The Evolution of Gorkha Regiments of the Indian Army -- 1816 to date.
It was some two hundred years ago that the Gorkhas, under Kazi Amar Singh Thapa had fought the Anglo- Gorkha wars of 1814-15. These wars culminated in a decisive battle with the forces of the British East India Company—the Battle of the ''Malaun Fort''. The Gorkhas had earlier distinguished themselves at the heroic battle of the Kalanga Fort under Bal Bhadra, inflicting heavy casualities on the British, despite their smaller forces and limited fire power. The British were so impressed by the valour, tenacity, and the fighting qualities of the Gorkhas that they allowed Amar Singh Thapa to march out of their forts at Malauan and Taragarh, with arms and colours. They also offered recruitment to 5000 men to serve in the East India Company's forces. These forces were raised in April 1815 (though the agreement itself was signed on 15 May 1815) as the Nassiri (Subathu), Sirmmor ( Dehra Dun) and the Kumaon Provincial (Almora) battalions. Thus, these units became the forerunners of the famous Gorkha regiments, known as the 1st King George V's GR, the 2nd King Edward VII's and the 3rd Queen Alexendra's GR.
A number of Kumaoni and Garhwali troops who fought under the Gorkhas were also enrolled in these regiments. The Treaty of Segauli was ratified by the Nepalese Government on 04 March 1816 to formalise the arrangement. Nepal also agreed to receive a Resident at Kathmandu, while retaining its independence. In 1857, the 4th GR was raised at Pithoragarh (Kumaon hills), and the 5th GR was raised at Abbottabad (NWFP). Soon they were given permanent homes at Dharamsala (1GR), DehraDun (2GR), Almora (3GR) and Bakloh (4GR). During this period a few Gorkhas joined the Sikh Army and the state forces of J&K, though these were not covered in the treaty of Segauli. Gorkha battalions were extensively employed in the Afghan War (1878-80), and saw active service in China (1900). In 1890, an additional regiment in the form of the 6th GR was added, since the British were deeply impressed with the performance of the Gorkha regiments and with their soldierly qualities and loyalty.
A second battalion of each regiment had already been added in 1886, which was followed by raising of the new regiments of the Gorkhas in 1902, consisting of the 7 GR, 8 GR, and 9 GR. In the ongoing reorganization of 1903, another regiment—the 10 GR—was added. To give representation to Eastern Nepal, Rai and Limbu tribes were recruited in the 7GR and 10 GR, whereas the 9 GR had Thakuris and the Chhetris of the Nepalese valley. The remainder of the Gorkha regiments had the Magars and Gurungs. By 1908, the Gorkha Brigade had grown into ten regiments, each regiment of two battalions, a total of twenty numerically numbered. Gorkhas were also being recruited into Assam Rifles, Burma Rifles and Indian Police.
Regimental training centres for the Gorkhas were established in India in 1864, at Dharamsala, Dehra Dun, Almora, Abbottabad and Bakloh. All these Centres except Abbottabad, were treated as the permanent homes in perpetuity of the respective regiments. The Gorkha Regiments were termed as the Rifles, based on the concept of better scouting skills, quicker pace and field craft. They had no colours or ‘guidons', unlike the other units and carried their battle honours on their drums. Here, at the regimental centres, besides training recruits and locating of a battalion after a tenure in the NWFP or abroad, serving soldiers were provided married accommodation and other facilities, like school, bazaar and hospital. They were encouraged to bring their families from Nepal, and after retirement permitted to settle down in and around the Cantonment. Thus, came the concept of the Military Cantonments in India.
Expansion of the Gorkha Units in the Army
During the First World War, the need for additional troops was felt, and 11 GR was raised in 1918, from the existing Gorkha Regiments deployed in the Middle East Theatre. As many as 74,187 India soldiers died in the First World War; many of these Gorkhas. They fought valiantly at Neuve Chappelle, Ypres, Gallipoli, Bagdad, Mesopotamia and Tigris. The contribution of the Indian soldiers in the Gallipoli campaign was significant, though not suitably recognised by the military historians so far, as recently narrated by the Australian military historian Peter Stanley in his book Die in Battle-Do Not Despair. Three Gorkha battalions, 1/5GR, 1/6 GR and 2/7 GR were in the forefront of this campaign.
