Friday, April 30, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Ever since I heard about this memorial-cum-mandir, a wish to visit this place always filled my mind and it was fulfilled recently, when I, along with four other friends, left for Tawang via Tezpur on a chilly morning. We reached Jaswant Garh at around four in the evening. We planned to visit this shrine on the way itself, but it was such a foggy evening that even the gate of Jaswant Garh was not visible from a near distance. We immediately changed our plan to visit the memorial then, on the advice of our driver, because the weather was deteriorating and we had to reach Tawang, which was another two hours of hilly journey from there.
The weather was pleasant during our return trip. It was bright, along with a cold breeze. We reached Jaswant Garh at around 11 in the morning. Before entering the Garh, we had coffee at a roadside canteen run by the Army itself for visitors and passersby on this route. We were totally silent when we entered the Garh that still keeps the memory alive of this brave son of Mother India. It may be mentioned here that Jaswant Singh Rawat is the only soldier in the long history of the Indian army, who is known to have risen through the ranks after his death, and this rifleman has been promoted to Major General, and is still believed to command troops guarding the dizzy heights of India's eastern frontiers with China. He also gets his leave, salary – everything that a living soldier gets. During my visit, I was surprised to see a Leave Certificate hanging on the notice board issued by his commanding officer for ten days casual leave to attend a marriage ceremony of one Yoginder Yadav from November 5, 2008 to November 14, 2008. I asked the caretaker how the procedure is actually carried out. He replied that Jaswant Singh's family members apply for leave on his behalf whenever needed, and if the leave is granted, the army men carry his portrait is to his native village with full military honours and when his leave expires, again his portrait is brought back to its original place. What an honour!!!
The Garhwal Rifles are today deployed on India's western borders, but the unit makes it a point to keep at least half-a-dozen personnel here to take care of Rawat as if he were alive. He is served bed tea at 4.30am, breakfast at 9 am, and dinner at 7pm. Five Army soldiers are at his service round-the-clock. There are no chores to be done. Life couldn't be more comfortable for ‘Baba' Jaswant Singh Rawat, but for the fact that he is no more.
It was the final phase of the Sino-Indian War in November, 1962. A company of Garhwal Rifles was posted somewhere on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. They were ordered to vacate their post as soon as possible. But even as his company was asked to fall back, Jaswant Singh remained at his post at an altitude of 10,000 feet, and held back the invading Chinese for three days single-handedly. It is presumed that he shot himself when he realised that he was about to be captured. It is alleged that the Chinese cut off Jaswant Singh's head and took it back to China. However, after the ceasefire, the Chinese commander, impressed by the soldier's bravery, returned the head along with a brass bust of Jaswant Singh. The bust, created in China to honour the brave Indian soldier, is now installed at the site of the battle, a location now known as Jaswant Garh. Jaswant Singh's saga of valour and sacrifice continues to serve as an inspiration to all army personnel posted in this sector. It is a fact that he alone killed more than 300 Chinese soldiers in the war. He was assisted by two girls of the local village named Nura and Sella, and they were also given due credit, and the pass was named after Sella, and the highway named after Nura. It is still believed that the soul of this martyr still protects the whole of West Kameng from Chinese attacks.
Myths, folklore and superstitious beliefs are also strong among the soldiers. "Army personnel passing by this route, be it a General or an ordinary soldier, make it a point to pay their respects at the shrine of Jaswant Singh, or else they invoke his curse," says a soldier. A Major General once refused to pray at his shrine while crossing the area, saying this was just a superstition, but he met with a mysterious road accident a few kilometres away from here and died.
The caretaker of this historical memorial also revealed a few surprising facts. He reveals that Jaswant Singh Baba has an orderly who cooks for him daily, makes his bed, irons his clothes and polishes his boots, while guards patrol his shrine around the clock. Each morning, his bed is found crumpled, and his freshly ironed clothes lie scattered on the floor. The army men posted over there believe that Jaswant Singh is still here all the time, although no one can see him. According to locals and soldiers posted near Jaswant Garh, Rawat's spirit roams the area, and he comes in their dreams and solves their problems.
