BHARAT RAKSHAK MONITOR - Volume 3(3) November-December 2000

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The Rajput Regiment

D.S. Sandhu

Introduction and the Early Years

The Rajputs have for long been known as the Prince of Warriors or the blue blooded warriors of the Indian subcontinent. They have carried a long tradition of chivalry, love of battle, fearlessness for the upkeep of their honour and that of their womenfolk. The association of the Rajputs with the British Indian army started in 1778, when the 3rd Battalion was raised as the 31st Regiment Bengal Native Infantry. Two other battalions the 1st and 2nd were raised in 1798. The 3rd Battalion fought against Hyder Ali and captured Cuddalore. It was after this battle that the crossed daggers (also known as katars) as a badge was granted in recognition of gallantry, this since has been adopted as the badge by the Rajput Regiment. The 1st Battalion fought at the battle of Delhi (1803), which broke the power of the Marathas at the Imperial court. This battalion was in action again at the siege of Bharatpur (1805), of the 400 men who went into the assault at least 50 percent became casualties.

The 1st and 4th Battalions participated in the British campaign against the Gorkhas. All the Rajput Battalions (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and the 5th) fought against the Sikhs in the Sikh Wars. The 5th Battalion captured three Sikh standards at the battle of Gujarat. The 1857 mutiny was mostly confined to the Bengal infantry regiments, during which the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Rajputs were temporarily disarmed. The 1st Battalion was at Saugor and stood firm while guarding the treasury and the arsenal. For its role it was awarded the title of Light Infantry. The Regiment of Lucknow, which later became the 16th Battalion, then the 10th Battalion contributed to the successful defence of the Lucknow Residency. It won two Victoria Crosses and every Sepoy in the regiment was also awarded a medal. The 1st Battalion in 1876 achieved a rare honour by becoming the Queen's Own as well as the Royal regiment.

 

 

 

The Two World Wars

Most of the Rajput battalions saw action during World War 1. The 1st Battalion fought at the Battle of Dujailah in Mesopatamia, where it was nearly annihilated. The 3rd Battalion fought the Battles of Qurna and Kut-al-Amara against the Turks. In one of the battles the Turks had invaded both the flanks of the 3rd Rajput, during which Jemadar Sital Baksh was severely wounded. Sepoy Jhandu Singh rushed to his rescue, the Jemadar ordered him to leave him behind but the sepoy lifted him on his back and started moving through the marshlands. Soon both the rescuer and the rescued became targets of the Turks and were riddled with bullets. Sepoy Jhandu Singh was awarded a posthumous IOM and Medaille Militaire. A large number of other awards and battle honours were won by the Rajputs and at the end of WW1, a total of 37 battle honours were on the colours of the Rajputs, which exceeded that of any other regiment of the Indian Army.

In 1922 the infantry regiments were reorganised and all the battalion were renumbered. For the Rajputs, the renumbering was as follows:

  • 2nd Rajput became 1st Battalion

  • 4th Rajput became 2nd Battalion

  • 7th Rajput became 3rd Battalion

  • 8th Rajput became 4th Battalion

  • 11th Rajput became 5th Battalion

  • 16th Rajput (Regiment of Lucknow) became the 10th Battalion

Also the one class character of most of the infantry regiments were changed and the Rajputs introduced a company each of Punjabi Musalmans and Hindustani Musalmans in each of their battalions.

A number of Rajput regiments participated in World War 2. The 1st Battalion was in the Arakan and then took over the defence of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The 2nd Battalion was also in the Arakan area and a number of actions were fought by it. The capture of Point 551, also called Rajput Hill was the most important. The Japanese holding this feature had turned back repeated attacks by other battalions but the Rajputs carried the day winning an IOM, five MC's and two MM's for this action. The 3rd Battalion was at Suez and Egypt and fought at the Battle of El Alamein. The 4th was also in the Western Desert at Siddi Barrani and El Alamein and on its return to India was posted at the Kohima front. The 5th Battalion was at Hongkong. The action against the invading Japanese was short and swift with heavy casualties to the regiment. The regiment along with the British garrison was forced to surrender and the men became POWs and had to undergo great hardships. 130 men of the 5th Rajput were either beaten or starved to death or just died because lack of medical care. The Japanese wanted Captain M.A. Ansari of 5th Rajput to turn on his fellow men, but he refused. For five months he was subjected to brutal beatings and treatment, as a result of which he could not walk. He was then sent to live with the other ranks instead of the officers. Captain Ansari remained true to the regiment and organised a system for helping escapees. He was again put in jail and tortured but refused to be broken. In the end the Japanese executed him. Captain M.A. Ansari was awarded the George Cross for his heroism.

