It is the exercise area near Jaisalmer (Rajasthan) in 1991. I am commanding ‘C’ Squadron of my 48 Armoured Regiment and carrying out infantry tank cooperation training with 3 GRENADIERS in the hot sand dunes, with temperatures touching 50 degrees centigrade.
Today is the day of confidence training. Aim is to assure our infantry men that even if the enemy tank goes over their trench, they have nothing to fear. I have to make it a demo as the whole battalion, along with the CO, is seated to witness it. Now who should get into the trench and allow the tank to pass over? I could easily depute two of my own boys. But I decided to get in myself. There it was, the squadron commander, in black dungaree sitting in a sandy trench, with over 600 infantry men looking with their eyes wide open.
I signaled to the waiting tank to move. There came the screeching sound of the steel tank tracks. Left track passed over the centre of the trench. Suddenly I felt there was something amiss. The mud was falling all over me – the trench had collapsed. The tank passed over but I was buried in sand waist downwards. Luckily my head and hands were still out.
The audience was stunned. I smiled and signaled to them to keep sitting. Quickly my crew came and removed the mud around me. I came out, dusted myself, and straight walked in front of the battalion. There was an instant applaud. The CO hugged me. First I cracked a joke to put every one at ease. Then I told them that this was a hurriedly prepared two men trench in soft sand. Even then I was safe. With a well dug, prepared, and anchored trench, they need to fear no Paki tank. The message had gone home and the demo was a big success.
Thereafter, I had a problem controlling infantry boys who wanted to volunteer to sit in a trench and let the tank pass over. The fear of tank had disappeared. They had conquered the enemy in their minds. Such was the impact of personal example.
And the CO who hugged me was no less person than Col JS Lidder (now Lt Gen (retd)) who did India proud commanding the UN forces at Sudan.