It was really a nostalgic moment for all of us as we had never encountered such a heroic saga of someone who had made the supreme sacrifice to protect the motherland. It is only because of these brave warriors in the border that we sleep peacefully. Time will pass by, but the memories of those two hours spent at Jaswant Garh will always remain fresh in my mind in the days to come.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Soldiers recruited into the Garhwal Rifles are from the Garhwal Hills, which is arguably one of the most beautiful areas of theHimalayas. These men are known for their hardiness, simplicity and upright manner. Garhwal consists almost entirely of rugged mountain ranges running in all directions, and separated by narrow valleys which in some cases become deep gorges or ravines.
Millions of boys have left their mountain villages of Uttarakhand in search of good fortune or a better life than in the hills. For brave Uttarakhandi soldiers to enlist, it has been common practice to leave the villages in the hills in search of adventure and fortune, indeed it has become a tradition in Uttaranchal, which still continues unabated. The sole source of solace for the hills has been the Indian Army, for it is the only institution that has somehow been able to check the migration of village youth. Paharis (the people "of the mountains") have always played a formidable role in defending the frontiers of India.
"Garhwal" is the land of many 'Garhs' meaning forts. This region was made up of many small forts which were ruled by chieftains. Garhwal originally consisted of 52 petty chieftainships, each chief with his own independent fortress (garh). The rulers of Garhwal remained independent and repeatedly expelled the attacks of the Mughal rulers of Delhi. During the 19th century, the Gurkhas attacked Garhwal and drove the rulers of Garhwal down to the plains. Thereafter the rulers of Garhwal took the help of the British forces in India and regained their kingdom. The rulers of Garhwal gave away 60% of their kingdom for the support the British gave them in driving back the Gurkhas.
The Regimental Training Centre and Headquarters is located at Lansdowne. Named after Lord Lansdowne who founded the place in 1887, Lansdowne, is one of the most notable, albeit small, hill stations in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is situated 45 km from Kotdwara en route Kotdwar-Pauri road in the Pauri Garhwal district. The training centre was built on the site of the old Kaludanda Fort. They have maintained the old-world charm of the 19th century and the place is still an ideal getaway.
Prior to 1887, there was no separate battalion of the Garhwali soldiers. They used to be recruited in the Gorkha regiments, Bengal Infantry and Punjab Frontier Force. Impressed by their honesty, courage and dedication, the British government decided to form a separate battalion for Garhwali soldiers. The Garhwal Rifles was raised in 1887 to give the Garhwali Hillmen their own regiment. This was propagated by Field Marshal Sir Frederick Sleigh Roberts, VC, who realised that many Garhwalis had served in Gurkha regiments, and a large proportion of the early awards to Gurkha regiments were actually won by Garhwalis.
On May 5, 1887 the first battalion was constituted under the command of Lieutenant Colonel E.P Mainwaring at Almora. It was designated the 2nd Battalion, 3rd (Kumaon) Gurkha Regiment, and it comprised six companies of Garhwalis and two of Gurkhas. On November 4 of the same year, this battalion reached Kalundanda in Garhwal. In 1890, Kalundanda was renamed as Lansdowne after the then Viceroy of India. In 1891, the two Gurkha companies were dropped and the battalion was redesignated the 39th (The Garhwal Rifles) Regiment of Bengal Infantry. This was the first all Garhwali battalion.
Following this, the Garhwalis served along the Tibet border, in the Chin Hills and on the North-East and North-West Frontiers of India, where they earned the battle honour 'Punjab Frontier'. In 1901, another battalion was raised as part of the Bengal Infantry. This was designated the 49th (Garhwal Rifles) Regiment of Bengal Infantry. Later that same year, this battalion and the 39th were regimented together to form the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 39th Garhwal Rifles.
The First World War (1914–18)
In the First World War, the Garhwal Rifles were involved in the war's first trench raid on 9/10 November 1914. The 1st and 2nd Battalions saw action in the trenches in France, where Naik Darwan Singh Negi and Rifleman Gabbar Singh were both awarded the Victoria Cross. Members of the regiment also earned many other bravery awards including: 6 Distinguished Service Orders, 25 Military Crosses, 14 Indian Orders of Meritand 21 Indian Distinguished Service Medals. There were also a number of foreign awards, including French, Russian and Romanian awards.
