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Regiment of Artillery

The Regiment of Artillery constitutes a formidable operational arm of Indian Army. Historically it takes its lineage from Moghul Emperor Babur who is popularly credited with introduction of Artillery in India, in the Battle of Panipat in 1526. However evidence of earlier use of gun by Bahmani Kings in the Battle of Adoni in 1368 and King Mohammed Shah of Gujrat in fifteenth century have been recorded.

Ever since the concept of causing destruction to the enemy's war machine from a stand-off distance evolved in warfare, Artillery has been a battle winning arm. It is not surprising that even on the modern battlefield, with a plethora of sophisticated computer controlled weapon systems and deadly, low flying ground attack aircraft, Artillery continues to be the predominant arm. The supremacy of Artillery firepower on the battlefield, at long distances, by both day and night and regardless of weather conditions and visibility, has been well acknowledged. When the chips are down, the other arms look to the Gunners for help and the guns never fail to respond - with terrifying lethality. Proof of the combat power of Artillery was provided in full measure by the artilleries of the United States-led coalition Forces during the Gulf War in February 1991 and, closer home by the Indian Artillery during the Kargil conflict.

The Mughal Emperor Babar is credited with being the first to use Artillery in Indiain the First Battle of Panipat in 1526. Mughal emperor Babur inflicted havoc on his adversary by employing the fabled Zam Zama. In this historic battle, the potent power of Babar'scannons overwhelmed Ibrahim Lodi's numerically superior infantry and elephant-basedarmy. Throughout the Mughal period and later during the reign of the Marathas, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, the Sikhs under Maharaj Ranjit Singh and the East India Company, Artillery was the leading arm and "Golandaz" battalions occupied the pride of place on the battlefield. The "Mir Atish" (artillery chief) reported directly to the king. Battles were invariably won by the side that had the most cannons. In many battles that the East India Company fought to subjugate Indian maharajas, more often than not, it was the roar of the cannons that carried the day.

Ornamentally cast cannons, with intricate designs carved on them, still adorn theramparts and gates of ancient Indian fort and occupy vantage points in Army quarter guards. The majestic splendour of evocatively named medieval cannons like "Malik-e-Maidan" (monarch of the plains), "Zafarbahsh", "Azdha Paikar" (dragon body), "Top-e-Elahi", "Top-e-Qals-Shikan" (the breaker of forts), "Jahan Kusha" (conqueror of theworld), "Shiva Vana", "Kadak Bijli" and "Bhairvi", can be seen at the Gonconda Fort atHyderabad, now home to the Artillery Centre, at Fort William, Kolkata, the Headquarters of the Indian Army's Eastern Command and other historic places that boast of a unique collection of these "locks and keys of empire". Since then the guns have always been the "Colours" of the Regiment of Artillery, unlike the other arms that carry Guidons into battle.

The East India Company raised the first regular company of Artillery in 1748, with a small percentage of Indian Gunners called Gun Lashkars, Tindals and Serangs.

Regiment of Artillery in India was raised on 28 September 1827 with the raising of Bombay Artillery which was later renamed as 5 Bombay Mountain Battery. This day is celebrated by the Regiment of Artillery as the "Gunners Day". The first Indian War of Independence was sparked off at Meerut on 10 May 1857, primarily by native artillery of Bengal Army. This resulted in total ban on Indian artillery units except mountain artillery batteries.

The British felt that the Indian possession of modern weaponry was a potential threat and thus maintained the Indian Army as only a light infantry and cavalry force commanded by British officers. A few batteries of Mountain Artillery within the Royal Artillery retained Indian gunners, and a few Indian princes kept their artillery weaponry; so some native Indians remained familiar with field artillery operations.

A few Indian Mountain Batteries, officered by the British, were raised in the 19th century and formed part of the Royal Artillery. During the late 19th century, the Indian Gunners saw action in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), Afghanistan, Aden, Burma, Somaliland (Somalia), Tibet, Persia (Iran) and the erstwhile North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The advent of the First World War gave Indian Artillery an opportunity to show their real mettle. The Indian Mountain Batteries served with distinction during the campaigns of the First World War. Fighting as far apart as East Africa, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia and Palestine, Indian gunners acquitted themselves with rare courage and enterprise. The valor and professionalism of the Mountain Gunners on the battlefields of Mesopotamia (Iraq), East Africa, Gallipoli, Persia (Iran), Egypt and Palestine, raised Indian Gunners the right to add the then coveted sobriquet "Royal" to their names.

The British Government relented on the order banning native artillery, and thus on 15 January 1935, `A' Field Brigade, comprising four batteries of horse-drawnguns, was raised at Bangalore. 'A' Field Brigade was the first Artillery unit to be officered by Indians and, besides inspiring great pride in the Regiment, is close to the hearts of all Gunners. 2 Lt (later Lt Gen) P S Gyani was the first Indian officer to becommissioned into an Artillery unit. In 1937, the maintain batteries, which had formed part of the Royal Artillery, were transferred to the Indian Artillery, which later became 1st Indian Field Regiment. The generic title the Regiment of Indian Artillery was conferred upon the new Arm, which got a tremendous boost with the transfer of 6 Indian Mountain Regiment of Royal Artillery, raising of 'B' Field Brigade and the first unit of the anti-tank, anti-aircraft and coastal artillery.

