Som Nath Sharma
|Som Nath Sharma|
January 31, 1923|
Dadh, Kangra Himachal Pradesh
|Died||November 3, 1947
KIA at Badgam, India
|Years of service||1942-1947|
|Unit||4th Battalion The Kumaon Regiment|
|Battles/wars||Indo-Pakistani War of 1947|
|Awards||Param Vir Chakra|
Som Nath Sharma (1923–1947) was the first recipient of the Param Vir Chakra, the highest Indian gallantry award. He was awarded the medal posthumously for his bravery in the Kashmir operations in November 1947. He died while evicting Pakistani infiltrators and raiders from Srinagar Airport during the Indo-Pak war of 1947-48 in Kashmir. He belonged to the 4th Kumaon Regiment.
Major Som Nath Sharma was born on 31 January 1923 in a Brahmin family at Dadh, Kangra Himachal Pradesh India. He came from a well-known military family, his father, Major General Amar Nath Sharma, was also a military officer (retired as Director, Medical Services (Army)) as were his brothers Lt. General Surindar Nath Sharma (retired as Engineer-in-chief) and General Vishwa Nath Sharma (retired as Chief of Army Staff, 1988–1990), and his sister Major Kamla Tewari (Medical Doctor). He did his schooling at Sherwood College, Nainital, before enrolling at the Prince of Wales Royal Military College in Dehra Dun and later joined the Royal Military Academy. He was commissioned into the 8th Battalion, 19th Hyderabad Regiment (later 4th Battalion, Kumaon Regiment):148 of the Indian Army (then British Indian Army) on 22 February 1942. He also saw combat during the second World War in the Arakan Operations. Incidentally, he is the eldest brother of the son-in-law (Lt. Gen. Surindra Nath Sharma, P.V.S.M, A.V.S.M) of Savitri Khanolkar, who designed the medal.
Battle of Badgam
Somnath's company was airlifted to Srinagar on 31 October 1947. His right hand was in a plaster cast as a result of injuries sustained in the hockey field previously but he insisted on being with his company in combat and was given permission to go.
On 3 November 1947, Major Somnath Sharma's company (D Company of 4 Kumaon) was ordered on a fighting patrol to Badgam Village in the Kashmir Valley. A tribal "lashkar" of 700 raiders approached Badgam from the direction of Gulmarg. The company was soon surrounded by the enemy from three sides and sustained heavy casualties from the ensuing mortar bombardment. Somnath realized the importance of holding onto his position as both the city of Srinagar and the airport would be vulnerable if it were lost. Under heavy fire and outnumbered seven to one, he urged his company to fight bravely, often exposing himself to danger as he ran from post to post.
When heavy casualties adversely affected the firing power of his 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 enemies 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."
By the time the relief company of 1st Battalion Kumaon Regiment reached Badgam, the position had been overrun. However, the 200 casualties suffered by the raiders made them lose their impetus to advance buying time for Indian troops to fly in to Srinagar airfield and block all routes of ingress to Srinagar. In this manner, Somnath Sharma prevented the fall of Srinagar and arguably the Kashmir Valley to Pakistan.
|Param Vir Chakra|
On 3rd. November 1947 Maj. Sharma's Coy was ordered on a fighting patrol to Badgam Village in Srinagar (Kashmir) Valley. He reached his objective at first light on 3rd. November, 1947, and took up a position south of Badgam Village. At 1100 hours, enemy estimated strength 700 attacked his Coy position being brought to bear on the Coy position from three sides, the Coy began to sustain heavy casualties.
Maj. Sharma fully realizing the gravity of the situation and the direct threat that would result to both Srinagar and the aerodrome if the enemy attacking him was not held until reinforcements could be rushed up to close up the gap leading to Srinagar via Hum Hom, urged his Coy to fight the enemy - tenaciously with extreme bravery. In order to do this, he rushed across the open ground to his sections exposing himself to heavy and active fire.
He took a very active part in directing the fire of his sections on to the ever-advancing enemy. He exposed himself to the full fury of the enemy's fire and laid out air-strips in order to guide the aircraft on to the targets in full view of the enemy.
Realising that casualties had affected the efficiency of his light automatics, this officer, whose right hand was in plaster, personally commenced filling LMG magazines and issuing them to LMG gunners. A mortar shell landing amongst his ammunition resulted in an explosion that killed him.
Maj. Sharma's Coy held on to its position and the remnants withdrew when almost completely surrounded. His inspiring example had resulted in the enemy being delayed for six hours and reinforcements permitted to get into position in Hum Hom to stem the tide of the enemy's advance.
His leadership, gallantry and tenacious defence was such that his men were inspired to fight the enemy outnumbered by them seven to one for six hours, one hour of which was after this gallant officer had been killed.
He has set an example of courage, with qualities unequalled in the history of the Indian Army. 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 the last man and the last round."
- Portrayal of Major Somnath Sharma's Life on Param Vir Chakra Program
- Jai Hind Jai Bharat
- on myHimachal blog
- on Rediff.com
- Gandhi, S.S. (2006). Portraits of Valour (3 ed.). New Delhi: The Defence Review. p. 141. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
- Page 50, Where Gallantry is Tradition: Saga of Rashtriya Indian Military College, By Bikram Singh, Sidharth Mishra, Contributor Rashtriya Indian Military College, Published 1997, Allied Publishers, ISBN 81-7023-649-5
- Khanduri, Chandra B. (1969). Thimayya:An Amazing Life. New Delhi: Centre for Armed Historical Research, United Service Institution of India, New Delhi through Knowledge World. p. 394. ISBN 81-87966-36-X. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
- Entry on "Maj Somnath Sharma, PVC (Posthumous)" on Indian Army website. Accessed 06 August 2010.
- Entry on "Maj Somnath Sharma" at Sherwood College, Nainital website. Accessed 06 August 2010.