I found the attached memoir by General Tuker among his papers in the Imperial War Museum. It is not dated but as he refers to himself as ‘Lieutenant General Tuker’ in the title it was probably written after he retired. Like many of his writings it has a slightly disjointed narrative thread but nonetheless gives some interesting insights into what tours of duty on the North-West Frontier were like and his own critical views of how operations there were conducted.

Download (PDF, 3MB)

Note: Timings are approximate but the dates are accurate.

Sat 8 Dec 62

I was spending the weekend at Slim Barracks, Singapore, from the Jungle Warfare Course in Kota Tinggi, Jahor Bahru. On the Friday evening the bachelors in the Officers Mess (Digby Willoughby, Peter Duffell, John Burlison, David Stevens, and me) went out to the cinema to see John Wayne in ‘The Longest Day’. On the Saturday morning I awoke early to much noise in the barracks. From the balcony outside my room I saw a mass of activity as soldiers loaded trucks. I assumed it was a ‘Fast Move’ exercise getting underway. They were frequently inflicted on the battalion at no notice to test our ability as an airportable unit to react and muster a given number of companies for immediate deployment to anywhere in the Far East. Each airportable battalion in Singapore had a specific area for which it was responsible and equipped with the relevant maps and operation orders. Our area was Fiji.

At about 0800 I went to Battalion HQ to collect my personal mail. There I saw the Adutant (Capt Digby Willoughby) in his office and he immediately summoned me to help him with aircraft manifests. He told me that we were deploying for real, not a training exercise, to quell a rebellion in Brunei. None of us knew where Brunei was as it was almost an unknown sultanate at the time – and we had no maps or operation orders. Apparently Brunei was the responsibility of the Queens Own Highlanders who, for one reason or other, were unable to react.

1200 approx. Brig Pat Patterson, Commander 99 Brigade, visited Bn HQ to speak with the Commandant (Lt Col Gordon Shakespear). I was introduced to the Brigadier in Adjt’s office and he asked why I was not in uniform. I explained that I was down for the weekend from the Jungle Warfare Course. He told the Adjt to arrange for me to prepare to deploy to Brunei on the next available transport. Because all my military equipment and personal weapon etc, was at the Jungle Warfare School, I was kitted out in the QM Store like a new recruit with full battle order, including clothes, and a new personal weapon (SMG), for which I was invited to sign and pay for by Maj Dick Connell, the QM. I was aghast at the cost, but as I departed from his office Dick called me back and tore up the invoices!

Sun 9 Dec.

In the morning I stood by to depart at any time that day by whatever means. Later in the morning I was warned that I would travel in a RN warship as OIC Troops, with Lt (QGO) Bhojbahadur Gurung (Sigs Pl) as my 2IC, and 80+ Gurkhas from all companies (Courses/Cadres, Pensioners, and Leave personnel).

1900 approx. My party was transported to Sembawang RN Base.

2300 approx. We embarked on HMS Cavalier, the fastest destroyer in the Navy at the time, and set sail at about midnight.

Mon 10 Dec 62

We had a very uncomfortable all-day passage to Labuan at an average speed of about 30kts through a typhoon, pitching and rolling through mountainous waves. I and the Gurkhas, who all wrapped their issue towels round their heads, were violently sea-sick throughout the passage – all, that is, except Bhojbahadur who lived and ate well in the Wardroom. I spent much of the time ensconced on the upper deck against a bulkhead behind the funnel, wrapped in blanket and poncho cape, occasionally being fed oranges by Bhojbahadur.

HMS Cavalier at speed.

Tue 11 Dec 62

0200 approx. We arrived at Labuan after about 26 hours sailing. We disembarked in a terrible state of post sea-sickness, only to discovered one Rifleman missing. He was eventually found inside a lifeboat under a tarpaulin cover! I regarded him as having great initiative and he would no doubt go far in the battalion in future. We were transported to Labuan airport where we spent the night in a hangar.

0700-0900 approx. We were ferried from Labuan to the Brunei airfield by RAF Beverley aircraft shuttle. We witnessed casualties arriving in Labuan from Brunei for onward flights to BMH Singapore. This had quite an impact on all of us. From the airfield we were transported into the town in PWD lorries.

1000 approx. I reported to the Bn 2IC (Maj Tony Lloyd-Williams) in Bn HQ in the Civic Centre in Brunei Town. The remainder of my party was dispersed to their respective companies. I remained in Bn HQ as Asst IO to Capt Peter Duffell (IO).

Am/pm. I spent the rest of the day on Bn HQ duties setting up the Ops Room etc.

Wed 12 Dec 62

Mid-morning I visited David Stevens in the Brunei Hospital, he having been wounded during the night of the 9th when he was leading an ad-hoc patrol from Bn HQ to investigate a report of rebels being seen near the Government Buildings. They were ambushed from the balcony of one of the buildings. When I visited him he was weak and pale, and was coughing occasionally, but chatted and seemed in reasonable spirits.

