Honorary Lieutenant Arjun Rana OBI IOM

Arjun Rana in France in 1915

(This is an edited version of an article by Colonel Denis Wood which appeared in The Bulletin of the Military Historical Society Volume 72 No 286, November 2021).

Arjun Rana, the subject of this potted biography, was an officer of such outstanding qualities and achievements that his final promotion was to an Honorary King’s Commission as a Lieutenant as opposed to the lesser Honorary Viceroy’s Commissions frequently awarded.  This was an otherwise unprecedented achievement in the 2nd Goorkhas and perhaps in other Gurkha and Indian regiments too.

Arjun Rana enlisted in the 2nd Battalion 2nd Goorkhas on 13th January 1896.  He was one of the draft sent to reinforce the 1st Battalion in the campaign of 1897-98 on the Punjab Frontier.  He took part in the operations on the Samana ridge during August and September 1897, the Relief of Gulistan, and operations in the Tirah 1897-98 including the action at Chagru Kotal and the Battle of Dargai. He was in the actions of the Sampagha and Arhanga passes, the Waran Valley and actions against the Khani Khel Chamkanis, and operations in the Bara Valley in December 1897.  He earned the India General Service Medal 1895 with clasps TIRAH 1897-98, SAMANA 1897 and PUNJAB FRONTIER 1897-98.

During the next few years of peace-time soldiering the records show that his superior officers thought very highly of him.  He was promoted Jemadar on 1st April 1912 and immediately appointed as the Jemadar Adjutant, a prestigious post given only to those thought to have high qualities and prospects for promotion.

When World War One broke out Arjun Rana went to France with the battalion, serving as a Jemadar in Number II Double Company.  They landed at Marseille on 12th October 1914 and on 2nd November he was promoted Subadar.  The Regimental History records that “On December 20th, 1914, when the enemy broke into the ‘Orchard’ at La Quinque Rue and after Major Rooke (10GR, seconded to the 2nd Goorkhas) had been wounded, Subadar Arjun Rana took command of the Company and held his trenches for the rest of that day and all night, and kept the enemy from gaining foothold in them.  On December 21st, when another British Officer had been sent to take command, Subadar Arjun Rana continued to give him great assistance, supervising the fight in that part of the field until the Company was finally relieved.”

On 21st December he was wounded. For his gallantry and devotion to duty on 20th/21st December 1914 he was mentioned in despatches and awarded the Indian Order of Merit on 10th March 1915. In January 1915 he was evacuated with dysentery but returned to the battalion until 15th April 1915 when his health broke down making him unfit for duty and he was invalided back to India.  He had eamed the 1914 Star with bar 5TH AUG-22ND NOV 1914, the British War Medal 1914-1920 and the Victory Medal with oak-leaves.

Back in India, Arjun Rana was appointed Subadar Major of the 2nd Battalion on 1st September 1918 and the following year he took part in his last campaigns, the 3rd Afghan War of 1919 and the operations in Waziristan lasting from 1919 to 1921 for which he received the India General Service Medal (1908) with clasps AFGHANISTAN N.W.F. 1919 and WAZIRISTAN 1919-21.  By Gazette of India No. 700 of 3rd June 1924 Arjun Rana was appointed to the Order of British India (OBI) 2nd Class with title of Bahadur. The decoration was presented to him by General Sir William Birdwood, Officiating Commander-in-Chief India, on parade on 17th October that year.  The entry in the 2nd Battalion’s Digest of Services reported: “In consideration of the long and distinguished Service rendered by this officer the commanding officer held a battalion parade and read out his record.  This was followed by a march past with Arjun Rana taking the salute.”  He joined the Pension Establishment on 1st November 1924.  Shortly afterwards the Digest of Services records that in the Govemment of India Gazette dated 7th November 1924 “Subadar Major Arjun Rana, OBI, IOM, was granted an Honorary King’s Commission as Lieutenant.”  The Honorary King’s Commission is of a higher order than the Honorary Viceroy’s Commission frequently awarded for long and honourable service.

Arjun Rana as a retired officer

Arjun Rana retired to live in the village of Kishenpur, part of Dehra Dun.  After he died on 15th  September 1941 a short obituary appeared in Regimental Centre Orders (which seems not to have survived) and he was given a Regimental funeral.


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