1. I was the Adjutant of 4 SIKH(Saragarhi 1897) in 1971.We had commenced operations on 11 Nov 71.We advanced North from the Boyra Salient and secured an area around Village Makapur 6km inside East Pak.
2. We had some patrol clashes but no worthwhile engagement took place.We were strafed by Sabres flying from Dacca but no damage took place.Some probing attacks were launched by Pak troops who thought we were Mukti Bahini.The main defences of Pak 107 Inf Brigade were in a compact arc around Jessore 30 km to the East.There was a large upheld area between us and them.Since Pak troops were not offering battle it was decided to advance deep into East Pak on 20 Nov.On 19 Nov a Sqn of brand new T55 tanks of 63 CAV joined us.There was excitement in the air.On 20 Nov 4 Sikh led by Sqn Armr of 63 CAV commenced a classic Xcountry advance.One coy was mounted on the tanks and other Coys moved behind them on the trot.We were engaged by forward elements of Pak 107 Inf Bde.These were quickly scattered by tank and artillery fire.Our boys were full of Josh and cheered by the locals who shouted Joi Bangla.Cries of Jo Bole So Nihal the battle cry of 4 Sikh also rant the air.Dust plumes were going high up in the air due to tank movement.The scene was reminiscent of the 2WW movies like the Battle of the Bulge!
3. By evening we had advanced 20 km in NE direction and hit the Kabadak River at a place called Chaugacha.
Our tanks and D Coy tried to rush the bridge but it was blown up by Pakis in our face.One of our tanks got struck in the loose mud at West end of the bridge.Heavy fire was coming from entrenched enemy positions located on the high ground East of the River.We firmed in on the West Bank and planning commenced for attacking across the River.
4. The same night 14 Punjab along with a Sqn of PT76 tanks had crossed the Kabadak River to the East of Boyra Salient and taken up defences around Garibpur village.This position was 10km SW of us.At night artillery and mortar duels continued.Pak 107 Inf Bde got very alarmed and attacked 14 Punjab early in the morning on 21 Nov71.A fierce battle ensued.Pakis used 6 Punjab and a Sqn of Chaffee tanks.We were hearing the noises of the battle which lasted approximately 2 hours.Paki attack failed.8 Chaffee tanks lay smouldering at loss of our 3.3 Tanks were abandoned by Pakis.Maj Narang our Sqn Cdr of 45 CAV was martyred.His 2IC Capt Teji Sidhu had a tank shell pass through his legs.Badly injured but lived.These Offrs along with those of 14 Punjab led from the front.As soon as the winter fog lifted the PAF was on us.During the day of 21 Nov about 16 Sorties were flown primarily against the positions of 4 Sikh.The visible target for the Sabres was our stranded tank on the demolished bridge.We repeatedly requested for own air cover but no clearance was given as the war had not been declared.
5. On 22 Nov strafing by enemy Sabres continued.About 12 sorties were utilised.Since IAF was not allowed to operate we engaged the aircraft with LMG and MG fire.At mid day I had gone 4 Km to the rear to check on our B Echlon.I was coming back in a jeep at about 1530 hours when I saw 3 Sabres coming for the last sortie before sunset.The Sabres homed on to our positions and were doing high dive attacks like the Stukas one saw in the 2WW movies.Suddenly I saw a mission of 4 aircraft fly over me at tree top level.My jeep swayed due low flying of the air craft.First I thought that the PAF had thrown its entire 14 Sqn into battle to deter our impending attack on Chaugacha.I was also hearing the chatter of our MG/LMG fire engaging the aircraft.Suddenly I saw the 4 fighters peel out of formation and head for the Sabres which were oblivious to their presence and continuing with the dive attacks.I realised and recognised that our Gnats have joined battle.I stopped the jeep and stood watching wonder struck.Three Gnats chose one aircraft each and closed in.There was the chatter of cannons of the Gnats and I saw flames erupting from all(3) Sabres and they plunged towards the ground.Having done their job the Gnats gave wing salute to us on the ground and headed back to Klaikunda.
6. Now to the most interesting part of the story.As we saw the aircraft smoking and flaming before hitting the ground,two parachutes opened up.One drifted back to Paki held area and one came towards our defences.Our boys rushed out of the trenches towards the descending parachutes.Sensing that in the heat of the moment our Jawans might kill the pilot,I also ran as fast as I could.When I was 50 yards away two our Jawans had knocked the pilot down and were hitting him with rifle butts.I shouted at them to stop.In the mean time more Jawans joined the fray.I had physically move them away and shielded the pilot by standing in front of him.I calmed down the Jawans and told the pilot that he was safe.A tall fit man,shaken up but put up a brave face.We walked to the Bn HQ and we dressed a small cut he had sustained on his forehead.I ordered a cup of tea for him and commenced his interrogation.His name was Flt Lt Pervez Quereshi Mehdi and he was the Sqn Cdr of 14 Sqn PAF located at Dacca.He was a Sword of Honour from the PAF Academy.His wife’s photo was in his pocket.I made a list of all his items which included his watch,9 MM pistol,20-30 rounds of ammunition and his survival kit.By this time he was relaxed as he realised that he was safe.I told him that he was now a POW and will be treated as per Geneva Conventions.Surprisingly he had not seen the Gnats and neither had our troops or other officers as they had all ducked into trenches.Flt Lt P Q Mehdi said that some fire hit him from below.Actually he was climbing for the dive when the Gnat got him.Our officers and Jawans claimed that our MG fire had brought the Sabre down.I was told to prepare an immediate citation for an award to the Machine Gunner.I whispered in my CO’s ear that It was our Gnats and that I had seen the dog fight or the Gnat Pounce!He was taken aback but insisted on the citation.I packed away Flt Lt P Q Mehdi to our Bde HQs.He did not say anything before going but looked at me and his eyes said ” thank you”!His conduct despite the shock of being shot down and taken POW was dignified!
7. Our Machine Gunner got a SM!Our Gnat pilots were deservedly decorated!Flt Lt Pervez Querishi Mehdi was POW for one year and had a illustrious subsequent career to become an Air Chief Martial and Chief of PAF 1997-2000.His cockpit seat,his parachute and some parts of his Sabre are still held by 4 SIkh!Capt HS Panag then a month short of 23 rose to become an Army Commander!Incidentally Flt Lt P Q Mehdi was the first POW of the war!