In the afternoon I was continuing with Bn HQ duties when we received the news that David Stevens had died at about midday – apparently of pneumonia as a result of his wounds which had punctured his lung.

1500 approx. We received reports of a rebel force (strength unknown) due to enter Brunei Town from the NE that night. I was ordered to take an ad-hoc group (Int & Sigs Pls) and ambush the only road/track in that area. We remained in ambush all night without incident.

Thu 13 Dec 62

I was involved in the planning and preparation for a sea and land assault on Muara the following morning by A Coy and a Composite HQ Coy Group with Bn HQ Tac HQ. The plan was for A Coy and a HQ Coy Composite Coy under overall command of Maj Tony Lloyd-Williams to carry out a two-pronged attack from land and sea at dawn. Half the force under command Capt Hugh Diamond (OC A Coy) went by land in PWD vehicles. The remainder was commanded by Capt (GCO) Lalsing Thapa (RSO) with Tac HQ commanded by Maj Tony Lloyd Williams (Bn 2IC). I was with Tac HQ as IC Prisoners. The rebels were believed to have established a HQ in Muara Lodge.

A Coy, minus one platoon (companies had four platoons with the Sp Pl being converted to a Rifle Pl), was to approach Muara from the land in PWD lorries. Bn Tac HQ, the HQ Coy Composite Group, plus the attached A Coy platoon, were to go by sea in SS Higgins (the Brunei river car ferry) and 2 x Police River Patrol Boats. They were to sail out of the Brunei River and be positioned off the coast opposite Muara in the early hours of the morning, ready to approach in time for the troops to hit the beach at daylight with 2 x RAF Hunter aircraft providing FGA cover. The SS Higgins was worked on throughout the day by S/Sgt Hayter (REME) and his fitters to erect steel sheets around the railings for protection of troops embarked.

Fri 14 Dec 62

0100 approx. The sea party embarked at the Brunei car ferry pier and departed to be in position off the coast in time for the dawn assault.

0300 approx. The road party departed to get in position for their assault from the land (south) side of Muara.

0445 approx. The sea party began its approach to the Muara beaches.

0500 approx. The Police Patrol boats made it to the shore and disembarked their passengers on the jetty for them to proceed rapidly inland towards Muara Lodge. The RAF Hunters flew in low along beach, but without any recognisable targets they didn’t fire – they just did two low passes at high speed. Unfortunately the SS Higgins car ferry was held up by the strong outgoing tide, then got stranded on a sandbank about 200 yards off the beach and had to wait until mid-morning for the tide to go fully out before the soldiers were to be able disembark into chest-high water and wade ashore! By the time the SS Higgins troops, including Tac HQ, arrived at Muara Lodge at about midday it had been secured by A Coy’s road party and the Police Patrol Boats sea party, all without opposition as it was established that the rebels had abandoned the place the day before. So ended the Muara attack and the whole force returned to Brunei town in the PWD lorries.

The SS Higgins remained stranded on the sandbank for many years until it finally broke up.

Sat 15 Dec 62

In the morning I was put in command of a road convoy of Shell petrol tankers destined for Seria, now that the town had been secured by the QO Hldrs. I had a Landrover, a couple of sections of Gurkhas in a PWD truck, and 2 x Ferret Scout Cars of the Queens Royal Irish Hussars commanded by Lt David Brook. The trip was uneventful, except for a tree across the road beyond Tutong, which we thought may have been an ambush so we deployed to clear the area, but it turned out to be just an obstacle to block the road. We removed it and proceeded to Seria, arriving at about midday. I dropped off the Shell tankers and went on with the Gurkhas to join B Coy in Kuala Belait under command of Maj Terry Bowring with his HQ in the re-captured Police Station. B Coy was under command of 1 QO Hldrs.

Sun 16 Dec 62

I was appointed OC 8 Pl B Coy, the platoon commander being on Long Leave. The platoon was the Sp Pl (3” Mor Sect, Wombat A/Tk Sect, MG Sect) now established as a Rifle Platoon but with its support weapons available. My Pl Sgt, a 3” Mor man , was a Rai (I can’t remember his name), which was unusual in a Western Bn at that time, but he was exceptional and over the next couple of months taught me more about operating in the jungle than I would have learnt on the remainder of the Jungle Warfare course that I had left early.

In the afternoon I received information that the area rebel commander had returned to his house. At dusk I located the house and carried out a close recce with my Pl Sgt.

Mon 17 Dec 62

Just before dawn 8 Pl surrounded the house and I, my Pl Sgt, and two Gurkhas went in and arrested the individual while he was still in bed. He wouldn’t tell us where he had hidden any arms so the platoon searched the house and grounds and eventually found his shotgun, plus a captured Police rifle and ammunition, under some planks of wood in his back yard. We returned to the Police Station where the prisoner was interrogated by the Police. In the afternoon I had to escort the prisoner to Seria and hand him over to the QO Hldrs. Subsequently it was rather galling to see in The London Illustrated magazine featuring the Brunei Rebellion, a photograph of the QO Hldrs escorting the prisoner under the caption ‘Queens Own Highlanders capture the rebel leader of the Kuala Belait district’!

