from 'T.P.'s Journal of Great Deeds Of The Great War', November 21, 1914
'At Work With Kukri And Lance'


Our Indian Troops in Action

illustration of Indian cavalry charging a German position


There is now abundant evidence that the native troops from India made a brilliant debut in the righting in Belgium. While discountenancing some of the earlier stories of their "artistry" in sudden death, an official observer has acknowledged that, their handicaps in environment notwithstanding, they have "finely fulfilled the high expectations which were formed of them."

Can't Keep Cool

"The Indians," says a corporal of the King's Own Yorkshire L.I., "are surprised at us being so cool, and they tried to imitate us." But apparently they are indifferent learners in the school of patience and calmness. When in the trenches, they are ever bobbing up and exposing their heads to the enemy - indeed, they cannot always be restrained. A non-commissioned officer of the 3rd Gurkhas, now convalescing in Hampshire, explains:

'The rifle-fire was only annoying because we did not like to lie still in the trenches and not be able to use our bayonets on the enemy. You must know that to the true Indian fighting man there is no greater joy outside Paradise than to get to close grips with his foes.

Their Method of Fighting

A Highlander aglow with admiration for our Eastern troops has exclaimed:

God help the Germans against them. We cannot hold them back. Brigade them along with us Highlanders - anybody in kilts - and they fight like demons. The difficulty is to get them to retire.

Hundreds of them remain behind squatted on the ground with the kukris or Indian knives ready. As the Germans come on they throw the kukris at the advancing enemy, and as soon as they hit them, pull them back with the strings attached to them. Then they dash up fearlessly and account for many more.


Gurkhas sharpening kukris


"The Ruthless Kukri"

The Indians have already furnished striking reasons for believing that they are capable of very deadly work with the kukris (a heavy half- moon shaped knife) when loosed from the trenches :

In order to get the best service out of the Indians they are kept in reserve all day and let loose at night. They carry no rifles after dark, but creep up to the enemy's lines in silence. The sentries fall without a sound, and before the Germans realise the intrusion, hundreds of them are slaughtered by the ruthless kukri.

How they Attack the German Trenches

Here is a picture of such a night episode gathered by a journalist upon the field:

Behind a thin line of trees in the rear, there silently gathered together many hundreds of figures, which by reason of their lithe, gliding movements and their practical invisibility might have passed for a mysterious aggregation of spirits from some other sphere.

Such orders as were issued seemed to pass down the long lines-as the wind whispers through the grass.

Soon a score of these grey figures detached themselves from the larger body, and stealthily, like Red Indians on the trail in an enemy's country, moved up to and beyond the advanced line of the British trenches, and (with the "Tommies" watching breathlessly) crawled noiselessly to the first German trench.

There was no shout or sudden cry, but in a few minutes the British soldiers saw one of the store reappear like an apparition and go back to his comrades in the rear. Then the hundreds waiting there filed past the trenches just as silently as had the advanced party before them.

For five minutes there was perfect quiet. Then came a few shots, followed by a wild splutter of musketry, intermingled with cries and groans. By means of three or four light-balls thrown in the air, the British troops could see, some 600 yards to their front, a mass of wild and struggling men, the gleam of steel, and the whirling rush of the rifle-butt.

The score of Pathans who had gone out in advance had silently slain the German pickets, and the main body had thus been enabled to get right amidst the sleeping foe unchallenged. The slaughter only ended when the Germans, thoroughly aroused to their peril, bolted and ran. The threatened German attack had been turned into a bloody defeat.

A Gurkha's Vivid Recital

The non-commissioned officer of the Gurkhas fills in the details of some such picture thus:

'We had been crawling forward towards the enemy like snakes in the undergrowth, with our blood aflame with the fires of centuries, and when the order came we were close enough to spit venom on the dogs in their trenches. We fired one last volley, and then sprang to our feet, each man clutching his bayonet tightly. We were only a second or so in covering the ground. They didn't wait, but ran like frightened cows before a tiger.'

'We dashed after them like panthers pursuing their prey, and when we overtook them and started stabbing right and left with our keen- edged bayonets we felt that we were at last being paid in full for those days of patient waiting in the trenches. Once started it was hard to stop, and it was only after some difficulty that we were recalled from pursuit of the frightened foe.'

'On the way back horsemen tried to cut us off. We were still panting with the joy of battle, and keeping our knives in our teeth, firmly we grasped our rifles with both hands, making a sort of barrier against their horses. By putting them up like that we stopped the rush of the horses, and then turning quickly drove the bayonets into the riders. The horses were terrified, and some of them sprang back, throwing their riders in their fright. That part of the fight didn't last long, for the horsemen ran away soon, and then we made our way back to camp.'

A Terrible Charge of the Lancers

But we confess that it is of the appearance and deeds of our Indians as horsemen that we prefer to read. Of them in this role, Corporal George Cole, Royal Field Artillery, has furnished an arresting cameo :

The Indians, who had arrived the day before, and were anxious to get into it, were brought up. Fine fellows they looked as they passed us on their fine chargers, and we broke into cheers. They smiled back grimly, with their eyes glancing ahead and their fingers nervously feeling their lance shafts. At the word of command they swept forward, only making a slight detour to get out of the line of our fire, and then they swept into the Germans from the left like a whirlwind.

The enemy were completely taken aback. The Turcos they knew, but these men, with their flashing eyes, dark skins, and white, gleaming teeth, not to mention their terribly keen-edged lances, they could not understand.

The Indians didn't give them much time to arrive at an understanding. With a shrill yell they rode right through the German infantry, thrusting right and left with their terrible lances, arid bringing a man down every time. The Germans broke and ran for their lives, pursued by the Lancers for about a mile.

When the Indians came back from their charge they were cheered wildly all along our line, but they didn't think much of what they had done.

"Worthy of the English"

Our swarthy soldiers from the East have been delighted to win the cheers of the British and French troops :

We feel now that we have proved ourselves worthy to fight side by side with the English against any troops in the world. That is more to us than anything you could name.

These gallant men will expect to obtain a glimpse of England before they return to their native shores. It will be a big blunder if they are denied this glimpse.



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