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Brigadier Sher Jung Thapa MVC (15 April 1907 - 25 February 1999) was a highly decorated Indian Army officer. Revered as The Hero of Skardu,[1] he was a recipient of the Indian Army's second highest gallantary award, the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC).[2]

Brigadier

Sher Jung Thapa

Born(1907-04-15)15 April 1907
Abbotabad, Abbottabad District, North-West Frontier Province, British Raj
(present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan)
Died25 February 1999(1999-02-25) (aged 91)
Delhi, India
Allegiance British India
 India
Service/branch British Indian Army
 Indian Army
Years of service1930–1960
RankBrigadier of the Indian Army.svg Brigadier
Service numberSS-15920 (short-service commission)
IC-10631 (regular commission)
Battles/warsIndo-Pakistan War of 1947

Personal lifeEdit

Sher Jung Thapa was born in Abbottabad, Punjab, British India (now Pakistan) on 15 April 1907.[3] His grandfather, Subedar Balkrishna Thapa (2/5 GR(FF)), had moved from his ancestral home at Tapke Gaun, Gorkha District, Nepal to India. Sher Jung's father, Arjun Thapa, was an Honorary Captain (2/5 GR(FF)) in the British Indian Army and a World War II veteran.[3]

During his childhood, his family moved from Abbottabad to Dharamshala where Thapa continued his education and attended college. He was known as being an excellent hockey player in college. Captain Douglas Gracey of the 1 Gorkha Regiment, who was also a hockey player, is said to have been impressed with Thapa. He was instrumental in Thapa obtaining a commissioned officer position in the Jammu and Kashmir State Forces.[4] Jammu and Kashmir was one of the largest princely states in British India, ruled by Maharaja. Its State Forces were usually headed by British officers, until September 1947.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1947Edit

 
Skardu Fort (1852 image) which housed Thapa's garrison

Thapa held the rank of major in the Jammu and Kashmir State Forces at the time of the princely state's accession to India in October 1947. As part of the 6th Infantry Battalion, Thapa was stationed in Leh in Ladakh. His commanding officer, Col. Abdul Majid was based at Bunji in the Gilgit wazarat, which had been returned to the princely state by the departing British administration. On 30 October, Col. Majid went to Gilgit along with forces to support Governor Ghansara Singh, who was apprehensive of the loyalty of the British-officered Gilgit Scouts based there. Unfortunately, the Muslim officers of the regiment mutinied under the leadership of Captain Mirza Hassan Khan and joined the Gilgit Scouts. Governor Ghansara Singh was arrested and Col. Majid was also taken prisoner. The Hindu and Sikh members of the forces were massacred. What was left of the State Forces escaped to Skardu in the Ladakh wazarat.[5][6]

Skardu was the tehsil headquarters of Baltistan, which also doubled as the district headquarters of the Ladakh wazarat for six months in a year. It was a key post between Gilgit and Leh and the Indian Army considered it essential to hold the Skardu garrison for the defense of Leh.

Major Thapa was ordered to take charge of the remaining 6th Infantry at Skardu, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He left Leh on 23 November and reached Skardu by 2 December, walking through heavy snow fall. This gave him enough time to make preparations for the defence of Skardu before the impending attack.[7] Meanwhile, the Pakistani commander at Gilgit reorganised the Gilgit Scouts and the 6th Infantry rebels into three forces of 400 men each. The "Ibex Force", one among the three, commanded by Major Ehsan Ali, was tasked with capturing Skardu. Thapa deployed two forward posts near the Tsari pass thirty miles away. However, Captain Nek Alam, commanding one of the platoons, joined the rebels, and the other platoon got massacred. On 11 February 1948, the attack commenced on Skardu. For over six months from February to August, Thapa withstood the attack, housed in the garrison with dwindling ammunition and food. Reinforcements by ground were ambushed en route and reinforcements by air were considered infeasible due to the high mountains and uncertain weather conditions. Attempts were made to air drop supplies, but the drops often landed outside the garrison. Eventually, on 14 August, Thapa succumbed to the invaders, having exhausted all supplies. He was taken prisoner and repatriated after the war ended. All the other men in the garrison were apparently killed. Thapa was apparently spared due to his earlier association with Douglas Gracey, who was then the Chief of the Pakistan Army.[8][9]

Thapa was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest gallantry award of India. He was commissioned into the Indian Army in 1957 and eventually rose to become a brigadier.[10]

Military decorationsEdit

Mahavir Chakra (1948), General Service Medal, 1947 Class J&K, Indian Independence Medal, War Medal, India Service Medal, Military Service Medal.[3]

DeathEdit

Thapa died at Army Hospital, Delhi on 25 February 1999.[3]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Skardu Hero" Archived 2013-12-19 at the Wayback Machine Bharat Rakshak
  2. ^ Pradeep Thapa Magar. 2000. Veer haruka pani Veer Mahaveer.Kathmandu: Jilla Memorial Foundation.p.100.
  3. ^ a b c d Pradeep Thapa Magar. Ibid. p.102.
  4. ^ Francis, Thapa the Tenacious 2013, p. 25.
  5. ^ Cheema, Crimson Chinar 2015, pp. 83–85.
  6. ^ Bangash, Three Forgotten Accessions 2010, p. 129.
  7. ^ Cheema, Crimson Chinar 2015, pp. 85–86.
  8. ^ Cheema, Crimson Chinar 2015, pp. 86, 103.
  9. ^ Subramaniam, India's Wars 2016, Chapter 10.
  10. ^ Chakravorty, Lt Col Thapa, Sher Jung, MVC 1995, p. 351.

BibliographyEdit

  • Bangash, Yaqoob Khan (2010), "Three Forgotten Accessions: Gilgit, Hunza and Nagar", The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 38 (1): 117–143, doi:10.1080/03086530903538269
  • Chakravorty, B. (1995), "IC-10631 – Lt Col Thapa, Sher Jung, MVC", Stories of Heroism: PVC & MVC Winners, Allied Publishers, pp. 351–, ISBN 978-81-7023-516-3
  • Cheema, Brig Amar (2015), The Crimson Chinar: The Kashmir Conflict: A Politico Military Perspective, Lancer Publishers, pp. 51–, ISBN 978-81-7062-301-4
  • Francis, Col. J. (2013), "Thapa the Tenacious", Short Stories from the History of the Indian Army Since August 1947, Vij Books India Pvt Ltd, pp. 25–, ISBN 978-93-82652-17-5
  • Subramaniam, Arjun (2016), India's Wars: A Military History, 1947–1971, HarperCollins India, ISBN 9351777499

External linksEdit

See alsoEdit