31: Gurkha Corps of Signals

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Gurkha Corps of Signals

Trying times for Nepalese Troops 1814 AD – 1816 AD

Out West, the Nepalese were hopelessly overextended. Kumaun, a key link in Nepalese Army communications with the Far West, was defended by a small force, numbering perhaps seven hundred and fifty men, with an equal number of Kumaoni irregulars, altogether about fifteen hundred men to defend a whole province. In addition, Doti which was to the East of Kumaun, had been practically stripped of troops. Bam Shah, as governor of Kumaun, had final responsibility for the defense of the province.

The British force, numbering initially over forty five hundred men, was easily able to out maneuver the Nepalese Army defenders and force them to abandon one post after another. Despite a significant victory over Captain Hearsey’s force, which had been sent on a flanking movement though Eastern Kumaun, and the capture of the captain himself, the Nepalese Army was unable to stem the tide of the British advance. Hasti Dal Shah arrived in Almora with a small body of reinforcement troops. A further reinforcement of four companies was sent from Kathmandu to aid the beleaguered defences of Kumaun, but the difficulties of communication through the hills prevented them from arriving in time to be of any help.

Meanwhile, Hastings sent Colonel Nicolls, Quartermaster-General for the British troops in India, to take charge of the Almora campaign and assigned two thousand regular troops to this front in addition to the very large number of irregulars already assigned to the area – all of this against fewer than one thousand Nepalese Army soldiers. Hasti Dal Shah and some five hundred Nepalese Army men had set out from Almora to secure Almora’s Northern line of communications with Kathmandu. This party was intercepted. Hasti Dal Shah, the ablest Nepalese Army commander in this sector, was killed in the first moments of the battle. The Nepalese Army suffered terrible losses. When word of this disaster reached the defenders at Almora, they were stunned. The British closed in on Almora and the Nepalese Army was unable to prevent the British advance. Subsequently, the British managed to establish gun positions within seventy yards of the gate of the fort at Almora and the British artillery demolished the walls of the fort at point blank range. Bam Shah surrendered Almora on 27th Arpil of 1815.

Hasti Dal Shah and some five hundred Nepalese Army men had set out from Almora to secure Almora’s Northern line of communications with Kathmandu. This party was intercepted. Hasti Dal Shah, the ablest Nepalese Army commander in this sector, was killed in the first moments of the battle. The Nepalese Army suffered terrible losses. When word of this disaster reached the defenders at Almora, they were stunned. The British closed in on Almora and the Nepalese Army was unable to prevent the British advance. Subsequently, the British managed to establish gun positions within seventy yards of the gate of the fort at Almora and the Brtish artillery demolished the walls of the fort at point blank range. Bam Shah surrendered Almora on 27th Arpil of 1815.

Soldier Morale

The final Nepalese Army success of this period was in a way the most devastating to the opposition’s morale. On 17th February word reached Martindell at Jaithak of the approach of a small party of two hundred Nepalese Army reinforcements moving from Malaon to Jaithak. Lieutenant Young with some two thousand irregulars was sent out to intercept them. Contact was made, and the Nepalese Army was surrounded. The Nepalese realized that there was little hope of victory, so they discussed their next move and decided to sell themselves dearly rather than surrender. With Khukuri in hand they charged the irregulars, even though they were outnumbered ten to one. The irregulars broke before them, their morale shattered. From that time on the Nepalese Army treated the irregulars with contempt and whenever they encountered a force of irregulars, no matter how strong, they charged. Regardless of numbers, the irregulars were never once able to withstand the hill men and their Khukuris. By the same token, a strong sense of mutual admiration started to take hold between the British regulars and the Nepalese.

Second Battle of Malaon and Jythak 1815 AD

The second battle of Malaon and Jaithak cut the Nepalese Army lines of communication between Central Nepal and the Far West. It also sealed the fate of Kazi Amar singh Thapa at Malaon and Ranajor Singh Thapa at Jaithak. At Malaon, now Major-General Ochterlony had moved with extreme care summoning reinforcements and heavy guns from Delhi until his total attack force consisted of over ten thousand men well-equipped with heavy cannon.

Kazi Amar Singh Thapa’s position in the Malaon Hills depended on Bilaspur in the lowlands for his food supplies, and the nature of the hills forced him to spread his forces very thin in an attempt to defend every vantage point. Ochterlony cut off the supply of food from Bilaspur and then turned his attention to the intricate network of defensive posts that were designed to withstand any frontal assault. Although rear fortifications supported these posts, none could withstand a long cannonade by heavy guns. Because Ochterlony had sufficient troops to attack and overwhelm several positions simultaneously, the thinly spread Nepalese defences could be dangerously divided.

