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39th Garhwal Rifles
A Group in Camp, 39th Bengal Infantry
39th Bengal Infantry
Country Indian Empire
Branch Army
Service history
Active 1887-1922
Part of Bengal Army (to 1895)
Bengal Command
Colors Green; faced black
Battles World War I
Waziristan campaign 1919–1920
Commanders
Insignia

The 39th Garhwal Rifles were an infantry regiment of the British Indian Army. They could trace their origins to 1887, when they were raised as the Aligarh Levy, but was disbanded after disgracing itself at the Rawalpindi Review in 1888.[1]

In 1891, the 39th (The Garhwali) Regiment of Bengal Infantry was formed from the 2nd battalion 3rd Gurkha Rifles. In 1892, they were given the title of 'Rifles'. The second battalion was raised in 1901, making them apart from the Gurkhas, the only two battalion regiment in the Indian Army.

During World War I both battalions were in the Garhwal Brigade, 7th (Meerut) Division and suffered heavy casualties on the Western Front. They were then sent to take part in they Mesopotamia Campaign. Two more battalions were raised during the war. The regiment was next in action during the Waziristan campaign 1919–1920.

In 1921, they were titled the 39th Royal Garhwal Rifles. After World War I the Indian government reformed the infantry structure, moving from single battalion regiments to multi-battalion regiments.[2] In 1922, the 39th RGR was the only non-Gurkha Indian infantry regiment to remain intact and not be amalgamated. They were renumbered 18th Royal Garhwal Rifles with three active battalions with the 4th battalion becoming the 10th training battalion.

Victoria CrossEdit

  • 'Gabar Singh Negi Victoria Cross was a Rifleman in the 2nd Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles, during World War I], and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 10 March 1915 at Neuve Chapelle, France:

"during an attack on the German position Rifleman Gobar Singh Negi was one of a bayonet party with bombs who entered their main trench, and was the first man to go round each traverse, driving back the enemy until they were eventually forced to surrender. He was killed during this engagement."

  • Darwan Singh Negi was among the earliest Indian recipients of the Victoria Cross a Naik in the 1st Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles during World War I when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC, the citation was published in a supplement to the London Gazette of 4 December 1914 (dated 7 December 1914), and read:

His Majesty the KING-EMPEROR has been graciously pleased to approve of the grant of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned soldiers of the Indian Army for conspicuous bravery whilst serving with the Indian Army Corps, British Expeditionary Force: — For great gallantry on the night of the 23rd-24th November, near Festubert, France, when the regiment was engaged in retaking and clearing the enemy out of our trenches, and, although wounded in two places in the head, and also in the arm, being one of the first to push round each successive traverse, in the face of severe fire from bombs and rifles at the closest range.[3]

  • William David Kenny was a lieutenant in the 4the Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles during the Waziristan Campaign,when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC. The citation was published in a supplement to the London Gazette of 7 September 1920 (dated 9 September 1920):[4]

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Officers:— For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty near Kot Kai (Waziristan), on 2 January 1920, when in command of a company holding an advanced covering position, which was repeatedly attacked by the Mahsuds in greatly superior numbers. For over four hours this officer maintained his position, repulsing three determined attacks, being foremost in the hand-to-hand fighting which took place, and repeatedly engaging the enemy with bomb and bayonet. His gallant leadership undoubtedly saved the situation and kept intact the right flank, on which depended the success of the operation and the safety of the troops in rear.

In the subsequent withdrawal, recognising that a diversion was necessary to enable the withdrawal of the company, which was impeded by their wounded, with a handful of his men he turned back and counter-attacked the pursuing enemy, and, with the rest of his party, was killed fighting to the last.

This very gallant act of self-sacrifice not only enabled the wounded to be withdrawn, but also averted a situation which must have resulted in considerable loss of life.

Predecessor namesEdit

  • 2nd Battalion, 3rd (Kamaon) Gurkha Regiment - 1887
  • 39th (Garhwali) Bengal Infantry - 1890
  • 39th (Garhwal Rifles) Bengal Infantry - 1892
  • 39th Garhwal Rifles - 1903

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. "Armed Forces: Units: Indian Infantry: 39th Garhwali Rifles". British Empire. http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armyunits/indianinfantry/39thgarhwalis.htm. Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  2. Sumner p.15
  3. The London Gazette: no. 28999. p. 10425. 4 December 1914. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  4. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 32046. pp. 9133–9134. 7 September 1920. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
  • Barthorp, Michael; Burn, Jeffrey (1979). Indian infantry regiments 1860-1914. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0-85045-307-0. 
  • Sumner, Ian (2001). The Indian Army 1914-1947. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-196-6. 
  • Moberly, F.J. (1923). Official History of the War: Mesopotamia Campaign, Imperial War Museum. ISBN 1-870423-30-5

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