Tue 18 Dec 62

B Coy was ordered to fly from Anduki to Tawau, in North Borneo (now Sabah), in 2 x Beverley aircraft with our 4 x Landrovers, departing at 0400 to arrive at Tawau at first light. We were to patrol the palm oil and pineapple estates, where the majority of the workers were Indonesians, to ‘show the flag’ and dissuade any extension of the rebellion in Brunei. The aircraft touched down and taxied down the runway as the rear doors were opened and the ramps lowered. While the aircraft were still on the move, the Landrovers were driven down the ramps followed by the Gurkhas who doubled down to take cover in the drainage ditches either side of the runway. Without stopping or turning around the aircraft accelerated and took off in one unbroken movement. The Gurkhas rapid deployment was most impressive and the whole manoeuvre was completed in about two minutes. As the sound of the aircraft faded we heard cheering from the airport terminal – a single storey building. We looked up to see the British Resident, his entourage with their families, and the good and great of Tawau, all cheering and clapping. B Coy quickly recovered from their fire positions, got into three ranks and marched to the terminal building, where Terry Bowring reported to the Resident. We were then entertained to a sumptuous buffet breakfast and made to feel very welcome. We were accommodated in a local school, given maps of the area, and started our programme of patrolling. The Indonesian workers waved to us and were generally very friendly. After 48 hours we were recalled to Brunei on 20 Dec.

20 Dec 62

B Coy arrived in Brunei by Beverley aircraft in the morning. In the afternoon we redeployed by river to Limbang where we relieved L Coy 42 Cdo (led by Capt Jeremy Moore – later General of Falklands fame). They had carried out a daring and costly river assault to save the Resident and his wife, Dick and Dorothy Morris, who were being held hostage and threatened with death. L Coy dealt with the sizeable rebel force (estimated 350) led by Saleh bin Sambas, an ex Brunei Police Field Force Sgt (weapon training instructor), who was responsible for most of the RM casualties (5 x killed and 6 x wounded) with an LMG fired from the roof of the Customs building into the landing-craft as they came ashore. The Resident and his wife were rescued and 15 rebels were killed and 50 taken prisoner.

Limbang was actually in a piece of Sarawak that separated Temburong the eastern part of Brunei from the rest of Brunei to the west. We were housed in a school building on the Limbang Road, a laterite road that went to Temburong that became known as the ‘Temburong Trail’.

We spent our time searching for Saleh bin Sambas and his henchmen who had fled after the Royal Marines assault, and also conducting Hearts & Minds patrols both in vehicle and on foot, to reassure the local people and hopefully gain some information about the activities of the rebels.

In the first week 8 Pl ambushed Saleh bin Sambas’s house which was built in a disused quarry into the hillside on the side of the Temburong Road about 4 miles from our company base. It was believed he would be tempted to return at night to his gorgeous young Brunei/Malay wife and two young children. We approached through the jungle and I established the ambush in the jungle edge on the lip of the quarry surrounding the house, about 40 feet above it and 30 yards from it. We lay up short of the target while I carried out a recce with my Pl Sgt and Sect Commanders and subsequently moved into our ambush positions at dusk. I was awoken the next morning by activity among the soldiers. I crawled forward and looked down into the disused quarry at back of the house only to see Saleh bin Sambas’s beautiful wife, naked from the waist up taking a shower under water cascading from a bamboo pipe. It was all I could do to restore the soldiers’ ambush discipline! We had noticed several piglets and chickens free-ranging around the house. There was a real danger of them giving away our presence if they detected any of us. After 10 days in ambush, without Saleh bin Sambas making an appearance but with the distraction of his wife regularly taking a shower below us each morning, we withdrew through the jungle back to the road a mile away to be picked up by vehicles. When we paraded back at camp to clear weapons etc, I heard a little squeal so ordered all packs to be unpacked. I discovered a piglet and 3 chickens! How and when the men managed to catch these and keep them quiet I just don’t know. I was furious and gave the very embarrassed culprits a serious public telling off for disobeying orders and jeopardising the ambush. After a suitable pause to let my feelings register, I then ordered the platoon to produce a fresh pork & chicken curry supper that evening, to which we would invite the Coy Comd, 2IC, CSM and CQMS. My order was met with broad smiles from everyone! We ate very well that evening.

The first tip off we had was about a jungle camp in the hilly jungle about 4 miles south of Limbang that was discovered by a local hunter. 8 Pl was tasked to investigate, so I got the local hunter to lead us to the camp, taking every precaution in case it was a trap. It turned out to be a temporary jungle camp for about 10 people and occupied for only a few days, no doubt built when the rebels fled Limbang.

