Gurkhas, How true is this.

Discussion in 'General' started by peterhastie, Nov 22, 2009.

  1. peterhastie

    peterhastie Senior Member

    Everytime I see or hear of the Gurkhas this story comes to mind.
    When on patrol if they came across sleeping soldiers they would feel their boot laces to see if they were friend or foe. If foe, Kukris out and throats cut.

    My experience of the Gurkhas is as follows.

    Whilst in Hong Kong in the RN we were required to provide a crowd for there riot control training. After being briefed on how to behave a couple of us were told the ultimate goal was to obtain a weapon from one of them.
    Later, after the initial can throwing and abuse hurtling, a couple of us rushed several Gurkhas in the flank protection. I grabbed this little chap round the waist and picked him up intending to run off with him and obtain his weapon, with the help of my mates. The Gurkhas mates responded with a relentless rain of blows with there riot sticks. I dropped him instantly and ran off with my tail between my legs.
    Later we did manage to get and SLR from one of them. I felt sorry for the owner as he was probably returned to Nepal in shame.
     
  2. Phaethon

    Phaethon Historian

    My grandfather told me the story about the shoe laces from his time in africa, so the story has been around a while. He told me they used to pat the guards on the leg and say "you ok tommy."; at which point you presumably knew you were going to live.

    This always left me wondering a) how much time the Ghurkas spent crawling around, b) how good at crawling around undetected they were c) how good at directions they must have or have not been in order for them to be doing this to so many british shoe laces d) how the americans and non-UK troops in the same areas must have done their shoe laces up that were any different e) how you would feel with a small hand suddenly feeling your shoes at two am and not know how to react (I'm guessing the thought would go through your head as to how much care you took in doing your laces that morning and as to whether or not you had a change of uniform trousers in your kit bag)

    Given all of these factors it has also crossed by mind as to how awfully difficult it must be to feel ones shoelaces whilst standing in a slit trench.

    Having said this, there is not doubt how superb a fighting unit the Ghurkas are/were, and how good at patrolling they could be (and presumably sentries did do a bit of standing around outside of trenches at night, and given the terrain in africa/italy it is entirely probable they did quite a bit of stealthy lurking through brush and mountaintops), so I believe the story, I just don't know how often it could have happened in actuality... probably a lot less then it was recounted and it got carried around in the same way the stories about the Ghurkas eating the dead did in the falklands.

    If the allies knew the story at the time, you can bet the germans did, and there were probably a few sleepless nights on the front night where germans paid undue attention as to how they did their shoes up.
     
  3. Steve G

    Steve G Senior Member

    I heard about the cutting of sleeping enemy soldiers throats, when I was a nipper. Probably told to me by a mate who, I'd imagine, had heard it from his own Dad.

    However, this is the first time I've heard about the boot laces.

    If we step back and look at it? What real sense does it make to try to attack a man from his feet? :huh: If ye knowingly in the enemy camp and out to do harm, surely ye going to be creeping about at the most vulnerable ends.

    There'd only be enemy troops there. They'd hardly be laying down mixed up with ye allies. So, get amongst them and get to work. But, I feel the boot lace thing may be a bit of fabrication, probably dreamed up on the spot by someone telling such a tale and being challenged on " How did they know, in the dark, who they had? ".

    Something like that perhaps make more sense?

    Have we a Ghurka vet' in the house ....?
     
  4. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Hi

    We have been here before :)

    Hi 51highland

    Was just reading your Dad's story and was promptly reminded of another article posted by a long-standing friend of mine, one Larry Fox, who was in the same unit as myself at Cassino.

    The original article appeared in the BBC WW2 Archives and I give an excerpt below :

    "I have just read the story written by Haydn Green, relating the experience at Monte Cassino, when he was told not to cross his shoe laces, as he would be mistaken for a German and killed by the Ghurkhas.
    I had a similar experience when I was with the 78th infantry div at Cassino. I was on guard at about 2 o’clock in the morning sitting on a large rock half asleep fully dressed, with my rifle between my knees, when I felt someone fondling my gaiters on my ankles. As I was still half asleep, I shouted "What's hasppening ! ... and who is it? . A voice answered back " SLEEP JOHNY SLEEP", I could not see anyone and was finally relieved of my guard duty.
    The next morning I spoke to a Ghurka officer who was nearby and asked him if he knew if anyone else had a similar experience, he then said "I can tell you exactly what happened".
    He then told me his men were out on patrol. On return, in the dark, they saw a body on the rock. To make sure it was not a German , they felt my ankles. If I had been wearing jack boots, I would have had my head chopped off with a kukri knife, but fortunately I was fully dressed with my gaiters, so that I am still around to tell the tale"

    To see the full story, complete with a sketch done at the time, use this link:

    BBC - WW2 People's War - Sleep Johny Sleep at Cassino
     
  5. WotNoChad?

    WotNoChad? Senior Member

    Heard similar from my Grandfather but he mentioned epaulettes.
     
  6. andy007

    andy007 Senior Member

    Hi Guys,
    After reading the thread I had to ask my Gurkha friend (served in Burma 1941-1945) whether this was true or not.......It is. He was saying that they always told the Americans not to cross lace their boots because that was different to the British and would result in their demise and if there were no laces then the boots were Japanese.

    He explained if the boots turned out belong to the enemy the Gurkha would go for the unfortunate souls crotch then as he came down to protect himself his head would be in the right place. A little gruesome but as he said to me 'it happened'.
     
