Most of us are not really familiar with the (Indian) military and its ways. For example, is a Rajput regiment composed of only Rajputs (khatris)? Look deep and ye shall find.
The “barhe chalo” regiment was raised during the WWII by Field Marshall Cariappa and fought in the North-Eastern Frontier (Kohima, Nagaland on the Indo-Burma border) against the mighty battalions of the Japanese Imperial Army. They will now be prepared to defend the north-east frontier once more, this time against the mighty battalions of the People’s Liberation Army.
battalions of the Rajput Regiment, 17 Rajput has a unique place in present day
history of the Indian Army. It was raised during the period of Quit India
Movement in 1942. It was also among 10 other Rajput Battalions that were raised
following outbreak of World War-II from 1940 to 1943.”
In so far as its historical significance is concerned, 17/7 Rajput as it was
then known, was the only ‘War Raising’ battalion by any Indian officer who was
none other than Lt col KM Cariappa, OBE, popularly called ‘Kipper’ who went on
to become the first Indian commander-in-chief and later the chief of army
staff. He was also conferred the highest rank of field marshal on April 28,
17/7 Rajput was raised at Fatehgarh on April 15, 1942 as the Machine Gun Battalion
of the erstwhile 7th Rajput Regiment. A distinctive colour of maroon and blue
was adopted for the new outfit. On August 1, 1942, the battalion was converted
into a Regiment of Indian Armoured Corps (IAC) and designated 52nd Rajput
Regiment IAC (Bawanja Risala) and moved to Lahore.
On September 15, 1942, the battalion was converted into a ‘Lorried Battalion’
and moved to Secunderabad to form part of 268th Lorried Brigade. On March 16,
1943, Kipper was transferred and succeeded by Lt Col G.B. Macnamara. In May
1944, 17/7 Rajput moved to Kohima and later deployed at Imphal.
Informed readers may know that Rajput Regiment is one among the senior most
regiments of our country. It must therefore, logically, rank higher in the
hierarchy of the nomenclatures. Then why the seventh standing? Evidently, Maj Gen Parr, who had commanded the 7th Rajput in Mesopotamia during
world war-I desired that the Regiment to which his battalion belonged be named
7th Rajput Regiment. The suffix ‘7’ was adopted and remained so for all
battalions of the Rajput Regiment between 1920 till Independence, where after
it was dropped altogether.
In the redesignations that followed, Barhe Chalo became 17th Battalion of the
Rajput regiment on May 1, 1948. Later when its founding father, Lt Gen KM
Cariappa became Army Chief on January 15, 1950 (commemorated as Army Day), an
honour was bestowed on the battalion. The distinct maroon and royal blue hackle
of the unit was now adopted by all Rajput Regiment battalions.
Chalo participated in Op Riddle as part of 7th Infantry Division, where it
successfully executed its task of capturing Bedian bridge. The unit also
participated in Op Cactus Lily in 1971 as part of 86 Infantry Brigade in Dera
Baba Nanak sector, where it captured Khokherke and Sadhuwan posts of enemy and
provided a firm base for Op Akal. The unit was also successful in capturing a
crucial enemy post for which Capt Nawal Singh Rajawat and Late Sep Satyawan
Singh were awarded VrC.
In 1982, the battalion underwent a change in class composition and reorganised
to include Rajputs, Gujjars, Brahmins, Bengalis, Jats, Ahirs and Muslims in
equal percentage composition.
The battalion was also the first unit of Rajput Regiment to be inducted in
Siachen Glacier in 1991. The unit had a successful tenure without having a
single fatal casualty, which indeed is a unique achievement.
Among the wars and major operations that Barhe Chalo participated include world
war-II, between May to August 1944, Indo-Pak War of 1965 between September 1965
to February 1966 and Indo-Pak War 1971, from October to December 1971. Among
the various military operations include Operatons Orchid, Rhino, Vijay, Rakshak
Glory to the Barhe Chalo has been brought through its gallant officers and
soldiers through 2 Military Cross, an OBE and PVSM each, 7 Kirti Chakras, an
AVSM, 4 Shaurya Chakras, 3 Vir Chakras, 12 Sena Medals, 3 VSM, 6
Mention-in-Despatches, 38 COAS, 7 VCOAS and 33 GOC-in-C Commendation Cards
including several other gallantry certificates.
The battalion is presently serving at an undisclosed high altitude location
standing vigil under Eastern Command. The Barhe Chalo battalion is presently
being commanded by Colonel Balbir Singh Siwach, a second-generation army
officer, commissioned in December 1990.