The Battle of rezang La 1962 Indo-China war
Today I will share about the Rezang la battle and how our men fought to ‘the last men, last round’ at Rezang La (Chushul) on November 18, 1962, and caused heavy damage to the Chinese army. The tale of courage and bravery of Major Shaitan Singh who not only motivated his men but also sacrificed his life fighting and saving the post. This battle is listed in the 8 stories of collective bravery published by UNESCO
- Rezang La (La means a mountain pass in the Tibetan language) is a mountain pass on the south-eastern approach to Chushul Valley in Ladakh, in Jammu and Kashmir in India.
- It is 3,000 yards long and 2,000 yards wide, with an average height of 16,000 feet.
- The place is very cold and had a more serious drawback. It was crested to Indian artillery because of an intervening feature, which meant no Artillery support.
About the ‘Ahirs’ Company( 13th Kumaon Battalion)
- The 'Ahir' Company of the 13th Kumaon battalion, almost all of whose soldiers were Yadavs from Rewari in Haryana and Alwar in Rajasthan (Ahirwal Area) held this crucial position at Rezang La.
- The company area was defended by three platoon positions and the surrounding terrain isolated it from the rest of the battalion.
- Rezang La ridge had three positions nearly 40 soldiers in each platoon and numbered 7, 8 and 9 which were stationed at the distance of a kilometer each.
- The Indian army troops fell on their prepared positions to face the Chinese offensive. At 05:00 when the visibility improved, both platoons opened up on the advancing Chinese with rifles, light machine guns, grenades, and mortars.
- Indian artillery could not be used. The Chinese, though they failed the first frontal attack, was not discouraged.
- Unsuccessful in frontal attack then attacked from the rear of the company position. They simultaneously opened intense medium machine gun fire on No.8 Platoon. This attack was contained at the barbed wire fencing of the post. The Chinese then resorted to heavy artillery and mortar shelling.
- An assault group of 120 Chinese charged No.7 Platoon position from the rear. However, the Indian Army 3-inch mortar killed many of them. When 20 survivors charged the post, about a dozen Kumaonis rushed out of their trenches to engage them in hand-to-hand combat. Meanwhile, the Chinese brought up fresh reinforcements.
- The encirclement of No.7 Platoon was now complete. The platoon, however, fought valiantly until there was no survivor. No.8 Platoon also fought bravely to the last round.
The Brave-Major Shaitan Singh(PVC)
- He displayed exemplary leadership and courage in the battle of Rezang La. By all accounts, he led his troops most admirably. Unmindful of his personal safety, he moved from one platoon post to another and encouraged his men to fight.
- While moving among the posts he was seriously wounded by a sniping Chinese MMG, but he continued to fight along with his men.
- While he was being evacuated by two of his comrades, the Chinese brought heavy machine gun fire on them. Singh sensed danger to their lives and ordered them to leave him.
- They placed him behind a boulder on the slopes of a hill, where he died, still gripping his weapon.
- In this action, 114 Ahirs out of a total of 120 were killed, and six were severely injured, of which five were captured as POW and only one came down to inform others.
- A memorial in Rewari claims that 1,300 Chinese soldiers were killed in the battle.
- After the war was over, the body of Major Shaitan Singh was found at the same place, dead from the bullet wound and the freezing cold.
- It was flown to Jodhpur and cremated with full military honors. Singh was awarded Param Vir Chakra, the highest wartime gallantry medal, posthumously, for his leadership and devotion to duty.
All this happened at a height of 16,000 feet in the freezing cold against the heavy attack from the enemy. But the Charlie Company of the 13th Kumaon battalion didn't give up. For every man lost by us, the enemy lost four to five. It is no hidden fact that India's defeat in the 1962 war was tragic but the sacrifice of Major Shaitan Singh and his men will always be remembered for their supreme courage and devotion towards their duty.