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Maj Gen Syed Ali Hamid, AC - At the forward edge of battle


Jan 20, 2006
Posting some very interesting articles by Maj Gen Syed Ali who has written a pretty good Armoured Corps history (At the forward edge of battle Volume 1 and 2) which I had the privilege of reading and enjoying. Interestingly enough, volume 2 covers some of the contemporary AC employments in FATA in support of army/FC operations.

Starting with his 3 piece article on the Battle of Chawinda:

Tank Battle at Chawinda – I​

on one of the greatest armoured clashes in history, which took place in 1965​

Major General Syed Ali Hamid
by Major General Syed Ali Hamid

September 4, 2020

in Features, Legacy

Officers of the 25th Cavalry in the 1965 war Front L-R: Capt Fayaz Gul AMC, Maj Raza Khan ('Ginger'), Lt Col Nisar ('Kaka'), Lt Khalid Khan, Capt Ahmad Iqbal Middle L-R: Capt Shamshad Ali Khan, Maj Affandi Rear L-R: Capt Mahmud Ali Durrani, Capt Ghulam Jan, Maj Sikander ('Sikko') Khan Inset: Maj Muhammad Ahmed
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On the previous anniversary of the 1965 War, I had written on the tank battle at Asal Utar where Pakistan’s offensive spearheaded by elements of the armoured division, stalled within kilometres of the border at Khem Karan. The article, which is available in the online archives of The Friday Times, covered the events leading up to a full-scale war including the Rann of Kutch skirmish, as well as Operations GIBRALTAR and GRANDSLAM. I also traced the evolution of Pakistan’s Armoured Corps, which, by the 1965 War, was not only larger and better equipped than its counterpart in India, it was also better organized.
This article is about the armour battle in the Sialkot Sector in which the Pakistan Armoured Corps redeemed its honour.
The first consignment of Pattons, the M47s had been issued to 1st Armoured Division on its raising. The consignments of M48s, that arrived in the early 1960s, were provided to the regiments of the 100th Armoured Brigade that had been raised at Nowshera. In 1964, the brigade was re-designated as 6th Armoured Division under the command of Major General Abrar Hussain. He was commissioned into the Baloch Regiment and had been a prisoner of war with the Japanese for 3 years. He refused to join the rebel Indian National Army (INA) of Subhas Chandra Bose and was awarded for his exemplary conduct. The Pakistan Army could not have chosen a more resilient commander to lead the division during the coming conflict.

