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Sikh Light Infantry

Soldiering has been a way of life for the Sikhs of Punjab for centuries. After the sepoy revolt of 1857 the 'Purabeeas' were replaced by the Punjabis as the major source of manpower for the British Army in India, but their loyalty had to be carefully nurtured. The British made many mistakes, at first failing even to recognize the religious significance of the Sikhs' beards and long hair. Performing well in WW1, the Sikh Pioneers were then disbanded in 1933, a traumatic experience for the community. However, the Sikh Pioneers were revived in WW2, becoming the Sikh Light Infantry. The reconquest of Burma was essentially an Indian Army campaign. It was here that the Sikh Light Infantry tasted blood and earned their first battle honors.

The Two homogeneous Sikh regiments - the Sikh Light Infantry and Sikh Regiment - each contain approximately twenty highly trained battalions that account for a major element of the strike force in the main army divisions.

Israeli attacks on the 1st Sikh Light Infantry [which was part of the UNEF] in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war cost the battalion more casualties than it suffered in its bloodiest engagement in the 1965 Indian-Pakistan war, Indian officers have charged. A United Nations spokesman in New York said 14 Indians were killed and 16 were wounded. On the first day of the Israeli-Egyptian fighting, an Indian convoy was en route from Camp Rafah to Gaza flying the U.N. flag from each jeep and truck. The convoy met an Israeli tank column on the road.

On the 28th September 1965, 6 Sikh LI was ordered to take two important hill features as a preliminary to clearing a feature on Kalidhar in Jammu and Kashmir which Pakistani forces had, notwithstanding the cease-fire, encroached upon. With utter disregard for personal safety, the Battalion assaulted and captured both the preliminary objectives. The enemy brought down heavy artillery fire and counter-attacks three times. Two of the counter-attacks were beaten off with heavy casualties to the enemy. Due to heavy casuality and pressure of the enemy, our troops had to fall back from one of the two hill features. At this stage the Battalion halted the enemy's advance and stabilized the situation.

On the night of 3rd October 1965 the Battalion was given the task of clearing the same objective with the help of a Mahar battalion. In the morning on 4 October 1965, 6 Sikh L. I secured it objectives inspite of treacherous cliffish terrain, heavy enemy opposition and shelling, the battalion continued to advance up a very steep slope in the face of intensive enemy artillery fire and opposition by Infantry. Despite casualties and strong opposition, our troops continued to press forward and successfully secured three other important features by evening of the same day. The enemy staged three counter-attacks in heavy strength supported by artillery fire but they were all repulsed with heavy casualties.

The Battalion re-organized itself for the next assault on Kalidhar Trig Point 3776 despite heavy casualties and fatigue. The feature was finally cleared of the Pakistani intruders by mid-day on 5th October 1965. In this action the Battalion displayed remarkable courage, determination and self sacrifice for which one Maha Vir Chakra (Lt Col. PK Nandagopal), two Vir Chakras, four Sena Medals (two Post-humous); five Mention-in Despatches (three Posthumous) and one COAS's Commendation Card were awarded. The Regiment was also awarded the Battle Honour "Kalidhar 1965"

11 December 1971 is a red letter day in the history of 8 Sikh L.I. Pak Fatehpur post, fortified on all four sides with high bunds, was a virtual fortress with innumerable automatic and anti-tank weapons deployed for its defence. Its diamond-like shape made it equally difficult to tackle from all side, on the night of 11 December the brave men of 8 Sikh L. I. discounted all difficulties and rushed forward on to this coveted objective, in the face of deadly small arms fire and devastating artillery shelling. Many a gallant soldier fell but others moved on undaunted. Not before long the enemy was either destroyed or in desperate flight, leaving behind large quantity of arms and ammunition. Apparently, the enemy had not accepted final defeat yet, he continued to plaster this position with accurate artillery and mortar fire from several directions. Two counter attacks attempted by him were disorganized by valiant men of 8 Sikh L.I.

In this heroic battle, three officers, one JCO and 32 Ors sacrificed their life and approximately 100 others were wounded. A young battalion, within five years of its raising, had fought its maiden battle in masterly style and had come of age. The number of officers killed, wounded is tribute to the quality of glowing leadership provided by them.

8 Sikh L.I was awarded the Battle Honour Fathepur for this heroic action, Besides, one Mahavir Chakra, five Vir Chakras (2 posthumous), four Sena Medals (2 posthumous) and two Mention-in Despatches (Posthumous) were also awarded.

10 Sikh L.I. spearheaded the advance of 85 Infantry Brigade Northward through the Sind Desert along the railway line Munabao-Naya Chorcompleting all the operational tasks given to it with distinction, right upto the day of cease fire, during the Indo-Pak operations in 1971. Kajlor the first objective, was overrun on 4 Dec. 1971 and the second phase of the attack became redundant as the ememy flew helter-skelter without any loss to our troops. Next day advance was resumed and Khokh-Ropar Railway station saw the enemies blood turn to water with the battle cry of 'Bole so Nihal' the advance coming to a temporary halt at Bhitala as the administrative echelons had failed to negotiate the treacherous sand of the Sind desert.

The advance was maintained along Vasarbha railway station through 5/7 December 1971. By 1700 hrs on December 7, 10 Sikh L I reached Parche Jiveri station (now called Bahadur Nagar). The enemy strafed the battalion, wherein Sep. Kulwant Singh was killed while bringing down an enemy Sabre by his LMG fire and was awarded the Sena Medal for this brave deed. The Battalion firmed in on December 8 on approaching Naya Chor enemy defence. The key to the enemy defences was a dominating feature, Parbat Ali. The enemy brought down heavy artillery fire and country attacked twice but were beaten back and decided wisely to withdraw. The battalion firmed in and remained there till last light on 12 December.

