Impact of World War II in Nepal

Prof. Dr. T.R. Vaidya
Nepal, a very small state situated in the remote part of Asia, had participated most actively in the World War II (Sept 3, 1939 A.D. to May 7, 1945 A.D.) for the right cause of humanity, democracy, justice, and fight against Fascism, Nazism and Japan to help the Allied group. During the World War I also Nepal had helped Great Britain and her allies against German group. Nepal, having helped the Allied Group in the World War II, had witnessed impact on various aspects like political, social, economic etc. Here an attempt is made to deal with the impact of the World War II in Nepal in brief. In reality if we assess the impact on the various aspects in details many volumes of books can be written.

Nepal, the birth place of Lord Buddha, always stands for the right cause in favor of humanity, social welfare and justice.

Dr Upreti has also rightly mentioned:

"Nepal, a small nation within the Himalayan frontier was drawn to the vortex of this international conflict partly because of her faith in justice and righteousness and partly because of her special relation with the British Government" 1

Nepal's contribution in the World War II

Before dealing with the impact of the World War II a brief account is given here in which way Nepal had helped the Allied Powers against Berlin-Rome and Tokyo Axis. Nepal had helped the Allied Powers in the following ways 2

Sending of 16 battalions of Royal Nepalese Army for garrison duty, later on, fighting against Japan in the Burma war front.
Besides the sending of 16 battalions of selected strong army, Nepal had also most generously accepted the British Government to recruit the youths of the country. There was ever increasing demand of the vigorous Nepalese youths for the British Gorkha regiments as well as for other works in British India. Juddha Shamsher himself had made every effort to the British recruiters collect the Nepalese youths. In his own words Nepal had sent 1, 48,500 potential youths to the war fronts and other areas.3 In all "well over 2, 00,000 Nepalese were recruited in British India" 4
Nepal had also made an offer in cash and kinds on humanitarian ground for the needy and disabled persons. Maharaja and Maharani offered Rs 1, 00,000/- each to Viceroy's War Purpose Fund to be distributed to the various philanthropic societies and wounded and the sick. Nepal had offered Rs 4, 55,000/- in total.
Offer of weapons like Machine guns, Lewis guns, revolvers, binoculars etc. Besides Nepal offered 1000 walnut tress free of cost, 6, 00,000 cubic feet timbers to construct the broad gauge sleepers, 45000 pounds of tea, sugar, biscuits etc.

The British Gorkha regiments had made their excellent history by their most historic performances in the combat operation in the African front, European Front and Eastern Front. As its result total ten Victoria cross medals were offered to the British Gorkhas and the other rewards Nepal received were no less the 2734 medals.

Nepal and the Nepalese had made a commendable historic and heroic contribution in the World War II. History will ever remember the contributions of Nepal and Nepalese

Impact of the World War II in Nepal

Nepal and the Nepalese had experienced the lasting impact of the World War II in different aspects of the life. In reality to assess the whole history of the World War II there may be hardly any state in the world which had not faced its impact. It is apt here to make an assessment of its impact in Nepal. We had both the positive and negative impacts in our history. Let us assess them in brief.

Recognition of Brave Nepalese soldiers The first and foremost aspect is the earning of the name and fame by the brave sons of Nepal who had shown great velour, bravery and heroic dedication to the cause for which they were assigned. As its result ten Nepalese brave sons were awarded the Victoria Cross medals and no less than 2734 rewards were given to the dedicated Nepalese army. The brave heroes receiving the Victoria Cross medals were :

(a) Lal Bahadur Thapa (b) Sher Bahadur Thapa (c) Thaman Gurung (d) Tula Bahadur Pun (e) Netra Bahdur Thapa (f) Lachhiman Gurung (g) Ganjuman Lama (h) Bhanu Bhakta Gurung (i) Agan Singh Rai (j) Gaze Ghale 5

Simailarly many brave sons of Nepal attached with the 16 battalions assigned by Nepal Government for the garrison duty in India, later on involved in the war in the Burma front against Japanese invaders, were also awarded the Military Cross medals in recognition of their heroic virtue and gallantry in the war. There brave sons of Nepal were:

