six days in the open. It was nothing short of a miracle.
            After returning to Sherabthang with the brigade commander Gupta took stock of the state of communications in the sector. He has recorded the events of 11 and 12 September in his diary. 20
11 Sep 1800 h.
The lines to forward locations were through.  B1 at Sherabthang was through with B1 at Nathula.  But they needed some more dry batteries and wire aerial which had been destroyed by shelling.  Sigmn Daryao Singh, operator of PA equipment at H Sec who had come down to Sherabthang when firing started was with me.  He seemed to be quite fresh and he was the only person with me who knew the Nathula area so I detailed him to take two dry batteries & one wire aerial to Nathula & give it to L/Nk Om Prakash I/C det.  This man I guess was rather afraid for he went about ¼ of the way and returned two hrs later with an excuse that he has stomach ache in fact gas trouble and cannot go to Nathula.
1830 h.           
In the mean time I had got my three linemen ready with cable to go with me to lay a new line to Nathula.  They could not move alone for none of them knew the route.  Any way I took two dry batteries & one wire aerial. The two linemen took one drum each.  The third lineman Mannu showed cowardice and said that he cannot go because he has pain in leg.  At this time I felt like emptying my sten magazine into his stomach.  Anyway I did not want any malingerers with me so I took the two linemen & proceeded with line laying. With great caution due to the intermittent fire that was going on we continued with the line laying.
It was a well moon lit night & the enemy could easily have spotted us but we were rather lucky.  We reached Gole Ghar at 2000 hrs but we fell short of cable by about 200 meters.  I knew in the morning my rover det had brought a coil of about 300 meters.  I went to Centre Bump & luckily found the coil there.  So we joined it & put the line through to Tiger Nathula & Nathula Exchange in parallel at 2030 hrs.  There we wasted no time but returned to Sherabthang.  On our way back we crossed many wounded soldiers slowly making their way back to Sherabthang.  Most of them were without their arms & equipment.
When I reached Sherabthang the Commander was briefing & making liaison for the plan which the GOC had given when he had come to Sherabthang.  Same time Maj Balwant Singh came from Changgu to take over as Tiger Nathula.  Commander briefed him of what he was supposed to do.  Maj Balwant left at 2300 hrs via area Steps with one radio det & some dry batteries of VM 25-B.  At 2400 hrs we had some dry chapattis which were lying in Sherabthang with pickle.  We were really very grateful to SM for he managed to give us a glass of hot tea which put us back into mood.21
            Things were being married up for the next morning’s operation which had three phases. In phase one two patrols under JCOs would patrol area S Shoulder & N Shoulder for casualties and bring back as many as they can.  In phase two a platoon under Capt Daniels would assault S Shoulder from Camels Back side, destroy or capture as many enemy as possible, bring back enemy arms, ammunition, dead, wounded, alive or any other souvenirs.  Also Capt Rathor was to be on S Shoulder with his platoon.  As soon as S Shoulder would fall Maj Cheema & Capt Rathor would go ahead with the rest of the wire which was to be laid.  Priority of laying was to lay the wire on the Bump.  We all hoped that the weather should be bad for this operation but unfortunately it was a moon lit night.
Commander also rang up Maj Chandrashekar and told him what was expected of him.  The task given must be fulfilled under all circumstances.  He also told him that Maj Balwant Singh was coming up to take over as Tiger & that he should stay at South Shoulder & supervise the operation from there.
12 Sep 0300 hrs.        
Capt Lamba’s company which had gone to area Steps was to be in radio communication with Tiger Nathula, Camels Back, Sebula, & Sherabthang but he was not through with anyone.  I knew that when all the net was through, either he has not opened his set or his batteries are drained out.  Any way myself and Capt R. Prakash took one VM 25-B set and left for area Steps via the road.  On the way we met many wounded slowly making their way to Sherabthang.  We also saw a lot of arms & equipment lying on the road.  Anyway when we reached area Steps we found that Capt Lamba’s set was not put on.  I put my set on & in the very first call we were through.  I then put his set through, briefed the operator & returned to Sherabthang
The Chinese opened fire on the party which went to lay the wire under Maj Cheema with small arms.  Most of them were pinned down & two killed.
I took my line party of two linemen to lay a new line to area Steps.  When we reached area Steps at about 0800 hrs I found Capt Daniel was not there with his company.  Anyway I went to look for his company. A little below area Steps I met Capt Daniel with his platoon.  He told me he has been ordered to report to Maj Balwant Singh.  I advised him to follow the route via Sebula.  Anyway I soon met Capt Lamba, gave him a telephone & put the line through.  We were back in Sherabthang at about 0830 hrs.
