23rd Battalion – The Frontier Force Regiment (23 FF)

Soon after the cease fire of the Pakistan-India War of 1965, some new forces were raised to fill up the imbalance in the Pakistan Army. On October 25th, 1965, at Tobe Camp, Abbottabad, Major Sardar Abdul Hamid started the raising of 23 FF. The nucleus of J.C.O.s and O.R. were provided from sister battalions while the Centre provided some recruits, recalled reservists and ex-servicemen. These latter, though old in most cases, had a good background of discipline and regimental traditions.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mir Ijaz Mahmood was posted as the first commandant on November 3rd, 1965. The following officers also reported their arrival to 23 FF;

Major Sardar Abdul Hamid
Major Muhammad Hamayun
Major S.K.H. Naqvi
Major Sardar Moharnmad Ismail
Major Qudrat Ullah Bangash
Captain Iqbal Nazir Bangash
Captain Sharryar Khan
Lieutenant Mohamrnad Younis Qureshi, A.M.C.
2/Lieutenant Altaf Ur Rehman Khan

The battalion moved to Kharian on November 11th, 1965, and on November 18th it left for Rajastan and arrived at Rahim Yar Khan.

To the readers the subsequent operations may seem odd, considering that a cease fire had already been ordered by each adversary. However, it is difficult to define a boundary clearly in the deserts of Rajastan and each side was staking out claims for more and more territory.

The Indians’ post of Sadhewala, captured by our forces during the war, was recaptured by the Indians on November 16th-some two months after the cease fire! Obviously the Pakistan Army could not allow this to pass and it was decided to recapture this post.

Sadhewala is a typical desert post and is based on wells located in a low lying basin which is surrounded by hill features approximately 60-70 feet high. Five tracks converge on this area. It was strongly held by more than a battalion strength supported by mortars. The capture of the hill features was obviously the key to the situation.

Briefly, the outline plan was a major outflanking movement from the right, swinging on a firm base to be made by a company of 23 FF. The inner hook was to be carried out by a Ranger battalion, while 23 FF was to carry out a wider hook, coming in right around Sadhewala.

A Company 23 FF formed a firm base on which the rest of the forces were to pivot. The company ran into an outpost when moving into the position but was prodded on by the commanding officer so that it reached within 1,000 yards of the enemy defenses. Some of the transport given to 23 FF were camels but these were soon unloaded as the steadiness of the camels, under fire, was problematical.

The inner hook by the Ranger battalion had hardly started when the Commanding Officer 23 FF decided to start his operation as well. He personally led B and C Companies along the rim of the outer basin of the Sadhewala and completely surrounded the Sadhewala area from the north and north-west.

By 1000 hours B and C Companies of 23 FF had been positioned astride the Tanot-Jasalmir tracks and Tac Battalion Headquarters was with them. The enemy now started pulling out in groups and a series of actions started. Wherever they moved to break the siege they met 23 FF’s fire. It is reported that C Company killed approximately 40 enemy and captured 18 prisoners, while Tac Headquarters and B Company killed approximately 30 enemy and captured eight prisoners, including Lieutenant Vyas of the 3rd Indian Grenadiers. He was captured by Tac Headquarters. Lieutenant Vyas was indeed surprised to meet Lieutenant-Colonel Ijaz Mahmood so far forward in the battle.

By 1300 hours the action was over and there remained the task of collecting the prisoners and material and undertaking general re-organization. In this attack the enemy- suffered the following losses: 156 dead, including two or three officers; 50 prisoners, including one officer; and a considerable number of vehicles, mortars, machine guns and other stores. 23 FF losses were five killed and fifteen wounded.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mir Ijaz Mahmood was awarded a Sitara-e-Jurat for this action and four others were mentioned in despatches (Imtiazi Sanad).