Major Somnath Sharma, son of Major General Amarnath Sharma, was born on 31 January 1923, in Himachal Pradesh. He was commissioned in the Kumaon Regiment on 22 February 1942. During the Second World War, he had fought in the Arakan Operations. His brother, General V.N. Sharma, served as the Chief of Army Staff during 1988 to 1990. On 22 October 1947, Pakistan launched the tribal invasion of Jammu & Kashmir. The intention was to grab the Kashmir valley by force. As the State became a part of the Union on October 26th, her protection became the responsibility of India. To save the State from a tribal invasion, which was approaching the valley at a very fast pace, India dispatched troops to Srinagar. The first batch of Indian troops reached just in time on October 27th morning to stop the enemy on the outskirts of Srinagar.

The D Company of 4 Kumaon, led by Major Somnath Sharma, was airlifted to Srinagar on October 31st. When his company was asked to move to Srinagar, Major Sharma's arm was in plaster. He had suffered a fracture on the hockey ground and was advised rest till the plaster was removed. But he insisted on being with his company at this crucial hour and was allowed to go. Meanwhile, the main thrust of the tribal invasion of Srinagar had been blunted by the 1 Sikh at Patan. The enemy now resorted to guerilla tactics to sneak into the valley. But the induction of more troops into Srinagar enables the Army to take care of the surrounding areas better. On November 3rd, a strong fighting patrol compromising 3 companies was dispatched to reconnoitre the Bagdam area to look for raiders approaching Srinagar from the northern direction. By 0930 hrs the troops had established a firm base at Bagdam.

As no enemy was seen during patrolling, two companies moved back to Srinagar by 1400 hrs. D Coy led by Major Sharma which had taken up position south of Bagdam was, however, asked to stay on in the area till 1500 hours. At 1435 hours, D Coy was subjected to firing from some houses of Bagdam village. The Coy did not return fire for fear of killing innocent people of the village. While Major Sharma was discussing this threat with the Bde. Cdr., a large force of the enemy, about 700 strong, appeared from a depression to the west of his position. It attacked with coy with small arms, mortars and heavy automatics. The accurate and devastating fire of the enemy inflicted heavy casualties on D Coy. Major Somnath Sharma understood the gravity of the situation and the imminent threat to both Srinagar town and the airfield was looming large before his eyes. He rushed across the open ground to his sections, exposing himself to enemy fire. He also laid out panels to guide IAF aircraft to their targets in the face of enemy fire. The company held on for six hours against heavy odds.

When heavy casualties adversely affected the firing power of the company, Major Sharma, with his right hand in plaster, took upon himself the task of filling the magazines and issuing them to men, operating light machine guns. While he was busy fighting the enemy, a mortar shell exploded on the ammunition near him. His last message to Brigade HQ, received a few moments before he was killed was, "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 our last man and our last round." His answer is now part of the Army lore. In the battle of Bagdam, Major Sharma, one JCO and 20 other ranks were killed. But their sacrifices did not go in vain. He and his men stemmed the tide of the enemy advance on Srinagar and the airfield for some very crucial hours. He has set an example of courage and qualities, seldom equaled in the history of the Indian Army. Major General Amarnath Sharma received India's first and highest war-time gallantry medal, Param Vir Chakra, on behalf of his brave son. Jai Hind!! Jai Jawan!!


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