The first three battalions of the newly raised 11 GR, returned to India in August 1918 and were located at Manmad. They, thereafter, saw action in the NWFP and performed with distinction. The fourth battalion saw action against the Germans and the Turks and returned in 1919 to India after the War, where it was disbanded in 1920. The Depot for the Regiment, (11GR) was established at Nowshera (Pakistan) in 1918, but subsequently moved to Abbottabad in 1920. As the Nepal Durbar did not agree to provide the manpower for these units after the War, the 1st and the 2nd battalions were disbanded in July 1921, followed by the 3rd in March 1922. Thus ended the brief history of XI GR, a regiment which was re-raised in 1948 from the Gorkha troops and which did not opt for service with the British Army post-1947.
During the 2nd World War, nearly 200,000 Gorkha recruits went through rigorous training at the ten training centres for the 45 Gorkha battalions. Out of the 1,12,000 Gorkha soldiers who participated in the War, there were more than 25,000 casualties, including 7,544 fatalities. Besides being selected for the Chindit Operations behind the enemy lines in Burma, a brigade of Gorkhas was formed for operations in Malaya and was taken POW by the Japanese, in Feb 1942. Gorkhas fought bravely in the various regions and out of the 31 Victoria Cross Awards won by the British Indian Army, 12 were won by the Gorkhas. Ten of these were earned in the 2nd World War. After fighting in all the theatres of the 2nd World War, Gorkha units were engaged in operations in 1944, against the communists in Greece, and in clearing the Japanese in Indo-China, Java, and Indonesia.
Although all the ten regiments had four battalions each, a fifth battalion was raised for 1 GR, 2GR, and 9 GR in lieu of their second battalions which were captured in Singapore. The expansion also resulted in raising of five training battalions at the respective training centres. These were 14 GR, 29 GR, 38 GR, 56 GR, and 710 GR. New units designated as 25 GR and 26 GR as garrison units were also raised for the defence of the Corps HQ, along with 153 and 154 (originally 3/7 GR) Gorkha parachute battalions. A large number of Gorkhas were also recruited for non-Gorkha Brigade units, like the J&K State Forces, Assam Rifles, Burma Rifles, Indian Pioneer Corps, Indian General Service Corps, and Indian Medical Corps.
Recruitment and Training Policy For the Gorkha Battalions
To facilitate recruitment and streamline training of the Gorkha Units, a Gorkha Recruitment Depot (GRD) was established at Gorakhpur in March 1886. A subsidiary GRD was established at Darjeeling in 1890, for easy recruitment of Gorkhas from Eastern Nepal, which was relocated at Ghoom in 1901. The recruits were screened and medically examined at the GRD, before despatch to the respective training centres. In 1903, the GRD was shifted to Kunaraghat, its present location. After 1947, recruitment teams were allowed to visit Nepal to select and bring the recruits to the GRD for screening. However, since 1995 full fledged recruitment rallies are allowed to be held in Nepal. GRD, Kunraghat conducts these rallies in conjunction with the District Soldiers Boards, based on the forecasts of vacancies. After initial tests and the medical screening , the inductees are brought to the GRD and put through the written tests. Successful candidates are sent to the respective training centres. GRD, Kunraghat today is a well laid out facility and provides convenient transit for the recruits, the veterans and the leave parties en-route to Nepal.
Final Division of the Gorkha Regiments--Post 1947
After detailed deliberations by the Governments of UK, India and Nepal, it was decided that four Gorkha regiments (eight battalions) will form part of the British Army, while six regiments (twelve battalions) will form part of the Indian Army. The nomination of the regiments was done unilaterally by British, based on their preferences for the selected regiments. The British were keen to retain the two VC regiments, the 2nd and 5th GR with the HMG. They were also keen to have the 9th GR, as they were considered to be more intelligent and better suited for the Corps of Signals and as Gunners in the proposed Gorkha division. To ensure representation of the Eastern Nepal, it was felt that either the 7th or the 10th GR should form part of the HMG. Finally, administrative considerations of economy and logistics, and the future operational employment in the Far East and Malaya became the deciding factors. As 2 GR, 6 GR, 7 GR and 10 GR already had a battalion each deployed in Malaya and the far East, it was convenient to nominate them for transfer to the HMG.
