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Gurkha Memorial Museum

Gurkha Memorial Museum

Gurkha Museum entrance
Gurkha Museum entrance

The Gurkha Memorial Museum was founded to honor the brave men and women who join the Gurkha army.  The museum is sectioned into 3 floors, with each floor becoming increasingly specialized and dedicated to a specific aspect of the Gurkha army.  The 1st floor introduces the people that live in the Gorkha district and a history of the Gurkha military.  The 2nd floor displays the uniforms of different personnel of the Gurkhas. Finally, the museum ends at the 3rd floor, which identifies the specialty groups in the Gorkha regiment, like engineers, signals, and transport regiments.

Instead of telling you about the museum, I will tell you stories exhibited in the museum, which identify acts of bravery by Gurkha soldiers.  It was because of these acts and acts like this, this museum was created.

History of the museum

The museum officially opened in Kathmandu in 1994, with a goal of maintaining records of Gurkha bravery.  At that time the museum was only an archive of information with few military items on display.  By 1998 they received more donations and enlarged their display.  From 1998 to 2000 the museum expanded to 3 rooms after the Gurkha Museum in Britian sent donations.

A major advancement happened in 2004 when Commander Colonel Peter Sharland gave leased land outside of Pokhara to the Gurkha Museum.  The first floor of the new construction was completed and then opened for public in 2005. By 2008, 2 additional stories were added and open to the public.  In 2015 the parking lot was built.

A Brief history of the Gorkha District.

Present day Nepal was created by the war efforts of the Gorkha Kingdom.  In the 16th century Dravya Shah gained control over the Gorkha kingdom by winning a foot race. This is the beginning of the Shah dynasty, which lasted until 2008. After his inauguration, he set his sights on kingdom expansion.  He used Magar warriors to fight battles with neighboring territories.

In the 17th century Dravya’s son gained control of the kingdom and continued its expansion.  At this time, he created the unified kingdom of Gorkha and continued to expand its territory until the Anglo-Gorkha war in 1814.  Though he was defeated by the East India Trading Company, he maintained control of the kingdom.

In 1846 the Shah dynasty was briefly interrupted by the Rana Dynasty, which lasted until 1951.  At this time Matrika Koirala became the prime minister, but after 2 terms he gave control of the country to the Shah rulers.  In 2008, after the murder of the royal family, the country became a constitutional monarchy.

 First floor

The history of the museum begins in 1857 with the engagement of the Sepoy mutiny.  The royal Nepali army, led by a Rana king, assisted the British army commanded by General Campbell for the relief of Lucknow. By 1914 the Gurkha military personnel began to be recognized for their bravery.  The author Sir Ralph Lilley Turner wrote this about the Gurkhas:

“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.”

Most of the Gurkha soldiers fought in Turkey, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Iran, Russia, France, and Egypt.

WW1 Gurkha bravery

Rifle, sword, and medals issued to Gurkha soldiers in World War 1
Rifle, sword, and medals issued to Gurkha soldiers in World War 1

This is my favorite story from the WW1 section of the museum:
Rifleman Karanbanadur Rana entered in a firefight with German soldiers on April 10, 1918 in Palestine.  He and a few other rifle men, under enemy fire, encroached upon the German position with a Lewis gun.  Their objective was to take out a machine gun, that had just demolished most of their unit.  When they reached their strategic position, Rana’s comrade opened fire on the machine gunner, but was immediately shot. Rana, without hesitation, moved his fallen comrade aside and began an assault on the enemy objective.  He took down the machine gun team under a hailstorm of counter fire and bombs.  After the machine gun was neutralized, he fought back the enemy riflemen and bombers.

He saved his battalion from heavy losses and remained steady in his pursuits even when his Lewis gun jammed twice.  He received the Victoria Cross from King George V in 1919 for his actions and bravery.

victoria cross medal
Victoria Cross medal

WW2

Gurkhas came to arms again after the announcement of the 2nd world war.  They were stationed in Malaya and Burma to defend against Japanese attacks, North Africa to fight Ramel, and later Italy, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.  In total 120,000 men were deployed to the front.  Unfortunately, as it is in war, 20,000 men died during their deployment.

Gurkha soldier

WW 2 rifleman lachhiman Gurung
WW 2 rifleman lachhiman Gurung

This story highlights the bravery and dedication of Gurkha soldiers during the second world war:
Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung was stationed in Burma at a strategic location to intercept japaneese persenel as they were moving through the country.  His outpost was one of the fist areas enemy soldiers passed through.  On May 13th, 1945 his platoon was attacked by advancing soldiers.

At 1:20 in the morning the Japanese soldiers began throwing hand gernades into Gurung’s trench. One fell on the ridge lip of the trench; he grabbed it without hesitation and threw it back at the enemy.  Then another grenade landed inside the trench, which he once again fearlessly grabbed it and threw it back.  Just after that, one more grenade landed just outside his trench. As he was reaching to grab it, it blew up, ripping through his hand arm and part of his face.

A short time later the enemy began advancing on his position, where he was the only one still living.  Gurung, still able to fight, began defending his base by shooting and loading his firearm with his left hand. For 4 hours after his injury he prevented the enemy from taking over his position and gaining a tactical advantage on his comrades.

He was evacuated and treated for his injuries when reinforcements arrived.  He regained full health minus his right arm and right eye at the hospital.  After his recovery, he received the Victory Cross on December 19, 1945 for his bravery and actions.

The Malayan Emergency

The Malayan Emergency resulted from the power void left by the evacuation of the Japanese at the end of WW2 (1948-1960).  In short, a rough organic military developed in support of the Malayan Communist Party and to oppose the Federation of Malaya.  6 Gurkha battalions were brought in and by 1957 most of the threat from the Malayan Communist Party.

Gurkha to Gorkha

Because of a tripartite agreement between Britain, Nepal, and India, the Gurkhas were spilt into 2 fractions.  Soldiers going with Britain became Gorkhas, while those staying with India remained Gurkhas.  After this fraction, the Gorkhas and Gurkhas maintained a presence in the many wars that followed.

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