Nepal might be a small country lying in a landlocked region separated from the world, but it’s also the ‘savior’ to the many nations!
Yes, we mean it! Despite its size, the country is undoubtedly the ‘savior’ for many world nations because of its unstoppable fighters, the almighty ‘Gurkhas’!
Nepali Gurkhas have been at their best in safeguarding various world governments and their high-level officials including diplomats, special missions and various global-level conferences and meetings, that the nations paid high regard to.
Over the centuries, they have played vital role globally during world wars, cases of insurgency, among many other horrifying situations pertaining to national security.
The Rise of Gurkhas
Undoubtable loyalty, ferocity in fight and attitude in courage are some best words that can describe Nepali Gurkhas. Over the centuries, they have literally marched from local to global level breaking the barriers. Diligent services by Gurkhas to various nations holds a sound historical background that dates back to 1814, the year that speaks of their heroic act!
That was the year when the British declared a war against the Gurkhas of Nepal leading to the Anglo-Nepalese war. The British East India company was expanding its wings beyond India and its neighbors then. That’s where the aggressive expansion of Gurkhas within Nepal worried the British.
By then, Gurkhas were already on success path laid by their annexing act across territories in the early 18th and 19th centuries and were on their way to finally form the Kingdom of Nepal.
Finally, with the help of thousands of Indian soldiers, British devised a strategy to divide Gurkhas and then attack them. In a devastating battle that witnessed ground-breaking revolt, the Gurkhas of Nepal rose to fame in 1814 for their straightforward answer to the British that eventually resulted the British losing out to the Gurkhas.
Following this, the British proposed an offer requesting Gurkhas to fight for them, which the Gurkhas had to accept under the uncompromised peace treaty in 1816. After that, it’s known history that Gurkhas fought for the British in the two world wars, and eventually became key aspect of British Army.
Following Indian independence in 1947, the original ten Gurkha regiments were divided among the British Army and the new Indian Army. However, many of those Gurkhas who served both earlier finally chose their native Indian Army.
Today, Gurkhas serve across various nations such as their home country Nepal, Singapore, Brunei, US, Iraq and Afghanistan, among others. And, it would be really surprising to know that Gurkhas have been serving the British Crown since almost 200 years!
The Brigade of Gurkhas
The history of the Brigade of Gurkhas and their services to the world has a long history dating back to 1815, the year it began working with British.
Since then, the Brigade has been at its best in addressing global-level conflicts and peacekeeping operations, among other global-level security operations.
Though their focus was Far East prior to 1997, their base got shifted to the UK following Hong Kong’s annexation.
Some of the key units operating as the Brigade include:
Royal Gurkha Rifles: Formed on July 1, 1994 as a combination of four Gurkha regiments- 2 GR, 6 GR, 7 GR and 10 GR, the Royal Gurkha Rifles is a team of two battalions and are famous for their operations across various locations such as Australia, Kenya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Bosnia and East Timor. The team currently has a jungle role Battalion with a permanent base in Brunei and a Light Role Battalion in the UK.
The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers: Firstly, called as Sappers in October 1948, these Gurkhas provide engineering solutions to various force elements and indirect support to combat and military-civil transition & recovery operations.
Queen’s Gurkha Signals (QGS): Formed during the Malayan Emergency to support the 17th Gurkha Division, this team is a regular unit of Royal Corps of Signals that assists the British Army as one of its support combat arms.
Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment: Formed in Singapore in 1958 as the Gurkha Army Service Corps, this team is one of the four Gurkha regiments serving the British Army and takes care of formation-level logistics within a theatre of operations.
Gurkha Staff and Personnel Support: Formed on June 30, 2011 as Gurkha clerks, this team of Gurkhas provide HR, Personnel and Business Administration, Finance & Accounting and ICT support to the Brigade of Gurkhas at peacetime and during operations.
Band of The Brigade of Gurkhas: Raised in November 1859 as part of the Indian Army, this team of Gurkhas is a music band team with musicians recruited after a basic military training. The team has travelled across the world over the decades.
Gurkha soldiers are usually recruited from Nepal and getting into a Gurkha unit means competing with thousands on selection board.
