2nd KING EDWARD VII’S OWN GOORKHAS (THE SIRMOOR RIFLES)
A Short History
The Regiment was raised in 1815 at the end of the Nepalese War, by Lieutenant (afterwards General) Frederick Young. It was formed at Nahan in Sirmoor State in India, from which it took its original name of “The Sirmoor Battalion” and recruited from the disbanded soldiers of the Nepalese Army. Lieutenant Young, a remarkable soldier, commanded the Sirmoor Battalion for twenty-eight years, during which time he rose in rank from Lieutenant to Colonel. He obtained for the Regiment a cantonment in Dehra Dun in the United Provinces of India and this remained the Regiment’s home until it was transferred to the British Army on the 1st January, 1948.
Since 1815 the Regiment fought in many parts of the world as the Battle Honours testify, however, the Regiment particularly distinguished itself during the Indian Mutiny of 1857 when, with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and the Queen’s Own Corps of Guides, it held the key position on Delhi Ridge throughout three months of bitter fighting. At this time the 2nd Goorkhas were supported by Tombs’s Troop which last served alongside 2GR in Hong Kong in the early 1970’s as a Battery of 49th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. For the Regiment’s services at Delhi it was granted a third honorary colour and its title was changed to the Sirmoor Rifle Regiment and was permitted to wear a uniform similar to that of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.
In 1863, it having been decided that it was not appropriate for a Rifle Regiment, the colours were laid up and Queen Victoria granted the 2nd Goorkhas a Truncheon, a unique colour much revered by the Regiment, known as the ‘Nishani Mai’. To this day the Queen’s Truncheon is carried by our successors, the Royal Gurkha Rifles, and is accorded the honours due to a Queen’s Colour.
In 1876 the Regiment was given the title of “The Prince of Wales’ Own” and this was commemorated by the Cap Badge depicting the three feathers of the badge of The Prince of Wales that was worn as a cap badge by all soldiers in the 2nd Goorkhas until 1994.
The 2nd Battalion was raised at Dehra Dun in 1886. In 1902, when the Prince of Wales, the then Colonel in Chief, ascended the throne the Regimental title was changed to “King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha rifles (The Sirmoor rifles).
During the Great War the 3rd Battalion was raised and between the three battalions they saw active service in France, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia and on the North West Frontier of India. The 3rd Battalion was disbanded after the Great War.
Between the wars both Battalions were engaged in many campaigns and operations in Northern India.
During the Second World War the 3rd Battalion was re-raised and the 4th and 5th Battalions were formed. The 1st Battalion fought in North Africa, Italy and Greece with the famous 4th Indian Division. The 2nd Battalion fought throughout the short but hard Malayan Campaign and was made prisoner at the fall of Singapore. The 3rd Battalion served as Chindits in General Wingate’s Campaign in Burma and afterwards in the Arakan. The 4th Battalion fought on the North West Frontier and in Burma and French Indo-China. The 5th Battalion remained throughout on the North West Frontier. During these war years, the 2nd Goorkhas won two Victoria Crosses besides many other bravery decorations in recognition of their services. In World War II the Regiment lost 783 of all ranks, killed or died of wounds.
After the war the 4th Bn transferred to the Indian Army becoming the 5/8th Gurkha Rifles and the Regiment was again reduced to its two regular battalions. These were both actively engaged in operations in aid of the civil power in India. When India achieved Independence at end of 1947 the 2nd Goorkhas was transferred from the Indian Army to the British Army. Shortly after transferring to the British Army in 1948, the Regiment found a home to replace Dehra, at Slim Barracks, Singapore. The Regiment quickly became involved in the Malaya Emergency and it was here that further expertise in jungle fighting was gained. B Company of the 1st Battalion had the highest kill of the Emergency in one contact. The Regiment killed about 450 communist terrorists during the twelve years of the Emergency. This campaign was the longest in the history of the British Army up to that time, finally ending in 1960.
The Regiment was to have only two years of peacetime soldiering when in 1962, the 1st Battalion, at eight hours notice, flew to Brunei where rebellion had broken out. The situation was restored in a few days, during which period the Battalion lost one British Officer and two soldiers. Confrontation with Indonesia followed the Brunei revolt that was to last for four years between 1962 – 1966. Both Battalions served a number of tours, going back to Slim Barracks and Hong Kong in between. There were many successful actions with 12 MCs, 1 DCM, 11 MMs and 31 MiDs awarded.
After the end of Confrontation, both battalions of the Regiment served in Hong Kong, (including the riots of April 1966), Brunei, and Singapore. The two Battalions were scheduled to amalgamate in September 1970 and again in September 1978, but on both occasions the amalgamation was cancelled. Both Battalions continue to serve in the United Kingdom and performed Public Duties in London. The First Battalion also served in Belize and the Second Battalion in the Falkland Islands.
As part of the draw down of the Brigade of Gurkhas it was with great sadness that, on the 15th September 1992, the 2nd Goorkhas began life as a single battalion Regiment. It was to be a busy period with the battalion or elements of it, deployed in Brunei, Malaysia, Australasia, North & Central America, with individuals serving in Cambodia and Northern Ireland. Finally, on the 1st July 1994, following four years of planning and turbulence, the 2nd KEO Gurkha rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles) amalgamated with the 6th QEO Gurkha Rifles to form the 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles.
Between 1815 – 1994, during its 179 years of loyal service to the British Crown, the Regiment had been on operations for all but 52 years.