5 Gorkha Rifles(FF), apart from its gallantry in battles, is known for its innovative practices, some of which have been adopted by the Indian Army 05-38_14_19_ BEING A FLY GIRL.qxd 5/5/2015 12:14 PM Page 13
The 5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) was originally raised as 25th Punjab Infantry or the Hazara Goorkha Battalion on May 22, 1858 in Abbottabad. The regiment’s first major action was during the Second Afghan War, where it was awarded its first battle honour at Peiwar Kotal and Captain John Cook was awarded the Victoria Cross. In 1891 the regiment was conferred the prestigious title of a Rifle Regiment and became 5 Gorkha (Rifle) Regiment, later shortened to 5 Gorkha Rifles in 1901, and following its long stint in Punjab, as part of the Punjab Frontier Force (PFF or PIFFERS), it was renamed the 5 Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force).
During World War I, the regiment primarily witnessed service in the deserts of Gallipoli and Mesopotamia and rugged climes of Afghanistan. Between the two great wars, the regiment received the battle honours for the Third Afghan War and for service on the North-West Frontier, being amongst the only two regiments to earn such honours. It was conferred with the title ‘Royal’ in 1921, in recognition of its superlative combat services in the World War I. The ‘Fighting Fifth’ earned further military glories on their way through Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Italy, Lebanon, Burma, Japan, Java, Malaya and Siam. The regiment has won a total of nine Victoria Crosses.
After independence, the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles was one of the six Gorkha regiments that remained part of the new Indian Army, and renamed the 5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) in 1950. The regiment now has a total of six battalions and has participated in every major action the Indian Army has undertaken in its four wars with Pakistan, the Hyderabad police action and operations in Sri Lanka, including the first heli-borne operation undertaken by the Indian Army during the 1971 War. Better known as 5 GR, the regiment today is made up of six Infantry battalions.
Some of the eminent personalities associated with the regiment include Lt Gen ZC Bakshi, PVSM, MVC, VrC, VSM, and Lt Gen S.K. Sinha, PVSM, former Vice Chief of Army Staff, Ambassador of Nepal, Governor of Assam and Governor of Jammu & Kashmir.
Traditions Die Hard
From its inception, the 1st Battalion has been known for its innovations that made functioning in war and peace more practical and efficient and were later adopted by the Indian Army. Two of these that are still in use are the cape waterproof and the ground sheet. In 1905, rucksack was also adopted in the battalion but not accepted by the Indian Army at that time (whereas it was adopted by most armies of the world and is a much more practical load carrier than the Pack 08).
The customs and traditions of the 1st Battalion were later adopted by other battalions of the regiment as and when they were raised except that each had minor differences that give them their own individual identity. Black is the colour favoured by the regiment. This distinguishes it from all other regiments — rifle or otherwise. The only exception is the regimental flag in peace stations where the crest is in silver zari. And all reports within the regiment are given not by marching up to the superior, but on the double, irrespective who gives it or who receives it, including by the Commanding Officer to the Colonel of the regiment.
Without departing from some of its old traditions, like wearing of the ‘Royal’ on the right shoulder of the uniform and the strap of the Gorkha hat worn beneath the chin — current army chief General Dalbir Suhag also does so — its members still keep the runners of the belts next to the buckle in memory of their service in NWFP (against the Afghans) where bullet clips kept those runners saved the lives of many when ammunition had run out. Units of this regiment were one of the few who were allowed to wear their belts in the Mess. As ‘Piffers’, they were required to be ready at all times for emergencies. Today the practice of wearing belts in the Mess has become common practice as a matter of convenience. That apart, its simplicity of attire, has earned it the sobriquet of the ‘Sober Fifth’.
The regimental crest has undergone changes from time to time, as was the case with many old regiments. On its raising, the crest had consisted of an eight pointed star, inscribed with a garter and the number 25 in the centre, the whole mounted by a Tudor Crown. The number 25 signified the 25th Punjab Infantry. This crest surmounted was worn from 1858 to 1861. However, on the change of its title to 5th Goorkha Regiment or Hazara Goorkha Battalion, the crest was modified in 1861 to two khukris pointing upwards, with the number 5 written above the crossing of the handles of the khukris.
In 1880, the number 5 was florated and this badge was worn from 1880 to 1925. In 1921, when the regiment was made ‘Royal’, officers wore the crest superimposed by a Tudor Crown, and in 1927, the Imperial Lion was superimposed on the Tudor Crown to distinguish its Royal Status. But on 26 Jan 1950 the crown and lion were replaced by the Ashoka Lions. Badges were never worn on the Gorkha Hat. It was felt at that time that the double green band was enough to distinguish them from other regiments.
An interesting aspect with this battalion is that on commissioning, its young officers do not go home in the first year of service, but instead go to Nepal where they spend their first annual leave visiting the homes of the men they command, familiarising themselves with the families of their men, many of whom have had served in the battalion earlier. To encourage this generational link, a ‘Generation Cup’ has been presented by seven fathers and sons of a battalion to encourage this father-son tradition to continue. The battalion has men serving who belong to unbroken lines of up to five generations. It has been seen that such men tend to do well and to uphold the traditions of the battalion. Their motto is ‘Shaurya aivam nishta’ which when translated means ‘courage and dedication’, and as with most Gorkha Regiments, their war cry continues to be ‘Ayo Gorkhali’.
Raisings of the Battalions
5. The 1st Battalion of 5 Gurkha Regiment which became 5 Gurkha (Rifle) Regiment was raised on May 22, 1858 at Abbottabad.
? 2nd Battalion was raised on November 10, 1886.
?3rd Battalion was raised on November, 28, 1916; re Raised on October 1, 1940.
?4th Battalion raised on March 15, 1941; re Raised on January 1, 1963.
? 1/6 Gurkha Rifles. 2/6 Gurkha Rifles went to the British Gurkhas although the majority of men 2/6th volunteered for the Indian Gurkhas and were transferred to the 1/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (FF) and 6/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (FF).
3/6th Gurkha Rifles became the 5/5 Royal Gurkha Rifles (FF) from October 1, 1948.
?4/6th Gurkha Rifles was de-mobilised on February 28, 1947.
The Gurkha Officers and men were absorbed initially in the 1/6 and 2/6th. Later many were taken in by the 6/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (FF).
Battle Honours Pre-Independence The Second Afghan War
1. Peiwar Kotal
3. Kabul 1879
4. Kandahar 1880
5. Afghanistan 1878-80
6. First World War, 1914-1918
10. Sari Bair
11. Gallipoli 1915
12. Suez Canal
13. Egypt 1915-16
14. Khan Baghdadi
15. Mesopotamia 1916-18
16. North – West Frontier, India 1917
17. Between the Two Wars
18. Afghanistan 1919
19. North – West Frontier, India 1930
20. Waziristan 1936
21. Waziristan 1939
The Second World War, 1939-1945
3. Cassino II
4. San Angelo in Teodic
5. Rocca D’Arce
6. Ripa Ridge
7. Femina Morta
8. Monte San Bartolo
9. The Senio
10. Pegu 1942
11. Sittang 1942
12. Kyaukse 1942
13. Yenangyaung 1942
16. Shenam Pass
20. The Irrawaddy
21. Sittang 1945
1. Italy 1943-45
2. Burma 1942-45
1. Zozila and Kargil
1. J & K 1947-48, 1971
2. East Pakistan 1971
3. Punjab 1965, 1971
—By Maroof Raza with inputs from 5GR