            Signal JCO of 18 Rajput came to me for three drums of WD1 cable required for lines at Nathula post.  I gave him three drums & then left for Nathula via Sebula at 0900 hrs.  In the mean time we laid a new line to mortar position, which was completed by about 1000 hrs.  As soon as this line was put through the enemy opened up heavy arty fire on area Steps, mortar position & Sherabthang.  I was very close to the exchange when this fire opened up.  I saw couple of operators running out of the exchange room.  Thinking that it might be abandoned I went inside but I saw that a Grenadiers operator was inside & still manning the exchange.  Anyway I stayed along with him.  The Corps Commander was also at this time in area Sherabthang.  Our B1 under Naik Bhakuni was through strength 5.   Anyway as we sat in the exchange the line to Steps & Camels Back went out.  The shelling stopped at about 1130.  I at once sent a line party to Camels Back.
This shelling had created lot of confusion in our adm tail that was going up to Nathula via Sebula.  One mule was killed & six injured near mortar position and a message was sent on B1 to Brigade for RVC doctor.  Capt Lamba’s company in area Steps had scattered, left the area & come down to as far as Kupup road.  Capt Daniel’s company took cover there only and stayed there indefinitely. The Rajput Subedar carrying cable also remained somewhere near mortar position
We started work to shift the Sherabthang exchange from the wooden barrack to a shell proof bunker.  The work was completed by 1400 hrs.  The work done by Signalman Mohinder Singh was commendable.  Unfortunately no sooner was the exchange shifted the lines to Mortar position, Sebula, Nathula, Steps & Camels Back were out.  The two lines to Brigade were also down but B1 was through.  Anyway, I sent a line party to Nathula, one to mortar position & Sebula & one to Camels Back & I myself went on Brigade line with one lineman.  Luckily the Brigade was through by 1600 hrs.  But at about 1630 enemy started shelling Area Theguk & Haryana as a result these two lines were again out.  The Brigade line party reached our location at about 1730 hrs laying a new line.  But when they reached our exchange they could not get 112 Brigade exchange.  Mortar position line was through at 1800 hrs, Sebula at 2100 hrs, Nathula at 2330 hrs and Camels Back line was not through that night.  They were however through on VM 25-B to Tiger Nathula.  Line to Tiger Steps was through but his telephone was faulty & as such no calls were made.  He was not through on wireless also.
Commander, CO 182 Light Regiment with his radio det, GLO & myself left for Nathula via area Steps.  At Kupup road junction we met a party who were bringing back two casualties.  A little ahead we met a section of D Company 18 Rajput resting.  On questioning we came to know that they had left area Steps and come down due to heavy shelling and would be going up after darkness.  Commander ordered them to go forthwith.  A little short of Steps we met Capt Lamba with the rest of his company.  Commander questioned him & took him to Steps and saw his position & told him to bring up his full company  & send one of his JCOs to Nathula Tiger to take orders if his platoon was required to move up to South Shoulder.
A little ahead we saw lots of equipment like packs, steel helmet, ammunition & cable drum lying on the ground.  We met a few men of Capt Daniels’ platoon who had left in the morning trying to make their way to South Shoulder via area Lake.  The road had been badly shelled and was in a very bad state.  We left the radio detachment half way as going up via short cut was rather difficult for them & we could not move via the road due to good visibility.
We reached Tiger’s Bunker.  Commander had a few words with him & told him his plan & how they were to bring out the casualties from North & South Shoulders.  The plan to lay the wire had been dropped.  We left Tiger’s Bunker at about 2000 hrs.  On our way back we met the stretcher bearer parties going up to bring back the casualties.22

The skirmish at Nathu La continued for another five days. As would be evident from the personal account and diary of Second Lieutenant N.C Gupta, the events left a deep impression on his mind.

            Gupta’s actions in holding South Shoulder alone for a few hours, and saving the life of the badly wounded Major Bishan Singh under enemy fire were indeed commendable and deserved to be rewarded.  His actions had been witnessed by the brigade and divisional commanders and it was expected that he would be given a gallantry award. Unfortunately, the fact that South Shoulder post had been left unoccupied for some time was mentioned in his citation.  On account of its likely repercussions the portion about Indian troops vacating their posts was removed.  In the event, N.C. Gupta was awarded a Sena Medal instead of the MVC that he deserved. 
