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Campaign Medals of the 2nd Goorkhas
ARMY OF INDIA MEDAL, INDIA 1803-1826, CLASP ‘BHURTPOOR’
(GCO dated 14th April 1851)
In 1824 trouble arose in the Native State of Bhurtpoor because the rightful heir recognized by the British had been imprisoned by a certain Doorjan Sal. He succeeded with the help of neighbouring States to create a well defended fortress at Bhurtpoor with 25,000 Jats, Pathans and Rajputs.
In December 1825 the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Combermere, led a force of 27, 000 men and a siege train to surround the enemy’s position with a 15-mile cordon. On 19th December 1825 three companies of the Sirmoor Battalion joined the cordon and were attached to the 59th Foot (2nd Nottinghamshire Regiment).
Combermere launched his attack on 23rd December 1825. The Sirmoor Battalion was tasked to capture a temple about 400 metres from the Eastern or Long Necked Bastion. This was successfully accomplished and subsequently held by the 59th and the Sirmoor Battalion. Meanwhile 100 men were attached to a force which successfully attacked and held the North East or Pathan Bastion, thereby allowing women and children to escape.
For the next three weeks the fortress of Bhurtpoor endured an almost constant barrage of artillery fire from every siege gun in Upper India. However , the fortress ‘s earthen walls remained intact. On 6th January 1826 Lord Combermere introduced a new tactic by way of mining. The Sirmoor Battalion was ordered to defend the mining parties. On 15 January 1826 a mine was successfully detonated at Long Necked Bastion resulting in a small breach. Gurkhas formed part of the raiding party. Meanwhile preparations were in hand for the detonation on 18th January 1826 of a huge mine of 10,000 lbs of explosive under the North East or Pathan Bastion.
A contemporary print showing the Storming of Bhurtpoor
An eye witness gave the following account:
‘ Before dawn on 18th January 1826 , all the storming parties were in position ……a mine was detonated at the North or Jaginath Gate which brought the defenders to the walls including 800 Pathans to the North East Bastion. Then the mine packed with its 10,000lbs of explosive was fired. The ground heaved and rocked and with a dull, heavy roar half the bastion lurched and rose sullenly into the air….300 of the defenders had immediately been blown to pieces, and even those in our advanced trenches also suffered somewhat – a number being hopelessly buried by descending debris. As soon as the smoke cleared away, the stormers arose and dashed at their respective breaches at the top of which the defenders fought desperately, but were beaten back and the entire line of hitherto impregnable walls was captured …..the whole swept forward into the City and the place was soon in British hands.’’
Doorjan Sal managed to cut his way through the cordon manned by the 14th Foot (Buckinghamshire Regiment) but was captured by British cavalry. The enemy suffered 13,000 killed while British losses amounted to 1100. The Sirmoor Battalion had 2 killed and 4 wounded.
The following is an extract from Divisional Orders by General Nicholls dated 19th January 1826:
‘The handsome and gallant advance by the detachment of the Sirmoor Battalion was gallantly and effectively performed…..Captain Fisher’s Sirmoor Battalion is requested to receive the Major General’s very best thanks for the exertions so cheerfully made …’
CANDAHAR, GHUZNEE , CABUL MEDAL 1842 (Reverse inscribed ‘CABUL’)
(GCO dated 30 April 1842)
The First Afghan War began in 1842 and although The Sirmoor Rifles was ordered to hold itself in readiness to join the Army in Kabul, it was instead deployed to Bareilly where it put down rioting and re-established order.
During the late 1830s the British were convinced that Emir Dost Mohamed of Afghanistan was courting Imperial Russia and had arranged for him to be replaced by the former ruler Shuja Shah Durran. However, after this had been done successive local British commanders became complacent which resulted in an uprising which in turn lead in January 1842 to the disastrous retreat from Kabul.
36 Gurkhas had been serving with 4th Afghan Regiment of Shuja Shah Durran’s Contingent. On the conclusion of the First Afghan War this unit was amalgamated into the Bengal Army of the Honourable East India Company and the Gurkhas were drafted into the Sirmoor Rifles. Although their names are not known, they were eligible to this medal because they had taken part in the punitive campaign of Spring and Summer in 1842 to restore British standing in Afghanistan under the command of General William Nott.
JELLALABAD MEDAL 1842 (Reverse inscribed ‘JELLALABAD’)
(GCO dated 4 October 1842)
The Battle of Jellalabad (1841 – 1842) was a siege by Afghan tribesmen of an isolated British outpost at Jellalabad about 80 miles east of Kabul. The siege was lifted after 5 months when the besieged British garrison successfully counter-attacked the Afghans.
The outpost was described as being ‘no more than a wide place in a road with a fort‘ which was held by approximately 2000 troops, mainly from the 13th Regiment of Foot ( Somerset Light Infantry ). After the massacre of the disastrous British retreat from Kabul, a British force led by Brigadier-General Sir William Sale had marched in October 1841 to occupy the fort at Jellalabad. It was soon became surrounded by Afghan forces who launched a series of assaults on the British.
One of the officers with Brigadier-General Sale was an engineer called Major George Broadfoot. He had commanded a company of Sappers and Miners which had formed the escort that earlier accompanied the family of Shah Sujah from Delhi to Kabul. On reaching the fort at Jellalabad, Broadfoot assumed responsibility for restoring the defences which were in a ruinous condition. However, having no Sappers and Miners , he formed an ad hoc engineer work force from Gurkhas who had been serving with Shah Shuja’s Contingent and had been part of Brigadier-General Sale’s force. At the conclusion of the First Afghan War, 23 of these unnamed Gurkhas were drafted into the Sirmoor Rifles and became eligible for this medal.
SUTLEJ MEDAL 1846, Clasp ALIWAL (reverse inscribed – SOBRAON)
( GCO dated 12 August 1846 )
The Sikh kingdom of Punjab had expanded and been consolidated by Maharajah Ranjit Singh who maintained a wary friendship with the British. Following his death in 1839 the State of Punjab army expanded rapidly to over 80,000 while at the same time the Honourable East India Company increased its military strength in those regions adjacent to the Punjab. It also established a new military cantonment at Ferozepur, only a few miles from the River Sutlej which marked the frontier between British controlled India and the Punjab.
The unconcealed and seemingly aggressive British military build up had the effect of increasing tension with acrimonious demands and accusations on both sides. As an East India Company army commanded by General Sir Hugh Gough began to march towards Ferozepur, on 11 December 1845 the Sikhs responded by crossing the River Sutlej. The British regarded this as a hostile act and war was declared.
In early December 1845 the Sirmoor Battalion had joined the Sutlej Army under General Gough. Their first action took place at on 4 January 1846 at Ludhiana which was reached after a forced march of 27 miles. Together with a detachment of the Patiala Cavalry they drove off the looting Sikhs and later together with the 50th (The Queen’s Own) Regiment of Foot held the cantonment.
The 2nd Goorkhas Regimental historian commented that much of the credit for the action at Ludhiana was erroneously given to Colonel Godby’s force which arrived after the Gurkhas and Patiala Cavalry, commenting: ‘A better bit of service has seldom been performed and yet Government never even acknowledged it ! ‘
Later in January 1846 the Sikhs were determined to recapture Ludhiana and again crossed the River Sutlej in order to establish a bridgehead at Sobraon, while at the same time they planned to lay siege to Ludhiana with a force of 7000. The British response was to detach a division under Sir Harry Smith to remove this threat. Although Smith reached Ludhiana before the Sikhs, his force was exhausted having been constantly harassed by Sikh irregular cavalry who captured most of the baggage animals.
The Sirmoor Battalion had been transferred to General Wheeler’s Brigade. The Battle of Aliwal began early on 28 January 1846 with an Advance to Contact over a six-mile front with columns of infantry in the centre and the cavalry out on the flanks described ‘as if on the most correct field day‘. The Sikhs had occupied a position along a ridge beside the River Sutlej which ran close to their rear positions making it difficult for them to manoeuvre and disastrous to withdraw. Sir Harry Smith identified the village of Aliwal as the weakest point on the Sikh line which Godby and Hick’s Brigades succeeded in capturing. At the same time Wheeler’s Brigade came under sustained heavy enemy fire and is described in Smith’s official report as ‘Wheeler’s irresistible Brigade‘: ‘The Colours of the Sirmoor Battalion were almost shot to pieces, the staff of the King’s Colour was cut in half by a cannon ball and was spliced in the field, while a little later the black Regimental Colour was temporarily captured – the Goorkha Officer carrying it being killed. At once a party of Goorkhas under Havildar Badal Sing Thapa sprang forward and with great gallantry cut their way amongst the enemy, recovering the Colour but not the staff. This was replaced by a bamboo cut in the field‘.
The enemy was duly driven back but in doing so lost all cohesion as ‘the debris of the Sikh force reached the far bank and rapidly drew off.‘
Out of a strength of 650 All Ranks, the Sirmoor Battalion suffered a total of 49 casualties .
The immediate result of the British victory at Aliwal was that the Sikh Army of 35,000 consolidated their position at Sobraon along side the River Sutlej with of a triple line of strongly fortified breastworks. The British required reinforcements to assault this position and General Sir Hugh Gough had to wait for Sir Harry Smith’s Division to arrive from Aliwal and a siege train from Delhi.
The battle commenced on 10 February 1846 with a heavy British artillery barrage and against the fortifications with General Dick’s Division on the Left, General Gilbert’s Division (including the Sirmoor Battalion) in the Centre and General Smith’s Division on the Right.
The British assaulted the Sikh position with a well coordinated Advance to Contact with ‘batteries and infantry aiding each other correlatively ‘. Meanwhile British sappers had made openings in the entrenchments through which the cavalry and infantry were able to engage the Sikhs in fierce close quarter combat, who were forced to withdraw to the boat bridge across the River Sutlej. However, the river had flooded and the ad hoc bridge was useless. Consequently: ‘ Field and horse batteries now completed the British success by a heavy cannonade on to the bridge, which broke up, and hundreds and hundreds died from either the guns or drowning, forming a fitting punishment for those who in the earlier part of the battle had sullied their gallantry by slaughtering and mangling every wounded soldier whom fortune of war left at their mercy.’
Meanwhile the Sirmoor Battalion had ‘almost the severest work of the whole action having been driven back three times by the Sikhs, but with a fourth supreme effort managed to effect an entry into the formidable works.’
Out of an initial strength of 610 All Ranks, the Sirmoor Battalion suffered a total of 144 casualties including the Commandant, Captain Fisher, 13 Gurkhas killed and 130 wounded.
General Sir Hugh Gough wrote: ‘I especially noticed the two Goorkha Corps employed under me, viz the Sirmoor and Nassira Battalions, and the determined hardihood and bravery with which they met the Sikhs wherever they opposed them. Soldiers of small stature but indomitable spirit, they vied in ardent courage with grenadiers of our own nation, and armed with the short weapon of their country were a terror to the Sikhs throughout this great conflict. Captain Fisher, the Commandant of the Sirmoor Battalion who fell at the head of his valiant men, was much respected and is lamented buy the whole army.’
