Indian 114 Infantry Brigade at the Battle of Chushul, 1962
v.2.0 March 1, 2004
[This is a work in progress and should be considered more as a collection of notes than a finished article.]
The last stand of Company C, 13 Kumaon Regiment at Rezeng La is a story burned into the Indian consciousness. Americans react the same way about Davy Crockett's fight at the Alamo, and Pakistanis commemorate Major Arif Jan's hopeless and heroic stand against forward units of Indian 15 Infantry Division outside Lahore in the 1965 War.
Till India's 13th Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry won two Param Vir Chakras during the 1999 fighting at Kargil, no Indian unit or formation could claim two PVCs in one campaign. The exception was 114 Infantry Brigade, where two majors from two of its battalions were posthumously honored for action within a span of three weeks.
Yet, little is known about C/13 Kumaon, and to this day officers who served in 1962 refuse to talk about 1962, even off the record. What is it the Army is hiding? Must we wait till every last person who participated is dead, before the Army will tell us?
Thanks to the unpublished official history obtained by Times of India in 2000, we know a lot more about 114 Brigade, but that knowledge opens up more questions than answers. The Army, of course, knows what happened to C/13 Kumaon: every young officer on his first posting to Ladakh learns the story. But either officially or unofficially, he is enjoined not to talk.
In protecting itself, the Army dishonors the memory of those who served and died there. One of my primary purposes in setting up the Center for Indian Military History is specifically to encourage people to come forward and tell the story. Already, the youngest officers and men who went to Ladakh for that fateful campaign are in their sixties. The company commanders and adjutants are in their 70s. The battalion, brigade, division commanders and staff officers of similar ranks have passed on or will soon do so.
The people of India must know the story, in every detail, however sordid or heroic. At this remove, 42 years into the future, no one is interested in assigning blame or sullying already tarnished reputations. People just want to know, and it is their right.
114 (Independent) Infantry Brigade
Raised as 114 (Independent) Brigade in 1959 at Leh, this brigade started out with just two battalions. When in April 1960 the Ladakh border was handed over to the Army, 14 Jammu and Kashmir Militia screened the northern half of the 480-kilometer long sector Demchok to Daulet Beg Oldi, and 7 Jammu and Kashmir Militia screened the southern half. As tension with China continued to mount, 1/8 Gorkha Rifles was inducted in April 1961, and assumed positions including and between the Galwan River and Chushul, thus shortening the frontages assigned to the other battalions. In April 1962 , in furtherance of India's Forward Policy, 5 Jat Regiment arrived and was inducted between the Chip Chap River and Lunkung defile, on the north end of the Spanggur Lake. This permitted the Gorhkas to concentrate on protecting the front between Lunkung and Chushul, though Major-General Jasjit Singh, then Brigade Major, notes that troops were still so thinly spread out that the vital Chushul airfield could be spared only two Gorkha platoons.
Further, 114 Brigade had no reserve in the event of war. This shortcoming was partly remedied by the arrival of 13 Kumaon Regiment at Leh in September, 1962.
When war broke out on October 22, all Indian outposts fell to the Chinese assault. Spread out without artillery support or the possibility of reinforcements, these outposts, generally between 10 and 60 men, were told to hold out at all costs. The Chinese attacked with between 10 and 30 times numerical superiority, so all India achieved was the loss of every post with grievous casualties. Post Galwan, manned by 60 men from 5 Jat, suffered 30 killed and 18 wounded. Post Sirjap I, manned by 40 men from 1/8 Gorkhas under Major Dhan Singh Thapa, fought off two attacks by an estimated 400 Chinese troops, and was then annihilated when, after the Chinese penetrated the Indian perimeter, the Gorkhas charged the attackers and were cut down in hand-to-hand fighting.
