The Kumaon Regiment has its roots in the contingent of Nizams of Hyderabad and its history dates back to 1788. The regiment, thus, has over two centuries of distinguished service in which eight generations of Indians had served. Before Independence, the units of the regiment fought under the British in Palestine, Egypt, Burma, Malaya, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Europe. In the post Independence period, the battalions took part in operations in Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Siachen. Sir Henry Russel, a British resident in the province of Nizams, is credited to be the founder of the regiment.
The senior battalions of the regiment were drawn from the Nizams' contingent and the present fourth and the fifth battalions proudly trace their lineage back to 1788, when they were first raised as the first and second regiments of the then Subedar of Berar, Muhamad Salabat Khan's Ellichpur Brigade. The present second battalion (Berar) too has a proud history of nearly 206 years. It was raised as the 1st Berar Infantry of the Nizams contingent.
Between 1826 and 1903, the Indian Army was reorganized thrice. The Nizams' contingent was renamed as the Hyderabad Contingent. In 1922, the Indian Army was reorganized again and Hyderabad Contingent was renamed as the 19th Hyderabad Regiment. More importantly, the class composition of battalions was altered. A company each of Kumaonis, Jats, Ahirs and others replaced the Deccan Muslims in each battalion. Thus, those of the Kumaon region supplanted the active links with the Deccan. The year 1923 marked the affiliation of the newly raised 1st Kumaon Rifles, which was drawn from the Royal Garhwal Rifles with the 19th Hyderabad Regiment. Thus, the 1st Kumaon Rifles was composed solely of Kumaoni troops.
During the Battalion Commanders' Conference held on February 12, 1935, a unanimous decision was taken to request the Army Headquarters for changing the name of the regiment from "19th Hyderabad Regiment" to "19th Kumaon Regiment." The proposal was, however, rejected by Army Headquarters for two reasons. First, the case was not projected properly and second, the redesignation of various units and regiments of the Army was finalised only 13 years back in 1922. Army Headquarters so soon did not favour a change.
By Second World War, the process of Indianisation of the Armed Forces gained momentum. The Kumaon regiment was no exception. Gradually, the heroic deeds of its battalions in Burma and Malaya earned the regiment many battle honours like North Africa, North Malaya, Slim River, Burma, Kangaw, Shweli, Magwe, Kama, and Sittang.
As the links with Hyderabad and Deccan began to diminish slowly, the demand to rename the regiment grew. Keeping this in view, on October 27, 1945, the name of the regiment was changed to '19 Kumaon Regiment'. Later, '19' was dropped from the name. Similarly, 1 Kumaon Rifles, having been completely amalgamated, was redesignated as the third battalion of the regiment, with Kumaon Rifles in brackets. Thus, October 27 is observed as Kumaon Day.
When Kashmir Valley was invaded by Pakistan immediately after the attainment of Independence, Kumaon Regiment rose to the occasion and played a key role in thwarting the large-scale infiltration from across the border. Maj Som Nath Sharma's company, battling all odds, did not allow the enemy to capture Srinagar airfield at Badgam. However, he had to lay down his life. Maj Som Nath Sharma, for his gallant action, was honoured with Param Vir Chakra posthumously. In the same vein, Maj Gen KS Thimmaya, the then GOC of 19 Infantry Division, moved tanks across Zojila Pass to chase away the infiltrators.
A total of 106 jawans out of 111 men of a single company of the Kumaon Regiment died defending 'chusul' against Chinese attack in 1962. The 1962 war saw an active participation of 6 and 13 Kumaon at Walong and Rezang-La in Ladakh. At Rezang-La, 114 other ranks saw action out of which 106 soldiers laid down their lives. This was a matchless feat in the history of sacrifice of any regiment and it was well recognised the world over. It was here that Maj Shaitan Singh of 13 Kumaon laid down his life in action. He was honoured posthumously with Param Vir Chakra for his exemplary leadership. At Walong, 6 Kumaon led the action against the Chinese. In 1965, the regiment again proved its mettle.