            An interesting sidelight of the Nathu La incident has been given by Lieutenant General M.S. Sodhi, who writes:-
I recall the Nathu La incident too. I was commanding XXXIII Corps Signals. The telephone lines were down and the GOC wanted immediate confirmation of action proposed by him.  He dictated his very clear cut and precise appreciation of the situation on the telephone to me and had me send a message to the GOC-in-C with copy to Army HQ !! General JS Aurora considered  dictation to me more  expedient  than sending for his BGS/GSO 1. The   message was encrypted and cleared on RTT in a Flash. He got concurrence to his proposed action in very good time.
I also recall a conversation with General Sagat when I happened to meet him at the airport a few days later. I asked him how the communications support was during the operations. His response was, with tongue in cheek, "Bloody awful!  The Corps Commander could contact me in the most forward post!"23
The Cho La Incident
            The incident at Cho La, another post located to the north west of Nathu La, occurred a few days afterwards. The post fell under 63 Mountain Brigade, then under the command of Brigadier Kundan Singh. It was occupied by 10 Jammu & Kashmir Rifles, which was being relieved by 7/11 Gorkha Rifles during the last week of September 1967. On 1 October, There was a scuffle at Point 15,450, which had been taken over by the Gorkhas on the previous day. There was boulder at the post, and Chinese and Indian sentries usually stood on opposite sides. Since the Indians were new to the post, the Chinese staked claim to the boulder, leading to heated argument between the two post commanders.
            As the arguments became more heated, the Chinese opened fire, with the Indians responding in like fashion. The Gorkhas charged the Chinese positions and there was hand-to-hand combat, the kukris flashing repeatedly. The officiating CO, Major K.B. Joshi, was on his way to Point 15,450 when the incident started. He was at Rai Gap, held by 10 Jammu & Kashmir Rifles, which also came under heavy fire and was attacked by the Chinese,
The news of the firing was conveyed to HQ 63 Mountain Brigade by Major Nair, the second-in-command of 10 Jammu & Kashmir Rifles. Brigadier Kundan Singh, who was also officiating as the divisional commander, immediately ordered the rest of 7/11 Gorkha Rifles to move up from Tamze. He himself moved up to Twin Huts, to see things for himself, where he met Major Joshi, who requested permission to recapture Point 15,450, which was granted. The attack was launched next morning and the position recaptured by the Gorkhas. The battalion was awarded two Vir Chakras during the incident.24
Lieutenant General S.R.R. Aiyengar, who was commanding 63 Mountain Brigade Signal Company, recounts the incident in the following words:-
The Cho La incident took place barely a month after the Nathu La incident. Our Brigade 63 Mountain Brigade was operationally responsible for this Sector. On my numerous visits to this Sector, I had seen visually the close proximity of troops on either side of the LAC. In fact, there is a very famous snap of bayonets of two soldiers –Indian and Chinese facing each other and bayonets pointing towards each other and crossing across the face. I had also noticed the Chinese troops walking side by side whenever we walked across the wire obstacle we had laid after the Nathu La incident to demarcate our side of the LAC. In fact the troops then occupying Cho La Post (10 JAK RIF) often used use to narrate how the Chinese troops would toss up Mao’s red badge across the fence in return of any cigarette packets thrown across by our troops. They had also installed a PA system similar to the one they had at Nathula. My Sig Coy - 63 Mtn Bde Sig Coy had also installed one from our side of the LAC beaming transmission towards the Chinese post.
On one morning (I am not able to remember the exact date now), we had frantic calls from Cho La that a heavy exchange of fire was taking place. CO of the Battalion (10 JAK RIF) was returning from leave and his 2ic was manning the fort. Reportedly at one of the forward posts a scuffle had taken place and some hand to hand combat had followed thereafter. The post was also in the process of being handed over to 7/11 GR troops. The Chinese started firing all across our post especially on the Bn/Coy HQ locations and generally restricting any movements in areas where could easily see. The matter was reported to Bde Comdr (Brig Kundan Singh) and our attempt to speak to the 2ic was futile, his telephone was ringing but there was no response.  His bunker was also under heavy firing from the Chinese side. I had  asked my B-1 operator, I do still remember his name –L/Nk Moga Singh, a tall young man, full of josh. I asked him to take our radio set to the 2ic‘s bunker taking advantage of the lull in firing.  We finally managed to speak to him on the radio set, but my own feedback from Moga Singh was that the officer was in a state of shock and the telephone was repeatedly ringing. We got some version of the event from the 2ic. Commander then decided to visit Cho la next day and wanted me to accompany him. I had done these visits on number of occasions with him and he was appreciative of our attempts to keep these communications going despite all the odds of weather and terrain etc. In fact I do remember after almost every visit of his to Cho La post, he would send some Rum to our boys and especially our linemen who used to maintain a tenuous WD-1 route. On reaching the Cho la post next day, the Comdr had a good idea of what had happened the previous day.