1947-48 Jammu & Kashmir Operations

At the time of partition in 1947 Punjabi Musalmans who formed up to 50% of the strength in most battalions were transferred to the Pakistan Army. The gaps created by their departure were filled in by Gujars, who came over from the Punjab Regiments which were allotted to Pakistan.

Four Rajput Regiments (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th) participated in the 1947-48 operations in J&K. The 3 Rajput was the first to be inducted. Its original task was for protection of Ramban and Jammu, but it quickly came under 50 Para Brigade for its relief of Jhangar and Kotli. The advance from Jhangar to Kotli took five days, as the column had to clear 47 road blocks. After the relief of Kotli the column returned to Naushera. 1 Rajput was inducted next and it also formed a part of 50 Para Brigade at Naushera. It had its share of fighting in clearing the raiders from some hill features around Naushera. The raiders meanwhile kept heavy pressure on the Naushera Jhangar road and both 1 and 3 Rajputs fought a number of engagements to keep the road open. In December 1947, 4 Rajput were inducted and deployed in the Chammb- Akhnoor area. 2 Rajput came in next and were employed for L of C duties around Jammu.

Aggressive patrolling was done by 1 and 3 Rajputs around Naushera and Kot. On 06 February 1948 a strong patrol was send out in the area east of Naushera. The patrol was surrounded by an enemy force of approximately 1000 men. Soon a fierce fight started which continued for seven hours. During this time Subedar Gopal Singh's platoon came under heavy pressure. Gopal Singh wounded thrice kept reorganizing his men time and again. At one time Gopal Singh got separated from his platoon and had only three men at his side, one of them was Sepoy Sikdar Singh. When things got tough Subedar Gopal Singh lead a bayonet charge during which he was seriously wounded. Sikdar Singh picked him up and carried him back to the main patrol area. Havildar Mahadeo Singh was another hero. He kept on supplying ammunition to the bren gunners of the platoon, couple of times he walked through heavy enemy fire to get the ammunition through. In one of his attempts he was wounded and fell down, when he scrambled to his feet he was riddled with bullets. In this action the 3 Rajput won 3 VrCs - one each to Subedar Gopal Singh and Sepoy Sikdar Singh and a posthumous one to Havildar Mahadeo Singh.

After the fall of Jhangar, Naushera became the enemy's next objective. Brigadier Mohammad Usman, 50 Para Brigade commander closely watched the situation and drew up defensive plans in which the Rajputs were holding tactical grounds around Naushera. C Company, 1 Rajput was holding the vital Taindhar position, which was vital for the defence of Naushera. Brig. Usman had directed C company to hold this position at any cost in case of an attack. On the early morning hours of 6 February, 1948 the enemy attacked the Taindhar position. The enemy was about 1500 strong and consisted mostly of Pathans with some Pakistani servicemen. The enemy attacked in waves of lines of 200-300 men. Six such attacks were launched and there was heavy hand to hand fighting in some posts. Havildar Daya Ram who was then manning the 3-inch mortar detachment realised that the enemy had gotten very close to the defensive positions. He took the secondary charge out of the mortar bombs, elevated the mortars to their maximum limit and fired the bombs. These bombs landed within 30-50 yards of the Rajput defensive positions and caused havoc among the enemy. Some of the enemy switched and attacked Daya Ram's section, but the position held, Daya Ram was wounded and his bren gunner killed. He picked up the bren gun and started firing at the enemy, for his courage and actions Daya Ram was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra.

The left flank of C Company gave an easy approach to the enemy. This sector was defended by Naik Jadunath Singh and his section. The enemy after failing in the frontal attacks switched the main effort on this sector. Jadunath Singh effectively directed the fire of his bren gun, rifles and grenades. The enemy, however still continued to advance, Jadunath rushed out of his defensive position throwing hand grenades and firing his sten gun, this took the enemy by surprise and he withdrew to regroup. The enemy regrouped and charged again, Jadunath Singh again stood firm and charged out. He was wounded this time but the attack failed again. By this time his section had suffered heavy casualties. The enemy attacked again and Jadunath Singh charged out the third time firing his sten gun and hurling grenades. He was hit by two bullets, one in the head and another in the chest and at last fell making the supreme sacrifice. The enemy had lost heart after this and withdrew, leaving behind a large number of dead and wounded. Naik Jadunath Singh for his gallantry was awarded the Param Vir Chakra.