The 3rd Battalion was raised in 1916 and the 4th Battalion in 1917, this battalion became the 1st Kumaon Rifles in 1918, but the 4th Battalion was raised again in October 1918. These two battalions were raised in order to maintain security in India whilst the Indian Army fought overseas. As a result of their outstanding bravery in France and Flanders, the Garhwal Rifles received the rare honour of being conferred with the 'Royal' title, which was made official on 2 February 1921. 721 soldiers of the Regiment laid down their lives during the course of the war.
The Kotkai War (1920)
During the Kotkai war in 1920 (sometimes referred to as the Waziristan Campaign), Lieutenant William David Kenny of the 4th/39th Garhwal Regiment won the Regiment's third Victoria Cross, when he led a small force of men in a desperate counterattack against a superior force ofMahsud tribesmen in order to allow the rest of his company to withdraw to safety. Lt Kenny, along with the rest of the assaulting party, was killed in the action, and the award was made posthumously on 9 September 1920.
Link to the Indian Nationalist Movement
Against the backdrop of growing civil unrest and Indian nationalism in the 1930s, some historians have asserted that the Regiment fell into disfavour with the British following an incident at Peshawar on 23 April 1930, when a detachment of the 2/18 Garhwal Rifles apparently refused to obey an order to open fire on an unruly crowd that was causing a disturbance. Following the controversial arrest of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Khudai Khidmatgar (nationalist satyagrahis) gathered to protest, and the troops were called out in response to the demonstration. What followed next is disputed — some historians have claimed that the crowd was peaceful and unarmed, and that the members of the Regiment were ordered to open fire by their British officers but, under the leadership of Chandra Singh Garhwali refused to do so against unarmed civilians. It has been asserted that the whole incident galvanised the entire freedom movement. Other accounts, however, have painted a different picture. At the time, it was felt that the Garhwalis had failed in their duty, however, the official report following the incident cited evidence that the crowd had turned violent and that the regiment did in fact open fire, as per their orders, and that the crowd then dispersed.Each version of the incident seems steeped in its own bias, and as such, it seems hard for a neutral observer to determine exactly what happened.
The aftermath, however, seems clearer. Following the incident at Peshawar the Regiment received a black mark against its name, and the loyalty of its members was called into question. Matters were made worse when, the following day, two platoons refused to fall in, and several men declared that they wished to be discharged. Because of this, higher command believed that the battalion was disaffected and, as a result, the disaffected men were ordered to return their weapons and dismiss. Later the entire battalion was disarmed. A Court of Inquiry afterwards found that the men of the Regiment had acted properly according to the confused orders that they had received on the day of the incident in Peshawar, but on the subject of the incident the following day it was quite swift in handing out the punishments. The riflemen of the two platoons that had refused to fall in were all dismissed from the service, whilst of the seventeen non-commissioned officers, one receivedtransportation for life, another was sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment and the other fifteen also received various smaller terms of imprisonment.
These punishments seem quite harsh in the circumstances, but probably serve to highlight the concern that the British had surrounding the incident at the time, when it was felt on both sides, not without reason, that British rule in India was coming to an end. This did not turn out to be completely correct, of course, for the Raj still had another seventeen years to run, but it almost certainly served as a portent of the future.
The Second World War (1939–45)
During the Second World War, five more battalions of the Garhwal Rifles were raised. These were: the 4th (re-raised having been converted into a training battalion and designated 10th Battalion earlier), the 5th, 6th, 7th and 25th (Garrison) battalion. The Regiment saw active service in almost all of the theatres of the war, including: Burma, Malaya, Egypt, Iraq, Eritrea, Abyssinia.
The 2nd and 5th Battalions were captured in the fall of Singapore and remained in captivity until the end of the war.
The Regiment's casualties during the war were high, with some 350 killed and approximately 1,400 wounded. However, whilst other regiments received due reward for their sacrifices, the Garhwal Regiment received very few — no Victoria Crosses — a fact which has never been explained, although there has been speculation that this was due in part to the memory of the 1930 Peshawar incident.
Following the war the 1st and 3rd Battalions served briefly in a garrison role in Sumatra and Italy before returning to India. The 4th Battalion was used to reconstitute the 2nd Battalion in May 1946. The 5th Battalion was not raised again and the 6th Battalion was disbanded at war's end.
