Singh enrolled in the British Indian Army on 20 May 1936, and was assigned to the 1st Punjab Regiment. Between 1940 and 1945, he served on the North-West Frontier and as an instructor, before deploying to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. After independence, he took part in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, serving with the Indian Army’s 6th Rajputana Rifles. During the battle, Singh was part of the leading section of a company that was assigned to capture a Pakistani post at Tithwal, in Jammu and Kashmir. Soon after their attack was launched, the company suffered heavy casualties. In time, Singh successfully occupied a Pakistani medium machine-gun post. But, by that time, the entire company lay dead or wounded. Singh was left alone to achieve the objective. He moved out and lobbed grenades at the next enemy post. Before moving to another trench, he received a mortal bullet wound to the head.
Piru Singh Shekhawat was enrolled in the 10th Battalion of the 1st Punjab Regiment on 20 May 1936 at Jhelum. After completion of his training, on 1 May 1937, Singh was posted to the 5th Battalion of the same regiment. Despite his earlier hostility to schooling, Singh took education seriously and passed the Indian Army Class Certificate of Education. After clearing a few other tests, he was promoted to lance naik (lance corporal) on 7 August 1940. During his tenure with the 5th Battalion of the 1st Punjab, he saw action on the North-West Frontier.
In March 1941, he was promoted to naik (corporal), and was posted as an instructor to the Punjab Regimental Centre at Jhelum in September. In February 1942, he was promoted to havildar (sergeant). Singh was an outstanding sportsman, he represented his regiment in hockey, basketball and cross-country running at inter-regimental and national level championships. In May 1945, he was promoted to company havildar major (company sergeant major). He served as an instructor until October 1945. After the end of the Second World War, he was sent to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, where he served until September 1947. Following the partition, Singh was transferred to the 6th Battalion of the Rajputana Rifles.
COMPANY HAVILDAR MAJOR PIRU SINGH
6th BATTALION THE RAJPUTANA RIFLES (NO 2831592)
South of Tithwal, ‘D’ Company, of which No 2831592 Piru Singh, was Havildar Major was detailed to attack and capture an enemy occupied hill feature. The enemy had well dug in positions and had sited his MMGs so as to cover all possible approaches. As the attack advanced, it was met with heavy MMG fire from both flanks. Volleys of grenades were hurled down from enemy bunkers. Company Havildar Major Piru Singh was then with the forward most Section of the company.
Seeing more than half of the Section killed or wounded, he did not lose courage. With battle cries he encouraged the remaining men and rushed forward with great determination onto the nearest enemy MMG position. Grenade splinters ripping his clothes and wounding him at several places, he continued to advance without the least regard for his safety. He was on top of the MMG position wounding the gun crew with Sten gun fire. With complete disregard to his bleeding wounds he made a mad jump on the MMG crew bayoneting them to death, thus silencing the gun.
By then he suddenly realized that he was the sole survivor of the section, the rest of them either dead or wounded. Another grenade thrown at him wounded him in the face. With blood dripping from his face wounds in his eyes, he crawled out of the trench, hurling grenades at the next enemy position.
The 6 Rajputana Rifles was assigned the task of securing these two features. The ‘D’ Company was to secure the first feature. The ‘C’ Company was to capture the second feature after the ‘D’ Company had carried out its task. The ‘D’ Company launched its attack on the objective at 0130 hrs on July 18. The path to the objective was about one metre wide with deep ravines on either side. Overlooking this narrow path were the hidden enemy bunkers. The company was subjected to heavy fire and with half an hour it suffered 51 casualties. During this battle, CHM Piru Singh was with the leading section of the company, more than half of which was mowed down by the devastating fire of the enemy. He rushed forward to deal with the enemy medium machine gun post, which was playing havoc with his troops. Enemy grenade splinters ripped open his clothes and wounded several parts of his body. But this did not deter him. He still continued the advance, shouting the battle cry, “Raja Ramchandra Ki Jai”. Rushing forward he bayoneted the crew of the enemy MMG, with his own sten gun, silenced the menacing gun and occupied the post. By this time all his companions lay behind either dead or wounded.
The responsibility of clearing the enemy from the hill feature lay with him alone. Bleeding profusely he inched forward to attack the second enemy MMG post. At this juncture a grenade wounded him in the face. The blood dripping from his face almost blinded him. By now all the sten gun ammunition with him had been spent. He courageously crawled out of the occupied enemy trench and hurled grenades at the next enemy post. CHM Piru Singh then jumped into another trench and bayoneted two enemy soldiers to death. As CHM Piru Singh, emerged from the second trench to charge on the third enemy bunker, he was hit in head by a bullet and was seen dropping on the edge of the enemy trench. There was an explosion in the trench, which showed that the grenade had done its work. By then CHM Piru Singh’s wound had proved fatal. “He paid with his life for his singularity brave act, but he left for the rest of his comrades a unique example of single-handed bravery and determined cold courage. The country is grateful,” wrote Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Mrs. Tarawati, 75-year old mother of Company Havildar Major Piru Singh, “for this sacrifice made in the service of the Motherland, and it is our prayer that this may give you some peace and solace.” Company Havildar Major Piru Singh was honoured with the highest wartime gallantry medal, Param Vir Chakra, posthumously.
Param Vir Chakra
On 17 July 1948, Company Havildar Major Singh was posthumously was awarded the India’s highest military decoration, the Param Vir Chakra.
Singh was never married. In the 1980s, the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), a Government of India enterprise operating under the aegis of Ministry of Shipping, named fifteen of her crude oil tankers in honour of the Param Vir Chakra recipients. The crude oil tanker named MT “Company Havildar Major Piru Singh, PVC” was delivered to SCI on 12 October 1984. Due to MARPOL Convention on single hull tankers, SCI phased out all her fifteen PVC series crude tankers on completion of their economic age of 25 years. A road roundabout called “Shahid Piru Singh Shekhawat Circle” was named after him, in Jhunjhunu, by the Government of Rajasthan. An intersection called “Piru Singh Chowk” has been named after him in Yol, Himachal Pradesh.