Christopher Trevelyan © King-
The Indian Army on campaign 1900-
by Andrew Templer*
Gurkha Officer (2/6th Gurkhas) -
Gurkha Officer (6th Gurkhas) -
HISTORY OF THE BATTALION
At the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, the Gurkha Brigade consisted of the ten Gurkha Regiments each of two battalions. As the war intensified and spread and as the numbers of casualties mounted, the Brigade expanded and all the Regiments raised additional battalions.
At the beginning of 1918 it was decided to form an additional Gurkha regiment in the Middle East. The new regiment, initially designated as the 11th Gurkha Rifles, was to consist of four battalions raised from drafts from those Gurkha battalions already serving in Mesopotamia and Palestine. The decision was not, at first, popular with the British Officers of the regiments affected most of whom would have preferred to see the additional battalions formed within the existing regiments. However, the decision went ahead and, in May 1918, ~the 11th Gurkha Rifles was formed.
1st Battalion. Raised on 18 May 1918 at Kut-
2nd Battalion. Raised 24 May 1918 at Kut-
3rd Battalion. Raised at Baghdad on 26 May 1918 from drafts from 2/9GR, 1/1OGR and one company each from 1/39 and 2/39 Garhwal Rifles. This proved to be an unhappy mix which initially caused some problems which were finally resolved by replacing the Garhwalis with Gurkhas from 1/7GR, 1/9GR and 1/10GR.
4th Battalion. Raised in Palestine on 24 May 1918 by the transfer of one company each from 1/LGR, 2/3GR, 3/3GR and 2/7GR.
In August 1918, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions left Mesopotamia for India where they were stationed at Manmad in the Bombay Presidency. Whilst at Manmad the battalions were made up to strength in British Officers a number of whom came from British battalions serving in India. The 4th Battalion remained in Palestine.
At the end of 1918, 1/XIGR, together with 2/XIGR, moved from Manmad to the Northern Command area. Both battalions were stationed at Nowshera as part of the 2nd (Nowshera) Brigade, the other two battalions of which were the 2nd Battalion The North Staffordshire Regiment and 123rd Outram’s Rifles.
The Battalion, which had a very high proportion of men who had seen active service in Egypt, Gallipoli, France, Mesopotamia and Palestine, quickly gained the reputation of being an efficient and happy unit. It also had a fine sporting record with a football team that beat all—comers, British, Gurkha and Indian.
On 3 May 1919, troops of the Afghan Army crossed the frontier at the head of the Khyber Pass and occupied the village of Bagh and the springs nearby that provided the water for the garrison of Landi Kotal. These were the opening moves of what was to develop into the The Third Afghan War.
On 6 May the Battalion was warned to prepare for mobilization. A depot was formed which later moved to Abbottabad. On 7 May, orders were received to mobilize at once and to move to Jamrud which it reached in the early morning of 8 May. No sooner had the Battalion arrived than it was ordered to move at once by motor transport to Landi Kotal, taking only ammunition, water and rations.
On 9 May, 1/XIGR and the 15th Sikhs attacked and captured the Afghan positions at Bagh Springs. Although this freed the water supply for Landi Kotal it failed to dislodge the Afghans from their main positions.
On 11 May, the Brigade attacked the Afghan’s main positions on Khargali Ridge and Kaffir Kot. The assault was carried Out by 1/XIGR, 2/XIGR and The North Staffordshire Regiment with 123rd Outram’s Rifles in reserve. By mid—day all objectives had been captured and the enemy. forced to retire in disorder, abandoning their guns and much equipment. Although the Afghan regulars showed little inclination to stand and fight, this was not the case with the tribesmen, Shinwaris, who could not resist joining in. Total casualties for the Brigade were 924, mostly wounded.
Of the guns captured by the Battalion, a Gardiner machine gun was later presented to the 1/6GR and a mountain gun to the 1/5GR.
Two days after the battle, 1/XIGR formed part of the advance guard for the move of the 2nd Brigade to Loe Dakka. The next two and a half months were spent at Landi Khana on routine piqueting and road protection duties. During this period the Battalion also provided the escort for the Boundary Commission whose job it was to mark the new boundary with stone pillars. In September the Battalion finally marched back through the Khyber Pass to Nowshera and then, in early 1920, to Abbottabad..
However, they were not to remain there long as, once again, Afghanistan posed a threat, this time at the head of the Kurram Valley where they took up positions overlooking Peiwar Kotal. 1/XIGR and 1/5CR moved to Kohat and then on to Darsamand further up the valley. As the Afghans declined to withdraw, l/XIGR were ordered to advance to Parachinar. This had the desired effect and the Afghans withdrew, leaving the Battalion to enjoy a stay in this pleasant area before returning to Abbottabad.
In June 1920 1/XIGR was hurriedly sent to Iraq to help quell the Arab rebellion that had broken out there. The rebellion was put down but only after the Battalion had seen some sharp fighting for which it was congratulated on its conduct. Lt Col Johnson, who had been awarded the DSO for service in the 3rd Afghan War, received Brevet promotion and Lt R Faulkner a bar to his MC.Early in 1921 the Battalion sailed for India and returned to Abbottabad where it remained until disbandment in July 1921.
THE 1/XI GURKHA RIFLES TITLE & BADGE
When it was formed the Regiment was officially designated as 11th Gurkha Rifles (11GR), but it soon became confused with the 1/1st Gurkha Rifles (1/1GR). An officer who had joined 1/11GR from 1/1GR found that his bank account had been credited twice with the same amount in the same month, one to 1/lGR and the other to 1/11GR. When he pointed out the error, he was curtly told that there was no mistake. However, when it came to the ears of the Army Commander, the paymaster concerned was told to put the matter straight at his own cost and the officer was told to keep the bonus. Even the Gazette of India was guilty of confusing the titles. To avoid any further confusion the Regiment decided to ,use the Roman figure ‘XI’ in its title.
The XI Gurkha Rifles had no official badge of its own. All ranks continued to wear the badges and buttons of their parent units. However, it did have a badge to head its note paper. This was crossed kukris, blade edges up, with ‘Xl’ between and ‘Gurkha Rifles’ on a scroll below. (This badge was adopted by the 11th Gorkha Rifles when it was reformed by the Indian Army in 1948). However, there is at least one photograph of a British Officer wearing a cap badge of similar design but without the scroll. It is probable that some, if not all, battalions may have had badges made unofficially at their own expense.
* Andrew Templer is the grandson of Captain Harold Edward Templer, who was an officer with the 1st Battalion, 11th Gurkhas Rifes, and is pictured above.
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