After the formation of India in 1947 and the subsequent merger of the various states in India at the time, the Garhwal State was among the first to be merged in with the Indian Union. Subsequently, the Regiment was transferred to the newly independent Indian Army. Following this, the Regiment was involved in the conflict in Jammu & Kashmir for a time, during which the 3rd Battalion's role with the 161st Brigade in the Uri-Punch linkup was of particular note.
In 1950, the Royal title was dropped from the Regiment's name when India became a Republic. Other regimental symbols that were associated with the British were also discontinued, although the regimental lanyard continued to be worn on the right shoulder in traditional 'Royal' fashion. In 1953, the Regiment contributed to the United Nations custodian force in Korea.
Indo-China War of 1962
The 4 Garhwal Rifles played a significant role in the India-China War of 1962. The sacrifice along the frontier of Garhwali lives was enormous, as the Indian Army was ill-prepared for the rapidly advancing Chinese. Badly equipped for high altitude combat, short on supplies, and reconnaissance of the enemy, the Indian troops struggled valiantly onward, despite fighting a losing war to both the invaders and frostbite. Indeed, one battalion of the Garhwal Rifles was surrounded and suffered many casualties in the short, but bloody engagement that followed. Rfn. Jaswant Singh of the 4 Garhwal Rifles (Mahavir Chakra — posthumously), was honoured after being executed, by the Chinese themselves for his exemplary bravery in the face of the enemy. He has a temple in his honour at Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh).
Indo-Pakistan War of 1965
The 1 Garhwal Rifles were deployed along the border in Rajasthan Sector. The battalion commanded by Lt. Col O.P.Lahiri launched attack on Gadra City at 6.45 a.m. and captured it by 1.00 p.m. In the morning of 18 September one company of the battalion repulsed Pakistani attack who fled leaving behind 12 bodies and 1 Jeep.. On 22 September the battalion offered a stubborn resistance to the Pakistani multi pronged offensive to recapture Gadra City and were supported by Pakistan Air Force. But the battalion stood the ground and repulsed all the attacks.
The 8 Garhwal Rifles played a vital role in the Battle of Buttur Dograndi where the Major Abdul Rafi Khan of 8 Garhwal Rifles had managed to regroup his scattered companies after the first failed assault and it was decided that A Sqn Poona Horse along with 8 Garhwal would launch another attack on Buttur Dograndi which had in the meantime been occupied by some elements of 3 Frontier Force. D company of the 8 Garhwalis led the advance and met only minor opposition and the village was retaken.On 17 September, Pakistan's 4th Corps artillery sporadically fired on the Garhwali positions with medium and heavy guns. Later during the day some enemy armour also appeared with infantry. The Garhwalis fought on with their small arms, well concealed as they were in the thick crops. Two tanks ( 25 Cavalry) entered the defended area and started spraying the Garhwalis with their machine guns from close range. Rifleman Balwant Singh Bisht took up a rocket launcher and managed to put one of these tanks out of action. He was himself blown to pieces by a shell shot from the tank gun. Casualties were heavy on both sides but 3FF and the tank troop had to withdraw against the determination of the Garhwalis. Although the later battle saw the Garhwalis being ordered to withdraw under heavy artillery fire of the enemy as the position had become unteneble, yet the determination of Major Khan allowed them to withdraw to safety, but Major Khan stayed back with the wounded who could not be evacuated. Major Khan was awarded Vir Chakra posthumously in the battle. After the battle statistics of killed were 2 officers and 47 other ranks. On the other hand 3rd Battalion The Frontier Force Regiment: Killed 3 JCO's and 64 other ranks, wounded 3 JCO's and 100 other ranks.
The 2nd Battalion 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 Mahavir Chakraof 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 the 1971 war with Pakistan, 11th Garhwal was in the Eastern theatre with the 6th Mountain Division under Maj. Gen P.C. Reddy. 2nd Garhwal Rifles was with 2nd Mountain Division and was allotted to 101 Comn Z for thust upon Dhaka itself. 12th Battalion was in the Bengal area for support. All the units performed all the tasks satisfactorily.
