The Poona Horse in the Battle of Buttur Dograndi September 1965
With intensified shelling and the general confusion prevailing, Buttur Dograndi was shortly after abandoned by 8 Garhwal and the tanks of C Sqn Poona Horse pulled back to Jessoran. In the meantime Major Ajai Singh of C Sqn Poona Horse had been in touch with Col A B Tarapore, informing him about movement from Chawinda to Pasrur and he requested for reinforcements . A Sqn of Poona House with its 2IC Captain Gurdial Singh was despatched.
If I may be allowed to digress a little, the commanding officer of Poona Horse , Lt Col 'Adi' Tarapore was originally from the Hyderabad State Forces which he joined in 1942. Although he wanted to serve in the cavalry, he was commissioned in 7th Hyderabad Infantry. He probably would have continued to languish in the Infantry but for an incident which took place when his battalion was being inspected by Maj Gen El-Edros the C in C of the State Forces. Adi's company was carrying out routine training at that time, at the grenade throwing range. One of the sepoy's - a fresh entrant -momentarily panicked and failed to lob the grenade correctly, resulting in the grenade falling into the throwing bay. Adi immediately jumped into the throwing bay and picking up the grenade, threw it away to safety. However, the grenade burst as it left his hand, and he was peppered with flying shrapnel in his chest. General El Edross who had witnessed this incident, summoned, Adi to his office, after he had recovered from his injuries and personally congratulated him for his courage and presence of mind. Adi availed of this opportunity to request for a transfer to an armoured regiment, and General El Edross had him posted to the 1st Hyderabad Imperial Service Lancers.
During WW2 the 1st Hyderabad Lancers saw service in the Middle East. At this time the Regiment was commanded by a British Officer, possibly a racist, whose manners and conduct left much to be desired, particularly when compared to the rest of the Hyderabadi officers, most of whom comprised the aristocracy of the State. The CO was rude in his behaviour and often commented adversely on the fighting capabilities of the 'natives' under his command. On one occasion he even insulted the Nizam. Adi Tarapore who was present took strong exception to this and told his CO, 'You have insulted my country and my King-and I do not mean George VI'. This incident created a furore. The Regiment was kept in isolation and all their ammunition was withdrawn. The matter was finally settled after a visit by Gen El Edross to General Montgomery. In 1951 some of the Hyderabad States Force units were merged with the Indian Army, and Adi was posted to the Poona Horse.
Colonel Tarapore was a brave forthright officer, and kept to the traditions that armour commanders are expected to lead from the front. Throughout the war he had set a personal example in the regiment by keeping the cupola open of his tank, unconcerned about the heavy shelling - and the rest followed his example. On one occasion he was even injured by shrapnel in the arm, but after getting it bandaged continued as if nothing had happened.
Now getting back to Jessoran and Buttur Dograndi-As soon as Adi had ordered A Sqn to move and join C Sqn, he told his adjutant , 'let us also go and join them'. This put the RHQ together with A and C Squadrons. The whole area now had been targeted, with medium and heavy artillery pounding their positions, anti- tank fire and even some of the newly acquired Cobra A/T missiles were let off on tanks of the Poona Horse. Two tanks of C Sqn were hit. Unconcerned Adi dismounted from his tank to check the infantry positions on the ground, at this time his command tank, 'Koosab' was hit injuring Amarjit Bal, his intelligence officer in the leg, his gunner and operator were also wounded. With this intense shelling and casualties mounting, he decided to fall back to Jassoran. He had to leave 'Koosab' behind because the driver could not start it. This tank is now a war trophy in Pakistan.
Major Khan of 8 Garhwal Rifles in the meantime had managed to regroup his scattered companies and it was decided that A Sqn Poona Horse along with 8 Garhwal would launch another attack on Buttur Dograndi which had in the meantime been occupied by some elements of 3 FF.. D company of the 8 Garhwalis led the advance and met only minor opposition and the village was retaken. When Capt Gurdial reported this success back to RHQ, to his surprise there was no response. Apparently while the attack was progressing Adi Tarapore who was at Jassoran left his tank to get some fresh air and tea. At 1720 hrs, on 16th September, just as tea was being passed around, an enemy medium artillery shell landed on the offside of the tank. Adi and two jawans of B Coy 9 Dogras died instantaneously, due to concussion caused by the blast. The quarter master Captain Jasbir Singh who had begged to be allowed to come up for at least one action and was functioning as Adi's signals officer for the day was hit by splinters on the face, arms and chest and he subsequently succumbed to his injuries .
