Remembering PVC L/Nk Karam Singh of 1 SIKH – The ‘dauntless’ leader of men in crisis
During the 1947-48 war in Jammu and Kashmir, Tithwal in J&K was captured by the enemy on 23 May 1948. After that date, the enemy made numerous attempts to recapture Richmar Gali and thereafter Tithwal. On 13 Oct 1948, coinciding with Id, the enemy decided to launch a brigade attack to retake Richmar Gali and then bypassing Tithwal to advance into the Srinagar Valley. 1 Sikh Regiment in Richmar Gali had to bear the brunt of the enemy attacks, however, the regiment repulsed the enemy almost eight times during the months the war went on for. And the man of the battle was Lance Naik Karam Singh who had earlier won the Military medal in Burma as well for his bravery. During the battle, L/Nk Karam Singh was posted on a forward outpost when the enemy launched the attack. Twice wounded, he along with his troop refused evacuation while beating back the enemy with grenades and continued to hold on to the first-line trenches. His bold actions demoralized the enemy to an extent that they broke off the attack. On the night of 13 Oct and the following morning, the last of the attacks were beaten off.
L/Nk Karam Singh was awarded India’s highest gallantry award, Param Vir Chakra for his fiercely proud spirit and for his outstanding role in the Battle of Tithwal. He was an inspiration to his comrades and a threat to the enemy. The man was described as a “dauntless and born leader of men in crisis, where spirits could neither be subdued by fire nor hardship.”
Singh was born on 15 Sept 1915, in Barnala, Punjab. He was enrolled in 1 Sikh on 15 Sept 1941. During the J&K operations in the summer of 1948 the Indian Army when successfully recaptured Tithwal on 23 May 1948 the enemy fled leaving its arms and equipment in the river.
Operations in Tithwal and the Battle of Richmar Gali
Tithwal in J&K was captured by the enemy on 23 May 1948. Using a brigade, the enemy made a series of vicious attacks in a supreme effort to drive out Indian troops from this area of vital importance. Under cover of heavy artillery and mortar fire the enemy put in a battalion attack on 1 Sikh position which was repulsed after a stiff struggle at 0600 hours on 13 October. The enemy brought up more artillery, mortars, and machineguns and at 0930 hours the same day, another enemy battalion attacked. At 1000 hours the enemy attacked the main company position. This was repulsed with heavy casualties to the enemy. The enemy attacked again after bringing heavy and accurate artillery and mortar fire on the company defended locality of 1 Sikh. This attack was also repulsed but by this time most of the bunkers of 1 Sikh had been destroyed. The air force was called in and managed to engage the enemy effectively. The company was reinforced by the Battalion Recce Group and two Companies of 3 Jat which with effective artillery support helped 1 Sikh to beat back the enemy. By this time the casualties suffered by 1 Sikh were 47–50 killed and 37 wounded.
The enemy made yet another serious attempt to dislodge our troops from Richmar Gali. After heavy mortar firing throughout the night of 13/14 Oct, two enemy Companies launched an attack at 0730 hours on 14 Oct but were driven back with heavy losses. Our aircraft was also to effectively engage the enemy artillery and although enemy guns again opened heavy fire on our positions no further attack took place. The enemy's repeated attempts to take Richmar Gali finally failed.
Battle of Richmar Gali
It was in this fiercely contested action in the area of Richmar Gali in the Tithwal Sector that Lance Naik Karam Singh, MM, of 1 Sikh proved himself to be a dauntless leader of men in a critical situation.
On 13 Oct 1948 when the enemy in considerable strength attacked the 1 Sikh positions, Lance Naik Karam Singh, MM was commanding an outpost which was the enemy's first objective. Although it was attacked by vastly superior numbers, Lance Naik Karam Singh held on to his post manned by only four men, till ammunition ran low and two of the four were wounded. At this stage, fully aware that due to heavy shelling and continuous firing no help could be expected, Lance Naik Karam Singh although being wounded himself brought back his two wounded companions with the help of the third soldier and joined the main company defended locality.
In this forward company position, which was subject to heavy enemy shelling and fierce attacks, Lance Naik Karam Singh was again conspicuous by his gallantry. Though twice wounded he refused to be evacuated. By this time all the bunkers of his platoon had been destroyed but Lance Naik Karam Singh continued fighting and encouraging his comrades from the front-line trenches. The fifth enemy attack was very severe; two of the enemy came so close to Lance Naik Karam Singh’s position that he jumped out of his trench, bayonetted the two attackers, and jumped back into his trench.
The enemy attacked twice more but these too were beaten back. The enemy attack was finally called off at approximately 1900 hours. They had launched eight fierce attacks that rendered unsuccessful due to the determination and courage of Lance Naik Karam Singh and his men. Throughout the battle, Karam Singh set a unique example of courage and devotion to duty. Lance Naik Karam Singh, MM was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his outstanding courage in the face of the enemy. His devotion to duty and his leadership qualities constitute a unique example for all men to follow. Best of all, he lived to tell the tale.
Citation; Lance Naik Karam Singh 1 Sikh (NO. 22356)
Tithwal in Jammu and Kashmir was captured on 23 May 1948. After that date, the enemy made numerous attempts to recapture Richmar Gali, and thence Tithwal. On 13 Oct 1948, coinciding with Id, the enemy decided to launch a brigade attack to retake Richmar Gali and bypassing Tithwal, advance into the Srinagar Valley. Lance Naik Karam Singh was commanding a section at Richmar Gali.
The enemy commenced its attack with heavy shelling of guns and mortars. The fire was so accurate that not a single bunker in the platoon locality was left unscathed.
Communication trenches caved in. Bravely, Lance Naik Karam Singh went from bunker to bunk succor to the wounded and urging the men to fight.
The enemy launched eight separate attacks that day. In one such attack, the enemy managed to obtain a foothold in the platoon locality. Immediately, L/Nk Karam Singh, who was severely wounded by then with a few men, hurled himself in a counter-attack and evicted the enemy after a close quarter encounter which accounted for many enemies dead, having been despatched by the bayonet.
Lance Naik Karam Singh proved himself to be a dauntless leader of men in crisis. Nothing could subdue him and no amount of fire or hardship could break his spirit.
His gallant actions on that day inspired his colleagues to face the massive onslaught unflinchingly. It was his fiercely proud spirit which was largely responsible for the gallant stand at Tithwal that day.