9 GR (GORKHA RIFLES): THE POWER OF NINE

Origins of the 9 Gorkha Rifles

9 Gorkha Rifles has distinguished itself in battles and campaigns in the two World Wars, and every battle fought after Independence. 9 Gorkha Rifles (9 GR) was raised in 1817, initially as the Gorkha Volunteers Levy from the frontier districts of Fatehgarh and Mainpuri (Present Uttar Pradesh). In 1823, this levy was brought into the fold of regular Indian Army, renamed the 1st Battalion, 32 Regiment Bengal Native Infantry and presented with its first colour.

In the reorganisations after the Revolt of 1857, the regiment’s designation was changed to 9th Bengal Native Infantry, with one of its companies formed by Gorkhas and the others by hillmen.

By then the regiment had fought at Bharatpur and in the difficult Battle of Sobraon in the First Anglo-Sikh War. By 1893, the regiment became a full Gorkha unit, and in 1903 was designated as 9th Gorkha Rifles.

The 2nd Battalion was raised in 1904 while the 3rd Battalion was raised in 1917. The 4th Battalion, which was raised during World War II, was disbanded in 1946. After Independence, 9 Gorkha Rifles was one of the Gorkha regiments transferred to the Indian Army as part of the Tripartite Agreement.

Nepalis in this regiment have been dominantly recruited from Bahun, Chhetri (Kshatriya) and Thakuri clans. Domiciled Indian Gorkhas form about 20% of the total strength of the regiment. The 4th Battalion was re-raised in 1961 and 5th in 1963. 

9 GR Pre-Independence World War 1 & 2

The regiment distinguished itself in many battles and campaigns in World War I and II and all the battles fought after Independence. During the Battle of Mesopotamia on 23 Feb 1917, a British Officer Maj GC Wheeler, VC of 2/9 Gorkha Rifles, was awarded VC for gallant action in the crossing of River Tigris at Shumran Bend.

During World War II, the regiment was deployed in several theatres of war, including Malaya, the Middle East, the Central Mediterranean and the Burma Front. In 1944, Rfn Sher Bahadur Thapa of the 1/9 GR was awarded the Victoria Cross for the action at the Hangman’s Hill in the Battle of Cassino, Italy. On 18 Sept 1944, the First Battalion of 9 Gurkha Rifles was fighting its way forward into San Marino in Italy against bitter opposition from Germanprepared positions dominating the river valley.

Rifleman Sher Bahadur Thapa was a top Bren gunner. He and his section commander charged an enemy post, killing the machine gunner and putting the rest to flight.

Almost immediately, the section commander was badly wounded. Without hesitation, Rifleman Thapa rushed at the attackers and brought his Bren gun into action against the main body of the enemy. After two hours, both forward companies had exhausted their ammunition and were ordered to withdraw. Riflemen Thapa covered their withdrawal until his ammunition ran out.

He then dashed forward and rescued two wounded men lying between him and the advancing Germans. He paid the price of his heroism and fell riddled by machine-gun bullets.

The bravery of this Gorkha soldier was instrumental in saving the lives of many of his companions, and his outstanding devotion to duty contributed largely to the severe reverse which the enemy eventually suffered. On the Burma Front, both 3/9 and 4/9 GR took part in what was then a new and novel form of warfare — airborne operations. The battalions were part of the Chindits Force which operated behind the enemy lines in Burma, waging a guerilla war against the Japanese forces.

Maj Blaker of 3/9 GR was awarded both VC and MC during those operations. 

9 GR Post Independence 

After Independence, the 9 GR was one of the six Gurkha regiments (out of ten) to be allocated to the Indian Army as part of the Tripartite Agreement between Britain, India and Nepal. Since Independence, 9GR has fought in many wars and operations, enhancing its reputation for professional excellence, bravery and self-sacrifice.

During the 1947-48 operations in Jammu & Kashmir, Hav Lal Bahadur Khattri of the 3/9 GR became one of the most highly decorated soldiers in the Indian Army, by earning both Maha Vir Chakra and Vir Chakra for exceptional bravery, for two different actions, during the Battle of Poonch.

In the 1962 India-China War, 1/9 GR fought under the most demanding conditions at Namka Chu, in erstwhile North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA), later Arunachal Pradesh. For its courageous action, 1/9 GR won two Maha Vir Chakras and many other awards. The regiment was also involved in the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan. During the 1965 Indo-Pak War, all the battalions of the regiment except 4/9 GR — which was located on Indo Tibet Border — fought with distinction in J&K, Ferozpur, Fazilka and Sialkot sectors.

During this war, 5/9 GR earned its first post-Independence Battle Honour’ Phillora’. In the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the regiment yet again fought bravely, and the battalions 1/9 GR (for action in Dera Baba Nanak, Punjab), 2/9 GR (Kumarkhali in Bangladesh) and 5/9 GR( Phillora in J&K) particularly distinguished themselves and earned battle honours.

The battalions have also been excelling themselves in counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism operations, especially in J&K. All the five battalions have been awarded COAS Unit Citations — 1/9 GR in 2009, 2/9 GR in 2001, 3/9 GR in 2006, 4/9 GR in 2005 and 5/9 GR in 1997. 5th Battalion of 9 GR served as part of UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon from November 2000 till December 2001. 

Glory Galore 

The Cambrian Patrol Team bagged the Silver Medal at Ex Cambrian Patrol in the UK in 2013. The team was selected to represent the country at the International level at Wales after winning the prestigious ‘Indian Army Cambrian Patrol Trials 2013’. This was followed by extensive preparation over six months at Belgaum, Chaubatia and Roorkee.

During the period, the emphasis was laid on aspects of endurance, survival, the practice of operational drills and procedures, innovations, briefing and de-briefing and communication in English. A total of 105 teams participated in the prestigious Cambrian Patrol Competition 2013. The event is a test of ultimate physical and mental capabilities, individual skills and leadership qualities over rough terrain and inclement weather.

It was organised under the aegis of Headquarters 160 (Wales) Brigade around the Cambrian hills in Wales. The 4/9 GR Cambrian Patrol team created history by winning the Gold Medal at the Cambrian Patrol Competition at Wales, thereby becoming the first Indian team to achieve this unique landmark. 

Battle Honours Pre-Independence

  1. Bhurtpore 1879-80.
  2. Sobraon 1879-80.
  3. Afghanistan 1879-80.
  4. La Bassee, 1914.
  5. Armentieres 1914.
  6. Festubert 1914-15.
  7. Givenchy 1914-15.
  8. Neuve Chapelle 1914-15.
  9. Aubers 1914-15.
  10. Loos 1914-15.
  11. France & Flanders 1914-15.
  12. Tigris 1916.
  13. Kut-at-Amara 1917.
  14. Baghdad, Mesopotamia 1916-18.
  15. Afghanistan 1919.
  16. Punjab Frontier 1919.
  17. Djebel el Meida 1939-45.
  18. Djebel Garci, 1941.
  19. Ragoubert Souissi, North Africa 1940-43.
  20. Cassino I 1943-45.
  21. Hangman’s Hill 1943-45.
  22. Tavoleto 1943-45.
  23. San Marino, Italy 1943- 45.
  24. Greece 1944-45.
  25. Malaya 1941-42.
  26. Chindits 1944.
  27. Burma 1942-45.

Battle Honours Post-Independence

  • Phillora (5/9 GR) 1965.
  • Kumarkhali (2/9 GR) 1971.
  • Dera Baba Nanak (1/9 GR) 1971.

By Lt. Col Anil Bhat, VSM, with inputs from 9GR

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