Longewala 1971

The Battle of Longewala came to my attention today, whilst assiduously avoiding actually doing any of the four things I had planned to.

What a heck of a battle. I could not believe that I had never heard of this action. A company (120 troops) of the Punjab Regiment held up a brigade (60+ tanks) of the Pakistan Army in a night-battle, fixing them for destruction in daylight by the IAF.

Does anybody have any good references for this, beyond the somewhat anodyne details on Wiki? I would love to get an Indian and a Pakistani response on this, although in the circumstances perhaps the Pakistani commentators may prefer to keep their own counsel.

It would make a fantastic battlefield study I think.
It now seems that the PAK Bde Cmmdr made a series of very poor decisions. He allowed himself to be fixed but presumably could have bypassed the post and moved on. He also did not over-power the post. Yet the post had very little in the way of anti-armour weapons - a single RCL apparently.

Fascinating...going to Amazon now to find other references...




Book Reviewer

There was a Hindi film made about ten years ago (or so) called "Border" which was based on the tale of the IAF pilots involved in this battle. It's not terribly accurate and indeed there are the customary Bollywood singing and dancing routines. It is described by one Indian viewer as:
Its not for the discerning viewer , and enthusiasts particular about finer details will get high blood pressure at the 'realism' of the action scenes. Yeah where else can you see a leading actor take a dozen bullets in his body, yet still lug an antitank mine and drop it below the track of a reversing enemy tank, all the time with the commander of the enemy tank firing bullets in our hero?

Only in Bollywood!
An Indian account can be found on the bharat rakshak website and is as one sided as would be expected.

On the Pak side of the partition you could try to scour the book markets (best try online) for a copy of Brig (retd.) ZA Khan's "The Way it Was" - it has an account of the Longewala battale. An interesting letter about Brig Khan's efforts can be found here.

The problem with any Pak account of the 1971 war is that they usually follow the same, "I was brilliant. It was everyone else who was corrupt and incompetent and lost the war" line.

As an aside, I stumbled onto this little gem a few years back and thought it might be good to share. It's an exchange between a Pakistani and an Indian officer and can only be viewed as an example of exquisite battlefield manners!

At Jamalpur, near Dhaka, the Indian Brigadier, Hardit Singh Kler, surrounded a Pakistani unit led by Lt Col Ahmed Sultan. On 10 December the two officers exchanged letters. The first, written by the Indian Brigadier, was taken across the frontline by an elderly man who delivered it by hand

The Commander Jamalpur Garrison

I am directed to inform you that your garrison has been cut off from all sides and you have no escape route available to you. One brigade with full compliment of artillery has already been built up and another will be striking by morning. In addition you have been given a foretaste of a small element of our air force with a lot more to come. The siituation as far as you are concerned is hopeless. your higher commanders have already ditched you.
I expect your reply before 6.30 p.m. today failing which I will be constrained to deliver the final blow for which purpose 40 sorties of MIGs have been alloted to me.
In this morning's action the prisoners captured by us have given your strength and dispositions, and are well looked after.
The treatment I expect to be given to the civil messenger should be according to a gentlemanly code of honour and no harm should come to him.
An immediate reply is solicited.

Brigadier HS Kler. Comd."

The reply was sent a few hours later:

"Dear Brig,
Hope this finds you in high spirits. Your letter asking us to surrender has been received. I want to tell you that the fighting you have seen so far is very little, in fact the fighting has not even started. So let us stop negotiating and start the fight.
40 sorties, I may point out, are inadequate. Ask for many more. Your point about treating your messenger well was superfluous. It shows how you under-estimate my boys. I hope he liked his tea.
Give my love to the Muktis [Mukti Bahini were the Bangladeshi guerrillas fighting against the Pakistan Army]. Let me see you with a sten in your hand next time instead of the pen you seem to have such mastery over.
Now get on and fight.

Yours sincerely

Commander Jamalppur Fortress.
(Lt. Colonel Ahmed Sultan)"

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