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2 Battalion, Garhwal Rifles

The second battalion of the Garhwal Rifles is now over one hundred years old. The battalion was raised by Lt Col JT Evatton on March 1, 1901 at Lansdowne. Soon after raising, the battalion got on to the business of training and achieved the desired field service efficiency. Besides training, troops also had to build their own barracks, known till date as Evatt Lines at Lansdowne, which is a testimony to the solid foundation of the battalion.

In September 1906, the battalion relieved 1 Garhwal Rifles at Chitral (Afghanistan). The battalion after a year's duty was relieved in October 1907. During the return journey, the battalion was caught in a severe blizzard and snowstorm while negotiating the Lowari Pass. One other rank, 10 followers and 59 mules died of exposure. The Commander-in-Chief commended the officers and men of the battalion for their conduct and good service which saved numerous lives during this natural calamity. In January 1912, the battalion was specially selected to attend the King George V Coronation Durbar in Delhi.

On August 4, 1914, the Great War broke out. The battalion, which was at Lansdowne at its permanent station in India, was mobilised and it set sail to France through Karachi. The war saw many heroic deeds of the battalion. Late Rifleman Gabar Singh Negi won the coveted Victoria Cross. The battalion won the battle honour Neuve Chappelle and also established itself as a fighting force to reckon with during the battles in Mesopotamia and Turkey. The battalion bagged 1 Victoria Cross, 5 CMGs, 10 DSOs, 10 IDMs, 12 IDSMs and 1 Russian Cross of St George.

The intervening period from 1922 to 1927 saw the battalion in action at Waziristan wherein it was deployed for internal security duty to quell the Mashud Rebellion. Bold action by the battalion found the Mashuds scurrying for cover in a short span of two years. This could be termed as the first exposure of the battalion to fighting insurgency. Having restored peace, the battalion returned to its permanent abode at Lansdowne in 1924 and remained there till 1927.

In 1928, the battalion again moved to Waziristan and was stationed at Razmak as part of the Razmak Brigade. During the tenure, the battalion established a temporary garrison at Tauda China and Khyber and undertook counter-insurgency operations. In April 1930, the battalion was deployed in the Peshawar city where two platoons refused to open fire on the unarmed civilians participating in the Civil Disobedience movement. As an aftermath of the incident, the battalion was disarmed. However, as the Court of Inquiry opined , the battalion was rearmed on May 17, 1931.

The battalion was deployed in West Bengal at Bankura and Midnapur from 1932 to 1934 and successfully undertook counter-terrorist operations.

The second battalion embarked at Bombay on October 27, 1940 under the command of Lt Col LH Cockram and was ordered to proceed as Garrison Battalion to Kuantan on the East Coast of Pahang in Malaya Peninsula. The battalion was the only infantry battalion in Kuantan. Its role was to deny the airfield to the enemy and to protect vital points, which involved holding ground to the north of the town with wide dispersion. An observation post was established at the mouth of the Pahang River to give early warning of any enemy movement up the river through which it was possible to reach Jerrantut.

By December 1941, the battalion had been milked twice to assist in forming new battalions which resulted in a large number of recruits in the rank and file of the battalion. This inevitably affected the fighting efficiency of rifle companies. Contact with enemy was established on December 29. The overwhelming superiority of the Japanese forced the battalion to withdraw after a series of successful delaying action battles till February 1, 1942 when the battalion reached the Johore Straits. The causeway for further move to Johore Bheru was destroyed by the Japanese. Since 80 per cent of the troops were non swimmers, it was decided to surrender. At the time of surrender, the strength of the battalion was about 280 all ranks. For conspicuous acts of gallantry, three MC, one MBE and one MM were won by the battalion.

On May 11, 1946 the battalion was reconstituted from the remnants of the 4th Battalion at Yol Camp. Immediately after re-raising, battalion was assigned the task of guarding POW camp at Yol wherein Italian POWs were housed. In August, 1947 the battalion moved to Kolkata and on August 15 the national flag was hoisted at Fort William by Maj (later Brigadier) Hari Singh. Thereafter, the battalion was deployed for internal security duties in the wake of post-Independence communal riots.

The battalion was subsequently given the task of escorting the refugees' train to Pakistan and back. In May 1948, the battalion concentrated at Jallandhar and was tasked to construct family accommodation which was completed with usual elan and zeal. This complex was named as Jawanabad by Brig B M Kaul who expressed his satisfaction at the high standard of discipline and training of the battalion. The battalion also got mentioned in his book, The Untold Story.

The battalion was stationed at Fort William from 1957 to 1960 wherein dussehra was celebrated with usual fervour and enthusiasm. Training also received the required impetus and time which enabled all ranks to achieve the desired standards. For the second time after 1954, the battalion was selected to provide a marching contingent for the Republic Day Parade in 1957 which was led by Capt K B Gurung.

The battalion moved to Sarol (J&K) on October 1, 1963. It had earlier served in the same sector, so the bhullas were on home turf while manning the picquets on the ceasefire line opposite Pakistani formations. The battalion headquarters was at Sarol and rifle companies were deployed on picquets. Lt Col Ujagar Singh succeeded Lt Col SS Rana on January 3, 1964.

