Hand-to-hand combat is a legacy of the past, though cases of individual valour have occurred in modern wars also, more as an exception than as a rule
One such unreported case was that of Hav. Jassa Singh of 14 Punjab (Nabha Akal) who fought gallantly against the enemy during 1965 Indo-Pak war. The NCO was a tall man with a jolly disposition. Always willing to lend a helping hand to his colleagues, he was both loved and respected by his juniors and seniors alike. He was an indispensable part of unit's tug-of-war team which was legendary from 1940 to 1954.
The unit was deployed in the Fazilka Sector, some 10 kms off Fazilka on the Sulaimanke Road. Anticipating an enemy offensive from Sulaimanke, the unit was ordered to occupy defences astride Subuwana Drain which was seven kms off Sulaimanke, flowing almost parallel to the international border. Lt Col C S Bhuller, the then Commanding Officer, decided to occupy a defensive position with two companies each to the north and south of the drain astride the road axis. B and C coys moved towards north. Jassa Singh was Platoon Havildar of the centre platoon of B coy. On September 7, 1965 the enemy attacked A coy from the flank, but failed to gain a foothold. They again attacked C coy on September 9, but this turned out to be a diversionary move, and the main attack came on B coy that night.
After heavy shelling, the enemy unit (later identified as 1 Baluch) mounted a well coordinated attack on B coy. Hav Jassa Singh effectively engaged the enemy by ensuring proper fire control and boosting the morale of his men. The determined enemy came forward further and, sensing trouble, Jassa Singh plunged at a lurking shadow which turned out to be a Pakistani JCO. The latter raised his sten to fire at Jassa, but the JCO rose quickly, parried the sten and battered the surprised JCO to death with the butt of his rifle.
Not to be outdone, a section of the enemy rushed towards Jassa with their bayonets fixed. Jassa tried to dodge but was seriously injured at three places. Nevertheless the lion in him surfaced. Grabbling his rifle by its barrel, he hit three Pakistanis. As his fire slipped due to blood on his hands, Jassa picked up a shovel and with brute force struck two more down. The shovel too was snapped from him. With a herculean effort, he then grabbed a slung ammunition box off an enemy and knocked down a few more Baluchs by swinging the heavy ammunition box over his head.
When Jassa's men too joined the attack, the few remaining Baluchis were seen running away leaving their equipment behind. They were given a chase and the attack soon petered out. For this singular act, Hav Jassa Singh was awarded a Vir Chakra in 1965. Thus, he added a lustre to the pages of history of the Punjab Regiment.
- Col Anil Shorey