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Unfailing spirit of the indispensable Gorkhas

Jawans of the Gurkha unit of the Indian army give a display with their "kukris" during the final of the Army Commanders trophy eight goal polo tournament at the Bison polo ground in Secunderabad. Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

Jawans of the Gurkha unit of the Indian army give a display with their "kukris" during the final of the Army Commanders trophy eight goal polo tournament at the Bison polo ground in Secunderabad. Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

‘Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous,

never had a country more faithful friends than you’

On April 24, 2015, the Third Gorkha Rifles (3 GR) celebrated the 200th anniversary of their raising. It was a solemn occasion as the inheritors of its hoary traditions reflected on the history of the regiment and the sacrifices made by its men in distant and diverse battlefields.

It reflects on the history of the Indian Army itself, which by its feat of arms secured the British Empire and after Independence ensured that our Republic withstood all threats. Its sacrifices stand as a badge of honour to the backdrop of the regiment’s motto “Kafar huno bandha marnu ramrod” (Better dead than be a coward).

The Gorkhas joined the Indian Army immediately after their defeat in the Nepal War of 1815. Their martial and doughty spirit so impressed the British that they happily enrolled them. Four battalions were raised in 1815. These simple and tough hill men continue to enrol and fight India’s battles with a courage and resoluteness which continues to strike awe in the enemy and inspire their leaders.

The outbreak of the World War 1 found the British Army in desperate straits and two Indian divisions were despatched to France. The 2 Battalion formed a part of the Garhwal Brigade and held the line between Neuve Chappelle and Givenchy. Bitter fighting took place and the first Gorkha Victoria Cross (VC) was won by Rifleman Kulbir Thapa during an attack on La Bassee on September 25, 1915. In fact Kulbir was the first non-Britisher to win the VC.

On October 31, 1915, the Battalion was relieved and moved with the division to West Asia right bang into the campaign to evict the Turks from Syria. On February 3, 1917, the third Battalion of the regiment (3/3 GR) was raised and moved to West Asia.

With the onset of World War II, the 3 and 4 battalions were again raised. 1/3 GR formed a part of 17 Indian division, which was forced to retreat the length of Burma against Japanese onslaught and suffered heavily at the disaster of the Sittang Bridge. Nevertheless the unit fought on, part of a long retreat and eventually fought the Japanese to a standstill at Bishenpur on the plains of Imphal. Thereafter they fought their way into Burma. It was four years of near non-stop fighting.

At the time of Independence, the Gorkha Regiments were divided between the UK and India, though most of the troops voted overwhelmingly to remain with India. The 3 Gorkha Rifles were allotted to India and received its first batch of Indian officers. All the three battalions were heavily involved in internal security duties all over South Asia and saved many lives.

The fledgling Indian state had to face its main challenge against Pakistan’s attempts at annexing Kashmir. It was a near thing but the tide turned and the advance on Muzzafarabad began. Peace on the borders did not mean peace within. The Nagas had started their insurgency in 1955 and 1/3 GR was immediately moved into the Naga Hills.

The Chinese invasion of 1962, found 3/3GR valiantly facing them for the defence of Walong, where the unit suffered grievously as orders for withdrawal did not reach them and they were cut off.

During the 1965 War, 3/3 and 4/3 GR curbed Pakistan adventurism on the borders.

In 1971, 1/3 GR is the only battalion in post-Independence history which carried out an amphibious operation to cut off any fleeing Pak troops.

The next major engagement fought by the Regiment was the Kargil War. Four battalions participated, proportionately the highest of any Indian army regiment. All were blooded in conducting themselves with honour and sacrifice on those forbidding heights.3/3GR was awarded Theatre Honour ‘Kargil’.

The saga of the Third Gorkha Rifles is a microcosm of the war fighting done by the Indian Army over two centuries. The hardy Gorkha from the hills of Nepal serves for his livelihood but his bravery, sacrifice, humour and discipline has made him an indispensable icon of the Army.


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Printable version | May 28, 2022 9:54:46 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/the-third-gorkha-rifles-history/article7137658.ece