A legendary soldier

Col  J P Singh

Col Sharak Dev Singh Jamwal, resident of Gandhinagar Jammu, is a veteran of many wars. Presently he is ninety two and kicking. Higher his age, the bigger is his historical repository of various wars that he fought in own country and overseas.
Col SDS Jamwal was born in Jammu on 13 August 1926 (27 Sawan 1936)  to Col Parbhat Singh of J&K State Forces.  His father had taken part in 1st World War and awarded a war jagir. Nephew of Brig Ghansara Singh, he started his education in Doon School from where he was selected for  ‘Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College, Dehradun, now called RIMC Dehradun,  which my nephew Aryaveer Singh Parmar has joined this term.
Col Jamwal was commissioned during the 2nd World War in 7 Cavalry (Cav). He was deputed to Japan with his troop of Tanks from where he was diverted to Burma where, as part of British Indian Division, he performed gallantly. He also served with British Commonwealth Occupation Forces as part of the ‘Allied Occupation Forces in Japan’.
The story turns more interesting when he returned to India and was sent to J&K, his homeland to fight against the Pak invaders. Then Capt, on his way to Kashmir, he firstly fought in Mendhar where his Troop Leader Jem Kartar Singh earned his first VrC. In the battle of Jhanagr, for its recapture, his C Squadron (Sqn) supported the Infantry attack. His CO, Lt Col (later Maj Gen) Rajinder Singh Sparrow earned his 1st MVC and another officer 2 Lt Rana Raghav Rane got the PVC. Thereafter he was sent to Srinagar with his Sqn which had Stuart Tanks. On arrival in Srinagar, he was pressed into the battle field to clear Zojila Pass. His moments of glory came soon after that. On 1st November 1948, Maj Gen K S Thamiya, GOC Srinagar Division, called him at 10 AM and  told, “advance forward and if possible capture Gumri Basin”. C Sqn fought its way through the Pakistanis entrenched at the Pass and captured Gumri across Zojila. Scared of the roaring Tanks, enemy fled for life. By 3 PM Gumri was under Capt Jamwal’s feet. His radio message was, “Hello Victor 15, Gumri captured, enemy on the run, over”. At 5 PM, when it was almost getting dark, Gen Thamiya with his Batman NK Ram Singh, arrived at Gumri Basin on foot. Seeing him, Capt Jamwal jumped off his tank to receive the GOC. General was the first person to reach there after the capture of Gumri and he was without any escort. He shouted telling Jamwal not to salute him because they were under enemy observation.
He asked GOC to take cover as the enemy was sniping at them. It were Rimcolian Capt and a Rimcolian General who could do that, credit to the RIMC which makes officers daring. Gen enquired  asking hadn’t  A Coy of 1/5 GR married up with him for the assault through Zojila, which he replied in the negative. (Lt Col A S Pathania, MVC, MC, another Dogra, was CO 1/5 GR). Capt Jamwal ordered the Tank Carrier driver to take GOC back before it gets dark, which he complied.  A Coy 1/5 GR, which was supposed to be supporting Tank Assault through the snow-clad Pass reached Gumri at 8 PM. With just about two years of service, Capt SDS Jamwal went on to create history by taking Stuart Tanks across strongly held Zojila Pass without Infantry support when it was at his disposal but that would have delayed the success and denied the credit.  This write up is a tribute to a bold and dashing Dogra who not only created history but geography also by saving Ladakh from Pakistan. It is here that his Troop Leader Jem Kartar Singh got his second VrC. Corps Commander sent this congratulatory message to CO 7 Cav. “the magnificent part played by C Sqn of your regiment in this battle of Zojila will always be remembered as the greatest achievement by Tanks in Kashmir Ops (.) This speaks highly of your excellent planning and leadership (.) Please convey to Capt Sharak Dev Singh OC C Sqn my warmest congratulations for his dash and boldness in the way the Tanks were employed (.) The JCOs and Ors who took part in this Op have won our admiration (.) Well done (.)”.  For exemplary Command of his Sqn in war, he was awarded a Mentioned in Dispatches. He deserved a higher gallantry award but missed it, perhaps because of the politics that may have come in the way as it did later leading to a pre-mature ceasefire thereby letting 1/3rd of J&K go to Pakistan.
In 1961, Maj Jamwal was part of ‘liberate Goa operation’. In 1962, he was in NEFA to fight against the Chinese. This story is also interesting. On 22 October 1962, 7 Cav was ordered to move to Missamari in the Brahmaputra valley.   Maj Jamwal was then B Sqn Commander. At that time Regiment’s Stuart Tanks were in a bad state being old and for want of spares.
With cannibalization, he readied his Tanks for the battle and reached Missamari on 27 October where he received operational orders from the Corps HQ as follow:- (i) to deploy Sqn HQ and one troop with HQ 4 Inf  Div at Dirang (at 5,500 ft height). (ii) to deploy one Troop in support of 48 Infantry Bde at Bomdila (at 10,000 ft height)  and (iii)  third troop to be in support of 62 Bde at Se La, ( at 13,550 ft height) spread over a distance of 200 kms from Missamari.  Maj Jamwal however pressed his Sqn regardless of challenges and reached Bomdila on 11 November 1962.
Chinese over-ran Se La on 17 November. 4 Infantry Div commanded by Maj Gen A S Pathania, MVC*, MC was routed in the initial attacks. The famous Division went into a hasty withdrawal. With no orders from any commander, Maj Jamwal asked Gen Pathania what are the orders for him. Hurriedly withdrawing Div Commander gave the order, “try to breakthrough Bomdila. If you can’t, cover our withdrawal.
I am leaving, if you cant get through to Bomdila follow us. Thereafter Maj Jamwal neither saw the General nor his formation. Being left to fend for himself he asked his subordinates to hold the ground till last light and provide cover to withdrawing troops. Throughout the heavy engagement with advancing Chinese, Maj Jamwal kept encouraging his men to fight on. The men stood their ground till darkness. As the darkness fell, it was decided to break through. B Sqn finally reached Missamari on 25th November lesser mauled. Troops had to face the ignominy of withdrawal despite its glorious battle records.
Ironically the govt decided not to give any gallantry award for any action in Bomdila sector regardless of individual gallantry otherwise Col Jamwal would have been rewarded for exemplary leadership in otherwise lost war. But I see him much better rewarded with good health and happiness. May he hit a glorious century and keep passing his knowledge to us.