24: 10th Gurkha Rifles

This entry was posted by Saturday, 20 November, 2010
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Badges of 10th Gurkha Rifles

The 15th Gurkha is a mistake. There was never any such Regiment according to the Gurkha Museum, the badge was apparently made in error for the 10th Gurkha Rifles but still worn. Theres a photo of it in the Gurkha Museum booklet Insignia of the Para-military, military police, frontier force and was raised units up to 1948. This information is according to Peter Taylor.

10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles

The 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles was originally an infantry regiment of the British Indian Army. The regiment was first formed in 1890, taking its lineage from a police unit and over the course of its existence it had a number of changes in designation and composition. It fought during the a number of campaigns on the Indian frontiers during the 19th and early 20th centuries, before taking part in the First World War, the Third Anglo-Afghan War and the Second World War. Following India’s independence in 1947, the regiment was one of four Gurkha regiments to be transferred to the British Army. In the 1960s the regiment took part in the Malayan Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation. In 1994 it was amalgamated with the other three British Gurkha regiments to form the Royal Gurkha Rifles.

The beginning

At the end of the Third Burmese War in 1887, it was decided to withdraw the regular army battalions and replace them with a freshly recruited military police force. Recruited in India, it was intended that the military police would be a temporary force which would establish order in districts of upper Burma and then hand over those districts to the civil police. The military police would then be used to form additional regular battalions of the Indian Army. The Kubo (Kabaw) Valley Military Police were raised on 9 April 1887 by Sir F.B. Norman (OC Eastern Frontier Brigade) at Manipur in India and was composed in equal portions of Gurkha recruits and Assam hillmen. The first commander was Lieutenant C.W. Harris. The battalion moved to Burma and was initially stationed at Tamu.

In 1890, it was decided to convert the Kubo Valley Military Police Battalion in Burma into a new battalion with the title of 10th Madras Infantry. The 10th Madras Infantry, one of the oldest battalions in the Indian Army, had recently been disbanded. The new battalion had no association with the old except for the name. The relics of the battalion were eventually taken back to India.

The 10th Madras Infantry was formed from the Kubo Valley Military Police on 1 June 1890 under the command of Major Macgregor at the Mandalay Palace. The battalion did not inherit the precedence or honours of the 10th Madras Infantry at that time by decision of the army authorities. Their reasoning being that it would be incorrect to give such a new battalion the precedence and honours of one of the oldest battalions in India. But it was also true that the composition of the 10th Madras Infantry had been through similar drastic changes in composition. For example, after the Mahratta wars, its composition was changed from Northern Indian to Southern Indian.

The initial strength of the battalion was three British officers, eight Indian officers and 277 other ranks. It was not at first exclusively Gurkha in composition. The battalion was initially composed of Gurkha parties of recruits from the 42nd, 43rd and 44th Gurkha Rifles, an equal number of men from the hill-tribes of Assam including Jhurwahs, small numbers of Dogras and a few Hindustanis. The non-Gurkhas were gradually wasted out of the regiment.

In its first few years of existence, the regiment was referred to by two different names in the Indian Army Lists. In 1890 it was called the 10th (Burma) Regiment of Madras Infantry and the following year it was called the 10th Regiment (1st Burma Battalion) of Madras Infantry. But in reality, the second name was the one used by the battalion until 1892.

It became the 10th Regiment (1st Burma Rifles) of Madras Infantry on 9 February 1892 at Maymyo in Burma. It was at this time, with the conversion of the unit to a Rifle Regiment, that the old colours of the 10th Madras were taken back to India (rifle regiments do not carry colours) and laid up at the Church of St. John in the fort at Vellore near to where the earliest predecessor of the 10th Madras Infantry had been raised in 1766. On 3 May 1895 the name of the regiment was again changed to 10th Regiment (1st Burma Gurkha Rifles) of Madras Infantry to reflect its now all-Gurkha composition.