The battalion was part of the battle during operation Hill. On October 6/7, 1965 the battalion was nominated by the GOC for the task of attacking and capturing the area where the Pakistani infiltrators had managed to build up their defences. The attack by the battalion was launched with great courage and determination. However, due to wrong intelligence assessment of enemy strength and disposition with insufficient time to reorient itself and very little fire support, the battalion suffered heavy casualties and the attack was beaten back by a battalion strength of Pakistanis. The battalion took part in second attack on enemy position in conjunction with other battalions. In this operation, B company laid an ambush and captured one Pakistani officer.

Capt C N Singh of the "Superb Second " won the only MVC of the regiment during the 1965 operations. Reacting to specific information about presence of infiltrators, Capt CN Singh attacked them with great ferocity and valour. In a close quarter hand-to-hand fight, he was fatally wounded and later succumbed to his injuries. For his gallant leadership and valour, he was awarded the coveted Maha Vir Chakra. The battalion won 1 MVC, 2 SMs and 5 COAS Commendation Cards.

During Cactus Lily in 1971, the battalion was poised for action but did not participate in the operations. Consequent to the war, battalion moved to Allahabad and was tasked to guard the POW camp. The battalion moved to Chaubatia in 1975 where it carried out its routine training and administrative activities. In one such training activity, the battalion undertook a route march from Chaubatia to Asan field firing ranges to participate in field firing. Next two years saw the battalion holding extended defences based on DCB at Pallanwala.

During the tenure at Kharian from 1978 to 1982, sports teams performed exceedingly well and brought laurels to the battalion. Its Pipes and Drums were adjudged best in the division for two years in succession. The battalion's mine-laying team topped in corps competition and football team won the Garhwal Cup.

The unit moved to Arunanchal Pradesh and was commended for constructing permanent defences for a 'Battalion Defended Area' in high altitude. From 1985 to 1988, the battalion was located at Samba. The unit pipers and drummers were highly acclaimed for their performance in the Republic Day Parade in 1986. During this tenure, a number of senior officers visited the battalion and expressed their satisfaction at the overall standard achieved by the battalion. After a stint of three years on the Line of Control at Budhwal (J&K), the battalion moved to Kolkata and had the good fortune of staying in proper KLP accommodation after 1967.

During this tenure, the battalion had the opportunity of providing a guard of honour to the President of India. The unit also had the rare distinction of providing guard to the 'Z' category Army Commander for a period of eleven months which bears testimony to the high professionalism and faith with which the battalion was looked upon. During this period, the battalion was awarded 29 GOC-in-C Commendation Cards. Ayodhya riots in December 1992 saw the unit in action in IS duties which enabled the unit to earn six COAS Commendation Cards. The conduct of IS duties in communally sensitive Kolkata was appreciated by the Government of West Bengal.

The battalion was deployed in J&K from May 1994 to September 1996 for operation Rakshak. The battalion performed exceedingly well and virtually exterminated militants from the battalion's area of responsibility. Due to the efforts of the battalion, 67 militants were killed and 101 apprehended whereas 32 militants surrendered. The arms captured by the battalion included 93 rifles, 4 UMGs, 34 pistols and 3 RPGs.

Not only did the battalion achieve distinction in containing militancy in the area of responsibility but it also undertook a number of successful civic action projects to win the hearts of the people. The battalion was handpicked to provide security during Amarnath Yatra of 1994. The efforts were lauded by one and all as the Yatra passed off without a single attack. The unit was awarded the coveted Chief of Army Staff and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command citations for the excellent work done during operation Rakshak. Gen K V Krishna Rao (Retd), the Governor of J&K visited the battalion. Later, he presented a silver plaque in recognition of the sacrifices of all ranks of the battalion. The battalion won 1 Shaurya Chakra, 9 Sena Medals, 1 Vishisht Seva Medal, 10 COAS Commendation Cards and 9 GOC-in-C's Commendation Cards.

Consequent to a gruelling tenure during operation Rakshak, the battalion moved to Meerut for a well-deserved peace tenure. Training and welfare activities were accorded the desired priority. The unit held the rare distinction of hosting a Chinese delegation which was on a training visit to the formation. The battalion got deployed on western borders in June 1999 for operation Vijay.

In October 1999, the battalion moved to the heavenly abode of Joshimath. A sudden move and deployment of the battalion in January 2000 for operation Rakshak truncated the tenure at Joshimath. The battalion not only successfully checked the infiltration but also unearthed a series of caches. The unit was highly appreciated for holding a medical camp at a stones throw distance from the Line of Control.

The battalion returned to Rudraprayag on 12 December 2000 last year to celebrate hundred years of its existence and service to the nation. Although preparation for centenary celebrations were accorded top priority, due attention was paid towards training. An aerial reconnaissance of the operational area was carried out by Col HS Sodhi, Commanding Officer and Lt Col R K Raina, Second-in-Command. Immediately after settling down, the unit went to Asan field firing ranges and conducted field firing in January 2001 year and an interpass partol led by Maj R K Chauhan was also carried out.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:41:12 ZULU