On return to our regiment – 75 Medium Regiment – after completion of the ‘Computer Course’ in August 1991, our then Commanding Officer (CO) Colonel Rajan Anand appointed me as the Battery Commander (BC) of 751 Medium Battery. 75 Medium Regiment then had three batteries with fixed class composition. 751 Medium Battery consisted of Brahmins from North India, 752 Medium Battery had Jats and our 753 Medium Battery had South Indians.
That was the first time I became the BC of the Brahmin Battery and always commanded the same Battery during the rest of my service with the unit. Our Regiment was then located at Udhampur (Jammu & Kashmir). The Regiment was tasked to display the newly acquired 155mm Bofors Gun for the Gunners’ Day on Saturday, 28 September 1991 for everyone in the station and school children. Our CO gave the task of the equipment display to me. The previous day, I briefed everyone about the task at hand and the next morning at 8AM, we marched off to the stadium where the display was being conducted. The event was organised under the aegis of 8 Artillery Brigade, who were then staging at Udhampur on their induction into the Kashmir Valley. Our Regiment was under 39 Artillery Brigade. On reaching the stadium, I was shown the area where the Bofors gun and allied equipment was to be displayed by the Deputy Commander of 8 Artillery Brigade. The Deputy Commander was a Colonel with over 25 years of service, while I had eight years behind me.
I took Havildar (Sergeant) Major Lekh Ram and the Gun Detachment Commander – Havildar Chaman Prakash – and briefed them about the placement of the Gun and other equipment and various boards and charts defining the characteristics of the equipment. By 8:30AM, I moved to the tent where the Deputy Commander was sitting, pulled a chair and sat next to him. From his body language, it was evident that he did not approve of my action a wee bit. All the officers of other Regiments, mostly from 8 Artillery Brigade, were busy supervising the equipment display and were all near their detachments.
The Deputy Commander now asked me as to why I was not next to the detachment supervising their actions. I told him that I had briefed everyone well about the impending task and the Havildar Major would do his job and report to me on completion of the task and my job would commence then. I had faith in my soldiers and NCOs and I was sure that they would do an excellent job. I also said that everyone is going to see the Bofors Gun, being in the news for wrong reasons then, and not many would be interested in the field guns and mortars displayed by 8 Artillery Brigade.
Adjacent to our Bofors Gun was the detachment of the 105mm Light Field Gun, from a field regiment of 8 Artillery Brigade. By 9 AM, when the field gun detachment got ready, the Subedar Major (Master Warrant Officer) of that regiment held a practice of bringing the gun into action. This entailed the detachment of five soldiers heaving the gun on to a circular metallic platform. Due to heavy downpour for the previous four days, the ground was soggy and the detachment had to heave hard to pull the gun on to the platform. While pulling the gun on to the platform, the detachment would shout in chorus “All together heave!”
At this time Havildar Major Lekh Ram reported to me that everything is ready. After seeing the entire arrangement, I summoned everyone and said a few words of appreciation for executing the assigned task well. I ordered everyone to have a tea break, change into their ceremonial uniform and to be ready by 9:45 AM as the demonstrations were to commence at 10 AM.
After ten minutes, it was the turn of the Adjutant (Captain) of the field regiment and he too ordered the detachment into action. The detachment pulled the gun on to the platform “All together heave!” Now came the Battery Commander (Major) and the same drill was repeated. With each practice, the ground beneath the platform sank in more, making it overly difficult for the detachment.
I now told the Deputy Commander sitting beside me that with so many practices, the detachment will be tired and any more practice will surely sink the ground furthermore. He gave me a frown. Next was the turn of the CO (Colonel) of that regiment and the soldiers became even more tired.
At 9:45 AM, the Brigade Commander of 8 Artillery Brigade arrived and his first question (as expected) was as to where our CO was. I said that he was busy with other important commitments and hence had deputed me for the task. The Brigade Commander wanted me to convey his displeasure to our CO for his absence, which I dutifully agreed.
The Brigade Commander now moved on to the field gun and ordered the detachment into action. It was again “All together heave!” It left the detachment in a state of exhaustion, with their ceremonial uniforms all crumbled.
At the appointed time, the Army Commander of Northern Command arrived and he headed straight to the Bofors Gun. We gave an excellent demonstration of the capabilities of the gun and briefed about the computers for ballistic calculations, Scania gun towing vehicle and other equipment. The Army Commander complimented all our soldiers for their smart turnout, actions and briefing and moved on to the field gun.
“All together heave!” the detachment commander shouted at the top of his voice, the overly tired soldiers pulled with all their might, but the gun refused to climb on the platform as the ground beneath it had sunk in.
Once the Army Commander left, all visitors made a beeline to the Bofors gun as expected and hardly anyone cared for the field guns and mortars.
“All together heave!” and similar cries during Gun Drill has a colonial linkage. It may soon be changed to Hindi cries.
One thought on “All Together Heave”
Sir, being a Bofors Gunner myself from 1988 to 2003, I can vouch for every word written by you. It was always the centre of attraction. I remember Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, as Defence Minister visited my Gun position in Op area for a photo op. Our Gunners were ever ready for VIP visits and we had a complete set of display items ready to be laid at short notice.