The Kumaon Regiment is one of the most decorated infantry regiments of the Indian Army. The regiment traces its origins to the 18th century and has fought in every major campaign of the British Indian Army and the Indian Army, including the two world wars. The regiments recruits from the Kumaonis of the Kumaon division and the Ahirs from the plains.
Soldiering has been an important profession of the Kumaonis and the region has a long history of warfare with neighbours, including the Garhwalis and the Gurkhas. The Kumaonis were never fully subjugated by the powerful Muslim dynasties of Delhi. They often offered their martial services as mercenaries, and fought on both the British as well as Gurkha sides in the Anglo-Nepalese War
The Kumaonis were in the military of the East India Company from the early 19th century. They often moved to other states in search of military service, including in the service of the Nizam of Hyderabad.
The Nizam's Contingent was formed when Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, brother of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, became Governor-General of India and formed a plan to rid India of French influence. His first action, on arriving in India in 1798, was to effect the disbandment of the Indian units of the Nizam under the command of Monsieur Raymond and officered by non-British Europeans. These soldiers were formed into the British officered Nizam's Contingent that fought at the Battle of Seringapatam in 1799 against Tippu Sultan in the final battle of the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War.
In 1813, Sir Henry Russell, then British Resident in the court of Nizam of Hyderabad, raised the Russell Brigade comprising two battalions. Later, four more battalions were raised and they were known as the Berar Infantry. In addition, two battalions known as the Elichpur Brigade, were raised by Nawab Salabat Khan, Subedar of Berar, as a part of the Nizam's forces. The men of the Russell Brigade were chiefly Hindus, recruited from Oudh and other parts of Uttar Pradesh. Kumaonis, along with other North Indian classes served in the Hyderabad contingent which was raised, trained and led by British officers under Russell, but paid for by the Nizam of Hyderabad.
By 1853, at the time of the signing of a treaty between the Nizam and the British, the Nizam's forces consisted of 8 battalions. The force was renamed as the Hyderabad Contingent, and became part of the British Indian Army, subsequently, becoming the 19th Hyderabad Regiment. Over time, the class composition changed to Kumaonis and Ahirs.
During World War I, a Kumaon battalion was raised at Ranikhet on 23 October 1917 as 4/39th Kumaon Rifles. In 1918, it was redesignated as 1st Battalion, 50th Kumaon Rifles and a second battalion was raised. These were merged with the Hyderabad Contingent into the 19th Hyderabad Regiment in 1923. The first battalion of the 50th Kumaon Rifles survived to become the 1st Kumaon Rifles, and is today the 3rd Battalion, Kumaon Regiment (Rifles) of the Indian Army. Some units of the Berar and Elichpur infantry were demobilized after World War I. However, the Hyderabad Regiment was again expanded during World War II.
On 27 October 1945, after the Second World War, the 19th Hyderabad Regiment was renamed as 19th Kumaon Regiment. Post-independence, it has been known as the Kumaon Regiment.
Two state forces battalions, 4th Gwalior Infantry and Indore Infantry were allocated to the Kumaon Regiment becoming 14 Kumaon (Gwalior) and 15 Kumaon (Indore) respectively.
The Kumaon Regiment has produced three Indian Army Chiefs: General Satyawant Mallannah Shrinagesh (4 Kumaon), General Kodendera Subayya Thimayya (4 Kumaon) and General Tapishwar Narain Raina (14 Kumaon).
The senior battalion, 1 Kumaon, originally raised in March 1813, was converted to the airborne role in 1946. It fought with distinction in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 as 1 Kumaon (Para). It remained a part of the regiment until April 1952 when it was formally inducted into the Parachute Regiment as 3 Para. In 2000, the battalion was converted to special forces as part of the expansion of the special operations forces of the Indian Army, and renamed 3rd Battalion (Special Forces), the Parachute Regiment, or 3 Para (SF).
On 1 November 1970, the Naga Regiment was raised and affiliated with the Kumaon Regiment. The class composition of this regiment comprises Nagas, Kumaonis, Garhwalis and Gurkhas.
A Border Scouts battalion was raised and named as "Kumaon Scouts".
14 Kumaon (Gwalior), was converted to the mechanised infantry role, and transferred to the Mechanised Infantry Regiment, as its 5th Battalion.
World War I
During World War I, the first all Kumaoni battalions were raised. The first was formed in 1917 as the 4/39th (Kumaon) Royal Garhwal Riflesand redesignated in 1918 as the 1st Battalion, 50th Kumaon Rifles when it fought in the Battle of Megiddo (1918). A 2nd Battalion was also raised in 1918 but disbanded in 1923. The Hyderabad Contingent, with its mixed Kumaoni, Jats, Ahirs and Deccan Muslims, continued and fought with distinction in the Great War. In 1922, during the Indian Army reorganisation, the six regiments of the Hyderabad Contingent were renamed as the 19th Hyderabad Regiment and infantry companies formed from the Kumaon region replaced many of the Deccan Muslim-based companies. In 1923 the 1/50th Kumaon Rifles joined the 19th Hyderabad Regiment as the 1st Kumaon Rifles. In 1935 the battalion commanders attempted to have the regiment renamed as the 19th Kumaon Regiment, due to the diminishing links to the Deccan and Hyderabad regions. The request was refused.
