Service No : 1042586Y

Service : Army

Last Rank : Sowar

Unit : 17 Poona Horse

Arm/Regt : The Armoured Corps

Operation : Op Cactus Lily

Martyrdom : December 16, 1971

Sowar Nand Singh

Sowar Nand Singh joined the Indian Army after completing his education and was recruited into the 17 Poona Horse, a tank regiment of the Armoured Corps, the important combat arm of the Indian Army.  After completing his training, he served as a tank crew member in various operations and developed into a fine soldier. 


Indo-Pak War : 16 Dec 1971


During the Indo-Pak War of 1971, the 17 Poona Horse was assigned to the command of the 47th Infantry Brigade, which was involved in the Battle of Basantar in the Shakargarh sector. The Brigade had to establish a bridgehead across the River Basantar. On 15th December, the brigade had captured its objective, although, it was filled with extensive mines by the enemy, preventing deployment of tanks of Poona Horse. It was a joint operation by 17 Horse, 4 Horse(Two armoured Regiments), 16 Madras, and 3 Grenadiers. The engineers had cleared the mines halfway when the Indian troops noticed the alarming activity of the enemy armour asking for air support. At this critical juncture, the 17 Poona Horse decided to push through the minefield. Sowar Nand Singh was functioning as a tank crew member with "A" squadron of 17 Poona Horse under the command of Lt Col Hanut Singh.


On 16 December, Pakistani armour launched the first of their counter-attacks under the cover of a smokescreen at Jarpal, targeting the ‘B’ Squadron. The commander of the squadron urgently called for reinforcements. 2nd Lt. Arun Khetarpal, who was in the ‘A’ squadron and was stationed close by, responded promptly, along with the rest of his regiment. 2nd Lt Khetarpal rushed to meet the Pakistani armour and launched his ferocious counterattack. Sowar Nand Singh was functioning as the radio operator of 2nd Lt Khetarpal's tank "Famagusta". The other crew members included, Sowar Prayag Singh as the driver, and Sowar Nathu Singh as the gunner. However, during the battle, the commander of the second tank Lt Ahlawat got injured. Alone in charge, 2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal continued his attack on the enemy. But the enemy did not retreat despite heavy casualties. 2nd Lt. Khetarpal attacked the incoming Pakistani troops and tanks taking down an enemy tank in the process. However, Pakistani forces regrouped and counterattacked. In the ensuing tank battle, 2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal with 2 remaining tanks fought off and destroyed 10 enemy tanks.


However during the fierce tank battle 2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal’s tank was hit by enemy fire, but he did not abandon the tank, instead he fought on. Then he set about destroying the remaining enemy tanks. The last enemy tank, which he shot, was barely 100 metres from his position. At this stage, his tank received a second hit and the shell entered into the tank through its cupola. As a result Sowar Nand Singh got severely injured and soon succumbed to his injuries. Besides him, his tank commander 2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal also was martyred. The other tank crew members Sowar Prayag Singh and Sowar Nathu Singh were also badly wounded but survived and were captured by Pakistani troops. Both men were later given medical treatment by their Pakistani captors and survived to the end of the war when they were repatriated and subsequently retired from the Indian Army as honorary captains. Sowar Nand Singh was a fearless and committed soldier who laid down his life in the line of his duty.

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