INDIAN MUTINY MEDAL – 1858, Clasp – DELHI
(GCO 363 of 1858)
The Indian Mutiny occurred as the result of an accumulation of factors over time rather than any single event, but it is generally acknowledged that the spark that ignited the smouldering mutiny was the introduction of a new cartridge for the new Enfield rifle. Hindu Sepoys believed it was greased with cow fat, anathema to them because of the dictates of their religion. The Goorkhas did not share the Indian Sepoys’ disgust at handling and biting off the end of these cartridges.
In April 1857 at Meerut, a large military cantonment, the unsympathetic Commanding Officer 3rd Bengal Light Cavalry had ordered 90 men to perform firing drills with the new cartridge but 85 soldiers refused to do so. They were subject to courts martial and awarded 10 years imprisonment with hard labour. The following day, Sunday 11 May, the sepoys broke into revolt, killing European civilians including women and children and attacking off duty British soldiers in the bazaar. Fired by their initial success the mutineers set off towards Delhi the ancient capital of the Mughal Emperor a strong walled city located 40 miles away that was not garrisoned by the British.
On 14 May 1857 The Sirmoor Battalion, led by the Commandant Major Reid and comprising 490 Goorkhas, left Dehra Dun and marched to Meerut, after 28 miles reaching Khree on the Ganges Canal. By 16 May they were 3 miles short of Roorkee but were ordered not to enter and embarked on 45 boats towards Meerut.
By 18 May The Sirmoor Battalion had reached Nanoo but was ordered to save the garrison of Bulandshahr from the mutineers. Progress along the Ganges Canal was slow with many of the locks damaged by the mutineers, but 18 were captured and tried by drum head court martial. 13 were found guilty and shot. The Battalion reached Bulandshahr on the 23 May. It had been completely destroyed by the mutinous 9th Native Infantry who had stolen treasure and moved towards Delhi. Martial law was imposed and a gallows erected in front of the Goorkhas’ position. A search discovered 3 local sympathisers who were hanged. On the 28th 400 men of the Rampore Horse reached Bulandshahr and although many deserted during the night for Delhi, those who did not were co-opted by Major Reid to join his force. On 30 May The Sirmoor Battalion was joined by an additional 400 cavalrymen and 4 Horse Artillery guns and the whole force carried out a night march of 27 miles to Ghaziabad where they joined Brigadier General Wilson’s Brigade and met the 60th Rifles for the first time .
Between 4th and 7 June 04 The Sirmoor Battalion plus attachments of 2 cavalry squadrons and 4 guns marched from Ghaziabad to Alipore to join General Barnard’s Force. On the 8th the whole Force advanced to contact at night and met with opposition at Badli ke Serai, 7 miles from Delhi. After 2 hours of fierce fighting the enemy withdraw back to Delhi. The Sirmoor Battalion advanced through the Subzimandi and by midday had successfully captured The Ridge. They were ordered to hold Hindoo Rao’s house at the Southern end of The Ridge and within 1200 yds of the Mori Bastion. Later that afternoon the enemy launched a counter attack but were driven back to the city by the Goorkhas , two companies 60th Rifles and Scott’s Battery.
On 9 June The Guides (with one Gurkha Company) joined Reid’s Force and The Ridge came under attack from the rebels’ infantry and artillery. The Ridge again came under attack on the 10th. On the 12th, 100 troopers of the 4th Irregular Horse mutinied but several were killed in the process of trying to join the rebel lines. An enemy force of 5000 again attacked The Ridge on the 13th.
On 14 June a recce on behalf of General Barnard was carried out with a view to capturing the city but the plan was rejected on account of a shortage of manpower. On the 15th an enemy force of 6000 attacked The Ridge and was beaten off. On the 17th a column under Major Tombs assaulted the enemy’s positions at Kissenganj. The gates were breached and fierce hand to hand fighting took place with 300 enemy killed and wounded. The Sirmoor Battalion lost 15 men. On the 20th an attempt was made by 15 Goorkhas to destroy the bridge of boats across the River Jumna with limited success. The following day, as the enemy attacked the rear of the main British position, the Sirmoor Battalion, 60th Rifles and the Guides retook the Subzimandi with considerable difficulty, the position changing hands several times. The enemy incurred 800 casualties, The Sirmoor Battalion 36. By the 23rd June the Gurkhas had lost 103 killed or wounded out of their initial total of 490.
On the 27 June The Sirmoor Battalion had to reinforce 2nd Fusiliers who were being attacked in the Subzimandi. By 15th July the enemy had made 20 unsuccessful attempts to seize The Ridge with forces of up to 800 men. Attacks continued until on 2 August ‘The Great Attack’ took place when an enemy force of 10,000 attacked The Ridge but had to withdraw after six attacks had been repulsed by 4 companies of the 60th Rifles, the remaining 200 Goorkhas, 310 Guides and a detachment of Coke’s Rifles. Desultory attacks continued during the rest of August. Although subject to enemy artillery fire from the Kissenganj batteries the Goorkhas were able to recover some of the enemy’s spent rounds and fire them back.
The artillery battle was also key. On 7 September British heavy batteries engaged the enemy. On the 9th an additional 24 artillery pieces defended by the Goorkhas engaged the enemy at a distance of 320 yards which reduced to only 160 yards. On 11 September the enemy succeed in establishing a new battery opposite The Ridge but the following day the British artillery had almost destroyed the Mori Bastion, but not silenced all the enemy guns .
On 14 September 1857 Major Reid’s Column formed up on The Grand Trunk Road opposite the Subzimandi at 4am. The force comprised 200 Goorkhas of the Sirmoor Battalion, Detachments of 60th Rifles , 61st (South Gloucestershire) and 75th (Stirlingshire) Regiments of Foot, Coke’s Rifles, the Kumaon Battalion (subsequently 3rd Gurkha Rifles), 1st Fusiliers, the Jammoo Contingent and a Battery of Royal Horse Artillery. At daylight , the enemy attacked the Jammoo Contingent but were beaten off as Reid’s Column advanced towards the Kashmir Gate, where there was fierce fighting. Reid’s plan was simple but effective, with a feint attack at the Kissenganj from the front which disguised the main assault to be launched from the flank and rear. However casualties were severe amounting to almost a third of the Column.
Mopping up operations continued throughout Delhi but the rebels had been soundly defeated. The Sirmoor Battalion had lost 327 All Ranks out of the 490 which had begun the siege.
INDIA GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL – 1854, Clasp – NORTH WEST FRONTIER
( GCO 86 of 1870 – Black Mountain )
On 2 January 1864 the Sirmoor Rifles were ordered to join the Field Force at Shabqadar approximately 25kms North of Peshawar as about 6000 Mohmands and other tribes had moved down from the surrounding hills to take up a position opposite Shabqadar Fort. The Field Force engaged the enemy by artillery and then, led by forward companies of the Sirmoor Rifles and the Rifle Brigade, the Force attacked the enemy who broke and fled .
On 10 August 1868 the Sirmoor Rifles were ordered to Khakee in the Pakri valley, about 25 miles from Abbottabad, where they received two pieces of intelligence: (1) The Soosal Pass, an important feature, was only lightly manned and urgently needed to be reinforced against maraunding tribesmen; (2) A small force under command Colonel Rothey had been surrounded by ‘several thousand‘ tribesmen in the Agor Valley and the Soosal Pass was the only means of communication with his rear echelon .
Holding the Soosal Pass was clearly vital and the Sirmoor Rifles succeeded in reaching the pass at midnight after a very steep climb and remained there for a month.
On 8 September 1868 the Sirmoor Rifles joined 2nd Brigade under General Vaughan at Koongulli and led the Brigade assault to clear the hills separating Agror and Tikari valleys. The regiment then supported 1st Brigade’s successful assault on Chittabut Peak and in due course 2nd Brigade was ordered to hold Chittabut as the 1st Brigade moved on to capture Muchaie Peak. These actions resulted in a tribal jirga or council and brought this campaign to an end. On 12 October 1868 the Sirmoor Rifles were withdrawn and arrangements were made for the Regiment to return to Dehra Dun for the first time since 1863 .
INDIA GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL – 1854, Clasp – LOOSHAI
( GCO 1295 of 1872 )
In 1871 disturbances had broken out in Eastern India amongst the Looshai , Howlong and Syloo tribes of the Chittagong Hills in South East Bangladesh/Burma (now Myanmar).
In August 1871 the Sirmoor Rifles were ordered to join General Brownlow’s Column and on 27 October 1871 departed by sea from Calcutta, reaching Chittagong on 4 November 1871. Not only was this a new experience for the Goorkhas, who had never before seen open sea, but also they were going to have learn to live and fight in the jungle for the first time.
On 7 November 1871 the regiment left Chittagong by river steamers and travelled for 90 miles up the Kornafuli River to Rangamatti. Thereafter the river narrowed and the Regiment continued upstream in a small fleet of boats and dugouts before reaching Demagiri on 18 November 1871. The Regiment was then tasked for the next two months with arduous piquet and escort duties, but without having contact with the tribesmen.
However, on 3 January 1872 the Regiment was ordered to attack a well defended (‘strong and impregnable‘) enemy village located in the Towrong Mountains after a difficult approach march through dense bamboo forests. This was the stronghold of Lal Gnoora the chief of the Looshai. General Brownlow’s Column formed up 300 feet beneath this heavily stockaded enemy village. The Sirmoor Rifles, who led the attack with three companies up, were met by cleverly located panjis and 10 soldiers including a British Officer were ‘completely disabled‘. Major Macintyre leading the left assault group was the first to breach the 9 feet high stockade, and closely followed by the Goorkhas quickly cleared the burning village of all the enemy tribesmen. He was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross and Rfm Inderjit Thapa the Indian Order of Merit 3rd Class. Major Macintyre’s citation read as follows :
‘For his gallant conduct at the storming of the stockaded village of Lalgnoora on 4th January 1872…..Major Donald Macintyre who was serving at the time as second in command, led the assault, was the first to reach the stockade (on this side from 8 to 9 feet high); and then to climb over and disappear among the flames and smoke of the burning village, was the work of a very short time. The stockade was successfully stormed by this officer under fire, the heaviest the Looshais delivered that day.’
In the subsequent follow-up operations and skirmishes the Sirmoor Rifles destroyed all the enemy’s stockades as well as burning the Looshais’ grain stores. In February 1872 the Looshai Expedition was over and by 4 April 1872 the Sirmoor Rifles had retuned to Dehra Dun.
General Sir Charles Brownlow wrote of his grateful ‘…..sense of the uniform loyalty , courage and good conduct which all ranks displayed in contending for five months with difficulties , privations and exposure of no ordinary nature , in forcing their way through an unknown and formidable country ….’.
The Sirmoor Rifles casualties were: killed in action -2; wounded – 12; died of disease -11.
MEDAL FOR AFGHANISTAN – 1878 – 80, Clasp – KABUL
( GCO 673 dated 10 December 1880 )
In September 1879 the British envoy to Afghanistan Sir Louis Cavagnari and his escort were massacred after an 8 hour siege by 2000 mutinous Afghan troops of the Residency in Kabul.
This event marked a turning point in the Second Afghan War and a military force commanded by Sir Frederick Roberts was rapidly mobilised to capture Kabul and punish the perpetrators.