At the advent of the war, 6th Armoured Division was under the command of I Corps and located north of Gujranwala. It had been structured as a light armoured division but with the redeployment of 11th Cavalry and 13th Lancers to the Chambb Sector, it was now just an armoured brigade with two tank regiments; 22nd Cavalry with three squadrons of M48s and the Guides with two squadrons of M48s and one of M36B2s. It also had a motorized infantry battalion, a self-propelled artillery regiment and an engineer battalion.
Sialkot Sector was defended by 15 Division. It had a brigade ahead of Sialkot that was being screened by the corps reconnaissance regiment of light tanks, while another infantry brigade with a Sherman regiment was in reserve behind the city. 25th Cavalry with 24th Brigade covered the Pasrur axis and another brigade with a Sherman regiment covered the approach over the Ravi at Jassar.
25th Cavalry (‘Men of Steel’) – in action at Gadgor on the 8th of September 1965 against the Centurion tanks of the Indian 1st Armoured Divi
When the Indians attacked the Jassar enclave on the morning of 6th September, it created an alarm in the local brigade HQs that infected the HQs of 15 Division. The division HQ assessed it to be a prelude of a major attack that could reach the GT Road through its flank and 25th Cavalry with an infantry battalion were sent for a counterattack on the night of 7/8 September. The Corps chipped in by redeploying a complete artillery brigade. It was an absolute blunder that left Chawinda-Phillaura badly exposed.
The previous commander of 15th Division had been Major General Yahya Khan and he had correctly predicted that Chawinda-Phillaura was the critical space where the battle for the Sialkot Sector would be decided. Fortunately, 25th Cavalry were ordered to return just when the leading elements had reached Narowal. It was just in time because early next morning the Indians launched Operation NEPAL, a corps offensive in the Ravi-Chenab Corridor spearheaded by their Black Elephant Division.
Insignia of the Indian 1st Armoured Division displayed on the rear of a captured Centurion tank
The Indian 1st Armoured Division had a Second World War organisation of an armoured and motorised brigade whose units were cross-grouped for the offensive. With only two brigade headquarters, it had a serious problem of articulation of command and the reserve of a tank regiment and a motorized battalion were controlled directly by the division HQs. The regiments of the armoured brigade group and the division reserve were equipped with Centurion Mk7s with a 20-pounder gun that had a smaller calibre than the 90mm of the M47/48s, but fired the APDS ammunition. The Centurion had better armour, but compared to the M48 it was 7 tons heavier and with a weaker engine – resulting in a maximum speed of only 33 km/h compared to 50 km/h of the M47/48.
At first light on 8 September, the armoured division advanced on the west of Deg Nallah on two axes. Its armoured brigade headed towards Chawinda and the lorried brigade further west, on an obscure route that led towards Phagowal. The tanks of the lorried brigade bogged even before they crossed the international border and its two armoured regiments became entangled.
The CO of 25th Cavalry, ‘Kaka’ Nisar, had the admirable quality of moving towards the sound of guns and was with the forward squadrons all the time
Nevertheless, progress was faster than anticipated because the surprise achieved was near total and opposition was minimal. The reconnaissance regiment of 1 Corps had been wasted covering the Sialkot axis where the Indians penetrated only 3-4 km in 15 days of fighting. It ought to have covered the expected direction of advance of the Indian main thrust to give early warning, and impose a delay. It had been a wild ride of 65 km at night to Narowal and back and 25th Cavalry was refuelling at Pasrur at dawn when it was ordered to block the Indian offensive.
The subsequent action is what legends are made of, and its defence of Phillaurah is a shining star in the history of the army and the armoured corps.
All three squadrons fanned out and the central one commanded by Muhammad Ahmed struck the two leading squadrons of 16th Light Cavalry forcing them to recoil. The regiment had already been shaken in an engagement with a platoon of anti-tank recoilless guns of 13th Frontier Force. Ahmed destroyed five Indian tanks but was seriously injured and subsequently awarded a Sitara-e-Jurat. A manoeuvre by the third squadron of 16th Cavalry stalled when it lost four Centurions and its squadron commander was badly injured. A timely air strike by F-86 Sabres, guided by an L-19, destroyed more Indian tanks. To the east of 16th Cavalry, Poona Horse which was to advance in parallel made a bad start when one of its tanks overran the command truck of the regiment. It lost its first tank when it ran into an infantry company, and a second when it was finally blocked by a squadron of 25th Cavalry along the line of the villages of Tharoh and Dugri – and this was after its higher HQ had ordered speeding up of the advance as no enemy opposition was expected!
“The action by 25th Cavalry on 9th September 1965 is what legends are made of, and its defence of Phillaurah is a shining star in the history of the army and the armoured corps”
The CO of 25th Cavalry, ‘Kaka’ Nisar, had the admirable quality of moving towards the sound of guns and was with the forward squadrons all the time. As the situation stabilized on his right flank, he launched the squadron of ‘Ginger’ Raza from the left towards Gadgor. When the CO of 16th Light Cavalry called upon his reserve squadron, he found it was miles behind, following the wrong regiment. The division came to the rescue by releasing a squadron of Hodson’s Horse. During the afternoon while there was desultory fighting in front of the other squadrons, ‘Ginger’ Raza collected an infantry company and launched a second attack which captured Gadgor. Though wounded in the head, he remained with the squadron until the area was secured and was awarded a Sitara-e-Jurat. The attack struck the unfortunate 16th Cavalry as it was withdrawing to laager for the night. In the resulting confusion, it abandoned a number of tanks, two with their engines running.

