Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Gurkhas in Sibu and other related articles

The Gurkhas came to Sibu to protect it when Sukarno declared confrontation against Malaysia in 1963-1966.

The Foochows were terrified of war because being business people, war meant chaos and chaos meant no profit and difficulties in doing business or making a living.

Many Foochows then still remembered the Allied Forces which arrived in Sibu in 1946 and they were used to the British. But this time , the British brought in Asian looking soldiers who spoke English but no Asian languages. It was a fact that the Gurkhas had arrived in Sibu within 6 hours' notice from the moment Sukarno declared war against Malaysia!!

Unknown to many people these Gurkhas had been a part of the British Army for almost 150 years by 1963.

Gurkhas were actually Nepalese fighters and their motto is "Better to die than be a coward" .

They served Sibu well and according to news and local reports they were excellent soldiers who tried their very best to keep the peace. After the confrontation was over, the 17th Brigade, as they were called, returned to Kuala Lumpur for further assignment.

But nothing untoward happened during their service in Sibu and the local people were comfortable with their presence. After they left, the peace and security continued to be maintained by the Police Force, the Police Field Force of Sarawak. There was a group called the Border Scouts too...but I will write about them in another post.

Today after 200 years of serving the British Army,the Gurkhas facing financialdifficulties living in Britain as well as in Nepal. Thus the most important issue regarding the Gurkhas now is how to help them financially when they retire from active service and how to help their widows and orphaned children who may either live in Britain or in Nepal. In many ways Sarawak has not in any known record given them any recognition or reward whether individually or as a group. They came, they fought and they went home. I thought they deserve more than that. Without their courage and intelligence in facing off the enemies, Sarawak could have faced the same fate as Vietnam which had a long drawn and debilitating war against the communists.

While they were in Sibu, the troops provided opportunities for many business men to improve their services and increase their incomes. More drinks were sold in the town than anywhere else in Sarawak. More people were recruited to do housekeeping, laundry and maintainence of vehicles,etc.

So the presence of the British Army in fact triggered off quite an economic boom in the town.

According to written records the Gurkhas carried into battle their traditional weapon - an 18-inch long curved knife known as the kukri.

It was said that once a kukri was drawn in battle, it had to "taste blood" - if not, its owner had to cut himself before returning it to its sheath.

(Today, Brunei our near neighbour still uses the Gurhkas to protect the Sultan and his people. And the Gurkhas say that the Kukri is used mainly for cooking)

According to modern historians, the potential of these warriors was first realised by the British at the height of their empire-building in the 19th century.

After suffering heavy casualties in the invasion of Nepal, the British East India Company signed a hasty peace deal in 1815, which also allowed it to recruit from the ranks of the former enemy.

Following the partition of India in 1947, an agreement between Nepal, India and Britain meant four Gurkha regiments from the Indian army were transferred to the British Army, eventually becoming the Gurkha Brigade.

Since then, the Gurkhas have loyally fought for the British all over the world, winning 13 Victoria Crosses between them.

More than 200,000 fought in the two world wars and in the past 50 years, they have served in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Borneo, Cyprus, the Falklands, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

They serve in a variety of roles, mainly in the infantry but with significant numbers of engineers, logisticians and signals specialists.

They keep to their Nepalese customs and beliefs, and the brigade follows religious festivals such as Dashain, in which - in Nepal, not the UK - goats and buffaloes are sacrificed.

But their numbers have been sharply reduced from a World War II peak of 112,000 men, and now stand at about 3,500.

The Gurkhas are now based at Shorncliffe near Folkestone, Kent - but they do not become British citizens.

The soldiers are still selected from young men living in the hills of Nepal - with about 28,000 youths tackling the selection procedure for just over 200 places each year.

If there was a minute's silence for every Gurkha casualty from World War II alone, we would have to keep quiet for two weeks

The selection process has been described as one of the toughest in the world and is fiercely contested.

Young hopefuls have to run uphill for 40 minutes carrying a wicker basket on their back filled with rocks weighing 70lbs.

After the Gurkhas have served their time in the Army - a maximum of 30 years, and a minimum of 15 to secure a pension - they are discharged back in Nepal.

Historically, they received a much smaller pension - at least six times less - than British soldiers, on the grounds that the cost of living is much lower in Nepal.

