British general’s wife pays Indian debt

British general’s wife pays Indian debt

- Tribute to Gorkha soldiers

Gilley Horsford and Lt Frank Trevor Morley at the war memorial. Picture by Gajinder Singh

In the 150th year of Indian sepoys’ war with their colonial masters, a British woman today paid a tearful homage to a band of sub-continental soldiers who have been a byword for loyalty and bravery to her countrymen.

Gilley Horsford said she came to Subathu, where the First Gorkha Rifles is based, to honour the last wish of her dead husband, Major General D.G.T. Horsford, who served in the regiment before Independence.

“I have come here not only to pay tribute to a great battalion but also to keep my husband’s promise to visit Subathu that he made just before he passed away on October 5 this year. He asked me to make it to the reunion,” an emotional Gilley told the regiment’s four-yearly reunion function.

With Gilley, who mingled with the soldiers and officers, was Frank Trevor Morley of the British Soldiers’ Association. Both placed wreaths at the Gorkha Memorial.

“I wish to be here when the battalion celebrates 200 years of its existence,” the 89-year-old Morley said.

The First Gorkha Rifles was raised in 1815. During the early 19th century, the Gorkha kings of Nepal had extended their empire into the Kumaon, Garhwal and Kangra hills, bringing them into direct confrontation with the British East India Company.

In 1815, the British defeated the Gorkhas but were impressed with the skill and courage of the troops of general Amar Singh Thapa during the siege of the Malaun Fort in Bilaspur.

The East India Company raised a Gorkha regiment with the survivors of Thapa’s army, calling it the First Nusseree (friendly or loyal) battalion, at Subathu on April 24, 1815. The second battalion was raised on February 19, 1886.

After Independence, some Gorkha troops joined the Indian Army and some the British Army as the Brigade of Gurkhas. The Indian Army rechristened the regiment the First Gorkha Rifles and raised the third, fourth and fifth battalions in 1959, 1963 and 1965.

Major General Horsford was president of a Gorkha soldiers’ association in Britain.

“This is not just a reunion for those who have served the regiment. The main aim is to reunite the past and the present officers and soldiers with each other. Old British officers have made the effort to attend these reunions,” Major General P.C.S. Khati of the regiment said.

British officers and their wives still come to the Regimental Reunions of the Indian Army and it is a great pleasure having them at the Reunions.

This is not only applicable for Gorkha units, but also the Regiments the British officers served in before the Independence.

The association will continue and hopefully their children would also continue the same association.
Good post Ray.

My family have a long tradition of service in India, not as anything glorious but just as ordinary squaddies. My paternal Grand-dad still cheers for India in the Olympics (much to the dismay of my Dad who is not one for sentimentality at the best of times!). It would be an absolute tradegy if the mutual respect felt between Indian and British soldiers was to die in the light of modern political spin. Those of us lucky enough to be brought up on stories of India respect you greatly and we hope that you still feel the same way about us.
Oh sure, we have great regards for the British and the traditions they left behind for us. Inspite of changed circumstances, we still maintain the traditions.

In fact, I am writing an article on the falling standards and why it is so. One of the reasons of all these problems that we are facing is because of the hectic life being led wherein every two years, you are up in the frontline bunkers or fighting terrorists. This type of deployment does not allow good cohesiveness that is required to build regimental spirit. Without regimental spirit, one takes the Army as a career and not a calling and I feel that is what is making the difference.

Further, many marry before 25 and miss out on the Officers Mess bonding.

I sure would like to hear as to what is it like in the British Army and what is done to build camaraderie of the type that binds your units.

Another problem is that people in Armies the world over and more so in the Indian Army, want to ape the US Army, its tactics and its lexicon. While the US Army is good, it lacks that "something" (I am being PC).
I'll leave others to answer the deeper questions and confine myself to saying that a small flicker of the old Indian army still lives with us in Britain today - the mess curry nights, the slang (like 'dhobi' for washing), the Regimental days when we remember people and places far from us like Seringapatam and Mudki and the banners and standards of old adversaries that we honour in our churches even more than our own. I have absolutely no doubt that one day soon India will rise to be a global power whilst Britain continues to steadily decline. But no matter who happens to be on top at any particular moment, I would hope that the British soldier and the Indian soldier share an emotional bond that no amount of political skull-duggery can ever extinguish.
The record speaks for itself. During WWI, the Indian Army suffered 145,000 casualties including 74,000 killed. During WWII, the Indian Army suffered 100,000 casualties including 36,000 killed. The shared heritage, sacrifices and mutual respect of our respective Armed Forces should never be forgotten.

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