By the evening the offensive by the armoured division came to a grinding halt due to a combination of factors: of which the aggressive action by 25th Cavalry was just one, albeit the most important, because it convinced the Indians that they were up against much stronger opposition.
The F-86 Sabres of the Pakistan Air Force, which had been very active the whole day and destroyed many vehicles, caused a virtual breakdown of administrative support. The armoured division decided to take two days in reorganising and replenishing. This provided a critical respite to the defenders who till now were still unaware that they were facing the core of the Indian armoured division and regiments who were amongst the cream of the Indian cavalry: Hodson’s Horse, Poona Horse, and 16th Light Cavalry – all equipped with Centurion tanks.

Tank Battle at Chawinda – II​

Major General Syed Ali Hamid on one of the greatest armoured clashes in history, which took place in 1965​

Major General Syed Ali Hamid
by Major General Syed Ali Hamid

September 11, 2020

in Features, Legacy

A close-up view of a Centurion tank of the Poona Horse, showing the damage to the gun mantlet from the ricochet of an armour-piercing (AP) round
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After 25th Cavalry checked the Indian offensive on 8 September 1965, the 6th Armoured Division commanded by Major General Abrar Hussain was ordered to eliminate the enemy penetration. However, when an Operation Order found in a tank of 16th Cavalry revealed the presence of the Indian 1st Armoured Division, the mission was changed to defending the corridor between Aik Nallah and Deg Nadi.
General Abrar’s original plan was to hold Phillaurah in strength as a pivot but due to a suggested change, it was defended by a light force of 11th Cavalry (which was badly depleted after the operations in Chhamb and much exhausted after a long-move back), and 9th Frontier Force Battalion. 24th Brigade with 25th Cavalry was shifted back to hold the crossroad of Chawinda. The Guides commanded by Amir Gulistan Janjua covered the large gap between Chawinda and Sialkot on the left and the divisional reserves of 22nd Cavalry and 14th Frontier Force were sited behind at Narowal.
Both armoured regiments that opposed the Indian armoured division on the fateful day of 11 September belonged to the Piffers Group. Inset are the two commanding officers. L-R: Amir Gulistan Janjua, Guides Cavalry FF and Abdul Aziz, who was severely injured while leading 11th Cavalry FF in its defence of Phillaurah
The plan of Major General Rajinder Singh ‘Sparrow’ commanding the Black Elephant Division was based on the premise that he was already battling 6th Armoured Division. Since 25th Cavalry was operating with a mix of M47/M48 tanks, he concluded that there were two armoured regiments. More importantly he thought that the bulk of Pakistani armour was deployed further west between Gadgor and Chobara. In the renewed offensive on 11 September, his motorized (lorried) infantry brigade tried to fix elements of 6th Armoured Division in this area while his armoured brigade advanced with all three regiments in parallel to breakthrough towards Pasrur. The right regiment established a blocking position on the road to Sialkot and the other two attempted a double envelopment of Phillaurah.
“If the march of the Indian armoured division had not been checked on that fateful day of 11th Sep 1965, the Indians had a fair chance of reaching Pasrur, and the bloody battle around Chawinda need never have been fought by them” (History of the Pakistan Armoured Corps by Maj Gen Syed Ali Hamid)
