The second battalion known as Kali Panchwin followed the next year as the 3rd Battalion Bombay Sepoys. From then on the regiment grew from strength to strength. These two battalions were at the forefront of virtually every major engagement fought on the west coast from Surat to Cannanore during the last quarter of the 18th century. Prominent amongst these were the historic battles of Seedaseer and Seringapatam where in the words of Lord Wellesley their conduct and success were seldom equaled and never surpassed.
The turn of the century was witness to the expansion of the Regimental group with the raising of 3rd Battalion as 2nd Battalion the 5th (Travancore) Regiment of the Bombay Native Infantry in 1797. The Maratha Light Infantry Regimental Centre was raised in March 1800 as the 2nd Battalion the 7th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry; the 4th Battalion in April 1800 as the 2nd Battalion the 8th Regiment Bombay Infantry and the 5th battalion from the Bombay Fencibles as the 1st Battalion the 9th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry in December 1800.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the battalions fought in various campaigns from the Middle East to China. In recognition of the gallant conduct of its detachments at the siege of Kahun and the defence of Dadar, in Baluch territory during the first Afghan War in 1841, the Kali Panchwin was created Light Infantry. Later, this honour was also bestowed on the 3rd and 10th Regiments of the Bombay Infantry (present 1 MARATHA LI and 2 PARA respectively) for their gallantry in Sir Robert Napier’s Abyssinian Campaign of 1867-1868. The Regiment assumed the title 5th Mahratta Light Infantry in 1922.
During the Peninsular war of the British against the Napoleonic armies in the 18th century, special lightly armed troops noted for their courage were used for swift encircling movements to outflank the enemy. Each battalion had a light company and later, the title Light Infantry came to be bestowed as a mark of honour.
It was not without reason that only a few Regiments were given the unique distinction of becoming Light Infantry. There was historic symbolism in recognising a fact which has been the hallmark of Maratha soldiers since the days of Shivaji. Was it not the lightly equipped and fast moving Maratha soldiery which scaled lofty mountains and impregnable forts to batter the mammoth and unwieldy Mughal armies that were trying to overrun their country? No one knew this better than the British, at times to their discomfiture.
The true fighting qualities of the Marathas were discovered during the First World War (1914-1918) when, in the long drawn out Mesopotamia campaign, three Marhatta battalions the 103rd, 114th and 117th covered themselves with glory. In the ferocious battles that took place, the battalions at times lost 50 percent of their strength in casualties but never lost an inch of ground nor left their objectives uncaptured.
The gallantry and heroism of the 117th Marhattas (present 5 Maratha LI) was of an exceptionally high order. It was made into a Royal battalion for its conspicuously distinctive service during its campaign in Mesopotamia and particularly in the events leading to the capitulation after the bitter 146 day siege at Kut-el-Amara. No less distinguished was the conduct of the 114th Marhattas (present Regimental Centre) in the battle of Sharquat where it was awarded 28 gallantry awards, the highest earned by any unit in a single action. The other Maratha battalions the 105th, 110th and 116th (present 2 Maratha LI, 2 PARA and 4 Maratha LI) also gloriously acquitted themselves in Palestine and Mesopotamia. After their return to India, these six battalions of the Bombay Army were merged to form a single group and designated as the 5th Mahratta Light Infantry in 1922. The redesignation also saw 114th Mahratta become the training battalion for the group and subsequently the Regimental Centre.
The Second World War saw the Marathas in the forefront in almost every theatre of operations from the jungles of South East Asia, to the deserts of North Africa, and the mountains and rivers of Italy. The war also saw the expansion of the regiment when thirteen new war service battalions were raised. Most of these were later demobilised after the war, whilst two were converted into artillery regiments. During the war the courage and determination of the Maratha soldier reached its pinnacle when Naik Yeshwant Ghadge and Sepoy Namdeo Jadhav were decorated with the Victoria Cross in the Italian campaign. The 130 other decorations awarded to the MLI was a tribute to the fighting qualities of its men. Apart from being the first light Infantry of the Indian Army,Kali Panchwin was the first Indian Battalion to participate in World War II,first to have lost its Commanding Officer in action,Col Chitty-battle of jebel Hamrin,1917,First Maratha Battalion to participate in UN Mission.Later,It earned the Indian Army's first Ashoka Chakra in the North-East.
The Indian independence saw the Regiment reverting back to the original five battalions but with the 3rd Maratha Light Infantry now a parachute battalion. With the integration of the erstwhile princely states, the 19th, 20th, 22nd battalions were amalgamated, from the state forces of Kolhapur, Baroda, and Hyderabad, with the Regiment. The expansion of the Indian Army to meet the omnipresent threat to its borders has seen the Regiment grow to its present total of 18 battalions and two TA battalions whilst the period also saw the conversion of 20 into 21 Para (Special Forces) and the 115 Infantry battalion (TA) being grouped under the Mahar Regiment.
Since Independence, battalions of the MLI have taken part in every armed conflict – Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) operations in 1947-1948, entry into Junagarh, Liberation of Hyderabad, Goa, Daman and Diu, the Chinese aggression in 1961, conflicts with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 against the Chinese on the Sikkim watershed in 1956, the operations in Sri Lanka, the on going operations in the Siachen glacier and in counter insurgency operations.
The conduct and performance of its troops in Korea, Laos and the Gaza strip as part of UN Peace keeping missions have drawn world wide acclaim. The Regiment has conducted itself creditably whenever called upon for peacetime duties and combating insurgency and terrorism and reposed the confidence and faith.
The Ashoka Chakra awarded to Captain Eric Tucker(2 Maratha LI) and Colonel N. J. Nair(16 Maratha LI),Col Venugopal(9 Maratha LI),Capt Harshan R(2 Para)(SF), the five Mahavir Chakras and the numerous other war and peace time gallantry awards bear testimony to the frontline leadership and courage of the Regiment’s Offrs, JCOs and men. Over the past two and a quarter centuries the Regiment has won a number of honours and awards. Gen JJ Singh(9th and 5th) became the first Chief Of Army Staff from the Maratha Light Infantry in Feb.2005.A proud moment for the regiment. The Regiment currently has:-
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