Subedar-Major Siblal Thapa

Subedar Major Siblal Thapa (

Subedar-Major Siblal Thapa had enlisted in the 2nd Goorkhas in 1915 and served with the 1st Battalion in Mesopotamia and North-West Persia.  In the inter-war years he went with them to Waziristan in 1921-24 and in 1936-37, being promoted to Jemadar in 1929 and Subedar in 1937.  He became Subedar-Major of the 3rd Battalion in May 1942, handing over in mid-1943 after their return from Burma.  He was then Subedar-Major of one of the training battalions in the Regimental Centre at Dehra Dun before retiring in 1947.

An autobiographical account of his experiences on the Chindit expedition was published, translated into English from Gurkhali, in the Regimental newsletter of January 1945.  In it, he explained how:

‘Whilst advancing we [No 2 Column] were ambushed at 2100 hours on 1 March. We fought in spasms for about an hour, after which the dispersal bugle was sounded.  Our standing orders were to break into small groups and head for an agreed rendezvous at Taunguan.  I remained in the battle area all night, although it was pretty hopeless trying to gather up the stragglers in the dark as we could not tell who was friend and who was foe.  I spent the whole of the next day (2 March) rounding up the stragglers and checking over the battle area.  We had lost seven men killed and two wounded. Rifleman Kulbir Pun had sustained multiple wounds from enemy mortar fire and was left close to a nearby village.  I never saw any of my wounded men again.  I led away my group, consisting of the RAF Liaison Officer, three British Officers, seventy Gurkha Other Ranks and some sixty mules.  Not one of the Sahibs (British Officers) could speak Urdu or Gurkhali and trying to make myself understood was hopeless.’

After joining No 1 Column at the rendezvous he and his men remained with them.  He was an adept forager and found much supplementary food for the starving men of the column.  On 29 March 1943 they were ordered to return to India.  After reaching the Irrawaddy on 25 April the Column dispersed and Siblal led his group of 79 men westwards.  They had nothing to eat except what they could forage:

‘We were all in a bad way, but we kept plodding on.  We averaged just four miles per day during this period as men continually collapsed through exhaustion and we had to wait for them to catch up.  We looked terrible, with drawn features and ragged uniforms, the men talked very little as even this took up too much energy.’

They reached the Chindwin on 10 May, and with the help of men from 3rd Battalion 5th Gurkha Rifles crossed to the home bank:

‘With the guidance of Ram and Lord Krishna, the Long, Long Trail had come to an end.  My party went through terrible hardships, but always kept their chins up and won through in the end.  I still possess the maps I used on the expedition showing that we marched approximately 2000 miles, including wandering off the map on two occasions.  When I look back, the trek seems to be nothing but a bad dream.  We all marched so far to do so very little.  I hope that our younger generations will not have to go through the same ordeal.’


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