- Brigade of Gurkhas
The Brigade of Gurkhas is the collective term for
British Armyunits that are composed of Nepalese soldiers. They are famous for their ever-present kukris.
:"Main articles the
Gurkhas and the British Indian Army"
During the war in Nepal, the British were impressed by the tenacity of the Gurkha soldiers and encouraged them to volunteer for the East India Company.
Gurkhas served as troops of the East India Company in the
Pindaree Warof 1817, in Bharatpur in 1826, and the First and Second Sikh Wars in 1846 and 1848. During the Sepoy Mutinyin 1857, the Gurkha regiments remained loyal to the British, and became part of the British Indian Armyon its formation. The 2nd Gurkha Rifles(The Sirmoor Rifles) defended Hindu Rao's housefor over three months, losing 327 out of 490 men. The 60th King's Royal Rifle Corps(later part of the Royal Green Jackets) fought alongside the Sirmoor Rifles and were so impressed that following the mutiny they insisted 2nd Gurkhas be awarded the honours of adopting their distinctive rifle green uniforms with scarlet edgings and rifle regiment traditions and that they should hold the title of riflemen rather than sepoys. Twelve Gurkha regiments also took part in the relief of Lucknow. Gurkha Regiments in the British Indian Armyserved in both World Wars.
The British Army
After Indian independence – and partition – in 1947 and under the Tripartite Agreement, six Gurkha regiments joined the post-independence
Indian Army. Four Gurkha regiments, the 2nd, 6th, 7th, and 10th Gurkha Rifles, joined the British Army on January 1 1948. They formed the Brigade of Gurkhas and were stationed in Malaya.
Malayan Emergency, Gurkhas fought as jungle soldiers as they had done in Burma. They also formed four new units – Gurkha Engineers, Signals, Transport and Military Police. They were also used for convoyescort duties, security of the new villages and ambushing guerrillas. In the year of Malayan independence, Gurkha Signals units monitored communications during the first free elections.
One Gurkha battalion – 2nd Gurkha Rifles - was stationed in
Tidworth, Wiltshirein 1962. On December 7, the unit was deployed to Bruneion a day’s notice at the outbreak of the Brunei Revolt. The forthcoming Indonesian Confrontationsaw the formation of the Gurkha Independent Parachute Companyon April 1 1963. The unit was disbanded in 1972.
After that conflict ended, the Gurkhas were transferred to
Hong Kong, where they had security duties during the upheavals of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
The Gurkha brigade’s size was reduced to 8,000 men when the British government changed its defence policy. Hong Kong became their headquarters, while other battalions were stationed in the UK and Brunei.
In 1971 the 7th Duke of Edinburgh's Gurkha Rifles moved to Queen Elizabeth Barracks at
Church Crookham, Hampshire, from where they became the first Gurkhas to mount the Queen's Guard. In 1974 Turkeyinvaded Cyprusand the 10th Gurkha Rifles was sent to defend the British sovereign base area of Dhekelia. Later they remained there on peacekeepingduties.
July 1 1994the four rifle regiments were merged into one, the Royal Gurkha Rifles, and the three corps regiments (the Gurkha Military Police having been disbanded in 1965) were reduced to squadronstrength. On July 1 1997, the British government handed Hong Kong back to the People's Republic of China, which led to the elimination of the local British garrison. Gurkha HQ and recruit training were moved to the UK, and the size of the Brigade of Gurkhas was reduced to 3,400.
Gurkhas have had a role in the
Falklands War(1st Battalion of the 7th), Gulf War, NATO, Iraq, Afghanistan, operations in Kosovoand UN peacekeeping operationsin Bosnia and East Timor. Gurkhas have also served in Sierra Leone.
Brigade HQ is based at Airfield Camp near
Netheravon, Wiltshire. A battalion of the RGR is permanently stationed in Brunei, paid for by the Sultan of Brunei at a cost of approximately £40,000,000 per year. [http://www.thingsasian.com/stories-photos/374d] .
Gurkha regiments traditionally have British officers, although many officers are now themselves Gurkhas. Those who wish to receive Queen's Commissions are required to become British subjects.
Hundreds of Nepalese Gurkha soldiers who fought for Britain protested
March 19 2008outside the Parliament of the United Kingdomin London, demanding higher pensions and the right to stay in the country they served. This sparked a national petition to entitle them to British Citizenship when their service ends. [ [http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Gurkha-soldiers/ Petition to: give all Ex Gurkha soldiers and their families who have served our country British citizenship on leaving the service ] ]
They were also seen recently protecting Prince Harry when he was serving secretly in Afghanistan. [http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/03/19/britain.gurkhas.ap/index.html]
Training Depot Brigade of Gurkhas (TDBG)
Although Britain has been recruiting Gurkha soldiers from
Nepalsince the 19th century, no effort was made to develop a centralized recruit-training system in the Brigade of Gurkhas throughout the pre Second World War era. As a result, recruiting training was conducted at the various Gurkha regimental training centres in India.
