huntersed

REMEMBERING JAGGI BRAR by Brig SS BRAR

Editor’s Note

I doubt if there is a more daunting challenge for a soldier than to take off on a fighter aircraft to bomb and destroy an airfield in a well defended air force station in the enemy territory. Only those who have seen the pilots ‘scramble’ and then take off at an interval of a few seconds to join the formation can appreciate the skill required and the precision needed for the mission. It needs supreme physical fitness and psycho-motor coordination to perform this act. The slightest error can lead to a disaster, and the price to pay is life! When you reach the target and get into the ‘dogfight’ only the bravest of the brave can muster the courage to fight to the end. The attacker is at a disadvantage, because a great deal of his fuel has already been expended in the process of flying up to the target.

Today, we bring you the story of a 22 year old pilot, Flying Officer Jaggi Brar, who flew one such sortie, exactly fifty years ago, on 7th Sep 1965. He was based at Halwara (near Ludhiana) and the task given to his squadron was to attack and destroy the Sargodha air base in Pakistan. Jaggi accomplished the mission, but when he pulled out of the dive, he was sighted by a CAP (combat air patrol). What happened after that is uncertain. But the fact is that he did not return. He made the supreme sacrifice, in the best traditions of the Indian armed forces. The story is narrated by his brother, Brig SS Brar (Retd)

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Remembering Jaggi Brar

by

 Brig Surjit Singh Brar (Veteran)

My 22 year old brother Jaggi (Flying Officer Jagdev Singh Brar) flew over Sargodha (Pakistan) on Sept 7, 1965 in a sortie that took off from Halwara (near Ludhiana). He, along with four other Hunter aircraft, successfully bombed the target. On their way back, Jaggi (also nick-named Small Ben in the squadron) along with Sqn Leader Bhagwat peeled off from the formation to engage the pursuing enemy fighter aircraft.  Unconfirmed news reported that probably Jaggi’s aircraft was hit in a midair dog fight with Pakistani fighter aircraft. There were also unconfirmed reports of his bailout. He was then officially declared ‘Missing in Action’. He never came back.

 jaggi brar

Painting of Jaggi Brar, couple of months before his disappearance in action.

 

family pic

Faridkot 1947.  Four  year old Jaggi, standing between the chairs, with siblings.

 

 family siblings

Patiala 1953. Family photo of Jaggi sitting in front row (with turban) , with siblings.

 

 

family pic early 65

This full family photo in early ’65, is the last picture we have with him. Jaggi standing in the middle, clearly the most handsome at 6’2″. He was the most charming of the Brar clan, with immediate family consisting of one sister and five brothers, and the parents. Jaggi was a shy, well behaved person, who was never seen quarreling  with anybody. His good nature and pleasant behavior made him the darling of the family.

In September ’65  my eldest brother  was Superintendent police at Amritsar, also on the edge of action. One brother was serving as Captain in 1st Dogra Regt. of the Army,  in the thick of battle somewhere between Amritsar and Lahore. Brother in law was serving as Major and myself was a Captain in the Army at that time. My father (Mr Ajaib Singh Brar) and mother (Mrs Balwant Kaur) were having tough time in Sept 65 with four of their  sons and the son in law in uniform, doing their duty to the Nation.

In mid ’65, while on leave , I travelled on my elder brother’s Royal Enfield Bullet from Jallandhar to Halwara to meet Jaggi. I waited for almost half an hour , when I saw Jaggi , fully drenched in sweat with a badminton racket in hand. He was a good badminton player. He also liked tennis and table tennis. He was beaming from ear to ear, when we embraced. We exchanged family news and chatted while taking tea. I left after this brief meeting, least realizing that this would be the last time we were meeting, before the ’65 operations.

