By Sangeeta Saxena

Pune. 02 January 2020. Post Independence ,Govt. of India instituted six gallantry awards – Param Veer Chakra (PVC),Maha Veer Chakra (MVC) ,Veer Chakra (Vr C), Ashok Chakra (AC ) , Kirti Chakra (KC) and Shaurya Chakra(SC) .While 2/Lt Rama Raghoba Rane of 37 Fd Coy was awarded PVC on 11 Apr 1948 , Nb Sub Gurnam Singh earned AC in Sept 1973. The other first in gallantary awardees are ; Veera Chakra to 2/Lt J P Chopra on 17 th. Mar 1948, Kirti Chakra to Maj SK Sharma on 25 th. Dec 1971 and Shaurya Chakra to Spr Gian Chand (posthumous) on 26 th Jan 1965.The list is endless so here is the summary ; PVSM 29 , Vr C 7 , KC 5 , Shaurya Chakra 16  YSM 1, AVSM 37,Sena Medal 105, SM ( Distinguished ) 60, Bar to SM (gallantry ) – Maj Jaganath Nishanko , Bar to SM (distinguished) 1, VSM 161, Bar to VSM 3 , Jeewan Raksha Padak 1, M in D 91.

2nd Lieutenant Rama Raghoba Rane,PVC

The first PVC of Bombay Sappers should be an inspiration for our present and future generations ,whose citation reads: –

On 8 April 1948, 2nd Lieutenant Rama Raghoba Rane was ordered to be in charge of the mine and roadblock clearing party at mile 26 on the Naushera to Rajauri road which passes through very hilly country. At 1100 hrs on that date near Nadpur South just as 2nd Lieutenant Rane and his party were waiting near the tanks to start the work of clearing the mines ahead, the enemy started heavy mortaring of the area, with the result that two men of the party were killed and five, including himself, wounded. He at once reorganised his party and started clearing the passage for the tanks to go on to their position. Throughout that day he was near the tanks under heavy enemy machine gun and mortar fire. After the capture of Banvali Ridge at about 1630 hrs, although knowing that the enemy had not been completely cleared of the area, 2nd Lieutenant Rane took his party ahead and started making a diversion for the tanks to proceed. He worked on till 2200 hrs that night in full view of the enemy and under heavy machine gun fire.

On 9 April he again started work at 0600 hrs and worked on till 1500 hrs when the diversion was ready for the tanks to proceed. As the armoured column advanced he got into the leading carrier and proceeded ahead. After advancing about half a mile he came across a roadblock of pine trees. He at once dismounted and blasted the trees away. The advance continued. Another 300 yards and the same story was repeated. By this time it was getting onto 1700 hrs. The road was curving round the hills like a snake. The next roadblock was a blasted-away culvert. 2nd Lieutenant Rane again got on with the job. Before he could start the work, the enemy opened up with their machine guns but with superb courage and leadership he made a diversion and the column proceeded ahead. The roadblocks were becoming numerous but he blasted his way through. It was now 1815 hrs. The light was fading fast. The carrier came across a formidable roadblock of five big pine trees surrounded by mines, and covered by machine gun fire. He started removing the mines and was determined to clear the block but the armoured column commander appreciating the situation got the column into a harbour area.

On 10 April at 0445 hrs, 2nd Lieutenant Rane again started work on the roadblock in spite of enemy machine gunfire with the support of one troop of tanks. With sheer willpower he cleared this roadblock by 0630 hrs. The next thousand yards of the road was a mass of roadblocks and blasted embankments. That was not all. The enemy had the whole area covered with machine gun fire but with superhuman efforts, in spite of having been wounded, with cool courage, exemplary leadership and complete disregard for personal life, he cleared the road by 1030 hrs.

The armoured column proceeded ahead. The tanks reached Chingas by 1400 hrs. 2nd Lieutenant Rane continued clearing the road for the administrative column. ‘The tanks reached Chingas by 1400 hrs. 2nd Lieutenant Rane, appreciating that the opening of the road was most  vital, continued working without rest or food till 2100 hrs that night.
On 11 April, he again started work at 0600 hrs and opened the road to Chingas by 1100 hrs. He worked on that night till 2200 hrs clearing the way ahead. The supreme courage displayed by 2nd Lieutenant Rane in carrying out the most dangerous task of clearing mines and road blocks continuously for four days, whilst under incessant enemy fire, with total disregard for his life had enabled our tanks to reach Chingas. His sustained gallant effort, whilst constantly facing death, was in the finest traditions of the Indian Army.

Nb Sub Gurnam Singh, Ashok

The story of our brave hearts can not be complete unless one reads the most courageous act of supreme sacrifice of Nb Sub Gurnam Singh .His act saved many present and would be generals His citation is here: – On the 23rd September 1973, a demonstration was arranged by the College of Military Engineering for the visiting staff and student officers of the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington. One part of the demonstration was the actual firing of the Charge Line Mine Clearing, an explosive device for the clearing of enemy mine fields, which was recently introduced in the Army. Nb Sub Gurnam Singh was tasked to fire this explosive charge under simulated battle conditions and was assisted by a party of seven sappers in this task.

While Nb Sub Gurnam Singh was in the process of setting up and preparing the Charge Line Mine Clearing for firing, the tail initiator of the charge got prematurely actuated. He at once realized that the entire explosive was likely to blow up within 10 seconds. Realizing the danger to the lives of the men under his command, he immediately ordered them to run to a safe distance and he himself, in utter disregard of his personal safety set upon the hazardous task of uncoupling the actuated initiator to ensure the safety of the men and equipment.

But unfortunately, in spite of his best efforts and determination, he was not able to prevent the explosion within the few seconds, at his disposal. There was an explosion and Nb Sub Gurnam Singh was blown to pieces. Thus, in order to save the lives of the men under his command, Nb Sub Gurnam Singh made the supreme self sacrifice. Nb Sub Gurnam Singh was given the nation’s highest gallantry award during peace time “Ashok Chakra” for his commendable courage and unflinching devotion to duty.

Bombay Sappers have done well in the field of sports , as such a separate article has been dedicated to sports and adventure. It would be apt to mention here that while Sub Maj SV Birajdar earned Life Time Achievement Award for boxing , Hony Lt Rajendra Prasad Shelke got it for rowing.The recipients of Arjun Award are Maj Afsar Hussain for yachting, Maj MA Naik, Sub Jagjit Singh , Nb Sub Kasam Khan all for rowing,Nb Sub Gopal Narayan Dewang for boxing , Nb Sub K Ravi Kumar for weight lifting and Sub Gurpreet Singh for shooting.

ADU wishes that Bombay Sappers should keep producing such brave hearts who would keep the Bombay Sappers’ flag flying.