Today marks the 58th year of the martyrdom of a war hero who, despite not fitting the typical hero mold, left a unique and enduring legacy deserving of its own biopic or web series. On this day, we pay tribute to Lieutenant Colonel Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore, a remarkable soldier whose unwavering courage and dedication earned him India’s highest wartime Gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra, making him the oldest recipient of this honor.
Ardeshir Tarapore’s unique legacy began with his very name. His ancestors had played a vital role in supporting the legendary Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and in return, they were granted the village of Tarapur and several other villages as a reward. However, by the time Ardeshir was born, the legacy had undergone a radical transformation. His father, BP Tarapore, was a scholar proficient in Persian and Urdu languages, and he served the Nizam Shahi kingdom—a kingdom that found itself at odds with the Marathas.
Though Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore was born in Bombay, his initial loyalty was directed towards Hyderabad. At just 19 years old, he joined the Hyderabad Army and quickly caught the eye of Major General Syed el Edroos, who recognized his exceptional skills and transferred him to the Hyderabad Imperial Lancers, an artillery unit.
Lieutenant Colonel Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore –
A war hero with the most unique legacy ever, whose ancestors served the Marathas, and who himself redeemed his honor with his conduct in the 1965 Indo Pak War. pic.twitter.com/sPw2w0WSQh
Ardeshir’s boldness was evident when he fearlessly confronted a British superior who disparaged Indian soldiers, retorting, “You’re insulting my country and my king, and I’m not talking about the King of England!” Despite facing potential disbandment of his unit, Major General Edroos intervened and saved Ardeshir’s career. Nevertheless, Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore couldn’t help but contemplate his loyalties during this tumultuous period.
As India gained independence, and Hyderabad was liberated during Operation Polo, it was Major Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore who, instead of resigning, willingly chose to merge with the Indian forces. By 1951, Captain Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore had not only regained his prestige but also resurrected the legacy of his ancestors by joining the tank squadron of the Poona Horse.
He was a true “Soldier’s Officer,” a leader who ensured his subordinates never felt neglected. His moustache even bore a resemblance to that of Bahadur Singh, a Havaldar in his squadron. When the war between India and Pakistan erupted in 1965, Lieutenant Colonel Tarapore was assigned to lead the renowned Centurion tank squadron into Pakistan.
The Poona Horse formed part of the 1st Armoured Division, attached to I Corps, with the mission to isolate Sialkot from Lahore. To catch the Pakistanis off guard, they planned a rear attack on Phillora, leading to the Battle of Buttar Dograndi near Sialkot. Despite facing heavy enemy tank and artillery fire, Lt. Colonel Tarapore valiantly held his ground and led the charge on Phillora.
Even after sustaining injuries, he refused evacuation and continued to inspire his regiment. On September 14, his regiment captured Wazirwali, while under his leadership, they had decimated sixty Pakistani tanks with just nine Indian tank losses.
Lt. Colonel Tarapore was rightfully recommended for the Param Vir Chakra. Tragically, fate had a different plan, and he never had the opportunity to wear the prestigious medal while alive.
On September 16, 1965, a freak shell struck his tank, Khushab, where he sat sipping tea with an intelligence officer, his arm in a sling. Lt. Colonel Tarapore passed away as he lived—carefree and unafraid of impending challenges.
Life and legacy of Lt. Colonel Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore are a testament to unwavering patriotism, bravery, and selfless service to his country. On this 98th anniversary of his birth, we remember and honor the hero who crafted his own heroic journey, leaving an indelible mark on the pages of history.
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