I am grateful to you for letting me go through the Signals Story. It is an excellent personal account by a Brigade Signals Officer, who performed his duties unfailingly, under extreme difficulties of inhospitable terrain and weather conditions, shortages of equipment or high altitude clothing.
You have penned so tellingly the entire gamut of emotions as the leader of your men and, one separated from one's family often without news or contact for long intervals. Your intrinsic qualities of leadership and the personal example you set throughout those difficult days, was a major factor for survival of your men, considering that the paralysed higher headquarters could give no succour of any kind, and in fact failed you, and 7 Bde completely.
When placed in similar circumstances we (in the Services) all feel the things you have felt and penned so aptly, but seldom written down. At least I have not come across any. For me reading your story has been a unique and a rewarding experience.
It also fulfils the crying need for educating our country's babudom (politico-bureaucratic) mindset, which believes (mistakenly of course) that those who don the uniform have chosen voluntarily, to suffer (uncalled for) hardship and to die. I once came across such an attitude, and had to remind the 'babu' in no uncertain terms that we are there to see that the enemy suffers and dies and thus ensure continued safety of the likes of him– we accept only the attendant risks. The risks that can be reduced by loosening of purse strings at the appropriate time.
It is also my (1962) experience that often good signal communications, for some, was an unmitigated nuisance since the user commander could be asked for a decision or such like. So he was 'always gone forward' without the rover set. I once even asked one such commander as to where was his Rover WAS. He replied he did not need one.
Those days I personally (from Tezpur) closed down the VHF (ANT/ARC) link at Sela, as everyone of any consequence had vanished. The same happened at Darrang (4 Div HQ) and Bomdilla (48 Bde HQ). Sodhi (who had taken KK's place) contacted me to know what he should do now that Anant Pathania and his GSO1 Manohar were nowhere to be seen. I authorised him to make his own way as best as practical. Lakhanpal, the 48 Bde Signals Officer, contacted me and presented a similar situation and I had to authorise the 'pull-out' and a move back by certain 'bounds'. He was intercepted by the Chinese at the second bound and was obliged to hide till nightfall in a nearby stream. A week later he turned up looking famished and under-weight, but in good heart.
At the Henderson Brook's Committee later on, of course Signals were the favourite whipping boy. I however had taken good care, to provide convincing proof to the contrary in every case. Even our DD Sigs (Chakerburty) had turned up at Tezpur 'to know what went wrong'. I directed him to the BGS, who directed him back to me, saying 'nothing went wrong, and, to remember PS gave us signal comns while we were retreating'. A mere officer in Signals like him, as against a Signals Officer, cannot be expected to comprehend such subtleties.
My wife, Harbans, also has liked your book. We expect to be in Delhi for two weeks from about 20 Feb and would love to meet you. Shall let you know actual dates and contact you on arrival.
Brigadier PS GILL (Retd)
January 30th, 2002
Signal Communications India- China conflict 1962: CSO IV Corps
HQ Eastern Command Lucknow
After my meeting with Lt Gen EG Pettengell at Dehradun I reckon that Kaul having taken charge of the affairs and with direct access to the Defence Minister had absolved the Eastern Command of all responsibility. Things were normal at Lucknow in so far as Signals were concerned, General Pettengell would have definitely recalled had there been any anxiety or incident regarding message traffic between 7 Brigade and New Delhi.
Army HQ New Delhi
Lt Col CUK Nair was the Commanding Officer of the Signal Regiment at Army HQ, the last link in the Signals chain that started from Dhola, at the Tri Junction in NEFA, a chain formed by Runners from Dhola to Ziminthung, carrying the Top Secret, Exclusive For, hand written messages from Kaul to the Nehru or Menon as the case may be, to be enciphered for transmission to Tezpur by Morse code on the wireless link. I did have the privilege of having a look at one of these messages, but it was of no interest to me at that time nor do I recollect any thing of it now, I only had a cursory look at it and it hardly registered, I had my own problems to sort out rather than worry about higher conduct of war and national policies and priorities to bother about. At Tezpur the messages were re-enciphered in machine cipher for transmission to Army HQ on the direct link established from 4 Corps. As soon the operator at the Cipher Office at Army HQ Signal Centre at New Delhi decoded to the words 'Exclusive For' he would stop and handover further deciphering to the Duty Cipher officer. On deciphering the Signal Officer on duty would personally carry and deliver the message to the addressee, the PM or the DM as the case maybe. Day or night, the messages were marked FLASH, the highest priority for clearance, even then it took three days for the first message to reach Delhi. On delivery the CO would be informed who possibly may have also informed the Director Signals Maj Gen Batra the next day of the receipt and successful delivery of the message. Col Nair, unfortunately developed bleeding ulcers and had to be rushed to the Military Hospital due to an allergic reaction to Aspirin the "on" medicine in maximum demand by officers those days.
Brig Lakshman Singh, VSM (Retd)
We Thank Brig Lakshman Singh for giving us all the episodes on India China Conflict which are really extracts from his book and also sharing his personal and gripping experiences with us. Our Politicians Dilemma as of today:
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