The genesis of artillery in India has its roots in the medieval ages. Mughal emperor Babur inflicted havoc on his adversary by employing the fabled Zam Zama. From the days of Azadha Paiker to the 21st Century, artillery in India has grown to encompass an array of sophisticated equipment in its inventory which includes state-of-the-art guns, missiles, rockets, surveillance and weapon-locating radars. Sainik Samachar sheds light on how this regiment grew in strength and stature over the years on the occasion of its 178th raising day on September 28 and XI reunion celebrations slated to be held in December this year.
The wars waged by India with Pakistan and China and various military operations it has participated before and after Independence amply testify the prowess of Indian artillery. The first Indian Artillery unit, a company of Bombay Artillery, now 5 Bombay Battery of 57 Field Regiment, was raised on September 28, 1827. Thus, the day is celebrated by the Regiment of Artillery as ‘Gunners Day’. The Indianisation of Artillery was ushered in 1935 with the raising of ‘A’ Field Brigade on January 15 in Bangalore and the establishment of the Field Artillery Training Centre at Mathura. The generic title the Regiment of Indian Artillery was conferred upon the new Arm, which got a tremendous boost with the transfer of 6 Indian Mountain Regiment of Royal Artillery, raising of ‘B’ Field Brigade and the first unit of the anti-tank, anti-aircraft and coastal artillery. The gunners over the period have earned reputation by the dint of their courage and bravery in various theatres of operations.
During the actions in East Africa, North Africa, Italy, Malaya and Burma, their blood hallowed many a battlefields. In the Libyan Desert, 2 Indian Field Regiment covered itself with glory. One Indian anti-tank regiment stood bravely against Rommel’s armour onslaught.
At Point 271 (Bir Hacheim) and Gazala, fierce battles were fought. Sir Winston Churchill paid glowing tributes to the gunners after they won the battle of ‘Bir Hacheim’. Consequent to Partition, one third of Indian Artillery went to Pakistan. Since Independence, the Regiment has played a pivotal role in every war, including the recent operation Vijay. The annals of military history are resplendent with heroic deeds of the Gunners. Hav (Hony Capt) Umrao Singh won Victoria Cross for his action in Kaladan Valley during Burma Campaign.
The gunners’ penchant for valour is amply displayed by the enviable medal tally : one Victoria Cross, two Distinguished Service Orders, 15 Military Cross, one George Medal in pre-independent era and one Padma Bhushan, seven Maha Vir Chakra, five Kirti Chakra, over a hundred Vir Chakra and many others. A number of units have been awarded unit citations by the Chief of the Army Staff for putting up a brave fight against insurgency.
The School of Artillery, Devlali, is the premier institution for imparting training to all ranks of the regiment. In pre-Independent India, the school was located in Quetta (now in Pakistan). After Partition, the school was shifted to the peaceful environs of the Shivaliks. It is the Mecca of gunners where doing a course is akin to a pilgrimage.
The other ranks of the regiment are trained at Artillery Centre, Nasik and Artillery Centre, Golconda in Hyderabad. The Centre at Nasik has the capacity to train 3,000-4,000 recruits at any given time. The centre at Hyderabad came into being in August 15, 1962. It is located in and around the historic Golconda Fort, Hyderabad.
-Lt Col PK Jain