Major Somnath Sharma
was the first person to receive the PVC(Param Vir Chakra), which is the highest War Time Gallantry Award in India. He was born on 31st January 1923 in Himachal Pradesh to Major General Amaranth Sharma who later retired as the Director General of AMS(Armed Medical Services). Major Somnath Sharma had two more brothers and a sister. They all served in the armed forces. His sister Major Kamla Tewari is served as Medical Doctor, His brother Lt. General Surinder nath Sharma served as the chief of Army Engineering before retiring and his brother General Vishwa Nath Sharma served as the Army Staff Chief(1988-1990).
He did his early schooling from Sherwood, which is a very reputed college in Nainital. Later he joined Dehra Dun’s Prince of Wales Royal Military College and from there he joined the Royal Military Academy. On 22 February 1942 he got commissioned into the British Indian Army’s 4 Kumaon Regiment. He also fought during the Second World War in Arakan Operations.
Pakistan Launched a armed tribal invasion on 22 October 1947 to forcefully capture the Kashmir valley after the prince of Kashmir decided to make Kashmir a part of Indian union on 26 October 1947. India sent its troops to Srinagar to protect the state from fast moving enemy forces. The first batch of troops reached Srinagar on the morning of 27th October and they were able to stop the Pakistani forces at the outskirts.
On 31 October 1947 Major Sharma’s D company of 4 Kumaon was airlifted to Srinagar. He had a plaster on his right had due to an injury sustained previously while playing hockey. He was strictly advised by the doctors to take rest till the plaster is taken off. In spite of his injury he insisted on accompanying his company in this curtail time. He was given the permission to join his troops. The main impact of the invasion was dealt be 1 Sikh regiment at Patan. When the enemy saw that it was difficult to breach through Patan. They went for Guerilla tactics to sneak into valley through the surrounding areas.
Major Sharma’s Company and two other companies were given the order to go on a fighting patrol on November 3rd 1947 to reconnoiter the Badgam village in the valley to look for raiders coming from the north of Srinagar. During the patrolling no enemy was seen so the other two companies were sent back to Srinagar by 2:00 Pm and Major Sharma’s D company was ordered to stay there till 3:00 Pm. Around 2:35 Pm
Company received firing from the nearby houses in the village. The Company didn’t return the fire, as they didn’t want to cause any civilian causality. A huge enemy force of around 700 suddenly appeared from west side while Major Sharma was talking to the Brigade Command. These enemies started attacking the company with motars, small arms and automatics weapons. The enemy forces surrounded the D company from all the three sides. They were outnumbered Seven to one. The enemy was using heavy artillery, which resulted in heavy casualties in his company. Major Sharma knew the gravity of the situation. If he looses the Airfield and Srinagar city would become vulnerable. He ran from post to post motivating his troops to fight bravely under such heavy fire and adverse conditions. He laid out panels to guide the Air Force Aircrafts to their target while exposing himself to heavy enemy fire. After this company suffered heavy causality he took the task of operating LMG’s(light Machine gun) and filling magazines and supplying it to his troops even though he had a plaster on his right hand. During the fighting a motar shell exploded on the ammunition near him. His last communication to Brigade Head Quarters, which was received few moments before his death, was “The enemy 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.”
In the battle of Bagdam Major Sharma, 1 JCO and 20 other ranks were killed.
Against such odds the D company lead by Major Sharma held on for 6 Hours, which gave enough time to the reinforcements to take position at Hum Hom and stop the advancing enemy. Major Sharma’s leadership and courage seldom equaled in Indian Armed Forces history. Major Somnath Sharma’s father Major General Amarnath Sharma received the Param Vir Chakra on his behalf.