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5 Gorkha Rifles
File:5 Gorkha Rifles.png
Active 1858 – present

British Raj Indian Empire 1858-1947

 India 1947-Present
Branch Army
Type Rifles
Size 6 Battalions
Regimental Centre Shillong, Meghalaya
Nickname(s) Frontier Force
Motto(s) Shaurya Evam Nistha (Courage and Determination)
Colors Green; faced black.
March War Cry:Jai Maha Kali, Ayo Gorkhali (Hail Goddess Kali, The Gorkhas are here)
Decorations 7 Victoria Cross
1 Ashoka Chakra
8 Maha Vir Chakras
5 Kirti Chakras
23 Vir Chakras
4 Shaurya Chakras
1 Yudh Seva Medal
49 Sena Medals
27 Mentioned-in-Despatches
Regimental Insignia A pair of crossed Khukris with the numeral 5 in-between
Tartan Government (pipes and drums)

The 5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) is an infantry regiment of the Indian Army comprising Gurkha soldiers of Nepalese origin. It was formed in 1858 as part of the British Indian Army and served in the First World War and Second World War. The regiment was one of the Gorkha regiments that was transferred to the Indian Army following independence in 1947. The regiment was formerly known as the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force). Since 1947, the regiment has served in a number of conflicts, including the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. It has also participated in peacekeeping operations in Sri Lanka.

History[edit | edit source]

19th Century[edit | edit source]

The regiment was raised in 1858 as the 25th Punjab Infantry, also known as the 'Hazara Goorkha Battalion'.[1] The soldiers of the regiment originated from the Kingdom of Nepal and in 1861 it was renamed the 5th Gurkha Regiment.[2] The regiment's first major action was during the Second Afghan War, where they were awarded their first battle honour at Peiwar Kotal and Captain John Cook was awarded the Victoria Cross.[3] In 1891 the regiment was afforded the prestigious title of a Rifle regiment and became 5th Gurkha (Rifle) Regiment which was shortened to 5th Gurkha Rifles in 1901.[2]

The regiment spent most of its time up to the end of the 19th century based in the Punjab as part of the Punjab Frontier Force (PFF or Piffers), and its regimental centre was at the frontier hill town of Abbottabad, in the Hazara region of North-West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan). This connection was reflected when in 1903, the regiment was renamed the 5th Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force).[2]

First World War[edit | edit source]

5th Royal Gurkha Rifles at North-West Frontier, 1923

During the First World War, the regiment primarily saw service in the Middle East — the 1st Battalion saw extensive and hard service at Gallipoli in 1915 [3] (where 7 officers and 129 men were killed in the first few hours after the battalion landed).[4] During the withdrawal, a company of the 5th Gurkhas were among the last troops to leave.[5]

The 2nd Battalion saw service in Mesopotamia, initially with the 2nd (Rawalpindi) Division and from April 1916 with the 15th Division. The 1st Battalion joined them in March 1917 from the 1st (Peshawar) Division and both battalions fought together at the Action of Khan Baghdadi. A 3rd Battalion was raised for service on the North-West Frontier, before being disbanded in 1921.[6]

Inter-War period[edit | edit source]

In 1921, the regiment was given the title the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, in recognition of its service during the First World War.[6] During the inter-war period, the regiment received three further battle honours, for the Third Afghan War in 1919, and two for service on the North West Frontier. The regiment together with the 13th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers were the only units awarded such honours.

