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Unsung heroes of the INA - Captain Bagri and Second Lt. Gyan Singh Bisht - Burma Battle in WW2, 1945

Captain Mahinder Singh Bagri, the commander of the no. 3 battalion, originally from the Garhwal regiment of the British Indian Army, was in charge of Popa during the great retreat of Azad Hind Government and army in April 1945. The young captain was responsible for protecting Popa HQ. On 20th April, Capt Bagri's force was twenty miles away from Taundwingyi; many tanks of the British Indian Army encircled them; Bagri's force had nothing to fight with the steel armoured vehicles, the monsters that were approaching them. There were no trenches, and the space was wide and open. Therefore they had two alternatives - surrender or death. Bagri informed his men of the choices and asked for their opinion. They solicited his order. He refused to order them and asked them to decide for themselves when defeat was inevitable. He said, "I would set an example - see if you want to follow." With two grenades, he ran towards the tank. He destroyed the first tank, and a volley of machine gun fire hit him while attacking the second one. His 100 men followed suit by hurling petrol bombs and hand grenades and destroying several tanks and armored vehicles while embracing certain death. The British army was surprised by this demonstration of supreme sacrifice and courage.

2nd Lt. Gyan Singh Bisht also belonged to the Garhwali regiment. He played a significant role in a crucial victory near Mt. Popa on Sade hills and Taungzin. On 16 March, 1945, Capt. Khan Mohammad, a valiant soldier under Major G.S Dhillon, led the charge on the Sadi. B Company, led by Gyan Singh Bisht, protected crucial routes from Pyinmana and Nyangu. Gyan Singh had onlya hundred men. They had no machine guns, only rifles. The Sade hills battle under Capt. Khan Mohammad was a thriller and a clincher that will be discussed in a separate article. On 17th March the Garhwalis were holding a defensive position. In the early hours the enemy fighter planes of British forces bombed their position until 11 am. Then the enemy began to fire heavy artillery on the INA men and a platoon of Gurkha forces from the British Indian army opened fire under cover. About 15 tanks, 11 armoured vehicles and 10 trucks of the enemy started heavy artillery firing on the INA positions. Gyan Singh realized that the enemy could not be contained with bayonets and rifles. So he ordered his men to disperse to a nearby village and launch a guerilla attack. Meanwhile Khan Mohammad's forces from Sade hills had taken position of enemy artilleries and taking advantage of the heights they fired on the Gurkha brigade. The Gurkhas, loyal footsoldiers of the British, tried to take a position but even before they could organize they were under severe attack. A Division led by Kartar Singh charged at them. The tanks meanwhile advanced against the village where Gyan Singh's army had taken cover. Gyan Singh charged at the tanks with mines but they did not explode. He therefore ordered his men to charge. With shouts of "Netaji ki Jai" the valiant Indian National Army Men charged at the enemy tanks and indulged in fierce hand to hand combat with the Gurkhas. The tanks were burnt. Forty soldiers of INA were martyred. Jivanlal lit the fire on the petrol cans on the tanks. After two hours of desperate battle the enemy retreated. Gyan Singh was giving orders to his third platoon when a stray bullet from the rifle of one of the dying Gurkha soldiers hit him. Gyan Singh laid down his life. The 2nd Lt. used to tell his men that he would die with them. He kept his promise.

Reference: 1. GARHWAL AND THE INDIAN NATIONAL ARMY by Ajay Singh Rawat, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress

Vol. 40 (1979), pp. 689-694 (6 pages),

2. My Memories of INA and Its Netaji - Shah Nawaz Khan

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