Lt Gen AK Bhatt, AVSM, SM, VSM has been the Colonel of the Regiment of 9 GR for the past four years. The Regiment is celebrating its Bicentenary year in November 2017. Lt Gen AK Bhatt, AVSM, SM, VSM in an interview with Ms Ruby Thinda Sharma, Sr Editor of Sainik Samachar, at his office in South Block, New Delhi.
Sainik Samachar (SS). I see that you are holding two appointments. One of the DGMO and the other of Col of the Regt 9 GR. What role does the Col of the Regt (COR) play?
Colonel of the Regt (COR). As per the rich customs and traditions of the Indian Army, one of the senior most officers of the Regiment is bestowed the honorific title of the Colonel of the Regiment. He is responsible for the welfare of all ranks of the Regiment and acts as a mentor to the Commanding Officers. He also acts as a chief patron of the Regimental Centre guiding them on matters related to the training of soldiers. He provides a platform to the veterans to air their concern and grievances. In short he is like the 'father figure' of the Regiment.
SS. Please tell us about your Regiment.
(COR) The Ninth Gorkha Rifles is one of the oldest Regiment of the Indian Army. It was raised in 1817 and is celebrating its Bicentenary this year. The Regiment has acquitted itself adorably both pre and post Independence and has been awarded three Victoria Crosses, five Mahavir Chakras and seventeen Vir Chakras in the two centuries of its existence. Some of the Regiments battle honours are Afghanistan, France and Flanders, Mesopotamia, North Africa, Chindits, Burma, Phillora, Kumarkhalli, Dera Baba Nanak and Jammu & Kashmir. All its units have been awarded the COAS unit Citation as also at least one if not more GOC-in-C Unit Citation which is an unique achievement for any Regiment of the Indian Army.
This year two of the units, 1/9 GR and 3/9 GR (Chindits) have been awarded the GOC-in-C's Unit Citation and two teams of 1/9 GR and 4/9 GR (Chindits) have also figured in the final of the Cambrian Patrol Army Championship. We are also the proud winners of the Gorkha Brigade Boxing Championship.
SS. What is this unique insignia that you wear on your uniform? I have not seen it worn by anyone.
(COR) That is the 'Chindits' badge. The 'Chindits' were a special force which operated behind enemy lines in Burma in 1944. Only a few units were found fit to take part in it. The Regiment had the proud privilege of contributing two battalions to this force, 3/9 GR and 4/9 GR. In honour of their achievements and sacrifices, these units have been given the privilege to wear this badge which was the formation sign of the 'Chindits' force.
SS. I also see that you are not wearing a lanyard. Is this specific to your Regiment and what is the reason?
(COR) This enigma continues to mystify me as well. I have made several attempts to solve this mystery and have heard of many tales and all of them seem plausible. They range from 9 GR letting their deeds speak for themselves without any embellishments to …… one of the British Colonels of the Regiment after the Second World War doing away with the lanyard as his request to wear it on the right side as a 'Royal Regiment' in honour of its contributions in the war was refused. Whatever be the reason, we are unique within the infantry fraternity and continue to with hold the traditions of our deeds speaking for themselves.
SS. Have their been other DGMOs before you from your Regiment?
(COR) The Gorkha Regiments have always attracted the best material from the academies and 9 Gorkha Rifles despite being one of the smallest Regiments has the unique distinction of four officers becoming DGMOs. My predecessors have been, Gen Palit who was in the same chair as a Brig, Gen IK Varma and Gen Madan Gopal. I feel humbled that I belong to this august club. It is a great tribute to the working ethos of the Regiment and the diligence and sincerity of our soldiers that so many of us have risen in the ranks.
SS. What message would you want to convey from the COR to our readers who are both serving soldiers and veterans. ?
(COR) I wish all ranks and veterans of the Ninth Gorkha Rifles on this stellar achievement of 200 years of glorious service. I dedicate these celebrations to all those who are serving and have served in the Regiment and together we pay tribute to all those who have laid down their lives for the honour of the Regiment and the Nation.