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Indian Navy’s War Hero passes away
Cmde Babru Yadav led the Missile Boat Attack on Karachi in 1971

By Cmde Ranjit B Rai Published: April 2010

New Delhi. Commodore Babru Bhan Yadav, who led the brilliant missile attack against Pakistan’s port city of Karachi in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, breathed his last in Delhi on 22nd January 2010. He was 82.


One of the three highest decorated Indian Naval officers, he was the first Indian Navy Officer to be awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) in 1972 for his actions of bravery and gallantry in the War. He was also the first Indian Navy officer to be granted the MVC, which is the country’s second highest gallantry award, and given for acts of gallantry in the face of enemy, whether on land, at sea or in the air.

Commodore Yadav died after a brief illness. Being a bachelor, he was looked after by his nephew Dr Rahul Yadav.

The highest medal in India is the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) which has been awarded to only 17 recipients, many posthumously in the Indian Army, and only one posthumously in the Indian Air Force.

In 1971, Cmde Yadav was the Squadron Commander of the 25th missile squadron based at Bombay. He had recently returned from Vladivostok in the erstwhile Soviet Union after 11 months of extensive training to command an Osa Class missile squadron. The Osa boats were armed with four surface-to-surface Styx missiles with a maximum range of 40 nautical miles and the firing system linked with the long range Rangout radars, with Russian technology that used large power output in bursts, to obtain large ranges. However due to low free board the VHF communications of the boats was limited.

It is axiomatic that the Russians trained the Indian Navy to employ the Osa class SS-N-2B Styx equipped missiles for coastal defence but the Indian Navy ingeniously employed the boats as far as 300nm away by towing them to 130 km off Karachi in the 1971 war on two occasion that heralded the beginning of missile warfare at sea, which even took the Soviets by surprise.

In fact, Soviet Admiral of the Fleet Sergie Gorshkov personally congratulated the Indian Navy. Much credit goes to the then Indian Navy chief Admiral SM Nanda for the bold planning and Commodore Yadav for the execution.

In preparation for the impending war, Commodore Yadav had worked up his squadron in dummy attacks simulated against a port and on 2nd December took command of the three Missile Boat Task Force and embarked INS Nipat (Lt Cdr BN Kavina Vir Chakra) with INS Nirghat (Lt Cdr IJ Sharma, AVSM, Vir Chakra), and INS Veer (Lt Cdr OP Mehta, Vir Chakra).

In the opening bell of that war, the missile boats daringly attacked Karachi on 4th December, 1971 like a pack of wolves. The ‘Killer Osa Class Boats’, as they came to be called, sank three Pakistani ships, the frigate PNS Khaibar (ex-HMS Cadiz), Minesweeper PNS Muhafiz and merchant man Venus Challenger. One missile was fired shorewards.

Commodore Yadav’s citation reads that he displayed great leadership in that offensive sweep on the enemy coast off Karachi, deep into the enemy harbour where he encountered two groups of large enemy warships, despite the threat of air, surface and submarine attack. The mission was code named Operation Trident.

This won him the Mahavir Chakra, the first for the Indian Navy.

It is said luck favours the brave and in Admiral S N Kohli's words, "Our missile boats were lucky to have got away without any air attacks by shore-based aircraft from Pakistani territory during their retreat”. In fact the Chief of Naval Staff of Pakistan Admiral Ahsan from Karachi phoned the Air Chief in Rawalpindi requesting for a dawn air strike to cripple the retreating missile boats. The reply he got was, “ Sorry Old Chap I cannot spare my planes I am busy on the Eastern front and all is fair in love and war”.

BB, as Cmde Yadav was known to friends, became an icon.

Commodore Yadav was born on 14th September 1928 in the village of Bharawas in the British district of Rewari near Delhi which is now in the state of Haryana. His father, late Major Bhagwan Singh Yadav was awarded the MBE and had taken part in both the World Wars.

In fact, he used to tell shipmates of his family’s service history and claimed the family’s lineage in the military, harked back to the Mughal period. His elder brother MS Yadav, served as a Colonel in the Indian Army.

Babru Bhan Yadav passed his Intermediate examination from the famous Banaras Hindu University and obtained his Bachelor of Science degree from the prestigious St Stephen's College, Delhi in 1947. He excelled in swimming as a student, but like most Indians from the North, he had never seen the seas till he was aged 20. At the age of 22 he applied to join the Navy under the Direct Entry Graduate scheme when the Indian Navy was recruiting direct officers to fill the increased billets for the new acquisitions from UK.

In 1948, Vice Admiral Sir Edward Parry succeeded Rear Admiral Hall as Commander in Chief and Chief of the Naval Staff of the Royal Indian Navy. He, along with Lord Louis Mountbatten, was able to convince the British Admiralty that India's leadership did not want the Indian Navy to be just an adjunct of the British Navy, but be a Navy, capable of carrying out major naval warfare operations if required.

A plan for a 69 ship Navy was proposed with the hurried transfer of three Hunt class frigates INS Godavari, Ganga and Gomati, and three R Class destroyers INS Rajput, Rana and Ranjit and the HMS Achilles commissioned as INS Delhi from the Royal Navy, under the war reimbursement agreement between the Government of Britain and India.

In 1949 Yadav was selected by the naval selection board and was sent to Dartmouth to join the 1949 class of the famous Benbow division in September of that year, along with his British counterparts. He served his sea time on board HMS Devonshire in two training cruises as a Midshipman and was commissioned in to the Indian Navy on 1st January 1951 and served at sea in various billets.

He went back to UK in 1954 and joined HMS Vernon to specialise in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW). He served as the squadron TAS officer in INS Brahmaputra, and in the 1960s was the Fleet TAS officer of the Western Fleet. Lt Cdr BB Yadav underwent the Staff College at Wellington from May 1963 to November 1963 as it was truncated after the 1962 India-China War to beef up the strength of the Indian Armed Forces. Babru also did a stint in Naval Headquarters.

Commander Yadav was promoted Captain and then Commodore and served in the National Cadet Corps as the state Director of National Cadet Corps (NCC) in Chandigarh for Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, the state of his birth, before retiring from the Navy in 1982.

After leaving service he served briefly in the Merchant Navy.

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