Ochterlony chose his target, a point on the ridge, and then proceeded to move slowly, consolidating each position that he took, and allowing the pioneers time to build roads so that the heavy guns could be moved forward to support each attack. After a series of carefully planned and executed moves, he succeeded in establishing a position on the crest of Deothal, not even one thousand yards from Kazi Amar Singh Thapa’s main fort at Malaon. The old warrior Bhakti Thapa valiantly led assault after assault on this position, but he died and the position did not fall. Immensely impressed by Bhakti’s sustained courage against impossible odds, the British made the well appreciated and honorable gesture of returning his body with full military honours. The British superiority in numbers made it inevitable that they would be able to establish themselves and their heavy guns on a vantage point within range of Ranajor Singh’s fortifications, sooner or later.

Both Kazi Amar Singh Thapa and Ranajor Singh Thapa were thus hemmed in and looking down the barrels of the British guns when Bam Shah’s letter arrived, announcing the fall of Almora. Although the old commander was still reluctant to surrender, Kazi Amar Singh Thapa at last saw the hopelessness of the situation and, compelled by circumstances and the British guns, surrendered with honour for both himself and Ranajor Singh. The Nepalese Army positions in the Far West were turned over to the British on 15th of May 1815.

Second Campaign – Deployment of Nepalese Troops and the British Offensive 1815 AD

The outstretched Nepalese Army was defeated on the Western front i.e. Gadhawal and Kumaun area. Ochterlony had finally outfoxed Bada Kaji Amar Singh Thapa. He was the only successful British Commander in the first Nepal-Company campaign. British India appointed him as the Main Operational Commander in the second offensive on the Bharatpur-Makawanpur-Hariharpur front.

Colonel Kelly and Colonel O’Hollorah followed the river Bagmati to reach Hariharpur Gadhi. Some of the heads of villagers were bribed for sensitive information about the defensive positions in the area of Hariharpur Gadhi.The information seriously compromised the Nepalese defences. Secret routes would have given the enemy advantage even if they were able to get only a battalion through. But the British were able to advance with more than a brigade’s strength.

Colonel Kelly and Colonel O’Hollorah launched their attack from two different directions on 29th February. Many Nepalese lost their lives. Kaji Ranajor Thapa withdrew to Sindhuli Gadhi to link up with Bada Kaji Amarsingh Thapa. The British troops did not approach Sindhuli Gadhi and fell back to Makawanpur by the end of March 1815 AD. Two days later the ratified treaty was handed over to the British in Makawanpur.

The British had given a 15 day ultimatum to Nepal to ratify a treaty on 28th November. But the points of the treaty were very difficult for Nepal to ratify quickly. The delay provided the excuse for the British to commence the second military campaign against Nepal. Colonel Bhaktabarsingh Thapa, another brother of Bhimsen Thapa, had been appointed as Sector Commander for defensive battles for the area from Bijaypur to Sindhuli Gadhi in the first campaign. In this second campaign, Bada Kaji Amarsingh Thapa was detailed as Sector Commander for Sindhuli Gadhi and the eastern front. Colonel Bhaktabarsingh Thapa was manning his headquaters at Makawanpur Gadhi. Major General David Ochterlony, was the overal commander against Nepal with a huge nubmer of British troops to assault the fronts including Upardang Gadhi, Sinchyang Gadhi, Kandrang Gadhi, Makawanpur Gadhi and Hariharpur Gadhi.

The Nepalese troops were eventually driven back from Hariharpur Gadhi after a big battle. The situation became very critical for Nepal and the British could have reached Kathmandu if the signing of the treaty was delayed any further. Major General David Ochterlony settled down to receive the treaty, signed by Nepal Durbar through Chandra Sekhar Upadhyaya, Pandit Gajaraj Mishra and finally though Bhaktabarsingh Thapa. The war ended with the Treaty of Sugauli and Nepal succeeded in remaining independent but lost about half her territory. The river Mechi became the new Eastern border and the Mahakali the Western boundary of Nepal.