The changeover at Phillaurah the previous night according to the revised plan of 6th Armoured Division was badly managed. In the absence of a brigade headquarter, the deployment of 11th Cavalry and 9th Frontier Force was uncoordinated with 24 Brigade and 25th Cavalry. Nevertheless, in the next few hours of intense combat, 11th Cavalry fought exceedingly well led by its battle-hardened CO, Abdul Aziz and his 2iC, Muzaffar Malik whose calm and firm orders over the wireless were a source of strength to the regiment. It had only 16 M48s and though its squadron of M36B2s was brought up to strength most were destroyed in the early stages of the coming engagement. However, it checked both Hodson’s Horse and Poona Horse destroying five Centurions in the process including those of both their COs. A manoeuvre by Poona Horse to outflank the regiment was also blocked.
Just when the Indian assault seemed to be wavering, disaster struck. An artillery shell injured both the commanding officer and second-in-command of 11th Cavalry and killed the CO of 1st Self-propelled Artillery Regiment that was so effectively providing fire support. In spite of this disaster and an obvious breakdown of command, by midday the remnants managed to extricate. In this fierce five hours, 11th Cavalry lost nine of its 11 M36B2s, and the other two squadrons lost seven M48s (out of 19) with another two damaged. Once again the Indians thought that they were facing a much larger force of two armoured regiments. They also thought they had overrun a brigade headquarters and the tactical headquarters the Armoured Division.
The two opposing commanders of the armoured divisions during the Battle of Chawinda in the 1965 war. L-R: Maj Gen Rajinder Singh Sparrow, commissioned into the 7th Light Cavalry in 1939 and Maj Gen Abrar Hussain, comissioned into Baloch Regiment in 1940
To release the pressure on Phillaurah, the Guides counterattacked with two squadrons of M48s from the line of the Sialkot-Narowal railway. Guides attacked within 45 minutes of being ordered but with no information on the strength or location of the Indian armour. All it knew was that the defences at Phillaurah were being overrun. One squadron headed for Chahr and after some serious fighting the objective was captured, but the squadron commander was seriously injured. So effective was a concentrated shoot by 1st Self Propelled Regiment that the Indians abandoned some of their tanks following. On the right, the squadron heading for Libbe unfortunately ran into tanks of Poona Horse that were heading for Phillaurah. While attempting a manoeuvre his squadron ZU Abbasi was martyred and soon after, his number two Hussain Shah the son of Colonel Pir Abdullah Shah also laid down his life.
With both the squadron commanders’ casualties, the momentum stalled, but the Fazle Haq, the 2iC and Shamim Manto took charge and pressed forward towards Bhagowal. Here they struck the Shermans of 62nd Cavalry which beat a retreat. The regiment lost six M48s but it engaged elements of three Indian regiments forcing two to withdraw. Unfortunately, by the time it attacked, Phillaurah had already fallen.
Maj Ziauddin Abbasi, Sitara-e-Jurat, who fell in battle while commanding a squadron of the Guides in an attack to relieve pressure on the defender of Phillaurah on 11 September 1965
Instead of rapidly exploiting the first major success it had achieved since crossing the international border, the Indian armoured division again paused for two days to re-plan and regroup. This enabled 6th Armoured Division to recover from the ill-conceived and ill-timed blunder of the relief at Phillaurah. It had been an expensive mistake. The Guides as well as 11th Cavalry were only left with a squadron of tanks each which were grouped under the Guides to protect the large frontage to the left of Chawinda. Alongside was 22nd Cavalry which was intact and 14th Frontier Force, a lorried battalion. These units were ultimately grouped under an adhoc HQ commanded by Wajahat Hussain who had arrived from Staff College.