My 3” Mor Sect was ordered over the next few days to periodically mortar the hillside jungle towards the area of the enemy camp we had just visited. This was intend to disturb any enemy in that area and keep them mpoving.

A couple of weeks later we went to investigate a group of caves high up in the same hills but further away. We had been told about them by the Police from information they gleaned from the locals so again we took a guide. It was a flog through the jungle and quite a climb getting to the caves, and again we approached very carefully. We thought they had been occupied by the same group from the previous jungle camp. Judging by the state of the fire embers they had been vacated only a couple of days earlier, so we were unlucky.

After about 3 weeks Terry Bowring handed over command of B Coy to Maj Noel Fordyce from the 2nd Battalion. Naturally, given the situation and conscious that he was a ‘newcomer’ to 1st Battalion, he made a great effort to get to know the company very quickly, and the Gurkha Officers responded well to his rather different style of leadership.

Finally, in the first week of January, we had information from a fisherman on the Temburong River that he had found a new track from the river bank which led to a camp in the mangrove swamp that had been built fairly recently. 8 Pl deployed in a couple of Assault Boats and we established a 10 days ambush in the mangrove around the camp. It was extremely uncomfortable sitting up in the mangrove branches, being attacked relentlessly by large and ferocious mosquitos. Also the buffalo-leeches in the murky water the size of small eels were lethal. They came through the water at the slightest movement and latched onto our legs through the material of our trousers with ease; they being able to penetrate the tough skin of buffalos our trousers provided no protection.

Our discomfort was increased on the fourth day (mid January) when it started to rain very heavily indeed and continuously – monsoon like. After two days the water level started to rise visibly. I decided to call off the ambush to prevent the platoon being cut off. It wasn’t possible to get back to the river to be rescued by boat because it had overflowed and the water was too deep. I requested helicopters to lift us out from the nearest landing area on a piece of higher ground that was still clear of water, but this was not possible. What we didn’t realise at the time was this was the beginning of the most disastrous Limbang floods in living memory. We had no choice but to walk out to the nearest laterite road about 4 miles away where we could be met by vehicles. We cut poles to feel our way through the now waist-deep, and rising, very murky water. In places the water was up to my chest and deeper than the height of some of our soldiers who had to be lifted on poles stuck through they shoulder webbing straps by two people. Eventually, when we reached a rubber plantation bordering the road we were heading for, the water was too deep to continue. My Pl Sgt got the platoon to chop down a row of rubber trees, always planted in dead straight lines, and drop them against each other like dominos forming a sort of bridge structure for us to make our way out to the road. It was a brilliant idea. After some hours and a lot of hard work we managed it and were picked up by vehicles.

The Battalion’s attention had to switch from military operations to emergency community aid. Longhouses and other buildings were being swept down the rivers, all of which had burst their banks. The Limbang River was now as wide as the eye could see in both directions. D Coy (Maj Bob Watterton) were deployed up-river to Danau and Medamit. Bob did some outstanding work, at times risking his own life, for which he was awarded the Royal Human Society’s Bronze Medal.

I was sent to establish a radio rebroadcast-station a long way up-river. Cpl Danbahadur Gurung (Sig Pl), Rfn Bagbir Pun (my orderly) and 2 x Riflemen were taken in a Royal Marine Gemini power boat driven by Lt David Storrie RM and one Marine. We finally found a longhouse on raised ground that was above the water level that had risen to just below its flooring. As we travelled it was distressing to see the amount of debris floating by continuously and to see dead water-buffalos that had been trapped by their necks high up in the branches of trees. We were dropped off with our signals equipment and 10 days rations and established communications, after which the RM boat returned to base. Our job was to report the state of the river daily, and pass on information about aid requirements gleaned from the locals during my trips out with them in their long boats. After a week we were recalled to Limbang as the state of the floods had receded.

At the end of January all military patrolling came to an end as the post-floods clear-up began. A couple of weeks later in early February we were relieved by 1/7GR and the Battalion returned to Singapore.

So ended the Brunei Rebellion and my first experience of operations.


Saleh bin Sambas was captured by 2/7GR on an island in the Brunei River when he and Yassin Affandi, the Brunei rebel commander, plus a few of henchmen, tried to infiltrate back into Brunei Town in May 1963. They had returned from having fled to Indonesia after the failed rebellion. They were held as political prisoners in Jerudong Jail for a number of years.

I returned to Brunei as Adjt 1/2GR in 1967-68, and again as Comdt 2/2GR in 1980-81 my final tour in the Regiment. It was during this last tour that I discovered Saleh bin Sambas was the Senior Customs Officer in Limbang!

Hms cavalier

1986 saw the 2nd Battalion celebrate its Centenary of service to the Crown. Although the Battalion was raised in February 1886 it was not possible to celebrate the Centenary in February 1986, due to final preparations for a 6 month tour of duty as Resident Battalion in The Falkland Islands.