Nepal – Tibet war

Tibet was a good market for Nepalese traders since ancient times and Nepal had always maintained good relations with Tibet. King Ansubarma gave his daughter Bhrikuti in marriage to King Tsrangchongyampo. Many Nepalese merchants and officials also married Tibetan girls. For Nepal, the relationship was profitable. Tibet herself had no mint and Nepalese silver coins were the currency of Tibet as well.

First Nepal – Tibet War – 1788 AD

The relations started turning sour after the Malla rulers started to mint impure silver coins just before their downfall. The Tibetans demanded that the coins be replaced by pure silver ones. When Prithvi Narayan Shah took over, he found that it would be a great loss to him if he conceded to the Tibetan demands. The case remained unsolved due to his untimely demise. Queen Mother Rajendra Laxmi, the Regent of minor King Rana Bahadur Shah, inherited the coinage problem which reached the culminating point in 1788 AD. Another sore point in Nepal-Tibet relations was Nepal’s decision to provide refuge to Syamarpa Lama with his 14 Tibetan followers. He had fled from Tibet to Nepal on religious and political grounds. Yet another cause for conflict was the low quality salt being provided by Tibetans to Nepal. All salt came from Tibet in those days. Tibet ignored the Nepalese ultimatums and that prompted the preparations for war. Nepal was soon preparing to launch multi-directional attacks.

1. Kerung Axis: Kaji Balbhadra Shah was the main Commander of the offensive attack from Kerung axis. Kaji Kirtimansingh Basnyat, Sardar Amarsingh Thapa and Bhotu Pandey were the subordinate commanders under him. Approximately 6,000 troops and 3,200 porters were despatched for this operation. Their main objective was to capture Dirgacha through Kerung. The march of the troops was delayed because Balbhadra Shah became seriously ill. They crossed Kerung on 20th July, 1788 and captured Jhunga on the 3rd of August 1788. Bhotu Pandey was captured by the Tibetans. The Nepalese troops were reinforced with 2,000 more troops and Bhotu Pandey was freed from the Tibetans on 14th October, 1788.

2. Kuti Axis(I) : Shree Krishna Shah was the Commander and Kaji Ranajit Pandey, Sardar Parath Bhandari, Captain Harsa Panta, Captain Naharsingh Basnyat and Captain Shiva Narayan Khatri were the subordinate commanders under him. About 5,800 soldiers and 3,000 porters were allotted for the offensive operation. Later on, Kaji Abhimansingh Basnyat and Ranajit Kunwar also joined this offensive. The Dalai Lama was taken by surprise and to protect his sovereignty, he initiated a parallel approach whereby he asked military help from Sovan Shahi, the King of Jumla in West Nepal, and requested him to launch guerrilla activities and revolt against the Nepalese Army in and around Jumla. Sovan Shahi did revolt at Humla and captured some fortresses. The Dalai Lama also asked for military help from the Chinese Emperor. Additionally, he himself and Panchen Lama of Dirgacha wrote a secret letter to the East India Company seeking military assistance.

The Tibetans also initiated propaganda about having constructed a new road through the Tigri valley and establishing a post at the front. They also rumoured that they had assembled an Army of 1,25,000 men. But the Tibetans could get nothing from Jumla, China or the East India Company.

3. Kuti Axis (II):Kaji Damodar Pandey was leading his troops with subordinate commanders Bom Shah, Dev Dutta Thapa and others. He was given about 4,000 troops and his objective was to capture Dirgacha via the Kuti axis.

4. The Battles Nepalese troops, having crossed the Himalayas captured Chhochyang and Kuti in June 1788 and Sikarjong on 3rd August, 1788, in spite of many difficult logistic limitations. Later, Bahadur Shah was able to provide some reinforcements and improve some logistics arrangements. Still that was not enough and progress was slow. When the Nepalese were about to capture Dirgacha via both Kuti and Kerung, the Tibetans started to make compromises with Nepalese commanders. Bahadur Shah started negotiations, ultimately arriving at a solution. Prisoners were handed back to the Tibetans. Tibet was ready to pay tributes to the tune of Rs. 50,000 in silver coins per annum to Nepal and a treaty was signed on 2nd June 1789 in Kerung. The treaty is called the ‘Treaty of Kerung’ by historians.

Rasuwa Gadhi and Timure were the firm bases in the first Nepal-Tibet war. Syabru Besi and Rasuwa Gadhi were Strategic points in this war. Likewise, Listi and Duguna villages were the main bases for offensive operations against Tibet. They were the forward most dumping places of the Nepalese Army. Although Rasuwa Gadhi and Duguna Gadhi Fortresses were not constructed at the time, the places themselves were important because of their military significance.

