50th Parachute Brigade (India)
|50th Indian Parachute Brigade|
50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade
British Indian Army|
|Type||Airborne forces, Special Forces|
1961 Indian Annexation of Goa
The 50th Parachute Brigade is a brigade-sized formation of the Indian Army, first formed in 1941. The brigade was initially raised as part of the Indian Army during World War II. It was formed in October 1941, during the Second World War, as an independent parachute brigade. Later it was one of two parachute brigades in the 44th Indian Airborne Division. Its main force is formed of battalions of the Parachute Regiment, which became the Parachute Regiment (India) after Indian independence in 1947.
The brigade's initial composition included 151st British Parachute Battalion, 152nd Indian Parachute Battalion, and 153rd Gurkha Parachute Battalion. When the British battalion was recalled to the United Kingdom, it was replaced by a 154th Gurkha Parachute Battalion. Other components of the brigade included 411th (Royal Bombay) Parachute Squadron, Indian Engineers and 50th Medium Machine Gun Company. The brigade took part in the Battle of Sangshak, which has been credited with delaying the Japanese forces moving up for the Battle of Imphal which allowed British and Indian reinforcement to reach Kohima.
The 50th Parachute Brigades saw extensive action in the Kashmir operations of 1947-49. The three parachute battalions 1 PARA (PUNJAB), 2 PARA (MARATHA), 3 PARA (KUMAON) and the support units of the 50th Para Bde saw extensive action in the 1947-48 war in Kashmir and the battalions won a battle honour each in their respective sectors. The brigade commander, Brig. Mohammad Usman, was killed in action on July 3, 1948, and awarded the Mahavir Chakra posthumously.
The brigade took part in the 1961 Indian Annexation of Goa along with 17th Indian Infantry Division. Although the 50 Para Brigade was charged with merely assisting the main thrust conducted by the 17th Division, its units moved rapidly across minefields, roadblocks and four riverine obstacles to be the first to reach Panjim.
On the morning of 18 December, the 50 Para Brigade moved into Goa in three columns.
- The eastern column comprised the 2nd Para Maratha advanced via the town of Ponda in central Goa.
- The central column consisting of the 1st Para Punjab advanced via the village of Banastari.
- The western column - the main thrust of the attack - comprised the 2nd Sikh Light Infantry as well as an armored division which crossed the border at 0630 hours in the morning and advanced along Tivim.
The western column, facing no resistance, reached the town of Betim at 1700 hours, just a 500 metre wide river crossing away from Panjim, the capital town. In the absence of orders, the units set camp at Betim and proceeded to secure areas up and down the riverfront.
The order to cross the river was received on the morning of 19 December, upon which two rifle companies advanced on Panjim at 0730 hours and secured the town without facing any resistance. On orders from Brigadier Sagat Singh, the troops entering Panjim removed their steel helmets and donned the Parachute Regiment’s maroon berets. As the men marched into the town, they were welcomed as liberators by the locals.
In 1971, the regiment saw numerous actions both in the eastern and western theatres. For the first time in the annals of independent India's history, a para battalion group (2 Para Bn Gp) was dropped at Tangail, which contributed substantially to speeding up the liberation of Bangladesh. Elements of the 2nd Bn became the first Indian troops to enter Dhaka. 50th Parachute Brigade saw action initially in Bangladesh with 2 PARA in the airborne role and 7 PARA as the advance guard and the rest of the brigade in a ground role and then moved to assist its sister brigade in the western sector, thus becoming the only formation to see action on both fronts.
The operation started on the night of 3 November 1988, when Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft of the Indian Air Force airlifted the elements of the 50th Independent Parachute Brigade, commanded by Brig Farukh Bulsara, the 6th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, and, the 17th Parachute Field Regiment as the first wave followed by 7th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment as the second wave from Agra Air Force Station and flew them non-stop over 2,000 kilometres (1,240 mi) to land them over the Malé International Airport on Hulhule Island. The Indian Army paratroopers arrived on Hulhule in nine hours after the appeal from President Gayoom. The Indian paratroopers immediately secured the airfield, crossed over to Male using commandeered boats and rescued President Gayoom. The paratroopers restored control of the capital to President Gayoom's government within hours.
The Parachute Brigade was deployed at the Mushkoh valley as the ex Army HQ reserve which included 6 PARA, 7 PARA, 1 PARA(CDO) and an detachment of 19 Guards (ATGM).Elements of the brigade were awarded with the COAS Unit Citation for the their performance in clearing the Mushkoh valley intrusions .
The 50th Parachute Brigade comprises the following units:
- 2 airborne infantry battalions
- 1 special forces battalion
- 1 Parachute Field Regiment (Artillery) (9 & 17 Parachute Field Regiments in rotation)
- 60 Parachute Field Hospital
- 411 (Independent) Parachute Field Company (Bombay Sappers)
- 622 Parachute Composite Company (ASC)
- 50th (Independent) Parachute Brigade OFP (Ordnance)
- 50th (Independent) Parachute Brigade Signal Company
- 2 (Independent) Parachute Field Workshop Company (EME)
- 252 (Para) Air Defence Battery
- 50th (Independent) Parachute Brigade Provost Section
The airborne infantry battalions of the Parachute Regiment rotate to form part of the brigade, alternatively serving their field tenures in counter-insurgency/high altitude areas. One of the eight special forces battalions too serves in the brigade on rotation. One of the two field regiments (9 Para Field Regiment and 17 Para Field Regiment) also forms part of the brigade while the other serves out its field tenure on rotation.