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True Tale About the Pakistan Navy-a Day of Infamy

Updated on December 9, 2019
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A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters.

The Beginning

The 1965 war is now history but some facets of the war make interesting reading. One particular incident on 7/8 September is worth remembering. Why? this is because the Pakistan Navy celebrates it as a great "victory" while in reality, it was just a damp squib. I can die laughing on a bed of nails when I learned that this day is celebrated as "Navy Day" by the Pakistan Navy.

Dwarka was a small base for the Air Force and the Indian Navy hardly had any presence there. The incident as it unfolded is given to me by an eye witness. He was an airman who was posted at Dwarka. He was Corporal Ramesh who had been at this place since 1963.

In 1965, the IAF had set up two signal units at Dwarka namely the 114 and 607 SU along with one DSC( Defense Security Corps) Guards unit. Corporal Ramesh was posted to No.607 SU( Signal Unit). Along with him, there were other Airmen also from other parts of India. It was a composite unit and there was complete harmony between the men. The radar equipment had been set up to detect enemy aircraft and ships. The Air Force Unit also had its own transport wing and almost all the airmen learned to drive.

The unit was commanded by Flying Officer S.Damodaran. He was a Signal Branch Officer and had passed out from the Air Force Technical College at Jallahalli, Bangalore. This was his second posting. The small Air Force Station came under the Admin control of the parent base at Jamnagar which was commanded by Group Captain Douglas King. Later he rose to be an Air Marshal. He was an Anglo Indian who traced his ancestry to the English.

The 1965 war

In 1965 Lal Bahadur Shastri was the prime minister of India. With tension mounting between India and Pakistan, a state of emergency was declared. The airmen along with hired labor from the MES( Military Engineering Service) started digging trenches around the small base and at other vulnerable points. On 7 September the day dawned as usual. Everything appeared normal.

Corporal Ramesh received a message from the Admin Office that he was detailed for Guard duty, as one of the guards was sick. This change of duty is important as he became an eyewitness to a momentous event a few hours later.

Pak ship arrives

The Airmen on duty, as well as the DSC guards, observed a ship sailing from east to west. From the direction in which the ship was sailing it gave the impression that it had come from Bombay. The airmen on duty at the radar station sent a signal to Jamnagar base informing that a warship was sighted off the coast. Promptly a reply came, that it was the Indian Navy warship INSTalwar.

Everybody heaved a sigh of relief and all went about their daily work. A lookout noticed in the evening, around 5.30 pm that a ship was sailing in the opposite direction. Nobody bothered about the markings on the warship and all assumed it was the Indian naval frigate Talwar carrying out sea exercises.

This ship sailed near the coast and all the lights on the ship were on. This did not raise eyebrows and all saw the warship. It was clear that the ship was positioning itself and moving forward and back. After some time it was seen to have dropped anchor.

The airmen observed that suddenly all the lights of the ship were switched off and it stood like a menacing dragon in the sea. Nobody gave it much thought thinking that it was an Indian warship. Close to the ship shore, there is a lighthouse, a girl's hostel, a girl's school, and a civil hospital. These were in the direct line of fire from the ship's guns. This fact dawned on the airmen only after the incident.

The Attack

Corporal Ramesh and the other guards continued their shift of guard duty. Close to their barracks was a large banyan tree with one of its roots sticking out. This served as a convenient sitting place when off duty.

The night now commenced and Corporal Ramesh observed that still, the ship stood in the sea, dark and forbidding with its lights switched off. At 0115am early morning of 8th September Ramesh and the DSC guard observed a sound of a swish and a boom. Both the guards and corporal Ramesh looked in the direction of the first BOOM. Before they could surmise what was happening the first boom was followed by more SWISHES and BOOMS!!

Now everybody was aware that bombardment was commencing. People were jumping in the trenches and or falling flat on the ground to escape from this shelling.

The shelling lasted about ten minutes and then stopped. Everyone was nervous and did not know what to do. Officer Commanding, Flying Officer S. Damodaran, Cpl Iyer, and Cpl Ramesh moved towards the direction of fire but could locate nothing. They also observed that the warship was moving away.

After coming back they took a Jeep and went around the village to see if there were any damages. They drove all around but could detect no damage or any effect of the shelling. This intrigued them and the OC wondered what had happened to all the shells that appeared to have been fired.

It was now daybreak and there was no sign of any tension anywhere

After refreshing themselves, the team had breakfast and went back to a normal routine. Somebody switched on the Radio and they were stunned to hear Radio Pakistan giving the news that Pakistan Naval ship BABUR had shelled Dwarka. It went on to add that Dwarka was destroyed and smoke could be seen rising from 10 miles away. Everybody had a good laugh and wondered what the hell the Pak radio was talking about.

The Aftermath-Flop Show by Pakistan Navy

The OC summoned all his men and asked to be debriefed about the incident so that he could send a report to Jamnagar. He wanted to know about the Pak radio claim of smoke rising from Dwarka which was visible some 10 miles away.

No reports of any firing or explosion had reached the base. The OC surmised that as there was an Associated Cement Company factory just at a distance of half a mile away, the smoke of this factory was being mistaken by the Pak navy as smoke from Dwarka.

After the daybreak, the OC was proved right as residents and villagers brought in unexploded shells of the Pakistan guns. They carried about 25-30 shells on their shoulders and deposited them with airforce personnel. These were displayed in front of the Guard Room for public viewing.

The amusing thing about them was that the shells bore the marking "INDIAN ORDINANCE" and were dated 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1945, 1946 and so on. These shells were all pre-partition ammunition that was given to Pakistan during the partition in 1947. None of them exploded.

One shell did explode and it hit the Railway retiring room but in the middle of the night, it was empty. All the other shells went over the town and into the fields. It's a wonder as to how the shells overshot their target. The fact is that from the time the gun sights were set to the time of firing, the sea level had risen and the Pak crew made no allowance for it and so the shells sailed over the town. In any case, it was dud ammunition and except for one, no shell exploded. It was poor seamanship and in my view merited a court-martial.

It is obvious that the officers and the crew on board the Pakistani ship were rejoicing that they have shelled Dwarka and destroyed it. It was the most unprofessional approach to combat and does not speak highly of the training and dedication of the Pakistan navy personnel.

The total manpower in the unit at that time was hardly 75 to 80 men including the DSC guards. In addition, they had a limited supply of arms and ammunition. One wonders what would have happened if the Pakistanis had decided to invade. But the incompetence of the Pakistan Navy was exposed and no wonder they lost entire East Pakistan in 1971, and Karachi their main port burned for 10 days in the Indian naval attack.

It's all good musings now and one can have a laugh that Indians had an inept enemy which could not even sight its guns properly and to top it used dud ammunition.


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