Major General H.S. Kler, MVC, AVSM


Born to lead (1924-2016)

Major General H.S. Kler was born on 3 September 1924, and was educated in Gordon College, Rawalpindi. A born leader, he joined the Army and was commissioned into SIGNALS on 10 October 1943. He took part in the Burma (present Myanmar) campaign in the Second World War at the age of 19, and was Mentioned-in-Despatches. He participated in the war in Jammu in 1948, and two years later command- ed the Parachute Signal Company.

A graduate of the Defence Services Staff College, he held the key appointment of General Staff Officer 1 (GSO1), 19 Infantry Division in J & K from 1963 to 1965. Pakistan pushed a large number of infiltrators into India in 1965. They planned sabotage and hoped to encourage revolt by the local population. Kler had already been posted to Staff College and had been dined out. Due to the emergency created by Pakistan, he opted to stay on and as usual, dealt with them
firmly. It was decided to capture the Haji Pir pass which was being used by Pakistan for infiltration and supply of arms.

Comprehensive plans were made for this operation. Plans had to be changed due to enemy action. Kler encouraged fellow-paratrooper, Ranjit Dayal, to go ahead and capture the Pass. Kler was awarded the AVSM for his brilliant part in the war. He was Commander 95 Mountain Brigade in the Eastern Sector in 1971, under command of HQ 101 Communication Zone. Kler decided to take Kamalpur which was held by about 140 men composed of regular and para-military forces under Captain Malik. Attacks by Mukti Bahini from July onwards did not make any impact on the defenders. Two battalion strength attacks also failed, and Kler decided to lay a siege. Attempts by Pakistan to break the siege failed, and at 0930 am on 4 December, Kler hammered the post with strike by seven MIGs firing rockets and canons. General Gurbux Singh, GOC Communication Zone, sent a message to Malik to surrender to save lives as he was determined to eliminate the Kamalpur post.

Malik surrendered at 7 pm on 4 December. It was revealed after taking in the post that they had almost used up all the ammunition. Malik was given a gallantry award on repatriation to Pakistan.

Pakistan had another position at Bakshiganj, South of Kamalpur, and vacated that too without a fight. General Gill, GOC 101 Communication Zone, was wounded due to his jeep hitting a mine. His place was taken up by General Nagra who decided to take Jamalpur. It was held by 31 Baluch under Lt. Col. Sultan. The Jamalpur garrison had been under heavy air and artillery shelling since 7 December. On 9 December, Kler sent a letter to Col. Sultan asking him to surrender in order to save casualties to his men. Sultan enclosed a bullet in his reply asking Kler to take to gun in place of a pen. Attack by Kler was planned for 10 December. In the meanwhile, Gen Niazi ordered 31 Baluch to withdraw to North of Dacca as the capital city was threatened. The Baluchis were not able to break out and suffered heavily. Three hundred and eighty prisoners were round- ed up the next morning. Para drop at Tangail on 11 December helped in quick advance to Dacca. Pakistan Army in the eastern sector surrendered on 16

Kler led from the front with complete disregard for his life. He was awarded an MVC for outstanding courage and leadership. He had led from the front and had narrow escapes more than once. His son, Flying Officer Dejay Kler, also fought in this war in the same sector. It was an unusual case of father and son fighting on the same front. He took over the command of 10 Division on promotion. On retirement, he settled down in Chandigarh and then moved to California, USA. Born to battle and lead, he passed away on 28 May 2016 in California.

Brigadier Suresh Chandra Sharma (retd.)