Gurkha History

The Gorkhas (also called Gurkhas) are Nepalese soldiers now recruited as parts of many countries’ armies: the British Army, Indian Army, Gurkha Contingent Singapore, Gurkha Reserve Unit Brunei, as well as in the UN Peace Keeping Forces. Historically, the terms "Gurkha" and "Gorkhali" were synonymous with "Pahadi", the term used for the people from the hills, who more specifically lived in the town and district of Gorkha. The name of the town may be traced to the medieval Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath who has a historic shrine in Gorkha. Traditionally, the Gorkha army was ethnically comprised of Chhetri or Khas , Thakuri, Gurung and Magar ethnic groups. Nowadays, Gorkha soldiers mostly belong to the Gurung, Chhetri, Magar, Rai, Limbu, Sunuwar , Madhesis and Tharus and there is no ethnicity based restriction to join. The Gorkhas are closely associated with the khukuri, a forward-curved Nepalese knife, and have a reputation for fearless military prowess. During the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–1816) between the Gorkha Kingdom and the East India Company, the Gorkhali soldiers made an impression on the British, who called them Gurkhas. In the peace treaty sealed from both the parties after the war, they agreed that Gorkhalis could be recruited to serve under contract in the East India Company's army. The Anglo-Nepalese war was fought between the Gurkha Kingdom of Nepal and the British East India Company as a result of border disputes and ambitious expansionism of both the belligerent parties. The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Sugauli in 1816.

About 5,000 men entered British service in 1815, most of whom were not just Gorkhalis but Kumaonis, Garhwalis and other Himalayan hill men. These groups, eventually lumped together under the term Gurkha and since then became the backbone of British Indian forces.Gurkhas served as troops under contract to the East India Company in the Pindaree War of 1817, in Bharatpur in 1826 and the First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars in 1846 and 1848. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Gurkhas fought on the British side, and became part of the British Indian Army on its formation. The 8th (Sirmoor) Local Battalion made a particularly notable contribution during the conflict, and indeed twenty-five Indian Order of Merit awards were made to men from that regiment during the Siege of Delhi. Three days after the mutiny began, the Sirmoor Battalion were ordered to move to Meerut, where the British garrison was barely holding on, and in doing so they had to march up to 48 kilometres a day.  Later, during the four-month Siege of Delhi they defended Hindu Rao's house, losing 327 out of 490 men. During this action they fought side by side with the 60th Rifles and a strong bond developed. Twelve regiments from the Nepalese Army also took part in the relief of Lucknow under the command of Shri Teen  Maharaja Maharana Jung Bahadur of Nepal and his older brother Ranaudip Singh (Ranodip or Ranodeep) Bahadur Rana (later to succeed Jung Bahadur and become Sri Teen Maharaja Ranodip Singh of Nepal).After the rebellion the 60th Rifles pressed for the Sirmoor Battalion to become a rifle regiment. This honour was granted then next year (1858) when the Battalion was renamed the Sirmoor Rifle Regiment and awarded a third color.[16] In 1863 Queen Victoria presented the regiment with the Queen's Truncheon, as a replacement for the colors that rifle regiments do not usually have.

From the end of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 until the start of World War I the Gurkha Regiments saw active service in Burma, Afghanistan, the North-East Frontier and the North-West Frontiers of India, Malta (the Russo-Turkish War, 1877–78), Cyprus, Malaya, China (the Boxer Rebellion of 1900) and Tibet (Younghusband's Expedition of 1905).


During World War I (1914–1918), more than 200,000 Gurkhas served in the British Army, suffering approximately 20,000 casualties, and receiving almost 2,000 gallantry awards. The number of Gurkha battalions was increased to thirty-three, and Gurkha units were placed at the disposal of the British high command by the Gurkha government for service on all fronts. During the ultimately unsuccessful Gallipoli campaign in 1915, the Gurkhas were among the first to arrive and the last to leave. The 1st/6th Gurkhas, having landed at Cape Helles, led the assault during the first major operation to take out a Turkish high point, and in doing so captured a feature that later became known as "Gurkha Bluff". At Sari Bair they were the only troops in the whole campaign to reach and hold the crest line and look down on the Straits, which was the ultimate objective.

During World War II (1939–1945), there were ten Gurkha regiments, with two battalions each making a total of twenty pre-war battalions. Following the Dunkirk evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in 1940, the Nepalese government offered to increase recruitment to increase the total number of Gurkha battalions in British service to thirty-five.

Ever since the end of World War II, thanks to their fierce reputation, Gorkha soldiers are recruited in almost all major battles led across the world.