Honorary Major Tule Ale IDSM

Tule Ale as an Honorary Lieutenant, before being advanced to Honorary Major rank (Gurkha Museum)

Tule Ale enlisted into the 2nd Goorkhas on 14th October 1940.  After recruit training at Dehra Doon he was posted to the 3rd Battalion which in 1943 formed a major component of Wingate’s first Chindit expedition.  He served in No 2 Column.  In some respects this Column was lucky, as having bumped a large Japanese force short of the Irrawaddy they turned back early and returned to India as a cohesive body, in contrast to the rest of the force. As a result of Wingate’s controversial scatter order given after the Chindit bridgehead was attacked on the Irrawaddy, the other columns, after a few successes, mostly degenerated into small groups of starving fugitives ruthlessly hunted by the Japanese.  However, even No 2 column suffered extremes of hunger and thirst during their withdrawal, but keeping together and helping their wounded they got back exhausted but in one piece.

Later that year, in December, British forces for the second time tried to wrest the western Arakan peninsula from the Japanese.  In bitter fighting they slowly forced the Japanese back until, by early 1945, they were poised to take the key port of Akyab from the enemy.  As part of this operation the 3rd Battalion were tasked with taking two key hill features nicknamed ‘Snowdon‘ and ‘Snowdon East’ near the village of Tamandu. Although they had artillery support it proved largely ineffective against the deeply entrenched bunkers of the Japanese, so that in the end the positions had to be taken by infantry assault.   The company commander Major ‘Nick’ Neill used Naik (Corporal) Tule Ale to carry out a reconnaissance of the Japanese position during which he identified five machine gun nests, information on which Nick Neill based his plan of attack.  During the ensuing battle Neill reported:

‘Naik Tule Ale himself led the attack and was the first to reach the foremost enemy trench. This he attacked single-handed killing the two Japanese occupants with his Tommy-gun. He then called forward those left alive in his section and put them in position in the captured trench.  Naik Tule’s final objective was now only fifteen paces away and was a trench holding four enemy. Ordering his Bren gunner to give him covering fire he again went forward alone to attack the position. With the greatest of bravery Naik Tule Ale charged this trench and, hurling two grenades into it, killed all four Japanese.’

In the last stages of this desperate battle, Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung won the Victoria Cross for single handedly taking out the final Japanese positions. Naik Tule Ale received the IDSM for his actions and the 2nd Goorkhas received the battle honour ‘Tamandu’.

After the Second World War Tule Ale joined the 2nd Battalion.  Nick Neill was again his Company Commander and as a Lieutenant (QGO) Tule Ale commanded a platoon on operations against the communist insurgents in Malaya.  Later, he was put in command of 99 Brigade Defence Platoon where he quickly gained the good opinion of the Brigade Commander, Major General Walter Walker.  He then returned to the 2nd Battalion to be Second in Command of B Company during the Borneo Confrontation against Indonesia, with Nick Neill now the Battalion commander.  After Borneo the Brigade of Gurkhas was reduced in size and it looked as if Tule Ale would have to go on pension.  However, the Gurkha Major of the 2nd Battalion unexpectedly died in his sleep and Tule was called in to take over. It was a very difficult time with hundreds of soldiers being made redundant on pitiful terms, but Tule Ale proved a bastion of good sense and his sound advice helped the two 2nd Battalion Commandants, Tony Harrison and Johnny Lawes, to make the best of an incredibly hard job.  On his retirement he was appointed Honorary Lieutenant, subsequently advanced to Honorary Major.

He died on 13th August 2012 and an obituary appeared in the 2013 Regimental Journal.


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