Saturday, May 15, 2010

Me, My Father and The Gurkha

When I was a child, I was always told about this one specific type, or probably a class, of people from my father from which I reckoned was one of the type he had served with or along during when he was in the government's special service a long time ago: The Gurkha.

"Grow up a Gurkha," he always told me.

My first knowledge about the Gurkha was at the time very less, for I could only managed to cover only the surface information about this highly commemorated people, best by the Queen of England herself from very limited source of details. From my first few readings, I got to know that the Gurkha served in many theaters of war; from the frontiers of the Khyber Pass down to the open deserts in Africa, from the Atlantic fronts across to the West Pacific, and most part of the world where the Queen desired them to serve. This could be the bravest people I had ever known in my entire life, I said to myself.

But it was not until a few years back when I finally able to put my hands on unlimited numbers of resources about Gurkha that I started to realize that the tip of the iceberg really fooled me for the better. And that was when I started to understand why my father always told me the tales of the Gurkha.

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“If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha."
Former Chief of staff of the Indian Army, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.

The word Gurkha was derived from the word 'gorakkha', Sanskrit for 'cow protector'.

Gurkha are the people originating from Nepal and certain areas of the Northern India and was made known to the world when they were recruited first to serve under the flag of British Army during the colonial age in India. They served under the Brigade of Gurkha along with other British India Army Brigades, and best known as one that tops the Martial Race, a designation made by the British India army officials to classify a race of people who was brave and well-designed for fighting, along with the Punjab and Sikh Army who were also known to posses such spirit.

The Kukri, famous weapon of the Gurkha

The Gurkha fought with the British in the First World War, providing battle assistance with 200,000 men and only to suffer 10% casualty while receiving more than 2,000 gallantry awards. In the Second World War, another wave of 250,000 Gurkha served with the British, suffering 32,000 casualties while receiving more than 2,700 awards of bravery. They showed up in almost all theaters of battle, and when they did, they were the first to arrive and the last to leave.

The Gurkha war cry is "Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali" which literally translates to "Glory be to the Goddess of War, here come the Gorkhas!"

The Gurkha also assisted our country under the British Commonwealth to face the invasion of Indonesia during Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation in the sixties, mostly in the Borneo fronts in remote villages and borders.

Many tales are still being told today about the bravery of the Gurkha in Malaysia, among them was when the Gurkha came to avenge the death of one of its own in the Battle of Long Jawai, Sarawak along with other ally casualties. Soon as they got to know about the attack, units of Gurkha were transported in a chopper to the scene and in rage they went way too excited and killed all 26 Indonesians in a boat ambush.

In an incident, 4 Indonesian Black Cobra elite soldiers were killed by 2 regular Gurkha soldiers, both remained unscratched when the battle ended, while 6 more Black Cobra were unfortunately captured by the Ibans, all lost their heads.

Later on in the Battle of Bau, sixteen Gurkha men under the command of Lance Corporal Rambahadur Limbu silently crawled over a steep ride to locate an Indonesian Army machine gun pit, covering 46 meter distance in more than an hour to get as close as 9 meter from the pit . Unfortunately the Indonesian machine gunners spotted them and opened fire, injuring one Gurkha. Upon seeing this, the mad Limbu rushed to the pit and destroyed it with a grenade before exposing himself to open enemy fire while running back to his platoon officer to report in, and then again exposing himself on the way back to the scene to another enemy machine gun pit that was heavily shooting at them and silenced it with another grenade. Two of his comrades were wounded during this second blow from enemy fire, and upon seeing them while pursuing the enemy up front, Limbu turned back to pull two of his injured comrades, one at a time, to safety in the course of twenty minutes under heavy enemy fire back to back.

Limbu then left the two wounded man, apparently a pair of Bren-gun crews, grabbed their Bren-gun and started unleashing hell, killing four Indonesians in an instant. The Gurkha won the battle, suffering only three casualties and two wounded, two of the dead had been the two Limbu attempted to rescue. The Indonesian suffered 24 casualties. Lance Corporal Rambahadur Limbu, a rifleman from the 10th Princess Mary's Own Gurkha Rifles infantry regiment later received the Victoria Cross, the highest award a soldier can receive for actions in combat within the British Honors System.

Now ain't that guy messed up. Probably one with the biggest balls mankind ever had.

The aftermath revealed that the Gurkha suffered 43 killed and 83 wounded while the Indonesian suffered a massive 590 killed, 222 wounded and 771 captured from the result of the Gurkha fast movements along with the other British Commonwealth soldiers. The Gurkha received 1 Victoria Cross, 29 Military Cross, 3 Distinguished Conduct Medal and 31 Military Medal during their service in the Confrontation.

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Monument to the Gurkha Soldier in Horse Guards Avenue, outside the Ministry of Defence, City of Westminster, London. Notice the inscription underneath.

What my father meant by 'grow up a Gurkha' was simple.

The Gurkha's way of life provides the values that every men should posses. They are the men who are naturally warlike and aggressive in battle, and to possess qualities of courage, loyalty, self sufficiency, physical strength, resilience, orderliness, the ability to work hard for long periods of time, fighting tenacity and military strategy.

Though anything to do with military may have not been anymore relevant today, the concept can be somewhat altered to fit life, seeing from a view where life itself could be one's forever battle. My father possesses some of these qualities, and he wanted me to have some too, for that although we live in the urban metropolitan of the country, we still practice the traditions of integrity and good conscience, whereby many of us have forgotten the needs to have such marks in our lives.

The Gurkha my father wanted to see in me has somewhat materialized though might not be specifically close to what he had wished for. I have been even until now educated and re-educated about these qualities at home, and after a handful worth of years I started to see that this world challenges us everyday, and the only way to get through is to have own integrities as once described by Professor Sir Ralph Turner, MC, who served with the 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles in the First World War:

"As I write these last words, my thoughts return to you who were my comrades, the stubborn and indomitable peasants of Nepal. Once more I hear the laughter with which you greeted every hardship. Once more I see you in your bivouacs or about your fires, on forced march or in the trenches, now shivering with wet and cold, now scorched by a pitiless and burning sun. Uncomplaining you endure hunger and thirst and wounds; and at the last your unwavering lines disappear into the smoke and wrath of battle. Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you."

And then you are a true man.


FarA said...

hah. as i read through i can actually visualised The Gurkha, jungles and those opposing them.


i like :)

Mohamad Nazmi Zaidi said...

thank you, Fara =) good luck for your final exam, occay?