Supplementary Information for ‘On This Day’ Entries

Index:

  1. 12th October 1914.
  2. 6th October 1911
  3. 30th October 1914
  4. 14th October 1977

 

12th October 1914.  The Regimental history reports: “The reception accorded to the Meerut Division by the French people vied with that given to the Lahore Division, which had landed three weeks earlier, in warmth of welcome and kindness. The Press, both English and French, were eloquent in praise of the Indian troops, but unfortunately filled their columns with exaggerations giving totally absurd ideas as to numbers and the part the contingent would play in the great struggle – a part (according to them) which would have been beyond the capability of human beings to accomplish. This led naturally to impossibly high expectations, so that many imputed failure to the Indian troops when they left France, forgetful of the new conditions of warfare, the appalling winter, and equally appalling losses with which our men were confronted, and which were met and  sustained with a heroism to which all the highest authorities on the spot recorded their deepest appreciation. Later views showed the contingent to have entered the arena and saved the situation for the Allies at a most critical period, when the British forces were seriously outnumbered, were exhausted with constant fighting, and had then no trained reserves to draw upon.”

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6th October 1911.  The Abor Expeditionary Force under the command of Major General H Bowers CB began punitive operations in Upper Assam against Abor tribesmen. The operations were mounted in retaliation for the murder the previous the spring of the Sadiya Political Officer, his companion and entourage. The Force included the 1st Battalion, under command Col J Fisher, plus 100 men from the 2nd Battalion. Secondary objectives were to establish political relations with the tribes and undertake survey work in an hitherto unknown country and to improve communications. In early January 1912, with villages destroyed, numbers killed and wounded and food supplies confiscated or destroyed the Abors sued for peace. This enabled the expedition to pursue its secondary objectives of mapping the country and fostering political relations with the indigenous tribes. The expedition ended in late April and the 1st Battalion returned to Dehra Doon. General Bowers recorded in his despatches dated 23 May 1912 that: “the 1st/2nd Goorkhas well maintained its reputation for efficiency both on the Ledlum Column and in guarding Lines of Communication. An excellent spirit pervades the Regiment”.

Appendix M of Volume 2 of the Regimental History provides this note on the Abor Expedition:

That this Expedition, from the point of view of military operations, was more of a disappointment than a success goes without saying, and it received many severe strictures both from officers connected with it from the Press, chiefly on account of the dilatoriness of the advance, the size of the force, and its consequent expense amounting to some 12 lakhs. Much was expected as a result of these operations, which a high official stigmatised openly as a “contemptible farce, differing only from all others on the north East Frontier in its colossal expense”.

The Morning Post’s animadversion on this expedition is interesting as showing government methods, and may be quoted.

“With the exception of the survey and exploration part of it, this expedition may fall into the same category as those of earlier days whose lessons had not been learnt viz unsatisfactory and practically a failure from a military and punitive point of view. As usual the advice of those on the spot was ignored as to methods, the “show” was controlled (one might say conducted) by higher authority far from the scenes, and the interests of the civilians and exigencies of Government were once again to outbalance the military, whose original scheme of advancing rapidly and overrunning the country in several small and handy columns was vetoed by a Committee none of whom had been nearer the frontier than Calcutta. On the recommendation of this Committee orders were issued forbidding the use of small columns, stating the force was to run no unnecessary risks. Thus the General Officer Commanding had his hands tied, whether to his content or the reverse is not known, though it might be said here that often it is “better to have commanded an expedition and failed, than never to have commanded one at all. Once over the border the advance was far too slow. Had freer scope been given to initiative and originality of those acquainted with these hills and wild tribes, and had it all been conducted with greater dash and deeper determination, the final punishment for the Abors would have been more than adequate.

As it was, the only real punishment such people recognise was not meted out while the actual murderers of Mr Williamson and Dr Gregson and party, who were given up, were not tried summarily in the field and hung according to their deserts; but were tried later by civilian tribunal, which sentenced them to the Andamans for a period of years, from which in 1920 one or two of them were allowed back to their village. When the expedition withdrew government decided to leave the tribes to themselves, to have no political dealings with them, and declined to establish the suggested trading and police post at Rothang which would have tended towards a better feeling between these wild folk and ourselves. A few years later this matter was reconsidered, and a trading post with a hospital, was established, backed by 200 rifles of the 2nd Assam Rifles, disposed at: Pasighat, 100 , at Rhotang 75; and at Yambung below Khebang village, 25. It was then, however, more or less too late to produce any good effect, for the Abors, finding themselves left alone again, adopted a sullen, truculent demeanour and declined to trade, though they come in occasionally for treatment in the post hospitals.

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30th October 1914.  The Regimental history describes the conditions in the trenches thus: “Water being so near the surface here made digging of deep trenches very difficult and often impossible as soon as the became waterlogged. Heavy rains had turned these trenches into a series of muddy excavations. No revetting material was available, and parapets were often so weak that men were sometimes shot through them. Troops stood and moved around all day, frequently knee deep in mud and water, into which often if a wounded man fell he was drowned before he could be got out. Dug outs were frail and continually blown to bits by shells, even billets some distance to the rear were unsafe. Life under these conditions was one of utter discomfort, wallowing in mud and filth, continually digging or bailing out water”.

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14th October 1997.

Photograph of the ‘burho toli’ (old soldiers) attending the Regimental Reunion in Hong Kong on this day:

Standing (from left): Lt IM Christie, Maj JL Carruthers, Capt JN McCaffrey, Maj MJ Fuller, Lt Col HGW Shakespear MC, Col PHD Panton CBE, Capt DR Henderson, Col RC Jackman OBE, Maj P Richardson DSO, Lt Col MA Ormsby MC, Maj N Wylie Carrick, Maj PS Leathart MBE CPM, Capt F Simpson MBE.

Middle Row (from left): Hon Lt(GCO) Dilbahadur Rana MVO, Hon Lt(GCO) Kamansing Gurung MVO MBE, Hon Lt(GCO) Nandaraj Gurung MVO MC, Hon Lt(GCO) Kishanbahadur Thapa IDSM MBE, Hon Capt(GCO) Bharti Gurung MC, Gen Sir Edwin Bramall KCB OBE MC, Hon Capt(GCO) Partapsing Gurung MVO MBE, Hon Lt(GCO) Narbir Thapa MVO, Hon Capt(GCO) Pirthilal Pun MBE MC, Hon Lt(GCO) Aitasing Gurung MC, Hon Lt(GCO) Tule Ale IDSM.

Front Row (from left): Hon Lt(GCO) Lalbahadur Kanwar, Maj (GCO) Bhimbahadur Thapa, Hon Lt(GCO) Dalbir Ghale IDSM, Capt (GCO) Manbahadur Gurung, Hon Lt(GCO) Thandaraj Pun, Hon Lt(GCO) Surendraman Gurung, Hon Lt(GCO) Maitalal Gurung, Hon Lt(GCO) Chinbahadur Gurung, Havildar Bhanbhakta VC.