The Sirmoor Rifles, which had only recently returned to Dehra Dun in June 1879, was now ordered to return to Afghanistan, reaching there in November 1879. It camped at Gandamak as part of General Charles Gough’s Brigade with detachments posted to Lokai, Pezwan and Jugdulluck. On 21 December 1879 in difficult winter conditions the Brigade marched to Sherpur, near Kabul. After Christmas the Regiment was ordered to join a column under Colonel Jenkins to carry out punitive measures against tribesmen in the Koh Daman valley, but were unable to do so because of the harsh winter weather.
During the Spring of 1880 the Regiment was responsible for manning outposts along the high ground overlooking the Kabul – Ghunzi road and the Chardeh valley. In late April 1880 a small British force commanded by Colonel Jenkins at Charasiah in the Logar valley was subject to a prolonged attack. Brigadier Macpherson’s Brigade (which included two companies from the Sirmoor Rifles, the 92nd Highlanders and a Sikh regiment) was ordered to assist and successfully defeated the Afghans who fled, leaving approximately 450 dead on the battle field, many of whom died in hand-to-hand fighting with the two companies of Goorkhas who ‘went at the enemy position with a cheer and varied the eminence with the bayonet‘.
Meanwhile, following reports of masses of tribesmen on the hills above at Sydabad, a strong force which included the 2nd Goorkhas was ordered to drive off the enemy. This was duly achieved with further hand-to-hand fighting. With the situation having now stabilised around Kabul, the British began to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan back to India.
MEDAL FOR AFGHANISTAN – 1878 – 80, Clasp – KANDAHAR
( GCO 673 dated 10 December 1880 )
On 27 July 1880 an Afghanistan army numbering 25, 000 under the leadership of Ayub Khan had decisively defeated General Burrows’ 1st Infantry Brigade of 2500 at the Battle of Maiwand. The enemy then marched on to Kandahar and laid siege to the British garrison.
The nearest British support lay hundreds of miles away in Quetta commanded by Brigadier Phayre and in Kabul commanded by General Roberts. Both were ordered to to march immediately towards Kandahar. Part of Roberts’ Force was 1st Infantry Brigade commanded by General Macpherson VC which included the 92nd Highlanders, the 2nd Goorkhas and the 24th Punjab Infantry. General Roberts’ Force arrived first having left Kabul on 9 August 1880, reaching Kandahar on 31 August 1880 after a gruelling march of 305 miles in 23 days.
The enemy were positioned to the west of Kandahar between the Baba Wali Hills (about 5000 feet high) and the Argandab river at a defile at Baba Wali Kotal. On 1 September 1880 , General Roberts with a force of 11,000 troops with 32 guns attacked Ayub Khan’s army of 15,000 Afghan regular troops, tribesmen and 32 guns. MacPherson’s 1st Brigade was ordered to capture the village of Gundimullah Sahibdad with 2nd Goorkhas on the left and 92nd Highlanders on the right. At 1030, after two hours of close combat, the village was taken and the Brigade advanced towards the next village of Pir Paimal, where it was joined by the 2nd Brigade . At midday both brigades began to advance and succeeded in capturing the village. Although many of the enemy withdrew the Afghans still resolutely defended their guns until they were rushed by both Goorkhas and Highlanders. After a brief hand-to-hand fight they broke and fled, to be pursued by the British cavalry .
It was reported that a 2nd Goorkha Rifleman rushing the Afghans’ artillery reached one of the guns first and springing on to it waved his cap, crying out in Hindustani ‘This gun belongs to my regiment – 2nd Goorkhas! Prince of Wales!‘. He then thrust his cap down the muzzle in order that there should be no dispute as to future ownership. For over a century subsequently this gun stood outside the Regimental Quarterguard as a prized trophy of war.
This was the final battle of the 2nd Afghan War. The 2nd Goorkhas’ casualties amounted to 8 killed and 29 wounded. Enemy casualties were estimated to be at least 1000 .
KABUL TO KANDAHAR STAR
(GCO 534 of 1880)
Following the Maiwand disaster on 27 July 1880 , General Sir Frederick Roberts was immediately ordered to lead a Field Force from Kabul to Kandahar in order to both relieve the besieged British garrison and to attack the Afghan Army led by Ayub Khan. The 2nd Goorkhas together with the 92nd Highlanders, 23rd Pioneers and 24th Punjab Infantry were all in 1st Infantry Brigade which waspart of this force.
On 8 August 1880 General Roberts marched out of the Sherpur Cantonment at Kabul and headed south to join the main Kandahar road. The route lay through Ghuznee and Kelat-i-Gilzai. The pace was forced as hard as possible with supplies carried by camel. The days were very hot and the nights very cold; the troops marched out in the early morning to avoid the full heat of the sun , halting for a few minutes every hour with camp pitched at around midday. On 31 August 1880 General Roberts’ Field Force reached Kandahar. This famous march of 23 days with only two halts covered a total distance of 305 miles, an average of 13.5 miles a day. The 221 miles from Kabul to Kelat-i-Gilzai was covered at a rate of 14.75 miles a day largely through country with an indifferent source of water. It was hardly surprising that sick rate was about 500 men per day. The medal was struck in recognition of the troops’ remarkable achievement of covering this distance in such a short time, leading to the relief of Kandahar described above.
INDIA GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL – 1854, Clasp – CHIN–LUSHAI 1889 -90
(GCO 275 dated 1891)
The Second Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas was raised in February 1886. Their first operational campaign took place in 1889 when part of the Battalion was deployed for service in the South Looshai Hills. It was part of the Chittagong Field Force commanded by Brigadier Tregear which was to operate East of the Chittagong Hill tracts. There the British had been surveying a possible road route through the hills which would have opened up unexplored territory and, with a line of forts, established a British presence in the area. However the previous year a British survey party had been attacked by tribesmen led by a chief known as Howsata who had killed Lieutenant Stewart and 3 soldiers of the 100th (Prince of Wales’s) Leinster Regiment . This had been followed by a number of raids by marauding tribes on 24 villages resulting in over 100 deaths.
The British formed the Chittagong Field Force as a ‘ cold weather ‘ punitive force. Its headquarters was based at Demagiri which elements of the Second Battalion reached eventually after a similar journey to that experienced by the Regiment in 1871 – a march from Dehra Dun to Meerut, train to Calcutta, boat to Chittagong and then by river steamer to Rangamatti and finally a march through ‘low lying, unhealthy forest tracts‘ to Demagiri. The Field Force consisted 1st Madras Pioneers , 2nd Bengal Infantry, elements of the 2nd Goorkhas and 3rd Bengal Infantry, 2 mountain guns, 38 elephants and 1000 Indian coolies.
The difficult approach march through steep jungle terrain proved to be too much for some of the elephants and coolies despite having recruited an additional 2500 local tribesmen. However, by late February 1889 the Field Force established a firm base at Lung Leh from where fighting patrols were sent out to punish those tribesmen who had carried out the raids. The tribal chief Howsata had since died and his grave revealed that he had been buried with Lieutenant Stewart’s gun.
By mid March 1889 the season when it was possible to conduct operations was ending. The base at Lung Leh was vacated and handed over to the Frontier Police as the Field Force withdrew to Demagiri before returning to India. On 15 May 1889 the elements of the 2nd Battalion involved reached home at Dehra Dun.
INDIA GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL -1854, Clasp – LUSHAI 1889 -92
At the end of October 1889 the Second Battalion was again ordered for service in the Looshai Hills, joining Brigadier General Tregear’s Field Force – only on this occasion it would involve the entire battalion. The Field Force proceeded to the base at Lung Leh, reaching it on 02 January 1890. Here the Battalion was split up with three companies under command of Colonel Skinner being sent to the Northern Looshai Hills, while the remainder joined the Burma Force under the command of Brigadier General Penn Symons.
Duties for those Goorkhas who were part of Burma Force were arduous but dull, comprising mainly jungle clearance, road-making and building stockaded positions, yet without being troubled by any tribesmen. A large fortified position known as Fort Tregear was established at Darjow Klang at an elevation of about 5000 feet. A fighting patrol led by Captain Hill into Chin country discovered Lieutenant Stewart’s head, which was given an appropriate burial.
The three companies sent to the Northern Looshai Hills had two contacts with the Looshai and suffered a few casualties. By March 1890, Brigadier General Tregear withdrew most of his Field Force to India but left 2 rifle companies at Lung Leh. On 21 April 1890 the Main Body of the 2nd Battalion reached Dehra Dun again. Meanwhile the two companies left at Lung Leh carried out operations against a ‘turbulent chief‘ known as Jacopa and his Looshai tribesmen. He had ambushed a Frontier Police patrol which included two 2nd Goorkha signallers resulting in several sepoys and the two signallers being decapitated. Jacopa’s force was eventually attacked and punished while he was captured.
The 2nd Battalion was not sent to the Looshai Hills in 1890 and the Detachment at Fort Tregear returned to Dehra Dun in May 1891 .
INDIA GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL – 1854, Clasp – NE FRONTIER 1891
(AO 88 of 01 June 1892 and GOCC 605 dated 28 July 1892)
In September 1890 the Maharaja of the small North Eastern Indian princely State of Manipur was forced to abdicate following a palace coup. The British response was for the Chief Commissioner, James Quinton, together with a small military force to go to Imphal (the capital of Manipur) and arrest the rebels. This was a tragic and spectacular failure resulting on 14 March 1891 in the murder of Quinton and four British Officers and the storming of the Residency while the survivors fled for their lives from the rebels.
The British authorities immediately assembled three Columns which were tasked to ‘exact retribution for these acts of rebellion and massacre‘. In early April 1891 the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas, comprising 9 British Officers and 720 Rank and File, was ordered to join Col Rennick’s Column at Silchar in Assam, which was more than 2000 kms from Dehra Dun. This was achieved a combination of marches, trains and river steamers .
On 15 April 1891 the Column set off on the 250km march to Imphal over difficult jungle terrain in heavy rain. For some reason each rifleman carried a great coat (!) in addition to 170 rounds and waterproof sheets. Apparently the pack transport proved to be useless as the Regiment struggled in very difficult conditions with marches lasting 12– 5 hrs, often at night. Matters worsened with an outbreak of cholera. The Column eventually reached Imphal where having joined up with the other two columns they discovered that the town had been abandoned by the rebels with both palace and arsenal destroyed. Unlike the other two columns, Col Rennick’s Column had not had any contact with the enemy during their approach march to Imphal.
The rebel leaders were duly captured and executed. Meanwhile the Battalion was billeted in a deserted Manipuri village to the North East of Imphal from where patrols were send out, more for political than military reasons. The Regimental historian noted that ‘the summer passed quietly…..the chief points of interest being the excellent shooting and fishing‘.
In September 1891 , the battalion was ordered to withdraw back to the Brahmaputra River, which was reached on 19 October 1891, from where it sailed by river steamer to Goalundo. There it entrained to Roorkee and then marched to Dehra Dun, arriving there on 02 November 1891.
INDIA MEDAL 1895 (first issue), Clasp PUNJAB FRONTIER 1897-98
(Awarded to all troops who served from 10 June 1897 to 6 April 1898 subject to 6 categories e.g. beyond Jallala or garrison duties at Bara and outposts between Jamrud and Peshawar etc).
The peace along the North-West Frontier was broken in June and July 1897 with uprisings by the Waziris, Mohmands, Swatis, Afridis and Orakzaies tribes. As such they now posed a threat to the line of eleven outposts and forts which had been established and garrisoned by the British.
