By Colonel Awadhesh Kumar
These are the exploits of MEGHDOOT Force together with the BADAL Force undertaken during the 1965 Indo Pak war. Meghdoot Force and Badal Force both raised and led by Major Megh Singh, the creator of the Indian Special Forces, the First Commanding Officer of 9 PARACHUTE COMMANDO now named 9 PARACHUTE SPECIAL FORCES.
After bidding goodbye to Poonch Sector, at 1030h 13 Sep65 Major Megh Singh reached Udhampur, HQ 15 Corps, his first visit ever. He had been moved by helicopter from HQ 25 Infantry Division on the orders of GOC 15 Corps, Lt General K S Katoch, MC.
On arrival he was taken straight to the Operations Room where General KS Katoch was waiting for him. This was the first time Major Megh Singh was meeting him. However due to the achievements of MEGHDOOTS, he was already a Blue Eyed Boy of the General. After hearing the details of URI- POONCH LINK UP from the horses mouth, the Corps Commander said ” Megh now I have pulled you out of Poonch Sector because situation in Chamb is precarious. We need Meghdoots in this Sector quite badly. First get a briefing from the Brigadier General Staff here, then you go to Akhnoor and meet the GOC 10 Infantry Division. Thereafter visit the Chamb Brigade and select your area of operatons. ” GOC further added ” Megh, I should have congratulated you first for the good news, which the Director Military Operations Brigadier Narender Singh has himself conveyed to me. The Govt has agreed to sanction an Establishment for a Commando Force. They want a proposed War Establishment, at once. So before leaving for Akhnoor, work it out with the BGS and GSO1 Staff Duties. I have already recommended your name to the Army Commander and the VCOAS as the first Commanding Officer of this Force.
Megh Singh like any good soldier promptly said ” yes sir”. Though the forcefull Major had a major problem. He was without any Force as such, all the Meghdoots had been left behind in Poonch Sector itself. In fact the Force had been promptly disbanded and every one sent back to their respective units. He therefore respectfully requested the Corps Commander to let him have atleast some of the men from the original Force and to also let him have a few Officers who had operated with him in Nagaland, so that the work to raise the COMMANDO UNIT may start on priority. Meanwhile a small Force could be mustered from within the Chamb Sector for immediate operations.
The request having been granted instantly, Megh Singh immediately submitted a list of Officers to the BGS with whom he had served as an Instructor at Indian Military Academy, Dehradoon in 1955-56. Besides Lt N K Mukherjee 3 RAJPUT and Lt Mohinder Singh 3 RAJ RIFLES, the list comprised in order of priority Capt CM Malhotra 10 GUARDS, Capt B M Narang 3 GUARDS and Capt B P Mathur, AMC—-all these officers had operated with Megh Singh in Nagaland during 1963-64. Among these officers Chander Malhotra had displayed gallantry, courage and devotion to duty of a very high order in number of operations in Nagaland. Malhotra had at once volunteered to join the Meghdoots before Megh Singh had even left Shimla. Six years later in December 1971 this officer, Major Chander Malhotra, who had also served as an ADC to the President, would lead the daring raid on Pakistani Guns at MANDHOL as CHARLIE GROUP Commander, 9 PARA COMMANDO.
HQ 15 Corps then immediately sent a FLASH signal to Army HQ on the orders of the GOC himself, to make these Officers available for the new Commando Force, wherever they might be. Lt Mohinder and a party of six of the original Meghdoots from 3 RAJ RIFLES were flown on 15 Sep by helicopter from Poonch along with six of the original Meghdoots from 3 RAJPUT. However due to an already planned mission Lt Mukherjee could not be spared by his battalion. Megh Singh then got cracking on the Organizational Structure of the Commando Battalion in consultation with the Staff Duties Branch. By 1500h on 13 Sep65 a WAR ESTABLISHMENT was worked out and after being shown to the Corps Commander was sent to Army HQ. Then something most unusual, by the standards of functioning in our Country, happened. The War Establishment was sanctioned by the GOI within the hour and message was conveyed to HQ 15 Corps on telephone the same day. There was an added message from Military Secretary Branch that Major Megh Singh would be the new Commanding Officer of this battalion when raised,in the rank of LT Col. However though the sanction had come there was no time to raise the unit while the war was on. Megh Singh had to once again first gather and then lead an adhoc force against the Pakistanis. He also needed to select his new area of Operation.