24th Brigade and 25th Cavalry (which was down to two squadrons) was again pushed ahead to Chawinda and the engineers who until now had been under-utilised, laid 3000 mines around its defences. On the right flank, Zafarwal was occupied by 4th Frontier Force Battalion and a squadron of Sherman tanks. There was a sizeable number of artillery regiments in support including a self-propelled and a field regiment, a medium and a heavy. Their performance during the battle around Phillaurah was exceptional and though there was no artillery brigade HQ to Control and direct them, they delivered coordinated and concentrated fire. Before the coming battle of Chawinda, the artillery was reinforced with two self-propelled artillery regiments as 1st Armoured Division arrived from Khem Karn.
Along with its recce regiment, the division brought two light armoured brigades of one tank regiment of and one mechanised infantry battalion each. On arrival, the division was tasked to launch a counterattack but it was cancelled because of the apprehension by the corps headquarters that the Indians may breakthrough. A few days after it arrived, it’s GOC was replaced by Major General Sahabzada Yaqub.
The plan of attack by the Indian armoured division to capture Chawinda was in essence a repeat of Phillaurah with a flanking attack from the west by the armoured brigade followed up with an attack by the lorried brigade to dislodge 24 Brigade. 6 Mountain Division of two brigades was also placed under the command of General Sparrow. The first battle for Chawinda commenced at dawn of 14 September. Hodson’s Horse set off from Char in an outflanking manoeuvre of 15 km from the west aiming to cut the Chawinda-Pasrur road. Ahead of the railway track that defined the line of defence of Wajahat’s task force, it was engaged sequentially by a squadron of 22nd Cavalry and the Guides. In spite of a large gap of 3 km between the Guides and Chawinda that Hodson’s Horse could have driven through at this early stage (and further exploited by two Centurion regiments), the regiment was not allowed to proceed beyond the railway line the whole day.

At mid-day, Poona Horse advanced towards Chawinda to clear the ground for a follow-up attack by the lorried brigade. It was strongly opposed by the relentless fire of the Pakistani artillery as well as a troop of Shermans and 3rd Frontier Force. To close the gap towards Chawinda, the Guide’s sidestepped its squadron to the right and positioned the 11th Cavalry squadron in depth. The battle raged through the afternoon but by 6 pm, Poona Horse broke contact. Since this flank of the taskforce was weak, 6th Armoured Division was reinforced by the HQ of 3rd Armoured Brigade and 19th Lancers on the night of 14 September.
On 15 September the Indians tried to consolidate their gains and some fierce engagements took place around Chawinda in which 25th Cavalry was back in action with many of its tanks repaired. During the afternoon, the Indian Lorried Brigade decided on its own to clear the area ahead of Chawinda. Its two battalions were engaged by three regiments of Pakistani artillery while they were dismounting and forming up for the attack and suffered heavy casualties. In the evening, a squadron of 22nd Cavalry had a very successful engagement when it blocked an advance by 16th Cavalry to close up to the railway line. Almost immediately 16th Cavalry lost four tanks, received a pounding from the medium artillery and while it withdrew, was strafed by eight Sabres. That night the regiments of the task force were reinforced with infantry battalions to hold the line of defence at night.
Thus ended the first battle of Chawinda. The Indian armoured division was still north of the railway line from Narowal to Sialkot, and 6th Armoured Division had recovered its balance.

Tank Battle at Chawinda – III​

Major General Syed Ali Hamid on one of the greatest armoured clashes in history, which took place in 1965​