Second World War[edit | edit source]

The 2nd Battalion, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles marching through Kure soon after arriving in Japan to join the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. (May 1946)

During the Second World War, the 1st Battalion 5th Gurkhas as part of the 8th Indian Infantry Division's 17th Indian Infantry Brigade served in the Mediterranean and Middle East Theatre (including the Italian Campaign). Rifleman Thaman Gurung of the 1st Battalion won the Victoria Cross while serving in Italy.[7] The 2nd Battalion served in the Far East in the Burma Campaign as part of the 17th Indian Infantry Division and was involved in the retreat of the British Indian Army from Burma, they were one of four battalions chosen to fight as the rearguard at the Sittang River, which formed the border with India. When the bridge over the river was blown up preventing the Japanese forces from entering India, many of the regiment were left on the wrong side. The regiment was involved in the re-entry into Burma in 1943 where three members of the regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross. After the war, the 2nd Battalion was re-issued with new uniforms, equipment and transport and posted to Tokyo in Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force.[8]

The 4th Battalion was raised in 1941 and also served in the Burma Campaign as part of the 7th Indian Infantry Division, fighting in five epic battles at North Arakan, Buthidaung (Battle of the Admin Box), Kohima, Pakkoku (Irrawaddy) and Sittang. The Battalion had the unique distinction of getting four Battle Honours for the five battles fought. Major I M Brown of the 4th Battalion was one of the few soldiers of the Second World War that was awarded the Military Cross three times.[citation needed][9]

Post Independence[edit | edit source]

Soldiers of the 99th Mountain Brigade's 2nd Battalion, 5th Gurkha Rifles, during Yudh Abhyas 2013

On Independence, the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles was one of the six Gurkha regiments that remained part of the new Indian Army, they were renamed the 5th Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) in 1950. The Regiment now has a total of six Battalions and has, participated in virtually every major action the Indian Army has undertaken in its four wars with Pakistan, including the first Heliborne operations undertaken by the army during the 1971 war. The Regiment has participated in the following actions:

The 4th Battalion was also a part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force which served in Sri Lanka and fought against the LTTE. During this deployment, the battalion's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Bawa, was injured and later died, along with many of his officers and soldiers. The regiment's present headquarters are at Shillong, in North-Eastern India.

Lineage[edit | edit source]

1858–1861 — 25th Punjab Infantry
1861–1891 — 5th Gurkha Regiment
1891–1901 — 5th Gurkha (Rifle) Regiment
1901–1903 — 5th Gurkha Rifles
1903–1950 — 5th Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force)
1950–present — 5th Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force).[2]

Battle honours[edit | edit source]

Victoria Cross recipients[edit | edit source]

There were seven Victoria Crosses awarded to British officers and Gurkhas serving with the regiment prior to 1947:[11]

Maha Vir Chakra recipients[edit | edit source]

  • Lieutenant Colonel Anant Singh Pathania, MC
  • L/Havildar Ram Prasad Gurung
  • Major General H K Sibal
  • Brigadier Z C Bakshi
  • Brigadier M L Whig
  • Lieutenant Colonel (Later Brigadier) Arun Bhimrao Harolikar
  • Rifleman (Later Havildar) Dil Bahadur Chettri
  • Lieutenant Colonel Inder Bal Singh Bawa {Posthumous}

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Gaylor 1992, pp. 232–234
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Britishempire.co.uk 5th Gurkha Rifles
  3. 3.0 3.1 Gaylor, p.233
  4. Parker 2005, p. 118
  5. Parker 2005, p. 126.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gaylor, p.234
  7. Parker 2005, pp. 212–213
  8. Parker 2005, p. 219.
  9. M.R. Roberts, Golden Arrow, Aldershot, Gale & Polden Ltd, 1952
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Parker 2005, p. 387.
  11. Parker 2005, pp. 391–393.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Anon. (1956). History of the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force), 1858–1947 (2 Vols), Aldershot, UK: Gale & Polden.
  • Gaylor, John. (1992). Sons of John Company: A History of the Indian and Pakistan Armies. London, UK: Spellmount Press.
  • Palsokar, Col. R.D. (1990). History of the 5th Gorkha Rifles. Shillong: 9 Regt Centre.
  • Parker, John. (2005). The Gurkhas: The Inside Story of the World's Most Feared Soldiers. Headline Book Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7553-1415-7

External links[edit | edit source]

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