Indo Pakistan war of 1965 not only had the immense contribution of the armed forces but National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadets also played a very important role with their engagement in civil defence tasks while also assisting civil and military authorities in many ways throughout the war.
The young cadets performed several critical tasks that included helping in building bunds along the western borders near the war area, guarding the important installation like Akashwani, Telephone exchanges, and Post offices.
Among these courageous NCC cadets was one Sergeant Pratap Singh who was even awarded Ashok Chakra III (renamed and is equivalent to the Shaurya Chakra now) for his display of devotion to duty during the firefighting operations on September 13, 1965, at Gurdaspur railway station.
The story of Sergeant Pratap Singh:
On 13th September 1965, a goods train carrying diesel oil and other explosive materials at Gurdaspur Railway station was bombed by four Pakistani planes that led to the fire in the wagon containing diesel oil. The fire created such huge flames that the entire area around the railway station was covered with a thick dark cloud of smoke that disrupted the locality with panic and fear.
Sergeant Pratap Singh (No: 1148011) and 59 other NCC cadets rushed to the scene without giving a second thought about their life. The cadets, under the explicit guidance of Sgt Pratap Singh, quickly started detaching the unaffected wagons from the burning wagons and pushed it away to prevent the fire from spreading.
The course of action by the 60 cadets did not only contain the fire from the diesel wagon but they had also detached the wagons loaded with ammunition which prevented a big explosion.
The timely response of the NCC cadets was also significant for the advancement of the Indian army in the frontline as the destruction of both fuel and ammunition would have given a pause to the actions of the army since the resupply would have taken a long time because of the damage that was done to the railway tracks.
This devotion to duty by the cadets, who risked their lives, eventually saved the city of Gurdaspur from a terrible tribulation. Cadet Sergeant Pratap Singh of the 10th Punjab Battalion NCC Gurdaspur showed qualities of sheer leadership and bravery at the time of emergency for which he was awarded the Ashok Chakra Class III (Shaurya Chakra) by President of India Dr. Radha Krishnan in 1966.
His citation :
“Following an air attack by four Pakistani planes on a goods train carrying inflammable material like ammunition, diesel and kerosene oil. A wagon caught fire and thick columns of smoke spread fast causing terror and confusion. Fifty cadets rushed to the railway station and brought the fire under control. They detached the wagons loaded with ammunition, thus preventing a major explosion and a fearful disaster.
The cadets happily risked their lives and suffered burns in achieving this remarkable feat. In this action cadets were inspired and led by Cadet Sergeant Pratap Singh who manifested high qualities of leadership, courage and initiative. For his gallantry and selfless devotion to duty which saved the city of Gurdaspur from a terrible catastrophe, Sergeant Pratap Singh of the 10th Punjab Battalion NCC Gurdaspur was awarded the Ashok Chakra Class III by Hon’ble President of India Dr Radha Krishna in 1966.”