Subedar Major Hari Sing Bohra, Sirdar Bahadur OBI IOM

The brutality of the Japanese and their Korean guards towards prisoners is an enduring trope of the Far Eastern campaign.  They were unpredictable and illogical in their behaviour.  Major Evans later wrote ‘They might deliver punishments for the same offence which ranged from admonitions and slapping in the face to beatings with long bamboo poles, close confinement and even shooting.’

Subedar-Major Harising Bohra, the senior Gurkha officer of the 2nd Battalion, was to die as a result of such random Japanese violence.  He had joined the 2nd Battalion in March 1914 and fought with them in France,  Mesopotamia and North-West Persia.   Between the wars he served in Waziristan and elsewhere on the North-West Frontier.  Promoted to Jemadar in 1930, he became Subedar-Major on 1 October 1940.  He was part of a distinguished 2nd Goorkhas family: his grandfather, Gopal Bohra, was Subedar-Major of the 2nd Battalion 1893-96; his father, Man Sing Bohra, was Subedar-Major of the 2nd Battalion 1912-14 and killed in France; and his older brother Shamsher Bohra was Subedar-Major of the 2nd Battalion 1930-34 and Subedar Major of the Regimental Centre 1940-43.

When the 2nd Battalion deployed to Malaya all the cooks were incapacitated by sea-sickness so Subedar-Major Hari Sing Bohra, who was unaffected, acted as sole cook for the whole Battalion.  During the long-fought withdrawal down the peninsula and in Singapore he was notably resourceful in foraging and finding food for the hard-pressed men of the Battalion.

As the senior Gurkha officer in captivity he was the main channel of communication between the men of the 2nd Battalion and their Japanese captors.  In early 1944 he addressed a dignified and impressive letter of protest to the Japanese Commander, pointing out that Gurkhas are not Indian citizens and therefore not interested in serving in the Indian National Army.  Under his orders the Gurkha officers and men resolutely opposed every attempt by the Japanese to suborn them.  His letter drew a ferocious response.  The Gurkha officers were separated from the men and locked up, beaten, starved and forced to do coolie labour under the orders of coolies.  In May 1944, blind from ill-treatment, he died of internal haemorrhages caused by the beatings, proudly defiant to the last.  He was posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit.

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