The book “Remembered Glory- Special forces operations (1971 War), a fourth in its series by Col AjaiRaina, SM and Milind Wagle is a fine treatise on special forces operations undertaken by the Indian army during the Indo–Pak war also known as the Bangladesh Liberation war. Both the authors need no introduction in the literary world of military writings. The 4th volume under the series of ‘Remembered Glory “contains real stories of “Special forces” that too one of the oldest i.e 9 Para commando (9 Para SF) and 10 Para commando (10 Para SF) also called as the “Mavericks “in the fateful days of December 1971. Though countless books have been written by eminent writers both Indian and foreign, but as stated earlier hardly anyone on the unique contribution of by the Special Forcesof Indian army the so called “Invisible men” turning the tide in favour of main ground forces offensive. A very well timed book coinciding on the eve of 50thanniversary i.e. Year 1971 – 2021, of culmination of one of the greatest military victories ever pulled off by India in its recorded history, the initial shock action rendered by the maroon berets of IA epitomized the quote above of Paulo Coelho.
The book under the project ‘Military history research foundation” and published by “Sabre and quill”, New Delhi is quite racy in its account with precise locations, timings, logistics nightmare and acts of serendipity leading to achieving aim plus in its totality making a reader to ride roller coaster of events which defined the most momentous events of this subcontinent.“Remembered Glory” has been penned in a fashion which spans the action of the ‘Mavericks” from the lofty heights of Poonch of J&K to the parched deserts of Rajasthan and finally ending up with daring exploits in the CHT/Chittagong hill tracts of East Pakistan . The main USP of this book unlike other books written on the subject is the inclusion of SFF (Special frontier force) or Est 22 commonly known in military parlance in India and weaving the panorama of actions led by the Tibetans who under the garb of ‘Fifth army” were wielded with equal deftness as a force to reckon with , training the ubiquitous Mukti Bahini and infiltrating the jungles of Chittagong causing mayhem amongst the rank and file of Pakistan army as early as October / November 1971.The other main USP of this book which keeps glued a reader to its contents is the fabulous amount of picture ,maps ,annotations and photographs of participating officers ,JCOs and paratroopers in all their finery in the special forces operations.
The book has been divided into 3 main categories denoting 3 different terrains as obtaining in India and contributed by three different officers. The first 109 pages have been devoted to primarily to 3 actions carried out by 9 Para commando in Jammu province of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. These relate to general area Chicken’s neck area (Akhnoor), ChhambJaurian and the remote areas of Poonch.The first contributor to this book Col Awdeshkumar, 9 Para Commando has very succinctly provided the backdrop of the participating officers of Bravo troop of his unit in going about their task i.e “Blunting the dagger” (A narrow piece of Pakistani territory jutting inside India south of Akhnoor)in a very precise and ruthless manner. Col Awdesh kumar in his inimitable style of prose has juxtaposed the qualities of head and heart of team commanders /Gp commander in securing the two ferry sites of Saidpur ferry and Gondal ferrydeep inside Pakistan from 06th December 71 to 08 th December 71 and with bold actions pulled the rug under the feet of the Pakistani rangers guarding them by destroying them in entirety.
The respective teams under officers and JCOs like Capt Tej Pathak, 2/Lt VK Bali, Sashi Bhushan Khanna, Subedar Duni Chand etc in a lightening campaign secured their respective sites and linked up with the occupying ground forces thus eliminating the threat so posed by the grandiose plans of Pakistan totally cutting off Poonch –Rajauri sector from rest of India. In second piece of action the author Col Awdesh kumar has very succinctly brought out the broad plan of raid on Mandhol gun position in general area Poonch . He has very intelligently made use of a template of famous raid on “Guns of Navarone”,a fictitious raid revolving around the “Battle of Leros” during the Dodecanese campaign of 2 WW and superimposed upon the indian raid on Pakistani Mandhol Gun position.
The raid on Mandhol gun position brought out the daring exploits of 2/Lt (Later Maj Gen) Ashok Tasker, SM, Maj CM Malhotra, the group commander of Charlie group as also host of JCOs and NCOs of this group. “Remembered Glory” very aptly brings out an act of serendipity when during the course of operations the group happens to bump into Sepoy Mohammed Shabir of 9 Azad Kashmir unit who along with his entire unit had infiltrated into the Indian area. His spilling of beans as a POW furthered the operational aims of 9 Para SF which the unit had not factored in initially. Col Awdesh’s third action in this epic book relates to the ‘Alpha group” of 9 Para SF wherein again with a reservoir of abundance of josh and daring at their command the group managed to secure their target,’Chhamb bridge” and destroy the same to stall the advance of 4 Azad Kashmir brigade onwards to Jammu/Akhnoor.
The second part of the book which is one of the most iconic operations carried out deep into Tharparkar desert of Pakistan rests on the shoulders of 10 Para commando (SF) so very ably carried out under the watchful eyes of Col HH Bhavanisingh, MVC, Maharaja of Jaipur in his capacity as CO of the unit. The “Chachro raid” as it is commonly known in the military parlancecomes from Brigadier Abraham Chacko of 10 Para SF who has very ably pieced together the conceptualization by Col Bhavanisingh of the role of his battalion meticulously preparing the paltan for the task with singular dedication. The Chachro raid deep inside the Tharparkar desert of Sindh, Pakistan baptized 10 Para SF as a ‘Standard bearer” for taking Commando operations in desert for times to come. Based on LRDG/Long range desert group of allied forces in North Africa during the 2 WW ,10 Para SF was able to accomplish most of its missions with a resounding success and to boot it ,had a successful ambush carried out on the enemy just ahead of Lunio capturing thereby 10 Pakistanis and killing 19 0dd .
As the final ode to the book, the Tibetans from SFF /EST 22 come alive in all their bravado and reckless pursuit of Pakistani army in the eastern sector /Chittagong hill tracts. Last contributor of this section of book,’Mavericks of the Fifth army” by Col Lalotra has been written from hindsight point of view and taking help of material from various interviews of participating Tibetan soldiers (now in the late 70s/80s) as also from some written evidence in the form of official correspondence from one of the units he was later to serve from 1993 to 1995. The much dreaded SFF was the catalyst unleashed by PM Indira Gandhi in cohort with the Mukti Bahini to destabilize the Pak infra as well as army before the entire burden of war was borne by India as such. In fact this section on SFF is a belated recognition to the valiant fighters of Tibet who as late as Aug 2020 again proved their worth and turned the tables against the PLA by their deft mountainous manoeuvre in south of Pangong Tso lake over the Kailash range and turned the defences of the chinese in the ongoing imbroglio. Last but not the least it is a masterpiece of a book which will appeal both to an ordinary reader as well as to someone deeply interested in military history of this country.
(Author is Retired Colonial and can be reached at: SLalotra4729@gmail.com)