The ' Opt’ Option and the Tripartite Agreement
A Tripartite Agreement was signed between the British, the King of Nepal and the new Indian Government on 09 November 1947, for further employment of the Gorkhas in the respective armies. The three countries agreed to the continued service of the Gorkhas in the Indian Army and the HMG Gorkhas, subject to the individual wish of each man in service being ascertained through a referendum. Accordingly, an option was sought from each regiment to give their preference, including willingly proceeding on release from service. The result of the “opt” was an eye opener, as less than 5000 opted for service with the British Army, and the remainder 70,000 opted to serve in the Indian Army. The ‘opt’ option did not go well for the HMG, as the 1st battalion of 2nd GR and the 2nd battalion of 6th GR declined to serve in the British Gorkhas, en-mass, in spite of these two regiments being selected by the British. This was also true for the 2/7 GR, where only 40 of the soldiers volunteered for HMG. This resulted in raising additional battalions in 5 GR and even a new regiment, 11GR, to absorb them in India. The main reasons for this situation, were that after nearly 4 to 5 years service overseas and the war, the men wanted to be located nearer home. Perhaps proximity of India to Nepal influenced the 'opt'. The delay in announcing the pay and allowances by the British, also created un-certainty. On the contrary India had clearly announced the policy of equating the Gorkha troops, with the Indian Army in all respects, including grant of commissions as Officers to the competent persons.
Posting of Indian Officers in the Gorkha Regiments
The British had deliberately kept the Gorkhas isolated from the Indian battalions, so that the nationalist elements do not influence them. They had also officered them exclusively by the British Officers. During the period of transition, this void was filled by posting officers from the Baluch, Punjab and the Frontier Force battalions, which went to Pakistan. A few officers serving in the Indian regiments like the Jats, Marathas, and Rajput regiments were also selected for posting to the Gorkhas, thus giving a strong foundation to these new units. To make the shortfall of officers, a decision was taken to promote two deserving Gorkha JCOs each, as the Commissioned Officers in all the Gorkha battalions (nineteen).
The Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army have continued to display the highest standards of valour, tenacity and dedication in all the Wars fought by the Indian Army. Their contribution from the time of the independence, in peace keeping, in the active operations, in combating insurgencies, in the various UN missions, and in aid to civil authorities has been outstanding and would require a detailed narration. This is being covered separately. The honours and awards earned for gallantry in the wars, and the distinguished service medals and the citations in various contingencies are truly impressive and a matter of pride for the Indian Army. Post independence the Gorkha regiments have provided three of the Army Chiefs and a galaxy of outstanding senior officers. Notwithstanding the political situation and the periodic turmoil in Nepal, the Gorkha soldiers of the Indian Army have continued to perform their assigned tasks with dignity, loyalty and trust.
Gorkhas in Other Arms and Services
. The only Gorkha Artillery regiment was raised in Oct 1962 at Belgaon and performed creditably in the operations both in1965 and the 1971 Wars. The Gorkhas have now joined all Arms and Services of the Army, as also the Indian Navy and the IAF. Beside the 41 infantry battalions, there are two Rashtriya battalions (15 and 33), one Mech Inf (1/8GR) and a sprinkling of Gorkhas in the Special Forces units. The percentage of personnel in the Gorkha regiments is now 40% Indian and 60% Nepalese domiciled. To ensure post retirement employment of the Gorkhas, the Army has established the Gorkha Resettlement Training Unit (GRTU) at Raiwala for skill development, and extended all other benefits including the ECHS facility to all the Gorkhas of the Indian armed forces in Nepal. We have excellent Pension Payment Camps at Pokhara and Dharan in Nepal, with hostel and other connected facilities and a Sainik Nivas in Kathmandu. Gorkha soldiers are entitled all the grants for gallantry and disability at par with the other soldiers of the Indian army. The Gorkha regiments continue to retain their elan and maintain their glorious military tradition unique in the annals of military history.