 

Naik Jadunath Singh

 

Another Maha Vir Chakra was awarded to Lt. Kishan Singh Rathore, the acting C Company commander. During the thick of the battle he continuously visited the company positions and encouraged the men to fight in the Rajput tradition. The battle of Taindhar was vital for holding Naushera. After this battle, the Indian army consolidated its position and in March 1948 undertook the operation to recapture Jhangar. Both 1 and 3 Rajputs were in the column which captured Jhangar. In September 1948, 4 Rajput were moved to Zoji La as part of the 77 Para Brigade. The Rajputs along with tanks of 7th Cavalry cleared the way through the pass, they then went ahead and retook Dras.

The 1950s

In 1950 there was another change among the infantry regiments. On raising of the Brigade of Guards, the 1st Rajput was transferred to them and became 4th Battalion Brigade of Guards. Also at this time Bengalis and Muslims started coming into the regiment. When the princely states were amalgamated with the Indian Union, the Bikaner Sadul Light Infantry and the Jodhpur Sardar Infantry joined the Rajput Regiment and became 19th and 20th Rajput respectively. The Bikaner Sadul Light Infantry traces its origin back to 1464. They fought under the legendary Rana Sanga at the Battle of Kanwa (1527) against Babur. During World War 1, this unit was organized as Camel Corps, called Ganga Risala. It won many gallantry awards including 1 DSO, 1 IOM, 11 IDSMs, 9 MMs and 16 Mentioned-in-Despatches. Jodhpur Sardar Infantry was raised in 1922. During World War 2 it was in Eritrea and then it was part of the American 5th Army when it landed at Salerno in Sept. 1943. Afterwards as part of the 10th Indian Division it operated along the Adriatic coast. During these operations it won 1 DSO, 1 MC, 3 MMs and 17 Mentioned-in-Despatches. 17 Rajputs was in Nagaland during the insurgency operations of 1955 and 1956. It carried forward the high traditions and won seven Kirti Chakras and two Shaurya Chakras.

1962 Indo-China War

Two Rajput battalions witnessed some heavy fighting in NEFA in 1962. The 2nd Rajput under the command of Lt. Col. M.S. Rikh were at Walong in early 1962 and were moved to the banks of the Namka Chu river by October 10th as a part of 7 Infantry Brigade. The brigade was stretched on a twelve mile front along the Namka Chu, with the marching time from one end to the other being five days. The site chosen for their defences was forced upon them by the corps commander, who was working directly with the political authorities instead of the military chain of command. The battalion took up hastily erected defensive positions along the Namka Chu. The battalion was deployed in a trackless wilderness, where no mules could go and no civilian population lived which could help logistically. Lack of winter clothing added to the hardships of the men on these snowy heights. By the time the fighting commenced, the Chinese had occupied all the dominating heights in the area. A massive assault came on the Rajput front and in the fierce fighting that ensured, the battalion repulsed a number of determined attacks. The positions were soon enveloped from both sides and the battalion was cut off. In spite of heavy old against them the Rajputs did not give in and fought until the end.

Progress of the battle at Namka Chu (Click on image for a full sized map)

The story of gallantry beyond the call of duty was re-enacted in many platoons and companies. At the temporary bridge, Naik Roshan Singh's section clung doggedly to its position till every man was killed. Subedar Dasrath Singh's platoon was reduced to seven men and had exhausted its ammunition in repulsing three Chinese attacks. When the fourth Chinese attack came the Rajputs fixed bayonets and charged. In the ensuing hand to hand fighting four men were killed and the three survivors all seriously wounded were captured. Jemadar Bose's platoon was left with only 10 men after halting three Chinese attacks. He too fixed bayonets and charged. He along with most of his platoon were killed. For those interested in more details there is an excellent article in the 'Battles' section of Bharat Rakshak on this battle.

