|HOME | NEWS | REPORT|
November 16, 1999
Lt General Harbaksh Singh: An officer and a gentleman
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
Lt General Harbaksh Singh, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, Vir Chakra, who passed away on Sunday, was one of the Indian Army's most reputed commanders. There are inspirational sagas attached to him in every battle that he fought till his retirement in 1969.
From 1948 Kashmir Operation to the 1965 war with Pakistan, Harbaksh Singh led his men from the front. Apart from the several gallantry awards that he won in the process, the general also had to his credit the incredible feat of having led on the battlefront a platoon, a company, a battalion, a brigade, a division, a corps and an army in his eventful career.
A Japanese prisoner of war in the Second World War, stories of his bravery in Kashmir Operations have become legends.
In 1965, he commanded one of the biggest armies as the chief of Western Command against Pakistan. He was honoured with a Padma Bhushan for this splendid performance.
Lt. Gen Singh joined the India Military Academy in 1933. He started his career with a year's post-commission attachment with the 2nd battalion of the Argyl and Southerland Highlanders at Rawalpindi and later joined 5/11 Sikh Regiments at Aurangabad in 1937.
During the withdrawal from Kuantan on January 5, 1942 Capt Harbaksh Singh drove into a Japanese ambush and was injured seriously. He was taken prisoner of war as Singapore fell to the Japanese. The young captain was repatriated only in September 1945 after cessation of hostilities.
He recuperated at Beri Beri, Ambala, and was soon posted as second-in-command of 4 Sikh at Campbelpur. In 1947 he completed the Long Staff Course at Quetta and was posted as GSO-1 (operations and training), Eastern Command.
It was during the Kashmir operations in 1948 that Harbaksh Singh, then a Lt. Colonel, proved his mettle. When Lt. Col Dewan Ranjit Rai fell to enemy bullets, Singh volunteered to command the battalion. But he was posted as deputy commander at the headquarters of 161-infantry brigade.
He conducted the main battle against the raiders at Shelatang Bridge on November 7, 1947. This decisive battle, involving 1 Sikh and 4 Kumaon regiments, proved to be a turning point in the war.
On December 12, 1947, on hearing about the heavy casualties suffered by 1 Sikh, he proceeded to Uri and took over the command of the battalion voluntarily, shedding a star from his rank. He brought back the battalion to Srinagar and rehabilitated it.
However, even before the rehabilitation was complete, the battalion was called out to fight the enemy who had crossed the snow-clad Pharikian ki Gali and had occupied Handwara.
In a rare display of true patriotism, he led the truncated battalion, in one of the most daring operations in Indian military history: After a series of battles, the battalion drove out the enemy from the valley.
In 1948 he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier and took over the command of 163 Infantry Brigade and began to advance to Tithawal. The movement forward started on May 12, 1948, and after six daring days, Tithawal was captured. Brig Harbaksh Singh was awarded a Vir Chakra for his bravery.
After the Kashmir operations, he went on to serve as the deputy commandant of the Indian Military Academy at the western command headquarters, director of infantry at the Army headquarters, and in 1957 attended a course at the Imperial Defence College, UK. In January 1959, he became the first foreign officer to go on attachment with German Army's first division to be raised after its devastation in World War II.
He returned to India to take over as the General Officer Commanding of the 27 Infantry Division, and later as the GOC of 5 Infantry Division. From July 1961 to October 1962, he was the chief of staff at the Western Command headquarters.
When the Chinese invaded NEFA and Ladakh, he was moved from Shimla to take over the command of 4 Corps headquarters. And later he moved as the GOC of 33 Corps.
After his posting with the 33 Corps, he was appointed as the GOC-in-C of the Western Command, whose area used to stretch from down south to Kashmir. He led the Western Command successfully against the Pakistan Army along the entire border. The outstanding leadership of Lt. Gen Harbaksh Singh had played a key role in boosting the morale of a defeated army turning it into a striking force within just three years of the Chinese encounter.
The general was honoured with a Padma Vibhusan, a rare honour for a military man.
He retired in September 1969.
ELECTION 99 |
SINGLES | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS | MONEY
EDUCATION | PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK