The Gurkhas have carved a niche for themselves in the world of warfare as the most fearless warriors with boundless courage and gallantry

By LB THAPA, in Gorkha, FOR ONTOTHEROAD.COM

The only museum that is devoted to glorify the magnificent history of the Gurkhas in Pokhara is Gurkha Memorial Museum. The museum is located at the vicinity of the British Camp at Deep.

The Gurkhas fought the 1st and the 2nd World War and showed indomitable nature of fighting spirit in the battle field. Today the Gurkhas have earned a big name as brave Gurkhas. Bravery and Gurkhas have become synonymous to each other.

The Gurkhas have carved a niche for themselves in the world of warfare as the most fearless warriors with boundless courage and gallantry. There are many stories about Gurkha warriors to tell about their hair-raising battle escapades. It is said that merely the presence of a Gurkha on the battlefield was enough to freeze the blood of the enemy. Even enemies have admitted that the Gurkhas when wielded with their assault kukris turn more frightening and dangerous than those holding rifles.

The stories are many and amazing. Here is a very interesting anecdote about Gurkha soldiers. In 1814 The East India Company, then ruling over a large part of India, sent a large force of troops (4000 men and 20 guns) under the command of General Rollo Gillespie to battle against the Gurkha soldiers near Dehradun where, under the command of Bal Bahadur, nearly 600 Gurkhas defended the fort of Khlanga.

Both sides clashed head on and fought a fearsome battle. It was during this battle that a Gurkha soldier came out of the front lines and approached the British force. A ceasefire was ordered and his surrender was welcomed.

His lower jaw was badly injured and he asked the British surgeons for treatment. After treatment, the Gurkha thanked the surgeons and asked permission from the British general to return to the fort and continue the fight. After seeing such amazing loyalty and bravery, the general had to re-evaluate the situation and thought of developing a close rapport with the Gurkha soldiers rather than fighting and killing them.

A small group of ex-British Gurkhas has made a great effort to preserve the remarkable history of the Gurkhas by collecting documents, uniforms, medals, weapons, equipment, portraits, photographs, books and other valuable things at the Gurkha Memorial Museum.

Among the precious memorabilia, some are very rare and bear the history of World War I and II. The museum has four galleries. On the ground floor is the Infantry Regiment’s gallery, Corps Regiments’ gallery and the Medals Display gallery.

The upper floor has the unique Victoria Cross gallery. The Gurkha soldiers had won 13 Victoria Cross. The gallery has large photographs of all 13 Victoria Cross winners in chronological order. Before the Victoria Cross award, another award called the Indian Order of Merit was awarded to brave soldiers. Many Gurkha soldiers had won this award. Alongside, a small collection of the Royal Nepal Army and the Indian Army uniforms, badges, and other mementoes have been displayed.

The uniforms and badges worn by Gurkha soldiers while fighting during the Indian mutiny in 1857 are well preserved here. Gurkha troops played a key role in subduing the Indian Mutiny in 1857. Gurkha troops, then 60th Rifles, sustained many casualties. Later, they were awarded the magnificent and beautiful Queen’s Truncheon by Queen Victoria herself. This is the only regiment in the British Army to be awarded with this unique honour.

A rare photograph of this occasion can be seen in the museum. Under the command of the British, Gurkha regiments took part in all major battles including the First and Second World Wars. Before Indian Independence, British India had formed 10 Gurkha regiments in which more than 250,000 Gurkha soldiers served.

From 1911 to 1965 Gurkha soldiers were awarded 13 Victoria Crosses, Britain’ highest award for gallantry. The British Gurkha holds the highest number of these medals. In 1947, after India’s independence, four regiments, 2nd, 6th, 7th, and 10th Gurkha Rifles were assigned to the British Crown. They served in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

The historical and chronological record of these four regiments can be found in the galleries. On the left of the ground floor there displayed different memorabilia belonging to the Gurkha contingent of the Singapore Police Force.

This force was formed in 1949 with the sole purpose of quelling civil unrest and giving special security to VIP people. The present strength of the police force is about 1500 and it carries out technical roles including top security matters. In the Corps Regimental gallery, there is a glass display cabinet containing a small collection of items belonging to the Gurkha Royal Engineers and Signals and Transport regiments.

Gurkhas were enlisted for the first time in the Royal Gurkha Engineers in 1948 in Malaya and helped build bridges and clear mines.  Photos of past commanding officers and Gurkha officers are also displayed next to the Gurkha Transport Regiment. This regiment was formed in 1958 in Singapore. Its main purpose is to transport ammunition, rations, and other equipment in the war regions.

