4 Gorkha Rifles is one of the most widely travelled regiment’s of the Indian Army, and has seen operations both at home and abroad, which are reflected in its long list of Battle Honours.
The Fourth Gorkha Rifles was raised on August 6, 1857, as an ‘Extra Goorkha Regiment’, by officers and men drawn from the 66th Goorkha Regiment (1st Nusseree Battalion, the present 1/1 GR) at Pithoragarh. It was the last regular Regiment raised by the erstwhile East India Company in India. The regiment consisted of only one battalion till the 2nd Battalion was raised in 1886 at Bakloh (HP), the place which went on to become its Regimental Home. Currently, the regiment has five battalions and has been given various titles over the years. Starting as the `Extra Goorkha Regiment’, it was designated variously as the 19th Bengal Native Infantry, The Fourth Goorkha Regiment, The Fourth Gurkha Rifles, The Fourth Prince Of Wales’ Own Gurkha Rifles and finally after Independence its present name, the 4 Gorkha Rifles.
The regiment was pushed into active operations right after its inception during the Revolt of 1857. Amongst the more famous operations it fought in the 19th century was the campaign against the Lushais in 1871, the Afghan War from 1878-1880, the Chin Hills Operations in 1889, Chitral in 1895 and Tirah in 1897-98.
The regiment became part of the first body of Indian troops to operate overseas when the 1st Battalion was sent on active service to China as part of the `China Expeditionary Force’ to quell the Boxer Rebellion. Sailing on July 15, 1900, the battalion landed at Shanghai, where it operated for almost two years before returning to India on July 27, 1902.
The 1st Battalion also had the unique distinction of being the first Indian battalion to embark for Europe to take part in the World War I in 1914. It took part in the very first battles on the Western Front in Europe, starting from France and Belgium in mid December 1914. The battalion fought with great gallantry at Neuve Chapelle, Gallipoli and the battles of Mesopotamia, and was the first to enter Baghdad in 1917. The ferocity of the battles fought can be gauged by the fact that none of the officers of the battalion who embarked for operations on board the ship ‘Baroda’ in 1914 were alive by the end of the war.
Three battalions of the regiment saw intensive action in the World War II. The 3rd Battalion formed part of the famous Wingate’s Chindits and earned laurels for their actions. The 2nd Battalion faced Rommel’s tanks in North Africa, and the whole unit was captured with the rest of the garrison in the Battle of the Cauldron. With the nucleus of those who escaped, the battalion was reraised and fought with great gallantry in Italy.
Immediately after Independence, the regiment was actively involved in the Kashmir operations. The 1st Battalion spearheaded the operations for the relief of the garrison at Punch. In sustained operations over 26 days involving numerous battalion-level attacks, the soldiers covered a distance of over 80 km and established a linkup with the besieged garrison of Punch. The 2nd Battalion, along with 2 Grenadiers, captured Gurais and Kanzalwan, thus sealing the enemy’s route into the Kashmir Valley from the north. A company of the battalion also operated in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh alongwith 2/8 Gorkha rifles with great distinction. For their action, the Rregiment was awarded the Battle Honours of Punch and Gurais. The 1962 Chinese aggression saw the 3rd Battalion operating in Ladakh and the First being rushed to NEFA, arriving just before the ceasefire was signed.
Two battalions of the regiment saw action in the 1965 Indo-Pak War. The 3rd Battalion fought in the battles of Khemkaran/Patti and the Fifth Battalion as part of Op Riddle captured Anula.
The 1971 Indo-Pak War found the 1st, 2nd and the 3rd battalions on the Western Front in J&K. The 1st Battalion successfully defended the North Western approach to Punch, beating back repeated attacks of the enemy. The 3rd Battalion launched successful counter attacks to dislodge the enemy bridgehead and secure the banks of the Tawi River after Pakistani soldiers had succeeded in effecting crossings at Dhar and Raipur. This action had a crucial role in shaping the course of the battle, as later events showed.
The 3rd Battalion took over responsibilities on the Siachen Glacier in September 87 and immediately got involved in beating back Pakistani attacks to take over the Bila Fond La pass. The magnificent fight put up by the battalion on the highest battlefield of the world, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy and defeating his attacks is now a glorious chapter in the pages of history. For this action, the battalion was awarded three MVCs, five VrCs, one YSM, seven SM, five M-in-D, four COAS and four GOC-in-C Commendation Cards.
