On 22 October 1947, Pakistan launched the tribal invasion of Jammu & Kashmir. As the State became a part of the Union on October 26th, her protection became the responsibility of India. The first batch of Indian troops reached just in time on October 27th morning to stop the enemy on the outskirts of Srinagar. The D Company of 4 Kumaon, led by Major Somnath Sharma, was airlifted to Srinagar on October 31st. When his company was asked to move to Srinagar, Major Sharma’s arm was in plaster and he was advised rest till the plaster was removed. But he insisted on being with his company at this crucial hour. On November 3rd, D Coy led by Major Sharma had taken up position south of Bagdam. Around 1435 hours, a large force of the enemy, about 700 strong, appeared from a depression to the west of his position. It attacked with coy with small arms, mortars and heavy automatics. The accurate and devastating fire of the enemy inflicted heavy casualties on D Coy. Major Somnath Sharma understood the gravity of the situation and the imminent threat to both Srinagar town and the airfield was looming large before his eyes. He rushed across the open ground to his sections, exposing himself to enemy fire. He also laid out panels to guide IAF aircraft to their targets in the face of enemy fire. The company held on for six hours against heavy odds.
When heavy casualties adversely affected the firing power of the company, Major Sharma, with his right hand in plaster, took upon himself the task of filling the magazines and issuing them to men, operating light machine guns. While he was busy fighting the enemy, a mortar shell exploded on the ammunition near him. His last message to Brigade HQ, received a few moments before he was killed was, “The enemy are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to our last man and our last round.” His answer is now part of the Army lore. In the battle of Bagdam, Major Sharma, one JCO and 20 other ranks were killed. But their sacrifices did not go in vain. He and his men stemmed the tide of the enemy advance on Srinagar and the airfield for some very crucial hours. Major Sharma was awarded India’s first and highest war-time gallantry medal, Param Vir Chakra.