On 13 August 1897 the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas (1/2GR) was ordered to join 3rd Reserve Brigade at Rawalpindi, but being below strength because of men on Nepal leave they had to be reinforced by 2 x Gurkha Officers and 108 x Gurkha Other Ranks from the 2nd Battalion.
On 31 August 1897 1/2GR reached Kohat which was to be the base of the forthcoming campaign, but on arrival they were immediately sent to Hangu, where an attack from Orakzaies tribesmen was expected, to join Col Lawrence’s Infantry Brigade with the Royal Irish Regiment and 2nd Punjab Infantry.
On 7 September 1897 elements of 1/2GR moved to the Samana Hills overlooking Hangu and occupied Fort Lockhart where an estimated 10000 tribesmen could be seen making their way down the Khanki Valley. From here the Battalion was deployed to capture outposts such as Gogra Hill and Hangu which had been occupied by the enemy.
Delhi Day was celebrated at Fort Lockhart with 3GR and there was a lull in hostilities until 10 October 1897 when 1/2GR was ordered to join 3rd Brigade under Brigadier General Kempster with the Gordon Highlanders, the Dorsetshire Regiment and the 15th Sikhs as part of 2nd Division under Major General Yeatman–Briggs. From here they moved to take part in the Tirah campaign (see next section).
INDIA MEDAL 1895 (first issue), Clasp TIRAH 1897-98
(Awarded to all troops forming part of the Tirah Expeditionary Force who went beyond Kohat or Peshawar from 2 October 1897 to 31 January 1898)
On 10 October 1897 1/2GR was at Shinaori as part of the Tirah Expeditionary Force under Brigadier-General Kempster’s 3rd Infantry Brigade with the Gordon Highlanders, Dorsetshire Regiment and 15th Sikhs.
On 18 October 1897 Lieutenant General Sir Power Palmer issued Divisional Orders for two columns to capture the Dargai Heights. These, at over 7000 feet, were occupied by Afridi tribesmen. The Right Column (Brigadier-GeneralWestmacott 4th Brigade) was to advance up the main road and launch a frontal attack while the Left Column (3rd Brigade) were to launch an attack from the left via a mountain mule track.
At 04.30 hrs the 2 columns left Fort Lockhart but after 5 miles the track became too steep for guns and mules. By 9am 1/2GR, now 1.5 miles West of Dargai, had come under fire, but by 12.00 hrs the battalion had captured the enemy position and met up with 4th Brigade. Lack of water led to Dargai being abandoned by 5pm, only to be reoccupied by tribesmen who not only harassed the withdrawing British troops but also significantly fortified the position in anticipation of another British attack.
On 20 October 1897 a larger British force, now supported by artillery, began another assault on Dargai. The attack was to be led by 1/2GR with the Dorsetshire Regiment in support and the Gordon Highlanders and Derbyshire Regiments in reserve. Although the attacking force followed the same route taken by 4th Brigade on the previous day, for some reason knowledge of an open saddle located just above the ridge line beneath Dargai had not been made clear to 3rd Brigade. As the advancing Goorkhas and Dorsets reached the ridge and began to assemble just below it for the assault, the enemy held their fire, knowing the would shortly have an excellent target.
Extracts from an eye witness account best describe what happened next :
‘…When all was ready the Commandant Col Eaton Travers stepped out in front, drew his sword and called on his men to follow him …as the men scrambled up and poured over the top , they came into view of the loopholes above where instantly the whole line of sangars burst into smoke and flame and a torrent of bullets from front, right and left tore through the ranks; men fell literally in heaps ….Some 500 breech loading rifles were pumping lead at a range of a little over 200 yards on to a strip of ground the size of two tennis courts, and the crowded ranks of the leading regiment struggling through this terrible zone of fire melted away, leaving a trail of bodies ….
Major Judge now sprang into the open to lead another advance, and gallantly his men responded; many more fell and others with heads down and arms across the face as though in a hailstorm, broke out of the crush [and]…sought cover where there was none ….…..
Another rush now gathered; Captain Robinson headed it, reached cover half way, and after a moment’s halt he was up again and went back into the pitiless fire which rained on sound and stricken alike, he then lead yet another effort across only to fall mortally wounded …
Now the Dorsets massing on the Left began to repeat the process; now an officer, now a sergeant, sprang up to lead a rush, the ground, as each group appeared, being lashed into dust and splinters ….
At 13.00 hrs the supports had began to run out of ammunition and a message sent by heliograph to the Divisional Commander ….”150 killed, the attack has died out, and the enemy above are confident in their ability to hold Dargai against all comers “. But his reply is an order to the Gordons and 3rd Sikhs to reinforce the attack.
Meanwhile everyone is firing away at the loop holes above, but with little success in harming the Afridis for the angle was about what is required for a rocketing pheasant and the loopholes were not very distinguishable. The artillery had been firing with great accuracy but owing to the fact that the three out of the four batteries were at least 1000 feet below the hostile position, and the ground in the rear sloped away sharply ,they could not do much harm morally or materially …
At 14.40 hrs the Gordons and 3rd Sikhs formed up below the ridge line and with a heavy artillery barrage lasting for 3 minutes Colonel Mathias, the Commanding Officer of The Gordons, stepped in front of his regiment and led the rush of men, headed by their pipers. A terrific fire burst out from above and numbers fell, but the irresistible rush of Highlanders, Sikhs and Goorkhas carried such strength across to those waiting under the cliffs that the Afridis, seeing the day was over for them,,ceased firing and began to vacate their position…’
An inspection revealed very few enemy casualties while the British had suffered 208 of which 2nd Goorkhas had lost Major Judge and Captain Robinson as well as 1 x Gurkha Officer, 15 x Gurkha Other Ranks and 50 wounded .
On 21 October 1897 1/2GR had moved down the spur from Dargai towards Karappa as part of 2nd Division who were soon joined by 1st Division under General Sir William Lockhart. From there the British force moved on towards Gandaki with the enemy sighted on the surrounding hills necessitating the deployment of piquets. From Gandaki, despite desultory opposition, the British having taken and opened the Sanpagha and Arhanga Passes advanced into the Mastura Valley. The Divisional HQ was established at Maidan. From there 1/2GR patrolled vigorously against the constantly marauding tribesmen who were forever harassing rearguards and piquets.
On 13 November 1897 the 3rd Infantry Brigade moved into the Waran Valley having secured the surrounding high ground where small parties of enemy were observed, but there were no contacts. Three days later the Brigade was ordered back to Maidan but unfortunately a rifle company of the Dorsetshire Regiment got lost and were attacked, losing several men. 1/2GR had 8 x casualties including Lieutenant Wylie and 3 Gurkha Other Ranks killed.
From 20 November 1897 to 4 April 1898 3rd Infantry Brigade including 1/2GR was on continuous operational service in the particularly challenging terrain of Afghanistan during mid-Winter while being harassed by marauding Afridi tribesmen. The pattern of operations (known as ‘ Convoy Duties ‘) was repeated as the British moved through steep defiles towards various enemy villages. Piquets had to be deployed along the heights to cover the movement of the Main Body of troops in the valleys. Yet throughout the campaign the enterprising enemy would follow the British who would always be vulnerable to attack wherever there were halts or bivouacs. In addition, the rearguard of any force, whether it was a column or company, would frequently be harassed by the enemy.
During the Tirah Campaign 1/2GR was involved in no fewer than 32 major contacts exclusive of piquet skirmishes and coming under enemy fire while in camp or bivouac, and participated in 19 rear guard actions. Casualties during the Tirah Campaign were 139: killed 30; died of wounds 4; wounded 87, died of disease 18.
TIBET MEDAL (No clasp)
The British expedition to Tibet began in December 1903 and lasted until September 1904. It was intended to counter Russia’s perceived ambitions in the East and initiated by Lord Curzon, the Viceroy, who believed that the Dalai Lama intended to end Tibet’s neutrality and to place his country within the sphere of Russian influence.
With approval of the British Government in London, the Tibet Frontier Commission led by Col Francis Younghusband was sent to negotiate with both the Chinese and Tibetans in order to establish a trade agreement. Meanwhile, in support of the Commission, the British formed a military expeditionary force in Sikkim under command of Brigadier-General James Macdonald
The 2nd Goorkhas did not fight as a unit in this campaign but Lieutenant Nicholl was seconded to 1st Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles, Captain Ross was appointed Commandant of the 2nd Coolie Corps, and Captain Boileau and Lieutenant Wigram were seconded to the Transport Company in command of cart and yak transports. In addition, 62 men from the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas took part in the campaign as porters.
As well as the 1st Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles, the expeditionary force comprised the 40th Pathans, 23rd and 32nd Sikh Pioneers, 19th Punjab Infantry, mountain artillery and Maxim machine guns, support troops and porters familiar with high altitudes such as Pathans, Gurkhas and Sherpas. Total strength was 3000 troops and 7000 porters. They fought their way to Gyantse and eventually reached Lhasa in August 1904. Although the Dalai Lama escaped, thousands of Tibetan troops were mown down by modern rifles and Maxim machine guns in their attempt to block the British advance.
At Lhasa the Commission forced Tibetan officials to sign the Treaty of Lhasa before withdrawing back to Sikkim. Its main provisions were the opening of Tibet to British trade, payment by the Tibetans of 7,500,000 rupee indemnity to the British (later reduced by two-thirds), cession of the Chumbi Valley to the British until payment was received, recognition of the Sikkim-Tibet border and, critically, an agreement that Tibet would not enter into relations with other foreign powers.
British casualties amounted to 202 killed in action and 411 non-combatant deaths. It was estimated 2000-3000 Tibetans were killed.
INDIA GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL 1908 (second issue), Clasp – ABOR 1911 -12
In March 1911 the murder of the Political Officer and a British doctor by local tribesmen in Sadiya District of the Abor Hills region in North East India resulted in the formation of the Abor Expeditionary Force at Kobo in Upper Assam under the command of Maj Gen Sir Hamilton Bowers. The Force comprised :
- Maxim Gun Detachment Assam Valley Light Horse
- No 1 Company Sappers and Miners
- 32nd Sikh Pioneers
- 1st Battalion 2nd Goorkhas (1/2GR)
- 1st Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles (1/8GR)
- Lakimpur Military Police Detachment (Gurkhas)
The total number of troops was 3000 All Ranks, and because of the difficult terrain 5000 porters were hired to replace the usual pack animals.
The 3 objectives of the Expeditionary Force were: to reduce the Abor clans to submission; establish political relations with the clans; and carry out survey work. These were achieved by forming 2 Columns. The ‘Main’ or Right Column, commanded by Maj Gen Bowers, included one company of 1/2GR. The ‘Ledum‘ or Left Column was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Fisher, Commandant 1/2GR. The 2 columns advanced by following the River Dihang for about 40 miles towards Bhutan. They made slow progress in very difficult conditions, with sporadic contact with the enemy. As their stockades were captured , any Abor village in the vicinity was destroyed and burnt.