Major General Syed Ali Hamid
by Major General Syed Ali Hamid

September 18, 2020

in Features, Legacy

A captured Indian Centurion tank of Poona Horse. Inset is the CO, Ardisher Tarapore, who fell in the Battle of Chawinda
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For a whole week, the Indian offensive in the Sialkot Sector had failed to cross the general line of the railway that ran from Sialkot to Narowal. The Second Battle of Chawinda opened on 16 September with a second full-scale offensive by the Indian I Corps. It aimed to initially capture Badiana, Chawinda and Zafarwal, the three pivotal positions held by 6th Armoured Division that formed the “Devil’s Triangle.” Its capture would open the way to Pasrur and crossings over the Marala-Ravi Link Canal. The Indian armoured division was to isolate Chawinda by again manoeuvring from the west and cutting the road Chawinda-Pasrur, while 6th Mountain Division was to initially capture villages in the vicinity of the town for a base to attack on Chawinda.
In the first phase, two regiments of the 1st Armoured Brigade of the Indian armoured division advanced simultaneously with Hodson’s Horse aiming to secure line Fatehpur-Sodreke, and Poona Horse heading to capture Jassoran. The advance by Hodson’s Horse was contested by the Guides with two depleted squadrons of M48s – one of them was of 11th Cavalry. Under repeated attacks, it finally conceded the Badiana-Chawinda road but in the whole day’s intense battle Hodson’s Horse advanced only three kilometres. Having suffered considerable attrition, the Guides was taken out of battle, and 19th Lancers now held the space between Badiana and Pasrur. Hudson’s Horse was expected to head towards Badiana and 19th Lancers decided to strike its flank with a squadrons and a half. However, the Indian Centurions took a heavy toll and despite a dashing charge, 19th Lancer’s attack stalled. To bring the regiment back to strength, that night 10 serviceable M48s left with the Guide were grouped with the regiment as an additional squadron. The intensity of the week’s fighting is demonstrated by the fact that three Patton regiments operating in this sector had been reduced to one.
Centurion tanks of Hodson’s Horse exiting the Sialkot Sector in March 1966 after the Tashkent Agreement
Further right, the attack by Poona Horse and infantry struck a company of 3rd Frontier Force, which was supported by a troop of Shermans. The Pakistani tanks held their fire because of an earlier incidence of fratricide involving 19th Lancers, and paid the price by losing two Shermans. Under pressure 3rd Frontier Force wilted and Jassoran fell. Indian 8th Garwal Rifles moved up to support Poona Horse for the second phase i.e. the capture of Butur Dograndi. Both in their approach and attack, the Garwalis suffered terrible casualties from severe artillery shelling and only secured a portion of the village, where they were joined by two squadrons of Poona Horse.
‘Kaka’ Nisar reinforced Raza’s squadron and anxiously waited for a troop from ‘Mad’ Effendi’s squadron on the right. The moment it arrived, he attacked Poona Horse
Less than two kilometres ahead were the gun positions of the artillery of 6th Armoured Division, which were now being showered with machinegun fire. A call of “Tank Alert” was sounded and preparations were made to receive this menace, but the guns continued to fire at this crucial stage. Before Poona Horse could consolidate, it was struck on the flank by nine tanks of ‘C’ Squadron of 25th Cavalry commanded by Raza. He had been injured at Phillaurah and had forcibly discharged himself after two days in Sialkot CMH. The severe fire of tanks, recoilless rifles, Cobra ATGMs and artillery, forced Poona Horse to withdraw to Jassoran. Raza was awarded a Sitara-e-Jurat.
Maj Gen Abrar Hussain, GOC 6th Armoured Division, being awarded the
Hilal-e-Jurat by the C-in-C Gen Musa
The withdrawal by 3rd FF had exposed the entire left flank of the defences at Chawinda to the Indian main attack and the situation was becoming desperate. All that lay between the Indian armour and its objective was a thin line of the remnants of Raza’s squadron of M48s and a depleted Sherman squadron. A timely airstrike by Sabres directed by an L-19 Light Observation Aircraft gave the defenders breathing space. The Pakistan Air Force had been extremely supportive from the first day of the Indian offensive in the Sialkot Sector. In fact, it was largely due to their strikes at the administrative vehicles of the Indian 1st Armoured Division on the first day of its attack that forced it to take a tactical pause. On 11 September it was because of the timely help by the PAF that remnants of 11th managed to disengage from Phillaura.
