15: 1st Gurkha Rifles

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1st King George V’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment)

The 1 Gorkha Rifles is a Gorkha infantry regiment of the Indian Army. It was originally formed as part of the British Indian Army in 1815, later adopting the title of the 1st King George V’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment), however, in 1947, following India’s independence in 1947, it was transferred to the Indian Army and in 1950 when India became a Republic, it was redesignated as the 1 Gorkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment). The regiment has a long tradition and has participated in many conflicts, including many of the colonial conflicts prior to Independence, as well as the First and Second World Wars. Since 1947 the regiment has also participated in a number of campaigns against Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 as well as undertaking peacekeeping duties as part of the United Nations.

A kilmarnock cap badge from the late 18th century, made in white metal and with replaced lugs. Size 61 x 43mm



Main article: Gurkha War

The Gurkha War was fought between the Gorkha kings of Nepal and the British East India Company as a result of border tensions and ambitious expansionism especially into Kumaon, Garwhal and Kangra hills. Although the British East India Company’s army defeated the Gorkha army led by General Amar Singh Thapa, they were nevertheless impressed by the skill and courage the Gorkhas had shown during the siege of Malaun fort in Bilaspur. As a result, during the post war settlement a clause was inserted into the Treaty of Segauli enabling the British to recruit Gorkhas. On 24 April 1815 at Subathu, the East India Company formed a regiment with the survivors of Thapa’s army calling it the First Nusseree Battalion. This formation of this unit marks the beginning the of history of the first Gorkha regiment.

Early campaigns

The Regiment soon saw its first battle when, in 1826, it took part in the Jat War where it helped in the conquest of Bharatpur,[2][6] gaining it as a Battle Honour, the first Battle Honour awarded to the Gurkha units. In 1846 the First Anglo-Sikh War began and the Regiment was heavily involved in the conflict. It was awarded two Battle honours for its involvement in the war; at the Battle of Aliwal which saw the Sikh forces, who had invaded British India.

The Regiment experienced numerous names changes during the 1800s; one name change in 1850 saw it gain a new numerical designation to become the 66th Goorkha Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry] after the original 66th had mutinied. The Regiment saw service during the Indian Mutiny which began in 1857. The following year Lieutenant John Adam Tytler became the first Gurkha officer to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), receiving it for his actions against rebels at Choorpoorah.

In 1861 the Regiment gained its present numerical designation when it became the 1st Goorkha Regiment. In 1875 the Regiment was sent abroad for the first time, when it took part in the effort to quell a rebellion in Malaya during the Perak War. During the conflict Captain George Nicolas Channer was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valiant actions against the Malayans. The Regiment took part in the Second Afghan War in 1878 where they were part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade and won the Theatre Honour “Afghanistan 1878–80”.

In 1886 the Regiment became the 1st Goorkha Light Infantry and a 2nd Battalion was raised in February. In 1891 the Regiment was designated a Rifle regiment when it became the 1st Gurkha (Rifle) Regiment and in consequence of this the Regiment’s Colours were laid up. The Regiment then took part in operations in Burma and the North-West Frontier campaigns in the 1890s; at Waziristan in 1894 and the Tirah campaign in 1897.

In 1901 the Regiment’s title was shortened when it became the 1st Gurkha Rifles and in 1903 its title was changed once more, this time to the 1st Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment). This title had been adopted to commemorate due to the significance of Malaun to the Regiment; it was where the British had decisively beaten the Gurkhas in 1815 during the Anglo–Gurka War and subsequently recruited them into the Nusseree battalions. The Regiment was located near Dharamsala when the Kangra earthquake struck on 4 April 1905, killing 370,000 people. The 1st Gurkhas themselves suffered over 60 fatalities.

In 1906 its title was changed to the 1st Prince of Wales’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment) in honour of HRH George, Prince of Wales (later King George V) who also became Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment that year. In 1910 King George V ascended to the throne and in consequence the title of the regiment was changed to the 1st King George’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment), thus maintaining the Regiment’s links with King George.

First World War

In August 1914 the First World War began. In December, the 1st Battalion was deployed to the Western Front in France as part of the Sirhind Indian Infantry Brigade, attached to 3rd (Lahore) Division.

Cap badge from the 1st World War, made in cast white metal. Size 39 x 36mm

The 1st Battalion’s first taste of trench warfare came when they were involved in the defence of Givenchy shortly after. After braving a winter in the trenches, on 10 March 1915 the 1st Battalion took part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle which lasted until 13 March. In April the Battalion took part in the Second Battle of Ypres, fighting in the subsidiary Battle of St. Julien which began on 24 April and concluded on 4 May. Later that month the Battalion took part in the Battle of Festubert and in September the Battle of Loos began, the last major engagement on the Western Front that the 1st Battalion took part in, before being withdrawn from the Western Front.

The Western Front was a completely different location to what the Regiment had been used to in the sub-continent and they, as indeed did the other Indian Army troops, suffered badly during the winter months. As a result in December 1915 it was decided that the infantry units of the Indian Corps would be withdrawn from France and sent to other theatres. As a result the 1st Battalion, along with the rest of the 3rd Division, was sent to Mesopotamia to take part in the campaign against the Ottomans which had begun in 1914, The Sirhind Brigade was given a numerical designation, the 8th Brigade. In 1916 the 1st Gurkhas took part in a number of attempts, including the attack on Dujaila Redoubt in March, to relieve Kut-al-Amara, which had been besieged by the Ottomans since 7 December 1915. Those attempts, however, failed and Kut remained under siege until it surrendered to the Ottomans on 29 April 1916.

