This man above became immortal this day in 1947. Recounting his last day alive in this blog post.
Maj Somnath was a veteran of bitter battles in Arakan in WW2. His right arm was still in plaster due to a hockey injury.
(Photograph: Maj Somnath Sharma at Srinagar Airfield. Possibly his last photo ever)
Ignoring medical advice, he had bulldozed his way into joining his own Company as it flew into the Valley on 01 Nov 1947.
At 0800Hr on 03 Nov 1947, Maj Somnath Sharma, 4 Kumaon & Capt Ronnie Wood, 1 Kumaon reported to HQ 161 Brigade to discuss the day’s patrol pgme. Consequent to the discussions, 2 Companies of 4 Kumaon moved out on a patrol towards Badgam, followed shortly by another company of 1 Kumaon.
The Company of 1 Kumaon subsequently moved on towards Magam and thereafter returned to the airfield at about 1 pm. That done, Maj Somnath was also ordered to start thinning out. At 2pm, one Company of 4 Kumaon moved back. Maj Somnath reported that all was quiet with villagers going about their daily business.
Little did he know that there was a huge force of raiders was gathering in the vicinity, trying to skirt the Pattan route blocked by 1 Sikh. Had the 2nd Company too moved back at 2pm, route to airfield would have been unguarded.
Too bad for the enemy, it wasn’t so. At about 1430Hr, Maj Somnath reported that he was under ineffective, long range fire from ppl located in houses in Badgam Village but he wasn’t returning the fire for the fear of hurting innocent villagers.
Suddenly, a large force appeared in front. A full scale frontal attack was now underway on his location, with the Kumaonis hugely outnumbered by the enemy. The firing from the houses in Badgam had just been a distraction as the main force of raiders built up on a different flank.
A militarily brilliant plan, but for one small fact – The Kumaonis under Maj Somnath Sharma refused to play by their rules!
The tenacious Kumaonis, under their gutsy leader, dug in and refused to cede any ground to their uninvited ‘guests’. An epic battle followed, upon which would hinge the fate of the entire campaign – If the raiders captured the airfield, all would be lost and the troops ahead would be outflanked.
Upon the Kumaonis rested the fate of the Valley this day. And they rose to the occasion, ensuring that the airfield would NOT fall .. not this day, not on their watch in any case.
Maj Somnath reported that he was engaging the enemy with all he had, but he was outnumbered & enemy was gaining ground. Even as automatics and mortars rained deadly fire on them & covered the advancing enemy, Somnath rallied his boys and they fought back like men possessed, inflicting serious casualties on the raiders, losing their own too, in the process.
Soon 161 Brigade would receive his last transmission from battlefield, that would define the last stand of Maj Somnath Sharma. He radioed, “The enemy are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to the last man & last round.”
Immortal last words by the Paramveer who went down shortly thereafter.
By the time the epic Battle of Badgam was over, less than 100 Kumaonis had held back nearly 700 raiders & saved the airfield. The Kumaonis lost 15 killed, including Maj Somnath Sharma and 26 wounded. One ammo truck too was looted by enemy but they failed their objective, losing many more than they killed.
This was the closest they would get to the Airfield. EVER
Hereafter, the raiders would ‘advance’ in only one direction – BACK to where they came from, i.e Westwards.
In evening, 1 Punjab moved double quick to take up more blocking positions to secure the airfield. Now at night, they waited. The airfield was still vulnerable. Another determined attack by the enemy, and it could still fall .. especially at night.
Yet the enemy failed to make good this opportunity of a lifetime.
Reason? Khurshid, the leader of that party was injured in the leg by a bullet. Leaderless, the Pathans dithered on further course of action.
Ironically, Maj Somnath Sharma had saved the airfield not only in the afternoon, but at night too by leaving the raiders leaderless. So much so, that on return to Karachi, Khurshid – the leader of the raiders in that battle – stated that he’d run into an entire Indian Brigade and ROUTED it, when it was just one company of less than 100 troops that he’d encountered! A few months later, he died, possibly of the same wound.
Atleast now he could reconcile the Indians’ strength with his Maker!
Maj Somnath’s body was recovered after three days, once the situation had stabilized. Disfigured beyond recognition, it was identified by the few pages of the Bhagwad Gita that he always kept in his pocket & his empty pistol holster.
He had lived, and died by the code of the warrior. And claimed for himself the first Param Vir Chakra awarded by the Nation.
(Screenshot of Maj Somnath Sharma’s PVC Citation. Source: Wikipedia)
(The story of Maj Somnath Sharma, PVC (P), telecast in the 80s in the TV series ‘Param Vir Chakra’)
God bless him and his men that fell that afternoon of 1947.