Gurkhas are known for their bravery and fearlessness. They are probably the fiercest warriors on the planet. Quiet and unassuming men with slight built, Gurkhas can instantly turn into a marauding force when at war with the capability to turn a robust man into a carcass in a matter of seconds with their khukri.
This is the story of superhuman willpower and courage. This is the story of Lachhiman Gurung of the 13 Nepalese Gurkhas. He won Britain’s highest military gallantry award, the Victoria Cross, while serving in its army.
The event is the second world war and the British are fighting the Japanese. At the end of April, the 89th Indian brigade from General Sir William Slim’s 7th division was ordered across the Irrawaddy river to destroy a Japanese force which was withdrawing towards the Taungdaw valley. Gurung’s 4th battalion of the 8th Gurkha Rifles detached two companies to block their escape. But contrary to what was expected it were the Gurkhas who were encircled and cut off. At the village of Taungdaw Rifleman Gurung was manning a small forward position some 100 meters in front of the rest of the Gurkhas when he came under attack by hundreds of Japanese.
The Japanese threw grenades at Gurung. In a display of immense bravery Gurung threw back two grenades that were hurled at him. While attempting to ‘return’ a third one the grenade went off in Gurung’s hand. The damage was severe as the fingers of his right hand were shattered, his arm was bloodied and mangled and shrapnel had wounded other parts of his body.
The battle-possessed Gurkha drew his khukri and jammed it point-first into the ground and yelled, “No one will pass here today!” He then grabbed his bolt-action rifle with his left hand – a gun that was made for right-handed use only – and again yelled, “Come and fight a Gurkha!”
By himself he loaded, cocked, and fired his bolt-action rifle for four hours of non-stop combat, fighting off wave after wave of attackers. He managed to hold-off 200 Japanese soldiers on his own for four hours! When the smoke cleared the next morning, 31 Japanese soldiers were counted dead lying in the field before him!
The absolute ruthlessness and defiance in the face of certain death can be said to be the prime qualities of a Gurkha. They don’t know fear, and they certainly don’t know death. The Indian Army prides itself on its Gurkha warriors, as does every patriotic Indian.