Lieutenant Colonel Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore was born on 18 Aug 1923 in Mumbai. Lt Col Tarapore belonged to a the family of a great warrior, Ratanjiba who served in the army of Shivaji. Ratanjiba was given the charge of one hundred villages as an acknowledgement of his gallantry, loyalty and services. One of the villages was named Tarapore and since then it became the title of the family. Lt Col Tarapore’s father Burzorji worked with the Customs Department of the erstwhile Hyderabad State and was an erudite scholar of Persian as well as Urdu.
Lt Col Tarapore was the second of three children, with an older sister and a younger brother. At the age of seven, Lt Col Tarapore who was lovingly called Adi joined the Sardar Dastur Boys Boarding School, Pune and completed his matriculation in 1940. Though he was not an exceptional student academically, he was a gifted sportsperson and distinguished himself in athletics, boxing, swimming, tennis, and cricket. After his matriculation, Adi was commissioned in the Hyderabad State Army and joined the Officers’ Training School at Golconda. On 01 Jan 1942, he was commissioned into 7th Hyderabad Infantry, but he wanted to serve in an armoured regiment.
An opportunity to realize his dream came his way when his battalion was being inspected by Maj Gen EI-Edroos, the Commander-in-Chief of the State Forces. Adi’s company was carrying out routine training at that time, at the grenade throwing range. One of the Sepoys, a fresh entrant, momentarily panicked and failed to lob the grenade correctly, resulting in the grenade falling into the throwing bay. The young Lieutenant Adi immediately jumped into the throwing bay and picking up the grenade, threw it away to safety. However, the grenade burst as it left his hand, and he was injured in his chest. Maj Gen EI-Edroos who was present there was deeply impressed and personally congratulated him for his courage and presence of mind. Adi availed this opportunity to request him for a transfer to the armoured regiment of the State Forces. Gen EI-Edroos accepted his request and he was transferred to the 1st Hyderabad Imperial Service Lancers.
During World War ll, he along with other soldiers were sent to the Middle East on posting. He was shifted to the Poona Horse on 01 Apr 1951, when the Hyderabad State was integrated with the Union of India. He got his promotions and eventually became the Commanding Officer, commanding his own regiment in the 1965 war against Pakistan. Lt Col Tarapore got married to Perin and the couple had a son, Xerxes and daughter Zarine. Besides being an officer par excellence, Lt Col Tarapore was a family man and a good human being.
The Battle of Chawinda & Phillora : 11-16 Sep 1965
After Pakistan launched their “Operation Gibraltar”, the war with Pakistan was declared on 27 Aug 1956. As part of the retaliatory action plan, the Army chalked out a strategy to capture Chawinda and Phillora in Sialkot sector. The area of Chawinda was occupied by two regiments of Pakistani armour and infantry. On 11 Sep, 17 Horse under the command of Lt Col Tarapore planned a surprise attack on Phillora from the rear. As the regiment was moving forward between Phillora and Chawinda , it was counter attacked by enemy armour from Wazirali. Lt Col Tarapore held his ground and gallantly attacked Phillora with one of his squadrons and supported by an Infantry battalion. An intense battle was fought between two sides which resulted in the destruction of 13 tanks. Pakistani left Chawinda and Phillora was captured. Lt Col Tarapore fought brilliantly but was seriously injured in the battle. However, undeterred he planned attacks to capture Wazirali, Jasoran and Butur-Dograndi.
On 13/14 Sep 1965, Lt Col Tarapore though still wounded launched an infantry attack accompanied by 17 Horse and 9 Garhwal battalion. Wazirali was captured on 14 Sep but Lt Col Tarapore pressed on with his attack on enemy forces hiding in the areas of Butur and Dograndi. Once again in a daring attack Lt Col Tarapore destroyed six enemy tanks and captured Jassoran along with 9 Dogra Bn and Butur & Dograndi along with 8 Garhwal Rifles by 16 Sep. Though his own tank was hit several times, he maintained his pivots at both these places, supporting the infantry attacking Chawinda from the rear. Inspired by his leadership, the regiment attacked the enemy armour and destroyed approximately sixty Pakistani Army tanks, suffering only nine tank casualties. However, when Lt Col Tarapore was posing a stiff challenge an enemy shell set his tank ablaze engulfing him in flames. Lt Col Tarapore was martyred in the battle field leading from the front like a true military leader.
Lt Col A B Tarapore was given the nation’s highest gallantry award, “Param Vir Chakra” for his outstanding courage, leadership, indomitable spirit and supreme sacrifice.
- Maj N S Cheema(who later became Lt Gen), received a call from Lt Col A B Tarapore, his CO on the first day of the battle of Chawinda and he said “‘I must be cremated in the battlefield’; my prayer book must be given to my mother, my gold chain to my wife, my ring to my daughter, my bracelet and pen to my son’. He paused and then added, ‘And Niranjan… please tell my son Xerxes to join the army”.
- Usha Cheema, wife of Lt Gen Cheema(Retd) on Lt Col A B Tarapore : ‘Lt Col Tarapore or ‘Adi’ was a man of his words,’ wrote the late Usha Cheema in the book series titled ‘Chicken Soup for the Indian Armed Forces’ soul’. “I had come to see off my husband and others at the railway station and wished them luck before the regiment proceeded for the battle. The train was about to leave. Adi came over to me. His face was bright and his eyes shone – like one possessed. He said, ‘Don’t worry Usha. I will look after Niranjan (Lt Gen N S Cheema(Retd)). Nothing is going to go wrong’. He kept his word. My husband returned from the war while he (Adi) went forever,” Usha wrote.
- It is said that the Pakistani tanks held their fire during the cremation of Lt Col A B Tarapore in the battle field.
- After the war ended, the captured and destroyed Patton Tanks were kept at a place in India known as Patton Nagar, and Lt Col A B Tarapore was popularly known in the military circles as “PATTON TANK KILLER”.
- The Housing project of Tarapore Gardens in Mumbai was named after Lt Col A B Tarapore PVC.