Saviour of Poonch - Brig. Pritam Singh MC
Brig. Pritam Singh is another name of courage, command and bravery. He is the only man to whom the credit goes for saving Poonch and peoples there in. He was named as “Sher Bacha” (A Child having bravery and courage that of Loin) by the elders of that time. This was not only name but also a tribute out of love and from the core of heart. Even today the survivors of that turmoil assert that their life is a gift from Brig. Pritam Singh.
Born in Dina village in Ferozpur, Punjab he was commissioned in Royal Army in 1929 and got elevated to the ranks of Lieutenant, Captain and Major in the years 1931,1935 and 1940 respectively. For his courage and contribution he was decorated with Millitary Cross. Afer being promoted to the rank of Lt Colonel he joined 1 Kumaon (PARA) in 1946.
Siege of Poonch :
The City of Poonch was surrounded by high hills from all four sides in the year 1947. It was the terrible time when all the surrounding heights of Poonch city were under the control of the Pakistan army and tribal raiders supported by former.
Beside the local population of the city of Poonch there were about 40000 ill-fated peoples taking refuge in the city as they were forced to leave the areas captured (Now Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) by the tribal raiders and Pakistan army. They (refugees) were forced to bear tremendous loss to their property and life by the raiders. There was hardly any person who had not seen his family members and nears and dears being slaughtered, murdered, burnt alive and what not. The experience of those peoples was too hard.
The people locked in Poonch city were dying in absence of food, medical help and shelter. There was chaos, fear and uncertainty prevailing everywhere.
The Jammu and Kashmir troops, 1400 in all, were inadequate both in men and machines (arms) to retaliate. Whereas the enemy had enjoyed all the cards and dice.
In 1947-48 Brig. Pritam Singh was commanding 1 Kumaon (PARA) in the operations in Kashmir. He successfully led the unit in the Battle of Shalltang near Srinagar, crushing all the hopes of raiders of conquering Srinagar. After the successful battle of Shalltang 1 Kumaon (PARA) was directed to save Poonch as a part of Poonch Brigade. The Bde column was ambushed and divided into two parts. Major chunk of brigade went back to Uri whereas Lt Col Pritam Singh headed to Poonch against all the odd winds.
In November 21, 1947 Brigadier Pritam Singh (Lt. Col. at that time) leading only 419 soldiers of 1 Kumaon Para Bn entered Poonch to write history of sacrifice, gallantry and heroism. In order to have a unified command of Indian Army and State Forces Garrison Pritam Singh was elevated to the rank of Brigadier and the command of Poonch Brigade was handed over to Mr. Singh.
He had to do impossible job of saving dying refugees, maintaining law and order and fighting with equipped enemy sitting all around.
At that time there was no link between Poonch and rest of country. Under the exemplary leadership of Brig. Pritam Singh Advance Landing Ground (ALG) was constructed with the volunteer civil cooperation in record time to set up a link. As a hand full of soldiers had to busy in the war with Pakistan, the public of Poonch started day and night work to construct the ALG. A 550 x 30 Sq.m ALG at 1100m altitudes was made operational in record time. But for this historic Air Strip (ALG) the fate of Poonch could have been different.
In the second week of December 1947 Air Force started landing Dakotas at Poonch. A large number of peoples were air lifted to Jammu and other parts of the country as resources at Poonch were inadequate to accommodate such a large population at that time.
Brigadier Pritam Singh reorganized the resources he had and led daring attacks on the enemy posts and succeeded in uprooting the settled enemy locations. The operation lasted for almost one long year to bring peace back in Poonch.
It is last but not the least it is appropriate to mention that the Savior of Poonch Brig. Pritam Singh was a volunteer to serve the India in general and people in carnage and pandemonium in particular at that time. He gallantly met the challenge and succeeded.
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