The 5th Garhwal Rifles was tasked in the Battle of Hilli. In the third phase of the battle, 5 Garhwal Rifles, were given a very difficult task of capturing several small villages of Basudevpur, Hakimpur and Rangapara. Each attack had to be separately organised, with adequate mortar and artillery fire. The Garhwalis emerged victorious.
Established as a single class regiment, the Garhwal Rifles remained so until 1984. Following a national policy review, the 18th Garhwal Joint Battalion was constituted in 1985 along with the merger of companies of Jat, Dogra and Maratha regiments.
The Kargil Operations in 1999
The Garhwal Rifles had the proud privilege of playing a decisive role in dislodging Pakistani forces and recapturing Tiger Hill during the Kargilconflict of 1999. The Chief of Army Staff made a special immediate award of a "Unit Citation"  to 18th Battalion, The Garhwal Rifles, for their meritorious and gallant performance during the battles of Point 5140 on the night of 19/20 June and Point 4700 on the night of 27/28 June 1999, in Dras Sector. This award was received by their commanding officer, Col. Anshu Trivedi. The Regiment also performed with distinction duringOperation Vijay and displayed exemplary valour and grit in the face of the enemy.
The overall performance of 18th Garhwal Rifles (along with 13th Battalion, The Jammu and Kashmir Rifles) was exceptional and marked with exemplary valour and grit in the face of the enemy. The brave troops of a battalion of The Garhwal Rifles captured three more positions North of Point 4927, viz, Bump I, II and III on the night of 8/9 July 1999. The 18th Battalion, The Garhwal Rifles, also acquitted itself with distinction in the battles of Point 5140 on the night of 19/20 June and Point 4700 on the night of 27/28 June 1999. The peak had been held by approximately 30 Pakistan soldiers along with some militants as a composite task force. While the enemy suffered heavy casualties, 11 other ranks from the Garhwal Rifles were also killed. Capt. Sumit Roy was lost in heavy artillery exchange with the enemy.
Not to be outdone the 17th Garhwal Rifles and the 10th Garhwal Rifles performed above all expectations during the Kargil War.
With so many families in the hills of Garhwal and Kumaon who have sons (and daughters) in the military, the conflict in Kashmir has taken a heavy toll. The Garhwal Rifles, as well as other Himalayan regiments (the Gurkha Rifles, Ladakh Scouts, Naga Regiment, and Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry) were all entrusted with operations in Kargil in 1999. They joined their Sikh, Rajasthani, Mahar, and Bihari brothers as a multicultural and multi-faith force on the frontlines, suffering the brunt of casualties in defence of the state.
The 18th Garhwal Joint Battalion was converted into a pure Garhwali battalion in December 1999.
Operation Sarp Vinash 2003
The Indian Army's Northern Command conducted a complex terrorist camp-busting operation called Sarp Vinash with remarkable skill and precision, easily one of the landmark counter-terrorism operations in Jammu & Kashmir–Hillkaka area. Hillkaka was no Kargil in its strategic importance but merely a staging post for immigrant terrorists. Operation Sarp Vinash was a division-size operation involving seven battalions and two brigade headquarters. Spearheaded by 9 Para Special Forces, six other units of 163 Infantry Brigade and 12 RR sector took part. These were 2/4 Gorkha Rifles, 15 Garhwal Rifles, 4 Garhwal Rifles, 16 and 20 Rashtriya Rifles. It was estimated that up to 100 terrorists were in and around the Hillkaka hideout spread out in the forest when Special Forces struck in the initial raid. They killed 13 terrorists and captured two of whom one died later. In subsequent combing operations which lasted 10 days, 4 Garhwal Rifles ambushed seven terrorists near Haripur while they were attempting to cross over into Srinagar. Altogether, 45 terrorists were killed against a loss of four soldiers killed and two wounded. Substantial recoveries were made. Approximately 60 caches and hideouts were busted yielding 20 AK 47 rifles, 5 PIKA guns, two sniper rifles and unspecified quantities of grenade launchers, self loading rifles and 45 kg of plastic explosives. In addition substantial quantities of radio sets, and other communication equipment was also recovered besides rations enough to feed 500 men for two weeks.
So far the Regiment has earned 30 battle honours. Of these, five have been awarded in the post-Independence period. The Regiment has also won the following theatre honours: Jammu & Kashmir — 1947–48, Ladakh — 1962, Punjab — 1965, Rajasthan — 1965, East Pakistan — 1971, Kargil — 1999.