World War II
The 19th Hyderabad Regiment in 1939 consisted of four regular battalions; the 1st (Russell's), 2nd (Berar), 4th and The Kumaon Rifles. The Hyderabads expanded during the war adding another eight battalions to the 19th Hyderabad Regiment. Two more battalions, the 1st and 2nd Hyderabad Infantry, were raised as part of the Indian State Forces. The battalions of the 19th Hyderabad Regiment fought in the Middle East, North African Campaign, Persia, Battle of Malaya, Battle of Singapore and Burma Campaign.
The Kumaon Rifles were based in Hong Kong at the beginning of the Second World War but were transferred to the Middle East as part of the 24th Indian Infantry Brigade. The battalion took part in the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran in 1941 under Major-General William Slim. They remained in Persia as part of the garrison throughout the rest of the war.
The 4th Battalion was part of the 12th Indian Infantry Brigade based in Malaya when the Japanese Army invaded in December 1941. The 4/19th Hyderabads were one of the few battalions in Malaya that were relatively well trained in jungle warfare. Although the battalion performed well in the fighting retreat in north-west Malaya, they were practically annihilated at the disastrous Battle of Slim River on 7 January 1942. The few survivors of the 4th Battalion were withdrawn to Singapore where they took part in the brief defence of the islandbefore it surrendered on 15 February 1942.
Indo-Pakistani War of 1947-48
1 and 4 Kumaon was dispatched to Jammu and Kashmir to participate in the defence of Srinigar. 4 Kumaon elements were decisive in the Battle of Badgam.
Sino-Indian War of 1962
Battle of Walong
This was the only battle of the war in which an Indian unit attacked the Chinese, rather than defending. On 14 November 1962, 6 Kumaon attacked and captured Chinese defenses in the Walong sector, Arunachal Pradesh, without any artillery or aerial support.
The Chinese retaliated with artillery and multiple human wave attacks. The Kumaonis were vastly outnumbered by over 10 to 1, but held their ground and repulsed every attack until all their ammunition was exhausted, without any logistical support. They then engaged in hand-to-hand combat, and fought to the last man and bullet. Five times as many Chinese soldiers died in the battle. The Chinese succeeded in retaking the defences when there was no Kumaoni left standing.
Five Vir Chakras were awarded to soldiers from 6 Kumaon for their actions in the battle; the battalion celebrates 14 November as Walong Day.
Battle of Rezang La
C Company, 13 Kumaon, commanded by Maj. Shaitan Singh, made a last stand at the Rezang La pass on 18 November 1962.
The area assigned to C Company was defended by three platoon positions, but the surrounding terrain isolated 13 Kumaon from the rest of the regiment. The Indian artillery was located behind a hill feature blocking the line of fire so the infantry had to fight the battle without artillery support. The Chinese suffered no such disadvantage and brought heavy artillery fire upon C Company.
The Chinese attack, which was expected, came through a dry river bed. It was repulsed with heavy machine gun fire by the Indian soldiers. The Chinese regrouped and attacked persistently with more reinforcements. Maj. Shaitan Singh went from post to post raising the morale of his men and continued to fight even after being seriously wounded. Of C Company's 120 troops, 114 were killed. Of the 6 survivors, 5 were severely injured and captured by the Chinese. A memorial in Rewari claims that 1,300 Chinese soldiers were killed in the battle.
Maj. Shaitan Singh posthumously won the Param Vir Chakra for his actions, the second for the Kumaon Regiment (the first being won by Maj. Somnath Sharma). Other soldiers defending Rezang La who were awarded Vir Chakras were Nk. Hukum Chand (posthumous), Nk. Gulab Singh Yadav, L/Nk. Ram Singh (posthumous), Sub. Ram Kumar and Sub. Ram Chander.
Indo-Pakistan War of 1965
Main article: Indo-Pakistan War of 1965
Battle of Kumaon Hill
Two Kumaon companies captured Kumaon Hill after ousting Pakistani companies from 23 Azad Kashmir and the Special Service Groupfrom the heights on 21 September. Capt. Surendra Shah and Nk. Chander Singh were awarded the Vir Chakra for the battle.
Battle of Maharajke
On 7 September 1965 a Kumaon battalion attacked and captured a Pakistan Army stronghold in village Pagowal, 13 miles inside West Pakistan. On 7 September, 9 Kumaon, under the command of Capt. V.K. Bogra, further advanced and captured Maharajke. Nk. Ganesh Dutt of 9 Kumaon was awarded the Vir Chakra for his role in capturing Maharjke against Pakistani defenses.