The need for such centralized training establishments became apparent in the late 1940s following India's national independence, and subsequently the TDBG was established on
15 August 1951at Sungai Petani, Kedah, Malaya.
With Malaya's independence, however, the TDBG was once again relocated to
Malaya Linesin the New Territories, Hong Kongin 1971. At the TDBG in Hong Kong, recruits were taught basic English alongside military subjects such as field craft, drill, weapon-handling etc. More importantly, being in a modern city like Hong Kong, these young recruits from the hills of Nepal were given the opportunity to experience life in a different culture and environment. Such experience would be crucial for their future deployments in different corners of the world.
Due to Hong Kong's handover from the UK to China, the TDBG was closed down in December 1994. However, it was reconstituted immediately as the Gurkha Training Wing (GTW) at Queen Elizabeth Barracks at
Church Crookham, Hampshirein the UK. In December 1999, the GTW moved to Helles Barracks at Catterick Garrisonin North Yorkshireand became Gurkha Company, 3rd Battalion, Infantry Training Centre (ITC). Organized in two wings, A(Imphal) Wing and B(Meiktila) Wing, the company currently maintains 72 permanent staff of all ranks and 230 recruits.
Selection and Basic Training
First Stage: Hill Selection
Hill selections are held at various locations in Nepal. There are usually 30 applicants for every place available at this stage. Potential recruits must satisfy the following requirements before proceeding to the second stage:
* Age between 17 and 22
* Height at least 5 feet 2
* Weight at least 7 stone 12 pounds (110 pounds, or 50 kilograms)
* Good health
* Educational requirement
Second Stage: Pokhara Selection Centre
This stage of the selection process lasts for 3 weeks. All candidates must pass the following tests in order to proceed further:
* English grammar
* Fitness test, which included exercises and a doko race (carrying 75 pounds of stones and run up a 4.2 kilometre long steep course)
* Initiative test
* Final interview
Candidates for the
Gurkha Contingent, Singapore Police Force, are also selected at this stage
Third Stage: Basic Training at GTW Infantry Training Centre Catterick
This is a nine-month long training course that includes:
* Language training (3 months)
* Military skills
* Western culture and customs
Final Stage: Passing Out
The graduation of successful recruits is marked by a passing out parade at the end of the basic training course. Based on their progress and results they are then allotted to various positions within the Brigade of Gurkhas. In general those who obtained better results in the mathematics test during the second stage of selection are offered postings to the Queen's Gurkha Signals or the Queen's Gurkha Engineers.
British Gurkha units 1947-1994
2nd King Edward VII's Own Gurkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles)(Became part of the Royal Gurkha Riflesin 1994)
6th Queen Elizabeth's Own Gurkha Rifles(Became part of the Royal Gurkha Rifles in 1994)
7th Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkha Rifles(Became part of the Royal Gurkha Rifles in 1994)
10th Princess Mary's Own Gurkha Rifles(Became part of the Royal Gurkha Rifles in 1994)
The Queen's Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment(2001-present)
Gurkha Army Service Corps(1958-1965)
Gurkha Transport Regiment(1965-1992)
Queen's Own Gurkha Transport Regiment(1992-2001)
Queen's Gurkha Engineers(1977-present)
** Gurkha Engineer Training Squadron,
** 50th (Gurkha) Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers (1951-1955)
** Gurkha Engineers (1955-1977)
Queen's Gurkha Signals(1977-present)
** Gurkha Signals (1948-1949)
** Gurkha Royal Signals (1949-1954)
** Gurkha Signals (1954-1977)
Gurkha Provost Company, Royal Military Police(1949-1957)
* 17th Gurkha Divisional Provost Company, Royal Military Police (1957-1969)
Gurkha Parachute Battalion(March-November 1945)
* 3rd Gurkha Parachute Battalion (March-November 1945)
* 153rd Gurkha Parachute Battalion (1941-1945)
* 154th Gurkha Parachute Battalion (1942-1945)
Gurkha Independent Parachute Company, Parachute Regiment (ca.1960-1970)
Current units of the Brigade of Gurkhas
*HQ, Brigade of Gurkhas
British Gurkhas Nepal
*1st and 2nd Battalions,
The Royal Gurkha Rifles
Queen's Gurkha Engineers
Queen's Gurkha Signals
Queen's Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment
*The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas
*Gurkha Company, 3rd Battalion, Infantry Training Centre Catterick
*Gurkha Demonstration Company (
Sitang), Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
*Gurkha Demonstration Company (
Mandalay), Infantry Battle School Brecon
*Brigade of Gurkhas Training Team
*Gurkha Language Wing,
"Bravest of the brave,"
"most generous of the generous,"
"never had country"
"more faithful friends"
The British memorial to the Gurkhas was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on
December 3, 1997. The inscription is a quotation from Sir Ralph Turner, a former officer in the 3rd Gurkha Rifles.