Not a single man from B, C or D Companies was awarded any gallantry medal as there was no one left to write the citations because there was no officer or JCO who was not killed or seriously wounded and taken POW. When the CO, Lt. Col. M.S. Rikh was released from the POW camp, he wrote up the citations but GoI and MoD made lame excuses and did not pay any attention to them. There is a memorial erected to those who fought at Namka Chu, which is a ricktey tin shed with names still missing from it and names of persons who were not there have been put up. Major B.K. Pant's company of 112 men had 82 killed and wounded. What more does a country want from its brave sons and not honour them properly? 2 Rajput, out of 513 all ranks in battle, 282 were killed, 81 were wounded and captured. 90 others were taken prisoners when they tried to break out. Only 60 other ranks, mostly from the administrative elements got back.

4 Rajput under Lt. Col. B. Avasthi was in the Sela-Bomdila area and it too had to face heavy odds. There was conflicting views among the senior commanders. The brigade commander wanted to hold Sela, but the divisional commander wanted to fall back. The divisional commander and the corps commander both agreed to withdraw. This led to total chaos during the retreat as the Chinese had bypassed many positions and ambushed parties of the soldiers withdrawing in a number of places. The battalion broke up into a number of parties, one led by Lt. Col. Avasti was ambushed and he was killed along with 300 men.

1965 Indo-Pak War

After the Rann of Kutch affair, Pakistan switched its attempts towards Kargil and in May 1965 it attacked one of the Indian posts there. 4 Rajput as a part of 121 Infantry Brigade were ordered to capture Point 13620 and Black Rock (15000) also known as Kargil heights to remove any threat to the Srinagar-Leh highway. Both posts consisted of three parts and each of these features was held by a platoon plus of the enemy in addition to a section of 3" mortars and MMGs on Point 13620. On 17 May 1965, B Company under Major Baljit Singh Randhawa, infiltrated deep behind the enemy held posts and attacked them. A grim battles was the fought and the Rajputs were sucessful in evicting the enemy. The Rajputs were awarded a MVC to Maj. B.S. Randhawa (posthumous) and 3 VrCs, one each to Captain Ranbir Singh, Sepoy Budh Singh and a posthumous one to Havildar Girghari Lal. Black Rocks was captured by A Company in the second phase of the attack. As an act of goodwill by GOI these posts were handed back to the Pakistanis some weeks later. These were again recaptured by another battalion in August 1965.

In August, 4 Rajput were moved to the Hajipir area and Bisali feature was captured by them on the night of 4/5 September. This assault was carried out in face of heavy MMG, mortar and artillery fire. The Pakistanis launched five counterattacks and all these were beaten back. By this time the Rajputs had nearly exhausted all of their ammunition and with no hope of reinforcements, they had to withdraw to other defensive positions.

6 Rajput were in and around Srinagar dealing with the Pakistani infiltrators. A number of raids and ambushes were systematically carried out by them. After the infiltrator menace had died down, 6 Rajput moved to Ahknur area and came under 191 Infantry Brigade, which in turn was directly under HQ 15 corps. The battalion was supplied with RCL guns but without sights. When asking for the sights they were told to "see through the barrels and engage the Pakistani armour.'" The battalion held on to a number of forward posts in the area in face of repeated counterattacks and heavy shelling. Some time after the cease fire a Brigadier came around to see the 6 Rajput defences. He asked Naik Nanak Singh, who was in charge of an LMG position as to where his range card was, and how could he fire properly without knowing the primary and secondary arcs. The Naik replied that he would fire from where ever the enemy came. This annoyed the Brigadier and he said that the Naik was not a good NCO. Nanak Singh faced the Brigadier and said, "Sahib, jab golian chal rahi theen to dikhai nahin diye. Ab range card poochh rahe ho." (Sir, when the bullets were flying you were not to be seen and now you are asking for the range card!). That ended the matter.

14 and 20 Rajput were at the Phillora-Chawinda front and after the capture of Charwa on the border, 20 Rajput led the advance for the next 10 days. 17 Rajput were in the southern Lahore sector in the Bedian area.

In 1967, 18 Rajput were carrying out a project of erecting wire fences on the North Shoulder of Nathula. On September 11th, they broadcast taped messages in Chinese to inform the Chinese troops of the intention. When the wire laying party was in the open and laying the fences, the Chinese opened up with machine guns. Major Harbhajan Singh the company commander ordered his men to charge the Chinese. He single handedly rushed forward and bayoneted three Chinese soldiers and then silenced one of the machine guns by throwing a hand grenade. In doing so he made the supreme sacrifice. The Rajputs inspired by their company commander's courage, led by Naib Subedar Raghav Prasad Pandey charged the other machine gun and silenced it. There was firing between the Rajputs and Chinese for the next five days. 61 casualties (22 killed and the rest wounded) were the suffered by the Rajputs. Major Harbhajan Singh was awarded a MVC (posthumous) and Naib Subedar Pandey a VrC (posthumous) for their gallant actions.

