Service No : IEC-8968
Date of Birth : Jan 1, 1911
Birth Place : Kullu dist, HP
Last Rank : Col
Unit : 2 Dogra & 3/11 GR
Regiment : 11 Gorkha Rifles
Award : MVC
Year of Demise : 2000
Col Thakur Prithi Chand was born on 1st January 1911 in a small village Rangri near Kullu in Himachal Pradesh. He belonged to the Royal family of Rai Bhadur Thakur Amar Chand. Col Prithi Chand was a second generation soldier, wherein his father Thakur Amar Chand had fought during the World War 1 as part of the British Indian Army in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq). His father was conferred upon the Upadhi (honour) of ‘Rai Bahadur’ by the British for his services.
He was enlisted in Ladakh Scouts in 1931, but quickly rose through the ranks and was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion of the Dogra Infantry Regiment in 1939. As a Major he took part in the Indo-Pak war of 1947-48 and was later promoted to the rank of Lt Col in 1950. He was subsequently transferred to 11 Gorkha Rifles Regiment and went on to command the 3/11 GR battalion for three years. He eventually retired from active service in a well-deserved rank of Colonel.
Ladakh Operations : Feb – May 1948
After Partition in August 1947, all princely states acceded to the Indian union except Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir. Taking advantage of the wavering stand of Maharaja Hari Singh, Pakistan planned the annexation of the entire state of J&K. By the time the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession to India, Pakistani raiders had entered Poonch, Baramula had fallen and Mirpur, Kotli, Jhangar, Naushera and Bhimber were under siege. To halt the advance of the enemy at Baramula and save Srinagar, Indian Army airlifted a sizable force to Srinagar. But the vast Ladakh valley with headquarters at Leh had just about two platoons of state forces to defend. There was not just the urgent need to send reinforcements, but also to defend Leh till the reinforcements arrive. The 161 Brigade started looking for suitable volunteers, who could cross the formidable Zoji La and head for Leh.
In February 1948, Maj Thakur Prithi Chand of the 2nd Dogra Battalion volunteered to command a small force of 18 volunteers from the Indian Army in the Kashmir Valley to Leh to raise and train a militia force, and organise the defence of that area. He led this small band of brave men in mid-winter across Zoji La, a mountain pass at 11,000 feet, in snow blizzard and over 20 feet deep snow without any special snow or winter equipment. This in itself was an epic feat. On arrival at Leh, Maj Prithi Chand took command of two platoons of J&K State Forces, and with his own men, hurriedly raised and trained some 200 militia.
By May 1948 , the enemy had overrun most of Baltistan, captured Kargil and was advancing on Leh along the Indus and Nubra valleys. But Maj Prithi Chand with his indomitable spirit, held the enemy advance by adopting guerilla tactics. Covering a front extending over hundreds of miles, he organised raids and ambushes on the enemy, frequently leading them himself. Maj Prithi Chand underwent extreme physical strain; he appeared everywhere. One day he was in the Indus valley and the next day or day after, he would be in the Nubra valley many miles away. He and his men lived mostly on sattu and with very little ammunition but kept the enemy at bay until reinforcements were sent to him by air. Maj Thakur Prithi Chand throughout these operations displayed exceptional leadership, courage and indomitable spirit in the highest traditions of the Indian Army.
Maj Thakur Prithi Chand played a very vital role in saving Ladakh and was given the nation’s second highest gallantry award, “Maha Vir Chakra” for his outstanding courage, fighting spirit, leadership and devotion to duty. He eventually retired from the active service in the rank of a Colonel and breathed his last in the year 2000.
The Citation for Maha Vir Chakra awarded to him reads :
On the 8th of March 1948, Major Thakur Prithi Chand and his men completed their arduous three week march to Leh. Their mission was to raise and train a local militia that would defend Ladakh against imminent Pakistani intrusions. By May, a 200-strong Indian force was in place but the Pakistani supported raiders had overrun most of Baltistan and Kargil. To contain the enemy advance towards Leh along the Indus and Nubra river valleys, the major resorted to guerrilla warfare tactics. His daring raids and ambushes confused the enemy and slowed them down. On one occasion, the raiders supported by the howitzers attacked one of the Indian forward pickets in Leh forward post. Soon after, the Major led his men deep into enemy territory and successfully destroyed an enemy howitzer. Major Thakur Prithi Chand and his loyal force played a major role in defending Ladakh.
The gallant officer was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for his inspiring leadership, courage and bravery.
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