Lure of Duty: A Tale of The Grenadiers

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

“Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar.”


-Sir Winston Churchill, Arm Yourselves and Be Ye Men of Valour, BBC Radio Broadcast 19 May 1940



Introduction


The Indian Army soldier is imbued with a set of principles that motivates him or her to confront a variety of obstacles and hardships, and, when the time comes, to make the ultimate sacrifice in the service of the Nation. All soldiers are imbued with the Army's ethos, which includes an unrelenting will to achieve, acceptance of their duty, and an unfettered willingness to devote their life to others. The Indian Army's most unifying factor continues to be cohesiveness and tradition. This fusion of each Regiment’s identity and centuries-old traditions of sacrificial courage is contagious. The Indian Army has often demonstrated its courage, heroism, sacrifice, and fortitude. It stands vigil at the border, vigilant and willing to make any sacrifice necessary to ensure that the country's people live in peace and dignity. That and much more is the Indian Army.


On the Grenadiers


Without any ideological commitments and narcotised by the scent of blood, the Indian Army's Grenadiers regiment was committed to any arbitrary cause that pitted them against armed foes. In other words, they were and continue to be the dream of field marshals and the nightmare of pacifists. They are also totally, stubbornly unkillable. At numerous theatres of battles they have seen, yet never, ever to be honoured by the blood-red flora despite decades of military duty. As one account suggests, the Grenadiers were founded in 1656 in Bruges, Spanish Netherlands, as the Grenadier Guards. They were composed of English Royalists who acted as bodyguards for exiled King Charles II. A second regiment was founded after the Restoration in 1660, and by 1665, the two were united to become the Grenadier Guards Regiment, which consisted of twenty-four companies. The Indian Army is home to the Commonwealth's oldest Grenadier Regiment. The term 'Grenadiers' originated from the practice of assigning the most courageous and strongest troops to the riskiest combat missions. The Grenadiers have the Indian Army's longest continuous existence in war. Their insignia and name bear resemblance to none other. Their insignia signifies peace in the form of a White Horse of Hanover-homage to the yesteryears and use of white horses as a signal of peace or renunciation of war as further means of dispute resolution or perhaps, a symbol of British heraldry. The insignia also has a grenade at its very centre and 17 upwards spokes underpinning their battle cry "Sarvada Shaktishali" (Ever Powerful).


However, no further mention of this unit was made. The Bombay Army in 1710 consisted of five companies of "Europeans, topasses (Indian Christians), and coffrees (Kaffirs)," the first of which was a European grenadier company. This company was absorbed into the Bombay European Regiment, which was dissolved later that year. Robert Clive founded the 1st Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry in 1757, which included two grenadier companies; nevertheless, no regiments of grenadiers were formed from the Bengal Army until 1779, when a battalion was formed. Since then, it has fought valiantly in every conflict, both domestic and foreign. Before 1947, the Grenadiers fought in every major conflict waged by the British on the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere. Among the international wars are those fought in Afghanistan, Burma, Yemen, Palestine, and Africa and China. Before World War I, it was awarded 17 significant combat honours. Srirangapatnam, Egypt, Beni Boo Alli, Kirkee, Abyssinia, Kandahar, Burma, and Somaliland are among them. The astonishing number of bravery awards received by its tall and stout Grinders (Grenadiers are sometimes referred to as Grinders) demonstrates the material from which they are constructed.


On War


Posthumously, Company Quarter Master Havildar Abdul Hamid was awarded the highest wartime heroism honour, the Param Vir Chakra. While his citation credits him with the destruction of three tanks, he destroyed no less than seven enemy tanks. This is because the citation for Abdul Hamid's PVC was issued on the evening of 9 September 1965, yet he destroyed three further tanks the previous day, in addition to the seventh that killed him. The medal was presented on 16 September 1965, less than a week after he lost his life in combat. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, India's then-President, handed the honour to his wife, Rasoolan Bibi, at the 1966 Republic Day Parade.


Major Hoshiar Singh carried on the illustrious lineage to the greatest degree by obtaining the Param Vir Chakra during the Battle of Basantar (Jarpal) in the 1971 western theatre's third round against Pakistan. As one account suggests, not one, but two Param Virs emerged from the Battle of Basantar; on one flank of Jarpal, while Major Hoshiar Singh was fending off infantry counter-attacks one by one, a young subaltern, Second Lieutenant Arun Khetrapal of Poona Horse, took on the enemy armour within 200 yards and knocked down enemy tanks one by one until his tank was hit, and the fearless boy from Poona Horse perished with his tank named 'Famagusta'. Following the war, the Indian Army made the right move in posting Major Hoshiar Singh, PVC, to the Indian Military Academy as a company commander, Sinhgarh Company, where he served as an inspiration to the cadets and transformed the company into a champion company for the majority of his stay. Later in his career, as Colonel, he distinguished himself by commanding 3 Grenadiers, his unit.