10 Sikh L.I. was ordered to capture Village Parche Jiveri (Bahadur Nagar) and on the night of 14 December the battalion launched its attack. The assaulting companies ran into a mine-field and Maj Arora was severally wounded. Seeing the situation Commanding Officer Lt Col. Basant Singh left his post and himself moved up along with his Intelligence Officer, late Capt Bahadur Singh, Vir Chakra. While the Commanding Officer, was inspiring his troops, Capt Bahadur Singh, went up to the Artillery officer's post and continued to direct artillery fire until hit by an enemy bullet in the head, and died on the spot. The attack went in through the minefields and heavy enemy fire. The enemy fled leaving behind 20 dead, two recoilless guns and a Jeep, besides vast quantities of ammunition. The battalion aquitted itself in an exemplary manner throughout this brief war and was awarded Battle Honour Parbat Ali and theater honour "Sind 1971". Besides gallantry awards :- five Vir Chakra, seven Sena Medals and three Mention-in-Despatches were awarded.

In 1965, 5 Sikh L. I. was holding picket in Jammu and Kashmir. Pak troops had occupied a complex of hills called "OP Hill" in Mendar Sector. The complex dominated Road Mender Balnoi, thus isolating one infantry battalion and its administrative base at Balnoi. Earlier attempts to dislodge the enemy having failed, 5 Sikh L I was selected and moved to Mendar Sector to take part in a bridge attack on OP Hill. The battalion was new and its officers were very young, only one company commander had more than three years' service. The Commanding Officer decided to personally lead the assault. The approaches to the feature were heavily mined and, anticipating an attack, the enemy had ensured heavy concentration of artillery fire. The attack was launched before midnight on 2 November 1965. The morale of troops was very high and the Battalion captured its objective in a lightning move from a totally unexpected direction. Having surprised the enemy, the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Sant Singh (now Brig Sant Singh, MVC, (Bar) (Retd) decided to exploit the advantage and ordered the capture of three more objectives which were assigned to another Battalion. The highest feature and the ground of tactical importance for the enemy was captured by midnight. The hills reverberated with the sound of the success signal- "Reveille on the bugle". Subsequently, two more objectives were captured, thus completing four attacks in one night. The highlights of the attacks were the enthusiasm displayed by men and launching of additional attacks without waiting for orders from the Brigade Commander. Throughout, the enemy put up a very tough fight and each bunker had to be cleared after hand-to-hand fighting. For taking most spectacular initiative in launching three additional attacks and for displaying conspicuous gallantry and inspiring leadership, the Commanding Officer (Lt Col. Sant Singh) was awarded Mahavir Chakra. One more Mahavir Chakra was awarded to Naik Darshan Singh (Posthumous). Besides these; one Vir Chakra (Posthumous), four Sena Medals (2 Posthumous) and five Commendation Cards were awarded. The Regiment was bestowed Battle Honour "Chuh-i-Nar 1965".

6 Sikh L.I. operated in Chamb Sector against Pakistani infiltrators and regular forces. The Battalion resisted every attempt by the enemy to infiltrate/raid/lay ambushes in the Battalion Sector. The Battalion withstood worst ever shelling the 15 August 1965 and stood out valiantly in their posts on the cease-fire line to the admiration of all troops despite intensive enemy shelling, disruption of communications and increased casualties. The stand of the battalion enabled 191 Brigade Group to reorganize, regroup and take offensive action to reoccupy posts vacated on 15-17 August 1965 by our troops in the sector. 6 Sikh L I were ordered to retake lost posts of Maira and Nathan, with one company 3 Mahar and one troop 'C' squadron 20 Lancers under command, reoccupied both posts on 17 August 1965. Vigorious offensive action by all ranks kept the enemy at bay and delayed his offensive till 1 September 1965, by the time he was able to concentrate his armour, infantry, artillery, RCL, and MMG mounted on jeeps and infantry in greater strength to pierce through wide gaps between posts, outnumbered, outshelled, outgunned and threatened own posts on cease-fire line with encirclement and annihilation in details.

On 1 September 1965, own artillery and air support failed, any communication or reinforcement ultimately disintegrated and it was no longer possible to hold out. Devastated but undeterred by Pakistan airforce and artillery, Battalion Headquarters with remnants of one company and 'C' squadron 20 Lancers underwent continuous shelling, withdrew before midnight on 1 September 1965 on orders from Headquarters 191 Infantry Brigade Group. The battalion fought with its back against the wall against innumerable odds and stood up well. It was indeed a great satisfaction that the battalion carried out the duty to its best ability. It was this feeling in fact that made the Battalion to quickly absorb reinforcement, re-equip and be operational to take on any task assigned to it culminating in the capture of Trig point 3776 (Kalidhar) on 4 October 1965. In this battle all ranks showed tenacity of purpose, determination, courage, devotion to duty and a spirit of self-sacrifice.

13 Sikh L I battle at Kokkuvil, Sri Lanka, and the saga of the heroic fight put in by twenty-nine men have embedded themselves into the realms of history without an iota of doubt. The Battalion (less two companies) at Palali air fields in Sri Lanka, was tasked to capture LTTE military headquarters at Jaffna University. At midnight the first helicopter of Delta Company took off for the landing zone, soon followed by the second helicopter. The platoon for Delta company led by late Maj Birendra Singh, had to face tough weather landing amidst heavy and accurate enemy fire. The follow-up helicopters which were airborne were ordered to return to Palali, as three of the five helicopters having been hit resulted in no further landing behind the enemy lines in the LTTE strongest foothold. Amidst confused situation the Battalion was ordered to advance on vehicles to establish link with the beleaguered platoon of Delta Coy. All communication had snapped, the last transmission from late Maj Birendra Singh being "Not to worry, We'll hold on..."



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