Courageous and committed soldier (1940-2018)

Brigadier Chandpuri was born on 20 November 1940, in Montgomery, which is now part of the Punjab province of Pakistan. The family migrated to village Chandpur Rurki in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar after Independence. He graduated from the Government High School, Hoshiarpur, in 1962. Encouraged by his two uncles who were serving in the Indian Air Force (IAF), he joined the Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai, in 1962, and was commissioned into 23 PUNJAB on 30 June 1963.

In 1971, he was commander A Company of 23 PUNJAB, and was deployed in Longewala in Rajasthan. This post was earlier held by Border Security Force (BSF). He did not have any armour support. The only defence weapons against tanks were Recoil Less Guns (RCL) and Rocket Launchers (RL). Artillery support of one battery of 170 Field Regiment was available. In desert, movement is difficult, both for men and vehicles. Longewala post blocked the approach to Jaisalmer. It was an isolated post; the remaining battalion was about 17 km away. The company had prepared the defences well on a sand dune, which gave them a dominating position.

After facing bombing by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on 3 December, Chandpuri sent a platoon strong patrol under Lt. Dharam Vir to the border to observe any enemy activity. On the night of 4/5 December, Dharam heard noises suggesting movement of Pakistani tanks. Chandpuri reported this information to the battalion HQ. General Khambata stressed on Chandpuri to hold the position firmly. 51 Infantry Brigade of Pakistan Army and 22 CAVALRY were given the task to attack Longewala and drive on to Jaisalmer. The attack commenced with heavy bombardment by medium guns after midnight. Two enemy tanks were destroyed by RCL guns. Pakistani attack stalled about 50 metres from the locality. They mistook the barbed wire at the defended locality to be a minefield. This had been erected by BSF to keep the camels from running away. Pakistan engineers came after two hours and found that there was no minefield. They decided to encircle the post instead of a frontal attack.

Their vehicles got bogged down. Chandpuri moved from bunker to bunker encouraging his men. He was hit by shrapnel. It was a saga of human resolve and motivation in the face of danger and adverse situation.

At first light, the IAF Hunter aircraft struck. They were not able to locate the enemy tanks and air observation pilots guided them to the target. The air strike continued throughout 5 December. The destruction of tanks was aided by barrels of fuel loaded on tanks to take them to Jaisalmer. Twenty two tanks and a number of vehicles were destroyed. Another 12 tanks were destroyed by infantry. The enemy tried to attack again on night 5/6 December. By then the post had been reinforced by 17 RAJ RIF. On 7 December, Pakistan forces withdrew in face of Indian counter offensive, leaving 200 dead behind. Our own casual- ties were 12 killed and 12 injured. Plans captured from the tanks revealed that Pakistanis had planned to enjoy dinner at Jaisalmer.

Chandpuri was awarded the second highest gallantry award of MVC. 23 PUNJAB was awarded the Battle Honour. Tribute was paid to the unit by Field Marshal R.M. Carver, Chief of Imperial General Staff, when he visited the location. A film, Border has been produced on this epic battle. Mrs. Chandpuri recalls with pride that on the same day her father Sardar Baldev Singh of Punjab Police received the President’s Police Medal. Chandpuri’s two uncles serving in IAF were awarded VrC in 1971. Chandpuri retired as Brigadier and settled down in Chandigarh. In recognition of his contribution, the Indian Army named a road in military area of Rajasthan as Chandpuri Road in December 2017.

He was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in a private hospital in Mohali on 17 November 2018. He is survived by his wife and three sons.

Brigadier Suresh Chandra Sharma (retd.)