    Steve G likes this.
  7. Stig O'Tracy

    Stig O'Tracy Senior Member

    My neighbour when I was growing up was a retired Lt Col. form the RCAF, FG Fellows. He's been mentioned before in the forum with regards to his exploits while flying Short Sunderlands. Anyway, he was a great neighbour, especially for a kid who was very interested in the military and WW2. He had a load of cool souvenirs which included a Kukri with the scabbard and two throwing knives. He told me that he once asked a Gurkha soldier if he could see his knife. The soldier obliged him but then he cut himself with the knife before he put it back in the scabbard explaining that if he drew his knife that it must draw blood.
    Another thing that he had that I always thought was neat was the tail sections of two 250 lbs practice bombs which he used as plant pots on his back deck.
     
  8. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    I heard about the cutting of sleeping enemy soldiers throats, when I was a nipper. Probably told to me by a mate who, I'd imagine, had heard it from his own Dad


    I've heard a SECOND anecdote from Cassino, a former Gurkha officer told it on the television during the Joanna Lumley campaign...

    It's the story about the patrol that came across three Germans sleeping leaning up against each other in a foxhole....and they cut the heads off the OUTSIDE two - and set them back on the stumps of the necks! - and crept off...

    THREE casualties - the survivor probably never had a night's sleep again in his life after waking up to THAT! - and a lot of fear generated! ;)
     
  9. Steve G

    Steve G Senior Member

    the Gurkha would go for the unfortunate souls crotch then as he came down to protect himself his head would be in the right place.


    :huh: Oooh! Blimey! Well, ye couldn't make That up, could ye?! Great work, Andy. Straight from the horses mouth too. So, now we now [​IMG]


    And Stig; Yeppers. I was told about the blood letting bit, in primary school. Teacher brought a Kukri in to show us. Don't s'pose he'd get away with that today :rolleyes:
     
  10. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    My father told me it was a stranding order to lace up your boots and not to cross them.

    I believe this to be true of the Navy as having cross stitches means many cuts to remove them in an emergency, whilst one cut will enable the boot to be removed with normal laced up boots.

    I have said this before, but my father had a lot of admiration for the Gurkhas in Italy and he told me that he always slept easy knowing that they were out nearby.

    He also told me the tale of the three Germans asleep and the beheading of the two outer ones.

    From the earlier post this would appear to have actually happened.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    All the Gurkhas I have worked with, their Kukri's aren't sharp enough or designed to cut throats etc. They are a chopping weapon/tool not a cutting weapon so so sneek up and cut someones throat silently and disappear into the night would need to be done with another weapon.

    In my experience they are more used as a tool than a weapon and if they draw the knife they don't have to draw blood or what ever the myth is :)

    Regards
    Andy
     
  12. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  13. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    All the Gurkhas I have worked with, their Kukri's aren't sharp enough or designed to cut throats etc. They are a chopping weapon/tool not a cutting weapon so so sneek up and cut someones throat silently and disappear into the night would need to be done with another weapon.

    In my experience they are more used as a tool than a weapon and if they draw the knife they don't have to draw blood or what ever the myth is :)

    Regards
    Andy

    I have never heard that Andy as I always thought the Gurkhas kept them razor sharp.

    I hope our Veteran Gurkha member will post on this subject.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  14. WotNoChad?

    WotNoChad? Senior Member

    It's the story about the patrol that came across three Germans sleeping leaning up against each other in a foxhole....and they cut the heads off the OUTSIDE two - and set them back on the stumps of the necks! - and crept off...

    You've got to hand it to them, they've a sense of humour all of their own. :p
     
  15. James Daly

    James Daly Senior Member

    what strikes me most about all the Gurkha myths, is that in a way, whether they are true or not doesnt matter - the effect they have on the enemy must be terrifying. Like Spiers said in Band of Brothers, its not a bad thing to have everyone think you're the meanest SOB in the valley.

    Look at the Argentinians in the Falklands. They were told drug crazed Gurkhas wielding Kukris were coming for them. Now, if I was a young conscript in that situation, I dont think I would be worrying about if it was true or not...
     
  16. Phaethon

    Phaethon Historian

    If we step back and look at it? What real sense does it make to try to attack a man from his feet? :huh: If ye knowingly in the enemy camp and out to do harm, surely ye going to be creeping about at the most vulnerable ends.


    Have we a Ghurka vet' in the house ....?

    Having gone on a rant about the likleyhood of having a ghurka being able to find your feel, let alone your laces, at the start of this thread, thinking about it a little more, sectors like Cassino would make sense for this to happen (it would also explain where my family heard the story about the bootlaces); the place was a laberinth of jagged rubble and craters and the only way to move about was at night when the moon was not out...
     
  17. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    If ye knowingly in the enemy camp and out to do harm, surely ye going to be creeping about at the most vulnerable ends.

    Well, you could cut THAT off too if you really wanted! :mellow: If it was me I'd stick to ears though...
     
  18. Steve G

    Steve G Senior Member

    Well, you could cut THAT off too if you really wanted! :mellow: If it was me I'd stick to ears though...


    Now, hearing That was going on out there would Really put the wind up the enemy! :lol:
     
  19. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    All that sausage for breakfast would have to come from somewhere, right?
     
  20. andy007

    andy007 Senior Member

    :huh: Oooh! Blimey! Well, ye couldn't make That up, could ye?! Great work, Andy. Straight from the horses mouth too. So, now we now [​IMG]


    And Stig; Yeppers. I was told about the blood letting bit, in primary school. Teacher brought a Kukri in to show us. Don't s'pose he'd get away with that today :rolleyes:

    I was a little shocked to say the least when he said that, but war is hell as they say.

    Talking about the Sharpness, I was under the impression as well that they were kept razor sharp.
     

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