Lachhman Singh Lehl

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Lachhman Singh Lehl

Born(1923-07-09)9 July 1923
Lehl village, Hoshiarpur District,
Punjab Province, British Raj
(present-day Punjab, India)
Died18 June 2020(2020-06-18) (aged 96)
New Delhi, India
Allegiance British India
Service/branch British Indian Army
 Indian Army
Years of service1943–1978
RankMajor General of the Indian Army.svg Major-General
Service numberIC-1461[1]
UnitRegiment of Artillery
Commands held20 Mountain Division
301 Mountain Brigade
3 Field Regiment
AwardsParam Vishisht Seva Medal ribbon.svg Param Vishisht Seva Medal
Vir Chakra ribbon bar.svg Vir Chakra

Major-General Lachhman Singh Lehl PVSM, VrC (9 July 1923 – 18 June 2020) was a highly decorated Indian Army general and military historian noted for his command of the 20th Mountain Division in the Battle of Hilli during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

A native of Hoshiarpur district,[3] Lehl was the youngest son of a prosperous Jat Sikh agricultural family, one of six siblings (four boys, two girls).[4] His grandfather was the Lehl village headman, while his father was a lawyer who practised in the Hoshiarpur district court.[4] He passed out from Khalsa High School with a high first division before joining the Government Intermediate College.[4]

Second World War[edit]

On 12 October 1942, Lehl was selected for a temporary British Indian Army commission from the Indian Military Academy.[4][5] After training at the School of Artillery, Deolali, he received an emergency commission as a second lieutenant in the Royal Indian Artillery on 11 July 1943.[1] His first posting was with the 2nd Indian Field Battery of 1 Indian Field Regiment, a motorised artillery regiment then at Peshawar.[4] He fought in the Burma Campaign, including at the Battle of Meiktila and Mandalay as a gun position officer (GPO),[4] and after the war saw action as an officer in the British occupation force during the Indonesian National Revolution.[3] After the war, Lehl's battery was incorporated into an all-Muslim unit, which was stationed at Rawalpindi in early 1947. He took his annual leave with effect from 12 August 1947, three days before Indian independence and the country's partition.[4]

Kashmir 1947-1948 and Vir Chakra[edit]

Following Partition, Lehl was reassigned to 11 Field Artillery. During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947-1948, by then serving with 11 Field Artillery under the 50th Para Brigade, Lehl fought as an acting captain in the battles of Chhamb, Naushera, Jhangar, Rajauri, Uri and Zoji La, and was wounded at Zoji La.[4][3][2] As the forward observation officer at Jhangar, he accurately directed his battery's artillery fire. On 15 March 1948, his actions resulted in the successful extrication of a company of the 3rd Maratha Light Infantry which had been pinned down by enemy fire. Disregarding his own safety, he engaged the enemy troops for eight hours, and continued to effectively support the 3rd Marathas in pursuing their objectives on 16 March. For his gallantry, Lehl was decorated with the Vir Chakra (VrC).[3] He later attended the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington.[4]


In 1960, Lehl became the CO of 3 Field Regiment. The regiment participated in the Goa operations the following year, as well as in the 1962 Sino-Indian War in the Sikkim sector, but saw no action.[4] He was assigned as a GSO 1 with 6 Mountain Division in the NEFA in 1963,[4] and was posted to the Military Operations Directorate at army headquarters during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.[3] On 16 November 1966, he was given command of 301 Mountain Brigade.[6] After completing the National Defence College (NDC) course in 1969,[4] Brigadier Lehl was appointed Deputy Director of Military Training (DDMT-A) on 9 January 1970.[7] He took command of the 20th Mountain Division on 13 October 1970, with a promotion to acting major-general.[8] The division was then at Binaguri in West Bengal, and Lehl was advised that due to poor relations between the Eastern Army Commander Jagjit Singh Aurora and the XXXIII Corps Commander Mohan L. Thapan, he would be undertaking a difficult assignment.[4] In January 1971, his division took part in actions against the Naxals in West Bengal and was subsequently involved in monitoring the state elections.[4]

1971 war and Battle of Hilli[edit]

At the outset of the 1971 war, the Indian Army planned a four-pronged attack, with a thrust from the north-west into East Pakistan spearheaded by XXXIII Corps under Lt-Gen Thapan, to be directly undertaken by 20 Mountain Division under Lehl along with 71 Mountain Brigade. The operation would cut off the Hili-Gaibanda line to capture Bogra and Rangpur.[4] Though Lehl felt a frontal attack on the well-fortified town of Hili would incur heavy casualties, he was overruled by Lt-Gen Aurora.[4] Despite heavy casualties, Lehl's forces were nonetheless victorious. He took the surrender of Major-General Pir Nazar Hussain Shah, commander of Pakistan’s 16 Division on 18 December 1971.[3] He was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) for his services.[3]

Subsequent career and later life[edit]