The Chinese, having seized all Indian outposts, needed to reorganize. This gave India time for reorganization of its own, and it undertook what should have been done in the first place, a massive reinforcement of Ladakh. With the newly raised HQ 3 Division arriving at Leh, 114 Brigade was no longer independent and was now made solely responsible for the Central Sector, an 80 km stretch of the front between the Lunkung defile and the Taska La. The two Militia battalions left the brigade, to be replaced by 1 Jat Regiment. The Central Sector was itself divided into two: the northern half [Lukung sub-sector] was held by one battalion, and the remaining three battalions plus the brigade HQ were at Chushul. Meanwhile, 70 Infantry Brigade took over Demchok, and 163 Brigade went into reserve at Leh.
We cannot tell if this reinforcement caused the Chinese to modify their plans, but certainly the fierce resistance they encountered during the battle of the outposts must have imposed some degree of caution. In they event, when their next phase opened on November 18, only 114 Brigade was attacked. The Battle of Chushul is more accurately referred to as the Battles of Gurung Hill and Rezang La within the Indian Army, and more details are available in an article by L.N. Subramaniam in the Bharat Rakshak Monitor www.bharat-rakshak.com/MONITOR/ISSUE3-3/index.html
The Chinese attacked C Company, 13 Kumaon Regiment at Rezeng La from three sides. Of 118 men, 109 were killed, five wounded made POW, and four escaped. Of these one was the mortar section commander, who lay unconscious after being wounded and managed to escape Chinese attention long enough to sneak through what was now enemy territory to return. Two escaped only because they were trying to get their mortally wounded commander, Major Shaitan Singh, to safety. Realizing he was done for, he ordered the men to leave him and to save themselves. The Chinese too made a great sacrifice. While no good record exists of their losses, it is likely 6-800 were killed the Battles of Gurung Hill and Rezangla. Estimates at that time were of 1000 killed, but these were probably too high, as we will discuss.
There is no doubt the PLA suffered badly. The original estimate is based on various data including the number of field dressings found on the battlefield by the Indian Red Cross who came the following spring to recover their dead. The Chinese were, after all attacking, and had to overrun each and every Indian position by assault. The 3" mortar section supporting C Company alone fired 998 of its 1006 shells before being cut down, at Chinese soldiers advancing without cover. At Gurung Hill the Indians had artillery cover and direct fire from tanks, and 1/8 Gorkhas forced back a 4 battalion attack thanks to the fire support. The Chinese had no counter-battery capability; and they made repeated attacks, which must have added to their losses.
Foreign readers may be surprised to learn that the Indian Army would leave infantry to fight without heavy weapons or artillery support, particularly in the face of overwhelming odds. This is, however, how the Army has always done things. It was only in 1999 that, for the first time, Indian troops at Kargil received what would be considered by any large army to be a modest amount of fire support.
The following is the order of battle for 114 Infantry Brigade at Chushul:
HQ 114 Infantry Brigade [Brig. T.N. Raina, later Chief of Army Staff][Located at Chushul Village]
The Importance of Rezang La [work in progress]
Chushul protects the Indus Valley from a Chinese offensive from Rudok. The approach to Leh is via the Indus Valley. The southern approaches to Chushul were protected by 70 Brigade, and 114 Brigade protected Chushul along a 40 km front.
For the Chinese, to get
Rezang La is the pass in the Rezang massif, about 11 km south of the Spanggur
Gap. The massif, about 2 kilometers long, dominated the Indian line of
communications between Dungti [70 Brigade] and Chushul. Any Chinese attempt to cut the lines of communication between the northern
subsectors [Delta Sector] and 70 Brigade Chinese Dispositions [Estimated] Battle of Rezeng La C Company [Rezang La][Major Shaitan Singh, KIA]
Rezang La is the pass in the Rezang massif, about 11 km south of the Spanggur Gap. The massif, about 2 kilometers long, dominated the Indian line of communications between Dungti [70 Brigade] and Chushul.