On 13 September 1901 as part of a broad reorganisation of the Indian Army it became the 10th Gurkha Rifles and the regiment maintained its assigned recruiting areas in the Limbu and Rai tribal areas of eastern Nepal. In 1903 a 2nd Battalion was formed though it became the 1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles in 1907. A new 2nd Battalion of the 10th Gurkha Rifles was formed in 1908. From 1903 to 1912 the first battalion was stationed in Maymyo Burma as almost a ceremonial unit. In the winter months of 1912–1913 the 1st Battalion was sent into the Kachin Hills to guard against a potential uprising that did not occur.

First World War

Gurkha Memorial, Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire

In August 1914 the First World War, between the UK, France and their allies against Germany and its Allies, began. The 1st Battalion remained in Burma providing reinforcements and replacements to the 2nd Battalion on active service until 1916. At least five drafts were supplied. The third draft was sunk at sea by an Austrian submarine in the Aegean with the loss of 187 men.

The 2nd Battalion fought in the Middle East, against the Ottomans in the Defence of the Suez Canal, Egypt in 1915. The Ottomans had attempted to cross the Suez Canal and into Egypt but the Allied forces there successfully repulsed the attack, decimating them as they attempted the crossing. As a result of the 2nd Battalion’s involvement in this campaign, the regiment gained the battle honour “Suez Canal” and the theatre honour “Egypt 1915”.

Later that year the 2nd Battalion, as part of the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade, took part in the Dardanelles Campaign against the Ottomans. The brigade had initially been intended to be part of the New Zealand and Australian Division in the landing at Anzac Cove but instead was directed to assist at Cape Helles where the situation was deteriorating since the landing on 25 April. The brigade landed at Cape Helles in early May and the 2nd Battalion took part in the Battle of Gully Ravine which began on the 28 June. The brigade as a whole was moved to Anzac Cove in August where it took part in the August Offensive. The 2nd Battalion suffered heavy casualties during its participation in the Gallipoli campaign. The forces at Anzac and Suvla were evacuated in December 1915, though the last British troops left in January 1916, from Helles.

On 15 August 1916 the 1st Battalion embarked from Rangoon for the Middle East after a farewell ceremony given by the Governor of Burma. Both battalions of the regiment fought in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) from 1916, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of the Germans. The Mesopotamian campaign had started in 1914. Much of the regiment’s involvement in the war was relatively quiet though it took part in a number of engagements including the offensive against Baghdad in 1917 and in late October 1918 the last battle of the Mesopotamian campaign, Sharqat.

The 1st Battalion remained in Mesopotamia upon the conclusion of the war. It saw service during the revolt of Southern Kurdistan in 1919 and the rest of Iraq. Elsewhere, the 2nd Battalion took part in the Third Afghan War in 1919 and in operations in the North-West Frontier.

Second World War

The Second World War began in early September 1939 between the UK and its allies against Germany and its allies. The regiment raised a further two battalions during the war, the 3rd Battalion in 1940 and the 4th Battalion in 1941.

] Middle East & Italy

In 1941 a coup in Iraq took place. An Iraqi military group with ties to Germany deposed the Iraqi Monarchy. In consequence of this the British launched an invasion of Iraq to restore the Government, of which the 2nd Battalion participated in as part of the 10th Indian Infantry Division. An Armistice was signed with Iraq after British forces entered the Iraqi capital Baghdad on 31 May and the Iraqi Monarchy was restored, the coup leader Rashid Ali had fled first to Iran and then to Germany. The battalion later took part in the invasion of Vichy France-controlled Syria later in the year. During their part in the invasion the battalion took part in the Battle of Deir ez Zor for which the regiment received another battle honour.

The 1st Battalion later took part in operations in Iran and the Italian campaign. In Italy the battalion took part in a number of engagements including at Coriano and Santarcangelo in September 1944 for which the regiment won more battle honours. The battalion saw further service the following year in the tough terrain of Italy. During one incident a patrol of the battalion encountered a German patrol. Close-combat ensued when Rifleman Ganjabahadur Rai charged two Germans, dispatching both with his Kukri. The rifleman was killed shortly after by a number of other Germans. The Kukri-scarred rifle of one of the German’s, who had attempted to defend himself with it during his encounter with Rifleman Rai, was taken by the Gurkhas and was kept as a trophy by the regiment.

In January 1943 the 2nd Battalion was attached to the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade, which had just returned from the Western Desert, after having been almost destroyed at the Battle of Gazala.

