The Battle of Dograi, one of the bloodiest battles in Indian military history, was fought at the town of Dograi near Lahore – first with guns and grenades, then with bayonets, and finally with bare hands on the dark night of September 21/22, 1965, between the soldiers of the Indian Army’s 3 Jat and Pakistan’s 16 Punjab.
3 Jat battalion with 550 men took on 16 Punjab, double in size with the support of tank squadrons. But the valour of the Jats led by an adamant and maverick CO, Lt Col Desmonde Hayde annihilated 16 Punjab by capturing its Commanding Officer, Col Golwala, along with his Battery Commander, two more officers, five JCOs and 108 soldiers alive, in addition to killing 308 Pakistani soldiers. In the clashes, 86 Indian soldiers were martyred.
The Battle of Dograi
The attack was launched at 0150 hrs on 22 Sep 1965. In a fierce hand-to-hand battle with the Pakistan Army, Indian soldiers wiped out the Pakistani company and forced them to surrender. The objective was secured by 0530 hours on 22 Sep 1965 and pockets of resistance were cleared in Dograi,” reads the official Facebook page of Indian Army.
The fierceness of the battle can be fathomed by the gallantry awards won by 3 Jats for their heroics. The battalion received four Mahavir Chakras, four Vir Chakras, seven Sena Medals, 12 Mention in Dispatches and 11 COAS Commendation Cards.
Ichhogil Canal, Dograi’s natural defence against India
Dograi was a township that stood on the East bank of the Ichhogil Canal. The canal itself was a defence potential for the enemy and had harmed Indian interests and shielded Lahore from Indian offensive thrusts. Grand Trunk (GT) Road, connecting Amritsar and Lahore, cut across it near Dograi. The capture of Dograi and the bridges on the canal were very important for the Indian Army to reach Lahore.
3 Jat had won Dograi on September 6 itself, but were asked to vacate
On September 6, 1965, 3 Jat crossed the international border from the north of Wagah, approached Gosal-Dial and cleared all enemy resistance by 0700 hrs the same day, killing more than 35 soldeirs and taking many as prisoners. Pakistan Air Force (PAF), however, was striking GT Road, causing significant damage to 3 Jat reserve echelons. But despite the casualties, the battalion advanced further up to Ichhogil canal and captured its East Bank by 1130 hours. The unit then headed towards the South and captured the town of Dograi and were just miles away from the outskirts of the city of Lahore.
To cash in on the success of 3 Jat, two other companies also crossed the canal over the remnants of the demolished bridge and secured the areas of Batapore and Attoke Awan after repulsing enemy counterattack.
But a lack of logistic support forced 3 Jat to vacate Dograi
Despite scoring a sensational success, 3 Jat was under immense pressure as the enemy was closing in after getting reinforcements from Chamb sector in Jammu. Meanwhile, PAF was showering bombs. Lack of radio communication with the artillery was preventing much needed fire support, enemy pressure was intensifying and the demolished bridge was crumbling away threatening to isolate troops ahead of the canal. Due to a lack of logistical support, whatever had been achieved by 3 Jat on September 6 slipped from their hands as they were ordered to vacate their gains by abandoning Batapore, Attoke Awan and Dograi and withdraw to Gosal Dial, which they did by 1715 hrs on September 6, 1965. A brilliant success was allowed to slip away unexploited.
Other attempts to capture Dograi failed
Several attempts were made by Indians to capture Dograi up to September 12th, but the Pakistan army, after getting reinforced, countered all attacks. Meanwhile, PAF made the advance of the Indian soldiers difficult.
The night of September 21/22
‘Ek bhi aadmi pichhe nahin hatega! (Not a single man will turn back!), ‘Zinda ya murda, Dograi mein milna hai! (Dead or alive, we have to meet in Dograi!), shouted CO Hayde before the final attempt to capture Dograi. Pakistanis, by September 20, had reinforced Dograi completely. Dograi and approaches leading to it were strongly held with two coys at Mile 13 and another two at Dograi, comprising troops of 16 Punjab, 3 Baluch, 8 Punjab and 18 Baluch.
Indians planned to launch an offensive in two phases on the night of 21/22 September. In Phase 1, 13 Punjab was given the task of capturing Mile 13 by 2359 hours September 21. In Phase 2, 3 Jat was to make a wide outflanking detour of 6000 yards to take Dograi from the North.
13 Punjab scored a partial success which wasn’t enough to execute the plans of Phase 2. But an adamant Hayde didn’t think even once before launching attack. ‘Even if all of you run away, I shall continue to stand on the battlefield alone,’ shouted Hayde, writes Rachna Bisht Rawat in her book on the men and battles of the war of 1965,Stories from the Second Indo-Pak War.
3 Jat, after a most creditable night advance, fell upon the flank and rear of the enemy positions at Dograi. Jats took the Pakistan defender by surprise and the battle that started with grenades, guns and bayonets soon turned into a hand-to-hand fight in which 550 Indian soldiers took on almost twice the number of men.
The hide and seek game was played in the deserted houses of Dograi in which it was difficult to differentiate between fellow and enemy soldiers. By 0300 hours Dograi was captured after 86 Indians and 308 Pakistani soldiers had died.
The success at Dograi made the enemy position at Mile 13 untenable. The two enemy companies located in this area fled across the canal. By September 22, 13 Punjab had secured their objectives and four enemy counter attacks had been beaten back at Dograi by 3 Jat. Ceasefire came into effect on September 23.
But much like September 6, whatever was achieved by the Jats on the battlefield was given back by the Indian Establishment in Tashkent.
Later CO, Lt. Col Hayde was quoted in Sainik Samachar 1966, “It was from here that we really started getting it. A whole machine gun complex, along the eastern bank of the Ichhogil Canal opened up. They must have been in the area in which myself, my intelligence officer and a few others were. We must have been under the fire of at least eight machine-guns at every step we took. We had a lot of fresh young troops. But we had made it very clear to them, that there was only one aim, and that aim was to close the gap from the FUP, on the objective from where the enemy was firing, as quickly as possible, whether it be in the open, whether it be through cover, whether it be at the run, whether it be on your belly. There was to be no stop until they had made the built up area on the north-eastern and northern edge of Dograi.
And this, I am really proud so say, my young Jat Jawans did with full valour, with full vigor, under the terrific and dynamic leadership of my company commanders, platoon commanders and junior leaders. Once my boys closed in with the enemy on the objective, very intense and severe hand-to-hand fighting had to take place, because it was difficult to get the enemy out of their trenches. The enemy for obvious reasons was not very keen to leave their trenches and we for very obvious reasons had to get in there and push them out”.
Later, Maj Gen Mohinder Singh, GOC 15 Inf Div, Lt Col Desmond E Hayde, Commanding Officer, 3 Jat, Maj AR Tyagi (Posthumous), 3 Jat, Capt Kapil Singh Thapa (Posthumous), 3 Jat were awarded Mahavir Chakra, the second highest gallantry award.
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