Newspaper article, Katmandu, 29th March 2000
and, Obituary, "The Times", 30 March 2000

It has been reported that Hon Captain Gaje Ghale VC, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army, died at 18:35 (NST) on the 28th March 2000, at the Batra Nursing Home, New Delhi following a short illness.The son of Captain Ghale has been attributed to have said that his body is being taken to Almoda, Dehradun, where he had been living since his retirement.

Captain Ghale was born in Barabak Village, Gorkha District, Nepal on the 1st July 1922 and joined the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles ( Frontier Force ) in 1936. He joined the 2nd Battalion as a rifleman in 1937. His Victoria Cross action took place over a three day period between 24th-27th May 1943, fighting the Japanese in Burma.

The action in which he won his VC was fought in the final phase of 17th Indian Division's withdrawal and life-and-death struggle with the Japanese 33rd Division on the Tiddim Road on 27 May 1943. If their line was to be held against sustained Japanese pressure, it was essential for 2 / 5th Gurkhas to clear the enemy from positions overlooking their own. Two assaults on Basha East Hill, the key to the Japanese position, had failed. Casualties among the platoon commanders had been so heavy that Gaje was made an acting havildar in command of a platoon of D Company and led it in the third assault.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 30 September 1943 ], Basha East Hill, Burma, 24 - 27 May 1943, Havildar Gaje Ghale, 2nd Bn, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles.

In order to stop an advance into the Chin Hills of greatly superior Japanese forces it was essential to capture Basha East hill which was the key to the enemy position. Two assaults had failed but a third assault was ordered to be carried out by two platoons of Havildar Gaje Ghale's company and two companies of another battalion.

Havildar Gaje Ghale was in command of one platoon: he had never been under fire before and the platoon consisted of young soldiers. The approach for this platoon to their objective was along a narrow knife-edge with precipitous sides and bare of jungle whereas the enemy positions were well concealed. In places, the approach was no more than five yards wide and was covered by a dozen machine guns besides being subjected to artillery and mortar fire from the reverse slope of the hill.

While preparing for the attack the platoon came under heavy mortar fire but Havildar Gaje Ghale rallied them and led them forward. Approaching to close range of the well-entrenched enemy, the platoon came under withering fire and this. N.C.O. was wounded in the arm, chest and leg by an enemy hand grenade. Without pausing to attend to his serious wounds and with no heed to the intensive fire from all sides, Havildar Gaje Ghale closed his men and led them to close grips with the enemy when a bitter hand-to-hand struggle ensued.

Havildar Gaje Ghale dominated the fight by his outstanding example of dauntless courage and superb leadership. Hurling hand grenades, covered in blood from his own neglected wounds, he led assault after assault encouraging his platoon by shouting the Gurkha's battle cry. Spurred on by the irresistible will of their leader to win, the platoon stormed and carried the hill by a magnificent all out effort and inflicted very heavy casualties on the Japanese.

Havildar Gaje Ghale then held and consolidated this hard won position under heavy fire and it was not until the consolidation was well in hand that he went, refusing help, to the Regimental Aid Post, when ordered to do so by an officer. The courage, determination and leadership of this N.C.O. under the most trying conditions were beyond all praise.

Gaje Ghale was invested with his Victoria Cross by the Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Lord Wavell, at the Red Fort, Delhi, on the 6th January 1944.

Gaje Ghale was promoted Jamadar in October 1943. His VC was presented to him by the Viceroy, Field Marshall Lord Wavell in 1944, and he was a member of his regiment's contingent at the Victory Parade in London. He maintained the closest links with his former British officers of the 5th Gurkhas, and visited England on a number of occasions under the auspices of the VC & GC Association. His most recent visit was in the Autumn of 1990.

( select to enlarge )
Medal entitlement of Hon Captain Gaje Ghale,
2nd Bn, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles

  • Victoria Cross
  • Sainya Seva Medal ( India )
    • 1 clasp:
    • "Jammu Kashmir"
  • Videsh Seva Medal ( India )
    • 1 clasp:
    • "Congo"
  • Indian Independence Medal ( 1947 )
  • India General Service Medal ( 1936-39 )
    • 1 clasp:
    • "North West Frontier 1937-39"
  • 1939 - 45 Star
  • Burma Star
  • War Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • India Service Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal ( 1977 )
  • 20 Years Long Service Medal ( India )
  • United Nations Service Medal ( 1960-64 ) ( Congo ribbon )

    Image courtesy of the Lord Ashcroft Collection / © IWM

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Iain Stewart, 30 March 2000