THE GARHWAL RIFLES
In August of 1914, war was declared in Europe. What followed that was the larget migration of people from Asia to Europe in the history of the world. By the time the weapons were laid down in 1918, over 827,000 Indian soldiers had fought in the war with an additional 400,000 volunteering for non-combat roles. It represented the largest migration of people in the worlds history.
India played a major role in almost all arenas of the war but their massive contributions and sacrifices have largely gone ignored.
In the first weeks of the war, the Allied forces were in desperate need of more troops along the Western Front. The Garhwal Rifles were among the regiments to be tapped and thrown directly onto the front lines.
The losses were massive and the conditions were arduous as Europe was held hostage by the coldest winter in generations.
The Garhwal rifles as part of the Meerut Division plunged into action in Flanders, where both battalions fought with exemplary valour. They had the honor of being awarded two Victoria Crosses; Nk Darwan Singh Negi at Festubert and Rfn Gabar Singh Negi at Neuve Chapelle. The casualties were very high and both battallions were amalgamated into one to cope with the losses. The Garhwali's lost a total of 14 officers, 15 VCO's and 405 troops in France.
Lt Gen Sir James Willcocks, commanding the Indian Corps in France had this to say about the Garhwal Rifles in his book With the Indians in France. "The 1st and 2nd Battalions both did splendidly on every occasion in which they were engaged... the Garhwalis suddenly sprang to the very front of our best fighting men... nothing could have been better than their elan and discipline".