Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore
At the stroke of midnight on 15 August 1947, freedom was at last achieved by our nation, following the struggles and sacrifices of numerous citizens. 75 years have passed since, and the struggles haven’t subsided. The harmony and equanimity has been threatened many times in the span of these 7 decades and all these times men at the border have valiantly defended the nation, not caring that they might not be there to themselves witness the growth of the country. A lifetime adventure for us is a daily routine for these altruistic brave hearts.
Among these resolute and intrepid fighters was Lt Col Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore PVC. Born on 18 August 1923, the lieutenant colonel served the army for 25 years from 1940 until his death in action during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war. Gallantry was perhaps in the genes of the Mumbai born Tarapore, who happens to be a direct descendant of Ratanjiba, a great warrior who served in Shivaji’s army. Ratanjiba was awarded the charge of 100 villages for his fortitude and allegiance, among which was the village Tarapore, from which the family name Tarapore comes. Lt Col Tarapore, the middle child among three, enrolled in the Sardar Dastur Boys Boarding School, Pune at the age of 7 and completed his matriculation by 1940. Athletically gifted and fondly called Adi by family members, he was soon commissioned in the Hyderabad State Army by 1942. His dream of joining the armoured regiment was fulfilled when during a routine training inspection by Major General El Edroos, commander in chief of the State forces, he bravely picked up a grenade lobbed in the throwing bay, and flinged it to safety, thoroughly impressing the Major General. He availed this moment to request a transfer, which was sanctioned, transferring him into the 1st Hyderabad Imperial Service Lancers. Here, he went on to serve during World War 2 and was posted in the Middle East. He was further shifted to 17 Poona Horse on 1st April, 1951 following the assimilation of the Hyderabad State into the Union of India. Lt Col Tarapore was known among friends, family and colleagues for his humility, generosity and will to help any and everyone. In due course, he was promoted to the post of Commanding Officer commanding his own regiment in the Indo- Pakistan war of 1965. He was known to not only give orders to his regiment and subordinates also aid them as and when required without any arrogance. When the war against Pakistan was declared on 27 August 1956 after the failure of Operation Gibraltar, the Army’s retaliation action plan consisted of capturing Chawinda and Phillora in the Sialkot sector. It was here where Lt Col Tarapore achieved martyrdom and was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, independent India’s highest gallantry award. His indomitable spirit in the face of danger in the Battle of Chawinda and Phillora during 11-16 September 1965 glorified his name in the military’s history. A surprise rear attack was planned by the 17 Poona Horse on Phillora under the command of Lt Col Ardeshir Tarapore. This attack faced a minor block from the counterattack of the enemy armour from Wazirali during its course between Phillora and Chawinda. Lt Col Tarapore was collected during this time, holding his ground along with one of his squadrons coupled with an Infantry battalion. It was during this intense battle that about 13 enemy tanks were destroyed resulting in the Pakistanis retreating and a successful capture of Chawinda and Phillora. Lt Col Tarapore was injured seriously but didn’t let it deter his spirit and planned to further capture Butur-Dograndi, Jasoran, and Wazirali. Between 13-14 September a joint Infantry attack by the 17 Poona Horse and the Garhwal Battalion which successfully resulted in the capture of Wazirali. Pressing on Lt Col Tarapore further destroyed 6 enemy tanks and captured Jassoran, along with 9 Dogra Bn and Butur-Dograndi along with 8 Garhwal rifles by 16 September. Despite his own tank witnessing several hits, he maintained his pivots, supporting the infantry attacking Chawinda from the rear. His indomitable spirit and leadership inspired his regiment to press on and destroy around 60 Pakistani army tanks along with only 9 tank casualties on their own end. It was during this time, that Lt Col Tarapore achieved martyrdom when his tank was set ablaze by an enemy shell.
The nation’s highest gallantry award posthumously adorned this brave heart’s chest for his outstanding courage, leadership, indomitable spirit and supreme sacrifice. He is not alone in his tenacity and undefeatable spirit. Since independence Lt Col Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore and Lt Arun Khetarpal are the 2 PVCs of the 17 Poona Horse and the fires of their bravery continue to light our hearts with courage even today!