Major Som Nath Sharma was born on 31 January 1923 in a Brahmin family at Dadh, Kangra Himachal Pradesh India. He is from military family. His father, Major General Amar Nath Sharma, retired as Director, Medical Services (Army). His brother Lt. General Surindar Nath Sharma retired as Engineer-in-chief. His one more brother is General Vishwa Nath Sharma (retired as Chief of Army Staff, 1988–1990). His sister Major Kamla Tewari (Medical Doctor) also served in the defence forces. He joined Prince of Wales Royal Military College in Dehra Dun and later the Royal Military Academy. He was commissioned into the 8th Battalion, 19th Hyderabad Regiment (later 4th Battalion, Kumaon Regiment) of the Indian Army on 22 February 1942. He was involved during the second World War in the Arakan Operations.
Battle of Badgam
Somnath’s company was airlifted to Srinagar on 31 October 1947. Even though, his right hand was in a plaster cast due to fracture sustained in hockey game, he insisted on being with his company in the battle area and was given permission to command his unit.
On 3 November 1947, Major Somnath Sharma’s company (D Company of 4 Kumaon) was ordered to defend Badgam Village in the Kashmir Valley. 500 raiders approached Badgam from the direction of Gulmarg and attacked the Indian army from three sides. Indian army sustained heavy casualties from the ensuing mortar bombardment. It was outnumbered by seven to one, Sharma urged his company to fight bravely, and ran from post to post to help as well as motivate his men. Major Sharma took upon himself the task of filling the magazines and issuing them to men, operating light machine guns. His last message to Brigade HQ was: “The enemies are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to our last man and our last round.” While he was busy fighting the enemy, a mortar shell exploded on the ammunition near him.
By the time the relief company of 1st Battalion Kumaon Regiment reached Badgam, the position had been overrun. However, the attackers suffered 200 casualties due to the spirited defence by Major Sharma and his soldiers and that slowed their forward movement. There was time for more Indian troops to land in Srinagar airfield and defend all routes to Srinagar with adequate strength. In this manner, Somnath Sharma prevented the fall of Srinagar and arguably the Kashmir Valley.
The citation for the Param Vir Chakra awarded to him reads:
Maj Somnath Sharma
4 KUMANON (IC-521)
On 3 November 1947, Major Somnath Sharma’s company was ordered on a fighting patrol to Badgam in the Kashmir Valley . He reached his objective at first light on 3 November and took up a position south of Badgam at 1100 hours. The enemy, estimated at about 500 attacked his company position from three sides; the company began to sustain heavy casualties.
Fully realizing the gravity of the situation and the direct threat that would result to both the aerodrome and Srinagar via Hum Hom, Major Somnath Sharma urged his company to fight the enemy tenaciously. With extreme bravery he kept rushing across the open ground to his sections exposing himself to heavy and accurate fire to urge them to hold on.
Keeping his nerve, he skillfully directed the fire of his sections into the ever-advancing enemy. He repeatedly exposed himself to the full fury of enemy fire and laid out cloth strips to guide our aircraft onto their targets in full view of the enemy.
Realising that casualties had affected the effectiveness of his light automatics, this officer whose left hand was in plaster, personally commenced filling magazines and issuing them to the light machine gunners. A mortar shell landed right in the middle of the ammunition resulting in an explosion that killed him.
Major Sharma’s company held on to list position and the remnants withdrew only when almost completely surrounded. His inspiring example resulted in the enemy being delayed for six hours, thus gaining time for our reinforcements to get into position at Hum Hom to stem the tide of the enemy advance.
His leadership, gallantry and tenacious defense were such that his men were inspired to fight the enemy by seven to one, six hours after this gallant officer had been killed.
He has set an example of courage and qualities seldom equaled in the history of the Indian Army. His last message to the Brigade Headquarters a few moments before he was killed was, ‘the enemy are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to the last man and the last round.’
The first episode of the TV series, Param Vir Chakra (1990) was based on him.