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Medical Category

My Life and Times

Raising and Command of 4th Battalion, 3rd Gorkha Rifles

By Lt. Col. Duleep Sinh
Part 7 : Medical Category

As it happened, all my senior officers were low medical category, so when the Battalion moved to an operational area, I became the proud CO of a battalion with a captain as 2IC and 21 2/Lts to hold various posts. I had no option but to choose from them my company commanders to command the four rifle companies, the Support Company and the Administrative Company. Also, to the posts of QM, MTO and so on. It became increasingly difficult to run the Battalion with such inexperienced officers and I had to shoulder a large amount of work. Fortunately I had very good and experienced JCOs who shouldered a great amount of work and also helped and guided these young officers. I spoke to the Centre Commandant and COs of my sister battalions to make available some experienced senior officers but they regretted their inability.

It then occurred to me that if an officer holds a particular appointment and accepts the responsibility of that post, he should, in all fairness, be promoted to that rank. I diligently studied all the Army Orders and Instructions on this issue and found that in an operational area it was the prerogative of the commanding officer to promote an officer to the rank which that post carries. If he holds that post there was no need for him to refer that issue to any other authority. Once I became convinced of this fact, I published the appropriate Part 2 Order promoting the officers and held their pipping ceremony, promoting six 2/Lts as Majors and Captains. I told everyone not to talk about it or publicize it. Quite some time passed without anyone realising it till one day the Division held a sand model exercise to which all officers of the Division were to attend. At the appointed time I entered the room with six majors and captains in tow to the great amazement of the officers of the Division and apoplectic consternation of the Division and Brigade Commander. The Division Commander got up, told me to stand up and asked me to explain how I had dared to carry out these promotions without taking his permission. I had, of course, come prepared for this eventuality and had the appropriate documents with me. I produced them and told him that I had merely exercised the rights granted to me by the appropriate orders, for which no reference or approval was required from any source. The Division Commander turned red in the face and directed that I should cancel the Part 2 Orders at once and demote the officers to their substantive ranks of 2/Lt. I told him that I regret I could not do what he wanted. If he felt that I had exceeded my brief and powers he was at liberty to cancel them. He turned livid, cancelled the event and told me he would deal with me later. At the end all the battalion commanders surrounded me and plied me with numerous questions. I advised them to follow suit and carry out the promotions, which they did. The matter seems to have ended but it seems obvious that some comments, without being blatantly adverse, must have been made in my annual confidential report.

Once when the Brigade Commander went on a few days leave, I being the senior most battalion commander, was told by the Division HQ to officiate as the Brigade Commander but to remain with the Battalion as the Brigade Staff was quite efficient in handling the normal brigade affairs. During one night however, a Pakistani jitter party seemed to have infiltrated and fired on the Brigade HQ. The jittery brigade staff let loose with everything they had, including mortar and guns, and kept firing till, I suppose, they ran out of ammunition. The Division Commander rang me and in a very agitated voice asked what the hell was going on and what all the firing was about in the Brigade HQ. I told him that I was also in the dark as, according to his orders, I was sitting in my Battalion HQ and I could not contact the Brigade Staff. As soon as I get in touch with them I would let him know. I would also go there in the morning to make further inquiries. Next morning I visited the Brigade HQ and inquiries revealed that there was no attack as such but only a small jitter party had got through and fired. I ordered the BM to issue instructions that if another such incident of indiscriminate firing took place I would withdraw complete ammunition from all ranks.

Life generally on such assignments, as holding pickets and being within firing range of each other, is quite boring and most of the time is spent in planning raids on enemy positions, inflicting casualties, collecting weapons and capturing prisoners, if possible. Such raids were planned and executed in which a company was assembled by withdrawing boys from some pickets, which were temporarily handed over to the neighbouring battalion. The company then rolled down the hill and raided the Pakistani picket. There used to be firefights and casualties were inflicted. The Pakistanis normally fled. Some weapons were captured but no prisoners were usually taken. Occasionally the Pakistanis would also organise such raids but they had a more difficult task, climbing steep hill sides and thus could easily be beaten back, suffering casualties, which they managed to evacuate. Mortar and artillery bombardment on both sides was almost a daily occurrence in which bunkers suffered damage and the boys had to spend considerable time repairing or sometimes completely rebuilding such bunkers. All this with normal administration and escort duties kept everyone quite busy. Nevertheless, as I earlier mentioned, commanders at all levels, from company commanders to army commanders, lead a lonely life in the field as they have no one of their age and service to keep them company and they resort to playing cards or other habits to pass the time. Their counterparts in peace stations have their families and they get ample opportunity to meet people compatible with them at clubs and other social gatherings to while away their time. Fortunately, I was saved from this trauma by my youngsters like Colney and Gangte, who enlivened the environment by organizing sing songs etc to keep me amused.

My tenure with the Battalion thus came to end and on 16 Apr 65, I left the Battalion, handing over to Maj Bhagwant Gill, my 2IC. I was posted to MI Directorate, Army HQ, to take over as GSO1 (GSI-Z).