The Shelling of Dwarka
|Ramesh Madan joined the Indian Air Force in 1959 as an airman and took part in the 1965 and 71 conflicts. He was on site when the Pakistani Navy shelled Dwarka. He narrates the events in this candid story of that day. Ramesh Madan left the IAF as a Sgt.|
I was posted to Dwarka in October 1963 and was there till middle of June 1967. There were two signal units at that particular moment in Dwarka (No. 114 SU and No. 607 SU.) along with one DSC Guards unit. I was posted to No.607 SU. There was a Corporal Swamy (Radar Mechanic) who was trained on that particular Radar equipment that were installed onto two big Motor vehicles. As you know, from our names; he was from South India and I was from Punjab and I was an Electrical Mechanic, (there is always a language and tech. branch conflict, the way of his thinking). More over he was senior to me and would not allow me or any one else to go into details of his particular equipment. (as if it were his own property and did not want to share it with any one).
Among us, (people from both units), we had no conflict about who was from which unit and what he was supposed to do. We all ( clerical staff as well as technical staff) worked together. I was in the Electrical branch and others in Motor Transport Mechanics, some in Carpentry and we had one LAC Ramesh Rudra; a Black Smith and Welder (later he got Commission in the Indian Army, and I met him once in Chandigarh in November 1970 when I was undergoing a special training in Air to Air Guided Missiles) and Wireless Mechanics. We all worked on repairing Vehicles (all sorts of them), right from changing and repairing tyre and tubes to the complete engine overhauls. In fact we all learned how to drive and to repair almost all kinds of vehicles including Motor Cycles, during our stay with that unit. (It is over 40 years today and I do member almost all the people by name and have their faces in my mind).
Flg.Offr. S.Damodaran, was from the Air Force Signals branch, and was Commanding both the units and the only officer during that particular period. (though our units were under A.F. Station Jamnagar, commanded by Group Captain King).
The 1965 War
The emergency was already declared a few days ago and the trenches were dug all around
the unit and at the suitable places. It was a normal day as there was nothing new
and nothing old at all. Everyone was busy in his own job. It was September 7, 1965
morning and I received a message from our Admin Office that I was detailed for the Guard
duty, as one of the guards was sick and I was to replace him. I was detailed for the third
shift and my timing were 5.30 pm -7.30 pm; 11.30 pm - 01.30 am (on Sept 8) and 05.30 am -
07.30 am. Along with Air Force guards, we had DSC people doing the guard duties 24 hours a
day and in all over the camp area.
Early in the afternoon we noticed a ship sailing from east to west (from Bombay towards Okha, India’s last port). On contacting Air Force Station Jamnagar, we came to know that it was Indian Naval ship (INS Talwar) patrolling the area. In the evening, around 5.30 pm, we saw the ship sailing in the opposite direction and thought that it might be INS Talwar going around on her routine duty.
This ship sailed near the coast and all the lights on the ship were on. Every one saw it taking its perfect position by moving up and down, going forward and backwards and it anchored there, after setting itself and turned all the lights off. Everyone forgot about that ship and was back on their routine, thinking that it were INS Talwar. There is a light house (Asia’s second highest), a girls hostel, a girl’s school and a civil hospital near the Dwarka shore. All these were almost in the line of firing of that ship. We realised this fact only later.
I was on my second round of the shift (11.30 pm to 01.30am) and after finishing a round of the camp, along with the DSC guard, we reached near a tree that was in the center of two barracks. The root of this tree was in such a shape that it was coming out of the ground at one place and the other end entered the ground forming a kind of a bench on which we normally sat during our break time.
I looked at my watch and it was 0115 am on the morning of September 8, 1965. I wanted to say something to my companion, then, there was a loud SWIIISHHH and a BOOOM. Both, my companion and me looked towards that direction but the first BOOOM was followed by more SWIIIISHES and BOOOMS!! Every one in the unit and in the city was up and running all around. People were jumping in the trenches and or falling flat on the ground to escape from this shelling.
After about ten minutes the shelling stopped and slowly everyone started getting up. Every one was nervous and did not know what to do. Our Officer Commanding, Flying Officer S. Damodaran, Cpl Iyer and my self advanced towards the direction from where the shelling was coming. We did not find any thing there.
After coming back from there we took a Jeep and went around in the village to see if there were any damages. We did not find any damage or casualties in the entire village, Though the people in the village were now scared and there was a bit of panic around.
After all this, our next turn was to find out about the safety of our staff that was
deployed on our Signal Vehicles, about 10 to 15 miles away from our base unit. Our Signal
Vehicles (the Radar Units, that tracked the targets and directed the aircrafts for a PIN
POINT bombing) were stationed far away from our base (in VARVALA, between Dwarka and
Mithapur on way to Okha). On hearing that shelling noise, the crews there got concerned
and were driving towards our base to see what had happened to us. We met them on the way
and the both parties were satisfied that every thing was safe and sound and returned to
our respective positions.
It was now daybreak and there was no sign of any tension anywhere
After refreshing ourselves, we had our breakfast and went back to normal routine. In the mean time we heard radio Pakistan giving the news that Pakistan Naval ship BABUR shelled Dwarka, that Dwarka was very badly destroyed and is burning and they could see the smoke from a distance of 10 miles.
Our O.C. summoned everyone and asked us to send a telegram to our home to inform our family that nothing has happened and every one is safe and healthy. All the telegrams were collected and a couple of people rushed to the post office. The post master informed us that it will be better for us to write a letter than sending the telegram, as the line were cut and it was not possible to send the telegrams! In a letter, to my parents in Delhi, I wrote them every thing that had happened in Dwarka, with a last line "there are more donkeys in Dwarka than the people and none of the donkeys have been injured so what can one say about the people". There was an Associated Cement Company factory just at a distance of half a mile away from our base unit in Dwarka. The smoke of this factory can be seen from a distance of about 20 miles that the Pakistanis referred to as seeing the smoke from a distance of 10 miles.
