Bhui’s story

Bhui Maya Rana arrived at Abbeygate House in Colchester in October 2014 after making the decision to live in the UK in her ninth decade. Bhui’s husband, Hira Bahadur Rana, joined the British Gurkhas after 1947. They were married in 1948 when Bhui was 15  years old but sadly she was widowed by her 30s. Bhui joined her husband in Hong Kong and Brunei and briefly visited Singapore during her time as a Gurkha wife.

Bhui’s story…

I lived in a place called Manakamana, and the nearest town I used to live near is called Gorkha. It used to take about one day [walk on foot, no cars]. So when I go in the morning, then I would get there in evening time. But for Pokhara, it used to take us three days to get there.

I didn’t go to school because there was no school there and I had to do farming and all the housework… Bhui’s story continues here: http://gurkhastories.com/portfolio-view/bhui-maya-rana/

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Hong Kong c. 1960 when Bhui lived there (photo by Major Godwin)

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A Time for Celebration of Our Gurkha Stories Project!

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The stunning Colchester Castle was a-buzz with our vibrant and colourful party of Gurkha veterans, their wives and families yesterday along with our supporters from the community of Colchester. We were celebrating our project’s amazing achievements and I can honestly say I couldn’t have wished for a better atmosphere and outcome.  We have all worked very diligently and meticulously for the last 12 months to achieve all our outcomes and now we are deservedly celebrating the Gurkha community in Colchester and their life stories!

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We’d like to give a massive thank you to our Army Covenant funders for coming along and taking part in the celebrations and to Colchester’s local dignitaries, Will Quince MP and Sir Bob Russell, for showing their support. And, of course, thanks goes to the hardest-working museum team in the country at Colchester Museum for giving us the amazing venue for the afternoon and exhibition space all summer.

Watching the super efficiency of a group of Gurkhas working together is a sight to behold.  It’s like working with a group of magical genies who just make everything happen effortlessly.  So when the community comes together many hands make light work and magic happens when organisation comes into play! Turn your back on a room for 30 seconds and it’s all been set up or struck down according to the plan. There’s a valuable lesson to be learnt about working in harmony for the greater good.

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The lovely Gurkha ladies put on a tasty buffet of traditional Nepalese food and many of us had a crack at the freestyle Nepalese dancing throughout the afternoon. But my favourite was a veteran who gave it some cool grooves.

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The 308 Air Cadets were on hand to chat about the Gurkha film they made and we were able to show our school activity pack, the many photos from 1950s,’60s to present day and audio excerpts from the veterans’ interviews.

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Overall we’ve recorded around 40 hours of life stories from the veterans.  But we hope this is just the beginning for Gurkha Stories as we will seek funding for our next phase. The interviews tell of the veterans’ childhoods, their families, why they joined the Gurkhas and how they coped, plus life after the army.  It’s been good to record the veterans from their own perspective and the oral history book of their interviews will be published in the autumn.

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Our Gurkha Stories exhibition runs throughout the summer at Colchester Castle up until 13th September 2015.  Please do share our website and blog with your friends and the public.

http://gurkhastories.com/

The more people who read and hear their stories the better. We thank you so much for your support.

Om Sherchan’s background story illustrates how desperate he was to enlist as a teenager…

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Interview extract…

In 1963, we had to go to the Brunei war. We worked as SAS during the war. Times were very hard. We thought we were not going to make it back alive. Why? Because at that time we had one British officer, myself as a medic, an engineer who cleared away areas and handled cash and a radio operator from the Signals. There were just four of us who went on an operation in that hostile Brunei jungle. It was not just for one or two days, it was for one or one and a half month at a time. We even infiltrated the Indonesian camp and sent back valuable intelligence. We spent months in the jungle, just the four of us. That was a difficult time and at that time we did not have hopes of returning back alive.