Our family took the loss of Jaggi, in our stride, without asking the Govt for special compensation/favours, though it was not difficult to do that at that time. This is a tribute to Jaggi . We still remember him fondly as the darling of Brar clan. In fact the colleagues of Jaggi in Air Force have genuine good things to say about him. Air Marshal Inamdar (course mate of 83rd course of 1963) is still in touch with the family and misses him as a dear friend, like many others. Perhaps such people are also in great demand in heaven! 50 years after that fateful day of 7 September, we still miss Jaggi and wonder if he straight bailed out to heaven from his Hunter aircraft that day.

We lost Jaggi in ’65, but he still lives in our hearts. There are many other Jaggies who are lost by the country, while serving  with dedication, but their dying wish and message to the Nation would be ‘Look after my family after me’ . The Nation salutes these unsung heroes, who served with complete commitment and devotion and asked for nothing in return.

We miss you Jaggi. With love from brothers – Surinder, Amarjit, Surjit, Sukhdev, Harpal and sister Davinder.

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THE PAKISTANI SIDE OF THE STORY. HERE IS WHAT WE HAVE HEARD FROM OTHER SIDE OF THE BORDER

The pilot who probably shot down Jaggi, Sqn Ldr MM Alam, PAF

Confirmed Kills :  4    /   Probable Kills : 1
Unconfirmed Claims : 4

mahmud alam

Sqn Ldr Mohammed Mahmud Alam , SJ and Bar

Sqn Ldr Alam was the Commanding Officer of No.11 PAF Squadron flying Sabres during the 65 Conflict. Most certainly the top scoring pilot of that particular War, Alam had notched up Four Confirmed Hunters and One Probable Hunter Kill during several encounters with the Indian Air Force. Undoubtedly an Experienced and skilled pilot, all his victims were Hunter fighters and by a coincidence, all the Hunters though shot down in different occasions belonged to the same Squadron. No.7 IAF “Battle Axes”.

Alam shot down his first Hunter on Sep 6th, 1965 in a raid on the Indian Air Field at Adampur. Intercepted by Four Hunters of the IAF, Alam got onto the tail of Sqn Ldr A K “Peter” Rawlley. Rawlley lost control of the aircraft trying to evade Alam and struck the ground and got killed. The very next day, Alam bought down two Hunters which were exiting from a raid on Sargodha. Both the Pilots, Sqn Ldr Bhagwat and Fg Off J S Brar were killed.  Alam scored again in the war on Sep 16th, while leading a raid on the airfield at Halwara. Alam bought down Fg Off Farokh Bunsha’s Hunter although losing his wingman to another Hunter in the process.

Alam’s feat of being the top scorer of the conflict is however marred by his inaccurate claims. At the end of  the war, he had put in claims for Nine Hunters shot down whereas Indian Records do not support it. and this was made worse by the wartime propaganda efforts. In reality Alam has Four Confirmed kills. there is a dispute about another Hunter loss, Sqn Ldr O N Kacker who ejected in Pakistan on Sep 7th, is credited to Alam, by the PAF. The Indian Air Force says otherwise, Kacker was lost miles away from the area where Alam claimed his kill. The debate rages on. If Alam did shoot Kacker down, then he can rightfully claim to be the first Jet Ace from the Subcontinent.

In the final reckoning, there is no doubt that Alam remains the top-scoring pilot of the Pakistan Air Force in its wars against India.  Alam did not fly in the ‘71 Conflict.

* 

The Tailpiece (from the Editor)

I consider it appropriate to say a few words about my connection with the Brar family. We met in the IMA in 1961, where we were one course apart. After that our service paths crossed so often, that we were together nearly all through our lives. On several occasions, we shared houses, and spent days together, even when some of us had no bed to sleep on! The two daughters of Surjit Brar, Simrit ( born 1971 ) and Manpreet (b. 1973)  are nearly the same age as our boys, Divjyot (b 1971)  and Jasdev (b 1974). Once, when we were staying  together in Naraina in 1978, Manpreet asked her mother, “In what way are we related with Surjit uncle?” Manju Brar replied, “Oh well…we are really not related. They are very good friends” The question which Manpreet asked was profound as well as poignant, “If they are not our relatives, then how do they dare to fight with us???”

