Gurkha NCO wins VC in Burma jungle battle

The Arakan Campaign January 1943 - May 1945: A Gurkha soldier at a camouflaged position in the Arakan jungle. Part of a series taken by the fashion prhotographer  Cecil Beaton for the Ministry of Information.

The Arakan Campaign January 1943 – May 1945: A Gurkha soldier at a camouflaged position in the Arakan jungle.
Part of a series taken by the fashion prhotographer Cecil Beaton for the Ministry of Information.

Gaje Ghale was a Havildar, equivalent to a Sergeant, in the Gurkha Rifles. On the 25th May 1943 he led his platoon into action for the first time. It proved to be a true baptism of fire – during that day and the next two days they were involved in some intense fighting.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS to:—

No. 6816 Havildar Gaje Ghale, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force), Indian Army.

In order to stop an advance into the Chin Hills of greatly superior Japanese forces it was essential to capture Basha East hill which was the key to the enemy position.

Two assaults had failed but a third assault was ordered to be carried out by two platoons of Havildar Gaje Ghale’s company and two companies of another battalion.

Haviidar Gaje Ghale was in command of one platoon: he had never been under fire before and the platoon consisted of young soldiers.

The approach for this platoon to their objective was along a narrow knife-edge with precipitous sides and bare of jungle, whereas the enemy positions were well concealed. In places, the approach was no more than five yards wide and was covered by a dozen machine guns besides being subjected to artillery and mortar fire from the reverse slope of the hill.

While preparing for the attack the platoon came under heavy mortar fire but Havildar Gaje Ghale rallied them and led them forward.

Approaching to close range of the well entrenched enemy, the platoon came under withering fire and this N.C.O. was wounded in the arm, chest and leg by an enemy hand grenade.

Without pausing to attend to his serious wounds and with no heed to the intensive fire from all sides, Haviidar Gaje Ghale closed his men and led them to close grips with the enemy when a bitter hand to hand struggle ensued.

Havildar Gaje Ghale dominated the fight by his outstanding example of dauntless courage and superb leadership. Hurling hand grenades, covered in blood from his own neglected wounds, he led assault after assault encouraging his platoon by shouting the Gurkha’s battle-cry.

Spurred on by the irresistible will of their leader to win, the platoon stormed and carried the hill by a magnificent all out effort and inflicted very heavy casualties on the Japanese.

Havildar Gaje Ghale then held and consolidated this hard won position under heavy fire and it was not until the consolidation was well in hand that he went, refusing help, to the Regimental Aid Post, when ordered to do so by an officer.

The courage, determination and leadership of this N.C.O. under the most trying con- ditions were beyond all praise.

See London Gazette 30th September 1943. The Gurkha Museum has some of the original documents relating to the action but unfortunately they are not very easy to read.

A later photograph of Gaje Ghale, at left.

A later photograph of Gaje Ghale, at left.

Leave a Comment

Earlier in the war:

Later in the war: