Red Jacket Gurkhas – 1850-1904

In 1849, nearly a decade before the Sepoy Mutiny, now known as The First War of Independence, a battalion of Native Infantry had mutinied and seized Fort Govindgarh. A large quantity of weapons and ammunition now at the disposal of the mutineers was alarming enough but it was over shadowed by even greater possibility of other regiments joining them. This scary prospect had made the British in India reluctant to do something for fear of unfavourable  consequences.

However, the Brits were able to breathe a sigh of relief when a single unarmed Gurkha Officer accompanied by his water carrier entered the Fort and negotiated a peaceful surrender of the mutineers.

After the surrender, the battalion was unceremoniously disbanded but the Gurkhas took the Colours of the Regiment and adopted it as their own tunic and which earned them the famous sobriquet of the Red Jacket Regiment.

The Gurkhas wore the red tunic with great elan till 1911 when they were obliged to give it up to mark the occasion of coronation of King George V. By the time King George V had come to New Delhi to be crowned Emperor of India or Kaiser-e-Hind, the Caesar of Hindostan, “the brethren of the mutineers” had earned themselves an excellent reputation as loyal servants of the Crown. Now they were sorely afraid the distinctly attired Gurkhas in the Royal presence would attract unwholesome comments prejudicial to their recently acquired recognition.

The Brits approached the Gurkhas for an answer who prudently gave up their red tunics but symbolically retained the red colour as backings to their cap badges and a strip of red on Gurkha Brigade tie, worn till this day.

Photograph of Red Jacketed Gurkha: Courtesy Royal United Service Institution, Whitehall S.W.

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