Battle Honours Pre Independence
- Punjab Frontier 1897-1898
- La Bassee 1914
- Armentiers 1914
- Festubert 1914-1915
- Neuve Chapelle 1915
- Aubers 1915
- France and Flanders 1914-1915
- Egypt 1915-1916
- Macedonia 1918
- Khan Baghdadi 1918
- Sharqat 1918
- Macepotamia 1917-1918
- Gallabat 1940
- Barentu 1941
- Keren 1941
- Massawa 1941
- Amba Alagi 1941
- Kuantan 1942
- Yenangyaung 1942
- Monywa 1942
- Citta Di Castello 1944
- North Arakan 1944
- Ngakyedauk Pass 1944
- Ramree 1944
- Taungup 1945
Battle Honours Post Independence
- Tithwal 1947-48
- J&K 1947-48
- Ladakh 1962
- Nuranang 1965
- Buttar Dograndi 1965
- Gadra Road 1965
- Punjab 1965
- Rajasthan 1965
- Hilli 1971
- East Pakistan 1971.
Theatre Honour Second World War
- North Africa (1940–43)
- Malaya (1941–42)
- Burma (1942–45)
- Italy (1943–45)
Decorations (Pre Independence)
Victoria Cross Recipients
- Naik Darwan Singh Negi - First World War, Festubert-France, 1914
- Rifleman Gabbar Singh (posthumous) - First World War, Neuve Chapelle, 1915
- Lt. William David Kenny (posthumous) - Waziristan Campaign, 1920
Soldiers from the Garhwal Regiment were among the first Indian soldiers to receive the Victoria Cross — which was, at the time, the highest decoration a soldier in the British or Commonwealth Forces could receive for gallantry — with two soldiers receiving this honour for their actions during the First World War. A British officer of the 4th/39th Garhwal Rifles, also received a Victoria Cross during the Waziristan Campaign in 1920.
Decorations (Post Independence)
Ashok Chakra Recipient:
- Naik Bhavani Datt Joshi (posthumous), June 1984, Operation Blue Star, Amritsar, India for his actions during the operation against Sikh separatists
Mahavir Chakra Recipient:
- Lieutenant-Colonel Kaman Singh, Indo-Pakistan War, 1948.
- Lieutenant-Colonel B.M Bhattacharya, Sino-Indian war, 1962
- Rifleman Jaswant Singh (posthumous), Sino-Indian war, 1962
- Captain Chandranarayan Singh, Indo-Pakistan war, 1965
Following independence in 1947, members of the Regiment have received the following decorations: one Ashok Chakra, four Mahavir Chakra, 13Kirti Chakra, and 52 Vir Chakra for exceptional gallantry.
Of the other Gallantry award winners the following are of particular note -
- In 1989, Rifleman Kuldeep Singh Bhandari of 5 Garhwal Rifles received the Vir Chakra for his bravery, leadership qualities and dedication to duty.
- In 2003, Captain Vivek Mishra of 16 Garhwal Rifles received the Shaurya Chakra for his bravery, leadership qualities and dedication to duty.
- Major Ajay Kothiyal received Kirti Chakra in 2004. He also led the mission which made military history and record as the first military to use ski in a mountaineering expedition. He used ski to come down the mountain - Mt. Trisul (7120 m)
- Capt Vishal Bhandral (posthumous) Kirti Chakra in September 2006 near Bandipura in Baramulla district, J&K.
Environmental Protection Activities
In September 2001, a special team of the Indian Army successfully removed 800 kg of environmentally hazardous garbage from the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, a renowned world heritage site that had been closed for visitors since 1982. The 40-member team from The Garhwal Rifles successfully scaled India's second highest peak Nanda Devi, and collected the non-biodegradable garbage left behind by previous expeditions in the 2000-km² bio-reserve. The team successfully scaled the 7,817 m peak, which although it isn't even one of the ten highest peaks in the world, did in fact, at one point in time, enjoy the singular status of being the highest mountain in the British Empire.This status was due to the fact that Mount Everest lay in Nepal and K2 lay in the princely state of Kashmir, both of which were not under British rule.
