claim that AVM Lamba was a very good pilot. The story he tells
depicts the fog of war, and the 1965 war lasted just 15 days
and the confusion that took place as it erupted is retold. It
is on record that a Joint Secretary in MOD wrote a letter to
the then soft spoken Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral
Bhaskar Soman, that the Navy was not to operate above the 22nd
parallel. One reason was that the IAF was flying the MR
Liberators from Pune and they just could not recognise a
merchantmen or differentiate one from a warship
–– faulty reports had sent Naval ships scouring the Arabian Sea
on several wild goose chases. Navy navigators including one
from IDC were deputed to fly in the Liberators to identify
ships and later the Navy fought a bitter battle to take over
the MR Super Constellations and MR tasks from the IAF. A
similar battle is raging now between the IAF and the Army over
who will take control of attack helicopters.
In 1965 CNS asked to see the Defence Minister and PM, who did
not give him time and the war ended with many asking what the
Navy had contributed? Later in 1971, Admiral S M Nanda made
sure that the Navy was not a bystander.
In 1965 the Army also did not achieve much and some Kargil
peaks went into Pakistani hands while some salients (Haji Pir)
were bartered away at
when PM Lal Bahadur Shastri negotiated and some say he died
. We feel the lessons and reasons why our amazing Armed Forces
did not achieve much in 1965 was because after the Kutch
dispute earlier in 1965 followed by a cease fire, Pakistan
turned it into a full scale war in September and our
intelligence failed us.
the Government needs to lay down the Rules of Engagement and
the Armed Forces must ensure that the PM and RM are presented
various war scenarios that may emerge, so that when the
balloon goes up the Government responds with a clear cut Aim.
Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat wrote an interesting piece on wars of
today, in the 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs. He alluded to the
botched Op Parakarma when Gen Padmanabhan, Chairman COS
Committee could not get the Government to give the Army a
clear cut aim of the exercise. There are lessons to be learned
India's Armed Forces are one of the best in the world but the
Government has to get the best out of them with clear
directions, indication of aims and unambiguous Rules of
How I Too Nearly Missed The 1965 War!
By Air Vice Marshal Ajit Lamba VrC
(*This article is inspired by Air Marshal Raghavendran's
article with a similar title.)
I was in No. 7 Squadron, equipped with Hunters and based at
Halwara, during the 1965 War with
When the hostilities started in the first week of September,
the air activity was confined to the Chhamb Sector in the J &
K, where only the Gnats and Mysteres were participating. On
the 3rd or 4th of September, I got a telephone call from then
Wing Commander Mally Wollen (I do not recollect what his
designation was). He asked me if I would like to join the Gnat
detachment as they were short of qualified pilots. I told him
that I had very limited experience on the Gnats.
My total flying consisted of about 7 hours after an abridged
conversion by Mally and Ashok during my PAI days at
when the latter had brought their Handling Flight there. Mally
said the choice was mine and the limited flight time was no
problem. Like many others in our squadron, I too thought that
we would miss air action at Halwara. So I spoke to our
squadron commander, Wg Cdr Zachariah. I told him about Mally's
telephonic call and requested him to let me go and fly with
the Gnat squadron. He agreed and I was asked to report to
Ambala on the 6th September.
I packed my bags on the 5th evening and loaded my Standard
Herald car. That night, I was duty officer in the Base
Operations Room. I couldn't believe my eyes when I received
one of the messages asking the base to mount air strike
missions the next morning! I was now in a dilemma. Having
agreed to join the Gnats, the best I could do was to get a
taste of action with the Hunters as well. I immediately drove
upto Zach's place, told him about the secret message and
requested him to let me fly as many missions as possible the
next day before I left for Ambala.
I was part of the first strike on 6th morning. The mission
was to fly just inside Pak border, search and destroy targets
of opportunity! This mission later came to be known as the
"Tonga Strike", because that's what we hit apart from letting
go salvos of 68mm rockets into some thick mango groves etc. I
flew two more missions that day. Late afternoon, I set out
from the Officers Mess in my car, cursing my choice to go to
Ambala. I had covered less than a couple of hundred yards when
I heard the air raid sirens sound and ack ack guns opened up.
I decided to route via the base ops room to find out what was
The whole place was full of excitement. Adi Gandhi and Pingo
were there in their flying overalls, having just ejected over
the airfield, their aircraft being shot down by the Sabre
strike. Two Sabres too, were shot down by our boys. I also
learnt that Peter Rawlley had not returned from the air strike
Zach was there and took me along to see Ramola Rawlley. That's
when I decided to stay put and told Zach accordingly. My place
was in Halwara and so it would remain.
Pilots from No. 7 Squadron (Battle Axes) at
their Hunters dispersal at Halwara AFS.
From L to R: Fg Off CG Pandiya (Tech), Doc, Fg
Off Kondiah (Tech) , Sqn Ldr M M 'Rusty' Sinha , Sqn Ldr SS 'Chacha'
Malik , Wg Cdr Toric Zachariah , Unidentified, Sqn Ldr G G
Daniels, Unidentified, Sqn Ldr Ajit Lamba , Unidentified,
The rest is history and many of my colleagues have written
about the short-lived war. In fact, Jagan spent half a day
with me some years back, recounting my Halwara days. It was a
very satisfying experience for me personally, although, I feel
that we could have conducted the operations in a much better
Air Vice Marshal Ajit Lamba (Retd).
reserved. Reproduction in whole or in
any form or medium without express written permission of Air
Vice Marshal Ajit Lamba (Retd) is prohibited.)