After the day break, the villagers started bringing the shells from their fields after digging them out of the ground carrying them on their shoulders. We collected almost 25 to 30 shells. They were displayed in front the Guard Room for the public to take a look. The amusing thing about them was that they bore the marking “INDIAN ORDINANCE” and were dated 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1945, 1946 and so on. These shells were all pre-partition ammunition that was given to Pakistan during the partition in 1947. It turned out that the Indian ammunition was LOYAL to India. None of them exploded to harm its country.
The one, that did explode was the one that hit the Railway Retiring Room on the outer edge of the building that was not occupied at that time. All the other shells went over the village and into the fields. The miracle behind this was that the sea level had risen from the time the Pakistani ship had taken its position to the time it started shelling. This resulted in most of the shells overshooting Dwarka.
Of course, it is quite obvious that, the learned and experienced officers and the crew on board of that Pakistani ship did ignore this fact and were rejoicing that they have shelled Dwarka without any resistance and destroyed it. Needless to say, even after this shelling we were on out toes 24 hours a day for at least a week to ten days. The total manpower in our unit at that time was hardly 75 to 80 men including the DSC guards, with a limited supply of arms and ammunition. We were all thinking about our fate if the Pakistanis had decided to start an 'invasion' , they could have done anything to us or to the public.
Our O.C., Cpl Iyer and myself were on the rounds around the base, in the village, and towards our Signal Vehicles and the surrounding areas (nearby villages) 24 hours, driving around on the jeep for at least four days without a minute of sleep.
1. A similar first person account from the Navy's Official History by Mr. S D Kadawala, Senior Platoon Commander, Home Guards who was at the Dwarka Light House is reproduced here:
"On the evening of September 7, 1965 at around 1730 hours some Pak Navy ships, disguised as merchant ships, arrived at Dwarka and anchored south of the Dwarka Lighthouse, very close to the coastline and visible from the Dwarka town. At that time I was on messenger duty in the lighthouse which is close to the Air Force base, a small observation post which had just been set up. A regular watch was maintained from the top of the lighthouse by the Air Force staff and I used to carry messages from the lighthouse to the Air Force base.
During the Indo-Pak conflict there was a complete black-out in the Dwarka town. There was no naval ship in port as a naval base was yet to be established at Okha. However, a small group of cadets from the Indian Navy were stationed at Okha, having accommodation in the town library building and the Commander in charge of the group was stationed at the European Guest House. At this time, men from the Air Force, Home Guards and the local police used to maintain regular patrolling on the beach. As already stated, the 'merchant' ships arrived at low tide in the evening and it was difficult to identify the nationality of the vessel. However, the matter was immediately reported to the Air Force base at Dwarka.
At around 2355 hours, during high tide, the vessels suddenly started firing over the main temple of Dwarka which lasted for more than 20 minutes. During this period the ship fired around 50 shells which included some 5.25 inch rounds fired by the Pak cruiser Babur. But, due to unknown reasons, most of the shells fell between the temple and the railway station, which is around three kilometres away from the lighthouse. There was no damage to any building, though there was some damage to the Railway Guest House situated near the railway station. The twentieth-century avatars of Mahmud of Ghazni had failed in their mission. Nearly all the shells fell where the soil was soft and they remained unexploded. These shells were later collected by the Home Guards, the local police and Air Force men and brought to the Air Force base. Out of them about 35 to 40 were unexploded live shells."
2. The Pakistani Navy's Official Account gives some details behind the operation. The following is excerpted from http://www.paknavy.gov.pk/history.htm#dwarka
"Operation Dwarka is one of the most significant events of 1965 Indo-Pak war which reflected courage, determination, professional competence, dedication and coordination of the PN personnel involved in it. The objectives of this operation were:
a. To draw the heavy enemy units out of Bombay for the submarine GHAZI to attack
b. To destroy the radar installation at Dwarka
c. To lower Indian morale
d. To divert Indian Air effort away from the north
On 7 September 1965 when the ships were on their normal war patrol, the following signal was received from Naval Headquarters:
“Task group comprising PNS BABUR, PNS KHAIBAR, PNS BADR, PNS JAHANGIR, PNS ALAMGIR, PNS SHAHJAHAN and PNS TIPU SULTAN is to be in position 239 degrees – 120 miles from Dwarka light house by 071800 E Sep with maximum power available. Task group thereafter to carryout bombardment of Dwarka about midnight using 50 rounds per ship. Force is to retire from bombardment area by 080030 E Sep and return to present patrol area at full speed. One or two enemy frigates may be expected to encounter in the area in addition to enemy air threat”
The Commodore Commanding PN Flotilla accordingly originated his signal at 1835, the salient features of which were:
a. The initial position for attack was 206 degrees Dwarka light 6 miles
b. The target was to be city installations and conspicuous chimney
c. Complete radio silence was to be maintained except for guarding air warning radar.
The Fleet immediately topped up fuel and shaped course for Dwarka operation. At midnight the ships were on Initial Position (IP) with all their guns loaded and the men ready to strike a historic punch on enemy’s face. The city of Dwarka was completely blacked out and target could only be identified on radar. At 0024 bombardment was ordered to commence when ships were 5.5 to 6.3 miles from Dwarka light. It took only four minutes to complete the bombardment, firing altogether about 350 rounds on the target. Upon successful completion of the attack the ships retired immediately without any loss or damages. There was no considerable resistance from the enemy and the ships safely arrived at their patrol area by 0635 on 8 Sep. "
Copyright © Ramesh Madan. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Ramesh Madan is prohibited.