At the end of the month the brigade was renamed as the 43rd Indian Infantry Brigade (Lorried). The brigade and its Gurkha battalions were sent to Italy in mid-1944 as an Independent brigade.

Far East

In Burma the regiment was heavily involved in the fight against the Japanese with the 1st, 3rd and 4th Battalions taking part in the Burma Campaign. The Japanese had swiftly invaded British territories in the Far East including Burma shortly after they launched the attack on Pearl Habor on 7 December 1941. The 1st Battalion was rushed to Burma, arriving in March 1942 just a week before the evacuation of Rangoon. The battalion conducted a fighting retreat hundreds of miles overland from Burma reaching India in May 1942.

Men of the 4th Battalion participated in the Chindits second campaign in occupied-Burma, code named Operation Thursday. The Chindits saw ferocious fighting, especially during the Japanese offensive that began in March 1944 against north-east India where two extremely important battles, Imphal and Kohima, took place.

Scraggy Hill (known to the Japanese as Ito Hill) on the Shenam Pass, captured by the 4/10th Gurkhas

At Imphal the regiment was heavily involved. Imphal was besieged by the Japanese for a number of months, the Allied defenders stoutly resisting all attempts to dislodge them. The Imphal siege was eventually lifted after the victory at Kohima, and Allied forces were soon launching their own offensive into Burma. During this particular time-period the 3rd Battalion saw intense, and numerous, engagements at Scraggy Hill and Shenam Pass where the battalion was embroiled in heavy fighting with Japanese forces, the battalion often employing their kukris in fierce hand-to-hand combat against the Japanese.

The Allied offensive was successful, pushing the Japanese forces far back into Burma, and the regiment took part in many engagements in Burma. In 1945 the regiment took part in the effort to capture Mandalay; British forces entered the city on 20 March. The regiment also took part in the capture of Meiktila, taken in early March. In that same month the 10th Gurkhas took part in the defence of Meiktila during a Japanese counter-attack which was repulsed by the Allied defenders. The capital Rangoon was liberated by British forces on 3 May. The regiment saw much more involvement during the latter months of the Burma campaign, gaining more battle honours.

Representatives of the regiment, as with all units that took part in the Burma campaign, took part in the Victory Parade in Rangoon on 15 June. The 10th Gurkhas accumulated 19 battle honours for their participation in the campaign—including the theatre honour “Burma 1942–45″—the most Battle Honours gained by any unit in the Burma campaign.

The 1st Battalion was given one further honour. It was charged with taking the formal surrender of the 28th Japanese Army in Burma at Paung on 29 October 1945. The surrender took place on a table covered with the regimental flag, which also flew under the Union Jack on the flagpole at the ceremony.


Following the end of the war, the 4th Battalion was disbanded in 1946 while the 3rd Battalion was disbanded the following year.

In 1947, India gained independence from the British Empire and in consequence of the Tripartite Agreement between India, Nepal and the UK, four of the 10 Gurkha regiments (8 Battalions in all) were transferred to the British Army, the 10th Gurkha Rifles being one of the four. It joined the Brigade of Gurkhas which was formed to administer the Gurkha units transferred to the British Army. Before the independence of India, the battalion decided to take the old colours of the 10th Madras Infantry out of India with it. Consideration was given to taking the regimental memorial at All-Saints Church in Maymyo Burma, which had been damaged by the Japanese during the war, out of Burma but it was decided to leave it behind because of the expense involved and the uncertainty over where it could be relocated. It consisted of marble on the floor of the sanctuary and wooden plaques on the walls.

The 1st Battalion served in Burma after the war and was one of the three battalions attending the independence ceremony in Rangoon in January 1948. Afterward it moved by sea to Malaya.

In 1949 the regiment’s name was altered to become the 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles in honour of HRH Princess Mary, Princess Royal. In 1950 the regiment was affiliated with the Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment), the oldest regiment in the regular army.

Meanwhile, in operations, the 1st and 2nd Battalions took part in the Malayan Emergency against Communist insurgents, known as Communist Terrorists (CTs). The insurgents had launched an uprising in 1948 in consequence of their perception that Malayan independence did not directly lead to the installation of a Communist government. The 10th Gurkhas were involved in the Emergency from the beginning and the conflict was awfully similar to the Burma campaign during WWII. The regiment remained involved until the official conclusion of the Emergency in 1960. The regiment lost 75 men during the course of their participation in the conflict.

