War Heroes

Maj Shaitan Singh

Major Shaitan Singh, son of Lieutenant Colonel Hem Singhji, was commissioned in the Kumaon Regiment on 01 August 1949. During the 1962 Indo-China conflict, 13 Kumaon was deployed in Chushul sector. The C Coy of the battalion led by Major Shaitan Singh held a crucial position at Rezang La, at a height of 5000 metres. The company area was defended by five platoon positions and the surrounding terrain isolated it from the rest of the battalion. The expected Chinese attack on Rezang La came on November 18th in the morning. It was the end of a very cold winter night. The icy winds howling through Rezang La were biting and benumbing. In the dim light of the morning, the Chinese were seen advancing through nullahs to attack No.7 and No.8 platoon positions.

The Indian troops fell on their prepared positions to face the enemy offensive. At 0500 hours when the visibility improved both platoons opened up on the advancing enemy with rifles, light machine guns, grenades and mortars. The nullahs were littered with dead bodies. The survivors took position behind boulders and the dead bodies. The enemy was not, however, discouraged. They subjected Indian positions to intense artillery & mortar fire at about 0540 hours. Soon about 350 Chinese troops commenced advance through the nullahs. This time, No.9 Platoon, which held fire till the enemy was within 90 metres opened up with all weapons in their possesion. Within minutes, the nullahs were again full of dead bodies.

Unsucessful in frontal attack, the enemy, approximately 400 strong, then attacked from the rear of the company position. They simultaneously opened intense MMG (medium machine gun) fire on the No.8 Platoon. This attack was contained at the barbed wire fencing of the post. The enemy then resorted to heavy artillery and mortar shelling. An assault group of 120 Chinese also charged the No.7 Platoon position from the rear. However, Indian 3-inch mortar killed many of them. When 20 survivors charged the post, about a dozen Kumaonis rushed out of their trenches to engage them in a hand-to-hand combat. Meanwhile, the enemy brought up fresh reinforcements. The encirclement of the No.7 Platoon was now complete. The platoon, however, fought valiantly till there was no survivor. No.8 Platoon also fought bravely to the last man and last round.

Major Shaitan Singh, the Coy Commander, displayed exemplary leadership and courage in the battle of Rezang La. He led his troops most admirably. Unmindful of his personal safety he moved from one platoon post to another and encouraged his men to fight. While moving among the posts he was seriously wounded. But he continued to fight along with his men. While he was being evacuated by two of his comrades, the Chinese brought heavy machine gun fire on them. Major Shaitan Singh sensed danger to their lives and ordered them to leave him. They placed him behind a boulder on the slopes of a hill, where he breathed his last. In this action, 109 Kumaonis out of a total of 123 were killed. The Chinese suffered many more in killed. After the war was over, the body of Major Shaitan Singh was found at the same place. It was flown to Jodhpur and cremated with full military honours. Major Shaitan Singh was awarded Param Vir Chakra, the highest wartime gallantry medal, posthumously, for his leadership and devotion to duty.