Lt. Karamjeet Singh Judge, VC


A brave soldier (1923-1945)

Karamjeet Singh Judge was born on 25 May 1923, at Kapurthala in Punjab, where his father was the police chief. His brother had joined the Royal Indian Artillery Regiment of the Indian Army.
While studying in college at Lahore, he had joined the Indian National Congress. The family was not happy with his political activities, and persuaded him to join the army. Karamjeet attended the Officers Training School at Bangalore, and opted to join the Pioneer Corps to get near the frontline in Burma. On his brother`s written request, he was commissioned into the 4th Battalion of the 15 Punjab Regiment. He was posted at Ambala, and the unit then moved to 39th Division in the 14th Army in Burma.
The Japanese Army had made a rapid advance in Burma, but by 1944, they had been checked. General William Slim`s strategy was simple – to divide the Japanese forces at the railway station at Meiktila. The drive led to some of the most savage and bitter battles of the campaign. The Allies were planning a major counter-offensive at Meiktila in the drive to Rangoon. 4/15th Punjab was part of the brigade assigned the task to clear the Nyaunga-Sindewa area.

On 18 March 1945, Karamjeet Singh was ordered to capture a cotton mill. The post was heavily defended, and there were extensive minefields. The initial attack was launched on Myingan, the strategic river port. The Jat Company of 15 Punjab was to lead the attack. They were supported by a troop of Sherman tanks of the British Army commanded by
Lt. Hugh Baker.

They faced stiff resistance. The ground was not suitable for tanks, and there was no cover for the tanks. About two hundred shells fell around the tanks and Infantry. The tanks could not see the well dug in bunkers firing with machine guns. Every time the Infantry was held up, Karamjeet Singh went forward to recall the tanks and indicated the targets to them. He displayed complete disregard to his own life. In this way ten enemy bunkers were destroyed. On one occasion, two enemy soldiers rushed out from a drain with fixed bayonets. He reacted fast and killed both of them from a distance of only ten metres. Three bunkers were still left, and the tanks were finding it difficult to approach them. Fire from these bunkers was holding up the advance of the Infantry. Karamjeet Singh managed to guide a tank to a point about twenty metres from the bunker, and lobbed a smoke grenade to indicate the position of the bunker. He asked the tank to cease fire, and went forward to a distance of ten metres from the bunker, when he was hit by machine gun fire. He was mortally wounded. Enraged, his men stormed the enemy position and completed the task. The battle for Myngan raged for four days and Baker had exclaimed that Karamjeet was the bravest soldier he had ever met.

He had dominated the entire battle field with his courageous deeds. He was a brave soldier. In three previous actions, Karamjeet had proved himself to be an outstanding leader of matchless courage. He confided in his commanding officer, Major Johnny Whitmarsh-Knight, of his keen desire to achieve glory. He was awarded the Victoria Cross (posthumous), for his brave deed. Had it not been for Karamjeet Singh’s actions that day on 18 March, the battle of Meiktila would have caused many more casualties to the British. The relentless drive and use of nuclear weapons led to the surrender by Japan on 14 August 1945. The following day, 15 August, was celebrated as the day of victory over Japan. Celebrations were held in London and capital cities of the Allies countries on the 70th anniversary of the victory over Japan. In UK, the Queen paid tributes to Karamjeet Singh and other heroes who distinguished themselves in the conflict.

Brigadier Suresh Chandra Sharma (retd.)