The Last Battle of Lahore

In Lahore’s Bibi Pak Daman graveyard, sleeps Maj Ziauddin Uppal of 30 Heavy Regiment. The headstone on officer’s grave tell us that our Artillery Observer had embraced Shahadat on 17 Sep 1965 at Wagah. If we get a bit precise on location it was Dograi. Dograi, dear reader, that was recaptured by ‘Qayyum’s valiant men.

Having defended BRBL on 6 Sep, defenders now decided to try their luck on attack. 22 Brigade under a courageous Brigadier Qayyum Sher launched a counter attack on 8 Sep. In the words of Major General Shoukat Riza, “Brigadier Qayyum Sher in his command jeep, moved unit to unit and then personally led the advance, star plate and pennant visible. This was something no troops worth their salt could ignore”

On the morning of 8 Sep after squadrons of 23 Cavalry engaged in a light tank skirmish, 18 Baloch took almost deserted Dograi with ease. On Sep10 by midday Dograi defences were in shape. Two Companies of 16 Punjab with B Squadron 23 Cavalry with another two Companies of 18 Baloch defended it.

It was during defensive phase at Dograi on night 17/18 that we lost Major Uppal to Indian artillery shelling. A day before Lieutenant Iftikhar of 23 Cavalry had embraced shahadat. A few nights ago on 11/12 September yet another incident happened that was to have grave consequences in coming days for Dograi Defenders.

It was the night of 11/12 September, when 16 Punjab having lost some ground tried to recapture it with tanks. B Squadron of 23 Cavalry, while advancing along the GT Road ran into an anti-tank screen. Major Muhammad Sarwar while in his tank, crossed the road to check on a troop leader that was not moving. It was while re-crossing the road that an anti tank recoilless rifle knocked out his M 48 tank which blew up killing all the crew. B Squadron would remain without a squadron commander, but more on it later in the post.

Indian attack came on night 21/22 Sep. At 2300 hrs in Phase One 13 Punjab and 15 Dogra attacked the front two companies of Pakistani 16 Punjab. 3 Jat would go to the depth companies each of 8 Punjab and 12 Punjab in Phase Two. B Squadron of 23 Cavalry was required to protect the northern flank of 16 Punjab.

Forward companies of 16 Punjab under intense shelling fought bravely. With MG fire and grenades they broke the frontal attacks of Indian 13 Punjab and 15 Dogra. Attacking dead were found within 10-20 yards of forward line. As all of this was happening tanks of 23 Cavalry were nowhere to be found.

Where were the tanks?
Maj Nazar’s A Squadron was ordered to relieve commander-less B Squadron. For some unexplained reasons they would stay west of BRBL reporting they had reached Dograi. With B Squadron already gone Lieutenant Colonel Golwala CO 16 Punjab knew 3 Jats was about to get a walkover.

Lt Col Desmond Hayde, CO 3 Jat did not know that his opponents were suddenly without armour. All he knew came through wireless that Phase1 of Brigade Attack had failed. This would no deter him an inch, he is credited to have said those iconic words “Zinda ya murda, Dograi mein milna hey”.

“Up ahead they see Dograi lit up by gunfire as if on a Diwali night.”
Decades later Rachna Bisht Rawat will meet a few who attacked Dograi that night. She would bring us stories, direct from the battlefield.
“It’s 1:40 am when Delta, the first attacking company, hits Dograi, guns blazing.”

Captain Kapil Singh Thapa was in Delta Company. Towards north-eastern edge of Dograi Village he was seen assaulting three trenches single handed. As he sits down to change his magazine, a bullet rips through helmet into his head. He earned Maha Veer Chakra.

Major Asa Ram Tyagi was commanding Alpha Company. Despite bullet wounds he led his troops onto objective. In close quarter combat he is said to have bayoneted a Pakistani officer. Himself shot at close range and badly bayoneted he would later succumb to his injuries on Sep 25

Major Tyagi was awarded Maha Vir Chakra. Indian accounts claim the Pakistani officer meeting his end by the bayonet of Maj Tyagi was Major Nazar of 23 Cav, but in reality he was on the west bank of BRBL. This gallant officer in all probability was Major Mazhar Hussain Shah of 8 Punjab.

By 0300 on Sep 22 Dograi fell to 3 Jats. An immediate counterattack came from 1 Baloch gallantly led by Captain Afridi. Wounded after Start Line he was carried by his Havildar Major and would die fighting with his troops. Despite a last minute support from 23 Cav the attack failed.

A little short of Kohat on Rawalpindi-Kohat road is a village named Babri Banda. Here the valiant son of Kohat, Captain Zahur Ul Islam Afridi, Sitara e Jurrat rests in eternal peace.

We shall now head back to what remained of Dograi defenders. With depth companies gone the two forward companies of 16 Punjab were now sandwiched. Lt Col Golwala keeping up the highest tradition decided to end it fighting. In the first glow of emerging dawn they saw the dashing charge of Indian 14 Horse.

In sheer desperation a few charged enemy tanks with rocket launchers but wiped out by tank machine guns. Others waited in calm for the attacking infantry to close up and took their final leap killing one or two while getting killed. Others died fighting 3 Jat from their rear.

By 0800 hrs the battle was over for 16 Punjab. 56 soldiers including two officers lay dead on the battlefield. Second Lieutenant Akhtar and Captain Sagheer. The latter was awarded Sitara e Jurrat. Lieutenant Colonel Golwala badly wounded was among the prisoners. He earned a well deserved Sitara e Jurrat.

a popular Haryanvi song commemorates Battle of Dograi

Kahe sune ki baat na bolun, gaaun dekhi bhai
Teen Jat ki katha sunaon, sun le mere bhai
Ikkis Sitambar raat ghaneri, hamla jaaton nee mari
Dushman mein mach gayi khalbali, kaanp uthi Dograi”

Dograi was one of the fiercely contested battles in Lahore Theater. In defending Dograi 16 Punjab perished but in its perishing it gave a bloody nose.
Batapur monument is true when it records

In this battlefield lies the blood of many unknown heroes belonging to different units

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