THE SECOND WORLD WAR
Like the 1st Battalion, the 2nd Battalion had a quiet start to the Second World War. In April 1940 it moved to the Malakand on normal garrison duties where it remained until late that year.
It then joined 19 Indian Brigade which was part of 8 Indian Division at Delhi. By June 1941 it was at full war establishment and was training, including mechanised training.
In August 1941 the Battalion embarked for Iraq and Iran, landing at Basra later that month. This Allied deployment was necessary to prevent the area falling into German hands thereby threatening the Suez Canal, oil supplies and British interests in Egypt. The Battalion remained in Mesopotamia from August 1941 until July 1944 during which time a great variety of tasks were carried out and much useful training done. The men cheerfully bore extremes of temperature from 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer to 1 degree Fahrenheit in winter.
It was as a fully motorised unit of 43 Gurkha Lorried Brigade that the Battalion disembarked at Taranto in Italy in August 1944. It joined 1 British Armoured Division at Reconati and immediately set about preparing for the long fight that lay ahead as the Allies pushed the Germans up the length of Italy over ground which was most favourable to the defenders. The Battalion’s first action was on 14 September 1944 as part of the attack to capture the vital Passano Ridge. Much hard fighting followed.
In October 1944 the Battalion was ordered to capture Monte Codruzzo by night. This was accomplished without difficulty as the enemy did not expect an approach up the very steep hillside. Four days later the high point of Monte Chicco was captured after two days of bitter fighting during which, because of casualties among the Company Commanders, Maj Ingall found himself commanding A, B and C Companies. In a particularly gallant action Lance-Havildar Bhimbahadur Thapa and seven soldiers held a house full of wounded men against repeated German attacks. When his ammunition was nearly finished Bhimbahadur went out alone to meet the enemy of whom he shot 5 and cut down a further 3 with his kukri before being killed himself. His gallant action was recognised in the posthumous ward of the IOM.
After a brief rest in November 1944, the Battalion again took its place in the slow but steady advance. Many difficult river crossing operations took place. All were closely contested by the Germans and some very hard fighting resulted. In March 1945 the Battalion was provided with Sherman tanks converted into troop carriers. These vehicles, called ‘Kangaroos’, were manned by the 14th/20th King’s Hussars. The subsequent operations built up the firm friendship between the two regiments which was marked by a formal affiliation.
In April 1945 the Battalion captured the town of Medicina after a hard fight during which infantry-tank cooperation was used to the full. A painting of the Battle by Terence Cuneo hangs in the British Officers Mess. In early May 1945 the German Army in Italy capitulated and soon afterwards Germany surrendered. The Battalion was stationed in Trieste until June when it embarked for the Middle East. From there it returned to Abbottabad in February 1946.
In November 1945, at the request of His Highness the Maharajah of Nepal, Gurkhas were allowed to wear their hair long in the European fashion. Up to this time their heads had been shaven except for the Hindu’s ‘tupi’, a long tuft at the crown of the head.