All battalions of the regiment have over a period of time been actively involved in counter insurgency operations in the North Eastern States, J&K and Punjab. The 5th Battalion during its tour of duty in the Kashmir Valley from 1990 to 1992 earned the coveted ‘Unit Citation’ for valour and devotion to duty while the 1st Battalion earned the coveted ‘Unit Citation’ in the year 2002 for its outstanding performance in J&K, besides bagging one KC, one SC, 19 SMs, and a number of COAS and GOC-in-C Commendation cards. The 1st Battalion is perhaps the only unit which has earned so many awards during its deployment in J&K since September ’99. The 5th Battalion earned a unit citation in 1998. The Second Battalion had the honour of representing the regiment in UN Peace Keeping Operations in Lebanon in 1999. The 4 Gorkha Rifles, which is one of the most widely travelled regiment of the Indian Army, also has the distinction of having contributed the first two Commandants of the Indian Military Academy — Brig L.P. Collins, CBE, DSO and Brig HEW Bell Kingsley, DSO. The first Commandant of the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Maj Gen (Later Lt Gen) WDA Lentaigne, CB, CBE, DSO too belonged to the regiment.
The 1st Battalion and the 4 Gorkha Regiment celebrated the 150th years of raisings (sesquicentennial) on 26-27 November, 2007 at Chandimandir, near Chandigarh. The mega event was attended by surviving British Officers, Maj Dicky Day, President of the PWO Gurkha Rifles Officers Association in the UK, and a contingent of seven officers from UK including Col Jimmy Evans, MC (aged 85) of the 1st Battalion. Further, seven former Colonels of the regiment and about 100 pensioners from Dehradun, Dharamsala and Bakloh along with 130 family members attended the mega event. The battalion moved under Tri-Shakti Zone, where it was adjudged the best professional unit in the division for two consecutive years.
The 2nd Battalion was raised on April 22, 1886 at Bakloh (Himachal Pradesh) by Lt Col M.J. King Harman and celebrated its 125th years (quasquicentennial) at Trivendrum on 22-25 March 2011. The occasion was attended by number of veteran officers (serving/retd), 180 ex JCOs/OR including their families from Nepal, Dharamsala, Bakloh and Dehradun. The battalion has since won Chief of the Army Staff Unit Citation for its stupendous performance in the J&K tenure.
The 3rd Battalion, having adapted to the nuances of battle in the plains sector of J&K, continued its quest for excellence in all operational and training spheres. On May 24, 2012, the battalion averted a major disaster when it rescued a boat carrying civilians across Chenab River. In all 27 lives were saved by the prompt and proactive action by Ghatak Platoon.
The 4th Battalion which was raised on March 14, 1941 at Bakloh by Lt Col MH Barkeley was re-raised on March 1, 1962 at the Ambala Cantt by Lt Col Gurbax Singh Gill, PVSM (Later Maj Gen). It celebrated its 50th years (Golden Jubilee) at DBN on 23-25 November 2011, which was attended by 90 officers (serving/retd), 228 JCOs and 18 OR and their families from Nepal, Dharamsala, Bakloh and Dehradun.
The 5th Battalion was raised on January 1, 1963 at Ambala and celebrated its golden jubilee in Gandhinagar on 19-21 October, 2012. The occasion was graced by 80 officers (serving/retd) and 240 former JCOs/OR and their families from Nepal, Dharamsala, Bakloh and Dehradun.
CONTRIBUTION OF FOURTH GORKHA RIFLES BOTH PRE & POST INDEPENDENCE
1. Afghanistan, 1878-80
2. Kandahar, 1880
3. Kabul, 1879
4. Ali Masjid
6. Waziristan, 1895
7. China, 1900
8. Givency, 1914
9. France & Flanders, 1914-15
10. Festubert, 1915
11. Ypres, 1915
12. St Julien
13. Galli Poli, 1915
14. Egypt, 1916
15. Tigris, 1916
16. Mesopotamia, 1916-18
17. NW Frontier India, 1917
18. Kut-Al-Amara, 1917
20. Neuve Chapelle
21. Punjab Frontier
22. Baluchistan, 1918
23. Afghanistan, 1919
27. Pegu, 1942
28. Chindits, 1944
30. The Cauldron
32. Monte Cedrone
1. Iraq 1942
2. Syria 1942
—By Lt. Col Anil Bhat, VSM, with inputs from 4GR