The Brigade of Gurkhas – or to be precise, their salaries and pensions – is a significant source of income for Nepal. Every year, Gurkha recruiters select 270 out of tens of thousands of applicants, mostly from the Rai,
Limbu, Gurung, Punand Magartribes.
Gurkha soldiers have been awarded 13
Victoria Crosses, although all but one ( Rambahadur Limbu) were awarded when all Gurkha regiments were still part of the Indian Army. A further 13 have been awarded to British officers in Gurkha regiments. They have affiliations with the Royal Scots, the King's Royal Hussarsand the Royal Green Jackets.
Gurkhas are also recruited by the British Army for the over 2,000 strong
Gurkha Contingentof the Singapore Police Force. Approximately 2,000 Gurkhas also serve in a similar role in the Gurkha Reserve Unitin Brunei. [http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/Asia_and_Oceania/Brunei_Darussalam Brunei Darussalam] , [http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/index.html Encyclopedia of the Nations] ]
In addition to the British Army, Gurkhas are also recruited by the
Indian Army(approximately 100,000 in 44 battalions plus 25 battalions of Assam Rifles), as part of the tripartite agreement that was signed at the time of India's independence. This is further documented in a list of Gurkha regiments serving under the Indian Army. [ [http://www.photius.com/countries/nepal/national_security/nepal_national_security_gurkhas_serving_abro~10154.html Nepal Gurkhas Serving Abroad] The source given in the article is "The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook"] Under international law, according to Protocol 1 Additions to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, Gurkhas serving as regular uniformed soldiers are not mercenaries,Wither, James. [http://da.mod.uk/defac/colleges/csrc/document-listings/special/05(04)-JW.doc Expeditionary Forces for Post Modern Europe: Will European Military Weakness Provide an Opportunity for the New Condottieri?] Conflict Studies Research Centre, website of the MoD, January 2005] According to Cabinet Office official histories "(Official History of the Falkland Islands, Sir Lawrence Freedman)", Sir John Nott, as Secretary of State for Defence, expressed the British Governments concern that the Gurkhas could not be sent with the task force to recapture the Falkland Islands because it might upset the non-aligned members of the fragile coalition of support that the British had built in the United Nations. The then Chief of Defence Staff Sir Edwin Bramall, like Nott a former officer in the 2nd Gurkhas, said that the Gurkhas were needed for sound military reasons (as a constituent part of 5th Infantry Brigade) and if they were not deployed then there would always be a political reason not to deploy Gurkhas in future conflicts. So he requested that Nott argue the case in Government for deploying them against the advice of the Foreign Office. Nott agreed to do so commenting that the Gurkhas "would be mortified if we spoilt their chances [of going] ". [Freedman, Lawrence, (2005). "The Official History of the Falklands Campaign, Volume 2: War and Diplomacy", Routledge, ISBN 978-0-7146-5207-8. Page 208.]
In 1986 111 Gurkha soldiers from 1/7 GR (the complete Support Company, less officers) were discharged for mutiny, although none were formally charged.Gen Ashok Mehta [http://www.thdl.org/texts/reprints/nepali_times/Nepali_Times_055.pdf The New Battleground: The legendary Gurkhas are engaged in combat of a different kind – a war of whits with their British Paymasters] , [Nepali Times] , 10–16 August 2001. Page 6 ]
In September 2008 former Gurkhas won the legal right to retire in the United Kingdom. [" [http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2008/09/2008930154848158837.html Gurkhas win right to retire in UK] ." "
Al Jazeera". September 30, 2008.] [" [http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/peopleandpower/2008/09/20089171134653860.html Nepal's thwarted heroes] ." " Al Jazeera". September 29, 2008.]
Modern equipment and uniform of the British Army
Gorkha regiments (India)
* Parker, John (1999). "The Gurkhas". Headline Book Publishing. ISBN 0-7472-6243-8.
* [http://www.army.mod.uk/brigade_of_gurkhas/index.htm The Official Website of the British Brigade of Gurkhas]
* [http://www.army.mod.uk/brigade_of_gurkhas/gurkha_employment/tpa The Tripartite Agreement (TPA) 1947]
* [http://www.thegurkhamuseum.co.uk/ Gurkha Museum]
* [http://www.regiments.org/regiments/uk/depot/948gurka.htm "Brigade of Gurkhas" in "Land Forces of Britain, The Empire and Commonwealth"]
* [http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5j086e0pFxKPO9AbmF18WGdHOJHYgD90NG8FG7 Imperial holdover: Gurkhas flock to British army] -
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