On the last day of the 1971 war, Lieutenant General R M Vohra, then a Lieutenant Colonel in command of 4th Horse, one of the Indian Army’s most decorated and feared tank regiments, decimated the better part of a Pakistani armoured brigade that was trying to stop his tanks from crossing the Basantar river and thrusting deeper into that country. He was later awarded a Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) and his regiment the Basantar battle honour.
The decorated soldier succumbed to Covid-19 at the Base Hospital in New Delhi on Sunday. He was 88.
After his glorious tenure with the 4th Horse regiment, Vohra went on to command one of India’s two elite armoured divisions, a corps that handled all the insurgency campaigns in the Northeast and finally the Eastern Command in the days after the Chinese intrusions at Sumdorong Chu, near Tawang. An old-school cavalry officer from the days of chivalry and charm, Vohra was a well-loved General, whose sometimes brusque exterior hid a charming readiness to assist any of his officers or soldiers in trouble.
When Vohra assumed command of the 4th Horse in the lead up to the 1971 war, the regiment was already famed for its combat history, most recently in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war when it won the battle honour of Phillaurah. Earlier, in World War I, the regiment, then mounted on horses, won the battle honour of Cambrai in 1917 when its horsed troopers charged and overcame German defences equipped with machine guns.
Vohra’s citation for the MVC, the second-highest gallantry award read: “During the battle of Basantar river, his regiment, inspired by his personal example and courage, stood fast against repeated attacks by the enemy armour and destroyed 27 enemy tanks with minimal casualties to the unit. Throughout the operations, Lieutenant Colonel Vohra displayed conspicuous gallantry and inspiring leadership in keeping with the highest traditions of the Army.”
Vohra will be a conspicuous absentee from the Army’s celebrations next year of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Basantar.