Any Chinese attempt to cut the lines of communication between the northern subsectors [Delta Sector] and 70 Brigade
Chinese Dispositions [Estimated]
Battle of Rezeng La
C Company [Rezang La][Major Shaitan Singh, KIA]
Commander reconstitutes crews
Chronology November 19th
Unless indicated, from L.N. Subramanian's account
Jagjit Singh, then Brigade Major, tells the story differently. He wrote his book twenty years after the battle, and he talked to the survivors. Jagjit Singh says that with 7th and 8th Platoons overrun, the Chinese concentrated their artillery on No. 9 Platoon, which was rapidly annihilated even before the Chinese infantry assault. Major Shaitan Singh was now down to four men from his command post and at this point was wounded in the arm. The men persuaded him further resistance was pointless. He agreed to leave the battlefield, but as they were moving out, the little party was detected. In the ensuing firing, two men were killed and Major Shaitan Singh wounded again, this time in the abdomen. [L.N. Subramaniam speaks of a hole in his back, indicating the bullet/s passed through him.] The two men continued to take him downhill, dodging fire and hiding behind rocks. Realizing he was dying, he ordered the two men to leave him and return to the battalion so that someone at least would be left to tell of C Company's battle.
5 Jat and the heavy mortar battery were deployed in the Lunkung sub-sector to the north of Chushul and did not participate in the battle. Indian field artillery was, at the time, organized on the old pattern of three 8-gun batteries per regiment. The AMX-13 light tanks had been airlifted to Chushul: the Spanggur Gap is suited for light AFV movement and India was concerned about Chinese armor. Medium Machine guns were consolidated in companies of the Mahar Regiment. Consequent on reorganization of the Indian Army after 1962, machineguns became integral to infantry battalions on line with the American organization, and the Mahar Regiment became a standard infantry regiment.
Other Officers Present with 114 Brigade at the Battles for Chushul
We particularly request anyone with more detailed information about 114 Brigade's units to contact us so that we can produce an accurate list.
Partial Muster of C/13 Kumaon at Rezeng La
|L/Nk Dharam Pal||L/Nk Mahendra Singh|
|Naik Rup Chand||Sepoy S???? Singh|
|Sepoy Ram Mehar Singh||Naik Ram Sarup|
|Sepoy Mahadeva||L/Nk Ramji Lal|
|Naib Subedar Surja Singh||L/Nk Hukam Singh|
|Sepoy Lal Singh||Naik Lalu Ram|
|L/Naik Ram Singh [POW]||Sepoy Ramjit Singh|
|Sepoy Jaya Pin??||Sepoy Ja??rai Singh|
|Sepoy Surat Nath Singh||Sepoy Ram Dayal|
|Sepoy Bharat Singh||Sepoy Daya Ram|
|Sepoy Ram Kumar||Sepoy Mari Mal|
|Sepoy Ram Sarup||Sepoy Raman|
|Sepoy Ram Pal||Sepoy Chhaju Ram|
|Sepoy Balbir Singh||Sepoy Duli Chand|
|Sepoy Ram Dev||L/Nk Baldev Singh|
|Jemedar Raghunath||Sepoy Tara|
|L/Nk Kalu Ram||L/Nk Brij Lal|
|Havaldar Ram Narayan||Sepoy Surat Singh|
|Sepoy Par?? Bhati||Sepoy Ram Nath|
|Sepoy Laxmi Narayan||Sepoy Shai Ram|
|Sepoy Rup Chand||Sepoy Hazari Lal|
|Sepoy Sri Krishna Yadav||Sepoy Deep Chand|
|Sepoy Bansi Lal||Sepoy Gian Chand|
|Sepoy Tara Chand||Sepoy Ramji Lal|
Naib Subedar [JCO, equal to 2nd Lt. in most armies] Platoon Commander. Till 1965, also known as Jemedar, which is why in different accounts the reader will find the three platoon commanders refered to either as Subedar [actually equivalent to 1st Lt], Naib Subedar, or Jemedar.
Havaldar [Three stripe Sergeant]
Naik [Two stripe Corporal]
Lance Naik [One stripe Lance Corporal]
Sepoy [No insignia, Private]
Please note in the Indian Army the US rifle squad is called a section.
Company TOE [In progress]
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