Second Nepal – Tibet War – 1792 AD

The Tibetans had signed the Kerung treaty because they had no other option then. The Dalai Lama had not been able to get timely help, so he was, for the moment, ready to pay the Rs 50,000 per year tribute to come out of his difficulties. The amount was paid that year but not the next year. Nepal took it as an insult. Bahadur Shah started preparing for the next battle with Tibet.

1. Kerung Axis:Kaji Abhimansingh Basnyat was appointed the Commander of Kerung front and Captain Kalu Pandey, Sardar Jasawanta Bhandari and Sardar Ranajit Kunwar were his subordinate commanders. Their tasks were to capture Jhunga initially and link up with Kaji Damodar Pandey to capture Dirgacha.

2. Kuti Axis:Kaji Damodar Pandey was the Commander of this axis. Kaji Davdutta Thapa, Captain Bom shah, Kaji Jaharsingh Basnyat, Sardar Pratiman Rana Magar, Taksari Narsingh Gurung were initially his subordinate commanders. Their task was to capture the Kuti area and join Kaji Abhimansingh Basnyat to capture Dirgacha.

3. Kharta Axis: Kaji Kirtimansingh Basnyat was the overall Commander and Subba Puran Shahi, Subba Padamsingh Basnyat and Subba Madho Shahi were his subordinate commanders. They were supposed to capture Kharta initially and link up with Damodar Pandey in Kuti to capture Dirgacha. His troops were to advance via Chainpur, now in Sankhuwasabha district.

4. The Battle: Rasuwa Gadhi and Timure were vital for reinforcement and logistic support. A fortress was there since the Malla period. Similarly, Listi and Duguna villages were the nearest points for logistic back-up. Nepalese troops would later resist the Sino-Tibetan offensive from here as it was useful for defensive battles.

All the commanders succeded in their missions in general. Dirgacha fell and the Lamas retreated. Nepalese commanders demanded 50 dharni (120 Kg) of gold and 100 thousand rupees from the Tibetan authority in Dirgacha. The Lamas refused to pay leading the Nepalese troops to plunder Dirgacha. After the Nepalese troops returned to Nepal, the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Ambans forwarded a complaint to the Chinese Emperor about the Nepalese invasion, seeking military help from China.

The Nepalese were rejoicing at the conclusion of this successful offensive against Tibet. Bahadur Shah became even more popular in Nepal and he was hailed as a worthy son of a worthy father. The honeymoon ended with news that a vast Chinese Army had reached Lhasa to help Tibet against Nepal on 8th March 1792. Nepal was finding that it was using up a lot of the scarce national resources on military campaigns- the unification battles, the earlier Nepal – Tibet war and against the impending war against Sino-Tibetan joint forces.

Fukagn An, alias Thung Thang Chan Chun, was the main Commander of the Sino-Tibetan joint forces. One report suggests that he was leading approximately 11,000 Chinese plus 3,000 Tibetan troops. They had 3,000 troops in reserve. By that time, Tibet had also prepared 10,000 local troops under Kalong Hor Khang. So, the total strength of the enemy was approximately 17,000. Another report said that the invading joint forces including irregulars totaled 60,000 to 70,000.

The Chinese troops were deployed along three different axes to launch their attack against Nepal. The first would advance through Kuti, i.e. Lhasa–Kuti–Duguna–Listi–Jalbire–Chautara– Indrawoti River– Devpur–Naladum and Kathmandu. The second would advance through Lhasa– Kerung–Rasuwa Gadhi– Betrawoti– Nuwakot and Kathmandu. The third would take the route from Lhasa through Kharta–Chainpur–Kathmandu.

The third advance through Kharta consisted of a small group of about 3000 soldiers. But they had trouble arranging logistic support from Tibet and knew that the local Kirants of Chainpur area would not support them. So, they withdrew their troops prematurely.

Consequently, the Chinese commander decided to launch his attacks from the two main axes: Kuti axis under the command of Cheng-Tse and Kerung Axis. The Kerung axis was divided into two parts one headed by Fukang-An and the other by Kalong Horkand. For the Nepalese, the plan had to be like trying to plug a dam that had burst from a considerable height. Some Nepalese troops were already positioned in different fortresses of Tibet under Tula Ram Pandey, Shatru Bhanjan Malla. Uddav Khawas etc. Damodar Pandey was appointed the Overall Commander against the Chinese offensive.

