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Abdul Hamid, the hero of Battle of Asal Uttar

Abdul Hamid is one of the few recipients of Param Vir Chakra , India’s highest Military decoration. Param Vir Chakra was awarded to him for knocking out 8 tanks in the battle at Asal Uttar.   Abdul Hamid joined the The Grenadiers regiment of the Indian Army on 27 December 1954. He was later posted to the 4th battalion of the regiment, 4 Grenadiers, where he served for the rest of his life. During his service, Hamid served with his battalion in Agra, Amritsar, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, NEFA and Ramgarh. During the Sino-Indian War of 1962, Hamid’s battalion was part of 7th Infantry Brigade commanded by Brigadier John Dalvi, and participated in the battle of Namka Chu against the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Surrounded and cut off, the battalion had made a fighting breakaway into Bhutan on foot and then to Misamari. A young officer of 4 Grenadiers, 2 Lt. G.V.P. Rao, was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for his actions during the war – the medal highest gallantry award received by the battalion since Indian independence until Hamid’s own award eclipsed it.
After five years of service in the anti-tank section of 4 Grenadiers, Hamid was promoted and was given charge of the quartermaster stores for his company. As he was the best M40 recoilless rifle shot in the battalion, he was reverted to his former charge as the Non-commissioned officer commanding the battalion’s recoilless rifle platoon.

 In the Lahore sector of operations during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the Indian 4th Mountain Division, having been rebuffed in its advance to the Ichhogil Canal by the Pakistani counter-offensive, fell back to the Khem Karan area. In the new defence plan of the division, 4 Grenadiers, along with three other battalions, formed a defence line between the villages of Asal Uttar and Chima on the Khem Karan-Bhikhiwind-Amritsar road and the Patti axis. 4 Grenadiers was on the northern flank in the general vicinity of Chima while other battalions were to the south ending with its sister battalion, 7 Grenadiers, in Asal Uttar itself.

Jeep Used by Abdul Hamid after the Battle

Earlier the battalion had captured its objective on the Ichhogil Canal but, being outflanked by the Pakistani counter-offensive, was ordered back to new positions. It had already been in combat for more than 24 hours when it began digging trenches and weapon pits in its defensive positions. The battalion’s defensive area was covered with cotton and sugarcane fields and the battalion was able to camouflage its location, using ploughed fields for field of fire. The 106mm recoilless rifles were deployed along the Khem Karan-Bhikhiwind-Amritsar road.  On 8 September, the Pakistanis made repeated probing attacks on 4 Grenadiers’ position. The battalion’s recoilless rifles and automatic weapons were effectively sited by two officers, Lt. H.R. Jahnu and 2 Lt. V.K. Vaid. That afternoon Hamid himself destroyed two Patton tanks, the commander of one of which asked Hamid for directions just before Hamid destroyed the tank.

Soldier at Abdul Hamid’s grave after Battle of Asal Uttar
On 10 September 1965 at 0800 hours, a battalion of Pakistani armour supported by Patton tanks attacked 4 Grenadier’s position but was unable to locate the battalion’s defences. The attack was preceded by intense artillery bombardment to soften the target and to garner heavy fire in an attempt to draw an Indian response. By 0900 hours, the enemy tanks had penetrated the forward company positions. In the melee, Hamid saw a group of Pattons heading towards his battalion defences. Seeing the gravity of the situation, he moved out to a flank with his gun mounted on a jeep. Intense enemy shelling and tank fire did not deter him. He fired continuously, knocking out three Pattons one after another, but was killed by tank fire from the fourth before he could engage it.
Successful actions by Indian armour, artillery and infantry anti-tank actions, such as those of Abdul Hamid, tarnished the reputation of the M48 Patton and after the 1965 war, the M48 was largely replaced by the M60.  India set up a war memorial named “Patton Nagar” (“Patton Town”) in Khem Karan district, where captured Pakistani Patton tanks are displayed.
The award was announced on 16 September 1965, less than a week after the battle that cost his life. The award was presented to his spouse, Rasoolan Bibi by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, then President of India during the 1966 Republic Day Parade.

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