The cuttack legion and beyond


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This painting by the artist Robert Jones was commissioned as a gift for the Curator, The Gurkha Museum, Major Gerald Davies on his retirement on 5 July 2013. The painting covers key periods in the history of the 6th Queen Elizabeth’s Own Gurkha Rifles that was raised on 16 May 1817 in Orissa State (some 200 miles south west of Calcutta) as a local corps to keep order in the area. It was titled The Cuttack Legion. The image of the sepoy (second left) was most likely to be from the era of 1823 when the title of the Regiment was changed to Rangpur Local Battalion, then the 8th Rangpur Light Infantry. It was thought that The Cuttack Legion may have worn scarlet jackets, however, in 1823 rifle green was worn as the Light Infantry uniform.

In 1823, The First Burma War broke out when the Burmese invaded India from Manipur and Chittagong. The Regiment was employed on the North East Frontier with Burma, gained its first experience of the Assam area where it was to serve on many occasions during its early years. Fighting continued until; February 1826. A medal was struck by the East India Company and the Battle Honour ‘ASSAM’. For some unknown reason the Regiment never carried that Battle Honour. From 1826 until 1856 the Regiment continued to serve in Assam as part of the new garrison formed to fight the local tribes. The Regiment changed its name in 1827 to Assam Light Infantry, then in 1844, became the 1st Assam Light Infantry. After the Indian Mutiny the Army was reorganised with the disbandment of the East India Company and the Regiment ceased to be an irregular corps. A number of title changes resulted in the 42nd Assam Regiment of Native Infantry (Light Infantry). Khaki uniform was introduced in 1860 for the first time. In 1871 the Long Enfield rifle (then Short Enfield in 1872, followed by the Snider) and Colours were issued to the Regiment. The painting of the Rifleman on the left depicts a soldier of the 42nd Gurkha Light Infantry in 1886 when the Regiment was based in Shillong, with detachments at Tezpur, Gauhati and Jowai.

The Regiment became the 42nd Rifle Regiment of Bengal Infantry in March 1891. In 1896, the Presidency Army system was abolished and the Regiment was transferred to the Punjab Command. After 77 years in Assam, the Regiment moved to Abbottabad. In October 1903 the Regiment was titled 6th Gurkha Rifles. The Rifleman on the right is of the era of World War 1. The .303 Lee-Enfield Mark IV was issued in 1903, along with the bandoliers. The khaki hat felt Gurkha was issued in 1907 for Field Service Order.
The Rifleman second from right is in World War 11 dress for Burma. It was not until the end of 1942 that new equipment began to arrive. The 2nd Battalion served in the Middle East and Italy. The 3rd Battalion was formed in October 1940 and deployed to the Khyber Pass on Frontier duties before serving, in March 1943 on Chindit operations. The 4th Battalion served in Manipur where the Regiment had served previously in 1891.

The centre figure is a Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officer. From the time of his Coronation in 1901 King Edward VII commanded that he be attended by six Indian Army Orderly Officers. The year following the Coronation the number was reduced to four, and from that time onwards until the outbreak of war in 1939, the four 'King's Indian Orderly Officers' were annually in attendance on the Sovereign. Gurkhas shared this honour with Rajputs, Mahrattas, Pathans, Sikhs and other chosen representatives of the British Indian Army. In 1910 these Indian Orderly Officers (two of whom were Gurkhas at the time) took their turn with the officers of the Household Cavalry and the Foot Guards to stand guard at the catafalque in the Great Hall of Westminster at the King's Lying-in-State. Rudyard Kipling immortalised this event in a short story called "In the Presence’.

On 11 March 1954, Her Majesty reintroduced this practice by commanding that two Gurkha Officers should be nominated annually as 'The Queen's Gurkha Orderly Officers', and requiring them to attend Her Majesty at official functions from time to time. Since then two Queen's Gurkha Orderly Officers have been nominated every year. Among those who have served in these appointments was the great grandson of one of the Gurkha officers mentioned in Kipling's story, and two others whose fathers have also been Queen's Gurkhas Orderly Officers before them.

It is an honour to be chosen for this appointment and the highest standards are looked for in the officers selected to fill the post. Her Majesty has appointed all Queen's Gurkhas Orderly Officers to be Members of the Royal Victorian Order.


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