More of Om’s story excerpts can be read on our main website: http://gurkhastories.com/portfolio-view/gurkha-13/

Som Bahadur Sahi remembers an ambush in the Indonesian jungle…

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Once they sent out two sections of Gurkhas in the dukha (troubled) territory to wipe out the enemy. There were 21 Gurkha 6 British officers and a dog. On our way, we found biscuit and sweet wrappers on the jungle floor and followed the trail and found them camped near a small hill. They were set up in groups and it almost looked like they had a company there. Before we decided what to do, the leading scout  fired a SMG ,small machine gun, which managed to hit an Indonesian Haldar Major. He shouted  with agony and alerted his troops.

The platoon commander ordered all to drop their bags and charge. After that, all the 21 Gurkhas charged saying , “Ayo Gorkhali, charge! ” The Scottish OC praised us for our work and said that the officers who had only heard and read stories about Gurkhas had the opportunity to witness it first-hand.

In this incident we salvaged many weapons, among them were 19 rifles, 1 machine gun and uncountable pistols, grenades and ammunition. We cleared a small area for the helicopter to drop us some nettings. We filled the nettings and burned all their rations with petrol. The helicopter had to do 3 trips to transport all the guns and ammunitions including radio sets along with other salvaged goods.

We also helped the injured enemy to the helicopter but sadly he died on the way. He was shot with the SMG burst.

Further memories from Som Bahadur Sahi can be read at http://gurkhastories.com/portfolio-view/som-bahadur-sahi/

(Photo: Imperial War Museum)

When is a Gherkin Not a Gherkin? When it’s a Gurkha of course!

“Now, does anybody know what a Gurkha is and where they are from?” “Is it like a gherkin pickle, Miss?”

So went the opening line in this morning’s activity session with Year 4’s ‘Time Travellers’ in the history club at the Hazelmere Junior School. But after a couple of hours following ‘The Secrets of the Gurkha Suitcase’ every student definitely discovered all about the Gurkhas and their country of Nepal. The young time travellers played a few games of ‘tigers and goats’ and made finger puppets for the app ‘Puppet Pals’ and recorded their stories as a Galla Wala recruiter and young lads wishing to join the Brigade of Gurkhas.  They also found time to make a map of the fictitious village of Kotan in East Nepal. The morning ended with a surprise visit from Umesh himself, former Gurkha and army captain, where kids asked him lots of questions!  They did brilliantly and were so inquisitive about the Gurkhas they plan to hold several sessions during the next academic year.  Year 2 even had the chance to become involved in their own activity session last week and made some suitcases for the Gurkhas and finger puppets too.

A huge thank you from Gurkha Stories for making us feel so welcome, especially to Miss Becky Robertson and Mrs Lesley McDonald who arranged the sessions for us.

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Colchester Garrison Show was hot!

Umesh and I had a brilliant time at the Colchester Garrison Show yesterday.  The public showed Gurkha Stories their warm support when they visited our stand.  The young children were fascinated by our Gurkha Stories activity resource for schools, ‘Secrets of the Gurkha Suitcase’.

Umesh was very happy to be interviewed by Liz Mullen from BFBS Radio who asked us both all about Gurkha Stories.  Many of the public who came up to our stand had seen our story in the Colchester Gazette earlier this week and were familiar with it. So it’s great news that our project is starting to be publicised by word of mouth.  The veterans are so keen to share their stories so we’re delighted with the publicity.

Gurkha Stores has an exhibition at Colchester Castle all summer between now and 13th September and we very much hope you get the chance to pop in and see for yourself the wonderful stories of these veterans.

Some moments captured yesterday from our day…

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From the very young (‘I’M FOUR!’) to the very senior – every generation was enthralled with Umesh’s ceremonial Gurkha knife (kukri). They couldn’t resist picking it up with both hands, it was pretty heavy! The little knife is for working on smaller tasks, the bigger knife was used in religious ceremonies such as Dashera.

Umesh was very happy to meet up with the Director & Trustee of the Gurkha Museum Lt Col. Tony Bridger OBE:

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BFBS Radio Presenter, Liz Mullen, interviews Umesh and I for the Colchester station…

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The Gurkha wives of Abbeygate house and our team for the day…

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Our double page feature in Wednesday’s Colchester Gazette…

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Thank you for a fabulous event!