Service No : IC-14655
Date of Birth : August 3, 1941
Place of birth : Tarn Taran Dist (Pun)
Service : Army
Last Rank : Major
Unit : 18 Rajput
Arm/Regt : The Rajput Regiment
Awards : Maha Vir Chakra
Martyrdom : September 11, 1967
Major Harbhajan Singh hailed from Bhatte Bhaini village in Patti tehsil of Tarn Taran District in Punjab and was born on 03 August 1941. His father Shri Assa Singh, was a patriot, and a freedom fighter, who was deported from Shanghai (then a British Enclave) for active participation in the Gadar Movement in the late 1920s. After primary schooling at his village school, Major Harbhajan Singh did his matriculation from DAV High School, Patti. Inspired by his father, in June 1956, at the age of 15 years, he got himself enrolled as a boy soldier at the Army recruiting office, in Amritsar and joined the Corps of Signals.
Later he became a commissioned officer, and on 30th June 1963, he was commissioned into 18 Rajput Regiment Battalion of the Rajput Regiment, an infantry Regiment known for its valour and battle honours in various operations. By 1967, he had got promoted to the rank of Major after having served in various operational appointments.
Nathu La Operation: 11 Sep 1967
Nathu La pass was located on the watershed serving as a natural boundary and connecting Sikkim with China's Tibet Autonomous Region. This pass was of utmost importance to the Indian Army as it provided a tactical advantage of observation and fire. After 1962 war, trade through this route was closed. India on August 20, 1967, started fencing its border with three layers of barbed wire, which did not go down well with the Chinese forces. On August 23, 1967, Chinese soldiers marched towards the Nathu La, carrying rifles fitted with bayonets and stopped at the border. About after an hour, the Chinese troops withdrew. However, they returned again and continued with their protests. On Sept 5, 1967, India started upgrading barbed wire fence to a concertina coil. During this, the Chinese political officer landed in an argument with India's Commanding Officer of the local infantry battalion, Lt Col Rai Singh, after which the work was halted.
On September 7, 1967, the work was resumed which provoked the Chinese Army. About 100 Chinese soldiers scuffled with the Indian soldiers but were beaten down by the Indian Army. The fencing was to be completed by September 11, 1967. As the army engineers were engaged in the construction of the fencing, the 18 Rajput Battalion along with the 2 Grenadiers battalion were detailed as a protection party for engineers who were constructing a wire obstacle at Nathu La. Major Harbhajan Singh from 18 Rajput was detailed as the Officer in charge of a party ordered to strengthen the wire-laying party opposite the 'North Shoulder' at Nathu La. Whereas Capt Prithvi Singh Dagar and his soldiers from 2 Grenadiers took charge to strengthen the wire-laying party opposite the South Shoulder. Maj Harbhajan Singh was functioning as Commander of the ‘A’ Coy at that time. On 11 September 1967, the Indian engineers commenced the construction of the wire obstacle at 0540 hours.
The Chinese forces were opposed to the wire obstacle and consequently, a scuffle took place between the Indians and Chinese troops. The Chinese simultaneously opened fire from the front as well as from the flanks. The Rajput company and the engineers were caught in the open and at this juncture, Major Harbhajan Singh shouted to his men to charge the attacking force. Major Harbhajan Singh himself bayoneted three Chinese soldiers and then moved forward to silence their light machine gun, which was firing on the Indian troops, by throwing a hand grenade. However while doing so, Maj Harbhajan got severely injured. He soon succumbed to his injuries and was martyred. Major Harbhajan Singh was a valiant soldier and gritty officer, who led from the front and laid down his life at the age of 26 years in the service of the nation.
Major Harbhajan Singh was given the nation's second highest gallantry award “Maha Vir Chakra” on 26 January 1968 for his conspicuous gallantry, leadership and supreme sacrifice.
The citation for the “Maha Vir Chakra” awarded to him reads :
At 0540 hours on 11 September 1967, Major Harbhajan Singh was commanding a company, which was detailed as a protection party for engineers who were constructing a wire obstacle at North Shoulder on Nathu La. When the wire was being laid, a scuffle took place with the Chinese force. Suddenly the Chinese soldiers opened fire from the front as well as from both the flanks. Realising that his company and the engineers had been caught in the open, he shouted to his men to charge the attacking force. After bayoneting three Chinese soldiers, he moved forward and silenced their LMG, which was firing on the men in the open, by throwing a hand grenade. In doing so, he made the supreme sacrifice of his life. In this action, Major Harbhajan Singh displayed conspicuous gallantry and determination of a high order.