To the tune of a bagpipe, he bows his head low and then salutes, raising his right hand to his forehead. In this way, Bill Jenkins of Liverpool, UK remembers the Gurkha soldiers who lost their lives in World War I and II at the cemetry of the Gurkha soldiers, in the premises of BP Koirala Medical Science Academy in Dharan.
“I want to remember them,” he says, simply.
Seventy-five-year-old Jenkins, father of three children, says he came to Dharan from halfway around the world to remember the forgotten Gurkhas. He recalls the name of Rit Bahadur Rai of Gairi Gaun, son of Nara Bahadur Rai and Durga Laxmi, who was killed on 27 July, 1941 during a battle in Iraq at the tender age of 16. Rai is among 47,000 Gurkhas who died in the two World Wars. A further 150,000 Gurkhas were also wounded.
Jenkins says, “I read his name at the Basra Cremation Memorial in Iraq in 2003, but it isn’t on official record in the UK defence ministry.” He is now in Nepal to help set the record straight. Like Rai, the names of many Gurkhas who died in these wars aren’t officially recorded. Jenkins, who served in the Royal Marines, started collecting the names of these unsung heroes in 2003. He obtained names from the Commonwealth War Graves commission and by visiting various places in Nepal.
Jenkins has been trying to find Rai’s house but can’t locate Gairi Gaun. “I don’t have a formal education, but have brains enough to now that something has to be done,” he explains. “By taking the names of some Gurkhas, I am remembering all Gurkha veterans who lost their lives in World War I and II for the British crown. The British government shouldn’t overlook those who die in its service.”
He says he has submitted a list of 43,000 names to the Indian and British embassies, and believes these governments can’t contrive an excuse to ignore them for much longer. He also directs ire at the Nepali Government, which he says celebrates the achievements of the Gurkhas only in speeches.
“I am not associated with any political party, religion or Gurkha organisation. I will be raising the issues of Gurkhas all my life. The British Government has failed to recognise them but I am proud of the Gurkhas,” he says.
Bill Jenkins remembers the forgotten gorkhas in Dharan