I had put up L/Nk Moga Singh for a citation but somewhere down the line it got lost. My Comdr did meet and congratulate him for his efforts to keep the communications going .Yes, Moga did us proud.25
            As one of the original signatories of the UN Charter, India has played a pivotal role in the affairs of the World body, shouldering her responsibilities towards the maintenance of peace. An important part of this role is the contribution of troops to various commissions, peace keeping forces and observer groups under the auspices of the United Nations. It is matter of pride that Indian troops have always performed creditably in such assignments, based on their impeccable behaviour, impartiality and professionalism.  Not surprisingly, India is one of the largest contributors to UN missions even today.
            A Signals complement has always formed part of the Indian contingent that is send abroad on an UN assignment. Without exception, they have delivered the goods, always and every time. One reason is that unlike most other arms where an entire unit or sub unit is earmarked for an overseas assignment, in the Signals contingent each man is selected individually, based on past performance. As a result, almost every signaller who forms part of an overseas mission is above average, and there are almost no ‘bad hats’, a problem which newly raised units often face.
The Nathu La operations in 1967 were an acid test for the Indian Army, which faced the Chinese for the second time in five years. Though the results of the skirmish were inconclusive, it proved that the Chinese were not invincible. For Signals, the operation was significant, bringing to light the high standards of professionalism and training of its personnel, because of which even a young and inexperienced officer was able to perform his role in battle without any disruption in communications.


This chapter is mainly based on Lt. Gen. Satish Nambiar’s For the Honour of  India – A History of Indian Peacekeeping; Captain M.S. Sodhi’s  Report on Performance of Force Signal Unit In Korea; Regimental History,  Indian Contingent Signal Regiment ONUC (Congo); personal diary of 2/ Lt. N.C Gupta and personal accounts of officers,. Specific references are given below:-

1.         Col V.A. Subramanyam, The Signals: A History of the Corps of Signals, Macmillan, New Delhi, 1986, p. 126.
2.         Captain M.S. Sodhi, Report on Performance of Force Signal Unit In Korea, 1954.
3.         Lt. Gen. Satish Nambiar, For the Honour of  India – A History of Indian Peacekeeping, Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research (CAFHR), United Service Institution of India (USI), New Delhi, 2009, pp. 104-113
4.         Col. S.N. Mehta, Personal Account.
5.         Brig. E.N. Ramadoss, Personal Account.
6.         Brig. E.N. Ramadoss, Personal Account.
7.         Maj. Gen. K.K Tewari, Personal Account.
8.         Nambiar, p. 134
9.                  Lt Col S.N. Antia, “United Nations Emergency Force :Its Creation And Problems”, The Signalman, January 1958
10.     Nambiar, p. 152
11.              Shavey, “The Indian Signal Section with the UNEF”, The Signalman, October 1957. 
12.     Captain S.P Sethi, Personal Account
13.     Nambiar, pp. 191-199
14.     Nambiar, p. 222
15.              Regimental History – Indian Contingent Signal Regiment ONUC (Congo)
16.              Major P.D. Sawhney, ‘Indian Independent Brigade Group Signal Company in the Congo’, The Signalman,  January 1962
17.              Regimental History – Indian Contingent Signal Regiment ONUC (Congo)
18.              Lt. Col. P.K. Roy Chowdhury, Personal Account.
19.              Col. R.D. Palsokar, The Grenadiers – A Tradition of Valour, 1980, p. 363
20.              2/ Lt. N.C Gupta, Personal Diary.
21.              Major Balwant Singh was the Officiating CO of 18 Rajput.
22.              2/ Lt. N.C Gupta, Personal Diary.
23.              Lt. Gen. M.S. Sodhi, Personal Account.
24.              Lt. Col. Gautam Sharma, Path of Glory – Exploits of the 11th Gorkha Rifles, Allied Publishers, Delhi, 1988, pp 68-72.
25.              Lt. Gen. S.R.R. Aiyengar, Personal Account.


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