1971 Indo-Pak War

Rajput battalions played an active part in liberation of Bangladesh. Starting in West Bengal, near Calcutta and going about in a clockwise direction around Bangladesh the battalions were deployed as follows.

22 Rajput captured Akandabaria and cleared the way to capture Darsana. The Rajputs then led the brigade attack on Kushtia. The Pakistanis had built up the area around Kushtia and they let the Rajputs and the supporting tanks come forward into the area. They then opened up with heavy fire, the leading company of the Rajputs suffered heavy casualties.

16 Rajput participated in the battle of Hilli and then led the brigade advance to Ghoraghat and on to Rangpur. 21 Rajput spearheaded the move to Saidpur and fought in the battle of Khansama during which there was fierce hand to hand fighting. 4 Rajput were in the area Kurigram-Kaligunj-Jaipurhat. 6 Rajput fought in the Sylhet area and led the advance towards Fenchunganj and Kola Bils. Heavy fighting took place at Kola Bils and the battalion suffered 100 casualties, but it obtained the surrender of 22nd Baluch Regiment. The battalion was awarded 1 VrC (posthumous) and 2 SMs for the action at Kola Bils.

18 Rajput were on the Akhaura-Ashuganj axis. Akhaura proved a tough nut to crack, fighting for it took nearly three days. After this the Rajputs rushed forward and captured the Titas bridge intact. They then attacked Ashuganj, which was cleared after a tough fight and moved on to Narsingdi and entered Dacca on the 16th December. 20 Rajput operated in the Belonia bulge and captured Chaudagram and later moved to Chittagong.

On the western front, 20 Rajput (Jodhpur Sardar) were in their elements in the sands of Rajasthan. Covering a distance of 70 km in the first five days of the war the Rajputs reached Chachro. 15 Rajput was in the Fazilka area. It was involved in heavy fighting for the capture of Beriwala bridge and Ghazi post. It suffered heavy casualties during the attacks. Lance Naik Drigpal Singh received a posthumous MVC for his gallant actions. 14 Rajput saw action in the Khalra sector and 5 and 9 Rajputs were in the Chammb area. 9 Rajput operated in the Ratnu Chak area and carried out a number of raids, they also captured a couple of enemy posts.

Since the 1980s a number of Rajput battalions have been involved involved in CI operations in the North East, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. 4, 5 and 25 Rajputs formed a part of IPKF in Sri Lanka. In 1980, 18 Rajput transferred to the newly raised Mechanised Infantry Regiment as its 13th battalion. More recently, 27 Rajput were involved in the fighting in the Kargil sector in 1999.

The Rajput Regimental center is in Fatehgarh, Uttar Pradesh. The regiment now a days recruits Rajputs, Gujars, Bengalis, Brahmins, Muslims, Jats, Ahirs, Mazhabi & Ramdasia Sikhs and Dogras. A war memorial was erected at Fetehgarh in 1932. It is in a form of a chattri, with its dome resting on six pillars, each representing a battalion at that time and bearing its crest. The regimental motto is Sarvatra Vijaya, which means Victory Everywhere and the war cry is Bajrang Bali Ki Jai.

The honours and awards tally for the Rajputs is as follows (from Infantry in India):

Pre-Independence: 1 VC, 1 GC, 10 DSO, 33 MC, 10 IOM, 27 MM and 46 IDSM.

Post-Independence: 1 PVC, 1 AC, 7 MVC, 12 KC, 58 VrC, 20 SC, 67 SM, 4 YSM.

 

References

[1] Lt. Col. Mustasad Ahmad, Living Up To Heritage: The Rajputs 1947 to 1970, Lancer.

[2] Maj. Gen. A.K. Verma, Rivers of Silence, Lancer.

[3] Major K.C. Praval, Indian Army After Independence, Lancer.

[4] Amarinder Singh, Lest We Forget, Regiment of Ludhiana Welfare Association.

[5] Bharat Rakshak, Battle of Namka Chu 10 Oct - 16 Nov. 1962.

[6] Lt. Col. Gautam Sharma, Valour and Sacrifice, Allied.

[7] Lt. Gen. V.R. Raghavan, Infantry in India, Vikas.

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