Hailing from a well-known military family Major Som Nath Sharma was only 24 years old when he set an example of courage and qualities seldom equalled in the history of the Indian Army. While defending Srinagar from tribal raider’s he ensured that the city remains under the dominance of Indian troops and fought valiantly keeping the enemies at bay. Hit by mortar he died on November 3, 1947 only to be awarded with Param Vir Chakra, the highest Indian gallantry award.
After the Independence of Pakistan, 1947, the first war arose over Kashmir. In order to have its dominance over the region it started to create a sense of hatred amongst the citizens against the Hindu ruler Maharajah Hari Singh. Propaganda from Pakistan urged Muslim majority of this part to overthrow the imperial rule of the Hindu ruler by any means including armed rebellion. Soon large number of large number tribal raiders begun to enter Kashmir. By October 1947 India was in war against newly formed state of Pakistan which from beginning had ill feeling towards India. Though not fully prepared yet Indian troops decided to neutralise the enemies with no lose of time. They succeeded in repelling Pakistan aggressive bid but some of the bravest officers like Major Somnath Sharma who died while evicting Pakistani infiltrators and raiders from Srinagar Airport during the Indo-Pak war of 1947-48 in Kashmir.
Early Life and Education
When the designs of Param Vir Chakra (PVC) were being finalized hardly anyone would have imagined that within few months the highest military decoration of India will be bestowed to Major Som Nath Sharma of 4th Kumaon Regiment. He was awarded the medal posthumously for his bravery in the Kashmir operations in November 1947. Had he not been there at that time the country had lost major portion of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan including Srinagar. A decorated soldier of repute he kept hold of his ground showing highest degree of valour in the presence of the enemy.
Hailing from a well-known military family Major Som Nath Sharma was born on 31 January 1923 in a Brahmin family at Dadh, Kangra. Just like his father he also chose to be a part of Indian army. While his father Major General Amar Nath Sharma retired as Director, Medical Services (Army), his brothers Lt. General Surindar Nath Sharma retired as Engineer-in-chief and General Vishwa Nath Sharma retired as Chief of Army Staff, 1988–1990. His sister Major Kamla Tewari was a Medical Doctor. After schooling at Sherwood College, Nainital he joined Prince of Wales Royal Military College in Dehra Dun and later Royal Military Academy. He got commission in 8/19 Hyderabad Infantry Regiment (later 4th Battalion, Kumaon Regiment) as a young lieutenant. As a young recruit he participated in Second World War in the Arakan Operations. It seemed that he was made only for combat operations as hardly few months after independence he led the troop into one of the decisive battles known in the annals of history as " Battle of Badgam".
Battle of Badgam
By November 1947 the situation at Jammu and Kashmir was out of order. Muzaffarbad was attacked and Uri was captured. Power station at Mahura was taken over bringing whole city of Srinagar into darkness. The raiders were just a few miles away from Srinagar airport now. It was during these hours of crisis when Som Nath Sharma along and his men were send to Badgam. On November 3, 1947, 700 strong tribal raiders with 2 and 3 inch mortars launch an attack on the Indian forces. Sensing them close to the city he requested L.P. “Bogey” Sen, Brigadier in command of Srinagara to send in reinforcements for the outnumbered army. Under heavy fire and outnumbered seven to one, he urged his company to fight bravely and himself ran from post to post. He was fully aware that in case the airport falls to the raiders, Srinagar too fell, and Kashmir would be a part of Pakistan. Heavily outnumbered Indian unit of 50 odd soldiers faced resistance from practically all sides. When hit by a mortar shell, and his last words were
“The enemies is only 50 yards from us. We are hopelessly outnumbered. I will not withdraw one inch but fight to the last man last round.”
He alongwith his troop laid down his life while fighting enemies. Though no one of his team survived to see the day but made sure to inflict heavy casualties on enemies who suffered the loss of 200 men. Further he succeeded eroding the morale of Pakistani troops who withdrew soon after. Major Somnath Sharma set an example of courage and qualities seldom equaled in the history of the Indian Army. He was awarded Param Vir Chakra, the highest Indian gallantry award posthumously for his bravery.
From the Param Vir Chakra citation
On 3 November 1947, Major Somnath Sharma’s company was ordered on a fighting patrol to Badgam in the Kashmir Valley . He reached his objective at first light on 3 November and took up a position south of Badgam at 1100hours. The enemy, estimated at about 500 attacked his company position from three sides; the company began to sustain heavy casualties.
Fully realizing the gravity of the situation and the direct threat that would result to both the aerodrome and Srinagar via Hum Hom, Major Somnath Sharma urged his company to fight the enemy tenaciously. With extreme bravery he kept rushing across the open ground to his sections exposing himself to heavy and accurate fire to urge them to hold on.
Keeping his nerve, he skillfully directed the fire of his sections into the ever-advancing enemy. He repeatedly exposed himself to the full fury of enemy fire and laid out cloth strips to guide our aircraft onto their targets in full view of the enemy.
Realising that casualties had affected the effectiveness of his light automatics, this officer whose left hand was in plaster, personally commenced filling magazines and issuing them to the light machine gunners. A mortar shell landed right in the middle of the ammunition resulting in an explosion that killed him.
Major Sharma’s company held on to list position and the remnants withdrew only when almost completely surrounded. His inspiring example resulted in the enemy being delayed for six hours, thus gaining time for our reinforcements to get into position at Hum Hom to stem the tide of the enemy advance.
His leadership, gallantry and tenacious defense were such that his men were inspired to fight the enemy by seven to one, six hours after this gallant officer had been killed.
He has set an example of courage and qualities seldom equaled in the history of the Indian Army. His last message to the Brigade Headquarters a few moments before he was killed was, ‘the enemy are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to the last man and the last round.’
Battle of Badgam till date is remembered for the ultimate sacrifice made by Major Som Nath Sharma who took the challenge from front making infiltrators bite dust. A true soldier he deserves salute from every Indian.
Entire Nations of India
(FAN OF Major SOM NATH SHARMA)
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