The joint enemy force attacked Nepal at a difficult time. Most of the Nepalese troops were engaged in the Western unification campaigns. On top of that, they were busy crushing revolts launched in Achham, Doti and Jumla. Only a limited number of surplus soldiers were available to fight against the Chinese invaders. Nonetheless, Betrawoti-Nuwakot was fixed as the last line of defense and the major defensive battle would be fought from that position. Troops and commanders were called in from Kumaun and Gadhwal to fight against the Sino-Tibetan forces. Some troops were sent to take up defensive positions in Kirat and Morang areas.

The battle in Kuti and Khasa started with small confrontations. The Nepalese had good defensive positions in Duguna and Listi areas. The Chinese Army entered the Kerung front, defended by Satru Bhanjan Malla, Subedar Talaram and Udhaun Khawas with a small number of troops. Tula Ram Pandey was shot dead at the gate of the exterior fortress and Satrubhanjan was badly wounded. The battle ensued for five days and all the fortresses of Kerung were lost to the Chinese. In the initial battle on the Kerung front, about 400 Chinese soldiers and 200 Nepalese lost their lives.

The Nepalese army retreated to Rasuwa Gadhi from the Kerung front for delaying action. The tactic was to hold the enemy’s heavy thrust for a few hours and retreat. Syabru Besi was the next delaying position after Rasuwa Gadhi. Bhaskar Rana Magar and Subedar Agbal joined the Srinath Battalion in Syabru Besi and they were also reinforced from Kathmandu. The Nepalese troops held its place for about 18 hours. They then successfully broke contact and retreated to Ramche. By this time hundreds from both sides had lost their lives.

A small battle took place in Ramche from where Kaji Damodar Pandey took over. The Nepalese again fell back to Gunche but it was too narrow a place to come into contact with the enemy forcing the Nepalese to retreat to Dhaibung for the major defensive -offensive battle. It was a well chosen position. The Chinese had held the battle initative up to Ramche. By the time the actual defensive battle was started, the Nepalese Army had secured good defensive positions in Dudha Thumka, Dhaibung and Gerkhu areas and stretched the Chinese uncomfortably. A strong force was deployed in Betrawoti. Trisuli Bazar was also occupied and other Nuwakot villages were vacated to protect the civilians in the vital grounds of defensive battles.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, Kaji Amar Singh Thapa gave up the year long conquest at Langur Gadhi in the Godhwal and released his troops for the defense of the motherland. The soldiers had to cover a distance of more then 1,000 km from this western outpost to reach Nuwakot. They made it in about a month by traveling some 30 km per day. Some of them joined the Nuwakot defenses while others remained as reserves in Kathmandu.

By this time, the Nepalese troops had retreated about 85 km from their initial defense position in Kerung. A linear defence was set up along the Betrawoti river. The Dudhe Thumka hill was a ground of tactical importance and a strong position was held by the Nepalese here. It would be diffcult for the Chinese to launch an uphill attack. One battalion plus Chinese troops did march to capture Dudhe umka but could not do so. A big flood in the furious Betrawoti on 20th August 1792 washed away many Chinese troops. The Betrawoti bridge was destroyed by the Nepalese before it fell into enemy hands. The Chinese could only use a handling rope of the bridge to cross the river.

The enemy troops marched to capture the Gerkhu ridge. This would have been a good firm base for them to launch downhill assaults on Nuwakot and Trishuli Bazar. Earlier successes had made them underestimate the Nepalese troops to the extent of launching a daylight uphill assault. But the Nepalese launched counter attacks from many flanks. A large number of Nepalese troops attacked the enemy with only Khukuris from flank and rear positions. The attrition was overwhelming, forcing the enemy to take flight. The turning point of the battle and the war came here and led to the overextended Chinese dropping their insistence to negotiate only after Nuwakot fell. Fu Kang An wanted to negotiate in Nuwakot and was keen to preserve his troops. Nepal had been saved but it had been a close call and Nepal ended up paying tributes to the Chinese Emperor. The last battle was fought on 5th October 1792. The Treaty of Betrawoti was concluded and the war was over.

