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GURKHA By Colour Seargeant Kailash Limbu : A Book Preview

LONDON : This year not only marks the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo but also the beginning of the enlistment of soldiers from Nepal into the British Army, the men known as Gurkhas. Colour Sergeant Kailash Limbu, a soldier of the Brigade of Gurkhas, has told his own story. The book is subtitled "Better to Die Than Live a Coward" and we see why these men are known as the bravest of the brave. The author gives us a personal record of how a few dozen men of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, held out against the combined forces of the Taliban insurgency in the siege of a place called Now Zad in Afghanistan, in July 2006. What began as a 24 hour encounter turned into a month-long siege. In between the story of the siege Kailash tells his own story. He was born in a remote hill village in Nepal in 1981, with a burning ambition to serve in the British Army Gurkha Brigade as his grandfather had done. He tells of the rigorous selection process, the culture shock of arrival in Britain, and his sense of comradeship in the Afghanistan war. 

With his first pay cheque he was able to have a tin roof put on his family home, to replace the thatch. The story of how the first Gurkhas entered the British Army in 1815 has become a legend. A group of Indian soldiers under Lieutenant Frederick Young attempted to enter Nepal, but ran away. But Young stood his ground and was taken prisoner. The Gurkhas asked him why he did not also run. He replied: "I didn't come this far just to run away". They said: "We could serve under an officer like you!" That is how the British and the Gurkhas came together in a relationship based on mutual respect, through many wars in the history of the British Empire. In 1947 the Independence of India led to big changes. By that time there were ten Gurkha regiments. Six were absorbed into the Indian Army and four remained British. Since then Gurkhas have continued to serve in places like Malaya, Borneo and the Falkland Islands, sometimes alongside Australian soldiers. They have been in the thickest of the battles with the Taliban in Afghanistan and in this book Kailash Limbu tells his experiences of that campaign. 

 Robert Willson is a Canberra reviewer.

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