My Dutch mother and my eldest brother were held captive by the Japanese in Indonesia for several years during WWII. They were very badly treated and on many occasions forced to watch atrocities perpetrated upon other soldiers by the Japanese. Starved, beaten and humiliated my mother managed to cling to life and feed my eldest brother. Eventually she could no longer walk and believing her death to be imminent, agreed for her close friend to care for my eldest brother. She told of laying in what had been pig stys next to a woman suffering from Beri beri, this woman died one night and my mother recalled that she lay in the fluid that had drained from the body of this poor woman. Then the Americans dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Very quickly, she said the Japanese forces withdrew and they began to gain access to the Red Cross parcels that the Japanese had withheld from them. Her condition was so poor that she couldn't eat and was given dried pigs blood to make drinks from to slowly regain her strength. At this time the Indonesians saw an opportunity to rid themselves of their Dutch colonial masters and using Japanese discarded weaponry began attacking the Kampongs where these women and children were now living. My mother said that many of them were killed across Indonesia and fear quickly spread amongst those in the Kampong where they were living. This Kampong had a stockade type wall around it and offered them some protection. One day a truck full of young Ghurka soldiers arrived, they were accompanied by a British officer who detailed these young men to protect the women and children. Guards were posted around the Kampong walls and life went on inside in as normal a way as possible. Eventually the attacks upon them began, they were ferocious and concerted. One evening there was a particularly forceful attack upon them and she held my brother in her arms and hid below the stockade walls. She said the young Ghurka soldiers fought without fear or concern for themselves. As the battle raged one young Ghurka soldier fell next to my mother and my brother, she tried to help him but sadly he was dead. As the the fight commenced it grew into hand to hand combat, these young men fought off numerous attacks Kukri in hand against the most horrendous odds. These brave young men saved the lives of the women and children, including my mother and brother. Later my mother who had been previously married to a Dutch soldier met and married my father who was serving with the British Parachute regiment seeing action in Batavia against the Indonesian forces. They married by proxy and my mother and eldest brother sailed for Holland upon the SS. Blomfontein. After my fathers demob he went to fetch my mother, eldest brother and new born daughter from Holland. They came to live in the Shetland Isles where my father had employment in the post office. Settled for their lives in the main town of Lerwick my mother often spoke of the young Ghurka soldiers who saved them during those frightening days and nights. My mother died in 2010 and my eldest brother died only eight days later. They are buried side by side in the cemetery in Lerwick. All the money raised at their funerals and that of my fathers six year later was gifted to the Ghurka Welfare Trust. Without the outstanding bravery of those young Ghurka soldiers I wouldn't be writing this today. My family were eternally grateful to them.
Callum Moncrieff

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I was aware of the Gurkhas & their reputation for service, loyalty & bravery from my time in the WRAC TA. It wasn't until I went to Sandhurst two years ago for the ACF IOT course that I met any Gurkha soldiers. I found them very professional & charming. We were then hit by the pandemic & I saw the Gurkhas testing people & giving vaccine jabs in this country. When I read about the effects of Covid in Nepal I felt such sympathy for these men who were giving jabs here whilst their own families were dying in Nepal as the country couldn't afford the vaccines. I felt I had to do something. I can't influence this Government myself but I can give something to try to help even a little. I have also been telling family, friends & colleagues in the hope that they may also give to the GWT. I feel that we owe the Ghurkas so much for their amazing loyalty to this country & their 13 VCs that it's the least we should be doing for them.
Helen Forster
Gurkhas have been an important part of my family’s life. Their training depot had been moved to Sungei Patani in Northern Malaya, a few miles from Sungei Toh Pawang estate, after Indian Independence in 1947, when the Brigade was split between the Indian and British armies. The depot received the young men who had passed the extremely competitive selection process and turned them into soldiers. St Philip and St James’ church, which we attended every Sunday evening, was next to the depot and our services took place to the background of young recruits running, marching or just chatting. The first school I attended was an Army infants’ school next to the parade ground, and lessons echoed to shouted drill instructions. Gurkhas occupy a special place in the British Army and wider society. Nepal has never been part of the British Empire, and its citizens who chose to join the British Army did so without their families. Until recently they used to return to Nepal at the end of their service as honoured pensioners. Now they have been given the right to settle in the UK, as is right, but their service to Britain has always been given freely and voluntarily. This has been the case since they were first invited to do so at the end of a battle with the British Indian Army in the mid-19th C. In the disaster of Singapore in 1941 the Gurkhas were the only part of the Indian Army contingent not to suffer wholesale desertions, and they suffered badly at the hands of the Japanese army. In the Malayan Emergency they constituted a high proportion of the Commonwealth forces and proved very skilled at jungle warfare, particularly ambushes, which would be set for hours at a time, requiring soldiers to lie still and silent for all that time. They were fearless and lethal in close quarters combat, using their traditional kukri weapon- half knife, half machete. The knowledge that a Gurkha battalion was in the area was by 1955 a powerful incentive to defect for the sometimes demoralised MRLA fighters. As local Europeans our family would always be invited to the two parades which marked the end of the training for Gurkha recruits at the Depot. These were Beating the Retreat and the Passing out Parade. Beating the Retreat is a traditional British Army ritual, commemorating the days when a regiment’s standard was paraded in front of it at sunset so that the soldiers could see it before nightfall. The recruits would parade in their companies behind their British officers in white uniforms and the Depot band, including bagpipes (the Gurkhas had been taught to play the pipes by the Highlanders they had first fought against) as the sun went down. The next morning, invited guests took their seats at dawn for the Passing out Parade and the recruits would march out of the dawning sunrise, using the Light Infantry quick march they have always used as British troops, and march past a senior officer who had been invited to take the salute. This was the climax of their training and a huge moment for their British officers, this morning dressed in khaki drill shirts and enormous shorts. Legend had it that the shorts would be starched and ironed the previous evening by their batmen and placed standing in the corner of the officer’s bedroom. He would then step into them the following morn. As the British Army has contracted, the numbers of Gurkhas have diminished, until now there are only two infantry battalions, together with signals, logistics and engineers units. Still the passion and commitment of these soldiers burns as brightly as ever, and the competition to get into the British Army is as tough as ever. Today, recruit selection in Nepal is held jointly with the Singapore Police Force, whose Gurkha Contingent performs guard functions and acts as an emergency reserve in case of civil unrest. And as the British Army has struggled to recruit even the limited number of soldiers it now needs; a third battalion of Gurkhas has been raised. It was our privilege as a family in 1996 to welcome three young Gurkha soldiers to our house for lunch when they were stationed as part of a reinforcement Company filling manpower gaps in a British regiment stationed near our home. Immaculately dressed, polite and cheerful, they made a fuss of our young children and gave Tom (aged 6) a present of a kukri, the curved knife/machete which is their symbol. He was well impressed, and for a long time there were carefully controlled viewings and handlings of the kukri, along the lines of their demonstrations. They taught him their war-cry, too: “Ayo Gurkhali!”- The Gurkhas are coming.
Roland Crooke