On 21 October 1972, Lehl was promoted substantive major-general,[9] and was appointed Chief of Staff (COS) I Corps on 19 September 1973.[10][4] On 21 March 1974, only six months later, he was transferred to Delhi HQ as Deputy Quartermaster-General (DQMG), a clear signal he had been passed over for promotion to lieutenant-general.[11][4] Though he accepted his expected supersession in 1976 with grace, it shocked many of those who knew him and his career.[3] He superannuated from the Army on 31 July 1978 after 35 years of service.[12]

In retirement at Delhi, Lehl became a military historian, writing a number of highly acclaimed books and articles on Indian Army campaigns. He also served as vice-president of the "War Decorated India Trust."[3] Lehl died on 18 June 2020, aged 96.[2] He was married, with one son.[4]


  • Indian Sword Strikes in Bangladesh[4]
  • Victory in Bangladesh[4]
  • Missed Opportunities in the 1965 Indo-Pak War[4]


Param Vishisht Seva Medal ribbon.svg Vir Chakra ribbon bar.svg
India General Service Medal 1947.svg IND Samanya Seva medal.svg IND Samar Seva Star Ribbon.svg
IND Poorvi Star Ribbon.svg IND Raksha Medal Ribbon.svg IND Sangram Medal Ribbon.svg IND Sainya Seva Medal Ribbon.svg
Indian Independence medal 1947.svg IND 25th Anniversary Independence medal.svg IND 30 Years Long Service Ribbon.svg IND 20YearsServiceMedalRibbon.svg
IND 9YearsServiceMedalRibbon.svg Ribbon - 1939-45 Star.png Ribbon - Burma Star.png Ribbon - War Medal.png
Param Vishisht Seva Medal Vir Chakra
Wound Medal General Service Medal 1947 Samanya Seva Medal Samar Seva Medal
Poorvi Star Raksha Medal Sangram Medal Sainya Seva Medal
Indian Independence Medal 25th Anniversary of Independence Medal 30 Years Long Service Medal 20 Years Long Service Medal
9 Years Long Service Medal 1939-1945 Star Burma Star War Medal 1939–1945

Dates of rank[edit]

Insignia Rank Component Date of rank
British Army (1920-1953) OF-1a.svg Second Lieutenant British Indian Army 11 July 1943 (emergency)[1]
9 January 1946 (substantive)[1]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-1b.svg Lieutenant British Indian Army 11 January 1944 (war-substantive)[1]
30 January 1947 (substantive)[1]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-1b.svg Lieutenant Indian Army 15 August 1947[note 1][13]
Lieutenant of the Indian Army.svg Lieutenant Indian Army 26 January 1950 (recommissioning and change in insignia)[13][14]
Captain of the Indian Army.svg Captain Indian Army 11 April 1950[15]
Major of the Indian Army.svg Major Indian Army 11 April 1957[16]
Lieutenant Colonel of the Indian Army.svg Lieutenant-Colonel Indian Army 21 December 1963[17]
Colonel of the Indian Army.svg Colonel Indian Army 22 May 1968[18]
Brigadier of the Indian Army.svg Brigadier Indian Army 16 November 1966 (acting)[6]
23 May 1968 (substantive)[19]
Major General of the Indian Army.svg Major General Indian Army 13 October 1970 (acting)[8]
21 October 1972 (substantive)[9]


  1. ^ Upon independence in 1947, India became a Dominion within the British Commonwealth of Nations. As a result, the rank insignia of the British Army, incorporating the Tudor Crown and four-pointed Bath Star ("pip"), was retained, as George VI remained Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces. After 26 January 1950, when India became a republic, the President of India became Commander-in-Chief, and the Ashoka Lion replaced the crown, with a five-pointed star being substituted for the "pip."


  1. ^ a b c d e f Indian Army List Special Edition for August 1947. Government of India Press. 1947. pp. 269F (2).
  2. ^ a b c "War decorated General Lehl dies". Chandigarh Tribune. 18 June 2020. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Bajwa, Mandeep Singh (22 June 2020). "Military Digest: The Indian swordsman who struck in Bangladesh". Indian Express. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Khullar, Darshan (2017). Themes of Glory: Indian Artillery in War. New Delhi: Vij Books India Pvt. Ltd. ISBN 978-93-85563-97-3.
  5. ^ "War Hero Crucial To Pakistan's Surrender In 1971 Dies At 97". NDTV. 21 June 2020. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 7 January 1967. p. 13.
  7. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 28 February 1970. p. 288.
  8. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 26 December 1970. p. 1556.
  9. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 31 March 1973. p. 407.
  10. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 16 February 1974. p. 212.
  11. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 24 August 1974. p. 979.
  12. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 7 October 1978. p. 975.
  13. ^ a b "New Designs of Crests and Badges in the Services" (PDF). Press Information Bureau of India - Archive. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 August 2017.
  14. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 11 February 1950. p. 227.
  15. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 15 November 1952. p. 252.
  16. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 1 June 1957. p. 139.
  17. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 30 October 1965. p. 559.
  18. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 18 January 1969. p. 52.
  19. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 19 April 1969. p. 376.