(a) Shailendra Bahadur Mahat (b) Chutra Bahadur Thapa (c) Gupta Bahadur Gurung (d) Bala Bahadur Silwal Khatri (e) Hom Bahadur Gurung (f) Jagat Bahadur Khatri 6

Victory Diwali

The Victory day ceremony was celebrated most open heartedly. Prime Minister Juddha Shamsher had expressed his desire to retire in the near future.7 On his initiation the Nepalese battalions were warmly received in Kathmandu. Oct 28, 1945 was celebrated as the special day to celebrate Victory Diwali. A parade of the Nepalese contingent was held on that day. Maharaja received the Sher, Kali Bahadur and Mahindra Dal at Hanuman Dhoka and proceeded towards the Tundikhel. He gave a short extempore speech in appreciation of the gallant performance of that brave Nepalese army against Germans and Japanese. There was the victory parade. The atmosphere was most jubilant. The Katmandu temples, Vihars, Public squares etc. were lighted with oil lamps and electric bulbs. The fireworks and crackers were also used to celebrate the day.8

On the initiation of Maharaja Juddha Shamsher the medals were awarded to 135 Nepalese 9 king of Nepal awarded the medal Supredipta Manyabar Nepal Tara to Gen. Claude Auchinleck, Commander in Chief, British India on Oct 25, 1945 A.D. In return Auchinleck presented to king of Nepal fruits, flowers and a sword surrendered by the Japanese General Hamda. COAS of Japna to Allied forces, as a war trophy. 10 A parade of 27,000 troops was also held in his honour in the Tundikhel. 11
Later on May 11, 1946 A.D. king Tribhuvan invested the insignia of Surpradipta Manyabar Nepal Tara to Admiral Louis Mountbatten in Hanuman Dhoka Darbar, Kathmandu, During the ceremony Mountbatten also offered the ancient sword surrendered by the Japanese to the Allied forces to King Tribhuvan. He had also reviewed the parade of the three battalions. In the program Lord Mountbatten made speech in which he appraised the bravery of the Gorkha army as follows:

"No soldier under my command fought with greater gallantry than the Gurkhas. The fighting qualities of all the Gurkhas and the Nepalese regiments have been second to none. You men from the hills have enhanced your worldwide reputation and have proved yourself the worthy sons of Nepal. "12

Lord Mountbatten had also remarked that the superb gallantry of the Nepalese army was more responsible for the fall of Japan than the Atom Bomb- the latter being only excuse of the Japanese emperor to surrender.13

In one way the Nepalese soldiers earned such high sounding appreciation. Nepal got name and fame in the world as the nation of brave Gorkha army. For the sake of friendship the Nepalese gladly sacrificed their life also. Thus the Nepalese were famed as the "Brave Warriors".

Economic Impact

The war had both positive and negative impact on the economy of Nepal.

Positive Impact

The Government of Nepal got the royalty of 10 pound per person in the recruit. That was a national income But the Ranas had made the amount their personal income.
Government of India helped Nepalese contingent with the rise of inflation during and after war. The compensatory allowances from Rs 3/- to Rs 500/- was given.
A lump sum of Rs 11, 80,000/- gratuity was given to be distributed to the Nepalese contingent.
Grant of disability pension in a capitalized form.
Those, who came back, had earned money. They could construct a new house, purchase land and live a standard life from the rural area point of view. Their residential area became the evidence of the prosperity. They became distinct personalizes like Lahure Dai from other rural area people.

