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Who are the Broncos?

The officers of the Phor Thud are traditionally called Broncos because of their wild nature. A bronco is a young, wild and unbroken horse. It does not know the name of the word fear and it a master of its own destiny.

The original moniker was given by Lt. Col. A.K. ‘Sam’ Sharma way back in mid-1964 when the 4/3rd was in Khreuh, near Srinagar and Col. Duleep Sinh was the commanding officer. He had come across this is Roy Rodgers cowboy comics when in school in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra.

Below is the account by Lt. Col A.K. ‘Sam’ Sharma

This was around May 1964 in Khreuh (near Srinagar). We had just moved in from Samba, my very 1st posting after commission on 9 February 1964. Col Duleep was CO, Maj Jayanta Chanda was Adjutant. 2/Lt P Gangte ( Quit IA around 1966/67 from Gambhir, 25 Infantry Division was CO. He retired as DIG Manipur Rifles). He was EC-5. We were six-eight 2/Lts then.

Gangte was senior subaltern. He had served in the Manipur rifles and had operational experience. He was 27. I was barely 19. The other ECOs were older. Gangte was a great one for building up the Battalion spirit, of 4/3rd; a newly raised battalion; Jhikwan of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalion; a unit of only 2 years standing, then! With hardly any SOPs/traditions/ lore/spirit/cohesiveness. We noticed this very soon. Colonel felt that it was just as well that we had got a new Battalion: “We would Make Our Own”. Mould the men to our needs and high standards

Gangte had practical ideas. He knew what it meant to respects the CO and showed it to him. We joined service to fight the PLA. The 1962 mauling in the Kameng division of NEFA played on my mind a lot. We where part of 68 Mountain Brigade; Brigadier Hukam Singh, Kim Yadaya (Grenadiers). He was one time ADC 2 the last British Viceroy Admiral Dicky Mountbatten. He married his PRO. His son commanded 2/4GR in the late 1990s. 68 Brigade was training for a ‘Chindit’ behind Chinese lines, in conjunction with the Tibetan Khampa rebels. We, the Young Officers (YO), were always rearing to go and have it out with the Chinese. The older lot and the JCOs were cool like all good soldiers. We the YOs were wild, wild,wild.

Gangte wanted a name for officers of the 4/3rd. He spoke to us youngsters under his senior subaltern’s command. Sobriquets were suggested. As we were walking along the ridge on the spur leading to Wustrawan, where C company and battalion HQs was located he asked me for my choice. I said, “BRONCOS”. Gangte liked the sound of the word, instantly. He queried “What does it mean, Bronco?” “Wild horses”, I replied. Wild horses of South America/ Mexico. I had first come across this term whilst reading Roy- Rogers comics around 1956/57 in Ahmednagar, in class VIII. Roy Rogers, the cow boy, was forever trying to rope in the wild Broncos . He could succeed only after great effort! We wanted to be like these broncos; wild, but very potent when tamed ( by the battalion traditions, operation and leadership) and rearing to have a go at the PLA opposite Aksai Chin. Satisfied, Gangte conveyed all this 2 the adjutant. He liked the moniker even more! It came to stay….

68 Brigade had only 2 battaliona; the other was 5 Sikh Light Infantry. I went on weapons course just before Dusserah of 1964, soon after this both the battalions were moved to 80 Infantry Brigade, Naushera as things were already hotting up there. The ‘chindit’ as far as we were concerned just fizzled out.

Deployed on the Cease Fire Line, after relieving 8 Kumaon in Ramulidhara, the Battalion got put through its paces LIVE!! Constantly under fire day in and day out. T he CO had seen a lot of action the Burma ( Mentioned -in-Dispatches) and Nagaland. He was a war- veteran. His 2IC Maj Raghunath Singh, who was in the 2/3rd attack on Pirkanthi, was posted out to a non-op area on medical grounds. Next in line Maj Mohan Singh Gurung had only four years of service! You can work out how much it averaged down the line.

Gangte and me (me after a long pleading with the Battalion HQ brass) were co-located on PANI piquet (561). With Maj Gurung as Company Commander, he had Sub Chanchal Singh (ex-1/3rd) as his Snr JCO. Also 2/Lt S P Kothiyal on 562 and 2/Lt Colney on 563 as the other Platoon Commanders. Gangte was always ready to pick a fight with the enemy. Chanchal Singh tried to cool him Down always. The CO had ordered Chanchal Singh to officiate as Company Commander in Mohan Gurung’s absence! He would never permit me and Gangte to venture out into the no-man’s land to finger the Pakis, until we cleared our forays with the tiger! So there was always a conflict, we fingered the Pakis all the same despite cease fire violations lodged by the enemy, also faced the COs music when the UN MOGIP came to investigate. One such fingering was on Christmas 1964 when Gangte let them have it with the MMGs. The Pakis were agitated and lodged a Cease-fire-violation. The CO was furious and we got hell from him in person! It got to be so bad that even Col Duleep veered around to investigate any pussy-footing on the part of JCOs!

The PENGA Raid later in May 1965 gave us a chance to prove our mettle. The BORNCOS came out with all flags flying! The rest is Battalion ‘photha’ lore….