Gaje Ghale VC

b. 01/07/1922 Barpak, Nepal. d. 28/03/2000 New Delhi, India.

Gaje Ghale (1918-2000), a Gurung of the Ghale tribe, was born in Barpak village in the Gorkha district of Nepal on August 1st 1918 (though he also admitted to being born on July 1st 1922). In 1934 he enlisted as a boy recruit, and on completing his training joined the 2nd Battalion, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force). He served in Waziristan, and from 1939 to 1942 was an Instructor at the Regimental Centre in Abbotabad.

Gaje Ghale VC

On May 24th 1943, a large force of Japanese were attempting to make an advance into the Chin Hills, where the 2nd/5th Gurkhas were part of the defence force. The Japanese occupied a vital tactical point, the key to the position, on Basha East Hill, the approach to which was a long bare knife-edge ridge which in some places was as little as 15ft wide. Two attempts to capture this point had been attempted and both had failed, for the Japanese were able to rake the position with fire from a dozen machine guns, as well as artillery and mortars, from concealed positions in the surrounding jungle.

On May 25th, Gaje Ghale was given the task of taking the position. Although it was his first time under fire, he showed from the beginning outstanding courage. Shouting the Gurkha battle cry, he led assault after assault along the ridge onto the entrenched Japanese. A Japanese grenade wounded Gaje Ghale in the chest, arm and leg. Though covered with blood, he ignored his injuries and continued to throw grenades with his other arm. After prolonged hand-to-hand fighting the position was captured. The Gurkhas succeeded in holding it in the face of heavy fire from the Japanese trying to retake it. In spite of his wounds, Gaje Ghale refused to go back to the regimental aid post until certain that the position was consolidated and secure, and then only when eventually ordered to by an officer.

In 1943 when it was proposed to present Gaje Ghale with the Victoria Cross medal at the regimental centre in Abbotabad, the regimental Bahun (the near equivalent of a chaplain in a British regiment, who holds no rank and wears no uniform but is a respected religious adviser) announced that the date was inauspicious and should be postponed. Soon afterwards a signal giving official confirmation of the postponement was received.

Gaje Ghale later received the VC from Field Marshal Lord Wavell in Delhi at a parade beneath the walls of the Red Fort in the presence of a crowd of 5,000. He was later decorated with the Star of Nepal in Kathmandu by the Prime Minister of Nepal. In 1946 Gaje Ghale attended the victory parade in London, and after Independence in 1947 remained with the Battalion, now serving the Government of India. He was promoted to Subedar Major (Senior Indian Officer).

In 1963 he served in the Congo with the United Nations Force, along with Subedar Agansing Rai, a fellow VC who had won his award in 1944. Before retiring he was granted the honorary rank of captain. A regular attender of VC reunions, in 1990 Gaje Ghale joined four of the seven Gurkha VC-holders then surviving at the opening of the Gurkha Museum at the Peninsula Barracks, Winchester, Hampshire. Five years later he was one of a gathering of 21 VCs at the Royal Tournament as part of the 50th anniversary of V-J Day.

Gaje Ghale, who was married with eight children, died on 28th March 2000 in New Delhi, India. He was cremated at Dehra Dun. His medals were initially held on loan by the Gurkha Museum, Winchester, Hampshire. In January 2015, the medals were purchased privately by Michael Ashcroft and are now on display at the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.