Martyr's Diaries: First Recipient of PVC, Major Somnath Sharma


Major Somnath Sharma, born on 31 January 1923, came from a well-known military family, his father, Major General Amar Nath Sharma, was also a military officer (retired as Director General of the Armed Medical Services) as were his brothers Lt. General Surindar Nath Sharma (retired as Engineer-in-chief) and General Vishwa Nath Sharma (retired as Chief of Army Staff, 1988-1990), and his sister Major Kamla Tewari (Medical Doctor). He did his schooling at Sherwood College, Nainital, before enrolling at the Prince of Wales Royal Military College in Dehra Dun and later joined the Royal Military Academy.

On 22 February 1942, upon his graduation from the Royal Military College, Sharma was commissioned into the 8th Battalion, 19th Hyderabad Regiment, of the British Indian Army (later to become the Indian Army's 4th Battalion, Kumaon Regiment). During World War II, he saw action against the Japanese in Burma during the Arakan Campaign. At that time he served under the command of Colonel K. S. Thimmayya, who would later rise to the rank of general and become Chief of the Army Staff from 1957 to 1961. Sharma was mentioned in despatches for his actions during the fighting of the Arakan Campaign.


BATTLE OF BADGAM- 1947

On 27 October 1947, a batch of troops of the Indian Army was deployed in response to the invasion by Pakistan on 22 October into the Kashmir Valley, which is a part of India. On 31 October, D Company of 4th Battalion of Kumaon Regiment, under the command of Sharma, was airlifted to Srinagar. During this time, his left hand was in a plaster cast as a result of injuries sustained previously on the hockey field, but he insisted on being with his company in combat and was subsequently given permission to go.

Badgam was one of those routes through which Pakistani raiders were marching towards Srinagar. Two companies of well-equipped soldiers were given the charge of Badgam front, Company A of 4 Kumaon under the command of Maj Somnath and Company D of 1 Para Kumaon led by Capt Ronald Wood. The units deployed were under the command of Brig L P Sen.

In the village, a group of 500 raiders approached Badgam from Gulmarg and soon surrounded the company from three sides. Maj Sharma’s company was under heavy fire and mortar bombardment and sustained heavy casualties. They were massively outnumbered seven to one, but Maj Sharma knew that the Badgam village was very crucial and loss in their position would make the city of Srinagar and the airport vulnerable.

Maj Sharma urged his company to fight bravely and took to the task of filling the magazines and issuing them to the soldiers operating light machine guns. He ran from post to post, motivating his men without fearing for his own life. While fighting the enemy, a mortar shell exploded in the middle of the ammunition resulting in an explosion near him and he was martyred. His last transmission to Brigade HQ, moments before his death, still inspire us, ‘The enemies are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to our last man and our last round’.

By the time the relief company reached Badgam, their position was lost. However, the 200 casualties suffered by the raiders, slowed their advance, buying time for Indian troops to fly into Srinagar airfield and block all routes to Srinagar. It can be said that Major Somnath Sharma played a pivotal role in preventing the fall of Srinagar and perhaps even Kashmir.

Major Somnath Sharma at the young age of 25 years laid down his life for the nation and became the recipient of first “Param Vir Chakra” of Independent India. His saga of bravery, leadership and unyielding fighting spirit will continue to inspire the future generations.

Before he succumbed to his injuries, he transmitted a message to his brigade's headquarters which read:

The enemies are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to our last man and our last round.

LEGACY

The Shipping Corporation of India Ltd (SCI), named fifteen of her Crude Oil Tankers in honour of the Param Vir Chakra recipients. The first of the fifteen sister vessels was named MT “Major Somnath Sharma, PVC”, IMO No. 8224107.

The Housing project of Som Vihar in Delhi was named after Major Somnath Sharma PVC.

CITATION 

 MAJOR SOMNATH SHARMA

On 3 November 1947, Major Somnath Sharma's company was ordered on a fighting patrol to Badgam in the Kashmir Valley . He reached his objective at first light on 3 November and took up a position south of Badgam at 11:00 hours. The enemy, estimated at about 500 attacked his company position from three sides; the company began to sustain heavy casualties. Fully realizing the gravity of the situation and the direct threat that would result to both the aerodrome and Srinagar via Hum Hom, Major Somnath Sharma urged his company to fight the enemy tenaciously. With extreme bravery he kept rushing across the open ground to his sections exposing himself to heavy and accurate fire to urge them to hold on. Keeping his nerve, he skilfully directed the fire of his sections into the ever-advancing enemy. He repeatedly exposed himself to the full fury of enemy fire and laid out cloth strips to guide our aircraft onto their targets in full view of the enemy. Realising that casualties had affected the effectiveness of his light automatics, this officer whose left hand was in plaster, personally commenced filling magazines and issuing them to the light machine gunners. A mortar shell landed right in the middle of the ammunition resulting in an explosion that killed him. Major Sharma's company held on to this position and the remnants withdrew only when almost completely surrounded. His inspiring example resulted in the enemy being delayed for six hours, thus gaining time for our reinforcements to get into position at Hum Hom to stem the tide of the enemy advance. His leadership, gallantry and tenacious defence were such that his men were inspired to fight the enemy by seven to one, six hours after this gallant officer had been killed. He has set an example of courage and qualities seldom equalled in the history of the Indian Army. His last message to the Brigade Headquarters a few moments before he was killed was, 'the enemy are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to the last man and the last round.'

Dead upon the field of glory, Hero fit for song and story. 

Sir, May your soul REST IN POWER.  

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