Negative Impact

(1) More than 2, 00,000 most active and vigorous youths of the country were recruited for the British Gorkha army and taken away during the war period. Almost similar or number were recruited for the new combatants, police force and the private companies. It had such a devastating impact that later Juddha Shamsher had to check the recruitment of men for non-military purpose. 14

2. The hill area remained without the competent persons i.e. man power to till the land. No cultivation of land could be made. Juddha Shamsher himself had written, "The flow of the flower of youth who have joined the Gurkha regiments to fight for British continued to such a extent that only women and old men are left to look after the tilling of land" 15

3. The hill area suffered from the decline of production leading to the shortage of food supply and rise of price sky high. There was no cultivation, thence no production and very high price raise resulting almost like a famine condition. Government of India had to adopt a favorable food supply policy to Nepal. For about 6 years Nepal passed through an unprecedented economic crisis.

Social Impact

In the social life also the World War II had made much influence both positively and negatively. In reality there seems to have more heart touching and miserable impact on the social life of the areas from where the youths were recruited.

Positive Impact

In totality those Nepalese youths who could come back after the World War II had come back with the experiences and new ideas from abroad. Their experiences, changed views and knowledge were shared with their family members and neighbors. In reality their family members were taken as the elites of the society and enjoyed social prestige. Lahore Dai became an honorable terminology in the Nepalese society of the mountain region.

Negative Impact

The Gorkha army recruitment areas suffered a lot from the socio-cultural aspects of the Nepalese life. Even up to this time the Gaines (Traditional local singers with a harp) sing most heart touching tragic songs referring to the inner feelings of the parents, wives and beloved of these youths who had gone to the war front. Such sensitive songs have become a part of socio-cultural life of those regions from where the vigorous youths were drained out.
The wives of those recruits had to pass most restless time hearing all sorts of rumours of the war devastation. The whole region remained almost standstill because every family was without its most active vigorous youths. As Russian suffered (mentioned by His Excellency Mr. Nazarov in his paper presentation on March 24, 2005)
The number of the mortality of the Nepalese youths in the World War II also differs Upreti writes no less the 24000 Gurkhas were killed, wounded or missing in action during the World War II.16 In this Great War according to His Excellency Mr. Valery V. Nazarov, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Nepal, 50 million people were killed. Out of them 27 million Russian were massacred. In reality we do not have the exact figure of the number of the Nepalese youths killed. Thus innumerable-number not known, females in the prime of the age became widows. Similarly the parents who bred up their sons with the sole hope of their future dependents became helpless, so the young children of those martyrs of the war. The whole family members felt themselves helpless and dependent- less.

Political Impact

Nepal as other parts of Asia and Africa also experienced the political impact. The Nepalese people, who were practical put in isolation and stagnation, got an exposure to the outside world when they joined the British Gorkha army, auxiliary war service and Company services etc. Immediately after or a decade after the Great War Nepal witnessed major political changes. To do justice to this subject voluminous research works are done or need more to be done. Here an attempt is made to mention them point wise.

Abdication of Juddha Shamsher from Sri 3 Maharajship and Prime Ministership on Nov 26, 1945 A.D.
Internal conflict among the Ranas specially Juddha Shamsher's family and Chandra's descendents.
Rapid growth of literature against Ranas' absolutism and arbitrary government.
Pamphlets of the Raktapat Committee 17
Impact of Quit India movement. The Nepalese educated youth's participation and imprisonment in India like D.R. Regmi, B.P. Koirala and others.
Although the Allied Power was victorious in the war Great Britain in which empire "sun never sets "started witnessing it downfall. Its colonial areas started getting independence. The immediate concern of Nepal was the independence of India in 1947 which had its immediate and direct impact in the fall of Rana autocracy in Nepal in 1951 A.D.
Activities of Praja Parishad and the activities of the Arya Samaj. The leading personalities were confined and given rigorous punishments 7 persons were given capital punishments 11 life imprisonment, 3 for eighteen imprisonments so on.
International Friendship

Nepal's sincere, honest and friendly participation in the World War has earned its name and fame among the Allied powers. In reality because of the bravery, valour and honesty of the Gorkhalis the Great powers had tried their best to woo Nepal in their favor. In the early 1930's China, Holland, Belgium, Finland, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and others had offered honorable medals to Prime Minister Juddha Shamsher to have him in their favour. 18 These powers had realized the bravery and sincerity of the Nepalese (Gorkhalis), so they wanted to have Nepal in their favour. But Nepal true to the next door friendly governments took the side of the Allied Powers, participated in International meetings and became closure with them. Because of Nepal's sincerity it got its name and fame among those powers. But in same case the Nepalese seem to have been misused also in certain parts. In Indonesia, the Gorkhalis are abhorred. 19

Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain, wrote to Maharaj Juddha Shamsher on March 26, 1943:

"...... the help which your country is giving us, in the persecution of the war and in particular the party played by the Gorkha regiments of the Indian army are a valued contribution towards victory over our common interest " 20

On March 11, 1944 A.D. also Churchill wrote to Maharaj Juddha Shamsher:

"........... For I know that I may read in it as yet further proof of your country's steady support in the war which we are waging against the evil forces of German and Japanese aggression and in which we are glad to have the aid of the brave Gurkhas of Nepal. Hurray for the Gourkhas" 21 Dr Prasad has also rightly mentioned. The Maharaj's offer of help was unconditional; there was no spirit of bargaining....... Their (Nepal's sons) had raised their country's status in the world and brought glory to her name. " 22

He has also mentioned During the Second World War also she (Nepal) did her utmost to uphold the allied cause and shed her blood and treasure to rescue the world from Fascist and Nazi tyranny ......, India was saved from the horrors of a foreign invasion, the credit for this result was due in no small measure to Maharaja Juddha and his brave soldiers who fought against the heavy odds with undaunted valour and heroism"23

The Nepalese better known as the Gorkhalis had helped the Allied group against the despotism, inhumanity and injustice. Nepal, although a small state in compare with the next door neighbors, always stood for justice, humanity, right cause and friendship because of which it had earned name and fame in the world. To conclude the World War II had made a very effective and lasting impact on the socio-cultural, economic and political life to Nepal.

1 Prem R. Upreti- Nepal a small nation in the vortex of International Conflicts, Kathamadu : Pugo Mi, 1984 p 185.
2 T.R. Vaidya- "Contributions of Nepal to the World War II", a paper presented in the seminar conducted jointly by History Association of Nepal and Russian Culture Center, on March 24, 2005 A.D.
5 Upreti f.n. No 1 pp 222-231 and 237
6 Dr. Prem Singh Basnyat, Chief, Gyanendra Military Museum, Chhauni, Kathamdu.
7 Juddha Shamsher Rana retired on Nov 29, 1945, having installed Padma Shamsher as the Sri 3 Maharaj and Prime Minister of Nepal and Iswari Prasad- The Life and Times of Maharaja Juddha Shamsher Jung Bahadur Rana: New Delhi : Ashish Publications, 1975 A.D. p. 308.
8 Family version. Vaidya Shankar Das had also gone as a Vaidya (Physician ) of Sher Battalion and Upreti, f.n No.1 p 234.
9 Prasad f.n. No 7 P. 308
10 Ibid p.311 and Upreti f.n. 1 p. 234
11 Upreti - Ibid p.235
12 Ibid, p. 236
13 Ibid, pp. 235-236
14 In reality we not have the exact member of persons recruited for the British Gorkha army, Police Force and other Civil Companies. The Nepal Government source does not give the exact figure. quoting the speech delivered by Claude Auchinleck, Commander in Chief, British India, on Oct 26, 1945 A.D. on the occasion of awarding him the medal, mentioned above, in the Gaddi Baithak, Hanuman Dhoka, by king Tribhuvan. Gorakhapatra Kartik 10, 2002 B.S. (Oct 25, 1945 A.D.) mentions more than one lakh persons were recruited for the British Gorkha army, (Prasad f.n. No. 7 p. 310) whereas others give the above mentioned number. i.e. more than 2,00,000 persons (Uperti f.n. No. 1 p. 239 and basnkota f.n. 4 p. 135)
15 Upreti- Ibid p 239
16 Ibid p. 236 .
17 Ibid pp. 244-246 and 249-250.
18 Prasad f.n. No. 7 pp 110-128