1/3 Gorkha Rifles lead the pack through triumph and tragedy

Troops of 1/3 Gorkha Rifles (First Battalion of the Third Regiment, pronounced First of the Third) have again proven why they are considered one of the best in the Army.

Even as news of the devastation in Nepal flowed in, soldiers and
junior commissioned officers of 1/3 GR didn’t flinch. 
Barely a day after the battalion celebrated its bicentenary at Sevoke Military Station in north Bengal, Nepal suffered its worst tragedy in decades. Even as news of the devastation flowed in, soldiers and junior commissioned officers of 1/3 GR didn't flinch. Save for a handful of men who left on emergency leave after news of casualties among relatives came in, the rest answered the call of duty. This wasn't easy as 60% of troops and JCOs are from Nepal.

Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw had once said: "If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gorkha."

What the veterans say

Brig (retd) A K Sanyal, who was CO between 1980 and 1983 and became colonel of the regiment, recalls his early days. "My first guru, after I joined the battalion in June 1963, was Babu Ram Thapa, who was assigned as my sahayak (known as a buddy, nowadays). He would always remind me that I was an officer and made sure I was never ticked off by seniors.

"'Wear your uniform pr-operly, Sir. You better impro-ve your game, Sir. You were looking very tired today. Better get into shape'," he would say. When I became a platoon commander, I knew little. The senior JCO, subedar Ran Bahadur Gurung, was the boss. He wore a Burma Star on his chest and knew I was still wet behind the ears. The JCOs of this battalion form a very strong group. They don't hesitate to share their opinion with an officer without sounding impolite. The CO is normally younger to them."

"A Gorkha," Sanyal added, "is tremendously compassionate. He will never misbehave with women or the elderly nor mistreat a child. He isn't trigger-happy and has tremendous patience. A Gorkha improvises and is adaptive. He has a great sense of humour. His commitment and loyalty to the battalion are unflinching," the retired brigadier added.

Probably, this is why the British army decided to keep the best for themselves. Till 1947, Gorkha Rifles didn't have a single Indian officer. Today, 60% of soldiers in GRs are from Nepal, the rest are Indian nationals. Even then, Indians cannot fill the quota. The number of Gorkha officers is gradually increasing.

Lt Col RKP Singh, who was instrumental in giving the Gorkhas their regimental song, said: "I am proud to have led the Gorkhas. In 1971, we fought in Jessore before being ordered to cut off Pakistani troops fleeing towards Chittagong. We carried out combing operations in Cox's Bazaar. Despite hardships, the men never complained."

Col (retd) Andrew Das spent 23 years with 1/3 GR. Now settled in the US, he flew in for the celebrations. "The-re has been improvement in infrastructure. The men are better educated and aware. The Gorkhas were always the best. Now they are more potent," he said.

Col (retd) K K Kulcheria, who took a bullet in his shoulder during war and is now settled in Thiruvananthapuram, said: "I still remember the Battle for the Ichhogil Canal in 1965, and the confidence the men had in their officers. I was a young officer and the arm of one of my JCOs was shredded by a shell. He kept on crying he would live only if I remained by his side. This was not possible as the battle was on. When it was over, he was no more."

It runs in the family

It's not only former officers who have a sense of belonging to the regiment. There are at least two Gorkha officers (one in 1/3 GR) whose fathers served in the regiment. Capt Gautam Thapa got promoted to an officer after 14 years as a sepoy.

"On September, 1998, I joined as a sepoy. We belong to Dehradun and my father, too, was in the Army. I had only completed my Class X then. Completing my graduation while serving in the Army was tough but I succeeded. On September 3, 2012, I was finally commissioned as an officer," Thapa said. "Today, I am posted elsewhere but have returned to my old friends in the paltan. They consider me an inspiration"

Captain Aashish Khandka is with 1/3 GR. His father was a JCO in the regiment. "My grandfather, Subedar Lil Bahadur Khandka, was in 1/9 GR. My father, Hon Capt Sant Bahadur Khandka, was in 1/3 GR. He was a subedar major and wanted me to become an officer. I completed a BSc in information technology from Hyderabad before clearing CDS. I got my father's battalion as 'parental claim'. Sons of commanding officers and subedar majors can choose their fathers' battalions. My father wants me to command the battalion some day," said the young officer from Gulmi district of Nepal.

Source: TOI

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