  I think we are all agreed that Manpreet resembles Jaggi the most in the Brar family. To her dashing looks, she has added the bold attitude inherited from her father, Surjit. The resultant ‘bold and beautiful’ combination helped her to ’go places’ in life!

 

 

 

  1. Surinder Kaur says:

    Surjit ji,
    You have given a fitting memorial to your brother. Jaggi deserved it, and you have done full justice to the job you undertook.
    The photographs are very appropriately chosen. They tell a lot. In our family album we have similar pictures, and we are able to relate to what we see in the post.
    We think that it is your duty to record your memories for all other members of your family (and that includes us!) and leave them as your legacy. I am sure you will measure up to this task as well as you have done for Jaggi.
    Surinder

  2. yoginder says:

    A poignant story of an immortal war hero- beautifully narrated. Putting Alam’s version is a master-stroke. Bravo, Surjit.

  3. Vatsalan Nair says:

    Thank you for your forward.Do forward this to Brig Surjit Brar.

    Jaggu Brar or little Ben was in our 7sqn at Halwara.He was a couple of courses senior to me..Jaggu used to pick me up on his scooter for work and back.We fought the 1965 OPs together.The youngsters of our Sqn were–V V Nair, Adi Gandhi,Shashi Tyagi, Dundass, Chakladar…

    We all participated in 1965 ops..Dundass passed away in1971 ops.Rest our still surviving.

    Do convey to Jaggu family that we still remember him.A good guy and a good fighter pilot.

    May his soul RIP

    V V

  4. Brig Anil Adlakha says:

    Thanks.
    God Bless Jagdev Singh Brar.

    Anil Sunita

  5. Col. Harindar S. Bedi says:

    Jagdev must have been as spirited as the Surjit I know. He went down like a valiant soldier and his sacrifice has not been in vain! One waits for the day when a war memorial comes up and is adorned by names of martyrs such as of Jagdev. May their clan grow!

    Surjit, these are great family pictures!

    Harindar

  6. P S Brar says:

    Surjit,
    It is thoughtful of you to get a cross to me. Yes I read the write up on Jagdev in the Tribune today. I remember very well when Jagdev joined the Sqn at Ambala and I have some very pleasant memories of our stay together in No 7 Sqn. He was such a pleasant and well mannered officer, who adjusted exceedingly well in the famous Battle Axes . When the Sqn moved to Halwara, I was posted to the Gnat Sqn and there after I didn’t get a chance to meet him.

    After my retirement We settled at Panchkula, and in summer we move to Mashobra, a small place near Shimla. We were in touch with Jagdev’s eldest brother Surinder ( former DGP Haryana ) till some time back but have not been able to maintain it, due to personal commitments.

    With regards and best wishes.

    PS Brar
    ( Poplarly known as ‘big ben’ in the Air Force)

  7. Prakash Bambwane says:

    Sir,

    Thanks for the nostalgic & “Unknown Story” of one more supreme sacrifice.

    The Sikhs of India have made many many such supreme sacrifices.

    My salutes to all known & unknown Martyrs !

    Prakash

  8. Col M B jauhari(retd) says:

    What narrative….We live honourably because of people like jaggi Brar….we are ever indebted to such noble souls and their illustrious families. My salute to Jaggi Brar and the brar family.

    May god give them best of everything.

    Surjit sir thanks for letting us know some of the people who we are really indebted to..

    To brars and all such heroes and their families.

  9. Dr E Venkata Rao says:

    Dear Uncle,

    Though, I wanted to leave a comment several times, they were never penned down. The Narrative about The great soldier JAGGI BRAR is really heart touching. Hats off to all those great personalities whose courage and sacrifice can not be put into words!!

    I had met Manpreet during Divjyot’s marriage. I guess Jaggi Brar is Chacha of Manpreet…

  10. Brig KN Hari Kumar says:

    Thank you Sir for sharing.
    regards
    Hari

  11. Lt (IN) George Poonen says:

    Hi Surjit:

    Thanks for sharing the write-up and the beautiful pictures of the brave Brar family. As the saying goes ” Whom the gods love die young”. War is tragic – I wish there were better ways to settle issues.