Gurkhas outside a burning village, Abor Expedition 1911 (National Army Museum)
1/2GR, reinforced by 3 x Gurkha Officers and 100 Gurkha Other Ranks from the 2nd Battalion, left Dehra Dun and after travelling by rail and steamer reached Kobo on 6 October 1911. On leaving Kobo they quickly encountered the dense Assam jungle with its steep hills and ravines and absence of paths. The very difficult going was further made almost impossible by incessant rain. In addition, and contrary to the Regiment’s experience in north-west India, with no local supplies available ‘every scrap of food had to be carried, which entailed long lines of transport coolies and endless convoy escorts ‘. Furthermore by mid-November 1911 30% of the rank & file of the Abor Expeditionary Force were suffering from dysentery or malaria.
The Abor tribesmen were lightly armed with primitive bows with poisoned arrows and spears. They were skilled at laying ambushes and adept at building stockades defended by panji sticks. They frequently rolled down rocks on the soldiers, otherwise known as ‘rock shoots‘.
By the end of December 1911 with many of their villages destroyed, numbers killed and wounded and their food supplies having been confiscated or destroyed, the Abor tribesmen began to negotiate for a peaceful end to the hostilities. This was achieved and the military offensive ended.
From January to April 1912 the third and final objective of the Expeditionary Force was carried out with the exploration and mapping of the Abor Hills. In late April 1912 the Expeditionary Force was disbanded and 1/2GR returned to Dehra Dun by early May 1912.
Total casualties suffered by 1/2GR were 3 x GORs killed and 7 x GORs wounded plus several (number not specified) who died from disease.
Major General Sir Hamilton Bowers recorded in his despatches :
‘This corps [1/2/GR] well maintained its reputation for efficiency both on the Ledum Column and in guarding Lines of Communications. An excellent spirit pervades the Regiment .’
1914 STAR, Clasp – 5th AUG – 22nd NOV 1914
(Awarded to all those who served in France and Belgium and had been under fire during the period 5 August – 22 Nov 1914).
On 4 August 1914 Great Britain declared war against Germany. Contingency plans had been in place for some time to send Indian Army troops to reinforce the Home (British) Expeditionary Force, or send them to Egypt to release troops from there for the same purpose. In the event it was decided to send the Indian Corps to France. It consisted of two Divisions (Lahore and Meerut) each with three brigades. 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas (2/2GR) was in the Dehra Dun Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General C Johnson, part of the Meerut Division. Other units in the Brigade were 1st Seaforth Highlanders, 1/9th Gurkha Rifles and 6th Jat Light Infantry.
On 1 September 1914 2/2GR, reinforced by 2 x Gurkha Officers and 165 x Gurkha Other Ranks from 1/2GR, left Dehra Dun for Bombay. They reached Marseilles on 12 October 1914. After a short period of issuing temperate clothing and equipment and attending briefings on the latest British tactics and weapons, 2/2 GR travelled by train from Marseilles via Orleans and Calais to the Reserve Area of the British Expeditionary Force or the ‘Zone of Operations‘. On 28 October 1914 they arrived at Merville.
* LA BASSEE 1914 ( located 1.1km N of Neuve Chapelle )
On 29 October 1914 , 2/2GR moved out to occupy their positions in the British Line to the North of Neuve Chapelle where they came under fire from high explosive shells for the first time and incurred casualties .The regimental diarist described the ground as being :
‘ a forlorn desolate country of a low lying area stretching out flat for miles , … in a sea of mud , interspersed with pools of water formed by flooded shell holes …..no revetting material was available …troops stood and moved frequently in knee deep in mud and water …dug outs were frail and continually blown to bits by shells …life under these conditions was of utter discomfort , wallowing in mud and filth… ‘
The morning of 02 November 1914 ‘ opened with a perfect tornado of high explosive shells directed on the trenches of 2/2 GR resulting in ‘violent explosions obliterating trench and parapet and blowing men high in the air and burying others . ‘As the survivors moved back to occupy reserve trenches , counter attacks were launched against the enemy resulting in stiff hand to hand fighting which temporarily pushed the enemy back , only for them to re group and overwhelm the Goorkhas .
The action was summarized by the regimental diarist – ‘ So ended for us a disastrous , but gallantly fought action against superior numbers far better provided with the modern machinery of war ‘.
The casualties ‘ for this day were ‘ deplorably heavy ‘ :
BOs 7 x killed , 1 x wounded
GOs 4 x killed , 3 x wounded
GORs 31 x killed , 64 x wounded and 37 x missing
The tragic loss of so many British Officers at La Bassee on the Battalion’s first day of action in the First World War cannot be overestimated .The Official History of the Indian Corps stated :
‘ The heroism of the British Officers has seldom been more brilliantly demonstrated than on this occasion .Not a single British Officer of the 2nd Goorkhas in the from trenches got back alive , several being killed while leading attacks against vastly superior numbers .The bravery displayed by All Ranks fully sustained the great reputation of this Regiment .’
* FESTUBERT 1914 (located 2kms SW of Neuve Chapelle )
The Meerut Division was ordered to defend the village of Festubert and on 13 November 1914 2/2GR was attached to the Garhwal Brigade .During an action on 21 November 1914 ‘ both our machine guns became useless , the water in their jackets having frozen …..frost bite proved to be a new and unpleasant foe ..’
However because 2/2GR was still recovering from the losses incurred at the action at La Bassee , it was not seriously deployed .
21 .1914 – 15 STAR
NB Awarded to those who saw service in any theatre of war between 05 August 1914 and 31 December 1915 – other than those who qualified for the 1914 Star .
GIVENCHY 1914 ( located 3.7km SSW of Neuve Chapelle )
With the French under pressure at Arras , the British were ordered to provide relief by attacking the Germans at Givenchy . The outline plan was for the Meerut Division to ‘open operations ‘ with the Garhwal Brigade leading to be followed by the Dehra Dun Brigade .
On 19 December 1914 2/2GR who had suffered from heavy enemy shelling , spent all night digging in heavy rain – ‘ which frequently washed down the walls of our trenches , smothering the rifles in mud ‘ . Meanwhile the German artillery continued to concentrate their formidable fire power onto the trenches of 2/2GR who absolutely exhausted were finally relieved on 23 December 1914 .
NEUVE CHAPELLE 1915 ( located SW of Neuve Chapelle )
After a winter spent in sodden trenches the British First Army mounted their first large scale offensive . On 10 March 1915 the Meerut Division led the assault with the Garhwal Brigade ( and Dehra Dun Brigade in support ) succeeding in capturing the objective .But the advance by 2/2GR had to be delayed .The Battalion renewed their attack the following day after having incurred significant casualties , but any possible further advance was unfortunately curtailed by conflicting orders .
This battle was the first time that the German Line had been broken and despite the Indian Corps suffering. 4000 casualties , the British First Army was unable to exploit the initial success .
AUBERS 1915 ( located 2.2 km S of Neuve Chapelle )
As the French Army began an offensive towards Lens , the Indian Corps was ordered to provide support with the aim of capturing Aubers Ridge . On 10 May 1915 and despite meticulous planning as 2/2GR went ‘ over the top ‘ the leading companies were met by devastating accurate enemy fire from the high ground . 1/9GR were ordered to reinforce 2/2GR , but with the trenches already packed with dead and wounded , 2/2GR had to be withdrawn .
NB The battle was a disaster for the British and the lack of HE shells caused ‘ The Shell Crisis ‘ which eventually brought down Asquith’s Government .
FESTUBERT 1915 ( located 5.5km SW of Neuve Chapelle )
After the failure of the attempted breakthrough at Aubers Ridge , on 15 May 1915 the British adopted French tactics with a slow and deliberate artillery bombardment prior to any infantry attack .
However , even a barrage lasting 60 hours failed to inflict significant damage on reinforced German positions . The Meerut Division suffered 2500 casualties , but 2/2GR did not fight during the actual dates for the Battle of Festubert because of its earlier participation in the preliminary stages including the Battle of Aubers Ridge which had resulted in such a high rate of casualties .
On 18 August 1915 2/2 GR was ordered to send 1 x BO , 2 x GO and 100 GOR to 4GR for deployment in Gallipoli which they reached on 13 September 1915 where they formed part of the Divisional Reserve , thereafter reinforcing the front trenches of 2/10 GR , 1/6GR and 1/5GR in wretched conditions until the successful withdrawal carried out on 19 December 1915 before rejoining 2/2GR in Egypt .
LOOS 1915 ( located 1.1km NE of Neuve Chapelle )
The French objective was to launch an attack in the Champagne region and disrupt the Germans’ Line of Communication . The Indian Corps’s objective was to attack the enemy line to the N of Neuve Chapelle .The Meerut Division leading with the Dehra Dun Brigade in reserve .
This was the first occasion that 2/2GR experienced gas and despite very detailed planning , its deployment on 25 September 1915 was
anything but successful .The weather was described as being ‘ heavy rain and mist , followed by high winds ‘. At 05.00hrs a stray German shell blew off the heads of the gas cylinders and the 06.00 hrs assault was met by a ‘ blizzard of bullets ‘ resulting in the Dehra Dun Brigade being driven back and at 14.30hrs the advance was called off .
Loos was to be the last major action for 2/2GR which was to spend another 14 days in the Front Line suffering from occasional sniper fire and on 02 November 1915 , 2/2 GR was finally withdrawn from the British Line and embarked from Marseilles on 09 November 1915 and reached Egypt on 17 November 1915 .
Extract from a letter written by Maj Gen C W Jacob late GOC Meerut Division to Lt Col Boileau Comdt 2/2 GR dated 12 November 1915
‘…….. I was very sorry to find you and your gallant Battalion had gone when I returned from leave .I should like to have seen you all before you started , and to tell you again how grateful I am for all the good work the 2nd Goorkhas have done in France .
When I look back on what you have been through and the strenuous times you have had both in fighting the Germans and contending with the weather , I realize what sterling good stuff there is in All Ranks in your Battalion .You have deserved well of your country , and no Commander could wish to have finer troops .’………..
Total Casualties :
BO 16 x killed , 3 x wounded ,1 x missing . GO 10 x killed , 7 x wounded , 2 x missing .GOR 135 x killed , 303 x wounded , 106 x missing .
In January and February 1915 the Turks ( plus Arab allies ) had attacked Egypt , but had been unable to overcome the defences of the Suez Canal . 2/2 GR which had reach Port Said in November 1915 now became part of the British Army in Egypt and was immediately deployed to No 3 Section Suez Canal Defence – whose area of responsibility stretched from Port Said to Kantara .
In early December 1915 2/2GR was tasked to form part of a Moveable Column comprising both cavalry ( Mysore State Lancers ) and camelry ( Bikaner Camel Corps ) in order to send out fighting and reconnaissance patrols , provide armored train escorts , observation and night piquets etc .
The Battalion ended 1915 after having been moved South to occupy the Suez Section of the Canal Defence which the Battalion diarist described as being ‘ devoid of any stirring interest ‘.
On 10 February 1916 2/2GR was relieved by the 58th Vaughan Rifles ( Frontier Force ) and embarked on 17 February for Karachi and on 03 March 1916 the 2nd Battalion finally reached Dehra Dun – after a period of more than 18 months overseas and on active service .
- BRITISH WAR MEDAL – FIRST WORLD WAR 1914 – 1920
No Clasp ( NB It was originally intended to award campaign clasps
viz Queen’s South Africa Medal with 26 clasps , but because as many as 79 clasps were recommended by the Army and 68 clasps by the Royal Navy .This scheme was abandoned as being too impractical ).