On the night of 3 July 1999, Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav was a member of the main force of a Ghatak Platoon tasked with capturing Tiger Hill. The ascent was steep, snow-covered, and rocky. Unaware of the risk, Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav offered to lead and install the rope for his men to climb up. When the enemy saw the team, they fired a barrage of automatic, grenade, rocket, and artillery fire, killing the Commander and two of his comrades and immobilising the platoon. Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav, realising the seriousness of the situation, crept up to the enemy position to quiet it, suffering many gunshot wounds in the process. Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav kept ascending towards hostile positions, hurled grenades, and fired from his weapons, killing four enemy troops in close battle and silencing the automatic fire. He refused to be evacuated despite many bullet wounds and maintained the charge. Inspire by his valour, the platoon renewed its assault on the opposing positions and secured Tiger Hill Top. Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav displayed extraordinary heroism, undying gallantry, resilience, and resolve in the face of adversity.


Decorations


During World Wars I and II, the unit received around 22 combat honours. These include The Battle of Sharqat, the East Africa campaign, Fort Dufferin in Mandalay, the Battle of Meiktila, Kohima, and Taungtha in Myanmar are among the major honours. Since 1947, the Regiment has fought in every major conflict. Among the many combat honours, it has received are those for the Asal Uttar campaign in 1965, the Chakra campaign in 1971, and the Tololing & Tiger Hill campaign in 1999. During the British administration, two members of the regiment were awarded the Indian Order of Merit. Subedar Rahim Khan was decorated in April 1918 for his valour in Palestine against the Ottoman army, while Naik Shivlal Dalal was honoured in 1933. Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav is the Regiment's sole living PVC recipient and the youngest recipient ever. The other two recipients are Company Quarter Master Havildar Abdul Hamid of the 4th Grenadiers, who was recognised for his supreme sacrifice during the 1965 Indo-Pak War, and Major Hoshiar Singh of the 3rd Grenadiers, who was recognised for his indomitable fighting spirit during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. Yadav of the 18th Grenadiers was decorated for his valour during the 1999 Kargil War.


The Grenadiers have the uncommon and illustrious distinction of having the most Param Vir Chakras, India's highest valour award, among all the Indian Army's Infantry Regiments. Additionally, the Grenadiers have been awarded two Ashok Chakras, seven Maha Vir Chakras, four Kirti Chakras, two Param Vishisht Seva Medals, two Ati Vishisht Seva Medals, two Uttam Yudh Seva Medals, thirty-three Vir Chakras, sixteen Shaurya Chakras, three Yudh Seva Medals, seventy one Sena Medals, and twenty-seven Vishisht Seva Medals.


Victoria Cross


Captain George Murray Rolland, 22 April 1903, Daratoleh, Somaliland


Indian Order of Merit


Subedar Rahim Khan, Palestine (against Turkey), April 1918[6]

Naik Shivlal Dalal (1933)


Param Vir Chakra Recipients


Company Quarter Master Havildar Abdul Hamid, 4th Grenadiers – 1965.

Major Hoshiar Singh, 3rd Grenadiers – 1971.

Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav, 18th Grenadiers – 1999.


Maha Vir Chakra Recipients


Major Rajesh Adhikari, MVC (Posthumous), 18 Grenadiers, Kargil War (Operation Vijay) 1999.

Colonel Balwan Singh, MVC, 18 Grenadiers, Kargil War (Operation Vijay) 1999.

Brigadier Rai Singh Yadav, MVC, 2 Grenadiers, Nathu La and Cho La clashes 1967.

2nd Lieutenant GVP Rao, MVC (Posthumous), 4 Grenadiers, Sino-Indian War 1962.

Major Dharam Vir Singh, MVC, 8 Grenadiers, Indo-Pak War of 1971.

Lieutenant General Ved Prakash Airy, MVC, 3 Grenadiers, Indo-Pak War of 1971 (Battle of Basantar).


Ashok Chakra Recipients

Major Rajiv Kumar Joon, 22 Grenadiers.

Rakesh Singh (soldier), 22 Grenadiers.



Let me end by recounting a song sung by British Grenadiers during the American Revolution:


“Some talk of Alexander, and some of Hercules,

Of Hector and Lysander, and such great names as these,

But of all the world's brave heroes, there's none that can compare,

with the tow, row, row, row, row, row, for the Grenadier.”




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