“To find us, you must be good; to catch us you must be fast, but to beat us… you must be kidding.” —Indian Army
Lion capturing a Deer is usual stuff, But a Deer intimidating Lion is headline news. Similarly winning a race with the racing beast automobile is a mundane stuff, beating a racing beast with your bicycle is news. Destroying enemy Patton tankers with a minuscule Recoilless Rifle Armory is not a joke. Undoubtedly such raw courage is rare to witness in any profession, and for the first time in world warfare history, an Infantry soldier Havildar Abdul Hamid of Indian Army had destroyed EIGHT Tanks with a less deadly gun during Indo-Pak 1965 war. He is rightly adored as “SARVADA SHAKTISHALI” by our army. Obviously, his name got recommended for Indian Republic’s highest bravery award Param Vir Chakra while the fierce battle with Pakistan army was underway. Let us fasten our belts to explore this exciting story of Abdul Hamid.
Abdul Hamid was born on 1st June 1933 in a village called Dhamupur in Ghazipur district of Uttar Pradesh, as the son of Mrs. Sakina Begum and Mr. Mohammed Usman. He had three brothers and two sisters. His father was a tailor by profession. In his childhood days, Hamid helped his father with tailoring work. Later he decided to join armed forces when he was at the age of 20. He was recruited at Varanasi and went through training at Grenadiers Regimental Centre at Nasirabad. While few sources available online contradicts his father’s profession and records that he was also an Army professional of Lance Naik designation.
Initial Service at Indian Army
Abdul Hamid joined infantry regiment of Indian Army as Grenadier in 1954. Later he was posted to 4th Battalion, and he served the Nation in this regiment throughout his life. He had put up ten long years of service in the Indian Army and won the Saniya Seva Medal, Samai Seva Medal, and the Raksha Medal before his battalion was deployed for 1965 Indo-Pak war. He had also served at various places like Amritsar, Agra, Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi and North East Frontier. His battalion took part in China-India war of 1962, which was led by Brigadier John Dalvi. He also participated in the Battle of Namka Chu against the Chinese. His battalion had also made a remarkable breakthrough by marching into Bhutan and further to Misamari. Hamid had mastered himself in handling recoilless rifles and was leading the team in its operation by the time he was deployed to 1965 Indo-Pak war.
Indo-Pak War (1965)
Abdul Hamid had already put in five years of service in anti-tank section and was promoted as quartermaster of stores when the 1965 Indo-Pak war broke. But because Hamid had expertise in 106mm Recoilless Rifle he was reverted to his role of NCO for commanding Recoilless Rifle Battalion, and his 4th Grenadiers Regiment was deployed to war field.
Day-One: 8th September 1965
The intensity of warfare reached apex on 8th September when Pakistani troops launched a fresh attack but were repulsed back in every occasion. But the enemy had re-planned its strategy by launching a new attack with Patton Tanks. As the enemy Patton Tanks marched ahead, Indian troops positioned themselves in strategic positions by digging trenches to place the armory. For the benefit of Indian troops, the entire area of Karan-Bhikiwind road was surrounded by cotton and sugarcane fields, and the grown crops gave best possible camouflage to them. The whole Khem Karan-Amritsar road was deployed with 106mm recoilless guns. The troop was led by Lt H. R. Jahnu and second Lt V. K. Vaid. Hamid was given charge of a recoilless gun detachment and with his gun mounted on a jeep. Abdul Hamid with his raw courage waited until the Tanks came in the vicinity to his hideout and started bombarding them with his recoilless gun at the right trajectory. Within minutes he could witness two of the enemy Tankers burnt down in flames, and two tanks were abandoned by the enemy. Hamid asked his team to implant anti-tank mines in the entire area and set himself ready for next ambush.
Day-Two: 9th September 1965
Next day though Pakistani troops launched an air attack, Indian troops were undeterred. Hamid continued his Recoilless rifle attack on Patton Tanks and shot down TWO more Tanks increasing the tally to FOUR. By that time already citation of the number of tanks destroyed by Hamid had reached army HQ and was recommended for Param Vir Chakra.
Day-Three: 10th September 1965
The most important day in this fierce battle was 10th September 1965, Pakistani Patton tankers launched an attack in the form of a battalion. They employed artillery bombardment to soften the targets and forged ahead. Indian army did not retaliate to avoid getting traced. But the Patton Tanks Battalion forged ahead towards 4th Grenadiers position. In this scuffle, Hamid did not waste even a second and jumped to his recoilless rifle jeep and targeted the leading tank to disable it successfully. Tally got increased to FIVE. Very soon he could destroy two more Tankers—Tally SEVEN! But unfortunately by the time he successfully HIT the BULLSEYE for the EIGHTH time; He was spotted by the enemy and was severely wounded.
Unfortunately, Abdul Hamid was no more to witness the victorious attack his comrades carried out on the enemy by drawing inspiration from his unparallel bravery. Totally 97 Tanks of the enemy were destroyed by Indian troops and the Pakistani Tanks failed to cross Khem-Karan.
Most interestingly Pakistan was supplied with M48 Patton Tanks by the USA, and it was Abdul Hamid who tarnished the image of these Tankers altogether. Then onwards USA stopped supplying these tankers and upgraded to M60 Patton tankers.
Commemoration for this unsung hero
Obviously, Govt. of India has honored him with Parama Vir Chakra, posthumously. Also, it has set up a War Memorial in Khem Karan, the place where he destroyed Patton tanks. Many abandoned tanks are on display here.
In the year 2000, a stamp was released by Indian Postal Department in his memory. Interestingly our renowned social activist Anna Hazare is contemporary of Abdul Hamid, who can be the best person to narrate the heroics of Hamid first handed. Unfortunately, very few people visit his memorial on 10th September of every year. Truly he is an unsung hero whom we have forgotten.