Major Som Nath Sharma

Posted April 25th, 2010 by

Major Som Nath Sharma (1923–1947) was the first recipient of the Param Vir Chakra[1], the highest Indian gallantry award. He was awarded the medal posthumously for his bravery in the Kashmir operations in November 1947. He died while evicting Pakistani infiltrators and raiders from Srinagar Airport during the Indo-Pak war of 1947-48 in Kashmir. He belonged to the 4th Kumaon Regiment.

Major Som Nath Sharma was born on 31 January 1923 in kangra,Himachal Pradesh. He came from a well-known military family, his father, Major General Amar Nath Sharma, was also a military officer (retired as Director General of the Armed Medical Services) as were his brothers Lt. General Surindar Nath Sharma (retired as Engineer-in-chief) and General Vishwa Nath Sharma (retired as Chief of Army Staff, 1988-1990), and his sister Major Kamla Tewari (Medical Doctor). He did his schooling at Sherwood College, Nainital, before enrolling at the Prince of Wales Royal Military College in Dehra Dun and later joined the Royal Military Academy. He was commissioned into the 4th Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army (then British-Indian Army) on 22 February 1942. He also saw combat during the second World War in the Arakan Operations.

His company was airlifted to Srinagar on 31 October 1947. His right hand was in a plaster cast as a result of injuries sustained in the hockey field previously but he insisted on being with his company in combat and was given permission to go. On 3 November 1947, Major Somnath Sharma’s company (D Company of 4 Kumaon) was ordered on a fighting patrol to Badgam Village in the Kashmir Valley. He was soon surrounded by the enemy from three sides and his company sustained heavy casualties from the ensuing artillery bombardment. He realized the importance of holding onto his position as both the city of Srinagar and the airport would be vulnerable if it were lost. Under heavy fire and outnumbered seven to one, he urged his company to fight bravely, often exposing himself to danger as he ran from post to post.

When heavy casualties adversely affected the firing power of his company, Major Sharma, with his right hand in plaster, took upon himself the task of filling the magazines and issuing them to men, operating light machine guns. While he was busy fighting the enemy, a mortar shell exploded on the ammunition near him. His last message to Brigade HQ received a few moments before he was killed was: “The enemies 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.”

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