There were two major events in 1986 to commemorate this historical achievement.

On the weekend of 13 and 14 September 1986 the Battalion, which was based in Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Church Crookham, Aldershot, celebrated the Centenary on Delhi Day. On 13 September the battalion marched through Fleet Town at the request of the local Council, where the Colonel of The Regiment took the salute with the Mayor of Fleet, Mrs Mildred Stocks. 14 September saw the whole Battalion on parade for its Colonel in Chief , The Prince of Wales, and the handover of The Colonel of The Regiment, Field Marshal Sir Edwin Bramall to General (later Field Marshal) Sir John Chapple.

Through the auspices of The Colonel of The Regiment arrangements were made for Her Majesty The Queen to inspect The Queen’s Truncheon at Buckingham Palace on 15 July 1986, after the return of the Battalion from the Falkland Islands on 3 July.

In attendance at this honour for The Regiment were The Colonel in Chief, The Colonel of The Regiment, and in order shown on the group photograph, from left to right, the following:

Regimental Representation:

Lt Colonel John Brewer MBE, Commandant 2nd Battalion,
Lt Colonel Nigel Haynes MBE, Late Commandant 1st Battalion
Major (QGO) Chandrabahadur Pun MVO, Gurkha Major 2nd Battalion
Colonel in Chief, HRH The Prince of Wales
Colonel of The Regiment, Field Marshal Sir Edwin Bramall, GCB, OBE, MC, JP
Capt (QGO) Manbahadur Gurung , (half hidden behind Colonel of The Regiment) , QGOO and future GM 1st Battalion

Truncheon Escort provided by 2nd Battalion:

Corporal Santabahadur Rai , Queen’s Medallist Bisley
Sergeant Raju Pun, Battalion shooting team and just awarded LSGC
Lieutenant (QGO) Lachhimiparsad Gurung BEM
Sergeant Narbahadur Gurung BEM
Corporal Karnabahadur Gurung

The inspection by Her Majesty was a very memorable event. Her Majesty took a great deal of interest in The Queen’s Truncheon, which was given the due respect and solemnity it deserved. However on completion of the inspection Her Majesty took time to chat with every member of the Escort party and accompanying officers. The time spent after the formal inspection was very relaxed , greatly assisted by The Colonel of The Regiment and Colonel in Chief, as can be seen from the smiles in some of the photographs.

It has to be said that the presentation to Her Majesty very nearly did not take place. Although The Truncheon, with full escort, had been inspected by Her Majesty before, passage of time and changes in advisors had obviously diminished memories of previous agreements on the carriage of arms by the Escort. During the planning phase we were told quite forcibly that no weapons were permitted within Buckingham Palace. There was a time when we had to say that if the Escort was not carrying arms then The Truncheon could not be paraded. The intervention of The Colonel Of The Regiment quickly resolved the situation and on the day The Queen’s Truncheon was on parade and shown its due respect.

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Christopher Lavender commented: “I have come into possession of a WD map of HKG from 1936. I never knew that the hill features near the border were named Cheviots , Mendips and the North and South Downs. Also Snowden in the other photograph I assume to be ‘Nameless’ as it lies north of Kai Kung Leng.”

John Harrop noted that there appeared to be a race course near the site of what subsequently became Gallipoli Lines.

Map2 Map1

After a long absence of two years of Covid-19 restrictions and lockdown, the Gurkha Association Scotland finally managed to have a ‘Get-Together’ in the early summer this year, held at the Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland. The event was simple but ‘gharelu’ (homely) party, superbly organised by Capt Tika Limbu (ex 10 GR) who is the Chairman GA Scotland and his committee members. The food was magnificient, topped off by a variety of wonderful home-cooked Nepali dishes prepared by didi-bahinis. Although the numbers present looked small it was an enjoyable gathering and great to see everyone again in good health and spirits along with their families and children. An impromptu roll call revealed, in total, there being seven Sirmooris working and living in Scotland, although all were not present at the event . Jai Lali!

The Gurkha Association Scotland gathering

“Flying the Flag” – The 5 Sirmooris in Scotland who attended the event.
(L to R) Kamal Thapa, Padam Thapa, Sudan Dewan, Resham Thapa, Prem Gharti Magar (Band)









Ga scotland 2 Ga scotland 1

This and the following 7 pictures are of Major Yambahadur Gurung and at his ancestral home in Hjanjarkot, an hour north of Pokhara.

Phewa Tal


Phewa Tal


9966 Uddim Saheb, 5761 Cpl Bel, 0980 Maj Hitman Saheb, 0387 CSgt Jagat




Dudman Saheb (1/2GR and RGR – my Coy 2IC in B Coy 1RS), Uddim Saheb, and 5478 Indra Saheb (1/2GR, 2GR and RGR).


