Books have been written about the legendary bravery and sacrifice of Nepal’s Gurkha soldiers. Officers have extolled their obedience and cheerfulness despite hardships and danger. The world has an image of Nepali soldiers on the battlefield: fierce but always smiling.
Translated, the lines read:
‘Poor fellows, their youth was taken away by the enemy’s hands (20)
The love of the military was left behind in Nepal
We are the living dead who have gone to heaven
But historians have pored through letters and diaries written by Gurkha soldiers from the two World Wars to paint a slightly different picture—Nepalis in the trenches of Flanders Field or below the cliffs at Gallipoli, homesick, terrified, cold and miserable. Many of these letters home were held by military censors, and are archived.
Now, a diary written by a Gurkha sergeant in the British Army during the battle of La Bassée in northern France during World War I in 1914, and retrieved by a German officer, has revealed a whole new side to the Gurkha legend, one that confirms the traditional bravery, but also their human side.