Dec 15, 2020
On this day during the Winter War in the West, the Pakistan Army's 8ᵗʰ Armoured Brigade would counterattack an Indian bridgehead over the Basantar River; manned by troops of the 47ᵗʰ Brigade and the 17 Horse. what followed was reminiscent of the 'Charge of the Light Brigade'.
The Indian plan was to turn over the Pakistani defences along the Sakror Bund, thus in turn threatening Zafarwal itself. just past 0800 hrs, the 'A' Sqn of 13 Lancers, commanded by Major Jahangir "JK" Karamat (later COAS), would form up and charge at the Ghazipur Forest. deploying a smokescreen to cover their approach. the Regiment had been ordered to take-up 'counter-penetration' positions, but faulty assessment from the Brigade HQ bludgeoned them to attack and prevent the bridgehead's expansion. little did they know that the 17 Horse's..'C' Sqn, alongwith the RHQ troop, was awaiting them at the edge of the Forest, with their tanks in hull-down positions. the attacking ratio was obviously inadequate. meanwhile, the CO had ordered the 'B' and 'C' Sqn to assault '6 to 7 tanks' down south at Jarpal-Barapind.
Once again the intelligence was misleading, as the Poona Horse's 'B' Sqn was deployed in defence, and was reinforced by two troops mid-way during the 13 Lancers assault. what followed was intense and chaotic. the bridgehead was contained, albeit at a heavy cost.
The entire affair was a good example of how faulty assessment of threats - due to bad field intelligence - and improper utilization of artillery assets could doom an offensive operation - regardless of the valour shown by the troopers on the frontlines. here's to those troopers.
Major Ejaz Alam Khan, of the 13ᵗʰ Lancers, was one of the famous 'Alam' brothers. promoted just before the war, the CO had asked him to takeover as the Adjutant, after Karamat and Asmat Beg rejoined the Regiment. he opted to stay on as a troop leader in 'A' Sqn.
"saw Ejaz Alam Khan the last time alive. he was looking very dashing in his black leather jacket and khaki jungle hat, with the motto he had chosen for himself: 'Death before Disgrace'." - recalls Major Nasir, who led the 'C' Sqn into battle.
Lieutenant Zafar Ali Akbar - a troop leader with the 'Spearheads'. son of Akbar Khan, who was commanding the Murree-based 12 Division during the war.
Lance Daffadar Dost Muhammad, of the 31ˢᵗ Cavalry, also fell during the battle. the Regiment was launched into the attack, losing a gallant squadron commander, Major Allay Ahmed, and a troop leader, Lieutenant ZR Mirza. the former was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat.
Major Nasir, whom I mentioned earlier, would be awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat, after knocking out the tank of a gallant Poona Horse subaltern - Arun Kheterpal, PVC. the late Shuja Khanzada is standing on Nasir's right. Ejaz Alam Khan can also be seen on the photograph's top right.
Lieutenant Derek Joseph, a young troop leader with the 'Harawals', was awarded the Tamgha-e-Jurat for gallantry, after knocking out 4 tanks despite taking several hits. he was of Armenian descent, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.