April 24, 2015 will be a significant day in the annals of Indian Army's glorious history.
The oldest existing infantry battalion of the ‘Third Gorkha Regiment', the ‘First Battalion, The Third Gorkha Rifles' better known as 1/3 Gorkha Rifles, will celebrate the 200th anniversary of their raising on this day.
Only a few others including the Madras and Grenadiers Regiments (1758), Punjab Regiment (1761), Rajputana Rifles (1775), Rajput Regiment (1778), Jat Regiment (1795) andKumaon Regiment (1813) are among the other native infantry regiments that preceded them.
Sir Robert Colquhuonraised 1/3 Gorkha Rifles on April 24, 1815, in Almora, in present-day Uttaranchal. They comprised not just the Gorkhas but also men from Kumaon and Garhwal regions. A total of four battalions were raised the same year.
Interestingly, it was only at the end of the Anglo-Nepal War (1814-1816) did the British, realising that the gritty Gorkhas had in them to befeisty, ferocious and fearless warriors, raised a fighting outfit with them.
Initially designated ‘Kemaoon Local Battalion' with policing role in the formative years, 1/3 GR would soon have its baptism with fire in its basic role, quelling rebellions and war.
On April 19, 1880, in the Second Afghan War, they would earn their most famous Battle Honour "Ahmed Khel", which is commemorated till date.By 1945, the Battle Honour count was 37, ending with their last, "Pegu-1945", spanning operations including the two World Wars.
Presently operating from a location in West Bengal under Eastern Command, the saga of1/3 GRinterestingly has a significant Kolkata and ‘Eastern Theatre' connection in the post-independence era.
The Battalion's first Indian Commanding Officer, Lt Col (later Lt Gen) P.O. Dunn took Command of the Battalion from Lt Col H.V. Rose, at Fort William, Calcutta (as it was then known), on November 29, 1947.
The Gorkha soldiers of 1/3 GR, adept and skillful in the game of football began giving then top professional teams in Calcutta, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, some tough competition in hard fought local tournaments, winning the hearts of soccer-loving Bengalis.
After their brief stint in Calcutta, 1/3 GR would go on to serve in Punjab, J&K and Nagaland before returningto Fort William, in November 1970. Only this time, a year on, a glorious history awaited them.
Meanwhile, during their Nagaland stint in 1956, then Commanding Officer of the Battalion, Lt Col J R Chitnis would bravely lead his men in clearing an ambush operation against his column resulting in 20 dead insurgents.
Sadly, Col Chitnis would also succumb to injuries. He was posthumously awarded Ashoka Chakra Class-I for his conspicuous bravery.
In 1965, the Battalion would play a pivotal role on the Amritsar-Lahore axis fighting manyhard fought battles.
In 1971, 1/3 GR would script history by becoming the only Battalion in post-independence era to carry out amphibious operations, cutting off fleeing Pakistani troops in Bangladesh.
The Battalion continued to excel wherever deployed, be it in Kashmir valley, northeast or even the Rann area in Western Gujarat. While operating in icy heights along the LC at Kargil, the unit won laurels in ‘Op Vijay' in 1999.
Besides being chosen for an UN Mission at Rwanda between 1994 and 1996, the Battalion participated in several major Exercises including ‘Op Parakram'.
In the aftermath ofBhuj earthquake of January 2001, the Battalion would play a Samaritan role in the quake-affected areas providing succor and relief under ‘Op Sahayata'.
Nearly 200 gallantry and distinguished service awards in the pre-independence eraembellish their lofty glorious past.Post Independence, the Battalion has earned 117 gallantry and distinguished awards including an Ashoka and Kirti Chakra, two Shaurya Chakras and a Padma Bhushan among several other awards.
As the officers, soldiers and veterans of 1/3 GR reunite to commemorate the historic landmark, one can feel reassured that the valiant Gorkha soldiers of 1/3 GR are here to stay, fearless and steadfast in their loyalty, in service to the nation.
(The writer is the Chief PRO, Ministry of Defence, Kolkata.)