Following this the Regiment took part in the Allied offensive against the Ottomans later that year; this included the effort to recapture Kut, begun in December, which was recaptured in February 1917 and the capital Baghdad which was taken the following month. The 1st Battalion was later moved to Palestine in early 1918. It was involved in the effective Allied offensive against the Ottomans in September, the Battle of Megiddo, and also saw action at the Sharon.

Elsewhere, the 2nd Battalion saw service in the North-West Frontier of India, gaining the Battle Honour “North-West Frontier 1915–17” in the process. In 1917 a 3rd Battalion was raised for home service in India.

During the period that they had served on the Western Front in France the men of the 1st Gurkhas had found the conditions quite different to those that they were used to, however, they acquitted themselves commendably, performing with distinction in the many battles they took part in, proving the capability of the Gurkhas once more. The war formally ended on 11 November 1918 with the signing of the Armistice. The Regiment won 11 Battle Honours and 4 Theatre Honours during the war.

Inter war years

In 1919 the 1st and 2nd Battalions saw service during the brief Third Afghan War for which they gained the Theatre Honour “Afghanistan 1919”. In 1921 the 3rd Battalion was disbanded. After this the Regiment participated in a number of campaigns on the North-West Frontier, serving mainly in Waziristan.

WW2 period officers boss cap badge. Size 18 x 16mm.

In 1937 the Regiment’s name was altered slightly when it became the 1st King George V’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment); the only change being the addition of a V.

Second World War

In September 1939 the Second World War commenced between the UK and its allies against Germany. In December 1941 the Japanese entered the war when it launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and launched a number of swift invasions of British and other countries territories. During the course of the war the Regiment raised a further three battalions, the 3rd in 1940, the 4th in 1941 and the 5th in 1942;[10][14] the Regiment saw much service in the war but most notably in Malaya and Burma.

The Regiment saw ferocious fighting during the Japanese invasion of Malaya; the 2nd Battalion, part of the 28th Brigade, saw heavy fighting at Jitra where it was forced to hastily retreat after taking part in the initial resistance on the Asun and being isolated and confronted by overwhelming Japanese forces which included tanks. The 1st Battalion saw action at Kampar where they were out-numbered and sustained heavy casualties during an engagement at the Slim River Bridge on the 7 January. The Allies had withdrawn from Malaya, to Singapore, by January 1942. The Japanese subsequently launched an invasion of Singapore and bitter fighting ensued; Singapore, which had once been perceived as impregnable, fell on the 15 February 1942 with 130,000 British, Australian and Empire troops, including men of the 2nd Battalion, taken prisoner by the Japanese.

Another officers boss cap badge in white metal with replaced fastings.

Size 24 x 21mm.

Gurkhas advancing with tanks on the Imphal–Kohima road, March–July 1944

WW2 cap badge other ranks in pressed white metal maybe unmarkes silver with lugs. Size 42 x 37mm.

In Burma, a similar situation occurred, the Allies having to—having come under intense attacks from the Japanese who had begun their offensive in December—commence a retreat to India from February 1942 which was completed in May.[16] Later, the battalions of the Regiment saw heavy fighting again in 1944 in the Arakan and during the Japanese offensive against north-east India where two important battles, Kohima and Imphal, took place from March to June 1944. Imphal was besieged by the Japanese until the Allies achieved a decisive victory at Kohima in June and the Japanese fled back into Burma. The Regiment subsequently took part in the successful Allied offensive into Burma and on the 3 May 1945 the Burmese capital Rangoon was liberated by British forces. There were still Japanese forces present in Burma but the fight against the Japanese was now ostensibly a mopping up operation.

The war concluded with the formal surrender of Japan on 2 September 1945 on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay; the Allies had prevailed after nearly six years of fighting. In French Indochina that same day the Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh, declared their independence from France as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Shortly afterwards the British began to send units of the 20th Indian Infantry Division, which the 1st and 3rd Battalions were part of, to occupy the south of the country while the Nationalist Chinese occupied the north; the deployment was completed by October. The force was intended to disarm the Japanese forces and help in their repatriation back to Japan. The force, however, soon became embroiled in the fight against the Viet Minh and was soon helping in the restoration of French-control over the country. The British were, due to a lack of sufficient manpower, ironically forced to have the Japanese forces working alongside their own in Indochina in order to maintain peace and stability. The operations against the Viet Minh gradually became more intense and after substantial French reinforcements arrived the British and Indian forces departed by May 1946, and the First Indochina War would begin shortly afterwards.

From September 1945 the 7th Indian Infantry Division, which the 4th Battalion was part of, was deployed to Siam (now Thailand) as part of an occupation force sent there to disarm the large Japanese forces present. The Battalion subsequently moved to Malaya in 1946 and then onto India.

In 1946, the 2nd Battalion, having been captured in Malaya in 1942, was reconstituted from personnel taken from the 3rd Battalion, which subsequently was disbanded along with the 4th and 5th Battalions.

Post Independence

The Indian Army 1st Gorkha Rifles Regiment post 1947 made in white metal with slider. Size 40 x 28mm.

In 1947 an agreement, known as the Tripartite Agreement between India, Nepal and the United Kingdom was negotiated in order to determine what would happen to the Gurkhas upon the formalisation of India’s Independence. As a result of this agreement it was decided that of the pre-war Gurkha regiments, four would be transferred to the British Army, while six—one of which was the 1st Gurkhas—would become part of the newly-independent Indian Army.

Despite India achieving its independence, the Regiment retained its full designation until 1950 when it became the 1 Gorkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment), also adopting the Indian spelling of Gurkha, following India’s transition to a republic.

Over time the wartime battalions that had been disbanded in 1946 were re-raised, so that by 1965 the Regiment consisted of five battalions once more.

In 1961 Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria received the posthumous Param Vir Chakra (PVC), India’s highest military honour, for his actions in the Congo when the 3rd Battalion, of which he was part, was on United Nations service.

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