War Heroes

Capt G S Salaria

Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria, was born on 29 November 1935, in Gurdaspur, Punjab. He was commissioned in the 1 Gorkha Rifles on 9 June 1957. After the Belgians quit Congo, a civil war situation developed in that country. When the United Nations decided upon military intervention to retreive the situation, India contributed a brigade of around 3000 men to the U.N. Force. In November 1961, the U.N. Security Council had decided to put a stop to the hostile activities of the Katangese troops in Congo. This greatly angered Tshombe, Katanga's secessionist leader, and he intensified his 'hate the UN' campaign. The result was more violence against UN personnel. On 5 December 1961, a 3/1 GR Company supported by 3-inch mortar attacked a road-block, established by the Katangese troops, between HQ Katanga command and the Elisabethville airfield at a strategic round about. The enemy road-block was destroyed and the Gorkhas established a UN road-block there.

When Captain Salaria in a platoon strength tried to link up with the Gorkha company to reinforce the road-block, he met strong opposition in the old airfield area. Heavy automatic and small arms fire was brought down on his force by the enemy from a dug-in position on the right flank. The enemy held the area strongly with two armoured cars and 90 men. Captain Salaria was not deterred by the superior enemy strength and fire power. He decided to take the enemy, head-on, to achieve the objective. The Gorkhas then charged the enemy with bayonets, khukris and hand-grenades. A rocket launcher supported them in the attack. In this sharp encounter, Captain Salaria and his men killed 40 of the enemy and knocked out two enemy cars. His bold action completely demoralised the enemy who fled despite numerical superiority and well-fortified positions. However, in the engagement, Captain Salaria was wounded in the neck by a burst of enemy automatic fire, but he ignored the injury and continued to fight till he collapsed due to excessive bleeding.

Subsequently, he died of his grave wounds. Captain Salaria prevented the enemy from going to the round-about thereby saving the UN Headquarters in Elisabethville from encirclement. His leadership, courage, unflinching devotion to duty and disregard for his personal safety were in the best traditions of the Indian Army. For his extraordinary leadership and devotion to duty, Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria was awarded the highest wartime medal, Param Vir Chakra, posthumously.