The Gurkhas Reminiscence

Once, during World War II in Burma, Lord Slim found himself uncomfortably pinned down by vicious Japanese machine gun fire and he was shocked, perhaps a bit amused to find a Gurkha Officer stand up and burst out laughing at his discomfiture. Lord Slim, being a Gurkha himself understood well the Gurkha sense of humour, a typical Gurkha reaction to such a situation and offers this comment:

“It is a funny thing how differently the various races react to such a situation. A British soldier would have called out to me to take shelter and would have made room for me beside him. The average Indian soldier would have watched anxiously but said nothing unless I was hit, when he would have leaped forward and risked his life to get me under cover. A Sikh would have sprung up, and with utmost gallantry dramatically covered me with his own body, thrilled at the chance of an audience. Only a Gurkha would stand up and laugh”.

A century earlier, Sir Charles Napier, the Commander-in-Chief had written to the Governor General of India, “They (the Gurkhas) have a very high military spirit, are fierce in war, of unsurpassed activity, and possess great powers of enduring fatigue. Very low of stature, and with short limbs, they have yet enormous muscles and vast strength, and their chests are both broad and deep. The Ghoorkas (sic) will be faithful, and for low pay we can enlist a large body of soldiers whom our best officers consider equal in courage to European troops. Even as a matter of economy, this will be good; but the greater advantage of enlisting these hillmen will be that, with thirty thousand or forty thousand Ghoorkas added to thirty thousand Europeans, the possession of India will not depend on opinions but on an army able to with ease overthrow any combination among Hindoos or Mohammedans or both together”.

One may be tempted to ask how was the uncomfortable situation of General Slim resolved? He wrote nothing, he simply forgot.

In Afghanistan, Capt John Morris was facing even a more deadly situation; he stood there petrified in front of onrushing Afghan marauders and as he confesses, defecated in his pants. He vaguely mentions that a Gurkha sprung into action slashing the two Afghans with his khukuri putting the rest to flight.

Only one, through the two centuries of Anglo-Gurkha Relations, returned home and told his daughter how a Gurkha saved his life and how he was eternally grateful to the Gurkhas. You know her name, Joanna Lumley and she is the only one who has stood up and successfully fought for the cause of the Gurkhas as none has ever before.

The Gurkhas remember these and many more episodes as time goes by.

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