Third Nepal-Tibet War 1855 AD

Nepal was enjoying a degree of political stability under Jung Bahadur Rana, the founder of the hereditary Rana Prime Ministerial system, who continued to develop his army. Jung Bahadur was mentally prepared for the impending war against Tibet. The treaty of Betrawoti was humiliating and painful for Nepal. Jung Bahadur wanted to recover this loss of national prestige. After working to keep the British and the Chinese at bay, Jung Bahadur recruited around 14,000 fresh soldiers, about 80 pieces of 12 pounder cannon and 24 pieces of 6 pounder cannons. Many pieces of mountain mortars and howitzers were arranged and they were in Nepal. About 12,000 fighting troops were detailed for internal security. The Eastern and Western Commanding Generals were told to prepare 5,000 more troops from each command sector. Many technicians were employed for manufacturing guns, ammunition, cannons and warlike materials. Winter clothing like Bakhkhu and Docha were made for all fighting troops. This was the biggest war preparation after Anglo Nepal war. Many defence posts were created and Nepalese Army personnel were deployed in the major axes including Dhankuta and Jumla.

Nepal sent a letter to the Tibetan Authority demanding that Taklakot and the areas of Kuti and Kerung be given back to Nepal. The losses suffered by Nepalese traders in Tibet had to be refunded to the tune of Rs 10,000,000 in silver coins to Nepal. Tibet refused. Jung Bahadur declared war in March 1855.

The Kerung Axis was commanded by General Bom Bahadur Kunwar. Approximately 25,728 troops were in this axis. The Kuti Axis sector commander was General Dhir Sumsher with about 4,678 troops. Humla and Mustang was commanded by General Krishna Dhoj Kunwar and 2,500 troops were deployed there. And, Olangchunggola Axis was commanded by Colonel Prithvi Dhoj Kunwar with a force of 2,000. Sethya Kaji was the main enemy commander with about 50,000 troops. There were 8000 troops detailed on the Dirgacha front and 40000 troops were concentrated in the Tingri area.

The Nepalese troops captured Kerung without any confrontation. But the Tibetans were ready to launch a counter attack in their chosen grounds with a massive force. Knowing the Tibetan intentions, Jung Bahadur sent reinforcements-a huge force and cannons under the command of General Jagat Sumser Kunwar and Colonel Bhakta Jung Kunwar. Bom Bahadur marched up to Kukurghat with ease. Battles continued in the Jhanga area for ten days and many Tibetans died. Finally, the Tibetans surrendered.

In Gunta Gadi, a formidable fortress on the top of an almost vertical mountain, the Tibetans remained strong with about 6500 troops. When the Nepalese troops reached close to the fortress, the Tibetans started firing. The climate was very cold and windy. There was also a heavy snowfall. Many Nepalese soldiers died. This led to the preparation of another attack from two different directions which finally proved to be successful. Many Tibetans died, about 600 were captured as Prisoners of War.

Another battle took place at Jhunga Gadhi, a very strong rocky mountain fortress capable of housing 10,000 troops. About 6,000 Tibetans were there to defend it. Although the climate was unfavorable for the Nepalese, they tried several times to capture the fortress. There were 1100 Prisoners of War captured. The battle cost the lives of 1,721 Tibetans and 372 Nepalese. Meanwhile, General Dhir Shumsher was leading the troops in Kuti. He had a battle in Chusan in April 1855. Kuti had been captured and before crossing the Tibetan border he built a fortress in Duguna village near Listi village which also served as a forward logistic base.

Sona Gumba was a strong fortress in that area where 8,000 Tibetans troops were holed up with cannons. Dhir Shumsher launched a surprise attack but many lives were lost on both sides. Nepal eventually won the hard fought battle and Tibetans started retreating. They finally appeared more willing to have a treaty rather than continue fighting.

A diplomatic mission, facilitated by the Chinese, arrived in Kathmandu on 13 th August 1855 for discussions but could not reach a solution. At that time, Nepalese troops were still in Tibet. The next meeting took place in Sikarjong, Tibet, where Nepalese demanded 90,000 rupees as war compensation. The Tibetans refused to pay but wanted the withdrawal of Nepalese troops. They were secretly organizing a huge force.

Eventually, The Tibetans launched a big counterattack with 15,000 troops on the Nepalese position of Kuti on 1st November 1855. It was a surprise attack and Nepalese troops fell back to Duguna Gadhi and Listi. The Tibetans also launched a big counterattack in Jhunga. But Col Pritiman Kunwar Rana held his position. Jung Bahadur got the message in Kathmandu and he sent reinforcements to both Jhunga and Kuti. General Dhir Shumsher again launched multidirectional attacks against the Tibetan Army in Kuti. The Nepalese eventually won the battles in both the places. To stop the Nepalese offensive the Tibetans agreed to a treaty again. A Tibetan team arrived in Kathmandu in January 1856 and, after a month the Treaty of Thapathali was signed between Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana and Kolan Shatra of Tibet. This Treaty was more favourable for Nepal than the treaty of Betrawoti.

