6th and 7th Gurkha Rifles – The Beginnings

Gurkhas and the Empire Gallantry Medal and George Cross
May 13, 2020
Gurkha Soldiers and the Anglo-Bhutan War of 1864-65
May 21, 2020

6th and 7th Gurkha Rifles – The Beginnings

At its largest extent in the early 1920’s the Gurkha contingent in the British Indian Army stood at 11 regiments, alongside numerous military police battalions in Burma and several other units with a heavy Gurkha presence. These units had been raised and created in a variety of ways over the 19th and early 20th centuries, increasing in number as the desire for a larger number of Gurkha soldiers increased. The founding day of the regiments which would go on to be named the 6th Queen Elizabeth’s Own Gurkha Rifles and 7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles (both of which are some of the oldest and youngest Gurkha regiments to be formed respectively and which would both be amalgamated into today’s Royal Gurkha Rifles) is, coincidentally enough, shared on May 16th.

6th Gurkha Rifles trace their origins back to the 16th of May 1817, when an irregular force was raised to deal with a rebellion in the region of Cuttack in eastern India, and henceforth named the ‘Cuttack Legion’. This force was not yet specifically a Gurkha force, but would become so over the next 50 years as more and more Gurkha troops were recruited, resulting in a name change to the 42nd Regiment, Goorkha (Light) Infantry in 1886, and eventually the 6th Gurkha Rifles in 1903.

7th Gurkha Rifles by contrast dates its creation to the 16th of May 1902, when a nucleus of several hundred soldiers from the existing 10th Gurkha Rifles, the Burma Military Police and other Gurkha units were formed up at Thayetmyo in Burma and confusingly named the ‘8th Gurkha Rifles’. They then briefly existed as the 2nd Battalion of the 10th Gurkha Rifles, before finally becoming the 7th Gurkha Rifles in 1907.

Both regiments would carry on through both the World Wars and into the British army in 1948 after the independence of India, forming two of the four regiments which became the Royal Gurkha Rifles in 1994.

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