The Punjab Regiment is one of the oldest in the Indian Army. It traces its origins to 1761 when the first battalion was raised at Trichinopoly. Army men of this regiment had been honoured with one Kirti Chakra, seven Sena Medals, nine commendation certificates of the Chief of the Army Staff, seven commendation certificates of the Western Command, 11 of the Eastern Command and 14 of the Northern Command. The history of the regiment is especially complex, but more important than usual. The 1st Punjab Infantry Regiment was formed in the amalgamations of 1922 from a number of preexisting regiments, and in 1947 the 1st, 8th, 14th and 16th Punjab Regiments were allocated to Pakistan at partition and independence.
The legend of Sepoy (Baba) Harbhajan Singh of 23 Punjab Regiment, who was swept in an avalanche in the eastern Himalayas on October 4, 1968, and whose "spirit still guards the Indo-China border," is but a minor instance of their dedication.
In 1984, desertions broke out in several places following the army assault on the Golden Temple. In the result, the general court martial in Pune handed down some of the harshest sentences known in history of the army against 122 other ranks of the Punjab Regiment on July 20, 1985.
The affiliation between the Indian Army's Punjab regiment and the Indian naval warship INS Ranjit was formalised at a ceremony held onboard the ship at the naval dockyard in November 1997. The ship has become the seventh naval warship to be so associated with the army since 1983. Lt General G S Brar, Colonel of the 236-year-old Punjab Regiment, was the chief guest on the occasion. He was received on board by Rear Admiral Y Prasad, commander of the Western Naval Fleet and Captain Rajiv Dhamdhere, the commanding officer of the ship. Lt General Brar inspected a guard of honour after which there was an exchange of crests between the Punjab regiment and INS Ranjit following the unveiling of a plaque incorporating the two crests.
Six Army battalions raised especially for Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) counter insurgency operations underwent special training, and started deployment in the state by 01 September 2001. With the entire state barring Ladakh under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Army began deploying additional forces to tighten the security net, with 7,200 soldiers of six newly-raised battalions. The battalions are assigned to the Rashtriya Rifles (RR), but parent Regiments raised them at their respective regimental centres. One of the six battalions was raised in New Delhi (Rajputana Rifles). The Maratha Light Infantry (MLI) RR battalion was raised at Belgaum, the Madras Regiment at Tiruchi, the Assam Regiment RR battalion at Shillong, the Punjab RR at Ramgarh, Grenadiers at Jabalpur and the Dogra Regiment RR battalion at Faizabad. The newly-raised battalions underwent special training at the Army's counter insurgency warfare school near Jammu. The Army had six months to raise and train the soldiers for the highly specialised operations. After that there was a four-week-long capsule course in laying ambushes in hills and mountains, detecting and disarming IEDs, carrying out cordon and search operations and carrying out operations to neutralise terrorists in heavily populated neighbourhoods.
First Guards (2 Punjab)
First Guards (2 Punjab) was raised in 1762 as the tenth battalion of the Coastal Sepoys and has been redesignated eighteen times since then. The troop composition of the unit was changed to a North Zone Battalion in 1902 and the unit was redesignated as 69 Punjab. In 1922, the unit was redesignated as 2/2 Punjab Regiment. The battalion, by virtue of its seniority and efficiency, was handpicked by the then Chief of the the Army Staff, Gen (later Field Marshal) KM Carriappa to be redesignated as First Guards in April 1951. Lt Col (later Brigadier) Shivinder Singh was the first commandant of the battalion. Since then, 22 commanding officers had commanded the battalion and brought it to the present state of glory. Of them, Lt Col MCS Menon, Lt Col Sehdev Sahgal and Lt Col PP Singh retired as Generals.
