Two hundred thousand Gorkha soldiers of Nepal participated in the first World War from the British Empire. This was his first fight outside South Asia but the stories of their bravery are still heard.
Nestled in the Himalayan foothills, there is a district in Nepal, Gorkha. Gorkha district is famous for its brave warriors. Gorkha is not a warrior of any race, but they are recruited from the castes from Sunwar, Gurung, Rai, Magar and Lembu. With the slogan “Aayo Gorkhali” and “Kayarta se Marna Acchaa”, They have gained a tremendous fame. It is said that when Gorkha takes away his khukri, It does not go to ‘Mian’ without shedding blood.
UK’s British Gorkha Welfare Society’s Tikendra Diwana says “The innocence associated with courage and loyalty is the reason for their fame”.
About their fearlessness, Sam Manekshaw, the army chief of India, had said, “If a person says that he is not afraid to die then he is either a liar or a Gurkha. At present, Gorkha soldiers work in the armies of India and Britain, besides the army of Nepal, under an agreement made during the independence of India. There are about 120,000 Gurkha soldiers in the Indian Army and their number is 3,500 in the British Army.
Under British flags
The first contact with Gorkha soldiers in the West was in 1814-16 when East India Company fought against Nepal. Although this battle ended with the victory of the British, the Gurkha jawans inflicted heavy losses on them. A British soldier wrote in the autobiography, “I have never seen so much courage in my life, they did not run away and they were not afraid of death, although their companions were died around them.”
In this way, the Affected British with their enemies’ ability to join the peace treaty with the King of Nepal also added that they would like to recruit the Gurkha jawans in the British army. This agreement then became the basis of the ongoing military relations between the two sides for more than 200 years. Although nobody at that time had ever thought that they would have to fight thousands of kilometers away from their country in the First World War in Europe towards the British Army.
Overall, two lakh Gorkha soldiers fought between trenches from France to Persia during World War I From 1914 to 1918, 33 rifle battalions of Gorkha soldiers were during the First World War. In the book written on the Gurkha soldiers, Benita Estevez has written, “The Government of Nepal understood how important the Gurkha jawans were for the Allied war and provided the British Command and the troops to fight all the fronts.”
The war in Europe created new challenges not only for the Gurkha soldiers but for all the troops of British India. Tikendra Diwan explains that he was facing difficult situations like different seasons and a new type of war. British General James Wilcox had said, “There was panic everywhere on the Gurkhas, which they had to face with their courage and their weapons, but the battalion had only two machine guns, yet they did it.” The peak of valor, the Gurkha soldiers showed up in the war of Gali Poly.
In 1915, on the Turkish peninsula, they captured Turkey’s very safe outpost with very little loss. This campaign later became known as Gorkha Bluff. In a battle in Loose of France, a Gurkha battalion has been fighting till its end. Gorkha battalions were awarded about 2000 gallantry awards in World War I.
British Captain Ralph Turner said about him, “bravest of the brave, generous of the generous, no country before you found a friend like you.” According to estimates, about 20,000 soldiers of Gorkha regiments were killed during World War I.
This was his first fight outside South Asia. Since then Nepalese soldiers fought in many parts of the world, on behalf of Britain and the United Nations. Including the deployment of Iraq and Afghanistan besides the Second World War and Falkland War.
In spite of such a sacrifice for the British army, they were not given the right to settle in the UK for a long time.
After military service, they were sent to Nepal immediately. Apart from this, they received less pension than fellow British soldiers. In 2007, the British government decided to give them equal pension from 1997. After two years all the pensioner’s Gorkha soldiers got the right to stay in Britain.