An inspiring and valiant officer (1927 – 2014)
Brigadier P.K. Nandagopal was born on 15 January 1927 and educated at Voorhees High School, Vellore. He joined the Military Academy at Mhow and was commissioned in 1945 into the Madras Regiment. He was later transferred to the Sikh Light Infantry (Sikh LI) Regiment. He raised 6 Sikh LI in October 1963 and led it in the 1965 War. The unit was deployed in Chhamb in the sensitive Akhnur sector. In August 1965, a large number of Pakistani soldiers and militants infiltrated at many points. Their aim was to create unrest and expected the local people to rise in revolt. The battalion faced intense enemy shelling and disruption of communications on 15 August and stuck to their posts valiantly on the ceasefire line in spite of heavy casualties. This act won for them the admiration of all troops and enabled the brigade HQ to regroup and take offensive action. The battalion was tasked to take back Maira and Natahan posts which had been taken by the enemy. One company of 3 Mahar and one troop of 20 Lancers were placed under command of 6 Sikh LI for this operation. The posts were retaken on 17 August after vigorous action.
On 1 September, Pakistan launched Operation Grand Slam, a massive armoured offensive to capture Akhnur. The newly raised 6 Sikh LI in Chhamb bore the brunt of this invasion and held on with grit to their position and delayed the Pakistani advance in this sector. The unit had suffered about thirty percent casualties. The artillery and air support failed on the day and it was no longer possible to hold on. The unit withdrew before midnight on 1 September on orders of the brigade HQ. Due to disrupted radio and line communications, the withdrawal orders did not reach some of the soldiers in time. They died fighting to the last bullet till killed or taken prisoner. This was a proud record for a newly raised battalion and they withdrew with their heads held high. The best compliments to the unit were paid in the Pakistani Defence Journal “wherein the Commander of the Pakistani 102 Brigade was severely criticised for getting held up at Burejal locality held by two companies of 6 Sikh LI for a day.”
The Pakistan Army had occupied Kalidhar Ridge after the ceasefire. The feature overlooked the road Akhnur-Sunderbani-Rajouri and 6 Sikh LI were ordered on 28 September to take three features adjoining the Kalidhar Ridge. The battalion regrouped immediately to undertake the attack. Colonel Nandagopal led the attack and captured two objectives. Two counter-attacks in heavy strength and supported by artillery fire were beaten back with large casualties. Due to heavy casualties, they had to fall back from one of the hills. The battalion succeeded in clearing this hill inspite of intense enemy shelling on the night of 3 October with the help of 11 Mahar. The battalion continued to press forward and climb the steep slopes against accurate enemy artillery fire and opposition by infantry. They captured three more features by 1800 hours that day and held on to them. Colonel Nandagopal led the attack from the front and was involved in hand to hand fighting. He received two blasts and suffered injuries on his face, shoulder and head. He received a bullet injury on his hand.
He led the final assault on Kalidhar Trig Point 3776 on 5 October and cleared it by mid-day. Colonel Nandagopal was awarded MVC for his determination and courageous leadership. The regiment was awarded the Battle Honour Kalidhar in 1965. A memorial to commemorate the Kalidhar Battle has been erected at Sunderbani in Rajouri district of J&K.
It was a result of the inspired leadership of Colonel Nandagopal that after having earned glory in the 1965 War, the unit did well in the 1971 War and contributed significantly in counter-insurgency operation in Jammu and Kashmir. It received silver salver from the Governor and commendation from the Chief of Army Staff. In view of the excellent operational record, the unit was deputed to serve in Congo where it won unit citation from the Force Commander. He continued to take active interest in social and defence issues even after retirement. On 14 March 2010, he participated in returning the medals to the President with a request to review the pension as promised earlier. He passed away on 16 June 2014.