HISTORY OF THE NEPALESE ARMY
Indian Sepoy Mutiny 1857 AD
The Indians had started their independence struggle against the British empire in the 1800s. The struggle spread to the Indian native armed forces serving the British. The mutiny began from the Meerut cantonment. The British Empire requested Nepal for help. The shrewd Prime Minister and Commander – in – Chief Jung Bahadur Rana himself took part in the suppression of the mutiny with Col Pahal Man Singh Basnyat and Col Bhairab Narsingh Rana along with some 17,000 Nepalese troops. About 5,000 mutineers were killed and some 500 captured in Gorakhpur, Jompur, Lucknow, Pipre Sahebgunj, Shish Gunj, Balewa and Jalalpur, by the Nepalese expedition. The relation between the British and the Nepalese naturally further improved. On 18th November1860 an agreement between the two governments was signed. The plain areas lying between Mahakali River and Rapti River, which was lost by Nepal in the 1816 Sugauli Treaty, was returned by the grateful British.
The First World War 1914-1918 AD
The Nepalese Army participated in World War I with The First Rifle, Kalibox, Sumsher Dal, Jabbar Jung, Pasupati Prasad, Bhairab Nath, Second Rifle, Bhairung and Srinath Battalions. The total number of NA troops deployed to India at the time was 14,000. Troops were armed with the Martin Henry and Enfield rifles. General Babar Shumsher, General Tej Shumsher and General Padam Shumsher, were the main commanders. The discipline, professionalism and adaptability of the Nepalese soldiers was again well respected in the First World War. Additionally, Nepal also sent almost two hundred thousand troops, the cream of its manhood, and proportionately a higher percentage of military aged men than most countries, to fight as part of the British Indian Army itself. This generous assistance was later extended with even more troops in the Second World War.
Waziristhan War 1917 AD
Wazirsthan, in the NW Frontier of British India had revolted against British rule. Their Pathan warriors called "Masuds" were outstanding fighters and they had vowed to fight the British who were at this moment deeply involved in the First World War. The British requested the Nepalese Army to help neutralize the movement. The Mahindra Dal Battalion and First Rifle Battalion were involved in the suppression of the movement from March 1917. This was a joint military operation – Nepalese 1st Rifle with British 43rd Brigade and the Mahendra Dal Battalion with 45th Bde. The Nepalese Army had to accept many casualties. NA units, British Gurkha Regiments and British regulars had fought shoulder to shoulder. Many NA soldiers were decorated with British medals.
Afgan War 1919 AD
After the end of the First World War, British – India decided to go to war in Afghanistan. Nepal was, as usual, requested to provide military assistance to the British. Revitalized tactical training for the Nepalese Army started in May 1919. Nepalese troops commanded by Gen Baber Shumsher reached India and the British Army received them with a 13 gun salute. The troops were concentrated in Awotabad. Later, the group was deployed in Nausera and the 2nd group in Marden. Meanwhile, the Amir of Afghanistan had sought Russian assistance. But Russia being engaged in its own internal problems was unable to help and Afghanistan was bound to accept a peace treaty. Nepalese troops were stationed there for three months.
The Second World War
There was a bilateral treaty between Nepal and Britain about the mobilization of Nepalese soldiers. The units which took part were Sri Nath, Kalibox, Surya Dal, Naya Gorakh, Barda Bahadur, Kali Bahadur, Mahindra Dal, Second Rifle, Bhairung, Jabbar Jung, Shumsher Dal, Sher, Devi Dutta, Bhairab Nath, Jagannath and Purano Gorakh Battalions. Besides, there were many high ranking Nepalese in the Joint Army HQ. Late Commander-in-Chief Kiran Shumsher Rana and ex-Commander-in-Chief and Field Marshall Nir Shumsher Rana were amongst the officers deployed by the Nepalese Army.
When Japan got involved in this war in December 1940, the British presence was threatened in the Indian subcontinent. Britain deployed its troops in India and on the Burma front. Nepalese battalions – Mahindra Dal, Sher, Kali Bahadur and Jagannath- were also deployed. These Nepalese battalions fought under Allied Command. The Jagannath Battalion took part as engineers to construct tracks, bridges, water points etc.