MESOPTAMIA 1916 -1918
1/2 GR had spent the latter part of 1914 and all of 1915 at Dehra Dun although 100 men had been detailed as reinforcements to 1/5GR at Gallipoli , but arrived in Egypt too late and instead of being attached to 2/2 GR were to remain with 1/5GR until September 1916 .
Turkey had entered the war in October 1915 and after their exploits at Gallipoli had deployed to Mesopotamia to protect the Baghdad – Basra oil pipe line and railway . In response , the British 6th Division had advanced up the River Euphrates from Basra towards Baghdad , but had not only met with fierce opposition , but had been surrounded at Kut el Amara ( 160kms SE Baghdad ) .
Meanwhile 1/2GR comprising 824 All Ranks had , at last , left India and reached Basra on 18 February 1916 to become part of 37th Indian Bde , comprising :
1st Bn 2nd Goorkhas
1st Bn 4th Somerset Light Infantry
On 29 February 1916 the Brigade as part of 14th Div moved up the River Tigris by paddle boat and river steamer towing barges before transferring to ‘ mahelas ‘ ( local boats ) prior to being warned for an attack on 08 March 1916 against the Turks at Dujailah Redoubt as part of a strategic plan to relieve the besieged 6th Division. Unfortunately , all the British assaults had failed against superior numbers and 37th Brigade was withdrawn to Senna via Wadi . For its first action in the First World War 1/2 GR was to suffer a ‘baptism of fire ‘ not dissimilar to that of 2/2GR in France by incurring a large number of casualties :
BO 3 x killed , GOR 92 x killed , 108 x wounded
1/2GR while still incurring casualties from enemy snipers , then spent the next six weeks located beside the River Tigris in difficult low lying country susceptible to flooding as part of the Divisional Reserve before its final push to relieve the Kut Garrison . Sadly the Garrison eventually fell and with losses suffered by the relieving forces exceeding 20,000 – many dying of wounds and sickness and ‘ hopeless inadequate medical and transport deficiencies .’
1/2GR was duly relieved and with a much reduced strength of only 383 (NB it had been as many as 824 only two months earlier ) found itself carrying out loading / unloading fatigues at Sheikh Saad described as a ’pesitlent place… ..appalling dirty etc ‘. By June 1916 , 1/2GR had returned to Es Sinn – not far from the Dujailah Redoubt but with an average temperature of 40c this excessive heat and a high level of sickness caused operations to be curtailed until September – when after a period of prisoner exchanges , intensive training etc , 1/2GR was ordered on 12 November 1916 to relieve 82nd Punjabis near Magasis Fort located on the S bank of the River Tigris and to carry out aggressive patrolling .
KUT EL AMARA 1917
The British began their new offensive on 13 December 1916 and 37th Indian Bde as part of 13th Div was ordered to advance and to cross the River Hai – a tributary of the River Tigris . There then followed almost six weeks of moves and counter moves as the British forced the Turks to vacate their positions on the S of the River Tigris before 1/2GR was to eventually occupied trenches to the W of the River Hai .
On 03 February 1917 1/2GR together with 1/4th Devons led the Bde assault towards a Turkish stronghold known as The Liquorice Factory located on the S bank of the River Tigris , but had met with fierce resistance before seizing the objective . As 37th Indian Bde consolidated , 1/2GR were ordered back to Kala Haji Fahan after having suffered badly with a high number of casualties .
Brig Carey Commanding 37th Indian Bde wrote :
‘….I consider 1/2nd Goorkhas to have particularly distinguished itself in recent operations ….they attacked the Turkish positions and despite having seen their trenches full of wounded Sikhs two days earlier , attacked with the greatest gallantry and determination ..’
The Turks had now been driven off the S bank of the River Tigris and 1/2GR began to train for the impending and expected to be a very challenging opposed river crossing. NB Even the orders used the term ‘ crossing would be attempted ‘ .
The aim was for 7th Div with 37th Indian Bde leading to make a surprise crossing on 23 February 1917 of the River Tigris at the Dahar and Shumran bends about 6 miles up stream of Kut . Meanwhile , as a result of heavy rain the river had swollen and was at least 400m wide at the crossing point chosen for 1/2GR .
Behind the cover of a bund and in darkness the Battalion struggled to manhandle their boats towards the river bank .On 23 February 1917 at 05.40 hrs 1/2GR launched its first boat ( out of a total of 17 ) – each comprising 5 oarsmen from other units and 10 Goorkhas .The first wave reached the N bank despite coming under accurate enemy fire , but subsequent boats were not as successful with several being badly shot up viz
‘ The last boat to make the crossing with Jemdr Manbahadur Gurung had all its oarsmen from Sappers and Miners killed or wounded before they got half way across , and drifting back returned to the Battalion ‘.
At 09.30hrs 1/2GR was ordered not to attempt any further attempts at their particular crossing point . Meanwhile the Sappers and Miners had succeeded in constructing a pontoon bridge and by 17.00hrs a bridgehead was eventually established on the N bank of the River Tigris , but not without having first incurred many casualties .
At 06.00 hrs on 24 February 1917 , both 36th and 37th Indian Bdes were ordered to break out from the overnight bridgehead and to attack the enemy . 1/2GR were initially in support , but soon incurred stiff opposition as the British advanced N for approx 3km before consolidating on higher ground as the 35th Indian Bde relieved the 37th Indian Bde .
By 24 February 1917 it transpired that the Turkish Army had vacated Kut el Amara and was now in full retreat towards Baghdad . Unfortunately , the Indian Cavalry Division after having crossed the River Tigris was unable to cut off the retreating Turks . 1/2GR was now to find itself in the rear guard of a long column of advancing troops of the 7th Div which stretched for more than 5 kms .
1/2GR continued to march towards Baghdad passing through Rawiyat , Azizia , Ctesiphon etc before on 11 March 1917 reaching Diala ( 12km S of Baghdad ) located on a tributary of the River Tigris . Baghdad had been occupied without enemy opposition although it was described by the Goorkha riflemen as ‘ a place not worth fighting for ‘ !
On 27 March 1917 1/2GR marched to Baquba ( 50km NE of Baghdad ) to meet a threat of an enemy force of 6000 Turks trying to attack the British line of communication advancing up the River Tigris . By the end of April 1917 , operations were again brought to a close by the heat and with the railhead now having reached Baquba there was a welcome improvement in medicine and rations .
On 13 October 1917 1/2GR joined Brig Maclachlan’s Column for operations in the Jebel Hamrin range as the 13th Div attempted to link up with the Russians in order to coordinate Allied activity against the Turks . However , 1/2GR was spared from much of this action and was sent further E of Baghdad to Mirjana where after having received reinforcements , the strength of the Battalion became BO x 17 , GO x 17 , GOR x 1140 plus 88 followers.
On 30 May 1918 orders were received to send two detachments by ancient motor transport along a combination of desert and mountainous roads over 5000’ passes towards West Persia and eventually the Caspian Sea . Persia was nominally neutral , but sympathetic to the Germans and Turks although anti Russian ( and British ) .
Establishing a British presence was not without incident as a Moveable Column attempted to maintain control over a local war lord culminating in a fierce fight at the city of Resht ( 40,000 inhabitants ) between the local garrison and a force led by Capt McCleverty with elements from 1/4th Hampshire Regt and 1/2GR .
For much of its time in Persia the Battalion split up in small detachments .
By August 1918 1/2GR was deployed as protection to the long British Lines of Communication which stretched back to Mesopotamia and it was not until having fought several skirmishes that the Battalion was eventually consolidated at Zinjan where it heard in early November 1918 the ‘cheering news of the collapse of the Turkish Army to be shortly followed by the signing of the Armistice .’
The First World War may have ended , but not for 1/2GR who as part of a widely dispersed 36th Indian Bde now found themselves entering a new campaign against the Russian Bolsheviks .
Total casualties from May 1916 – December 1918
BO 8 x killed , 13 x wounded , GO 4 x killed , 8 x wounded , I x missing , GOR 174 x killed , 393 x wounded 41 x missing .
Already eligible for the 1914 STAR and the 1914 – 1915 STAR on account of operational service in France and Egypt .
After having returned to Dehra Dun from Egypt in March 1916 , 2/2GR was ordered in January 1917 to Burhan near Rawalpindi to join 16th Indian Div.
The rest of the year 1917 was spent training both at Burhan and in the Murree Hills before in early January 1918 2/2GR was deployed to Tank on the North West Frontier …’ known for its bare surroundings , great heat , prevalence of appalling dust storms and scanty water supply ‘.
Meanwhile disturbances had arisen in Baluchistan where the Marri tribe had risen in revolt . 2/2 GR was ordered to Duki to join the Marri Field Force commanded by Brig T H Hardy comprising :
1st South Lancashire Regiment
3rd Skinner’s Horse
No3 Mountain Bty
On 22 March 1918 the Force seized the Watwangi Pass with little opposition in country described as being ‘ very difficult with steep , bare rugged hills and broken valleys with scanty vegetation ..’
There was only one notable action which took place on 04 April 1918 when 2/2GR incurred only light casualties .However , with over 100 enemy tribesmen having been killed , the revolt was quashed and the Marri Field Force was disbanded .
2/2GR returned to Tank , but still had to provide detachments to Pezu , Sheikh Budin , Dera Ismail Khan , Jandola , Girni , Jatta etc all described as ‘ ..being places no one would ever desire to see again ! ‘
On 12 June 1917 orders were received to raise a 3rd Battalion to the 2nd Goorkhas and on 11 December 1917 it moved to Peshawar to join 1st Indian Infantry Bde commanded by Maj Gen L Dunsterville .
3/2GR remained at Peshawar until May 1918 on the outbreak of the 3rd Afghan War .
- VICTORY MEDAL
Issued to all who had already been awarded the 1914 or 1914 – 15
Stars and most of those who had the British War Medal .
* 1914 Star with clasp 5th Aug -22nd Nov 1914
2nd Battalion 2nd Goorkhas – France
* 1914– 15 Star
2nd Battalion 2nd Goorkhas – France , Egypt
* British War Medal 1914 -20
1st Battalion 2nd Goorkhas – Mesopotamia , Persia
2nd Battalion 2nd Goorkhas – France , Egypt , Baluchistan
3rd Battalion 2nd Goorkhas –
- INDIA GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL 1908
Clasp – AFGHANISTAN NWF 1919
The 3rd Afghan War began on 02 May 1919 when an Afghan Force crossed the border at Kotal and descended on the Khyber Pass .
On 06 May 1919 2/2GR was ordered to mobilize at Dera Ismael Khan and warned for operations in the Derajat District .
2/2GR was deployed with a squadron 27th Light Cavalry to Murtaza to assist in the withdrawal of civil officials from various outposts such as Gomal and Sarwakai . 2/2GR then marched to Khirgi to form part of a Column commanded by Brig Miles and tasked defend the River Zam during the Relief of Jandola . On 06 June 1919 a detachment 2/2GR took part in the action at Girni resulting in
GOR 2 x wounded .
In July 1919 there was another brief action at Murtaza , and during August 1919 because the Mahsud Waziris had carried out attacks on British convoys and outposts , 2/2GR was deployed to provide protection against the Mahsuds and there was an action at Girni resulting in GOR 1x killed , 2 x wounded .