The battalion was the first to volunteer for foreign service by land as well as by sea. In 1824, the battalion became the first Indian Army unit to go out on sea voyage to fight the battle of Ava and Pegu in Burma. Having a strong conviction in the motto, Khushki - o - Tari meaning 'by land and sea' the officers and men of the unit showed their courage in many battles fought inside and outside India. The battalion won 31 battle honours which is the highest for any Army unit in the world. The first battle honour Sholinghur won in 1781. Subsequently, it won battle honours for the battles of Carnatic, Mysore and Maheidpoor. Prior to first World War, the unit won battle honours for the battles of Ava (1824), Pegu (1826), Burma (1824-26), China (1842) and Lucknow (1858).
The battalion fought the first world war in the European and Middle East countries. During the first World War, it won the battle honours for the battles of Loos, France Flanders, Helles, Krithia, Gallipoli, Suez Canal and Egypt in 1915; the battles of Defence Kut-el-Amara, Baghdad, Mesopotamia and NWFP (India) in 1917; the battles of Megiddo, Sharon, Nablus and Palestine in 1918 and the battle of Afghanistan in 1919.
During the second World War, the unit was sent to Burma where it won battle honours for the battles of Burma, Point 551 and Kangaw in 1945. In 1948, the battalion fought the battle of Naushera in Jammu and Kashmir and won its 31st battle of honour. The battalion has taken part in all wars fought by the Army, post- independence, besides taking part in counter-insurgency operations in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. The unit has participated in various operations like Kipper in 1948, Cactus Lily in 1971, Rakshak during 1990-1993, Vijay in 1999 and Parakram during 2001-2002.
First Guards was presented with the Colors by the then President, Dr S Radhakrishnan at Red Fort, New Delhi on September 26, 1962. It celebrated its bicentenary same year. The Colours were received by Capt (later Major General) Harkirat Singh.
In 1968, the battalion became the first infantry unit to take part in an exercise with Indian Navy after Independence. It became the first infantry battalion to be helilifted as an entire battalion group during counter-insurgency operations in Nagaland in 1969-70. The battalion pursued the enemy and fought major battles forcing the enemy to surrender. It eliminated a number of terrorists and made a record recovery of arms, ammunition and explosives from them. It assumed a mechanised infantry profile in 1994.
During its 242 years of service to the nation, the battalion also won many gallantry awards and medals in national and international sports. After Independence, it won one Ashok Chakra, one Kirti Chakra, two Shaurya Chakra, four Vir Chakra, 14 Sena Medals, five Vishisht Seva Medals, 23 Mentions-in-Despatches, 23 COAS Commendation Cards and 5 GOC-in Commendation Cards.
Sports occupied a special place in the activities of the battalion. The battalion has several sportsmen who have excelled in the international and national competitions. Notable amongst them are Sub Maj (Honorary Captain) Mehtab Singh (Olympian and Arjuna awardee), Sub BL Dhaka (Commonwealth Games gold medalist), Hav Balwant Singh and Hav Pretam Singh (both Asian Games participants). The unit is proud of its four international and 21 national level sportsmen. In the international arena, they brought laurels in boxing, shooting and athletics whereas at national level, they came up with flying colours in boxing, water polo, basketball, wrestling, athletics and handball.
When the battalion celebrated its raising day in 2004, a large number of serving and retired officers, JCOs, jawans and ladies including widows from various parts of India attended the celebrations, displaying a true regimental spirit. A glittering wreath-laying ceremony at the war memorial to pay homage to the men-in-uniform who sacrificed their lives while defending the motherland and the special sainik sammelan marked the occasion. While addressing the troops, the present Commandant, Col Dilip Sopori recalled the achievements of the battalion and asked all ranks to put their best. The occasion enabled the serving and retired soldiers of the unit to share their views and experiences.
15 Punjab (First Patiala)
Fifteen Punjab (First Patiala), one of the finest units of Indian Army, completed 300 years of service to the nation on April 13, this year. Currently deployed somewhere in the western sector, the battalion was raised on the auspicious baisakhi day in 1705 by Baba Alla Singh, the founder of Patiala State. It was the first battalion of the state forces of the Maharaja of Patiala. Apart from being the oldest infantry battalion in the Indian Army, 15 Punjab also has the proud distinction of being the second highest decorated battalion of the Army, with 22 Battle Honours, one Theatre Honour (Punjab) and numerous gallantry awards. The battalion took part in numerous campaigns in India and abroad, carving a mark for itself in every operation.
