5th Battalion – The Frontier Force Regiment (5 FF)

The prelude to the battalion’s noble night in the Khem Karan sector before September 7th, 1965, was one of ‘orders and counter-orders’! In the preceding 24 hours 5 FF moved from Lulliani near Kasur to Karian, changed command twice and eventually found itself back in its old location at Lulliani!

From there it moved through a bridgehead established by 2 FF in the Indian territory opposite Khem Karan for the advance to this town. Hardly had it settled in for the night on September 7/8 when it heard “Jay Hind” and was attacked by some Indian raiders who were promptly dispatched successfully, but the battalion suffered a few killed as the result of this raid.

The next morning, September 8th, an armor group which included 10 FF continued to advance while 5 FF was to clear up enemy pockets of resistance left behind. The battalion was also ordered to clear Khem Karan and Mast Garh. Two companies were to clear Khem Karan and later two companies were to go for Mast Garh. These were cleared successfully on September 8th and by dawn on September 9th the battalion was well dug in astride the Khem Karan-Amritsar road.

On this day two companies of 5 FF formed part of an armored regiment group which was ordered to advance towards the village of Assal Uttar. On September 10th these two companies A and B Companies under command of Major Sheikh Zahur-ud-Din and Major Qazi Fazal-i-Rehman, attacked the village.

Assal Uttar was strongly defended by an enemy battalion and a troop of tanks. A and B Companies nevertheless made a spirited attack on the village but could not progress owing to the intensity of fire and because the artillery observers had become casualties. However. Major Zahur-ud-Din refused to be curbed by the enemy fire and with “Nara-i-Haidery” jumped up and waved his hand for his company to follow.

The company which had been grounded by the fire now followed their company commander through a beet of fire. The company managed to cross the first line of trenches but then Major Zahur was killed by a machine-gun burst. In the true tradition of Piffers men rushed up to try to bring back the body of the gallant Major and in this Havildar Juma Khan and Sepoy Anar Gul, Major Zahur’s orderly, also lost their lives.

In this day and age of bitterness and hatred there is good reason to record that the enemy later returned Major Sheikh Zahur-ud-Din’s body with full military honors.

By September 12th the battalion was defending Khem Karan along the Khem Karan distributary and also took in its defenses the village of Mast Garh. Early on this morning the battalion position was struck by heavy enemy artillery concentrations. By about 1200 hours the enemy advanced straight for Khem Karan with their tanks leading.

The recoilless rifles of the battalion and a couple of tanks which were deployed in the area took on the enemy advance and temporarily halted them. Their attack was again continued but this time with infantry leading with the tanks in support, and again this attack was thrown back by the intensity of 5 FF fire and artillery support. Two more waves which came later were also beaten back and then there was a lull until 1430 hours. This was very fortunate for the battalion as its ammunition was almost exhausted and this lull enabled them to replenish it.

Casualties both in men and equipment were mounting in the battalion but the position was still stoutly held. Another attack came in at about 1700 hours and out of the smoke and haze of the battlefield three enemy tanks actually crossed our trenches and reached Battalion Headquarters. The leading tank was destroyed and its commander was captured while the other two tanks belonging to the Deccan Horse surrendered to D Company.

The breakthrough by these tanks did cause a breach in the defenses but Lieutenant-Colonel M. Mumtaz Khan, who was commanding the battalion, rushed into the gap and held it with a few men. Such gallant actions undoubtedly saved Khem Karan from recapture. 5 FF now celebrate September 12th as Khem Karan Day.

From September 12th to the cease fire which took place on September 23rd, the battalion was subjected to artillery fire and air attacks. Offensive patrolling continued the whole time and several officer casualties were sustained. 5 FF had meanwhile broken up its A Company to find reinforcements for its other companies owing to the acute shortage of troops caused by casualties.

The Indian Army was still determined to reach Khem Karan and launched a brigade-size attack on the night of September 21/22 and again on September 22nd, but both of these were thrown back with heavy losses to the enemy. Khem Karan remained in the hands of our troops and its defense by 5 FF must be considered magnificent by any standards.

It should be noted that Subedar Major Sher Aslam of 5 FF was killed in action during this battle, which speaks highly of the spirit of this battalion.

The following officers served in the battalion during this war:;

Lieutenant-Colonel Mohammad Mumtaz Khan
Major Jahanzeb Khan
Major Khan Ahmed Shamshad
Major Sheikh Zahur-ud-Din
Major Qazi Fazal-i-Rahman
Major Sultan Asad Jan
Captain Mohammad Abdur Rahman
Captain Imranullah Khan
Captain Mohammad Hamayun Khan
Lieutenant Mohammad Mumtaz Khan
Lieutenant A.H.M. Shafiul Qadar