This article by investigative journalist Shree Bhakta Khanal was initially printed in Nepali Instances and an edited model is republished on International Voices as a part of a content-sharing settlement.
Books have been written in regards to the legendary bravery and sacrifice of Nepal’s Gurkha troopers. Officers have extolled their obedience and cheerfulness regardless of hardships and hazard. The world has a picture of Nepali troopers on the battlefield: fierce however at all times smiling.
However historians have pored via letters and diaries written by Gurkha troopers from the 2 World Wars to color a barely completely different image—Nepalis within the trenches of Flanders Area or beneath the cliffs at Gallipoli, homesick, terrified, chilly and depressing. Many of those letters residence have been held by navy censors, and are archived.
Now, a diary written by a Gurkha sergeant within the British Military in the course of the battle of La Bassée in northern France throughout World Warfare I in 1914, and retrieved by a German officer, has revealed an entire new facet to the Gurkha legend, one which confirms the normal bravery, but in addition their human facet.
Lieutenant Alexander Pfeifer was with the Kurhessische Jäger-Bataillon Nr. 11 and located the diary of a Nepali soldier in La Bassée on December 20, 1914, after a fierce battle in opposition to Allied forces of the British and French armies.
Lt Pfeiffer’s great-grandson Philip Cross discovered the paperwork and a khukri whereas going via his household results. He’s within the means of translating his great-grandfather’s diary into English, and in addition getting the diary of the Gurkha sergeant translated into English and German.
It seems that Lt Pfeifer’s job was to undergo the our bodies of useless enemy troopers to search out out if he might discover any intelligence of what the Allied forces have been as much as. That appears to be how he acquired maintain of the diary, pictures, and even the khukri.
The primary web page of the diary of the unknown Nepali soldier is in verse with numbered traces. It lists the names of the writers’ younger pals who have been killed or taken prisoner, the hardships they endured. From the penmanship and vocabulary and the usage of numbered verse, the soldier seems to have been taught by a village priest, who was the one literate individual within the villages of Nepal in these days.
Translated, the traces learn:
‘Poor fellows, their youth was taken away by the enemy’s fingers (20)
The love of the navy was left behind in Nepal
We’re the residing useless who’ve gone to heaven
Subedar Bhimsi Bhandari (21) Harke Thapa Jasraja Dharma Khatri Commander Pasitan Nainsingh Khatri Swarup Kunwar Pratiman Thapa’
The second web page of the Nepali soldier’s diary (above) has the names of Gurkhas which, apparently, are the identical names present in the identical order within the papers of Lt Pfeifer during which he lists the names of Gurkhas who have been taken prisoner (left). The German phonetics additionally intently resembles the best way the unknown soldier has written the names in Nepali, for instance, by spelling Gurung as गुरुं (Gurun).
Lt Pfeiffer’s notice in his personal diary entry reads as follows:
Discovered with a Gurkha sergeant main. The content material of the discover web page No. 1 says: The troopers of the part (Battalion) needs to be handled with love, friendliness and kindness. Each individual, who carries out the foundations of his faith, in line with legislation and order, receives his fee (might be completely happy).
The orders of the commanding officer needs to be carried out exactly and instantly. The content material of the discover paper No. 2 is as follows. Names of the Gurkhas:
- Thuparau Gurun
- Chandrabir Thapa
- Akalbir Gurun
- Manbahadur Gurun
- Amarsing Gurun
- Udjersingh Gharti
- Imansing Gurun
- Manbir Thapa
- Chhabilal Rana
- Akatbir Thapa
- Narbahadur Thapa
- Schatasin Gurun
On investigating a few of these names, British Military information present that Chandrabir Thapa was a rifleman within the Second King Edward VII’s Personal Gurkha Rifles (Sirmur Rifles). Manbir Thapa was a sergeant within the First Battalion of the First King George V’s Personal Gurkha Rifles (Malaun Regiment); his service quantity was 1896, and he was killed in motion on December 20, 1914, in La Bassée. We even know Manbir’s father’s identify was Parasram Thapa and he lived in Dohadi village in western Nepal.
Data at La Bassée present that there have been different Gurkha troopers killed on the battlefield or taken prisoner who weren’t on Lt Pfeiffer’s diary checklist.
The Nepali soldier’s diary, written by hand 107 years in the past, says quite a bit in regards to the warfare and the soldiers from Nepal. The soldier was writing about fellow Nepalis in his personal, and probably different models, itemizing rigorously the names of the useless and people taken prisoner. The names within the poem are in all probability of those that have been killed in battle, however we can’t be certain. The opposite checklist, due to its similarity to the checklist in Lt Pfeifer’s checklist in German, might be of those that have been taken prisoner on December 20.
However that opens up a puzzle. How come the checklist of useless troopers within the Nepali soldier’s diary is in the identical order because the checklist of prisoners in German in Lt Pfeifer’s diary?
It isn’t clear whether or not Lt Pfeifer was simply translating the Nepali soldier’s diary, or if these are his personal directions. The German officer’s personal diary was in the end discovered greater than a century later by his great-grandson. We have no idea what the Gurkha’s identify was, the place in Nepal he was from, and what occurred to him.
Lots of the Gurkhas captured in France and Belgium have been transported to prisoner-of-war camps in Germany. There, a number of the prisoners had their voices and songs preserved in early recording machines that had simply come into use.
Nepali professor Alaka Atreya Chudal of Vienna College has been translating from Nepali into German a few of these testimonies recorded between 1914-1918 in a prisoner-of-war camp of Halbmondlager in Wünsdorf, 40 km from Berlin.
The 100 or so recordings include Nepali folks tales, songs, poetry, and folks riddles which have immense linguistic and cultural worth as a result of they’re preserved in audio from greater than a century in the past. The recordings are actually within the archives of Humboldt-Universität in Berlin.