Puneet Varma (Editor)

5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force)

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Active  1858–present
Branch  Army
Size  6 Battalions
Country  India
Type  Rifles
5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force)
Regimental Centre  58 Gorkha Training Centre, Shillong, Meghalaya

The 5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) is an infantry regiment of the Indian Army comprising Gurkha soldiers of Indian and Nepalese origin. It was formed in 1858 as part of the British Indian Army and served in the First World War and Second World War. The regiment was one of the Gurkha regiments that was transferred to the Indian Army following independence in 1947. The regiment was formerly known as the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force). Since 1947, the regiment has served in a number of conflicts, including the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. It has also participated in peacekeeping operations in Sri Lanka.


19th century

The regiment was raised in 1858 as the 25th Punjab Infantry, also known as the "Hazara Goorkha Battalion". The soldiers of the regiment originated from the Kingdom of Nepal and in 1861 it was renamed the 5th Gurkha Regiment. The regiment's first major action was during the Second Afghan War, where they were awarded their first battle honour at Peiwar Kotal and Captain John Cook was awarded the Victoria Cross. In 1891 the regiment was awarded the prestigious title of a Rifle regiment and became 5th Gurkha (Rifle) Regiment which was shortened to 5th Gurkha Rifles in 1901.

The regiment spent most of its time up to the end of the 19th century based in the Punjab as part of the Punjab Frontier Force (PIF or Piffers), and its regimental centre was at the frontier hill town of Abbottabad, in the Hazara region of North-West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan). This connection was reflected when in 1903, the regiment was renamed the 5th Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force).

First World War

During the First World War, the regiment primarily saw service in the Middle East—the 1st Battalion saw extensive and hard service at Gallipoli in 1915 (where seven officers and 129 men were killed in the first few hours after the battalion landed). During the withdrawal, a company of the 5th Gurkhas were among the last troops to leave.

The 2nd Battalion initially served in India with the 2nd (Rawalpindi) Division before transferring to Mesopotamia in April 1916 and joining the 42nd Indian Brigade, 15th Indian Division. The 1st Battalion joined them in March 1917 from the 1st (Peshawar) Division and both battalions fought together at the Action of Khan Baghdadi. A 3rd Battalion was raised for service on the North-West Frontier, before being disbanded in 1921.

Inter-War period

In 1921, the regiment was given the title the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, in recognition of its service during the First World War. During the inter-war period, the regiment received three further battle honours, for the Third Afghan War in 1919, and two for service on the North West Frontier. The regiment together with the 13th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers were the only units awarded such honours.

Second World War

During the Second World War, the 1st Battalion 5th Gurkhas as part of the 8th Indian Infantry Division's 17th Indian Infantry Brigade served in the Mediterranean and Middle East Theatre (including the Italian Campaign). Rifleman Thaman Gurung of the 1st Battalion won the Victoria Cross while serving in Italy.

The 2nd Battalion served in the Far East in the Burma Campaign as part of the 17th Indian Infantry Division and was involved in the retreat of the British Indian Army from Burma, they were one of four battalions chosen to fight as the rearguard at the Sittang River, which formed the border with India. When the bridge over the river was blown up, preventing the Japanese forces from entering India, many of the regiment were left on the wrong side. The regiment was involved in the re-entry into Burma in 1943 where three members of the regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross. After the war, the 2nd Battalion was re-issued with new uniforms, equipment and transport and posted to Tokyo in Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force.

The 4th Battalion was raised in 1941 and also served in the Burma Campaign as part of the 7th Indian Infantry Division, fighting in five epic battles at North Arakan, Buthidaung (Battle of the Admin Box), Kohima, Pakkoku (Irrawaddy), and Sittang. The Battalion had the unique distinction of getting four Battle Honours for the five battles fought. Major I M Brown of the 4th Battalion was one of the few soldiers of the Second World War who was awarded the Military Cross three times.

