The Corps of Guides is a unique group that boasts of its individualistic tradition and background. The group, initially formed as a mix of cavalry and infantry at subunit level, went on to include artillery to form an integral part of this unit.
The genesis of the corps was in Napoleon Bonaparte’s Corps des Guides, raised during the Italian Campaign of 1796-97 for the purpose of conducting special reconnaissance. It was replicated by Wellington, who witnessed it in operation during the Peninsula War of 1812-14. Napoleon’s Corps des Guides, ultimately transformed into the world-famed ten-thousand-strong Imperial Guard and though, the Guides could never muster that large a number, like the Guards, it built up a “reputation for bravery and efficiency that was the envy of all other units,” and its fame spread throughout the British Empire.
It was an irregular corps of cavalry and infantry recruited from Afridis, Khattaks, Yusufzais, Sikhs, Punjabi Muslims, Punjabi Hindus, Persians, Dogras, Gurkhas, Kabulis, Turkomans and others who the Empire found trustworthy and were paid a special rate of pay. They were capable of acting as guides and collecting cis-and trans-frontier intelligence. This group was conceived by and was the brainchild of Sir Henry Lawrence – an English soldier and administrator – who helped in the consolidation of the British rule in the undivided Punjab during the British period in India. Later, the Corps of Guides was raised by Lieutenant Harry Lumsden; later Lt. Gen. Sir Harry Burnett ‘Joe’ Lumsden KCSI CB; thus becoming its first Commandant. He was assisted by Lieutenant William Stephen Raikes Hodson, of Hodson’s Horse fame, as his second in command.
The Corps began with very modest beginnings, when it was raised at Kalu Khan, on the Yusufzai Plains in the Peshawar Valley region in December, 1846. Initially, it was comprised of one troop of cavalry and two companies of infantry. It first saw action at Mughdara in the Panitar Hills. Within two years, the small force of Guides had established a name for itself. During the Second Sikh War in 1848, the unit was given authorisation for a three-fold increase in size, to six companies of infantry and three troops of cavalry. The Guides maintained the cavalry and infantry combination for many years, and even when split into two separate components, the name lingered in both elements.
Lumsden introduced loose and comfortable dust-colored uniforms for the first time in 1948, which would soon become famous as “khaki” and within decades, would be adopted by most armies of the world.The Corps of Guides became the garrison unit of a key post on the frontier, the new Fort of Hoti in Mardan. The building of the fort was organised and supervised by Hodson, who had been promoted as commandant of the regiment in 1852.
The Corps of Guides has a long history. The historical journey of the Regiment is as under:
▪ 1846: Raised as the Corps of Guides by Lt Harry Lumsden, consisting of one troop of cavalry and three companies of infantry.
▪ 1848: During the Second Sikh War, the Corps saw a threefold increase in size. The ‘Khaki’ uniform was introduced.
▪ 1857: Became the Corps of Guides, Punjab Irregular Force.
▪ 1865: Became the Corps of Guides, Punjab Frontier Force.
▪ 1876: Became Queen’s Own Corps of Guides, Punjab Frontier Force.
▪ 1879: The massacre of Guides at Kabul.
▪ 1892: The Corps built Cavagnari’s Arch at Mardan in the memory of Kabul massacre.
▪ 1901: Became Queen’s Own Corps of Guides.
▪ 1904: Became Queen’s Own Corps of Guides (Lumsden’s).
▪ 1911: Became Queen Victoria’s Own Corps of Guides (Frontier Force).
▪ 1914: Cavalry and Infantry (Lumsden’s) became Queen Victoria’s Own Corps of Guides (Frontier Force).
▪ 1922: Cavalry became 10th Queen Victoria’s Own Corps of Guides Cavalry (Frontier Force) and Infantry became 5th Battalion (QVO Corps of Guides), 12th Frontier Force Regiment.
▪ 1947: Allocated to Pakistan at partition.
▪ 1947: Cavalry became Guides Cavalry (Frontier Force) and Infantry became 5th Battalion (Guides), the FF Regiment.
After partition, the Corps of Guides did not exist as Corps of Guides and the three units no longer worked together. However, they maintained their bonds and federation through tradition and esprit de corps. As of today, the corps includes units of the Guides Cavalry, 1 (SP) Artillery Regiment and Guides Infantry (2 FF). This has been a unique corps that takes pride in having many generations who have served the group with distinction. With its traditional blend of a mix of cavalry, armoured infantry and self-propelled artillery, they maintained their bond through get togethers and reunions. A tradition of appointment of Colonel of the Corps of Guides was introduced in 1980, wherein a Colonel of Corps of Guides was to be appointed in rotation between the Guides Cavalry and Guides Infantry.
On March 5, 2022, Lieutenant General Hassan Azhar Hayat was installed as the seventh Colonel of Corps of Guides. Badges of the rank were pinned jointly by General (R) Mohammad Yousaf and Major Generel (R) Nadir Zeb, both former Colonels of Corps of Guides. The ceremony was conducted at Saif Ali Shaheed Sports Stadium in Bahawalpur Cantonment.