Indian 114 Infantry Brigade at the Battle of Chushul, 1962

As long as the Indian Army endures, the Battle of Chushul will remain a legend. The last stand of Company C, 13 Kumaon Regiment at Rezeng La is a story burned into the nation's conciousness, much as is the case for Americans and Davy Crockett's fight at the Alamo, or Pakistanis, for whom Major Arif Jan's hopeless and heroic stand against forward units of Indian 15 Infantry Division outside Lahore in the 1965 War similarly resonates for Pakistanis. Till India's 6 Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry won two Param Vir Chakras during the 1999 fighting at Kargil, India's supreme medal for bravery in action, no Indian unit or formation could have claimed 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.

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 furtherence 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 managed to achieve was the loss of every post with grevious losses. 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 annhilated 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 after the heavy losses they had suffered. This gave India the opportunity 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 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 commonly refered to as the Battles of Gurung Hill and Rezang La within the Indian Army, and details are available in an article by L.N. Subramaniam in the Bharat Rakshak Monitor

The major part of the Chinese effort, two regiments, fell against C Company, 13 Kumaon Regiment. Of 118 men, 109 were killed, five wounded made POW, and four escaped. Of these one was the mortar section commander, who lay unconcious after being wounded and magaed 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. Realising 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 probable they suffered 1000 killed overall. This estimate is based on various data including the number of field dressings found on the battlefield by the Indians who came the following spring to recover their dead. A substantial fraction of the Chinese casualties would have been inflicted to the north of Rezang La, at the Battle of Gurung Hill. Whereas the Kumaonis had no artillery support and only a few light mortars, the Gurkhas at Gurung Hill were backed both by a field artillery battery and tank fire, and these took a very heavy toll.

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

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.

We particularly request anyone with more detailed information about 114 Brigade's units to contact us so that we can produce an accurate list.

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