2GR Sahebharu act of remembrance for HM Queen Elizabeth

2GR burho toli in Pokhara: me with the other Hitman Saheb and Dudman Saheb.
With Mike Lock (Paymaster 2/2GR 82-85, COS HQ BGN 92-94 and 29 year resident of Kathmandu) being garlanded by KK Ale and Bharat Saheb

Burho toli:0362 WO2 Lachhuman Mor Pl, 0352 CSgt Junbdr Signal Pl, 2269 Cpl Prem (C Coy), 2970 Cpl Krishna (Mor Pl and Bn PTI and Mr. Himal and Mr. Nepal (body-builder), 3913 Tendi Sherpa (Mor Pl), Sherbhadur Saheb (A Coy and MMG Pl (after Al Kennedy).


On a one hour panel with my old friend Binod Khadka and KK Ale at the BFBS Nepali studio talking about Her Majesty the Queen and the Gurkha connection during a day long tribute from BFBS Nepali listeners; a last minute ambush!


Last appointment for me this trip. A lovely 3 hours with Bharat Saheb and his family over bhat. He said his warm regards to all.


Two views of the Field Marshal Sir John Chapple Education Centre at the Central Zoo in Jawalakhel in the Kathmandu Valley:

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Martin Brooks, the Chairman of the Gurkha Museum Trustees, has kindly agreed that the following article can be posted on the 2GR website.  A copy of ‘In the Presence’ is available online here.


Honorary Captain Santbir Gurung, “Sardar Bahadur”, O.B.I. I.O.M., Kipling and the Wrath of the Ranas.

Some of you were asking about Santbir Gurung, on Friday whose medals we saw displayed in the HQBG Conference Room.

Well, thanks to the scholarship of our Vice Patron, our previous Chairman and others, raised up by Kipling’s wonderful interpretation, it is an admirable tale of devoted Gurkha service to the Crown followed by rank injustice at the hands of the Ranas.

“The Armies of India”, The artist A C Lovett was in 1914 the CO of the 1st Bn Gloucestershire Regiment at Mons (later a Brigadier). The images include one of Santbir Gurung 2/2nd King Edward’s Own Goorkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Regiment):

The Vigil at The Lying in State of King Edward VII

Subedar Major Santbir Gurung of the 2/2 Gookhas, Subedar Major Singbir Ghale of the 2/3rd Gurkhas, Subedar Bude Sing Negi of the 2/39th Garhwalis and Jemedar Baij Sing Rawat of 1/39th Garwhalis stood the vigil at the Lying in State of King Edward VII in May 1910. As Tony Gould points out Kipling did not name them and calls them all Gurkhas, reminding us as well that the 39th Garhwalis were originally the 2/3rd Gurkhas.

They refused all offer of interrupting their vigil and could not eat or rest much for 72 hours. This act of stoicism and reverence caused a great deal of interest and admiration in Britain, and as Richard Cawthorne, the former Chairman of the Gurkha Museum noted drew the admiration of no less a figure than Field Marshal Lord Roberts. This prompted Kipling to weave an interpretation of these Gurkhas at the Lying in State, as imagined through eyes of Sikhs and their pandit and interspersed with their own tale of honour and sacrifice; such is his genius.

King’s Gurkha Orderly Officers 1910.  Photograph by C. Vandyk.  
Courtesy of © National Army Museum. NAM1953-06-42-8

Photograph shows: Major H St A Wake, 2nd Battalion, 8th Gurkha Rifles; Subadar Major Santbir Gurung, 2nd King Edward’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles); Subadar Major Singer Ghale, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles; Subadar Bude Sing Negi, 2nd Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles; Subadar Baij Sing Rawat, 1st Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles.

The King’s Indian Orderly Officers was a constituency of four distinguished Indian army officers chosen each year to serve as the King’s honorary bodyguard in the United Kingdom. On January 1st, 1903, the Viceroy issued a General Order announcing concessions to the Army in India in connection with Edward VII’s Coronation, notably the annual appointment of Indian officers. The first six Indian orderly officers were appointed in 1903; their number reduced to four in 1904. During the London season, from April to August, they attended the King at Courts and Levees, standing near the throne at reviews and ceremonies, always appearing in full regalia. For this supreme honour, officers were handpicked from all branches of the Indian Army, specially selected by the Commander-in-Chief himself.

The practice of King’s Indian Orderly officers attending Royal Lying in States was discontinued in 1936 and so there was no such attendance in 1952 when King George V1 died, as Richard Cawthorne notes. He also reminds us that The Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officers were not instituted until 1954.

Santbir’s Exile from Nepal

The Postscript was less pleasant. Honoured by King George V, when Santbir wished to return to Nepal in 1913, he “was banished both from his caste and his country by order of Chandra Shamsher, despite the intervention of George V,” as Tony Gould describes, nominally for travelling to England without his Maharaja’s permission. Shamsher like all hereditary Prime Ministers since Jang Bahadur had inherited the title of Maharaja of Kaski originally granted by the King and therefore most Gurungs were his direct subjects. Santbir had to wait to the age of 83 to be restored to caste and country.