Four Kumaon, one of the most decorated and oldest battalions of Indian Army, was the first battalion of Army to be presented Colours on April 7, 1961 for its glorious deeds and unique performance, both in peace and war, by the first President of India, late Dr Rajendra Prasad. On October 27, 1970, 14 Battalion of the regiment also received Colours at Ranikhet from the then President, late Mr VV Giri.
November 1970 was a turning point in the history of the regiment. The Naga Regiment, raised at Ranikhet, was affiliated to the Kumaon Regiment. This was a unique honour. The Kumaon Regiment was selected on the demand of Nagas. It was the Kumaon units, which won the hearts and minds of Naga brethren during counter-insurgency operations in 1950s, and 60s in Northeast. A Scouts Battalion joined the regiment from Border Scouts in 1981 and was designated Kumaon Scouts.
In 1971 war against Pakistan, battalions of the Kumaon and Naga Regiments played significant role in helping Bangladesh to attain freedom. During operation Blue Star, the regiment won many laurels including two Ashok Chakra (posthumously) by Maj Bhukant Mishra and Nk Nirbhay Singh of 15 Kumaon. The regiment also performed admirably in operation Pawan and won one Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, one Vir Chakra, one Yudh Seva Medal, seven Sena Medals, one Bar to Sena Medal, eight Mentions-in-Despatches, 12 Chief of Army Staff and 7 GOC commendation cards. It was the Kumaonis who were the chosen ones to meet the operational requirements in Siachen Glacier and Bila Fond La during operation Meghadoot.
In Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir operations, the regiment distinguished again. Sub Sujjan Singh of 13 Kumaon who died while fighting against insurgents in 1994 won the third Ashok Chakra of the regiment. The fourth Nk Rambeer Singh Tomar of 15 Kumaon who was posted to 26 Rashtriya Rifles in Doda district won Ashoka Chakra. The gallant soldiers fought with the same spirit during operation Vijay.
With a modest beginning, the regiment has grown manifold over the years. It has in its fold Naga and Rashtriya Rifles battalions, Kumaon Scouts, Territorial Army units, a Parachute and Mechanised Infantry unit each, a Naval ship and a tank Regiment.
Thirteen Kumaon was inducted into the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia-Eritrea (UNMEE) in July 2004. It took over the central sector of Eritrea from 15 Sikh Light Infantry battalion. It remained in the mission area till mid-August 2005. The unit, which earned international fame at Rezang La in Ladakh during 1962 Indo-China war, continues to excel in its overseas mission area. Another noteworthy is the fact that a Kumaon Regiment officer, Maj Gen Rajender Singh, had recently taken over as the new Force Commander of UNMEE, which is a matter of pride not only for the Kumaon Regiment but also for the Indian Army and the nation.
The central sector of Eritrea is the most difficult sector of UNMEE. This sector comprises rugged hills and mountains, some of them as high as 9000 feet. The temperature here rises upto 68° Celsius in summer. With the battalion headquarters along with one company located at Adigrat in Ethiopia, the rest of the battalion occupied various forward posts within and outside the temporary security zone (TSZ) running all along the central sector of the Ethiopia-Eritrea border. This was perhaps the only case in the history of UN peacekeeping where a battalion headquarters was operating from a different country while its troops are deployed in another country.
The Kumaon Regiment provided a Force Reserve Company (FRC) to cater to various operational, administrative and ceremonial requirements of the UNMEE Force Headquarters (FHQ) that was located at Asmara, capital of Eritrea. The Force Reserve Company, represented by the 'C' or 'Rezang La' company, was co-located with the FHQ. It is independent of INDBATT and comes directly under FHQ. Within 48 hours of arrival in the mission area, the company was launched for a search-and-rescue mission in aid of a missing International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) representative who was washed away in a flash flood. The company was earmarked to carry out such humanitarian tasks set by FHQ in various contingencies. It also provided personnel for escort duties and ceremonial guards. It had its moment of glory when it was asked to present a guard of honor to the UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan.
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