In 1962 another conflict in the Far East began, the Indonesian Confrontation, after an Indonesian-backed rebellion took place in Brunei, Borneo that was swiftly quelled. The following year hostilities broke out between British-backed Malaysia and Indonesia. The two battalions of the regiment undertook two tours each, taking place in 1964 and 1965 respectively. In 1965 the regiment gained its first, and only, Victoria Cross (VC). Lance-Corporal Rambahadur Limbu of the 2nd Battalion received the VC for his actions in an incident in the Bau district in Sarawak, Borneo during the Claret operations against Indonesian-held Kalimantan. This incident has subsequently become known as the Battle of Bau. He was the last Gurkha, as of 2004, to be awarded the Victoria Cross. The conflict concluded in 1966 by which time the 10th Gurkhas had suffered 11 men killed.

In 1968 the regiment was reduced to a single battalion when the 1st Battalion absorbed the 2nd Battalion. The regiment remained in the Far East, based in Hong Kong, until 1973 when the regiment was sent to England for the first time. Initially they were based at Church Crookham in Hampshire, however, the following year the regiment was dispatched to Cyprus to protect the British Sovereign Base Area at Dhekelia in the aftermath of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. During their deployment the 10th Gurkhas attempted to keep the peace, at times literally having to place themselves in the line-of-fire between the opposing factions. In 1977 the 1st Battalion was deployed to Brunei for the first time. Since the rebellion in 1962 in which a Marxist, Indonesian-backed uprising had occurred, a Gurkha battalion has been present in Brunei at the request of HM the Sultan.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the regiment throughout was deployed to the usual destinations of Hong Kong, Brunei and Church Crookham. At Hong Kong the regiment performed internal security (IS) duties, including patrolling the border with China to prevent the illegal immigration of people attempting to flee to Hong Kong.

In 1990 the regiment was authorised, after almost 100 years of requests, to maintain the lineage of 10th Madras Infantry, thus gaining the battle honours and traditions going back to the 14th Battalion of Coast Sepoys raised by the East India Company in 1766. The lineage is special in that it is among the oldest in the British Indian Army. Though the lineage was granted, the history of the regiment is not continuous. The modern regiment was re-formed exclusively from the Kubo Valley Military Police after the old 10th Madras had been disbanded.

In 1991 the regiment deployed to Hong Kong for the last time, remaining there until 1993 when it returned to the Gurkha base at Church Crookham, also for the last time.

In 1994 the 10th Gurkhas were amalgamated with the 2nd Gurkha Rifles, 6th Gurkha Rifles and the 7th Gurkha Rifles to form the Royal Gurkha Rifles, the 10th Gurkhas becoming the 3rd Battalion.[4] In 1996 the Battalion was amalgamated with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles while in Brunei.

Badge and honorary badges

A bugle horn stringed interlaced with a kukri fessewise the blade to the sinister, above the kukri the cipher of HRH Princess Mary (The Princess Royal) and below it the numeral 10.

  • The Badge of a Rock Fort for Amboor.
  • The Badge of an Elephant for Assaye.

Titles of the Regiment and its Predecessors

1766–1767—14th Battalion of Coast Sepoys
1767–1769— Amboor Battalion
1769–1770— 11th Carnatic Battalion
1770–1784— 10th Carnatic Battalion
1784–1796— 10th Madras Battalion
1796–1824— 1st Battalion, 10th Regiment Madras Native Infantry
1824–1885— 10th Regiment Madras Native Infantry
1885–1890— 10th Regiment, Madras Infantry
1890–1891— 10th (Burma) Regiment of Madras Infantry
1891–1892— 10th Regiment (1st Burma Battalion) of Madras Infantry
1892–1895— 10th Regiment (1st Burma Rifles), Madras Infantry
1895–1901— 10th Regiment (1st Burma Gurkha Rifles), Madras Infantry
1901–1950— 10th Gurkha Rifles
1950–1994— 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles.

Battle honours

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