The 12th Reunion of the Garhwal Rifles was organized at its Regimental Centre in Lansdowne in June 2004. The highlight of the two-day celebrations was the special sainik sammelan presided over by Maj Gen MC Bhandari, the Colonel of Garhwal Rifles and Garhwal Scouts.
Addressing the sammelan, Maj Gen Bhandari recalled the gallant deeds of the Garhwali soldiers and said that the Garhwal Rifles has added a golden chapter in the annals of the Army history. Maj Gen Bhandari, on the occasion, released a commemorative First Day cover designed by Army Postal Service (APS) in the presence of Col M Eleesha, Director, APS, Central Command.
An attestation parade was also held as part of the reunion celebrations in which 266 recruits were inducted as full-fledged soldiers. Maj Gen Bhandari, who administered the oath, also presented medals to the distinguished recruits of the course. Rfn Rajiv Singh was adjudged the best recruit and received gold medal. Rfn Ashish Rawat was declared best in drill, Rfn Bhagwan Singh in PT and Rfn Sandeep Singh in firing. After the parade, the Colonel of the Regiment felicitated 22 Veer Naris and next-of-kin of martyrs.
Maj Gen Bhandari, retired senior officers and the Subedar Major of the Regimental Center laid wreaths in homage to those who laid down their lives in the battlefield and brought glory to their regiment in a solemn ceremony organised at the Regimental War Memorial.
About 300 officers and jawans, both serving and retired, from across the country participated in the celebrations. The veteran soldiers who attended the celebrations included the 92-year-old Lt Col IS Thapa and 80-year-old Maj PM Rex who served the Royal Garhwal Rifles from 1942 to 1948 and had come along with his wife from England. Several senior retired officers of the regiment attended, including Lt. Gen. ML Tuli (former Vice Chief of Army Staff), and Lt. Gen. K. Mahendra Singh (former Deputy Chief of Army Staff, and Col. of the regiment), participated. Lt Gen RS Gaur, who retired as a Quarter Master General, Army Headquarters also participated in celebrations. They cherished old memories on this occasion.
A badakhana and a variety entertainment programme were other highlights of the celebrations. A number of adventurous events organised to mark the occasion included para-drop and sky-diving demonstration by 50 (Independent) Para Brigade, motorcycle display by a 36-member team of the Corps of Military Police which came from Bangalore dogs' display by RVC Centre, Meerut.
The Regimental Centre — Lansdowne
Lansdowne, at a height of 5,800 ft above sea level, is the recruitment centre of the Garhwal Rifles. On October 1, 1921 the regimental centre celebrated its first founder's day. Now October 1 is celebrated as the raising day of the battalion. After Independence, the name of the centre was changed to Garhwal Rifles Regimental Centre. The rigorous drills during the training helps to infuse a sense of discipline in every recruit. Special emphasis is laid on physical fitness, mental toughness and weapon handling. After successful completion of the 34-week training course, a Garhwali youth is turned into a soldier. The soldier is then trained for two more weeks in counter-insurgency operations.
The regimental centre is considered the hub of training for the regiment. About 2,500 recruits are trained here as soldiers every year. Earlier, the recruitments were held only at Lansdowne but now the recruitments take place at other places in the region as well. The centre has trained more than 60,000 soldiers since Independence. At present, over 30,000 soldiers are serving in different battalions of the Garhwal Rifles.
Colonels of the Garhwal Rifles and Scouts
- Maj. Gen. G. Bharat Singh, MC
- Maj. Gen. Hira Lal Atal
- Maj. Gen. H.N. Shingal PVSM, AVSM
- Lt. Gen. K. Mahendra Singh, PVSM (1979–1987)
- Lt. Gen. U.V. Kulkarni, PVSM, UYSM
- Maj. Gen. SPS Kanwar
- Brig. Abinash Dhillon
- Brig. Jagmohan Rawat
- Maj. Gen. Satish Sondhi
- Maj. Gen. Anil Walter Ranbhise
- Lt Gen Dr Mohan Chandra Bhandari,PVSM,AVSM & BAR,D Litt,FIMA
- Lt. Gen. Paramjit Singh, PVSM, AVSM, VSM
- Lt Gen B.K. Chengappa, AVSM