As trouble was brewing in Scinde , on 23 October 1919 2/2 GR with much relief at departing from the dust and discomfort of Manzai and Waziristan was ordered to Hyderabad and Karachi ‘as a protective measure ‘.
Total casualties : BO – nil , GO – nil , GOR 2 x killed , 4 x wounded , 4 x died of disease
In May 1918 3/2GR as part of the Peshawar Flying Column moved to Landi Kotal , but the hopes of this newly formed unit were dashed when it was ordered back to Peshawar on internal security duties .
Despite not joining 2/2GR in Waziristan , 3/2GR sent detachments to outposts around Peshawar such as Jamrud Fort , Cherat , Narai Khwar Fort and Badni Bridge – of which there was only one small offensive action at Narai Khwar Fort .
In February 1920 on completion of its duties in Peshawar , 3/2GR returned to Dehra Dun and the battalion was disbanded on 03 October 1920.
- INDIA GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL 1908
Clasp – WAZIRISTAN 1919 – 21
In 1919 the Waziris took advantage of unrest in Afhanistan following the Third Anglo – Afghan War to launch minor raids against British garrisons who responded with forays against the tribesmen . The campaign which lasted throughout 1920 and continued into 1921 was not helped by the denuding of Indian Army units following the First World War which meant that troop levels were lower than usual .
In 1921 there was a change of policy with the establishment of a permanent garrison of regular troops at Razmak .
2/2GR who had been warned for another garrison tour of duty in the Khyber left Dehra Dun on 06 April 1921 and deployed to Landi Kotal as part of 1st Indian Infantry Bde where it ‘ assumed duties in the unremitting watch ‘ on the Afghanistan frontier .
- INDIA GENERAL SEWRVICE MEDAL 1908
Clasp – WAZIRISTAN 1921 -24
The policy of establishing permanent garrisons in Waziristan known as the new ‘ Forward Policy ‘ sought to reduce ( and to eventually eliminate ) tribal uprisings . Much effort was also spent in an extensive road building programme throughout Waziristan from December 1921 – March 1924.
In August 1922 2/2GR moved to Landikhana being the furthest outpost on the Indian / Afghanistan frontier for a four month tour of duty described as ‘ that not over – salubrious spot ‘.
On 15 January 1924 1/2GR deployed to Razmak for a tour of garrison duties which as part of 7th Infantry Bde participated in the Razmak Column which on one occasion marched to Sarwekai and back and encountered sniper fire from Mahsud tribesmen . Otherwise the rest of its tour of duty was preoccupied with road building and garrison duties .
- INDIA MEDAL – 1895 ( first issue )
Clasp – SAMANA 1897
( Awarded to all troops forming part of the garrisons of , and present at , the 11 x posts beyond Kohat , from Kohat to Parachinar between 27 August – 02 October 1897 )
NB The Samana Mountain Range at height between 6000’ and 7000 ‘ runs for approx. 30 miles from Hangu to Samana Suk between Khanki Valley in the North and Miranzai Valley in the South . It lies in the Hangu District of the Khyber and represents the Southern boundary of the Tirah .
During the 1890s the British had established a line of outposts and forts – the largest being Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan along the range .
In August and September 1897 all 11 x British posts were attacked by Orakzais or Afridi tribesmen .
- INDIA MEDAL – 1895 ( second issue )
Clasp – WAZIRISTAN 1901 -2
( GCO 332 dated 17 April 1903 )
On 03 December 1901, 1/2GR was ordered to mobilize for operations in Waziristan to form part of the Reserve Bde at Tonk .
As the 1st Bn was under strength , it was reinforced by 50 all Ranks from 2/2GR and 61 All Ranks from1/3GR .
On arrival at Tonk , 1/2GR was ordered to Datta Khel in the Tochi Valley to join a Raiding Column ( Col Tonnochy ) comprising 5th Punjab Infantry , 2nd Punjab Infantry and 2 x guns Mountain Artillery to patrol aggressively against the Mahsud tribesmen .
On 01 January 1902 in intense cold weather and at an altitude between 5000’ and 6000’ , the Column entered Mahsud country where it began to incur light casualties as it embarked upon a policy of destroying and burning their villages as well as capturing any livestock .
On 05 January 1902 , a strong Column including 450 All Ranks 1/2GR covered a total of 22 miles as it burnt several villages and two towers , but on its return to camp , the rear – guard was attacked and 1/2GR lost 1x killed and 2 x wounded .
Similar operations continued for the next few days until the Column was shortly disbanded .On 10 January 1902 1/2GR marched to Miranshah where it remained until 14 March 1902 , and after news had been received that the Waziri Blockade had been lifted , the 1st Bn returned to Dehra Dun .
CAMPAIGN MEDALS – PART 3
26.GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL 1918 – 1962 ( first issue )
Clasp – N W PERSIA
Awarded to those who served in NOPERFORCE or North Persia Force
from 10 August – 31 December 1920.
The Battalion which had ended the First World War in Persia were ordered to remain in that theatre of operations on account of the intrigues of the Russian Bolsheviks with the Persians while the British supported the Russian Volunteer Army .By 1920 the Russian Bolsheviks were gaining ground over their fellow countrymen and challenging the Anglo – Persian Agreement and on18 May 1920 this deteriorating situation had come to a head at the Caspian Sea port of Enzeli from which 1/2GR was ordered to withdraw to Resht .
In June 1920 1/2GR were withdrawn from the town of Resht to Menzil and to prepare defensive positions against a possible attack from the Russian Bolsheviks .
By July 1920 1/2GR was part of 36th Indian Bde with :
122nd Rajputana Infantry
42nd Deoli Regt
Royal Irish Fusiliers
York and Lancaster Regt
Meanwhile 1/2GR actively patrolled by armored car along the various routes fanning out from Menzil with occasional contacts with the enemy at Damash , Obar and Loshan .On 03 August 1920 , Menzil was evacuated and the Bde concentrated at the town of Kasvin ( pop 40,000 ) . On 21 August 1920 a force of Russian Volunteers and Persian Cossacks succeeded in capturing Menzil , but later failed to capture Enzeli . By Delhi Day 1920 a force of 3500 Russian had reoccupied Menzil and were terrorizing the surrounding country and in early November 1920 had driven out the Persian Cossacks .
On 18 November 1920 , the advancing Russian Bolsheviks were pushed back beyond Imam Zadeh Hachem by 122nd Rajputana Infantry and 1/2GR ( who lost 2 x killed and 2 x wounded ) . By the end of November 1920 1/2GR was back at Menzil described as ‘the worse spot …by reason of the everlasting hurricanes ‘- its name signifies ‘the home of a thousand winds .’
Through that Winter the Battalion was deployed to Rustamabad , Jubin and Ganje where it held the advanced piquet lines .During December 1920 there were several contacts against the Bosheviks including Naglebar Ridge – where Hav Mitralal Thapa single handed ‘ gallantly captured an enemy machine gun killing 3 of its team ‘ .
The Battalion’s last contact in North Persia took place on 09 January 1921 at Jamshidabad where a fighting patrol led by Sub Tilbit Thapa killed 60 enemy , captured 27 prisoners and a Lewis gun ( NB He was awarded Indian Order of Merit ( 2nd Class ) .
On 19 June 1921 the Battalion finally reached Dehra Dun after having left there on 10 February 1916 and it had been on continuous active service for no less that 5 years and 4 months .
- INDIA GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL 1936
Clasp – NW FRONTIER 1936 -37
During the Spring of 1937 , the Faqir of Ipi a militant and tribal leader from Waziristan had instigated a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the British .
On 17 May 1937 ,1/2GR now commanded by Lt Col Francis Tuker was ordered to Waziristan and at Dosali joined 3rd Indian Bde with the Norfolk Regt and 2nd / 4th Bombay Grenadiers , but despite aggressive patrolling was unable to have any contact with the enemy , so much so that a puja was said to the Truncheon to break the spell .
On 12 August 1937 , 1/2GR was ordered to Razani to relieve 3rd /15th Punjab Regt and this particular sector continued to be active because of the presence of the Faqir of Ipi and the Battalion was subject to sniping as it initially adopted a defensive policy . However , Lt Col Tuker switched to more offensive strategy which denied the tribesmen any undetected movement and immediately brought results through aggressive patrolling and on 25 September 1937 a very successful ambush with 20 – 30 killed enemy and an award of an immediate MC to Jemadar Panchsuba Gurung .
Shortly later 1/2GR joined the Tochi Column (TOCOL ) which was a punitive force comprising 5 battalions ordered to destroy the Manzar Khel tribe village of Mamirogha .The reason for the strength of the column was that an enemy force of approx 800 was known to be in the area . NB The diarist wrote ….’ it was the first ( but assuredly not the last ) occasion upon which the CO refused to commit his men to what he regarded as an unsound and dangerous operation ‘..
Causing Lt Col Tuker to write ‘ This sort of fiddling punishment is only an irritant , not a real lesson or example ……the Army seldom should be called upon to punish a village ….but if necessary , the villager should be blotted out ‘.
During the forthcoming Winter of 1937 the enemy avoided 1/2GR , but training continued even in heavy blizzards until 01 February 1938 when the Battalion moved back to Fort Sandeman to continue to put into practice the Tuker legacy which was to become known as The Sirmoor System with its emphasis on leadership ( ruthlessly tested at all levels ) , familiarity with modern weapon and communication systems , progressive tactical training and a raising of educational standards . 1/2GR was to remain at Fort Sandeman until 18 March 1940 when it returned to Dehra Dun after an absence of 3 years on the North West Frontier .
- INDIA GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL 1936
Clasp – NW FRONTIER 1937 – 39
At the outbreak of the Second World War 2/2GR was commanded by Lt Col ‘Bill ‘ Gough – described as ‘ one of the most aggressive and dynamic officers of the Regiment ‘ , and on 01 October 1939 deployed to Waziristan as part of 4th Indian Bde . Although there was some minor contacts but by 01 January 1940 the diarist had written ‘ ..found the Battalion pursuing the usual futile life forced upon any unit stationed in Waziristan in these days of political peace ‘.
2/2GR experienced similar frustration to that experienced by 1/2GR in 1937 and despite two years of intensive offensive training there was no enemy to fight – and road building was a poor substitute . The first three months of 1940 were described as quiet and 4th Indian Bde was disbanded and 2/2GR moved back to Razmak .
In July 1940 2/2GR formed the rear guard of a punitive column to destroy Asad Khel villages and met with opposition at Razani where Rfm Surbir Thapa was awarded a posthumous IOM . As the Pathans became more hostile 2/2GR continued to provide road protection and in September 1940 there was a successful ambush at Dandi when ‘ a pestiferous gang disintegrated and no further hostility was encountered ‘.
2/2GR remained at Razmak during the Winter months and in December 1940 the Battalion was on piquet duties and was sniped on 17 out of 21 nights losing 1 x killed and 1 x wounded .
The early months of 1941 passed quietly and in early April 1941 2/2GR returned to Dehra Dun .
- 1939 -45 STAR
The first in a series of nine bronze stars issued for service in the Second World War .It was awarded to personnel who had completed 6 months’ service in specified operational commands overseas between 03 September 1939 and 02 September 1945 .