Adi Tarapore was awarded a posthumous PVC ( Param Vir Chakra) the highest gallantry award of the Indian Army for collected acts of inspiring leadership and bravery. His citation read: 'Lt Col A B Tarapore had personally led the Regiment into the thick of fighting during the battle of Phillaurah, when the Regiment broke through the defences held by a superior force of armour and infantry. Though he was wounded during this action, he carried on commanding the regiment through some very intense fighting, carrying his arm on a sling. In the battle of Chawinda he twice led the tanks of the Regiment right into the middle of the enemy's killing ground, defying the enemy's violent efforts to prevent the outflanking of Chawinda'.
With the Garhwalis capturing Buttur Dograndi the shelling intensified, and the village could not be held for long, although the Garhwali's had previously beaten off a counter attack by 3 FF supported by some tanks . Maj Abdul Rafi Khan of the 8 Garhwal Rifles who had taken over command on the death of the battalion CO's decided to move the men over to the sugarcane field and dig in to avoid further casualties which were mounting due to heavy and accurate shelling. The battalion had also gone without food for three days, their emergency rations of 'sakar paras' was also exhausted. That they could carry on was due to the sugar cane in the surrounding fields which sustained them!
Since the Garhwalis had not got food, and the JCO Quarter Master of the Garhwalis bringing their meal was injured by artillery, Gurdial personally volunteered to deliver a hot meal to them. He was unaware that the Garhwalis had left the village for the cane fields and that Buttur Dograndi had been reoccupied by 3 FF.( There was no wireless communication between Poona Horse and 8 Garhwal Rifles, since the latter's wireless equipment had been destroyed by shelling). He reached the village with the food just before dark. His tank was hit and set on fire by men of 3 FF or by a tank of 25th Cavalry and had to be abandoned, the crew escaped in the darkness but Gurdial was caught (possibly, this was the captured officer whom Maj Shamshad Ali mentions seeing blindfolded with 3 FF).
On 17th September, Pakistan's 4th Corps artillery sporadically fired on the Garhwali positions with medium and heavy guns. Later during the day some enemy armour also appeared with infantry (This would have been the troop of 25 Cav under Shamshad and elements of 3FF under Capt Rahim Shah). The Garhwalis fought on with their small arms, well concealed as they were in the thick crops. Two tanks ( 25 Cavalry) entered the defended area and started spraying the Garhwalis with their machine guns from close range. Rifleman Balwant Singh Bisht took up a rocket launcher and managed to put one of these tanks out of action. He was himself blown to pieces by a shell shot from the tank gun. Casualties were heavy on both sides but 3FF and the tank troop had to withdraw against the determination of the Garhwalis.
The battle ebbed and flowed till about 1400 hours when there was a discernible lull in the enemy shelling. Taking advantage of this pause Maj Khan sent an officer to appraise the officiating commandant of Poona Horse about the situation. On learning of the predicament of the battalion, he ordered a withdrawal from Buttur Dograndi and despatched some tanks to cover the withdrawal and two tanks from Poona Horse were also detailed for the evacuation of casualties.
The withdrawal started by 1600hrs, all the walking wounded of 8 Garhwal were sent out first through Jassoran and then across the railway line. However as soon as this had commenced heavy shelling started again. Major Khan busied himself with loading of the seriously wounded in the tanks while the rest of the battalion started moving back covered by tanks. A shell fired from an RCL (these must have been the tank hunting parties sent out by 3FF) caught Major Khan in the process of helping a wounded man to
be taken inside it. He was fatally wounded and along with the remaining wounded men had to be left behind in the battlefield. So died another brave, courageous and humane officer. He was posthumously awarded the Vir Chakra.
Thus fell the curtain on the battle of Buttur Dograndi, September 1965. Many brave men on both sides bled and died there on what was perhaps one of the fiercest engagements of the 1965 Indo Pak war.
The casualties given below of some of the battalions/regiments who took part, show the casualties caused. This gives us some idea of the intensity of the fighting.
The Poona Horse. Killed 2 officers, 3 JCO's and 9 other ranks. Details of wounded not available. 8th Battalion The Garhwal Rifles. Killed 2 officers and 47 other ranks. Details of wounded not available.
3rd Battalion The Frontier Force Regiment: Killed 3 JCO's and 64 other ranks, wounded 3 JCO's and 100 other ranks.
25th Cavalry, No casualty details are available.
Historical Lineage's of some of these regiments:
The Poona Horse Lineage is that of two regiments which amalgamated in 1922, namely the 33rd QVO Light Cavalry and 34th PAVO Poona Horse.
33RD QVO LIGHT CAVALRY
Raised at Sirur on 4 May 1820 by Major Peter Delamotte.