    George

  12. Brig Surinder Singh says:

    Dear Surjit,

    The write up and the photograph are beautiful. Is it that all Surjits write well?

    I have retained the article by cutting that page from the

    Tribune.

    Lots of of love.

    Brig Surinder Singh

  13. Brig YVR Vijay says:

    Dear Sir,

    The photographs are excellent. Brings back excellent memories of 1976 Silguri. I was in class 7 and Brig Brar and my father served together.

    I remember Ritu and Gagan. Ritu was quiet and soft spoken while Gagan just 3 or 4 was a real brat with a gruff voice.

    Pavan, I think, was born then.

    In 1985, as a young 2nd Lieutenant, I visited Brig Brar’s house in 512 ABW Pune. I was with Lavanya just after my marriage. Pavan a small brat asked me whether I have a car or a fridge. I replied not yet. He then asked me whether I have any children, I told him not yet. He then asked me what I have been doing with my life “no car, no fridge and no children”.

    We had a great time laughing over the incident.

    How are you and Aunty? Hope we can meet up sometime.

    Regards
    Vijay

  14. Brig YVR Vijay says:

    Great memories revived after reading this article.
    We know the Brar family so well, I almost consider Brig and Mrs Brar as part of my own extended family.

  15. Brig AJS Behl says:

    Very touching indeed.

    Amar Jit

  16. Maj Gen Ashok Coomar says:

    A befitting tribute to a great soldier and a martyr.
    Thanks Gen Surjit for reminding us all about how and why our freedom flourishes.
    It makes us proud even after a lapse of half a century.

  17. Joseph Thomas says:

    2997,
    Look like you have removed the old post and replaced it with this one.

    The IAF training system is such that a pilot is cleared for operational flying only after successfully completing the specified syllabus. I would say that Jaggi Brar was definitely qualified, though he could be considered inexperienced.

    In 1965 both Mayadev and MV Singh became POWs.

    3007

  18. Lt Gen C Sundara Rao says:

    Dear Surjit,

    Thank u for sharing this interesting story of the Brar family, particularly Jaggi. The contribution of Sikh families to the Armed Forces is indeed great.

    Sundara Rao

  19. Zora Khosa says:

    I shared my feelings with Brig Brar. He is my senior from GNE, my mentor right through in service, got me into PCL on premature , more than a brother , whose dressing downs to me I respect. My wife is from this famous Brar clan. This noble and no nonsense bearing family has two DGP’s, an outstanding Brig who if had been bit compromising to absolute correct views and comments while heading a prestigious project in Army HQ, would have been our youngest DGEME. He never felt it, I have this pain in my heart, because I am witness to the episodes. Family has daughters of International recognition in Manpreet Brar, and Golfer Ireena Brar. Jaggi would have retired Air Marshal. If I his service journey was not cut short in raid over Sargodha. We pray to Almighty to keep this brave son of Punjab in his flying squadrons

    Brig Khosa

  20. Surjit Singh says:

    As I was going through this story, I saw a detailed article on the life and action of Squadron Leader MM Alam. At one stage, it was claimed that he had shot down five aircraft in a span of sixty seconds. However, this was found to be an exaggerated version. I was reminded of a well known quote on this subject:

    In 1918, US Senator Hiram Warren Johnson is purported to have said: “The first casualty, when war comes is truth!”

    Whatever be the ‘whole truth’ in the ‘dog fight’ every single word of the story narrated by Brig SS Brar is true. And the photographs which he has pulled out of their family album have their own tale to tell!

    His last message is full of meaning, “Stay strong, man, wherever you are!” I suspect he is saying that to himself, as well!
    Surjit

  21. Joseph Thomas says:

    Surjit,
    Thanks for updating this post. We lost many comrades in 1962 and 1965 and we do remember them always.

    The picture of Jaggi as a 4 year old is poignant. Just my grandson’s age and he also wants to be a pilot.

    Our thoughts are with the Brar family.

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