1st Battalion Waziristan , Iran , Egypt , Libya , Tunisia , Italy
2nd Battalion Waziristan , Malaya , Singapore
3rd Battalion Waziristan , Burma
4th Battalion Waziristan , Burma ,
5th Battalion Waziristan
- AFRICA STAR
Clasp – 8TH ARMY
Awarded for entry into an operational area in North Africa between 10 June 1940 to 12 May 1943.
IRAN and CYPRUS
On 17 July 1941 1/2GR embarked aboard HMT Lancashire left Bombay for Basra where it was deployed to defend the Anglo – Iranian oil fields .
On 27 August 1941 1/2GR crossed the Shatt – el – Arab and advanced towards Ahwaz , but before any contact was made ,the local Iranian commander asked for an armistice . 1/2GR moved to Kut Abdullah from where it continued to search for the enemy and C Coy captured 924 before the Battalion returned to Abadan for oil field guarding duties before moving through Baghdad and onto Nineveh for the next five months where ‘ day after day the Battalion toiled at the defences‘.
In January 1942 1/2GR moved further East to Erbil in Kurdistan , but in April 1942 moved back to RAF Habbaniyah from where it travelled to the Palestinian port of Haifa , but instead of joining the 4th Indian Div in Egypt , the Battalion was sent to Cyprus – last visited by 1/2GR in 1878 .
As Cyprus as part of the Greek archipelago was considered a threat to an invasion by Axis troops and 1/2GR as part of 7th Indian Infantry Bde formed a mobile reaction force with elements of the Household Cavalry , Yorkshire Hussars and 31st Field Regt . However no invasion materialised and after four months 1/2GR left for Egypt.
On 26 August 1942 7th Indian Infantry Bde arrived in Egypt and was deployed to Mena ( beside the Pyramids ) .The brigade comprised :
4th /16th Punjab Regt
1st Royal Sussex
A truly shocking accident occurred at Mena on 28 August 1942 when more men were killed and wounded than in any subsequent action . A mine demonstration went tragically wrong resulting in 68 x killed and 85 x wounded .
Meanwhile on 30 August 1942 the enemy opened the battle in his last bid for Egypt , but this move had been foreseen and a counterstroke planned .
On 31 August 1942 7th Indian Infantry Bde led the move into the Western Desert as part of 4th Indian Div commanded by Gen Francis Tuker and on 17 September 1942 1/2GR relieved 1st /1st Punjab Regt on part of a very extensive Front Line of approx. 25kms between the South Africans along the sea shore to the North and the Free French to the South . For the next month 1/2GR probed the enemy’s positions with numerous night time reconnaissance patrols and opportunity was taken salvage British 2lb guns which were reconditioned and discreetly incorporated into the fire power of the anti – tank platoon – known affectionately as the ‘ Royal Sirmoor Artillery ‘ !
Plans were now in place for the 8th Army’s assault on the enemy , and 4th Indian Div was allotted a containing role as the main thrust was to be along the coast . However , 1/2GR was ordered to take part in a strong raid on Point 62 as part of a deception plan . On 23 October 1942 , led by Lt Wylie Carrick and travelling in carriers , C Coy crossed the Front Line and reached the strongly defended objective and a fierce fight ensued , but casualties amounted to 14 x missing including Lt Wylie Carrick .
The XXX Corps Commander Gen Oliver Leese wrote :
‘ Satisfied with gallant raid by 1st /2nd Gurkhas ‘.
4th Indian Div shortened its front by 5kms and was ordered to take over from the South African sector in the North and remorseless Allied pressure drew the Germans panzer divisions into a shallow pocket . On 02 November 1942 7th Indian Bde was moved to relieve 5th Indian Bde on Myteria Ridge who the next day behind a monumental barrage opened a 8kms lane through minefields . On 05 November 1942 D Coy formed a ‘ roaming column ‘ and exploiting the aftermath of the battle captured much Italian weaponry and prisoners – 100 x officers and 2192 x other ranks for only 2 x wounded . On 06 November 1942 7th Indian Bde swept the area of Sidi Namid for pockets of enemy until heavy rain resulted in 1/2GR being given the task of clearing the booby trapped area of Dier el Beida of mines, weapons , vehicles etc and incurred casualties : GOR 5 x killed . 1/2GR now moved by rail to Mersa Matruh before being transported by lorry towards Tobruk .
On 20 December 1942 1/2GR was located South of El Adem airfield and soon embarked upon a period of intensive training with rifle companies practising street fighting in Tobruk . Meanwhile the 8th Army had driven the enemy back to Tunisia and on 03 March 1943 ,1/2GR began the long drive through Cyrenica towards Tripoli and on towards the frontier and on 12 March 1943 reached Medinine in the foothills of the Matmata hills .
On 14 March 1943 there was a particularly successful night fighting patrol which accounted for 15 x enemy killed and 4 x Gurkhas wounded in the lead up to the 8th Army’s assault on the Mareth Line which called for 4th Indian Div to exploit any successes in the opening attack . On 23 March 1943 1/2GR moved to the foothills of the Matmata massif and met with enemy minefields of ‘ exceptional magnitude and density ‘ making for very slow progress . 7th Indian Bde eventually passed through the entrance to the Hallouf Pass along whose Northern slopes there was a difficult route which led down to the Gabes plain .With 1/2GR leading the brigade pushed on , and despite over running an Italian rear guard , information was soon learnt that 36 hrs earlier British armour had burst through the enemy’s left flank at El Hamma .
After exploiting the break through of the Mareth Line , the 8th Army was held by the enemy’s new defensive line which followed the nullah of Wadi Akarit which stretched for 120 miles from the coast in the East to the salt marshes and higher ( 500 ‘ ) ground in the West .The initial plan was to breakthrough this coastal corridor with 4th Indian Division on the Right . However , Maj Gen Francis Tuker persuaded Gen Montgomery to change the outline plan whereby the 4th Indian Div would assault towards Fatnassa and by capturing the highest ground would pierce the enemy’s flank and render the enemy’s Western positions untenable .
For 4th Indian Div , this was to be a very ambitious and bold move in having to carry out a night assault against a well defended enemy occupying the high ground . 7th Indian Bde was to spearhead the attack with 1/2GR selected to seize Pont 275 and to destroy the enemy on the main crests of the massif . The plan was for A Coy to seize Point 275 with B and C Coys to overrun the main massif to the North and D Coy to advance with 1st Royal Sussex and to then exploit the high ground between A and C Coys.
At 19.00hrs on 05 April 1943 the approach march began with H hour at 23.30hrs as 1/2GR quietly closed in on the enemy positions which towered above them until the killing of a sentry gave the alarm and the enemy opened fire . The Germans quickly scrambled aircraft whose flares illuminated the battlefield as 1/2GR ruthlessly set about clearing the position with fierce hand to hand fighting and the feature was eventually taken . This meant the all important high ground to the West had been seized 2 hours before the 8th Army’s main assault – which was timed for dawn. Nevertheless , and throughout the following day , the enemy still continued to shell and to mount counter attacks which were repulsed , until by 03.00hrs on 07 April 1943 ..’ a silence settled over Fatnassa ‘.
“Maj Gen Tuker’s faith in his old battalion had been vindicated , but there were casualties : BO 5 x wounded , GO 3 x wounded , GOR 14 x killed , 32 x wounded .
On 07 April 1943 he wrote to Gen Sir Alan Hartley Dep C –in – C India
..’ Today I have been over the battlefield .I marvel at the skill of the men who captured the bastion of hills . I think the battle is over for us …in fact the enemy has fled . It was a very great feat and not due to my plan in any way ..’
NB The final sequel to the Battle of Wadi Akarit was the well deserved award of the VC to Sub Lalbahdur Thapa who had enlisted in 1925 and as OC 16 Pl D Coy been recommended for an immediate MC , but the Army Commander had personally changed the citation for a VC .
DJEBEL EL MEIDA
As the 8th Army continued its pursuit of the enemy withdrawing towards Tunis and the North African bridgehead , 4th Indian Bde had been warned for another operation to dislodge the enemy from the high ground to the West thereby enabling an armoured thrust along the coast .
On 19 April 1943 5th Indian Bde assaulted Djebel Garci on the Left and 5th New Zealand Bde assaulted Tacrouna on the Right and the ensuing fighting was some of the fiercest of the North African campaign .7th Indian Bde in the Centre was mercifully spared the initial ordeal suffered by the two flank brigades . Nevertheless , both 1/2GR and 4th /16th Punjab Regt were soon sucked into the fighting raging on the mountain tops .
Eventually , it became evident that after 36hrs of intense fighting on the Djebel Garci offered small gains in return for great losses and the push through the mountains was abandoned . 4th Indian Division was ordered to move to the Enfidaville Gap and to renew the offensive along the foothills above the foreshore .
On 27 April 1943 7th Indian Bde moved up to reserve battle positions to the North West of Enfidaville with 1/2GR on the Right , 4th /16th Punjab Regt on the Left and 1st Royal Sussex in reserve in anticipation of a tremendous artillery barrage ahead of an infantry attack . During this time 1/2GR remained in an exposed position for 3 days and suffered from enemy harassing artillery fire incurring 32 casualties or 2/3rd of the number lost at the Battle of Wadi Akarit . On 29 April 1943 the Germans launched a counter attack against two positions recently lost to 56th ( London ) Infantry Div which still left 1/2GR in an exposed position and incurring a further 27 casualties .
However , on 30 April 1943 following a visit by Gen Alexander Dep C –in C North Africa to HQ British 8th Army , new orders were issued for elements ( including 4th Indian Div ) to motor 200 miles and join British 1st Army .
On 30 April 1943 1/2GR left Enfidaville and drove through the night through Kaiouran – Sbeitla – Le Kef to Medjez el Bab where it met up with the British 1st Army where ‘ the contrast was extreme ….with their new vehicles etc this Army might have belonged to another nation as into this ordered scene swept the down at heel 8th Army …’
In 5th May 1943 5th Indian Bde led the way along a long approach march followed by 7th Indian Bde with 1/2GR leading and … ‘ Before dawn the battle opened with the massed fire of hundreds of guns …..at first light hundreds of planes streaked out of the South at zero height to smash at any pocket of enemy resistance which might have survived the shelling .’
1/2GR advancing through chin high corn fields met up with 1st /9th GR from 5th Indian Bde and soon struck an open front , but the front line was smashed and the enemy gone .1st Royal Sussex Regt passed through 1/2GR before Tunis fell to 7th Armoured Div .
The war in Africa was all but over and for the next few days 4th Indian Div joined in the rounding up of remnants of the trapped Axis Armies . 1/2GR was ordered to cut the road from Tunis to St Marie du Zit where Lt Col Showers stumbled across HQ Afrika Corps and no less a personage than C- in – C Axis forces in Africa , namely Gen von Arnim who later surrendered to Gen Tuker .
On 18 May 1943 1/2GR began the 500 mile journey back to Tripoli and on 16 June 1943 paraded for the surprise visit of HM The King who bestowed the VC on Sub Lalbahadur Thapa .
On 22 June 1943 1/2GR left for Egypt reaching Alexandria 08 July 1943 where the battalion reverted to normal training until 10 September 1943 when 1/2GR moved to Palestine as part of 4th Indian Div which had become a mountain warfare division .
On 11 October 1943 1/2GR moved to Syria for mountain warfare training before returning to Egypt from where on 01 December 1943 the battalion embarked at Port Tewfiq for Taranto , Italy .