Hill-men from Nepal and those hailing from the families of Gurung, Thapa, Pun or Magar in western Nepal and Rai or Limbus in the eastern part of the country hold high regard as suitable for Gurkha units. Even today, majority of the Gurkhas hail from the aforementioned family groups.
Gurkha selection process of is one of the toughest assignments in the world. If a participant wishes to get through Gurkha selection process, he will be expected to run uphill for 40 minutes with a wicker basket full of rocks weighing 70 lbs on back.
Gurkha ranks are majorly dominated by the aforementioned ethnic families or groups belonging to hilly regions of Nepal.
Nearly 28,000 youths take up the Gurkha selection procedure for just over 200 places, every year.
As of 2017, Gurkhas have their presence across various army departments such as Indian Army (nearly 42,000), British Army (around 3,600), Singapore Gurkha Contingent (around 2,000) and Brunei Gurkha Reserve Unit (nearly 500), among others.
What the World Says About Gurkhas?
Here are some of the world’s famous statements on Gurkhas:
If I had Gurkhas, no armies in the world will defeat me – Adolf Hitler
Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had a country more faithful friends than you – Sir Ralph Turner MC, 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles, 1931.
They are tough, they are brave, they are durable, they are amenable to discipline – Tony Gould, Historian
They [the Gurkhas] are among the best Singapore can offer…They remain very much a substantial and frontline force, and the demands of this kind of event are precisely the sort of special operation that the Gurkhas are trained to handle. – Tim Huxley, Expert, Singapore Armed Forces
Over the centuries, there are many other global personalities who always admired the Tough Gurkhas of Nepal!
Here are some interesting facts about Gurkhas that might surprise you:
Gurkhas is the first army team chosen as police guards
Gurkha is an unbeatable warrior at an average height of just 5.3 inches
Lachhiman Gurung, the Gurkha team that drew fame from WW-2 for fierce war against more than 200 Japanese soldiers, with Gurung alone killing 31 soldiers
Around 19000 Gurkha soldiers lost their lives fighting for British in various wars
Gurkhas are integral part of the British Army even today
Gurkhas are warriors known for their loyalty, bravery and kind-heartedness
Gurkhas play a key role in peacekeeping operations, globally
Following their ages-old tradition, every Gurkha carries an 18-inch-long curved knife called kukri during battles
World Wars alone saw deaths of 43,000 Gurkhas; their population declined from 112,000 at the WW-II peak to around 3,500 as of 2010.
World War-1 alone saw 20,000 Gurkha casualties with the group winning almost 2,000 awards for gallantry in the war
Gurkha Welfare Trust has been working for the welfare of retired and their families since centuries
A Gurkha soldier in WW2 defended his army troop against 200-member enemy troop for 4 hours, even after losing one of his hands in a grenade explode
Gurkhas in News
Gurkhas have been in news many times for their unique act. Let’s look at some global news Gurkhas were featured in, over the period:
Gurkhas Annual Golf Championship 2018: This is an annual sports event that features Golf sport within the Brigade of Gurkhas. The 2018 edition of the event was organized on June 28 at Weybrook Park Golf Course in Basingstoke. The championship was held to finalize the unit champion of the year and also to measure the status of Golf sport in the Gurkha Unit.
Fight for UK Settlement: Retired Gurkhas have been in news over the years with regard to their settlement hardships. Financial hurdles, pensions post retirement and right to settle in UK have been some key concerns for many Gurkhas post retirement. This has many times triggered debates between the UK Government and pro-Gurkha campaigners. Very recently in 2018, the issue rose to fame again with the British Actress Joanna Lumley coming onto the roads in support of their settlement.
Safeguarding Key Events: Gurkhas have been featured in news very recently for their brave act in safeguarding the world’s most-awaited Trump-Kin meet. They also secured a renowned Singapore conference attended by various nations.
Women to Join Brigade: In a first such decision in history, the UK Ministry of Defense has decided to recruit women for its infantry regiment into the Brigade of Gurkhas.
List not exhaustive! There are many success stories that speak of the bravery and loyalty of Gurkhas.
A famous saying about Gurkhas reads, “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.”