Sufficient cover to infiltrate behind the enemy lines and protection from enemy tanks were the two foremost requirements for choosing the area of Operations. Therefore Megh Singh preferred to operate
in the hilly terrain NORTH of Akhnoor extending up to Jorian and Kalit. This area had ample cover and no enemy tanks would be operating in this hilly terrain. Accordingly on 17 Sep around 1000h, Major Megh Singh along with Lt Mohinder and 12 Meghdoots reported to HQ 10 Infantry Division for further briefing and orders. The Army Commander General Harbaksh Singh, Vr C and General KS Katoch were also visiting the Divisinal HQ at that time. On seeing Megh Singh, the Army Commander was mighty pleased. He was meeting him for the first time after Megh Singh had left Shimla. Harbaksh Singh patted Megh for the excellent job done so far. From there Megh Singh and his Meghdoots followed the cavalcade of the two Generals and the GOC 10 Infantry Division to HQ 191 Infantry Brigade. There the Brigade Commander, Brigadier ManMohan Singh gave a detailed briefing on the upcoming attack on Keri by 3 KUMAON. Megh Singh was to infiltrate behind the enemy lines and destroy his guns and supply bases in area THIL and also cut his lines of retreat from Keri towards Thil.
Once the briefing was over, the Army Commander before leaving the Brigade HQ once again wished Megh Singh good shooting. It was there at the Brigade HQ, where Megh Singh met a band of ex servicemen headed by Subedar Kanwal Singh. They had all come as volunteers to work with the Army. They were from Chamb Sector and had to flee from their homes now over run by the Pakis. They were filled with a sense of revenge and wanted that rifles be given to them for fighting the enemy. While talking to them Megh Singh was quite convinced that these men would be of a great help in acting as guides into the enemy area and also for carrying out various other tasks. He therefore at once accosted the Corps Commander, who was still there and made a request for immediate outfitting and arming of these ex servicemen. General Katoch gave on spot decision to arm and equip this force of about 50 men. Thus was born a new force named BADAL FORCE as part of MEGHDOOT FORCE. These gallant men comprising mostly ex Servicemen and a few civilians gave an excellent account of themselves in the three actions that were fought subsequently by Megh Singh and his Force in the Chamb Sector.
After the Generals had departed, Brigadier ManMohan Singh who was from GUARDS Regiment itself, sent for Megh Singh and had a long discussion. Though Brig ManMohan was at ease, on his face there was an image of a Commander who had sustained the initial blows of the massive invasion of Chamb Sector by Pakistan ……OPERATION GRAND SLAM.. He had fought well in spite of depleted strength in armour and artillery. Presently he was still holding a vast area with inadequate number of troops and fire support. Though he did not give any outward indication, he was a much worried man. Now Megh Singh, a fellow Regimental Officer vowed to do whatever possible to ease the problems. The tradition of DIAL 9 FOR ASSISTANCE probably started from this moment itself though growled out by the 9th Commanding Officer 22 years later. As per information available to the Brigade, enemy had a big base in area THIL from where he was supporting his battalions. As per plan 3 KUMAON was to attack KERI on night 18/ 19 Sep and while this was going on Megh Singh was to liquidate the Supply base and thereafter cut off the enemy’s line of retreat.
Apart from his 12 Meghdoots and the 50 men of the BADAL Force, for this task Major Megh Singh was given just one platoon from 3 KUMAON under 2/Lt N K Dubey. However another young Officer 2/ Lt S S Sohal of 6 SIKH Who was acting as a Liaison Officer at Brigade HQ had come to Megh Singh in the evening and volunteered to join the Force. This Officer had barely four months of service but seeing his sentiments, Megh Singh at once made him a member of the Force after taking the approval of the Commander. Sohal as part of Meghdoots was later awarded a SENA MEDAL. Lt Sohal was to join 9 PARA COMMANDO in Jul 1966 and had started his journey from 6 SIKH location but his vehicle met with an accident enroute and he was injured seriously. Much later in 1992 while commanding 163 Infantry Brigade in Udhampur, he had narrated the stories to me. I also had the privilege to under take an operation in 1992, leading my team in conjunction with a brigade level operation led by Brigadier S S Sohal, one of the originals of the Meghdoots.
The article is written by Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Veteran Special. This article has been posted with the author’s permission. Views expressed are personal.