East Bengal Regiment
|The East Bengal Regiment|
Cap badge of the East Bengal Regiment
|Active||15 February 1948 – present|
|Role||Close with and destroy the Enemy|
|Motto||Grace, Strength, Speed|
|Colours||Colour of the Coagulated Blood (BCC 37)|
|March||Chal Chal Chal|
|Mascot||Royal Bengal Tiger|
|Engagements||Battle of Chawinda, Defence of Lahore 1965 war, Bangladesh Liberation War|
The East Bengal Regiment was formed in 1948, following Pakistan's creation from the Partition of British Raj in South Asia with Late Major A Ghani as the founder of the Regiment. As part of the agreement, the Muslim population of what was previously known as British Empire in South Asia were given their own state of Pakistan, made up of West Pakistan and East Pakistan (initially East Bengal), which would be separate from the newly independent India. The infantry of the new Pakistan Army was made up exclusively of men from the main, west part of the country. The formation of The East Bengal Regiment was the idea of a Bengali Officer Late Major A Ghani then Captain A Ghani who is the founder of the Regiment. He espoused the formation of the regiment out of the war raised Pioneer Companies with personnel from East Bengal about to be demobilized following the end of the Great War. The then Captain Ghani of the Pioneer Corps got the formation of the regiment approved by the newly appointed C-in-C of Pakistan Army, General Sir Frank Walter Messervy. At the conclusion of the Second World War Late Major A Ghani propounded the idea of forming an infantry unit out of the war raised Pioneer companies who valiantly fought under his command in Burma front and would be demobilized following the end of the great war. Major Ghani the then Adjutant at the Pioneer Corps Centre at Jalna, India proposed to the center Commander Lt Col R R Moriarty to form an infantry regiment out of the war veterans of the Pioneer Companies and who would be demobilized. His idea was greatly encouraged by the Centre Commander and Major then Captain Ghani prepared the two companies in the line of Infantry Regiment and was ready to move to Dhaka the Capital of East Pakistan. Captain Ghani moved with the two Pioneer Companies to Dhaka in September 1947 and was initially stationed in Pilkhanka the present Headquarters of Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB). He was ordered to move out of Pilkhana and build up accommodation for the Battalion. Captain Ghani then chose Kurmitola currently the Dhaka Cantonment as an ideal location for a cantonment. After months of hard labour with his men he prepared the barracks for men and prepared the ground for hosting the raising ceremony of the Regiment. The first Commanding Officer of the regiment was Lieutenant Colonel V J E Patterson who took over in January 1948. On 15 February 1948 the flag of the First East Bengal Regiment was raised under the leadership of Captain A Ghani. He was the Company Commander of one of the Pioneer Companies and so he remained. Being outspoken as he was he protested against the statement of the Officiating General Officer Commanding, Brigadier General Ayub Khan when publicly the General stated that 'from now on Bengali soldiers shall speak in Urdu', on this Captain Ghani openly protested saying ' Bengali soldiers will not speak in any other language other than their mother tongue, Bengali.'This outbursts for the Bengali Language earned him the wreath of the Pakistani Commanders and was soon faced dire consequences. He fought the great war against the Japanese invaders, organised the formation of a fighting Infantry unit out of sheer hard labor and dedication but was refused commission by commission review board of Pakistan Army in April 1948 and was posted out of the Regiment in May 1948 to organised a paramilitary force as Pakistan National Guard of which he was the Adjutant although he was promoted to the rank of Major but was demoted to Captain. Later he was to be the Recruiting Officer to recruit young and strong youths to fill in the rank and file of the East Bengal Regiment. He was promoted thrice as Major and was not given the rank as some one senior was adjusted to the same post.
Starting from 1948 to 1951 he traveled the length and breadth of the then East Pakistan with his recruitment team to recruit the best of the youths. His untiring effort paid dividend as the country saw in the Indo-Pak war of 1965 where the soldiers of the First East Bengal Regiment defended the most critical part of West Pakistan and won the largest number of gallantry wards and citations. The same soldiers to repeat their feat just after five years in the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.
Between 1948 and 1965, a total of eight battalions were raised.
In March 1971, in response to a crackdown on locals in East Pakistan, the five battalions of the East Bengal Regiment mutinied and initiated the Bangladesh War of Liberation. The East Bengal Regiment formed the core of the liberation forces, which became known as the Bangladesh Forces. The structure and formation of the Bangladeshi Forces during the Liberation War of 1971 was determined at the Sector Commander's Conference that was held in the week of 11–17 July 1971.