The museum was first established at Lainchaur, Kathmandu in 1995. While organizing a reception for the surviving Victoria Cross winners, the idea flashed into the heads of a group of ex-servicemen of the British Army to have a museum to preserve the rich history of the brave Gurkhas.

In 2001, the committee unanimously decided to transfer the museum to Pokhara, the city where the majority of serving and retired British and Indian servicemen live, hoping that the museum would attract local people as well as tourists.

The museum is located to the north of K.I.Singh Bridge near the Seti Gorge sightseeing spot. It is close to the British Army Camp on the way to Deep.The roads are good so the museum can be reached by taxi, motor cycle, bicycle or even by walking.

Gurkhas awarded the Victoria Cross

The Gurkha soldiers have earned a high reputation as being the world’s finest infantrymen. In the past the British and the Nepalese had fought each other from 1814-1816, the British were amazed to see the unbelievable fighting spirit of the Nepalese soldiers and decided to encourage them to join the British Army. The soldiers were named Gurkhas from the name of Gorkha, the hilltop fortress where Prithvi Narayan Shah and his successors ruled from at that time.

The Gurkhas were officially enlisted into the British Army in 1886. As Nepal was closed to foreigners, a recruiting camp was set up in Darjeeling. After Indian Independence, recruiting was done in Nepal. In 1979 a pension-paying camp was established in Pokhara, besides pension disbursement this camp performs a wide range of activities, including welfare schemes to help many ex-Gurkhas and their families and is now the recruiting centre.

NAMES OF VICTORIA CROSS RECIPIENTS

 SN Names Battle zone Year
1 Kulbir Thapa Magar Fauquissart, France 1915
2 Karna Bahadur Rana Magar Elkefr, Palestine 1918
3 Lal Bahadur Thapa Magar Resse-Es-Zoual, Tunisia 1943
4 Gaje Ghale Chin Hills, Myanmar 1943
5 Ganju Lama Ninthoukhong, Myanmar 1944
6 Tul Bahadur Pun Magar Mogaung, Myanmar 1944
7 Netra Bahadur Thapa Magar Bishenpur, Myanmar 1944
8 Agan Singh Rai Bishenpur, Myanmar 1944
9 Sher Bahadur Thapa Chhetri San Maino, Italy 1944
10 Thaman Gurung Monte San Bartolo, Italy 1944
11 Bhanu Bhakta Gurung Tamandu, Myanmar 1945
12 Lachhiman Gurung Taungdaw, Myanmar 1945
13 Ram Bahadur Limbu Sarawak, Borneo 1965

Gaje Ghale, the VC winner

Epitome of courage and bravery

Gaje Ghale, a valiant Gurkha soldier, exceeded all the boundaries of bravery while fighting against a far superior Japanese army in Burma in 1943 and won the Victoria Cross. The highest bravery award given by the British government for showing extraordinary courage in the battlefield.

Captain Gaje Ghale was born on 1st July, 1922 in Barabak village, Gorkha district, Nepal. He joined the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles in 1936 and became a rifleman in the 2nd Battalion in 1937.

He won his Victoria Cross fighting against the Japanese forces in Burma, he was then in the 17th Indian Division. The battle took place on 27th May 1943.Gaje Ghale and his fellow Gurkhas had made two daring attacks on Basha East Hill but without success.

The Japanese forces were in complete control. The D Company platoon in which Gaje Ghale was serving received a severe setback. However, with a handful of soldiers Gaje Ghale made steady progress in the face of heavy artillery and mortar bombardment. Finding Ghale marching forward, other troops were inspired and followed him. In this charge, Ghale received three bullets in his arm and leg, but ignored his wounds and reached very close to the enemy and was prepared himself for hand-to-hand fighting.

Ghale, wielding with his deadly khukri, stormed into the enemy trench and killed the Japanese. Ghale’s valour has become one of the amazing legends and part of the folklore of Nepal. Ghale was greatly appreciated for his extraordinary feat and was awarded the Victoria Cross by Field Marshall Lord Wavell in 1944. He retired with the rank of Honorary Captain and settled down in Almorah, India. Ghale died at the Batra Nursing Home, New Delhi on 13th March 2000. 

LB Thapa, the blogger, aiming an assault rifle in the armory of the Indian Army.

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