Major Somnath Sharma Birth Anniversary: All you need to know about the first recipient of Param Vir Chakra

Major Somnath Sharma Birth Anniversary: All you need to know about the first recipient of Param Vir Chakra

On 3rd November, 1947, India lost one of its bravest among the brave Major Somnath Sharma, who sacrificed his life for the nation, while fighting the enemies in Badgam, Jammu & Kashmir. The legacy of military is as vast as yhe country itself.

Born of 31st January, 1923 in Dadh village of Himachal Prades, Major Sharma was the real hero of the war, fought between Indian army and Pakistani aggressors on 3rd November 1947, to safeguard J&K after its accession to India. His inclination and valour to do something for mother India can be gauged from the fact that he was unsatisfied that he has not been given an active assignment because of his fractured hand.

On Major Sharma’s 98th birth anniversary here’s a look at the story of India’s first Param Vir Chakra recipient:

Early life:

Major Somnath Sharma was born in Dadh district of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh (then Punjab province) on January 31, 1923. He was a part of a military family wherein every person in his family like his father, Major General Amar Nath Sharma, his brothers, Lt. General Surender Nath Sharma and General Vishwa Nath Sharma, and sister, Major Kamla Tewari, a medical doctor, all served in the Army.

He did his schooling from Sherwood College in Nainital and by the age of 10, he was enrolled in the Prince of Wales Royal Military College, Dehradun. He later joined the Royal Military Academy. On February 22, 1942, his military career began as he was commissioned into the 8th Battalion, 19th Hyderabad Regiment later he joined 4th Battalion Kumaon Regiment) of the British Indian Army. He was in the same regiment his maternal uncle Captain Krishna Dutt Vasdeva had served.

He fought many battles but one of the prominent ones was World War II under Colonel K S Thimmayya in Burma with the British Army. In the very first posting, he was deployed in Arakan and proved his mettle. In Arakan, while fighting against the Japanese, one of the soldiers got injured.

Battle of Badgam: November 1947

On November 3, 1947, Major Somnath Sharma and his company were ordered to reach Badgam village to take charge of the situation there. His left hand was injured after a hockey match and had to get a plaster cast over it. But the major still insisted on fighting for the nation alongside the jawans. Badgam was one of the most dangerous routes as the Pakistani raiders were marching towards Srinagar.

It was 2:30 PM in the afternoon when a 500-strong force of tribal lashkars (raiders ), supported by powerful mortars, attacked the 50 Indian jawans of Major Sharma’s company. Surrounded by the enemy from three sides, 4 Kumaon began sustaining heavy casualties from the ensuing mortar bombardment. Outnumbered by 7 to 1, Sharma immediately sent a request to Brigadier ‘Bogey’ Sen for reinforcements

They sustained heavy casualties. They were heavily outnumbered, but Major knew that the Badgam village played an important role, in that the loss of their position here would end up making the city of Srinagar and the airport vulnerable.

Major Somnath Sharma knew the importance of holding onto his position. The Srinagar airfield was the only lifeline the Army had between the Kashmir Valley and the rest of India – had the enemy seized the airfield, they would have been able to block the induction of Indian troops into the Valley by air.

Realising the gravity of the situation, he ran from post to post, often exposing himself to danger as he urged his company to fight bravely. Two forward platoons had already fallen but Major Sharma ensured that his company clung to its position tenaciously, even under heavy fire.

Last message Major Sharma sent to the headquarters stated:

“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”.

Soon after, Major Somnath Sharma was martyred in a mortar shell explosion, fighting till his last breath to stem the tide of the enemy advance. However, his sacrifice did not go in vain. Inspired by their leader’s gallantry and tenacity, the soldiers continued to fight the enemy for six hours after Major Sharma had been killed.

The Indian government recognised the valour of this man and conferred Param Vir Chakra (PVC) on him posthumously. His citation reads “His leadership, gallantry and tenacious defence were such that his men were inspired to fight the enemy outnumbering them. Major Sharma set an example of courage and qualities seldom equaled in the history of the Indian Army”.

PVC is the highest gallantry award of bravery and it is given to the bravest of the brave. It has been conferred only onto the 21 army men till date. The PVC was not existing when Major Sharma died but after more than two years of his death. The award was established on 26 January 1950, which was conferred on Major Sharma for his valour shown while safeguarding the airfield near Badgam on 3rd November, in which he lost his life. It is important to state that the highest gallantry award is not served on the platter but it is earned.

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