This is cited in academic circles as a particularly egregious example of the brittle and unpleasant nature of Rana elitism during their ascendency .

On the other hand, Chandra did put his own army at the disposal of the British in 1914 and without Jang Bahadur in the 1850s, there would probably have been no Gurkhas as we know it today.

Martin Brooks
29 Jan 2018


Selected Bibliography

Cawthorne, Col Richard. (2010) The Vigil, BNS Journal pp 45-48.

Chapple, Capt John, 2GR. (1959) Kipling Journal, March 1959

Gould, Tony. (1999) Imperial Warriors- Britain and the Gurkhas pp 171-174, Granta Books London.

Whelpton, John. (2005). A History of Nepal, p 85 Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Kgoos Santbir

(This article has been extracted from the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers 2022 Journal. I’m most grateful to the Editor, Andy Gooch, for permission to reprint it here).


Editor’s Introduction

In 2021 I saw a post on social media from Lt Col Simon Townsend RLC, the current COS British Gurkha Nepal about a trip he had made to Dharan where he had visited the factory that makes the kukris for today’s Brigade of Gurkhas (photo below). Thinking this would be a story our readers would also be interested in I asked Hakaraj Rai (ex QGE Sgt and latterly GWS AWO) to visit and ask some questions. The following is a result of this visit.

Article by Harkaraj Rai

Sgt Tilbahaadur Biswakarma was visited at his residence on 14 March 2022 for short interview regarding Biswakarma Khukuri Industries which was established in 1990 (BS 2047) at 10 Deulari Chowk, Chatara Line, Dharan, Sunsari.

21149842 Sgt Tilbahadur Biswakarma was originally from, Ward 3, Khiji VDC, Okhaldunga and enlisted into the British Army in November 1958 from Paklihawa. He was the last batch to enlist there as the following year recruitment for the Eastern Section moved to Dharan. He served in 10GR and during his time in the British Army he served in Malaya, Hong Kong, Singapore, UK, and Cyprus during Turkish / Greek separation period. He was trained as an armourer where he learnt invaluable skills such as arc welding, soldering and sheet metal works.

After 19 years of service with Brigade of Gurkhas Sgt Tilbahadur Biswakarma retired in 1977 and joined the Gurkha Reserve Unit in Brunei the same year. His GRU number was 498, and his job was to once more look after all weapons. In addition he renovated the canteen and retired from his second career in February 1990.

When asked “Why he started this business in first place?” His answers were very heart touching. In the first place, brave Gurkhas are known across the world and synonymous with the Gurkha Soldier is the Kukri. But on other hand the Nepal Government did not shown any interest in improving the quality of kukris while at the same time India supplied low quality kukris to the Brigade of Gurkhas and other Regiments in India.

Sgt Tilbahadur Biswkarma opened his business with fear and trepidation in 1990 (BS 2047) and first started to supply the British Brigade of Gurkhas in 1992. He missed out on the contract for some years and resumed once again in 2018 and has been supplying ever since. He supplies 600 to 1000 a year.

He personally overseas all that is made in his factory and as well as kukris he also makes other items from iron such as machetes, reaping hooks, swords, Karda, Chakma and knives. They come in various sizes and he will make whatever the customer needs.

The main propose of the kukri is to cut wood and trees and he does good business with countries such as America, China and Japan through a Kathmandu export agency. Every year a few small kuuris are produced as showcase items and are decorated. The cost of the kukri depends on size and quality and ranges from Rs 2000 to Rs 3000 per item; a far cry from the 1990 price of Rs 200.

What is used to make the kukri? He purchases old vehicle suspension leaf springs at auction as they are best for the blade and easily available. Buffalo horns are supplied from Calcutta, India to make the handle. In addition silver soldering rods, brass, a special glue from the laaha tree and hard wood (for the handle (bhend) are needed.

How is the kukri made? Once all materials for the blade have been collected and weighed they are heated up and beaten into shape. The blade is dipped in water to temper it and give it the hardness needed to be the blade of a weapon. The hardness is checked by cutting iron and listening to the sound it produces. After thoroughly checking to ensure it is of the right quality either the wooden or buffalo horn handle is fitted and tied up with a brass ring and sliver soldering to hold it in place. Finally is it highly polished and placed in a leather sheath (the Daap), to keep the kukri, the karda (small knife) and the chakmak (sharpening knife) protected. It takes one skilled person a full day to make one kukri.

Sgt Tilbahadur Biswakarma acknowledged the debt he owes to the Brigade of Gurkhas for training him as an armourer as without this skill he would not be where he is now.

He acknowledged that making kukris is a caste and generational trade and went on to say he will continue to make high quality kukris until his last breath and that he hopes this tradition will continue as long as there is a country called Nepal.

