Age: 26 Years
Marital Status: Unmarried
Death Date: 05/12/1961
Some Lesser Known Facts About Gurbachan Singh Salaria
- Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria was an officer in the Indian Army who was posthumously awarded India’s highest gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra during the 1961 United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Captain Salaria led a charge against the enemy even though he was numerically outnumbered. Captain Salaria was martyred after being grievously injured due to being shot twice in the neck.
- His family originally belonged to the Shakargarhi area of Punjab (now in Pakistan). After the partition, they came to India and settled here.
- Gurbachan Singh Salaria’s father, Chaudhari Munshi Ram Salaria served in the Dogra Squadron of the Hodson’s Horse in the British Indian Army.
- As a child, Gurbachan Singh Salaria was not good at his studies, but, he always had a dream to join the Army as an officer. During his first attempt to join King George’s Royal Indian Military College, he was rejected as he could not fulfil the physical requirements.
- He passed through the medical examination in the second appeal. After which he was admitted to the Bangalore branch of the institute. Later on, he was transferred to the Jalandhar branch.
- While in school, Gurbachan Singh Salaria once challenged his bully, who was bigger and stronger than him, to a boxing match. Salaria defeated his bully in the match, and the bully had to apologize to Salaria publicly.
- After completing his schooling, Gurbachan cleared the entrance test and joined the National Defence Academy in 1953 and three years later he joined the Indian Military Academy.
- In 1957, Gurbachan Singh Salaria was initially commissioned in the 2/3 Gorkha Rifles, and in March 1960, he was moved to 3/1 Gorkha Rifles.
- When the civil war broke out in Congo, Gurbachan’s unit was under the UN’s charter to uphold peace in Congo. The Ketangese rebels were planning to take over the Elizabeth airfield, which was very important in conducting peacekeeping operations in Congo.
- Captain Salaria and his Gorkhas were tasked to secure the airfield from the rebels. His unit, in particular, was asked to dislodge the rebels who had surrounded the airfield, in an attempt to capture it.
- Captain Salaria’s platoon was facing an enemy which was not only larger but also had modern European armoured cars.
- Captain Salaria came up with a plan, which was aimed at sending the enemy forces into a state of panic and confusion. Salaria knew that the enemy was not expecting an attack upon themselves, owing to their large number. Salaria devised a plan, where he planned to move as close as possible to the rebels, without being seen and under the cover of thick foliage, attack and destroy the enemy’s armoured cars.
- Upon reaching a suitable distance, Salaria ordered his men to take out the enemy’s vehicles using rockets. As soon as the rockets were fired, the Ketangese rebels ran into disarray.
- Captain Salaria knew that now is the time to strike at the enemy because if the enemy could gather their senses and regroup, their counterattack would lead to the fall of the Elizabeth airfield. Over his radio, Gurbachan Singh Salaria’s last words were,
I am going ahead with the attack as I am certain that I will be victorious.”
- Taking out their Khukri, Salaria and his men charged at the enemy position while chanting their warcry, “Jai Maa Kali, Aayo Gorkhali”. Captain Salaria and his Gorkhas attacked the enemy and forced the enemy to retreat. While retreating in a haste, they left their dead and wounded behind on the battlefield. In the book, The Brave, the author, Rachna Bisht Rawat wrote,
Salaria is the first to charge. He runs across with his gun blazing, bared khukri clasped in his mouth, flashing in the sunlight. Taking on the first trench, he shoots dead the big gendarmerie on the left. From the corner of his eye, he catches movement to his right, turns around and, gripping the khukri with his right hand, whips it fiercely through the air, slicing the man’s horrified face.
- During the entire course of action, Gurbachan Singh Salaria was severely injured and was bleeding out profusely. Yet, he refused to get evacuated until the entire battlefield was under the control of the Gorkhas. He, later on, died while being evacuated, owing to the injuries he had sustained in the battle.
- By the time the battle ended, Ketangese rebels had lost 40 out of the 150 of their own.
- Captain Salaria was nicknamed ‘Khan Saheb’ by his first Commanding Officer because of his haircut and upturned moustache.
- Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria is not only the first soldier to have received the Param Vir Chakra while participating in the United Nations operations, but he is also the first alumni of NDA to have received the award.
- Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria also believed deeply in palmistry. He once showed his right hand’s palm to his Battalion Adjutant and said,
My stars are will take me to greater heights; just wait and see.”