In May 1900, the battalion was re-designated as First Patiala Imperial Service Infantry (Rajindra Sikh). During World War-I, it took part in operations in the Middle East under the British Expeditionary Force. In 1932, the battalion was re-designated as First Patiala Rajindra Sikh Infantry. During World War-II, the battalion participated in the Burma Campaign. It successfully cut off the Japanese lines of communication, thus halting their advance towards India. Thereafter, the battalion sailed to Port Dickson for action in Malaya and Batavia (now Java).
It is noteworthy that the Punjab Regiment was the first infantry regiment of the Indian Army which sailed overseas by ship, to fight in various battles and campaigns. It is in recognition of this fact that the regiment's crest symbolises a galley, which is unique for an infantry regiment not only in Indian Army but also across the world. 'By Land and Sea', the regiment's slogan is thus an apt one. "I want it to be conveyed to the 1st Patiala that, if I were to pick one unit for a special task, it would be 1st Patiala", remarked Field Marshal Lord William Slim.
The battalion took part in Jammu and Kashmir operations in 1948, where it fought at Chhamb, Naushera and Jhangar. In this operation, the battalion's finest moment was at Zojila Pass where despite being unacclimatised and without adequate clothing and equipment for high altitude warfare in peak winter, the Patialas achieved resounding success under the able command of Col (later Brigadier) Sukhdev Singh, earning eight Mahavir Chakra, 18 Vir Chakra, 34 Mention-in-Despatches and 42 C-in-C Commendation Cards in the theatre, including the battle honour Zojila.
The then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru himself visited the battalion to congratulate the soldiers for their excellent performance in 1948 operation. Fifteen Punjab holds the record of having won eight MVCs, the maximum in a single operation. No other battalion of the Indian Army has ever achieved such distinction in any battle before or since. It is in honour of this heroic action, that the First Patiala celebrates Zojila Day in November every year.
In 1951, First Patiala Rajindra Sikh Infantry was integrated into the Indian Army and redesignated as 15 Punjab. It is pertinent to mention here that 15 Punjab is the only battalion of the Punjab Regiment with hundred per cent Sikh troops. All the other battalions of Punjab Regiment have a mixed troop composition of Dogras and Sikhs.
In 1988, the battalion established three new posts while deployed on the Line of Control in the Dras - Kargil Sector, overcoming stiff enemy fire in very difficult operational conditions. The grit and determination displayed by the battalion in this task was praised by Lt Gen Surender Singh, GOC-in-C, Northern Command and the unit was awarded one Yudh Seva Medal, four Sena Medals, one Mentioned-in-Despatches and eight Chief of Army Staff's commendation cards.
During 1992-95, the battalion once again rose to the occasion in counter-insurgency operations in J & K, earning 50 awards including one Kirti Chakra, two Shaurya Chakra, 11 Sena Medals, 14 Chief of Army Staff (COAS) commendation cards and 21 GOC-in-C commendation cards. The battalion killed 102 militants, apprehended 447 militants and recovered 447 weapons. The battalion earned a unit citation from the then COAS.
During the Kargil conflict, the battalion was once again serving in Jammu and Kashmir. For its excellent performance, the battalion was awarded one Vishisht Seva Medal, four Sena Medals, four Chief of the Army Staff commendation cards and nine GOC-in-C commendation cards. To commemorate the historic occasion, the Department of Post and Telegraph released a commemorative stamp and a First Day Cover.
A special sainik sammelan was also held on the occasion. Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab, Lt Gen Mohinder Singh, Colonel Commandant of the Punjab Regiment and Col Advitya Madan, Commanding Officer of the unit addressed the troops. Other highlights included release of a book on battalion history, motorcycle display by ASC Tornadoes, and barakhana. Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman GOC-in-C, Western Command and Lt Gen OP Nandrajog, 10 Corps Commander also graced the occasion.
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