He went on to say that his ambition is not limited to his Kukri Industries business as he also wants to elevate the level of education in Nepal. To help realise this dream he has established two English Boarding Schools in Dharan. The first is the Shree Satya Shishu Niketan Secondary Boarding School which takes children from Nursery to Class 10 (age 16) Already 15 classes have passed through and attained their School Leaving Certificate (SLC). The SLC is equivalent to UK GCSEs. The second school is the Shree Gyan Niketan Primary English Boarding which has classes from Nursery to Class 6.

Sgt Tilbahadur Biswakarma is the Director of both schools and two of his sons help to run the them. His 3rd son, Khargen is helping him to run the Kukri Industry while is first son is working in Hong Kong. There are no shareholders invested in the school and he built the Secondary School on his own land. All he has earned has been invested in these schools.

A lot of Nepalis assume Nepal is a place of tremendous prosperity, technology and naturel sources (like it is in Japan), where highly educated people are the norm and who have many opportunities for innovation.

But for many Nepali’s their dream is focused on joining the British or Indian Armies or working overseas as labourers. With this in mind Sgt Tilbahadur Bisawkarma took these remarkable steps to provide a job and keep his sons in Nepal. His last message to ex-bhupus or serving soldiers is to come up with ideas for new businesses or industries so that the next generation can innovate too and become self-employed and then keep their children busy too.

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Well – fish and chips looked tasty on the menu – but in the event it was not quite what PRD and Christopher has imagined! Nevertheless accompanied by a bottle of Rose it served to fortify us for the task ahead. Peter and Annie, John Swanston and Mark Pettigrew joined Christopher and Griselda for lunch at the Hurlingham Club, basking in a perfect English Summer temperature and the croquet lawns in fine condition. Much enjoyable catching up and a little banter from Mark about Christopher’s right to bring in 5 guests as a reciprocal member (it does seem extraordinary) eventually gave way to locating the mallets and balls and taking to the ‘courts’. Croquet lawns they may appear to be – but the professionals call them ‘courts’ as in tennis!

Griselda had sadly to depart for grandmotherly duties elsewhere in the Capital, and so we commenced with an individual free for all in which Mark and John emerged triumphant on 4 points (having run four hoops each), Peter and Christopher on 2 points and Annie (holding herself back) on one. We then played two games of doubles with Annie and Christopher winning by 4/3 on the first outing and John and Mark winning by a similar margin on the final run. And suitably on the afternoon that Ben Stokes and England were mauling the Proteas batsmen at Edgbaston, Mark, in similar style, took the opportunity to run the fourth hoop from a full 25 yards with a majestic stroke- winning that coveted accolade ‘Sirmooree of the Lawns (oops – ‘Courts’)’!

   That ‘Ben Stokes’ moment!

As usual the Sirmoorees contributed in no small measure to the sartotial elegance of those gracing the lawns and the courts, and Annie modelled a very appealing waist sash – which might yet take the fashion world by storm. Peter did point out though that Annie had never taken part in Public Duties!

A traditionally English tea of Devon cream and scones brought our afternoon to a happy close before the Duffells and John Swanston departed westwards, Mark down the Trinity Road, and Christopher joined Griselda with the grandchildren!

A millinery of Sirmoor Topis join us for ‘Tiffin’!

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Malleteers of the Sirmoor Rifles once again adorned the hallowed lawns of Hurlingham this Summer – and I do not overstate the sartorial elegance of the occasion. On the opening day of the ‘Sirmoor Season’ in late July Hurlingham Members on an adjacent lawn informed Mark Pettigrew that seldom had such a distinguished and elegant quartet been seen on the lawns of the Club. The ‘quartet’ being Mark, Peter and Annie Duffell and David Santa-Ollala! The ‘Quartet’ were joined on the day by Sophie Graham, Kinny and Mimi Evans and Christopher Lavender – and later – after a good luncheon in the Caledonian Club – by David and Joanna Thomas.

After the two ‘heatwave days’ earlier in the week the cooler temperatures at the end of the week were welcome. We had opted to play Golf Croquet – as the more social of the two codes (the other option being the significantly more ‘Machiavellian’ Association Croquet). Kinny and Mimi adapted seamlessly from village croquet to the pristine lawns, and David Santa-Ollala displayed his accuracy with mallet and ball – with skills mastered in an earlier cricketing career. Peter was precise in the positioning of his ball before the hoops – although it proved an attractive target for his fellow Malleteers – while Annie continued to run the hoops with graceful ease. David Thomas made his mark on Lawn 6 as the afternoon drew to a close – with typical aplomb and gravitas, while Joanna encouraged Mimi and Christopher on Lawn 4 in their closely contested match with Peter and Annie – during which Mimi ran two hoops from ridiculous angles.

We ‘took tea’ shortly after Jo Santa-Ollala had arrived and then wended or way home – some as far as distant Wiltshire!


            Sophie lines up the next hoop

Annie runs one of many hoops – with admirers looking on.

The Elegant Quartet!

Mimi, Sophie and Kinny – adding their own elegance!

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