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The Gurkha History

The Gurkha History
Collector's Corner

'Keeping the Peace' in India under the British flag began for the Gurkha soldiers with the Pindaree War in 1817, and the first battle honour gained by Gurkha troops was at Bhurtpore in 1826. 

The two senior regiments distinguished themselves in the hard fought battles of the 1st Sikh War in 1846, and six regiments of the Nepalese Army were offered to the East India Company for service in the 2nd Sikh War of 1848.  In the Indian Mutiny of 1857-1858 the 2nd Goorkhas showed striking proof of their loyalty at Delhi where, together with the 60th Rifles (now part of the Royal Green Jackets), they held Hindu Rao's house, the key to the British position which was under continuous fire from the mutineers for over three months.  During this period the 2nd Goorkhas suffered 327 casualties (including 8 of their 9 British Officers) out of a total strength of 490.  Also during the mutiny, 12 Nepalese Army Regiments, a force of 8,000 men under the personal leadership of the Prime Minister of Nepal, took part in the final relief of Lucknow.

At the outbreak of the First World War the whole of the Nepalese Army was placed at the disposal of the British Crown.  Over 16,000 Nepalese Troops were subsequently deployed on operations on the North West Frontier and as Garrison Battalions in India to replace troops of the British Indian Army who had gone to fight overseas.

Some one hundred thousand Gurkhas enlisted in Regiments of The Gurkhas Brigade.  They fought and died in France and Flanders, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Gallipoli, Palestine and Salonika.  A battalion of the 8th Gurkhas greatly distinguished itself as Loos, fighting to the last, and in the words of the Indian Corps Commander, "found its Valhalla".  The 6th Gurkhas gained immortal fame at Gallipoli during the capture from the Turks of the feature later 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.

There was little respite after the First World War, with fighting in the Third Afghan War in 1919 followed by numerous campaigns on the North-West Frontier, particularly in Waziristan.  Four Nepalese Army Regiments also took part in operations on the North-West Frontier during the Third Afghan War.

In the Second World War there were no fewer than 40 Gurkha Battalions in British Service, as well as parachute, garrison and training units.  In all this total sum 112,000 men.  Side by side with British and Commonwealth troops Gurkhas fought in Syria, the Western Desert, Italy and Greece, from North Malaya to Singapore and from the Siamese Border back through Burma to Imphal and then forward to Rangoon.

In addition to the enormous manpower made available there were many personal gestures on the part of the Minister and Court of Nepal.  Large sums of money for the purchase of weapons and equipment, including many for the provision of fighter aircraft during the Battle of Britain, were presented as gifts from Nepal.  Considerable sums of money were also donated to the Lord Mayor of London during the Blitz for the relief of victims in the Dockland area.  An equally generous response was made to a variety of appeals for aid - all this from a country which was then, and still is by western standards, desperately poor.  The spirit of this friendship can best be illustrated by the reply made to the Prime Minister of Nepal to the British Minister in Kathmandu after the fall of France in 1940.  When Britain stood alone.  Permission was sought to recruit an additional twenty battalions for the Gurkha Brigade and for Gurkha troops to be allowed to serve in any part of the world.  This was readily granted by the Prime Minister who remarked, "Does a friend desert a friend in time of need?  If you win, we win with you.  If you lose we lose with you".  The whole of the Nepalese Army was again placed at the disposal of the British Crown.  Eight Nepalese Regiments were sent to India for internal security duties and for operations on the North-West Frontier.  Later a Nepalese Brigade was sent to Burma and fought with particular distinction at the Battle of Imphal. (@Extract taken from the MOD,UK on the Gurkha Rifles).

This is a short history of the Gurkha from the time it was formed to fight under the british flag till the end of the Second World War.



IGSM 1936 with bar NW Frontier 1936-37 to 2-6 GR
@copyright - owner collection

India Meritorious Service Medal to 1 G.R.
@copyright - owner collection

The Sirmoor Battalion (later 2nd GR),Delhi,1857
@ copyright - Mike Chappell / Osprey Publishing

Ayo Gurkhali...Here come the Gurkhas