Tag Archives: naval history

We Sank the Khukri

Just thought I should share the story of this less known but amazing feat of naval combat performed by the Pakistan Navy during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. This is an excerpt taken from the book ’Sentinels of the Sea – The Pakistan Navy’ by Rear Admiral R. Kadri.

We Sank the Khukri
Rear Admiral R. Kadri, SJ (Retd.)

INS Khukri

November 20, 1971 was a holiday and so was 21 November – two whole days “free” during the difficult days of turmoil in East Pakistan. It was Eid-al-Azha, time for sacrificial offering of animals, of family get-togethers and of feasting and sharing of joys. However, 1971 was not to be a year for such celebrations for us. The Indians had decided that 1971 was their year of the “opportunity of the century” and they were not about to miss the opportunity.

It was already apparent to any thinking person keeping track of the unfolding events that with each passing day, he day of decision was drawing nearer. The Indians had to intervene in East Pakistan during that winter or miss the “opportunity of the century” forever.

PN Submarine Ghazi had been dispatched only a few days earlier to the Bay of Bengal for operations in that distant area, should the need arise. The mission assigned was difficult and dangerous but the submarine had sailed out in a blaze of glory with the battle cries of Allah-Ho-Akbar little knowing that this was to be its last mission.

I was at that time the Electrical Officer of PN submarine Hangor and therefore before going home for two days Eid holidays had made sure, as is the practice, that everything was ready in case the submarine was required to proceed to sea at short notice. Except for attending the congregational Eid prayers, I had decided to stay at home. There was no visiting relatives or friends, only a quiet day at home, knowing that the Indians always preferred days or events of National or religious importance to launch their attacks.

Eid day passed off quietly, but on the evening of second day of Eid my front gate bell rang. Thinking it might be a visitor, I went to open the front gate, but on seeing a naval police patrolman standing there, realization at once dawned that the time of waiting and uncertainty was over and that time had finally come for the submarine Hangor to put to sea.

This was confirmed by the patrolman. I therefore quickly changed into uniform, picked up the small handbag which was already packed for such an eventuality and with a quick goodbye to wife and children sped away at breakneck speed towards the Submarine Base – praying all the way to be granted enough time to enable our submarine to put to sea before hostilities commenced in the Western theatre of war also.

On reaching the Submarine Base, I found that those submariners who lived nearer or had been contacted earlier had already reported for duty, while others like me were just arriving. The fact that not a single officer or sailor wasted a single second in reporting for duty, and every single one of them reported promptly, showed that without being told, every submariner had the same thought in mind and had kept himself ready for this eventuality.

As each member of Hangor’s crew arrived on board, he knew exactly what had to be done in terms of final preparations, and set about doing it. Family, friends and festival were all forgotten – only the mission and the task at hand mattered. It was a good team, disciplined and well trained and needed no guidance.

After the sailing-orders had been received, all the submarines, with their identification numbers painted out slipped silently from their berths one by one, as their departure times came, to proceed separately to their respective patrol areas. From now on hey would be on their own, without contact with the outside world except to periodically receive, and that too only when possible, radioed instructions from Naval Headquarters. They themselves could not contact the outside world and, in order not to compromise their location, would have to maintain complete radio silence, except to pass an extremely important message.

PNS Hangor sets sails for its patrol with the identification number painted off.

Once the submarines were in their patrol areas, all contacts if classified as warships or submarines, were to be considered hostile. From now on life would be a constant effort to stay one jump ahead of the enemy. Every emission and every noise, be it electro-magnetic, sonic or ultra-sonic would have to be checked, measured, plotted, analysed and evaluated. On this would depend whether you were the attacker or the attacked in this deadly game.

Once Hangor had cleared the Manora breakwater, on the way to its patrol area, ships company automatically fell into its usual three watch system, with one watch on duty and two watches “off”. This would now be the constant routine except when “action stations” were closed up or during other emergencies when everybody would be closed up at his allocated station, depending on the type of emergency.

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