The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on November 14, 1968 · Page 8
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 8

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Thursday, November 14, 1968
Page 8
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A8 Palm Beach Post, Thurs., November 14, 1968 Nepal's Ghurkhas Among Last, Toughest Mercenaries their carefully selected British officers, who form an essential part of the team, in the defense establishments of Singapore and Malaysia thus filling the vacuum that Britian will leave behind in 1971. ficers of the l-6th were tight-lipped on the point ) a battalion of this kind cannot cost the British taxpayer much more than half the price of a well fed, highly paid British unit the same size and certainly no better fighting men. Another suggestion sometimes made is that the Ghurkhas should be taken on, with above the garrison, we watched some training. A screening course of NCO candidates (known as "umed-wars," a Hinudstani word meaning "hopeful") was in full swing. The afternoon was warm but never a head nodded; a moment's lapse here could cost a chevron. In the background there were bursts of musketry from the nearby rifle range. The l-6th are proud that 100 per cent of their men are qualified with their individual weapons always a test of a good outfit. But the distinguishing weapon of the Ghurkha Is not a firearm. It Is the razor-edged, crescent-shaped fighting knife, the deadly kukri which every Ghurkha carries Into battle. The kukri is the regimental badge. On the way up to the mess, my escort, Captain Michael Whitehead, whose father before him served with the Ghurkhas, asked if I would like to see the battalion's goldsmiths. As a goldsmith is something of a novelty In an infantry battalion, I said yes. Captain Whitehead explained that the Nepalese count and keep their accumulated wealth in solid gold, but that India's customs regulations forbid importation of gold except when worked. Thus every Ghurkha battalion has a team of goldsmiths who work the gold purchased abroad by Ghurkha soldiers Into heavy bangles, earrings for wives, etc. And sure enough, in their own compound, squatting in Asia's immemorial position, I saw four goldsmiths with anvils, hammers, tools and braziers beating out the yellow metal. What does the future hold for the Ghurkhas? Officially their existence, like that of all military forces, depends on future military requirements. As long as Britain needs troops to garrison Hong Kong and meet defense commitments In Southeast Asia, there will be a place for the Ghurkhas. ' But with the "Little En-glanders" of today emotionally bent on liquidating Britain's imperial past and all that goes with it, hard times may lie ahead for these magnificent professionals. One strong argument for retaining the Ghurkhas as a major component In the British Army is that (although the of RUPTURED? Wear the World Famous DOHIJS TKISS FOR REDUCIBLE HERNIA Bulbless, Beltless, Strapless SCHMIDTS Professional Pharmacy 417 Clematis PH 832-8383 CHINCH BUGS? SOD WORMS? phone TOMASELLO 585-2551 thing to be emphasized by the setting sun against which they stand silhouetted today. The origins of the Ghurkhas go back more than 150 years to 1815. In that year, after a hard campaign to subdue the stub-bom hill tribesmen, their respectful former British enemies concluded a connection with t he Nepalese for recruitment of Ghurkha battalions in the Indian Army. The green-uniformed, undersized Ghurkhas a remarkable mixture of endurance, good humor and extreme soldierly spirit soon proved their worth in the Indian Mutiny of 1857. They were among the few native units who remained loyal to a man, and their fighting in the siege of Delhi is a legend of the British Army. Later the Ghurkhas served in Britain's wars and expeditions throughout Asia, as well as at Gallipoli and in France during World War I. In the second World War they were the mainspring of the British Burmese campaign to expel the Japanese. Since the war, and since India's independance in 1947, the Ghurkhas by tripartite Brl-tish-Nepalese-lndian agreementhave been split between Britain and India, both of whose armies now include Ghurkha regiments originally lrom Britain's former Indian Army. The British Ghurkhas have garrisoned Hong Kong, fought Communists in Malaya, and defended Malaysia and North Borneo against Indonesian terrorist incursions. The Indian Ghurkhas not only provided units for U.N. service in the Congo but caught the Chinese attack across the Himalayas into India and were in heavy lighting during the India-Pakistan war. The career of a Ghurkha ri- By COL. K. D.HEINL HONG KONG (NANA) Tiny Nepal, on the Himalayan northeast frontier of India, has no export but a little rice and soldiers. Nepal's soldiers, the legending Ghurkhas, comprise one ol the last and toughest mercenary forces in the world. Excluding the European mercenary bands in Africa, the only ui hers are France's Foreign Legion and the Vatican ancient Swiss Guard. The abrupt ridges that separate Hong Kong from China are manned by a brigade of Ghurkhas. To see what the Ghurkhas are like and how they are trained, and earn something of their future. I spent an afternoon with the 1st Battalion, 6th Ghurkha Rifles (known as the l-6th Ghurkhas) at .Fanling, a post in Hong Kong's mainland New Territories. The 20th Century has not been kind to the professional mercenary. Charles de Gaulle, the wrecker, all but destroyed the Legion because its officers opposed his Algerian policy. The Swiss Guards in past centuries, Europe's most steadfast and redoubtable infantryhave withered into a corps ot ushers and custodians. So it is not surprising that the Ghurkhas, too, are facing problems. The present W.0W-man organization, re( ruited by treaty between Brilain and Nepal, is to be cut back to 6.IJ00 in 1971 when the British say goodbye to Singapore. For an organization confronted with a 40 per cent reduction in a political climate unfriendly to former imperial trappings, the Ghurkhas show remarkable elan and vitality. Their long traditions of loyalty, faithfulness, discipline and professionalism seem if any TO fleman lasts 15 years. He Is recruited In Nepal by one of the regiment's numerous pensioned veterans who also serve as recruiters. The inducements, besides the traditional Ghurkha love of bearing arms, are the same in Nepal as anywhere "Travel and Adventure," as the old Navy recruiting posters used to proclaim, and a lifelong pension. For the Nepalese boy in some remote mountain valley, the chance to go abroad, return a hero, and enjoy a life income is irresistible. Once in uniform the young Ghurkha goes to nine months' basic training at Sungel-Pata-ni in northern Malaysia, the Ghurkhas' recruit depot. The duration and thoroughness of this training which would be envied in the U.S. armed forces, where 12 to 16 weeks Is the rule account for the individual smartness and high professional polish that Ghurkha troops seem to radiate. At the end of 15 years the cream of the Ghurkha noncommissioned officers are retained and promoted to the rank of lieutenant, with further promotions, if qualified, to major. This program is not unlike our warrant and limited-duty officer programs which screen out and make officers of the best career NCO's. A Ghurkha major is an Impressive officer. I talked with the second in command of the l-6th Ghurkhas, Subadar-Ma-jor Harkesingh Rai, a square-cut chunk of carved teakwood who holds four decorations for gallantry and deserves at least one more for his quiet sense of humor. The major, affectionately and admiringly known to the battalion's cadre of British officers as "Harkie," entered the regiment in 1937. He remembers this battalion his own for 31 years when Field Marshal Sir William Slim, Britain's jungle campaigner, was, as a captain, its adjutant. I asked him if, as in most military organizations today, he thought things were going to hell in a handbasket as compared to the good old days. He wrinkled his face In a thoughtful smile and replied, "The regiment hasn't changed but the times have." Before going up to the simple officers' mess on a hilltop ALWAYS FIRST QUALITY (MO HO (ill s (pecaif 0 0 0 REDUCED THRU SATURDAY! SAVE 16.95 to $41! PENNCREST AMFM STEREO COMPONENT SYSTEMS! y TONIGHT fw 3 pc. component system! 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