1820: 3rd Regiment of Bombay Light Cavalry.
1861: 3rd Regiment of Bombay Silladar Light Cavalry.
1861: 3rd Regiment of Bombay
1876: 3rd (The Queen's Own) Regiment of Bombay Light Cavalry
1903: 33rd Queen Victoria's Own
1911: 33rd Queen Victoria's Own
1921: 33rd/34th Cavalry.
1922: 17th Queen Victoria's Own
1927: The Poona Horse (17th Queen Victoria's Own Cavalry).
1947: To Indian Army.
1950: The Poona Horse (17 Horse)
34TH PAVO POONA HORSE
Raised at Poona (now Pune) on 15th July 1817 as a result of the treaty between the HEIC and The Peshwa Bajee Rao II.
1817: The Auxiliary Horse
1818: The Poona Auxiliary Horse.
1847: The Poona Irregular Horse.
1861: 4th Regiment of Poona Silladar Horse.
1861: 1st Regiment of Poona Horse.
1862: The Poona Horse.
1885: 4th Bombay Cavalry
1890: 4th (Prince Albert Victor's Own) Bombay Cavalry (Poona Horse).
1903: 34th Prince Albert Victor's Own Poona Horse.
1921: 33rd/34th Cavalry.
1922: 17th Queen Victoria's Own
1927: The Poona Horse ( 17th Queen Victoria's Own Cavalry).
1947: To Indian Army.
1950: The Poona Horse ( 17 Horse)
8TH BATTALION THE GARHWAL RIFLES
Raised on 1 July 1948 as 8th Battalion The Royal Garhwal Rifles. Became 8th Bn The Garhwal Rifles in 1950. The Regiment (Garhwal Rifles), itself was raised in 1887, to give the Garhwali Hillmen a right to their own regiment. This was strongly propagated by the famous Field Marshal Sir FS Roberts VC, who realised that many Garhwalis used to serve in Gurkha regiments, and a large proportion of the early awards to Gurkha regiments were actually won by Garhwalis. In the First World War, the Garhwal Rifles had one of the finest fighting records of any regiment in the Indian army as a result of this and their outstanding bravery in France and Flanders, the Garhwal Rifles was one of the two Indian Infantry regiments who were given the title of Royal. In the 1930's the regiment fell into disfavour with the British because a detachment of Garhwali troops who were employed for IS duties at Peshawar refused to open fire on an unarmed civilian mob who were protesting for the unlawful arrest of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. Soldiers recruited into the Garhwal Rifles are from the Garhwal Hills, one of the most beautiful areas of the Himalayas and are known for their hardiness, simplicity and upright manner
3RD BATTALION THE FRONTIER FORCE REGIMENT ( 3 FF)
Raised as 1st Infantry, Frontier Brigade at Hoshiarpur on 14th Dec 1846 by Major J S Hodgson.
1847: 1st Regiment Sikh Local Infantry.
1857: 1st Sikh Infantry, Punjab
1865: 1st Sikh Infantry, Punjab Frontier Force.
1901: 1st Sikh Infantry.
1903: 51st Sikhs (Frontier Force).
1922: 51st Prince of Wales's Own Sikhs (Frontier Force)
1922: 1st Battalion 12th Frontier Force Regiment.(Prince of Wales's
1945: 1st Battalion (Prince of Wales's Own) Frontier Force Regiment.
1946: 1st (Para) Battalion (Prince of Wales's Own ) Frontier
1947: Transferred to the Pakistan Army.
1956: 3rd Battalion The Frontier Force Regiment.
25TH CAVALRY: Exact details of the raising of this regiment is not known, but it is obviously one of those regiments raised after 1956 .
Col 'Adi' Tarapore's body was cremated according to his wishes and the ashes taken to his family in Poona. One of his wishes had been that if he were to die in combat, his son should join the Poona Horse. Major A R Khan's young widow Mrs Qamar Jehan Khan received her late husband's VrC ( Vir Chakra) by the President of India in 1966. The Poona Horse now uses the suffix ' Fakhr E Hind' unofficially with its title. Although I note from Maj Shamshad Ali Khan's articles that Indian 1st Armoured Division was referred to by this title by Pakistani Officers and not specifically Poona Horse!
I wonder if anybody reading this account and who served with 3 FF and was present in 1965 when the battalion moved in to retake Buttur Dograndi, recalls what happened to those wounded men and the fatally wounded Major A R Khan of 8 Garhwal who had to be left behind. Were these men taken care of and did the Major die later in hospital, was he given a burial with honours that he deserved?