Karam Singh

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Subedar and Honorary Captain
Karam Singh
Lance Naik Karam Singh.jpg
Born (1915-09-15)15 September 1915
Barnala, Punjab, India
Died 20 January 1993(1993-01-20) (aged 77)
Allegiance British India
Service/branch British Indian Army
Indian Army
Years of service 1941–1969
Rank Subedar
Honorary Captain
Service number 22356[1]
Unit 1 SIKH
Battles/wars World War II
Indo-Pakistani War of 1947
Awards Param Vir Chakra
Military Medal
For Sikh historian (1884–1930), see Karam Singh

Subedar and Honorary Captain Karam Singh PVC, MM (15 September 1915 – 20 January 1993), an Indian soldier, was the first Sikh and non-posthumous recipient of the Param Vir Chakra (PVC),[2] India's highest gallantry award.

Born in 1915, Singh joined the army in 1941. He took part in the Burma Campaign of World War II and was awarded the Military Medal for his actions. He fought in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, and awarded the PVC for gallantry actions in saving a forward post at Richhmar Gali, to the south of Tithwal. He died on 20 January 1993.

Early life[edit]

Karam Singh was born on 15 September 1915 in the village of Sehna of Barnala district in Punjab. His father Uttam Singh was farmer. Though initially Singh was to be a farmer, later he decided to join the army after being inspired by the stories of the soldiers from his village who participated in World War I.[3]

Military career[edit]

On 15 September 1941, he enrolled in the 1st battalion of the Sikh Regiment. For the conduct and the courage displayed by him in Battle of the Admin Box during the Burma Campaign of World War II, he was awarded the Military Medal. As a young war-decorated sepoy, he earned respect among the soldiers of his battalion.[3]

War of 1947[edit]

On 23 May 1948, the Indian Army captured Tithwal from the Pakistani troops. But the Pakistanis quickly launched a counter-attack to recapture the area. The Indian troops unable to withstand the attack, withdrew from their positions. Eventually, they settled down on the Tithwal ridge to regain their positions at the right moment.[4]

As the battle at Tithwal went on for few months, the enemy grew desperate and launched a massive attack on the Indians in a hope to evict them from their positions on 13 October. Their primary objective was to capture the Richhmar Gali, located to the south of Tithwal, and the Nastachur Pass, located to the east of Tithwal.[4] During the fierce battle on the night of 13 October at Richhmar Gali, Lance Naik[a] Karam Singh was commanding a forward post held by 1 Sikh.[5]

Although being heavily outnumbered by the enemy troops on the ratio of one to ten, the Sikhs repelled the enemy attacks for eight times. As the ammunition was running out, Singh ordered his men to join the main company as he knew that reinforcement would not be possible in the view of enemy shelling. With the help of another soldier, he brought two injured men along, though he himself was injured. Under the heavy enemy fire, Singh moved from position to position boosting the morale of his men to fight. In between he fired the enemy with grenades every now and then. He refused evacuation although being wounded twice and continued to hold-on on the first line of trenches.[5]

During the fifth wave of attack, two of the enemy soldiers so close to his position that he could only attack them in hand-to-hand combat. Singh at once jumped out his trench and killed the two enemy soldiers with his bayonet. This move by Singh greatly demoralized the enemy troops. Singh and his men successfully repelled three more enemy attacks, before the Pakistani troops finally retreated unable to capture the posts.[5]

Param Vir Chakra[edit]

On 21 June 1950, Sharma's award of the Param Vir Chakra, for his actions on 13 October 1948 in defending the posts at Tithwal, was gazetted. This was the first time the honour had been awarded since its inception. The official citation reads:

Tithwal in Jammu and Kashmir was captured on 23 May 1948. After that date, the enemy made numerous attempts to recapture Richmar Gali, and thence Tithwal. On 13 October 1948, coinciding with Id, the enemy decided to launch a brigade attack to retake Richmar Gali, and bypassing Tithwal, advance into the Srinagar Valley. Lance Naik Karam Singh was commanding a section at Richmar Gali. The enemy commenced its attack with heavy shelling of guns and mortars. The fire was so accurate that not a single bunker in the platoon locality was left unscathed. Communication trenches caved in. Bravely, Lance Naik Karam Singh went from bunker to bunker, giving succor to the wounded and urging the men to fight. The enemy launched eight separate attacks that day. In one such attack, the enemy managed to obtain a foothold in the platoon locality. Immediately, Lance Naik Karam Singh, who was severely wounded by then, with a few men, hurled himself in a counter-attack and evicted the enemy after a close quarter encounter which accounted for many enemy dead, having been dispatched by the bayonet. Lance Naik Karam Singh proved himself to be a dauntless leader of men in crisis. Nothing could subdue him and no amount of fire or hardship could break his spirit.

— Gazette Notification: 2 Pres/50, 21.6.50, [6]

Karam Singh later rose to the rank of subedar, and before his retirement in September 1969, he was conferred the rank of honorary captain.[7] He died on 20 January 1993 in his village. He was survived by his wife Gurdial Kaur and children.[2]

Other honours[edit]

In the 1980s, the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), a Government of India enterprise under the aegis of the Ministry of Shipping, named fifteen of her crude oil tankers in honour of the Param Vir Chakra recipients. The crude oil tanker named MT Lance Naik Karam Singh, PVC was delivered to SCI on 30 July 1984. The tanker was phased out after 25 years service.[8]


  1. ^ Lance naik is equivalent to lance corporal.
  1. ^ "Sub (Hony Capt) Karam Singh, PVC, MM (now deceased)". The War Decorated India & Trust. Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "Family of second Param Vir Chakra recipient to auction medal". The Hindu. Retrieved 17 April 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Cardozo 2003, pp. 44–45.
  4. ^ a b Chakravorty 1995, p. 60.
  5. ^ a b c Chakravorty 1995, p. 61.
  6. ^ "Sub (Hony Capt) Karam Singh, PVC, MM". twdi.in. Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  7. ^ "Death anniversary of Hony Capt Karam Singh today". The Tribune India. Retrieved 17 April 2017. 
  8. ^ Raj 2009, p. 179.