Battle of Chhamb
To preempt Pakistani attacks into India, a Kumaon battalion advanced into the Mandiala Heights in West Pakistan at the end of August 1965. Before they had the chance to set up any defenses, the Pakistan Army began a major offensive in the Chhamb sector during the early hours of 1 September, accompanied by massive artillery shelling targeting the Kumaon battalion's positions. There followed an armoured thrust by two Pakistani armoured divisions. Faced with enemy advancing from 3 sides, the battalion held off for a day and a half. On 2 September, the battalion was ordered to withdraw after they had destroyed four Pakistani tanks. One Vir Chakra was awarded for the action.
Indo-Pakistan War of 1971
Main article: Indo-Pakistan War of 1971
Kumaon battalions were deployed and fought on both the Eastern and the Western fronts during the war.
Main article: Siachen Conflict
The Indian Army's initiative to hold the Siachen Glacier consisted of units of the Kumaon Regiment and the Ladakh Scouts. It was led by Maj. R.S. Sandhu, who was awarded the Vir Chakra for his leadership. Capt. Sanjay Kulkarni's unit was the first to land on Bilafond La and hoist the Indian tricolour. Kumaon units were instrumental in Indian success in capturing the glacier and repelling Pakistani attempts to retake it.
Anticipating a Pakistani attack on the glacier at the start of the spring thaw in 1984, a full Kumaon battalion led by Lt. Col. (later Brigadier) D.K. Khanna, marched on foot with full packs and equipment for weeks in the dead of the winter across Zoji La, through the world's toughest terrain, highest altitudes and most forbidding climate. To their credit they achieved this without suffering a serious casualty or a single fallout enroute. They also became the first battalion to operate as a unit in the Nubra Valley and on the Siachen Glacier.
19 Kumaon was the first battalion to hoist the Indian flag on the Saltoro Ridgeline (at Point 5705, an altitude of 18,717 feet) in the face of enemy fire, thus dominating Gyongla (18,655 feet) which was under enemy occupation. On 29 May 1984, 19 Kumaon lost 19 of its best soldiers, including one officer (2Lt. P.S. Poondir), who had volunteered to obey orders which they fully knew could take them to their certain death. During April and May 1984, 19 Kumaon was spread all through the area of Siachen with Capt. Roshan Lal Yadav at the Indira Col, Maj. Shashi Kant Mahajan and Maj. Darshan Lal Julka on the Central Glaciers (Gyongla, Zingrulma Lagongma, and Layogma Glaciers) and Maj. Rajender Singh Hooda in the Urdelop Glacier. 19 Kumaon was thus the first battalion ever to be spread out so much on the glacier (about 100 km), which, perhaps, no other battalion has been subjected to ever since.
Nk. (later Subedar/Honorary Captain) Ram Mehar Singh was awarded the Shaurya Chakra for his gallant role during the move. This turned out to be a vital move that enabled Indian victory in Operation Meghdoot.
Kumaon units were deployed to Sri Lanka during Operation Pawan. A Kumaon battalion was the first Indian Army unit to land in Jaffna at the Palali airfield. It successfully cleared the Kokuvil area, and moving to Mallakam. A number of LTTE militants were killed or captured.
Another battalion was deployed to search and destroy LTTE camps in the Kumurupiddi and Irrakandi areas of the Trincomalee Sector. Among the areas in which Kumaon units were deployed and operated included Kilividdi of Muttur Sector, Sampur, Vellvutturai and Point Pedro.
Kumaon units were deployed during Operation Vijay to oust Pakistan Army regulars who had infiltrated the Kargil sector in Ladakh posing as insurgents. In difficult terrain and hostile weather conditions, they cleared and captured a number of altitude features. The regiment was honored with a number of gallantry awards for the operations.
The list of battle and theatre honours of the Kumaon Regiment are as follows :
Pre-World War I
Nagpore* – Maheidpoor* – Nowah* – Central India* – Burma 1885-87* – China 1900 – Afghanistan 1919.
The Great War
Neuve Chapelle - France and Flanders 1914-15 – Suez Canal – Egypt 19l5-16 – Gaza – Jerusalem – Megiddo – Sharon – Nablus – Palestine 1917-18 – Tigris 1916 – Khan Baghdadi – Mesopotamia 1915-18 – Persia 1915-18 – Suvla – Landing at Suvla – Scimitar Hill – Gallipoli 1915 – Macedonia 1916-18 – E Africa 1914-16 – NW Frontier India 1914-15, 1916–17
The Second World War
North Malaya – Slim River – Malaya 1941-42 – Kangaw – Bishenpur – Burma 1942-45
Jammu and Kashmir
Srinagar – Jammu and Kashmir 1947-48
Chinese Aggression 1962
Rezang La – Ladakh 1962
Indo-Pak Conflict 1965
Sanjoi-Mirpur – Jammu and Kashmir 1965 – Punjab 1965
Indo-Pak Conflict 1971
Bhaduria – Shamsher Nagar – East Pakistan 1971 – Jammu and Kashmir 1971 – Punjab 1971 – Gadra City - Sindh 1971