Col R P Singh (Retd)
‘When you go home, tell them of us, for your tomorrow, we gave our today. This epitaph is inscribed in WW II Kohima War Memorial in India. The world famous verse is by John Maxwell, who wrote it in the honour of few Spartans (Greeks), who fell at the battle of Thermopylae in 1840 BC to save Europe. Jemadar (Jem) Parkash Singh Chib is one such Dogra Spartan who gave his life fighting for His Majesty’s Empire. He is the first recipient of ‘Victoria Cross’ (VC) from J&K. It is the highest and most prestigious British Gallantry Award. VC is awarded for the most conspicuous gallantry in the face of enemy during the war, like our Param Vir Chakra. (Capt Bana Singh is a living legend of such gallantry).
Jem Parkash Singh Chib was born on 1st April 1913 at Chibe-Chak in Hiranagar, where his ancestors had migrated from Batala. He was a ‘Viceroy Commissioned Officer’ in the ’14th Battalion of 13th Frontier Force’.
On the fateful 16th-17th February 1945 night, Jem Parkash Singh’s Platoon was in a defensive position at Kanlan Ywathit in Burma. He held the forward post of the Company (Coy) which took the main weight of the fierce Japanese attack. Despite being wounded four times, he kept fighting and inspiring his men for hours together till the last breath. The story for valour below, in chronological order, is self explanatory. Hence the comparison of this defensive battle with the battle of Thermopylae, in which a very small contingent of Spartan defeated a very large Persian Army is valid.
At Kanlan Ywathit, Jem Parkash Singh was in command of a Platoon (Pl) occupying a ‘Defended Locality’. At about 11 PM on 16 February 1945, the Japanese attacked his post in great strength. They were supported by artillery, mortars, machine guns and flame throwers. The main weight of the attack was directed against Jem Parkash Singh’s Pl. At about 11.30 PM, Jem Chib was severely wounded in both ankles after which he was unable to walk about. His Coy Cdr, a British Officer, on being informed of this, ordered him to be relieved and brought nearby where he was given first aid. Feeling better after First Aid, brave Dogra crawled forward dragging himself on his hands and knees to his Pl post and again took over the command of his unit. Coy Cdr came to his Pl Post at around midnight hours. He found Jem Parkash Singh propped up by his Batman, who was also wounded, firing his Pl 2 inch mortar, the crew of which had fallen. He was seen shouting encouragement to his men and directing the fire of the Pl. Having expended the ammunition of 2 inch mortar, this Viceroy Commissioned Officer, crawled around the position picking up the left over ammunition of the martyrs. He crawled and distributed this ammunition to the survivors himself. When a complete Section of his Pl become martyrs, Jem Parkash Singh took over this Section’s Bren Gun and held the Section Post single handed until reinforcements were rushed up by the Coy Cdr. He fired the gun at this stage from a position completely in the open as he was unable to stand up in a trench. He was again wounded in both legs above the knees by another burst of machine gun. Despite the intense pain and loss of blood, this gallant Dogra officer continued firing his Gun. And dragging himself from place to place with his hands, as legs were completely useless, he kept firing on the approaching enemy. At the same time he continued to encourage and direct his men, regrouping the remnants of his Pl around him to successfully blunt the fierce Japanese charge against them.
At 01.45 AM, 17 February, Jem Parkash Singh was wounded for the third time in the right leg. He lost so much blood that he was unable to move. Bleeding profusely and lying on his right side with his face towards the enemy, he continued to direct the action of his men, encouraging them to hold their ground. Although it was obvious that he was now dying, Jem Parkash Singh shouted out the Dogra War Cry, ‘Jawala Mata Ki Jai’, which was immediately responded by the rest of the Coy engaged in hand to hand fight. His deadly War Cry infused deadly josh in the survivors at this criticality and blooded the Dogras so much that they slaughtered the enemy ruthlessly. At 02.30 AM, while still shouting the war cry, the gallant commander was wounded for the 4th time, this time in the chest. He died a few minutes later.
Throughout the short period of intense fight and hand to hand fight, from 11 PM until the time of his death at 02.30 AM, Jem Parkash Singh conducted himself with conspicuous valour with complete disregard to his personal safety. There is no doubt that his ceaseless encouragement to men, his inspiring leadership and outstanding devotion to duty, while mortally wounded, played an outstanding part in finally repelling the Japanese Blitzkrieg. His gallant leadership is recorded in British military history along with other such heroes.
He was cremated in Burma with full military honours. Surprisingly no memorial was separately built in his honour despite his gallantry of highest order and the award. The British have invariably built war memorials in almost all the war theatres wherever they lost gallant soldiers. Nevertheless, his name is conspicuously inscribed in Rangoon War Memorial amongst Five Indian and Seven other commonwealth VC awardees, which I have heard from many veterans of WW II. Maharaja Hari Singh recognized his martyrdom and awarded him a War Jagir in Rajbagh, where his grandchildren live.
Later at the initiative of late Raghunath Singh Chib, who had been DC Jammu, a Statue of the Dogra Warrior was installed at Chib Devsthan in village Nud on the Akhnoor-Chhamb Road. A Victoria Cross ‘Charitable Society’ was also formed by the Chib Community. Family of Raghunath Singh Chib is involved in keeping the martyrdom of their ancestor alive. They organise a function in his memory every year at his memorial to commemorate the valour of this son of the soil. This year the commemorative function will be held on 14 February because of availability of GOC Akhnoor Div, who is also ex-officio Chairperson of Victoria Cross Charitable Society. Col Shiv Choudhary’s dream of remembering our martyrs, read on 9th February, is done in the annals of Daily Excelsior remarkably, on regular basis, which inspires me to write a tribute to the distinguished martyr of my in-laws clan.
What we do in life echoes in eternity. This is the lesson from his martyrdom. We may have no idea what eternal effect can come out from something (in)significant we are doing today or will do tomorrow. Stories of Jem Sahib, Gen Zorawar Singh, Brig Rajinder Singh, Capt Bikram Batra and Capt Tushar Mahajan are unparalleled and eternal to Dogra heritage. They gave their life for our future. Duggerland has innumerable such warriors who have left their foot-prints on the sands of war zones and are remembered by the society not only on their anniversaries but 24X7.
Col R P Singh (Retd)