Farwell, Byron. The Gurkhas

The Gurkhas - Front Cover

The Gurkhas is a book written by Byron Farwell. It covers the history of the finest infantrymen in the world. The book is a detailed research into what it means to be a Gurkha soldier. It covers their historical background, their philosophy, and their beliefs.

Byron Farwell born 20 June 1921, in Iowa, graduated from Ohio State University, and became Captain of Engineers during the Second World War. Attached to the Mediterranean Allied Air Force, he served in combat.

He later became a political historian and published articles in the New York Times. He received the recognition of Fellow from the Royal Society of Literature, and Royal Geographical Society. Consequently, you will find this book researched and written well.

The Gurkhas have been part of the British army for over 200 years; however, they became more prominent since the late 90s. They fought in the first and second world wars; however, their contribution never mentioned anywhere.

Certainly, the motif appears to have been to erase the contribution of the allied forces. Sir Alan Sugar mentions in his autobiography that his school taught very little about the war except that Britain won it. Many who are a product of the education system found out much later in life of the allied contribution. If you fell into this category, then this book is ideal for you.

I knew very little about the Gurkhas, as many generally do their best not to write anything positive of other cultures. Bigots who were more interested in re-writing history wrote many of the wiki articles, hence, I could not find any accurate information online. I am glad I found this book because an educated man writes it.

Byron Farwell’s Research

I thought his research was astounding because right on the introduction page he has written a quote from Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita. It covers the mechanics of war, death, and the soul. Out of curiosity, I read this chapter, which mentions that it is better to die a hero once, than to be a coward, and die many times in your mind. The Gurkhas very rightly use the same motto.

Byron has researched names and places correctly, spelt them correctly, and understood the traditions of the Nepalese people correctly. Consequently, this book holds a much greater value compared to other sources.

Where is Nepal?

Nepal has a land mass of 56,827 square miles, and a population of 30 million. It is a region interfacing India and China. It has a rich geography consisting of the ten tallest mountains of the world. The most well known is Sagar-matha

The population consists mainly of farmers and traders. The Nepalese people follow Hinduism and Buddhism as they are both very much the same and share a common root.

Where the name Gurkha comes from

The name comes from an 8th century warrior Gorakh-nath, who was not only a warrior but also a philosopher who later became a saint. His fighting skills were legendary and could destroy armies; however, he became renowned for his high ideals and morals.

He believed that death brought swiftly to the opponent was the most humane way of killing. There should be an element of respect for the opponent, and this was a mark of a civilised warrior.

As mortals, we may have differences and have to fight, however we all have a soul, which continues on the other side. This man followed the teachings of Lord Shiva who is the destroyer God. The sacred texts translate to when on the battlefield, if you find yourself with the golden sun shining on your face, then fear not for your journey has ended and you are with god. Shiva has such great power that when unleashed could destroy planets, stars, and armies.

Shiva’s teaching is to respect and protect all life, and fighting should only be as a last resort when all peaceful solutions fail. When required to fight, to do so unreservedly observing duty and tackling that which needs to be done fearlessly and efficiently.

Never afraid to die...

The infantry provides the most important line of defence; it is also one where most of the fatal casualties occur.

During the Second World War, the Gurkhas were on EVERY front from Singapore to Italy and North Africa. They served Britain by fighting alongside British soldiers and officers.

In this book, Byron captures the true essence of their belief system that they are not afraid to die. Such an opponent on the front line makes a fearless warrior. Many that have seen the Gurkhas fight would shudder simply at hearing their name.

Back Cover

Back Cover


TitleThe Gurkhas
AuthorByron Farwell
PublisherPenguin Books Ltd
ISBN Number0 1J 007569 0
Copyright HolderByron Farwell
Last Page317
Cover TypePaperback
Cover Price£4.95
AvailabilityAmazon and all good online bookstores