Post Independence

On Independence, the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles was one of the six Gurkha regiments that remained part of the new Indian Army; they were renamed the 5th Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) in 1950. The Regiment now has a total of six Battalions and has, participated in virtually every major action the Indian Army has undertaken in its four wars with Pakistan, including the first heliborne operations undertaken by the army during the 1971 war. The Regiment has participated in the following actions:

  • Indo-Pak War of 1947–48
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
  • Battle of Topa (Jammu and Kashmir)
  • Battle of Atgram (East Pakistan) 1971
  • Battle of Sylhet (East Pakistan) 1971
  • Battle of Gazipur (East Pakistan—Bangladesh) 1971
  • The 1st and 4th Battalion were also a part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force which served in Sri Lanka and fought against the LTTE. During this deployment, the 4th battalion's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Bawa, was injured and later died, along with many of his officers and soldiers. The regiment's present headquarters are at Shillong, in North-Eastern India.


    1858–1861: 25th Punjab Infantry
    1861–1891: 5th Gurkha Regiment
    1891–1901: 5th Gurkha (Rifle) Regiment
    1901–1903: 5th Gurkha Rifles
    1903–1950: 5th Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force)
    1950–present: 5th Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force).

    Battle honours

  • 19th century: Peiwar Kotal, Charasiah, Kabul 1879, Kandahar 1880, Afghanistan 1878–80, Punjab Frontier;
  • First World War: Suez Canal, Egypt 1915–16, Khan Baghdadi, Mesopotamia 1916–18, Helles, Krithia, Suvla, Sari Bair, Gallipoli 1915, North West Frontier 1917;
  • Inter War Years: Afghanistan 1919, North West Frontier 1930, North West Frontier 1936–39;
  • Second World War: The Sangro, Caldari, Cassino II, San Angelo in Teodice, Rocca d'Arce, Ripa Ridge, Femmina Morta, Monte San Bartolo, The Senio, Italy 1943–45, Sittang 1942, Yenangyaung 1942, Buthidaung, Stockades, North Arakan, Chindits 1944, Mogaung, Imphal, Sakawng, Shenam Pass, Bishenpur, The Irrawaddy 1942–45, Sittang 1945, Burma 1942–45;
  • Post Independence: Zoji La, Kargil, Jammu and Kashmir 1947–48, Charwa, Punjab 1965, Sylhet, East Pakistan 1971, Jammu and Kashmir 1971, Sehjra, Punjab 1971.
  • Victoria Cross recipients

    There were seven Victoria Crosses awarded to British officers and Gurkhas serving with the regiment prior to 1947:

  • Captain John Cook (1st battalion): Afghanistan, 2 December 1878
  • Lieutenant Guy Boisragon (1st battalion): Hunza, 2 December 1891
  • Lieutenant John Manners-Smith (1st battalion): Hunza, 20 December 1891
  • Havildar Gaje Ghale (2nd battalion): Burma, 27 May 1943
  • Naik Agansing Rai (2nd battalion): Burma, 26 June 1944
  • Jemadar Netra bahadur Thapa (2nd battalion): Burma, 26 June 1944
  • Rifleman Thaman Gurung (1st battalion): Italy, 10 November 1944
  • Maha Vir Chakra recipients

  • Lieutenant Colonel Anant Singh Pathania, MC (1st battalion)
  • L/Havildar Ram Prasad Gurung (1st battalion)
  • Major General H K Sibal
  • Brigadier (Later Lt. Gen.) Zoravar Chand Bakshi
  • Brigadier M L Whig
  • Lieutenant Colonel (Later Brigadier) Arun Bhimrao Harolikar (4th Battalion)
  • Rifleman (Later Havildar) Dil Bahadur Chettri (4th Battalion)
  • Lieutenant Colonel Inder Bal Singh Bawa {Posthumous} (4th battalion)
  • References

    5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) Wikipedia

    Similar Topics
    If These Walls Could Talk
    Robert D Raiford
    Norbert Rottgen