Updated: April 21, 2015 8:44:36 am
One of the fiercest fighters and a class of soldiers who have made a name for themselves throughout the world for their courage, the Gorkhas, will complete 200 years of soldiering in India under the British, and, later, the Indian flag, on April 24.
It was on April 24, 1815 that the first organised body of Gorkha soldiers took to arms under the British East India Company at Subathu in Himachal Pradesh. The unit that was raised on that day still serves with the Indian Army and is today known as the First Battalion, The First Gorkha Rifles or 1/1 GR for short.
As part of the commemoration of this historic occasion, there will be regimental celebrations at Pathankot in Punjab where 1/1 GR is presently stationed. The Colonel of the 1st Gorkha Rifles, Lt Gen Ravi Thodge, Master General Ordnance, will preside over the function at Pathankot where other senior officers of the regiment will also be present. A bigger celebration is planned later in the year, in October, at Subathu when the regimental reunion is supposed to take place and the Chief of Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh, a Gorkha Rifles officer himself , is likely to attend that.
A senior officer associated with the regiment informed that invitations have already been extended for the reunion to the former Indian and British officers who served with the regiment.
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Commenting on the 200th anniversary, Lt Gen TK Sapru (retd), former GOC-in-C Western Command and a former Gorkha officer described them as the most amazing soldiers. “Tailor made for soldiering, very honest with integrity of highest order. They very quick on their feet and somehow they have been endowed by God with all qualities required for soldiers,” he said.
The 200 years of service of the Gorkhas is also being marked by the British Army where a host of events are kick-starting from April 24 onwards. A formal event is being held on April 30th by the British Brigade of Gorkhas with a march from Wellington Barracks to the Gorkha Statue in Whitehall, where a memorial service will be held.
As per the British Gorkha Welfare Trust, there will be a service at the Gorkha Statue to re-dedicate the ‘Campaign Service’ and ‘Gurkha Units’ plates, to reflect 200 years of rich Gorkha history and to commemorate those killed in service to the British Crown.
The quite cantonment town of Subathu is home to the First Gorkha Rifles and houses the 14 Gorkha Training Centre (GTC). The Gorkha Rifles, which began as one unit, then known as the 1st Nusseree Battalion, is today seven regiments strong. The Indian Army has the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th and 11th Gorkha Rifles as its regular infantry regiments apart from Gorkha troops serving in the Rashtriya Rifles, Artillery and the Territorial Army units.
The genesis of the Gorkhas in the Indian Army lies in 1814 when the British East India Company took on the Army of the Gorkha Kings of Nepal who has expended their kingdom into the Garhwal, Kumaon and Kangra hill areas. The Gorkhas were defeated by the British and the victors were sufficiently impressed by the fighting qualities of the Gorkhas to enlist their services through a special agreement with Nepal.
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