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July 19, 1999
Grenadiers' history is replete with stories of valour
Pradip K Bagchi in New Delhi
As the news of the fall of Tiger Hill trickled in on July 4, seven battle-hardened soldiers from the Grenadiers, nursing their wounds in the army base hospital in New Delhi, found it difficult to remain confined to the bed.
It was a moment of triumph, particularly for five of them when their battalion, 18 Grenadiers, hoisted the National Tricolour on the night of July 3-4 atop Tiger Hill, the most dominating feature in the Kargil sector, evicting the Pakistani intruders in what proved to be the turning point of the conflict.
The Pole Star Battalion, as the 18 Grenadiers are called after their exploits during the Indian Peace-Keeping Force operations in Sri Lanka, took their unit to greater heights on that eventful night, living up to their motto -- 'Sarvada Shaktishali' (always powerful).
Lying with multiple splinter injuries, suffered on June 19 during the long-drawn operations in the Drass sector, Ashok Kumar and Ramesh Chander felt ''it was not a matter of whether but when'' for their fellow soldiers from the battalion as it continued its onslaught on the enemy to recapture the strategic position.
Their feelings were echoed by Bishan Prasad who suffered injuries on his left thigh as the Tiger Hill operations peaked on July 3.
The achievement of 18 Grenadiers in Tiger Hill did not come as a surprise to Lieutenant General (retired) C K Kapur who raised the unit in Sagar (Madhya Pradesh) in 1976. Without making light of the achievement, he said he knew the capacity of the Grenadiers to surmount any difficulty to achieve the task on hand.
In pitch dark conditions, three companies of the unit started the steep climb on July 3 from different directions backed by intense and well-directed artillery fire. On their way up, they came under direct attack of enemy fire. But the columns continued their advance till they reached the top around 0330 hours.
However, it took the unit another four days to mop up the peak and its surrounding areas, overcoming a fierce counter-attack from the Pakistanis from the western ridge. The unit lost eight of its fighters before realising the final objective.
Paeans of praise came the way of 18 Grenadiers soon after the Tiger Hill triumph and it was awarded the prestigious 'Unit Citation' by the chief of the army staff.
Before climbing up the steepest face of Tiger Hill, the 18 Grenadiers laid the foundation for the Indian Army in the battle for Tololing peak where the final assault was detailed to 2 Rajputana Rifles.
Within the Grenadiers family, the 18th battalion is called the 'commandos' because of its toughness. The unit was engaged in counter-insurgency operations in the Kashmir valley when the Kargil crisis cropped up.
The history of Grenadiers, one of the oldest in the Indian Army dating back to more than two centuries, is replete with such stories of valour.
Its origin can be traced to the 17th century Persian army which for the first time used soldiers to hurl grenades at the enemy. Thus they came to be known as the Grenadiers.
The British followed this up and the first Grenadiers company was raised in Bombay in 1759. In 1779, first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth battalions of the Bombay infantry and marine infantry's two companies were merged to form the first battalion of the Grenadiers.
Besides participating in the two world wars with distinction, the Grenadiers won seven Vir Chakras in the 1947-48 war with Pakistan. They have also taken part in UN peacekeeping missions in Korea, Indo-China and Gaza strip.
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