My cousin Ajoy David’s old school-mate, Lt Col Rajendra Singh from the Scinde Horse of the Indian Army sent him an article about a battle in which my cousin’s father (my maternal uncle) at the time Lt. Noel David played a critical role. Militarily it was a daring plan and there are many references to it as the Battle for Srinagar. I was going to post it here today, but, it being the 11th of November, a day that celebrates “armistice”, which the dictionary defines as truce. Armistice. From French or modern Latin: “armistitium”; arma, meaning arms and “stitium” meaning stoppage. A stoppage of the use of arms.
So I have decided not to talk about battle. But to talk about my uncle and his bravery. According to the account “Lt. David was tasked to advance on the move the route (sic). At 7.30 a.m. on 7 November, David left for the task with No.2 Troop (armoured cars) and No.5 Troop (a reinforced Rifle Troop under Dfr Jage Ram.) No.3 Troop reported contact with the enemy numbering more than 700-800 at Shalateng.” Although the force being commanded by my uncle Noel David was small and hugely outnumbered they were able to reach behind “enemy lines”. Needless to say they retook territory that had been lost. My uncle was awarded a Vir Chakra, one of the highest gallantry awards for acts of bravery on the battlefield. he was, I understand, barely 19 years old. As a side note to this, I need to add that Lt Col Rajendra Singh has an uncle, Col Sharak Dev Jamwal (Retd) of the 7th Light Cavalry is 90 years old. He is, to use Rajendra Singh’s words, “an unsung hero of the battle of Zojila.”
Bravery, I believe, comes in many forms. My uncle’s last and final act of bravery that I know of came many years later when in peace time he was on an army exercise and suffered a heart attack. They were in a remote part of UP (Uttar Pradesh, India) and the terrain was such that they couldn’t get an ambulance to the place. He was taken in a 3-Ton truck which, when it reached a particularly rough crossing broke down. They then had to wait for another truck and my uncle had to walk from one truck to another. This time he perhaps knew he wasn’t going to make it. He shook his commanding officer’s hand and said, “Break it to Olleena (his wife) gently.” He died at the young age of 37.
And so today I remember a brave man in battle and in life, my uncle Noel David.