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Chhawa Ridge Battle-1948 in Jammu & Kasmir

By Lt Col Pritam Singh Jauhal (Retd) World War II Veteran

Soon after I took over 16 Field Regiment Artillery Signal Section (16 Fd Regt Arty
Sig Sec) at Deolali in October 1947, from Lieut later Brigadier Ajit Singh at
Deolali, it moved lock, stock and barrel to Jammu for Operations. Due to non-
existence of Rail and roads betweens Pathankot and Jammu, it moved over hundreds
of seasonal streams overflowing with winter rains, thereby retarding its speed to
negligible. Despite best efforts, the Regiment made Jammu in 14 days. Its guns,
vehicles and equipment was so deplorable and men fully exhausted that it took full
14 days rest at Jammu for it to become battle-worthy. Eventually, it moved to its
destination at Naushahra. Being the only Arty Regt available in Jammu Division, it
covered all Operations conducted by Indian Troops.
During May, 1948 late Major (later Lieut Colonel retired) R. N. Sawhney, Officer
Commanding 19 (Indep) Inf Bde Sig Coy also located at Naushahra, came to see me
because his 10 days casual leave to attend his sister’s marriage was turned down
on the ground that there was no other Sig Offr available in his Company to
officiate. He requested me to look after his Sig Coy for 10 days. He being a
brother Sig Offr, I readily agreed. To obtain formal concurrence, I met C.O of the
Arty Regt who unhesitatingly gave his nod. I accompanied Major Sawhney to the Bde
Maj of the Bde who asked me “Will you take full responsibility for providing 100
per cent Sig Comns for the Bde, during Maj Sawhney’s leave,? As I replied in
affirmative, Maj Sawhney was sent on leave.
As luck would have it, 2 days after Maj Sawhey left, the Bde Maj called me to his
office. Pointing to a large wall map, he said “Chhawa Ridge is a part of very high
mountains. It is occupied by a battalion of the Opposing Forces. It is reported to
be heavily fortified. The Bde Comdr has decided to capture it” He briefed me fully
on the Bde attack Plan. He emphasized to me to provide excellent sig comns for the
Operation as agreed to by you earlier. I responded “ I shall do my very best”.
Calmly and seriously thinking over the sig comn requirements of both the Bde and
Arty Regt, I prepared a Sig Plan and called Senior N C Os of my Sig Sec for
briefing. As I finished briefing, a number of the N C Os, hesitatingly said that
“the Sig Comns provided for Operations by the Sig coy in the past had never worked
to the satisfaction of Bde Comdr and Bde Maj” I was flabbergasted and taken aback
to hear it at the late stage of my planning as I had least I expected it.
Seriously considering my N C Os observations , I cancelled my Signal Plan and
carried out the appreciation of the situation afresh.
After thorough consideration, I decided to combine resources of both the Sig Coy
and my Sig Sec and then detail operators according to their suitability and
importance of each task. The “Bde/Bns B1 Net” being the most important for the
success of Operation, I detailed my Sig Sec’s best Naik Operator on its Control
Station and three best L/Nks on the 3 Battalions Stations. They were augmented
with equally good Operators from the Sig Coy.
Before the start of the Operations, I made sure that the sig comns of both the Bde
and Arty Regt were working perfectly. As per the Bde plan, 4 Dogras under Col
Davies were to launch a frontal attack on Chhawa Ridge, while 4 Kumaon under
Colonel Dhillon were to provide them Covering Fire from the left. Our 25 pounder
guns pounded Chhawa Ridge continuously up to the given time
The Bde HQ consisting of the Bde Comdr, Bde Maj, myself and the Control Wireless
Station with 2 Operators were located on a hill-top, from where the movements of 4
Dogras advancing through dense shrubs were clearly visible. A little later, the
Bde Comdr wanted to speak to the C O 4 Dogras on R/T. My Naik Operator got C O
Dogras on the set and asked the Bde Comdr to speak. Their conversation lasted a
few minutes. As the Bde Comdr finished speaking, sitting next to him, I said “
Sir, during the R/T conversation, you asked for repetitions a few times. This was
because of the move of 4 Dogras, their set has gone out of net slightly. I shall
get it re-netted to avoid repetitions in future.“ Hearing this, the Bde Comdr
hurriedly “said No, No and No. Please do not touch the net. I am very happy with
the sig comns.” In my mind, I thought maybe the observations of my seniors N C Os
were correct.
The Dogras launched frontal attack on Chhawa Ridge. After very fierce fighting,
including hand to hand, they captured their objective, inflicting very heavy
casualties on the opposing forces. They also captured hundreds of prisoners of war
(POW). They too, suffered casualties because the terrain they mounted the attack
from was favorable to the enemy. Their wounded were evacuated to the nearest
hospital for treatment.
On the successful completion of the Operations, the Bde Comdr appeared very
pleased. He highly commended C O 4 Dogras for the success in capturing the
objective. He also specially commended me for providing very good sig comns during
the Operations.
I gathered men of both the Sig Coy and Sig Sec and told them that the Bde Comdr
was very pleased with the sig comns provided during the Operation. You all very
much deserve a pat on your backs. I asked them to keep up the good name and always
provide good sig comns in future.
On his return from leave, Maj Sawhney learnt about the success of sig comns during
Chhawa Operation conducted in his absence. He came to me to thank me for all I did
for his Sig Coy in his absence. I, explained to him the manner in which the Sig
Comns of both the Bde and Arty Regt were planned and conducted. He was delighted
to know about my new experiment of combining manpower of his Coy and my Sig Sec
for the operations
A few months later, the following casualty appeared in Western Command Order No
386 dated July 30,1948:-
“Lieut Pritam Singh Jauhal brought to the notice of GOC-in-C Western Command for
gallantry and devotion to duty in action in the Operations in Jammu and Kashmir
Lt Col Pritam Singh Jauhal (Retd) World War II Veteran
Founder President Indian Ex-Servicemen Society British Columbia