- Name: Gaje GHALE
- D.O.B: 1st Aug, 1918
- D.O.A: 1st Aug, 1918
- D.O.D: 28th Mar, 2000
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Havildar, 2nd Battalion 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force), 17th Indian Division, Indian Army
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
The Second World War 1943
By the end of 1942 it was clear that the tide of war now favoured the Allies, at least inEurope and North Africa. The disaster enveloping the Germans on their eastern fronthad been apparent since November 1942 when the Russians had begun to encirclethe German army besieging Stalingrad. By 31 January 1943 Field Marshal von Paulus hadno option but to surrender. It was a stunning blow to German morale. Things were going nobetter for the Axis powers in North Africa. In the Second Battle of El Alamein in late Octoberand early November 1942 the British had succeeded in breaking through the German line.Rommel was forced to retreat from Egypt and across Libya. On 23 January 1943 the Britishtook Tripoli and three days later Rommel withdrew into Tunisia. Though the Germans rushedreinforcements into Tunisia, they were threatened here from two directions. While Montgomeryand the Eighth Army were pushing forward from the south, the Allied invasion of FrenchNorth Africa in November 1942 meant that the American and British troops of First Armywere able to advance from the west. The Germans mounted a stout resistance and even madesome temporary gains but the eventual outcome was scarcely in doubt. On 23 April 1943, FirstArmy was in a position to launch a final assault. Allied forces were in the outskirts of Tunisby 7 May 1943. On 12 May General von Arnim, the German commander, surrendered andmopping up operations were completed the next day. General Alexander was able to reportto Churchill, ‘All enemy resistance has ceased. We are masters of the North African shores.’The prospect of Allied success in North Africa had already led to a debate about futurestrategy. Some influential figures in the American military as well as the Russians called foran immediate invasion of France. However, many argued that this would be premature andshould be deferred to 1944. Instead, it was decided to concentrate on knocking Italy out ofthe war and, in so doing, tie up the greatest possible number of German forces. OperationHusky, the invasion of Sicily began before dawn on 10 July 1943. This had the desired effectof precipitating the fall of Mussolini on 25 July and the Germans began to contemplatethe evacuation of the island. This they started to do on 11-12 August 1943. The Americansentered Messina on 16 August but though over 100,000 Italian troops were captured in thebattle for Sicily, 40,000 Germans succeeded in withdrawing across the Strait of Messina withmost of their equipment. However, the fall of Sicily prepared the way for the invasion of theItalian mainland.At dawn on 3 September 1943, troops from Montgomery’s Eighth Army landed at Reggiodi Calabria in the toe of Italy. The same day, Marshal Badoglio, head of the new Italiangovernment, signed an Armistice with the Allies. This was made public on the 8th. Thefollowing day British 1st Airborne Division landed by sea at Taranto in the heel of Italy,entering Brindisi on 11 September and Bari on the 14th. Also on 9 September, in what wasintended to provide the main thrust of the invasion, the Anglo-American Fifth Army underGeneral Mark Clark landed at Salerno, south of Naples. The Germans for their part disarmedthe Italian Army, seized major strategic points and on 12 September rescued Mussolini fromcaptivity. The Italian government was forced to escape by sea to Brindisi. The Allied planwas for Fifth Army to advance north, west of the Appenines, while Eighth Army pushedahead along the Adriatic coast to the east. It was hoped that they would be well north ofRome by the end of the year. This was to prove wildly optimistic. Against the wishes of hisgenerals, Hitler insisted his forces stand firm in southern Italy. Accordingly, the Germansconstructed a series of defences, known collectively as the Winter Lines, south of Rome.Making use of such rivers as the Garigliano, Rapido and Sangro, these ran between Gaetaon the west coast and Ortona on the east. Here, the advance of the Allies was halted whenwinter set in. However, they had succeeded in re-establishing a foothold on the mainland ofEurope, were diverting significant German resources from the future battlefields of northwestEurope, while also posing a threat to German positions in the Balkans. Meanwhile, inthe Battle of the Atlantic the rate of U-Boat sinkings became unsustainable, forcing AdmiralDönitz to withdraw them in May 1943. They were never to