Foreign Encounters

Indian Sepoy Mutiny 1857 AD

The Indians had started their independence struggle against the British empire in the 1800s. The struggle spread to the Indian native armed forces serving the British. The mutiny began from the Meerut cantonment. The British Empire requested Nepal for help. The shrewd Prime Minister and Commander – in – Chief Jung Bahadur Rana himself took part in the suppression of the mutiny with Col Pahal Man Singh Basnyat and Col Bhairab Narsingh Rana along with some 17,000 Nepalese troops. About 5,000 mutineers were killed and some 500 captured in Gorakhpur, Jompur, Lucknow, Pipre Sahebgunj, Shish Gunj, Balewa and Jalalpur, by the Nepalese expedition. The relation between the British and the Nepalese naturally further improved. On 18th November1860 an agreement between the two governments was signed. The plain areas lying between Mahakali River and Rapti River, which was lost by Nepal in the 1816 Sugauli Treaty, was returned by the grateful British.

The First World War 1914-1918 AD

The Nepalese Army participated in World War I with The First Rifle, Kalibox, Sumsher Dal, Jabbar Jung, Pasupati Prasad, Bhairab Nath, Second Rifle, Bhairung and Srinath Battalions. The total number of NA troops deployed to India at the time was 14,000. Troops were armed with the Martin Henry and Enfield rifles. General Babar Shumsher, General Tej Shumsher and General Padam Shumsher, were the main commanders. The discipline, professionalism and adaptability of the Nepalese soldiers was again well respected in the First World War. Additionally, Nepal also sent almost two hundred thousand troops, the cream of its manhood, and proportionately a higher percentage of military aged men than most countries, to fight as part of the British Indian Army itself. This generous assistance was later extended with even more troops in the Second World War.

Waziristhan War 1917 AD

Wazirsthan, in the NW Frontier of British India had revolted against British rule. Their Pathan warriors called “Masuds” were outstanding fighters and they had vowed to fight the British who were at this moment deeply involved in the First World War. The British requested the Nepalese Army to help neutralize the movement. The Mahindra Dal Battalion and First Rifle Battalion were involved in the suppression of the movement from March 1917. This was a joint military operation – Nepalese 1st Rifle with British 43rd Brigade and the Mahendra Dal Battalion with 45th Bde. The Nepalese Army had to accept many casualties. NA units, British Gurkha Regiments and British regulars had fought shoulder to shoulder. Many NA soldiers were decorated with British medals.

Afgan War 1919 AD

After the end of the First World War, British – India decided to go to war in Afghanistan. Nepal was, as usual, requested to provide military assistance to the British. Revitalized tactical training for the Nepalese Army started in May 1919. Nepalese troops commanded by Gen Baber Shumsher reached India and the British Army received them with a 13 gun salute. The troops were concentrated in Awotabad. Later, the group was deployed in Nausera and the 2nd group in Marden. Meanwhile, the Amir of Afghanistan had sought Russian assistance. But Russia being engaged in its own internal problems was unable to help and Afghanistan was bound to accept a peace treaty. Nepalese troops were stationed there for three months.

The Second World War

There was a bilateral treaty between Nepal and Britain about the mobilization of Nepalese soldiers. The units which took part were Sri Nath, Kalibox, Surya Dal, Naya Gorakh, Barda Bahadur, Kali Bahadur, Mahindra Dal, Second Rifle, Bhairung, Jabbar Jung, Shumsher Dal, Sher, Devi Dutta, Bhairab Nath, Jagannath and Purano Gorakh Battalions. Besides, there were many high ranking Nepalese in the Joint Army HQ. Late Commander-in-Chief Kiran Shumsher Rana and ex-Commander-in-Chief and Field Marshall Nir Shumsher Rana were amongst the officers deployed by the Nepalese Army.

When Japan got involved in this war in December 1940, the British presence was threatened in the Indian subcontinent. Britain deployed its troops in India and on the Burma front. Nepalese battalions – Mahindra Dal, Sher, Kali Bahadur and Jagannath- were also deployed. These Nepalese battalions fought under Allied Command. The Jagannath Battalion took part as engineers to construct tracks, bridges, water points etc.