This conference was presided over by the Bangladesh interim government in exile, Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed and General M A G Osmani, during which the retired colonel was promoted and reinstated on active duty into the Bangladesh Armed Forces as its senior most official. General Osmani was thereby appointed Commander-in-Chief of all Bangladesh Forces. Lieutenant Colonel M A Rab was appointed as Chief of Army Staff, Squadron Leader M. Hamidullah Khan was assigned to the largest guerilla training camp of the liberation war at Chakulia, Bihar, as the Chief Military Representative of the Bangladesh government in exile, including the decision of formation of three brigades which were formed with East Bengal Regiments. The East Bengal Regiments that participated in the glorious struggle were as follows:
Z Force, under Major Ziaur Rahman, consisted of 1st, 3rd and 8th East Bengal Regiment. These regiments were formed during the war at Teldhala of Tura, Meghalaya, in 1971 by Major Ziaur Rahman. These three regiments principally constituted Sector 11, later commanded by for a brief stint Major Abu Taher, and subsequently by Squadron Leader M. Hamidullah Khan.
S Force, under Major K M Shafiullah, was created in October 1971 and consisted of 2 and 11 East Bengal. Further units were raised to replace those that remained stranded in West Pakistan. Following the foundation of Bangladesh, these units formed the core of the new army. However, the 7th Battalion was incorporated as 44th Battalion, Frontier Force Regiment in the Pakistan Army, which led to the raising of the 10th Battalion in 1971.
Today, The East Bengal Regiment is made up of around 50 battalions, and it plays a key role in safeguarding the sovereignty of the independent nation of Bangladesh through its traditional role as an infantry force. The Regiment also provides support to the civilian government as part of its 'aid to the civil power' responsibilities when it is called upon to do so. In 2000 Bangladesh Government on the recommendation from Army Headquarters formed Bangladesh Infantry Regiment out of some of the units of East Bengal Regiment to start with, and currently the key fighting element of the Army exceeds seventy strong regiments. So the name of late Major A Ghani is rooted to the root of the formation and expansion of the key fighting element of the Bangladesh Army. It was his vision, drive , self sacrifice and dedication which gave the nation an army.
Major A Ghani was invalidated out of Army on health ground in December 1953 and later joined active politics and was elected as member of Provincial Assembly in 1954. He used the political platform to convince the Pakistani hierarchy that the then East Pakistan need to be self reliant in the defense. The creation of the Ordnance factory, the training of youths in university in line with Military training, the requirement of Cadet's training in selective institution was his initiations. He did not live to see his vision come true but these proposals were soon materialized. East Pakistan Cadet College now Faujdarhat Cadet College was established in 1958 followed by the build up of the Ordnance factory near Dhaka.
He died espousing the cause of the soldiers in Germany in the World Veteran's Conference in November 1957. After the conference he was on a tour of Germany and was keen on seeking their expertise to develop the industrial infrastructure of the then East Pakistan. His life was cut short by a massive heart attack on the night of 11/12 November 1957.
The East Bengal Regiment is the largest formation of the Bangladesh Army, with battalions in each of the nation's fifteen infantry brigades. Its stated role is to seek out, close with and destroy the enemy, within a traditional infantry combat scenario, however, the regiment also provides aid to the civilian government when called upon and also contributes regularly to Bangladesh's peacekeeping commitments overseas. As a point of note, Bangladesh is one of the largest troop contributing countries to the United Nations and the Bangladesh Army is one of the nation's biggest earners of foreign currency as a result of the funding it receives for these contributions to the UN. The regiment currently provides four battalions to Bangladesh's UN commitments:
- 12th Battalion, The East Bengal Regiment
- 13th Battalion, The East Bengal Regiment
- 14th Battalion, East Bengal Regiment
MONUSCO 15th Battalion, The East Bengal Regiment
- As of Dec 2008, Bangladesh was ranked second behind Pakistan and ahead of India in terms of numbers of troops deployed on UNPKOs. See official UN figures, available at: http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/dpko/contributors/2008/dec08_2.pdf
- Sirajul Islam, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. 2003. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh. Published by Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. ISBN 978-984-32-0582-7
- Palit, D.K. 1972. The Lightning Campaign: The Indo-Pakistan War 1971 Published by Compton Press Ltd.
•Colonel Tajul Ghani (Retired) Ex East Bengal Regiment (Son of Late Major A Ghani)