But with more choosing to settle permanently in the UK with their families, campaigners said this left them suffering considerable economic hardship.

Another article:

Brief History of Gurkhas in British Army -The Gurkha takes their famous name from a small principality of Gorkha who’s King in the eighteenth century conquered most of the area now known as Nepal. The Gurkhas have been associated with the British Army since 1815 following the war between the British in India, in the shape of The Honorable East India Company and the warrior tribe from the Gorkha state of Nepal. After two long and bloody campaigns the peace was made in the spring of 1816.


Ironically, it was the mutual respect that developed between the two sides that led to the Gurkha being permitted to join the ranks of the then East India Company.

Initially 4 Gurkha Regiments were raised in the service of John Company (Johnny Gurkha) and six more Regiment with two battalions each followed soon and saw service throughout the subcontinent of India. They took part in operations in China, Tibet, Afghanistan, Asia Minor and Cyprus.

First & Second World War - Over 200,000 Gurkhas joined the British Army, Fighting in Flanders with 6 battalions in 1914 and 1915. The Gurkhas were the first unit to break the German lines at Neuve Chappele. They also fought in the Middle East and most notably at Gallipoli. 10% of those who joined were killed.

During the Second World War a quarter of a million Gurkhas joined the British Gurkha Regiments and in addition the entire Nepali Army was placed at the disposal of the British.

With a population of 9 million this meant that virtually every Nepali of martial clan and military age was serving the British Crown. Again casualties were heavy, especially in Burma and Italy and almost 10% were killed.

Gurkhas War Cry "Ayo Gurkhali"
Gurkhas served as part of the British Indian Army and there were 10 Regiments, but following Indian Independence four Regiments were transferred to the British Army, the remainder stayed with Indian Army.

It was at this time in 1947 that the British, Indian and Nepalese Government signed a “Tripartite Agreement” with intention of regulating the pay and conditions for Gurkhas serving in all three Armies. The agreement is still in existence today

Post War Conflicts/Operation – The Brigade in 1948 was some 15,000 strong and was immediately plunged into the bitter struggle with the communist terrorist in the damp and torrid jungle of Malaya. A war that despite casualties bought many more awards but was not to end for 12 long and arduous years. The Borneo campaigns followed in 1962 and the revolts broke out in Brunei. The Gurkhas were the first to dispatch to the scene of trouble, flying from Singapore in six hours notice.

The revolts were dealt with within a short time but the Indonesian Confrontation with Malaysia from 1963 to 1966 the Gurkhas at war again, the bore the brunt of fighting and played a major part in bringing the Borneo campaign to a successful conclusion.

The Gurkhas conduct, velour and the jungle welfare skill were the main factor in British victory in the Malaya and Borneo and helped to prevent those lands suffering the same fate as Vietnam

And an additional article, which might be of interest to some friends and relatives:

The Cemeteries where they are buried :-

1. KR- Kranji Military Cemetery Singapore

2 Belait Cemetery Brunei

3. TM-Terendak Military Cemetery Malacca & Memorial Wall in memory for those who have no known Graves also those buried at the Bukit Serindit Christian Cemetery Malacca

4. SN- Seremban Christian Cemetery Negri Sembilan.

5 KL- Cheras Road Christian Cemetery Kuala Lumpur

6. BG- Batu Gajah Christian Cemetery "God's Little Acre n/r Ipoh Perak

7. TG- Kamunting Road Christian Cemetery Taiping.

8. PG- Western Road Christian Cemetery Penang.

2 memories:

chiranjibi said...

hello, i really apreciated with you. because you are write somthing about gurkha, i already have visti to Gurkha's cemetry at Seremban sekamat. then iwant to visit Sarawak's gurkha's cemetry as well, but i do not have proper address about the place. please help me if you have address of gurkha cemetry at Sarawak( near by miri). i hope i'll reaceive adress by mail to

paul said...

Im was with the RAMC attatched to 1/7th and 1/6th gurkha rifles 1963 to1967 in Long Banga 4th division sarawak. My base unit was in Kluang Johore and there is a gurkha cemetry there which I rediscovered with some difficulty last year.I cannot find any reference to it but it appears to being taken care of.If anyone wishes to contact me i would welcome it .


web statistics