Nepalese troops fought with distinction in the 14th Army under Slim and helped force the eventual Japanese retreat. Finally, following the atomic bomb attacks on Hirosima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered. Most Nepalese troops were withdrawn to Kathmandu in Oct 1945. A grand victory parade was held on 28 Oct 1945 where many Nepalese soldiers, officers and associated British officers were honored for their appreciable performances.

Hyderbad Action – 1948 AD

The British left India in 1947. British India was split into India and Pakistan. Religious violence between the Hindu and Muslim communities erupted in many places. Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru requested Nepal to assist in controlling the situation. The Rana rulers took the decision to send Nepalese troops into India after long discussions. The Battalions which took part were Sri Nath, Kalibox, Kali Bahadur, Ganesh Dal, Shamsher Dal, Naya Gorakh, Barda Bahadur, Devi Dutta, Sher, Bhawani Dal, Bhairab Nath, Mahindra Dal, Second Rifle, Surya Dal, Narshima Dal, Purano Gorakh, Gorakh Nath, Bhairung, Jabbar Jung and Kali Prasad.

The Nepalese Army contingent was led by Maj Gen Sharada SJB Rana. These troops were deployed in many parts of India like Hyderbad, Ranchi, Calcutta, Deharadun, Ramgarh etc. Nepalese troops contributed greatly to the stabilization of the situation. At the request of the Indian government, some Nepalese troops also partook in the action in Hyderabad which was reined into the Indian Republic. After successful operations in Hyderbad, Nepalese troops stayed on for eight more months and finally returned back to Nepal in March 1949.

In the post WW II period, the Nepalese Army underwent a major overhaul. This ushered in a new era of professionalisation and institutionalization of training. As ever, the NA continued to provide noteworthy assistance to civil authorities responding to various natural calamities and disasters.

Disarmament of the Khampas – 1974 AD

By the early 70’s, some 9000 “Khampas” (Tibetan tribesmen resisting Chinese authority) had crossed over to Nepal and established various high altitude camps which they used as launch pads for operations into the Chinese Autonomous Region of Tibet. By 1973, these fighters, initially enjoying substantial foreign material and moral support, decided to invest the remote Nepalese District of Mustang as a firm base.

After various diplomatic initiatives, Nepal was finally compelled to carry out military operations to disarm the Khampas. A brigade sized taskforce left Pokhara on 15th June 1974. The main battle group was based on Shree Sri Nath Battalion and the effort included units or elements from:

  1. Shree Sri Nath Battalion
  2. Shree Raj Dal Battalion (Arty)
  3. Shree Bhairab Nath Battalion (Para)
  4. Shree Kali Prashad Battalion (Engineers)
  5. Shree Ganesh Dal Battalion (Signals)
  6. Shree First Rifle Battalion
  7. Shree Indra Dhoj Company
  8. Shree Ahridaman Company
  9. Shree Chandan Nath Company

The Indradhoj Company served as the Vanguard in the long, difficult mountain advance from Pokhara – Naudanda – Hile – Ghodepane – Dana – Ghasa – Lete – Marpha – Jomsom (this is now one of the most popular trekking routes in Nepal).The Nepalese Army Air Corps played a crucial role, conducting extremely hazardous resupply and other missions in a largely uncharted, radar less high altitude environment.

With the Army poised to strike, if necessary, the Khampa Commander Wangdi agreed to disarm on 31st July 1974. However, it soon became evident that Wangdi himself intended to escape, resulting in a series of cordon and search operations resulting in the capture of:

  1. Rifles – 543
  2. Bren Guns – 75
  3. Sten Guns -35
  4. Pistols – 16
  5. 60 mm Mortars – 8 (385 bombs)
  6. 57 mm RCL – 7 (320 shells)
  7. Communication sets – 5
  8. All types of ammunition – 2,02,349.

Wangdi initially managed to slip out through a high altitude mountain pass and moved with his selected party of 50 – 60 towards the Western border of Nepal, hundreds of kilometers away. His luck ran out when reports of their attempt to loot a Nepal Police Post in Mugu (Far Western Nepal) focused the search operations.

He eventually succumbed to a Nepalese Army ambush carried out by an element of Shree Ahridaman Company in high altitudes of Tinkerlipu on 15th Sep 1974, bringing this episode to a victorious conclusion for the Nepalese Army. It is to the credit of Nepal that the Khampas who opted to remain in Nepal were provided land and have since settled peacefully.

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