The Second World War saw Indian Gunners in action in East and North Africa, Middle East when Havildar Umrao Singh took on Japanese soldiers with his gun rammer in an effort to save his gun. Individual honors apart, it was the collective valour and dedication of Indian gunners that caused Sir Winston Churchil to rise from his seat in the House of Commons to pay tribute to them for their decisive role in the Battle of Bir Hachiem against Rommel's Panzer Army. By the end of Second World War Indian gunners had won one Victoria Cross, One George Medal, 15 Military Crosses, two IOMs, 22 IDSMs, 18 Military Medals, five OBEs, One MBE, three BEMs, 13 Burma Gallantry Medals and 467 "Jangi Inams". In acknowledgement of their contribution Indian Artillery earned the covert title of `Royal' in 1945. Indian Artillery during independence consisted of Field, Air Defence, Counter Bombardment, Coastal, Air Observation Post branches and was allotted eighteen and half all types of artillery regiments while remaining nine and half units went to Pakistan.

Participation of Indian Artillery in Jammu and Kashmir operations during 1947-48 commenced with the first flights of civil and Royal Indian Air Force Dakotas, which transported 1 SIKH Battalion to Srinagar on the morning of 27 October 1947. Personnel of 2 Field Regiment (SP) and 13 Field Regiment donned uniform of 1 SIKH and proceeded as a composite company of the battalion under Capt RL Chauhan of 13 Field Regiment. It operated as infantry till first week of November 1947 when four 3.7 inch howitzer reached the area. Thereafter they took over the guns and assisted the infantry to drive out the infiltrators along Srinagar - Baramula road. Later artillery proved to be battle winning factor in defence of Srinagar airfield and subsequent route of Pakistani tribesmen in Jammu region and Kashmir Valley. Artillery played a dominant role in recapture of Poonch, Rajauri, Thangdar, Tithwal, Dras and Kargil during 1947-48.

Chinese Army attacked Indian positions on 10 October 1962 in general area of Tawang in Kameng Frontier Division. Support of artillery was immediately called for and Indian Gunners responded with gusto - notwithstanding the fact that the guns had the daunting task of reaching upto Bum La Pass in high altitude to give cover to Tawang town. On 23 October Chinese came through Bum La Pass and attacked 1 SIKH position. They were immediately engaged by the guns of 7 (Bengal) Mountain Battery directed by Capt Gosal which broke the attack. Artillery kept supporting the infantry till Tawang was abandoned. Subsequently guns of 116 Mortar Battery, 34 Heavy Mortar Battery, 5 Field Regiment, 22 Mountain Regiment and 6 Field Regiment provided covering fire to the infantry units of 4 Mountain Division to extricate themselves and launch counterattacks. Similar support were provided by guns of 17 Para Field Regiment and 71 Heavy Mortar Battery in Walong sector. In Ladakh Sector too artillery of 13 Field Regiment and 38 Field Battery played significant role to hold the enemy and defend Chushul heights.

Major restructure of Indian Artillery took place after the Chinese Aggression of 1962. This included fresh raising and induction of newer equipment. In 1964 Coastal Artillery was handed over to Indian Navy. Prior to Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 Indian Artillery was called upon to thwart Pakistani designs in the Rann of Kutch. During this operation 11 Field Regiment, 17 Para Field Regiment and Air Observation Post did the Regiment proud. These actions were followed by artillery actions to prevent large scale Pakistani infiltrators during August 1965. Haji Pir Pass in Kashmir was considered to be strategically and tactically vital feature. This pass was captured after heavy fighting due to support of 164 Field Regiment, a battery from 7 Field Regiment, a medium and a mountain battery. Thereafter gunners excelled in all operations from the frozen deserts of Ladakh to Gujrat to the west. Air defence artillery, locators and air observation post all rose to the occasion whenever they were called to support.

The 1971 Indo-Pakistan War was more challenging for the Regiment of Artillery than ever before. It was for the first time that Indian Army was fighting full fledged war on two fronts. In the Eastern Sector, artillery had to improvise extensively to get guns ammunition and vehicles across various major and minor rivers. It ensured that not once did infantry or armour had to look over their shoulders for artillery support. During these operations 49 Para Field Battery took part in para drop with 2 Para Battalion to capture Pongli bridge on Lohaganj river near Tangail which expedited surrender by Pakistani Army in East Pakistan. 2 Para was first to enter Dacca around 11.30 AM on 16 December 71 followed by 851 Light Battery. Soon 563 Mountain Battery also entered Dacca. With this a new nation was born. In the Western sector artillery played major role in capture of important Pakistani piquets in Ladakh, Kashmir, Rajauri, Jammu, Punjab and Rajasthan. It was also instrumental in defeating Pakistani designs to capture large Indian territories in the Western Sector to subsequently use it for negotiations, specially in the areas of Poonch and Chamb in Jammu and Kashmir, Hussainiwala and Fazilka in Punjab and Laungwala in Rajasthan.

The Regiment of Artillery was in the forefront of fighting in Siachen - the highest battlefield in the world. The guns for the sector were initially dismantled and air dropped in 1983-84. Medium and field guns are providing close support to infantry in Siachen while artillery observation post officers are manning the piquet along with infantry. Here too the gunners have distinguished themselves and won many laurels including Mahavir Chakra.

In the first week of July 1999, the Indian Tricolor was hoisted on Tiger Hill and soon fluttered atop many other peaks in the high Himalayas of Kargil district. By mid-July 1999, Pakistan's intrusions into territory on the Indian side of the Line ofControl (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) had been undone. Its soldiers were in full retreat and the PAKISTAN army had been handed out one more military defeat by the Indian Army. This Indian Army victory against daunting odds had been underpinned bythe overwhelming superiority of the fire power unleashed by the guns, mortars androcket launchers of the Regiment of Artillery. Over a period of one-and-a half months, Artillery firepower had systematically destroyed the enemy's defenses and, ultimately, it broke his will to fight. It was not the first time that the Gunners had met a challenge head-on on.

In its peace time duties the Regiment is undertaking infantry type tasks in Jammu and Kashmir and in the North Eastern States of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland. Air Observation Post and Air Defence branches bifurcated in 1986 and 1994 respectively and formed new arms of Indian Army.

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