Major Somnath Sharma
Place of Birth:
Dadh, Kangra district, Punjab Province, British India (present-day Himachal Pradesh, India)
Date of Martyrdom:
3 November 1947 (aged 24) Badgam, India
4th Battalion, Kumaon Regiment
Param Vir Chakra
1. World War II,
2. Arakan campaign, Indo-Pakistani War of 1947
3. Battle of Badgam
Major Somnath Sharma served the Indian Army from 1942-47 and was the first-ever recipient of the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), India’s highest wartime military decoration.
Early Life of Major Somnath Sharma
Major Somnath Sharma belonged to a military family wherein his father(Major General Vishwa Nath Sharma), brothers (Lt. General Surindar Nath Sharma and General Vishwa Nath Sharma ), and sister (Major Kamla Tewari, a medical doctor) all served in the army.
Sharma initially started his schooling at Sherwood College in Nainital and then from the Prince of Wales Royal Military College, Dehradun before joining the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.
Military Career of Major Somnath Sharma
His military service began from 22nd february 1942, he was commissioned into the 8th Battalion, 19th Hyderabad Regiment of the British Indian Army (later became Indian Army’s 4th battalion, Kumaon Regiment).
World War II
Under Colonel K S Thimmayya (later army chief), he fought against the japanese in World War II in Burma with the British Army. Despite intensive gunfire, he carried the injured soldier “Bahadur” on his shoulders to a safe place for medical care. In his very first posting he was deployed to Arakan and he proved his mettle. He was also mentioned in dispatches for his brave actions during the fighting of the Arakan Campaign.
Battle of Badgam – 1947
On 27 October 1947, a batch of troops of the Indian Army was deployed in response to the invasion by Pakistan into the Kashmir Valley on 22 October. On 31 October, D Company of 4th Battalion of Kumaon Regiment was airlifted to Srinagar, under the command of Sharma. He had broken his left hand in a hockey match but still insisted on being with his company in combat and was subsequently given permission to go.
On 03 Nov 1947, Major Somnath Sharma and his company along with two other companies were ordered to take charge of the situation in Badgam village and check the infiltrators moving towards Srinagar from the north.
As there was no enemy movement, the other two deployed companies returned to Srinagar at 2 pm and Sharma’s company was ordered to stay till 3 pm. But at 2.35 pm, they were attacked from the local resident houses in Badgam but counter-fire was not ordered to avoid injuring or killing innocent civilians. Suddenly a tribal Lashkar of 500 infiltrators approached Badgam from the direction of Gulmarg, surrounding the company from three sides and sustained heavy casualties from mortar fire.
They were massively outnumbered seven to one, but it was important to hold as both the city of Srinagar and the airport would be vulnerable if lost. He often exposed himself to enemy fire as he ran from one post to the other and also took upon himself the task of distributing ammunition to his men, operating light machine guns due to heavy casualties. While fighting the infiltrators, a mortar shell exploded on a pile of ammunition near him. Before he succumbed to his injuries, he transmitted a message to his brigade’s headquarters which said,
“The enemies are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to our last man and our last round.”Major Somnath Sharma
The position held by Sharma’s company had been overrun by the time a relief company from the 1st Battalion of the Kumaon Regiment reached Badgam. However, the 200 casualties suffered by the tribal infiltrators caused them to lose the impulse to advance and this bought time for Indian forces to fly into Srinagar airfield and block all routes of entry to Srinagar itself. During the battle, one junior commissioned officer and 20 other ranks of D company along with Sharma were martyred.His body was recovered three days later and though it was disfigured beyond recognition, it was identified by means of his pistol and a few pages of Gita in his pocket.
Param Vir Chakra Award:
For his gallantry and sacrifice during the Battle of Badgam, he was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra on 21 June 1950 and this was the first time the honour had been awarded since its inception. He has set an amazing example of courage and qualities seldom equalled in the history of the Indian Army.
❏ In honor of the Param Vir Chakra recipients, the Shipping Corporation of India Ltd named fifteen of her Crude Oil Tankers after them. The first vessel was named MT “Major Somnath Sharma, PVC”, IMO No. 8224107.
❏ The Housing project of Som Vihar, Delhi was named after Major Somnath Sharma PVC.
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