return to their former strength. Inthe air, the Allied Strategic Offensive against Germany intensified with significant bombingof the Ruhr and the destruction of Hamburg. The most famous Allied raid was that of the‘Dambusters’ against the Möhne, Sorpe and Eder Dams on 16-17 May 1943.In South-East Asia and the Pacific the Americans had contained and begun to reverse thetide of Japanese conquest. British and Imperial forces played a more limited role and metwith mixed fortunes. By the end of May 1942 the Japanese had occupied most of Burma.In December 1942 and again in March 1943 the British sought to push down into Arakan, acoastal province on the Bay of Bengal. However, this First Arakan Campaign was a failureand in mid-April the newly appointed General Slim withdrew his troops to a defensive positionsouth of Chittagong. On 13 February 1943 Brigadier Orde Wingate pioneered a newform of warfare against the Japanese, leading his first Chindit deep penetration force behindenemy lines across the River Chindwin. Meanwhile, north of Arakan, in the Chin Hills, inthe last area of Burma left in British hands, the Japanese attacked the British near Tiddimin May 1943. After the Quebec Conference in August the Allies formed South-East AsiaCommand, SEAC, under Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. Both they and the Japanese wereplanning major operations in Burma in 1944. As a first step, from September 1943 the Britishbegan to mount a Second Arakan Campaign. XV Corps, now under Lieutenant-GeneralChristison, had the task of seizing the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road across the Mayu Range.This time they met with more success.In New Guinea, the Japanese attempt to capture Port Moresby in 1942 had been frustratedby the naval Battle of the Coral Sea and the successful Australian recapture of the KokodaTrail across the Owen Stanley Range from the north of the island. By the end of January1943 the Allies had destroyed the Japanese beachheads north of the Owen Stanley Range.However, in early 1943 the Japanese built up their forces in the Huon Gulf and Peninsula tothe north-west. In August the Australians pushed the enemy back to a final defensive line atSalamaua. An Australian force landed east of Lae and on 5 September US and Australiantroops secured the airstrip at Nadzab north-west of Lae. Salamaua fell on 12 September andLae on the 16th. However, considerable numbers of Japanese troops escaped by crossingthe mountains of the Huon Peninsula and the last enemy troops were not cleared from thePeninsula until the end of the year.
In order to stop an advance into the Chin Hills of greatly superior Japanese forces it was essential to capture Basha East hill which was the key to the enemy position. Two assaults had failed but a third assault was ordered to be carried out by two platoons of Havildar Gaje Ghale’s company and two companies of another battalion. Havildar Gaje Ghale was in command of one platoon: he had never been under fire before and the platoon consisted of young soldiers. The approach for this platoon to their objective was along a narrow knife-edge with precipitous sides and bare of jungle whereas the enemy positions were well concealed. In places, the approach was no more than five yards wide and was covered by a dozen machine guns besides being subjected to artillery and mortar fire from the reverse slope of the hill. While preparing for the attack the platoon came under heavy mortar fire but Havildar Gaje Ghale rallied them and led them forward.Approaching to close range of the well-entrenched enemy, the platoon came under withering fire and this N.C.O. was wounded in the arm, chest and leg by an enemy hand grenade. Without pausing to attend to his serious wounds and with no heed to the intensive fire from all sides, Havildar Gaje Ghale closed his men and led them to close grips with the enemy when a bitter hand to hand struggle ensued. Havildar Gaje Ghale dominated the fight by his outstanding example of dauntless courage and superb leadership. Hurling hand grenades, covered in blood from his own neglected wounds, he led assault after assault encouraging his platoon by shouting the Gurkha’s battle-cry. Spurred on by the irresistible will of their leader to win, the platoon stormed and carried the hill by a magnificent all out effort and inflicted very heavy casualties on the Japanese. Havildar Gaje Ghale then held and consolidated this hard won position under heavy fire and it was not until the consolidation was well in hand that he went, refusing help, to the Regimental Aid Post, when ordered to do so by an officer. The courage, determination and leadership of this N.C.O. under the most trying conditions were beyond all praise.