Maratha war to Kargil

Maratha war to Kargil

in honour Nawab of Arcot

Celebrating 233 years of its action-packed existence, the 16th Light Cavalry is the oldest regiment of the Armoured Corps of the Indian Army. It was raised in 1776 as the 3rd Regiment of Native Cavalry in the service of the Nawab of Arcot, Mohammed Ali Khan Wallajah.

The regiment tasted first blood in its campaign against Hyder Ali in September 1781. It was the famous Battle of Sholinghur wherein 11,500 Indo-British forces defeated Hyder Ali’s 1, 50, 000-strong army.

It started when Tipu Sultan attacked the British ally, the Raja of Travancore in December 1789. Tipu demanded the cessation of Jayacottah and Cranganore from Travancore on the grounds that these stood on land belonging to his tributary, the Raja of Cochin. The Raja of Travancore did not comply and instead, asked for assistance from the Madras government. Tipu then attacked the Travancore lines in December 1789 but was repulsed. After getting reinforcements, he launched a second attack and after having demolished the fortifications of the Travancore lines, withdrew to Mysore.

Not taking this attack lightly, the British formed a Cavalry Brigade that included the 16th Light Cavalry (then 2nd regiment of Native Cavalry). The fort of Caroor fell to them, after which the two great forces kept the battle going in Coimbatore and Mysore.

Tipu’s last stand was in defending Seringapattam. With England and France at war in Europe and Egypt, Tipu’s association with the French in India was viewed with suspicion, in the wake of his refusal to entertain English prelists. In response, an army of approx 21,000 men marched from Vellore to Mallavelly and attacked Tipu’s forces in February 1799.

After a long, fierce and bitter defence, Seringapattam and Tipu fell to British arms on May 4, 1799. And for its victory, the 16th Light Cavalry earned itself a rare battle honour called ‘Seringapattam’.

In 1923, the regiment was selected for ‘Indianisation’, wherein British officers were finally replaced by Indian officers and this became the first Indian cavalry regiment to be officered by Indians.

On May 11, 1937, King George VI assumed the Colonelcy-in-Chief of the Regiment on the occasion of his coronation in Buckingham Palace, London. This was the only regiment of the armoured corps that had the king as its Colonel-in-Chief.

Then it was time for machines to take over the work of horses. Mechanisation of the regiment took place in Peshawar in October 1940 when a farewell parade for the ‘heart’ of the Cavalry — its horses, called ‘The Last Mounted Parade’, was organised.
In early 1946, 16th Light Cavalry was re-organised to all-Madrassi Regiment. It became the first and only armoured regiment to have hundred percent South Indian class composition with representation from all four South Indian states.

After independence, while a third of the Indian Armoured Corps went to Pakistan, 16th Light Cavalry stayed with India. Between the war against the Marathas (1817-1818), the Afghan War (1880), World War I and II, the Burma Campaign, action in French Indo-China, Indo- Pak wars of 1965 and 1971, the Kargil war — the 16th Light Cavalry has to its credit 12 Battle and 02 Theatre Honours.

The history of the 16th Light Cavalry is incomplete without mention of ‘The Battle of Gadgor’. On September 8, every year, the regiment celebrates its anniversary of the Battle of Gadgor during the Indo-Pak war of 1965. Former Chief of Army Staff, General V N Sharma, a hard-core 16th Cavalry officer, affirms the regiment’s valour. “The 16th lost a number of officers in Gadgor, and the true story was pieced only after the war when the true heroism of the regiment came to light with the sacrifices they had made to win the battle against an entire enemy tank regiment in front of them.”

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