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History of The Brigade of the Guards
 
FORMATION OF THE BRIGADE
 

 

Soon after the cease-fire in J&K in 1949, Gen KM Cariappa, OBE, decided to form a Guards Brigade in the Army on the lines of Guards units and formations in the western armies. There was no thought of raising new Guards Battalions for this purpose. He looked for four existing infantry battalions which were among the most senior in the army, had an excellent record of fighting, had won a number of battle honours, and built up a tradition of cool courage and valour. He decided to convert these into Guards Battalions. The selection was not an easy matter as a number of battalions qualified for this honour.

 

In May 1949 General Cariappa selected four battalions to be Guards battalions on the basis of their seniority and past history. The order of precedence of infantry battalions in the post partition Indian Army in so far as it relates to these battalions is given in the following paragraph.

 

At the top of the seniority list were the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 2nd Punjab Regiment. (Of these, the 1st/2nd Punjab was to become a Parachute battalion). The 2nd/2nd Punjab, therefore, rightly became the senior battalion for conversion into Guards, and was selected to be the 1st Guards Battalion. The next in order of precedence was the 1st Battalion 4th Bombay Grenadiers which became the 2nd Guards Battalion.

 

Although the 2nd Battalion 4th Grenadiers was the next senior, it was not selected as one Grenadiers battalion had already been chosen for this honour. The next two senior battalions (after the 1st Battalion the 5th Maratha Light Infantry) being the 1st Battalion the 6th Rajputana Rifles and the 1st Battalion the 7th Rajput Regiment were honoured as the 3rd and 4th Guards Battalions respectively.

 

All the four battalions were tempered in the best military traditions, each having won twenty or more battle honours, and vying with one another for honours as well as richness of heritage. As in the western armies, these four Guards Battalions were given seniority over all battalions of the Army. Thus the Guards Brigade became the senior most among infantry regiments. Care was taken that the four selected units did not lose their old identity, and, therefore, traditions. This was ensured by allowing them to retain their old names in their new designations. The 1st Grenadiers was particularly conscious of this as, ever since its raising in 1779, it had never lost its title “The Grenadiers”.

 

Summery of Conversion

Old Designation

New Designation

Date of Conversion

First Guards CO's

2/2nd Punjab 

1 Guards (2 Punjab)

01 Apr 1951

 Lt Col Bhag Singh

1st Grenadiers 

2 Guards (1 Grenadiers)

01 Aug 1952

Lt Col SA Hafeez Iman

1st Rajputana Rif  

3 Guards (1 Raj Rif)

01 Sep 1949

Lt Col Bireshwar Nath

1st Rajput 

4 Guards(1 Rajput)

26 Jan 1950

Lt Col NC Rawlley, MC

 

The old badges of these battalions are shown as below :-

 

 

 

Merely changing the designations of the four units did not make them fit to be called the 'corps de elite'.  General Cariappa, therefore, decided to post specially selected officers and men to these four battalions.  The officers were personally interviewed by him.  The JCOs and men were selected by the new Commanding Officers.  For JCOs and OR, General Cariappa agreed that one-third of the old personnel be retained, if found fit.  But they had to be over five feet-eight inches (170 cms) in height.

 

Dates of Conversion

 

It was not possible to commence conversion of all the four battalions simultaneously. The 2/2nd Punjab and 1st Grenadiers were then in J&K, and adequate accommodation was not available in Delhi to quarter the four battalions at one time. It was thus that the 1/6th Rajputana Rifles was converted first as 3 GUARDS on 1 September 1949, followed by the 1/7th Rajput as 4 GUARDS on 26 January1950. The next to be converted was the 2/2nd Punjab which became 1 GUARDS on 1 April 1951, followed by the 1st Grenadiers which took on the new designation as 2 GUARDS on 1 August 1952. In 1951, orders were received that the men would be referred to as Guardsmen. The designation of the Guards Brigade underwent a small change on 26 April 1958 when it came to be known as “Brigade of The Guards”.

 

Colours

 

1 GUARDS (2 PUNJAB) has the distinction of being the first and only battalion to receive Colours from the President in front of the Red Fort in Delhi (20 Sep 1962). The Centre and the 2nd to 14th battalions received Colours from the President at Kota on 16 Mar 1973 at a huge, colourful ceremony, one of the largest ever. 15 to 19 GUARDS were presented with colours by successive COAS at Kamptee.

 
 
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