From Raj era to Pakistan wars & Kashmir — 4 Rajputana Rifles marks 200 years after Covid delay

New Delhi: The 4th Battalion (Outram’s) Rajputana Rifles is celebrating 200 years of existence this year, two years after its centenary, which could not be observed earlier because of Covid.

The unit traces its history to Baji Rao Peshwa’s Poonah Auxiliary Infantry, which was raised in 1812 at erstwhile Poonah and comprised men who were recruited from “the other provinces of Hindoostan”, according to a coffee table book released to mark the occasion.

Unit officers said that, for very old battalions, exact dates are not always easy to indicate and hence there are variations and interpretations. 

The ‘4 Raj Rif’ is no exception, they added. While records of the unit date back to 1817, it was officially announced and accepted to be 1820, the officers said.

It was converted to First Battalion Twelfth Regiment, a unit of the East India Company, in May 1820, and has been in continuous existence since then. 

General James Outram’s name became an official part of the unit’s nomenclature in 1903, four decades after his death. He joined the battalion as a young officer and carried out the duties of adjutant at the time of its formation. His last post in 

India was as military member of the viceroy’s council. 

The unit’s designation has changed 10 times over 200 years, besides 13 changes to its regimental crest.

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Many an honour in its history

According to the official history, during the course of its journey, the unit has been honoured with 29 battle and theatre honours. The unit has earned 113 individual awards after 1947, and 346 before Independence.

There have been seven occasions in its history when the unit has taken over 200 casualties.

The First World War saw the unit raise two other battalions that were later merged back. It also showed a “sterling performance” in Palestine at the time, according to unit officers.

After 4 years of relentless action in the Second World War, it became the first unit to return to India from Italy. 

It was then personally received at the Delhi Cantt Railway Station by the then Army chief, Gen. Claude Auchinleck.

It is said that the unit made history so often — giving the British Empire a cause to smile when losses and defeats abounded that 4 Raj Rif was given the sobriquet “Fleet Street Battalion”.

It was the first Indian battalion to be converted, en masse, into a parachute battalion. It was chosen to present a guard of honour on the disbandment of the then Parachute Regiment in 1946.

After Independence, its ‘A’ Company [from pre-Partition 3/1 Punjab unit] operated under the 50 Parachute Brigade, earning a Vir Chakra and three mentions in despatches.

It was a part of the Indian Army team that participated in the merger of Hyderabad State to the Indian Union in 1948.

In 1962, it was part of the UN Mission in the Congo. 

On 15-16 September 1965, 4 Raj Rif, without any armour support, withstood and repelled six enemy counter attacks at Alhar Railway Station in Pakistan’s Sialkot.

This was the deepest Indian ingress during the war, and cut the Lahore-Sialkot railway line, which happened to be Pakistan’s designated Limit of Penetration.

The 1971 war saw this battalion in an eyeball-to-eyeball contact with the enemy in Uri.

In the late 1980s, when the trouble in Kashmir erupted, the unit received the Chief of the Army Staff’s Unit Citation for its operations. 

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

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Source: The Print