The Garhwalis and Poona Horse again advanced back into Butur Dograndi from where the Indian tanks were shooting up vehicles moving on the road leading from Chawinda to Pasrur. ‘Kaka’ Nisar reinforced Raza’s squadron with the two tanks of the RHQ, and anxiously waited for a troop from ‘Mad’ Effendi’s squadron on the right. The moment it arrived, he attacked Poona Horse, which was finally driven out of Butur Dograndi, where its brave commanding officer Ardisher Tarapore had been mortally wounded by artillery and his tank destroyed. From this tank was recovered a copy of an Operational Order issued by the headquarters of the Indian 1st Armoured Brigade on 13 September, which stated that, “The enemy morale is low and their command and control is NOT too effective.”
Indian Centurions under attack by Pakistani F-86 Sabres during the Battle of Chawinda in the 1965 war
The Black Elephant Division had not succeeded in isolating Chawinda, and the initiative was shifting in favour of 6th Armoured Division. The next day the Garhwali battalion holding Butur Dograndi was attacked and in spite of its determined resistance, forced to withdraw after it was pounded by 84 guns of the corps artillery. HQ 4th Armoured Brigade which had arrived from Khem Karan was now defending Badiana with 19th Lancers, 22nd Cavalry and 14th Frontier Force. On 18 September it attacked an Indian salient between Badiana and Chawinda and pushed the Indian back across the railway line destroying a number of Centurions and RRs.
It was the type of battle that only an armoured division knows how to execute, and has the resources to fight
Under pressure from the Western Command, the Indian I Corps continued with the attack by 6th Mountain Division to capture Chawinda. In support, the division was allocated the artillery of the corps as well as the armoured division. The attack was launched on the night of 18/19 September and after some desperate fighting, by dawn the division managed to close up to the railway line to the west of Chawinda. However, before they had time to dig in, the two Indian brigades caught the entire fury of the tanks of 25th Cavalry, the infantry weapons and the corps artillery, which the Indians had made no effort to neutralise.
Battle scars on the railway station at Chawinda, which lay in the path of Indian armour heading onwards to cut the road to Pasrur
The fate of 6th Mountain Division was unknown to Hodson’s Horse, which advanced in the morning to protect its right flank. This presented an opportunity to 19th Lancers to extract retribution for the casualties it had suffered from the Centurions of Hodson’s Horse three days earlier. Catching Hodson’s Horse from a flank, it rapidly destroyed eight Centurions and the regiment limped back. Two hours later the Indian Air Force made one of its rare showing over the battle zone, and eight aircrafts attacked 19th Lancers. The only tank hit was of Maj Kiani, who succumbed to his wounds and was awarded a Sitara-e-Jurat. Early next morning marked the regiment’s most satisfying accomplishment when it surprised a squadron of Hodson’s Horse, which was breaking leaguer and it abandoned some of its Centurions.
On the morning of 20 September, 6th Armoured Division held the same position as on the morning of the first battle of Chawinda seven days earlier. The opportunity that was handed on a plate to the Indian armoured division, with the untimely changeover at Phillaurah was wasted. The stand by 11th Cavalry at Phillaurah on the morning of 11 September followed by the charge of the Guides enabled 6th Armoured Division to rebalance itself.
The battle against the Indian armoured division from the moment it reached Phillaurah on 8 September, had a great deal of fluidity. In many ways it bore the characteristics of a mobile defence by 6th Armoured Division which constituted an aggressive posture to deny space; counter-manoeuvres and quick counter-attacks by tanks to unbalance the Indians; regrouping of regiments to regain balance; defending pivots of the Devil’s Triangle; heavy concentrations of fire by artillery deployed well forward; protecting the gun areas with tanks; effective air support; and employing assets like army aviation to provide information and timely warning. Alongside armour, 6th Armoured Division used every available component to its fullest during the war including the light observation aircrafts, motorised infantry, recce troops, the artillery, ground air support missions, etc. It was the type of battle that only an armoured division knows how to execute, and has the resources to fight, and it proved its relevance in a scenario of a war between Pakistan and India then and in the future.
In this intense battle where fortunes swung in both directions, two men stood out for their resilience – Kaka Nisar who commanded 25th Cavalry and the GOC of 6th Armoured Division, Maj Gen Abrar Hussain. Abrar entered the 1965 War as an untried dark horse with no experience of armour and emerged with flying colours, to the dismay of some of his contemporaries. He was awarded with a well-deserved Hilal-e-Jurat, and the C-in-C, Gen Musa while paying tribute to the formation Abrar commanded gave it the epitaph of ‘Men of Steel’.
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