Nepalese troops fought with distinction in the 14th Army under Slim and helped force the eventual Japanese retreat. Finally, following the atomic bomb attacks on Hirosima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered. Most Nepalese troops were withdrawn to Kathmandu in Oct 1945. A grand victory parade was held on 28 Oct 1945 where many Nepalese soldiers, officers and associated British officers were honored for their appreciable performances.
Hyderbad Action - 1948 AD
The British left India in 1947. British India was split into India and Pakistan. Religious violence between the Hindu and Muslim communities erupted in many places. Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru requested Nepal to assist in controlling the situation. The Rana rulers took the decision to send Nepalese troops into India after long discussions. The Battalions which took part were Sri Nath, Kalibox, Kali Bahadur, Ganesh Dal, Shamsher Dal, Naya Gorakh, Barda Bahadur, Devi Dutta, Sher, Bhawani Dal, Bhairab Nath, Mahindra Dal, Second Rifle, Surya Dal, Narshima Dal, Purano Gorakh, Gorakh Nath, Bhairung, Jabbar Jung and Kali Prasad.
The Nepalese Army contingent was led by Maj Gen Sharada SJB Rana. These troops were deployed in many parts of India like Hyderbad, Ranchi, Calcutta, Deharadun, Ramgarh etc. Nepalese troops contributed greatly to the stabilization of the situation. At the request of the Indian government, some Nepalese troops also partook in the action in Hyderabad which was reined into the Indian Republic. After successful operations in Hyderbad, Nepalese troops stayed on for eight more months and finally returned back to Nepal in March 1949.
In the post WW II period, the Nepalese Army underwent a major overhaul. This ushered in a new era of professionalisation and institutionalization of training. As ever, the NA continued to provide noteworthy assistance to civil authorities responding to various natural calamities and disasters.
Disarmament of the Khampas - 1974 AD
By the early 70’s, some 9000 "Khampas” (Tibetan tribesmen resisting Chinese authority) had crossed over to Nepal and established various high altitude camps which they used as launch pads for operations into the Chinese Autonomous Region of Tibet. By 1973, these fighters, initially enjoying substantial foreign material and moral support, decided to invest the remote Nepalese District of Mustang as a firm base.
After various diplomatic initiatives, Nepal was finally compelled to carry out military operations to disarm the Khampas. A brigade sized taskforce left Pokhara on 15th June 1974. The main battle group was based on Shree Sri Nath Battalion and the effort included units or elements from:
- Shree Sri Nath Battalion
- Shree Raj Dal Battalion (Arty)
- Shree Bhairab Nath Battalion (Para)
- Shree Kali Prashad Battalion (Engineers)
- Shree Ganesh Dal Battalion (Signals)
- Shree First Rifle Battalion
- Shree Indra Dhoj Company
- Shree Ahridaman Company
- Shree Chandan Nath Company
The Indradhoj Company served as the Vanguard in the long, difficult mountain advance from Pokhara - Naudanda - Hile - Ghodepane - Dana - Ghasa – Lete - Marpha - Jomsom (this is now one of the most popular trekking routes in Nepal).The Nepalese Army Air Corps played a crucial role, conducting extremely hazardous resupply and other missions in a largely uncharted, radar less high altitude environment.
With the Army poised to strike, if necessary, the Khampa Commander Wangdi agreed to disarm on 31st July 1974. However, it soon became evident that Wangdi himself intended to escape, resulting in a series of cordon and search operations resulting in the capture of:
- Rifles - 543
- Bren Guns - 75
- Sten Guns -35
- Pistols - 16
- 60 mm Mortars - 8 (385 bombs)
- 57 mm RCL - 7 (320 shells)
- Communication sets - 5
- All types of ammunition - 2,02,349.
Wangdi initially managed to slip out through a high altitude mountain pass and moved with his selected party of 50 - 60 towards the Western border of Nepal, hundreds of kilometers away. His luck ran out when reports of their attempt to loot a Nepal Police Post in Mugu (Far Western Nepal) focused the search operations.
He eventually succumbed to a Nepalese Army ambush carried out by an element of Shree Ahridaman Company in high altitudes of Tinkerlipu on 15th Sep 1974, bringing this episode to a victorious conclusion for the Nepalese Army. It is to the credit of Nepal that the Khampas who opted to remain in Nepal were provided land and have since settled peacefully.