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Remembering Major Somnath Sharma: The First Param Vir Chakra Recipient

Major Somnath Sharma, a distinguished figure in the history of the Indian Army, was born on January 31, 1923, in Dadh, Kangra, in the Punjab province of British India, which is now a part of Himachal Pradesh. His father, Amar Nath Sharma, was an army officer, and their family had a strong tradition of military service. Notably, his younger brother, Vishwanath Sharma, would later become the 14th Army Chief of the Indian Army.

Somnath Sharma’s formative years were influenced by the teachings of Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, imparted to him by his grandfather. His educational journey took him from Sherwood College in Nainital to the Prince of Wales Royal Military College in Dehradun, and later, to the Royal Military College in Sandhurst.

Military Career: Forging a Hero

Upon his graduation from the Royal Military College on February 22, 1942, Major Somnath Sharma was commissioned into the 8th Battalion of the 19th Hyderabad Regiment of the British Indian Army, which would later be known as the 4th Battalion, Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army. During World War II, he saw action against Japanese forces in the Arakan Campaign in Burma, serving under the command of Colonel KS Thimayya, who would rise to the rank of General and serve in the Indian Army from 1957 to 1961. Major Sharma’s dedication and valor during the Arakan Campaign earned him a Mention in Despatches.

Throughout his military career, Major Somnath Sharma was deeply inspired by the bravery of his Captain, K.D. Vasudev, who also served with the Eighth Battalion. Captain Vasudev played a crucial role in the Malayan Campaign, where he led and saved the lives of numerous soldiers from Japanese attacks.

The Battle of Badgam: A Hero’s Last Stand

The defining moment in Major Somnath Sharma’s life came during the Indo-Pak conflict of October-November 1947. Responding to Pakistan’s invasion into the Kashmir Valley on October 22, 1947, Indian Army troops were deployed, and on October 31, D Company of the 4th Battalion of the Kumaon Regiment, led by Major Sharma, reached Srinagar. Despite having his left hand in a cast due to an injury sustained on the hockey field, Major Sharma insisted on participating in the war with his company, and his request was granted.

On November 3, 1947, a batch of three companies was deployed in the Budgam area for patrolling, with the mission of preventing infiltrators from moving towards Srinagar from the north. As no movement from the enemy was detected, two-thirds of the deployed troops returned to Srinagar at 2 p.m. However, Major Somnath Sharma’s D Company was ordered to remain deployed until 3:00.

Param Vir Chakra: A Hero’s Legacy

On June 21, 1947, Major Somnath Sharma was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his actions in the defense of Srinagar Airport on November 3, 1947. This was a historic moment, as he became the first recipient of the Param Vir Chakra. It is worth noting that the designer of this prestigious award, the Param Vir Chakra, was Savitri Bai Khanolkar, the wife of Mr. Sharma’s brother.

As we commemorate Major Somnath Sharma’s death anniversary, we pay tribute to a true hero who displayed unwavering courage and dedication in the face of adversity, leaving an indelible mark on India’s military history.

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