We have been  in the midst of a serious face off with China along our northern boarders in Eastern Ladakh since May 2020.  In the recent Galwan Valley clash on June 15-16, our brave soldiers fought fearlessly and taught the Chinese a befitting lesson. Unlike 1962, when the nation was unprepared for war, this time, the Indian Armed forces are far better prepared with battle hardened soldiers, motivated officers, and a determined national leadership.  This has made all the difference which is so very much visible on the ground.

In 1962 unfortunately, all these factors weighed against us. However, despite all our weaknesses there were areas where we fought valiantly and brought the Chinese offensive to a standstill. Rezangla (Chushul Sector) in Eastern Ladakh and Walong, in Lohit Valley,  Arunachal Pradesh were two such areas.

This story is about Walong sector, where our battalion 4 Dogra participated in a fierce battle against the Chinese as a part of 11 Mountain Brigade.  Brigadier Kuldeep, the co-author then was a young lieutenant, who gallantly participated in the battle and I joined the unit a few weeks later in the wake of Chinese war, straight from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun.

11 Mountain brigade had been hurriedly assembled to defend Walong. 4 Dogra’s tenacious fighting and sacrifices at Tri Junction, the most dominating position of the entire defences and Firm Base in Walong sector bear recounting as 4 Dogra fought till the last and foiled the Chinese plan to trap the units of 11 Mountain Brigade. On withdrawal, the Brigade was to take up another more suitable defensive position in depth, to deny this sector to the Chinese.

On 14th November, 6 Kumaon’s brave attempt to capture Yellow Pimple could not succeed and Tri Junction,  was in danger of falling to the Chinese. As 4 Dogra was flown into Walong by platoons and companies, the Brigade Commander, Naween Rawlley ordered CO 4 Dogra, Lt Colonel RS Pathania to relieve 6 Kumaon before the Chinese overran Tri Junction.

Anticipating lack of artillery support, Col RS Pathania, our Commanding Officer ordered the men to carry four times the normal scale of ammunition for rifles, light machine guns (LMG), 2 inch mortars and hand grenades.

Major KJS Grewal commanding Delta company and Col Pathania’s group commenced their march to Tri Junction on the night of 14th November. About a kilometre short of Tri Junction, the Dogra column navigated by Lieutenant Kuldip Singh ran into a strong Chinese block and intense enemy fire.

Grewal ordered a charge through the enemy position; Kuldip Singh and two section commanders wielding LMGs along with Grewal and his soldiers charged uphill, blasting their way through the Chinese block.

The hills echoed with the Dogras’ war cries, “Jwala Mata Ki Jai”and “Durga Mata Ki Jai”. The Chinese were stunned and gave way. Kuldip, Grewal and leading platoons surged through the opening and reached Tri Junction where Grewal took over the trenches from CO 6 Kumaon, Lt Col Madiah. These were open, shallow trenches with no minefields or wire obstacles. The enemy was barely 40 yards from the crest. With these unprepared defences, the defenders hardly had any chance to retain control for long.

Grewal launched assaults to push back the Chinese. In vicious hand to hand fighting with bayonets, grenades and machetes, the Dogras wrested back the forward trenches. 20 brave hearts of Delta Company made the supreme sacrifice. Grewal, Kuldip and Subedar Ram Lal were wounded.

At 0730 hours on 16th November, the Chinese launched another massive attack under heavy artillery barrage. After one hour of fierce close quarter fighting, the attack was repulsed. But Grewal’s Company suffered more casualties. Only 3 LMGs remained actively firing; mortar bombs and hand grenades were exhausted; there were no signs of reinforcements.

At 0830 hours, Col Madiah, realizing the precarious situation, ordered pull out from Tri Junction to Lohit River-Yepak Nala Junction. At Grewal’s request, Col Madiah with about 25 survivors of 6 Kumaon left Tri Junction at 0900 hours. Kuldip was told to leave with 5 walking wounded soldiers at 0930 hours for the Firm base.

The undaunted Major Grewal with two LMG teams kept the Chinese at bay for a numbers of hours. Soon, another wave of Chinese swarmed over Tri Junction and overwhelmed Grewal and LMG teams.

Thus ended at Tri Junction the most heroic and bloodiest battle of the Eastern Sector in Walong.

Meanwhile at Firm Base, 4 Dogra’s Subedar Rattan Chand and his platoon held the defences. The Battalion’s doctor, Lieutenant GS Subba had established the Regimental Aid Post there for treatment of the wounded. This position straddled the Chinese axis of advance to Lohit-Yepak Junction, where the enemy had intended to establish a block to trap the units of 11 Brigade.

The enemy launched their final offensive in Walong in the early hours of 16th November. By 1130 hours, most positions in the Brigade had fallen. Though ordered to abandon position, Rattan Chand and Doctor Subba declined to withdraw in order to protect their Commanding Officer who was still  ahead of the Firm Base, towards the enemy side.

Three Chinese attacks were repulsed by Subedar Rattan Chand and his brave men. By 1800 hours, the enemy encircled Firm Base and after a severe close quarter fighting the position fell but not before Subedar Rattan Chand and all his soldiers had died fighting. The valiant Lieutenant Subba died treating the wounded in his medical bunker. Firm Base was the last position of Walong sector to fall on the night of 16/17 November.

Thanks to the brave stand of Subedar Rattan Chand and his soldiers, the Chinese failed to establish a block at Lohit-Yepak Junction by the 16th evening. Consequently, this resulted in as many as 1800 all ranks of the units of 11 Brigade pulling  out to safety.

In March 1963, Lieutenant Kuldip Singh led a team to Walong to recover and cremate fallen comrades. At Firm Base, they were stunned to find the bodies of Lieutenant Subba, Subedar Rattan Chand and 28 Dogra martyrs still in or around the bunkers, amidst heaps of cartridge cases, which told of the ferocity of the fight put up by them.

Brigadier Rawlley acknowledged that the gritty fighting and sacrifices of 4 Dogra’s Bravo and Delta companies on 16th November had halted the Chinese offensive in its tracks and allowed 11 Brigade to get away. The Chinese did not dare advance beyond these positions in Eastern Kameng.

In two days of intense fighting at Tri Junction and Firm Base, 4 Dogra sustained over 206 casualties: 109 braves made the supreme sacrifice, 23 were wounded and 74 taken as prisoners.