Maj-Gen Anant Singh Pathania passed awayThe first Indian officer to command the Gorkha Rifles and get a Military Cross
— Major General Anant Singh Pathania (retd) breathed his last in Dharamsala on December 19, 2007. He was 95 years old. Anant Singh is survived by his octogenarian wife, three sons and two daughters.
Major General Anant Singh’s father Lt. Col. Raghubir Singh Pathania laid down his life during World War-I while commanding 2 J&K Rifles. His grandfather Major General Sardar Bahadur Nihal Singh led troops during Hunza, Nagar and Black Mountain expeditions. He was awarded the Order of British India First Class with the title of Sardar Bahadur (both military and civil).
Major General Anant Singh’s mother Raj Devi was the daughter of General Baj Singh Dalpatia
of Chitral fame. He was married to Uma Devi, daughter of Colonel Bakshi Chand Katoch who was the first Dogra King’s Commissioned Indian Officer. One of his three sons has also retired from the Army as a Major General recently.
Anant Singh was born on May 25, 1913, at village Re in Kangra district of Punjab (now Himachal Pradesh). He was commissioned in the 5 Gorkha Rifles on February 3, 1935. Soon after getting commissioned, he was sent to Waziristan to suppress the Pathans but keeping in mind his leadership qualities Anant was sent to the famous battle of Keren in North-East Africa during World War-II in 1940-41, where he played a vital role in suppressing Italian forces. He was given the Military Cross for his courage.
In his book ‘Ball of Fire” on World War-II, Antony Brett has mentioned about the Anant Singh’s leadership qualities. Although wounded in the face and in both legs, he collected his company headquarters and any other men he could muster, and pushed the enemy out with the bayonet. Only then, and under orders, did he hand over the company to his second-in-command
After his return from Keren, Anant was sent to fight in Burma as a Brigade Major — the first Indian to hold such a key appointment at that time. Later, he was selected as deputy president of the first Regular Commission Selection Board in the rank of Lt. Colonel, superseding at least 400 Indian and British officers.
After independence, he was selected as the first Indian officer to command the 1/5 Gorkha Rifles. For a short period, he was asked to help civilians in the walled city of Delhi in the wake of partition and influx of refugees.
In November 1948, the Indian Army’s advance towards Drass and Kargil sector was hindered by the enemy’s presence at Pindras gorge. To overcome this, a two-pronged attack was planned and 1/5 Gorkha Rifles, under the command of Lt. Col. Anant Singh Pathania, was deployed to capture the ridge ahead of Pindras, on the north of Gumri Nala. The battle is supposed to be the hardest ever fought during the Jammu and Kashmir operation
. Anant not only led several reconnaissance missions but also pressed home the attack on the enemy on November 14, 1948. Despite heavy enemy machine gun fire the 1/5 Gorkhas forged ahead, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. The victory was attributed to Pathania’s daring reconnaissance of enemy positions on the eve of battle.
The Indian government and senior officials of the Army were so impressed by Anant Singh that the strategically important mountain top he captured was named as ‘Anant Hill’. After this victory, he was also honoured with the Mahavir Chakra for exceptional gallantry and leadership qualities
In 1949, he as promoted to the rank of a Brigadier and was assigned the task of integration of State Forces of Saurashtra and Kutch. He worked as Director General of the Military Intelligence from 1952 to 1956, Brigade Commander from 1956 to 1959, before being elevated to the rank of Major General in July 1959.
He also worked as Director General of the NCC for a short period. While on tour to attend NCC programmes, on a short notice of few hours, he was called back to take command of the Fourth Mountain Infantry Division in 1962 in NEFA during the Indo-China war
Later, he was deputed with the union ministry of education as Director General of National Discipline Scheme assigned the task to infuse a spirit of national integration and discipline among students. Although, he retired from Army in January 1965, Anant was asked to continue with the union ministry of education before he laid down the office in July 1967.
Thereafter, he stayed at Jammu and then at Dharamsala, till he breathed his last. During the last days of life, he was a little worried by the shortfall of officers in the Army. His son Vasudev Singh Pathania says his father had a message for youngsters — ‘Serve in the world’s best fighting force. There is nothing greater than wearing the uniform of the Indian army”.
His wife Uma Devi also proudly told The Tribune — “Our nine generations have served as guardians of the nation.” A statement enough to motivate any Indian!A.K Sam Sharma on the '62 debacle
The WW II, fabled Indian 4 Infantry Division was badly mauled in Oct-Nov 1962; & their General Officer Commanding ( GOC) Maj Gen A S Pathania, Military Cross (MC) ; earned with the Frontier Force (FF, later 5 RGR); was hauled over the coals & discredited & disgraced in the media….May his soul RIP……..he passed away very recently, aged 93!