Gurkha Regiment Abode of fearless warriors | Daily News

Gurkha Regiment Abode of fearless warriors

IIn September 2010, Sergeant Dipprasad Pun fought and held back 30 Taliban rebels when they attacked his outpost at night. Sergeant Pun, fighting all alone, fired 250 rounds from a machine gun and 180 rounds from his SA-80 rifle and threw 17 grenades. Out of ammunition, he finally killed the last rebel with his gun tripod. For his individual bravery against insurmountable odds, he received the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross from Queen Elizabeth II. This fearless soldier represented the iron will of the Gurkha Regiment.

Former Indian Army Chief of Staff Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw once stated: “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha.” There are Gurkha military units in the Nepalese, British and Indian armies enlisted in Nepal, the United Kingdom, and India. The Gurkhas are formidable and robust soldiers native to South Asia of Nepalese nationality and ethnic Nepalese of Indian nationality recruited for the British Army, Nepalese Army, Indian Army and the Gurkha Contingent in Singapore.

During the 1814–16 Anglo-Nepalese War between the Gurkha Kingdom and the East India Company, the Gurkhali soldiers impressed the British, who called them Gurkhas. British political agent William Fraser was among the first to recognise the potential of Gurkha soldiers. During the war, the British used defectors from the Gurkha Army and employed them as irregular forces. Fraser’s confidence in their loyalty was such that in April 1815, he proposed forming them into a battalion under Lt. Ross, called the Nasiri Regiment.

About 5,000 men entered British Service in 1815, most of whom were not just Gurkhalis, but Kumaonis, Garhwalis and other Himalayan hill men. These groups eventually lumped together under the term Gurkha and became the backbone of British Indian Forces. 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 notable contribution during the conflict, and 25 Indian Order of Merit awards were made to men from that regiment during the Siege of Delhi. After the rebellion, the 60th Rifles pressed for the Sirmoor Battalion to become a rifle regiment. This honour was granted in 1858 when the battalion was renamed the Sirmoor Rifle Regiment and awarded a Third Colour. In 1863, Queen Victoria presented the regiment with the Queen’s Truncheon.

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 33, and Gurkha units were placed at the disposal of the British High Command by the Gurkha Government for service on all fronts. During World War II (1939–1945), there were 10 Gurkha regiments, with two battalions each, making a total of 20 pre-war battalions. Following the Dunkirk evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in 1940, the Nepalese Government offered to increase recruitment to enlarge the number of Gurkha battalions in British Service to 35. This would eventually rise to 43 battalions. In addition to keeping peace in India, Gurkhas fought in Syria, North Africa, Italy, and Greece and against the Japanese in the jungles of Burma, northeast India and also Singapore. They did so with distinction, earning 2,734 bravery awards in the process and suffering around 32,000 casualties in all theatres.

To the disappointment of their British officers, the majority of Gurkhas given a choice between British or Indian Army service opted for the latter. The reason appears to have been the pragmatic one that the Gurkha regiments of the Indian Army would continue to serve in their existing roles in familiar territory and under terms and conditions that were well established. Since partition, the Gurkha regiments that were transferred to the Indian Army have established themselves as a significant part of the newly-independent Indian Army. Indeed, while Britain has reduced its Gurkha contingent, India has continued to recruit Gurkhas of Nepal into Gurkha regiments in large numbers, as well as Indian Gurkhas. In 2009, the Indian Army had a Gurkha contingent that numbered around 42,000 men in 46 battalions.

The Brigade of Gurkhas is the collective name which refers to all the units in the British Army that are composed of Nepalese Gurkha soldiers. The brigade, which was 4,000 strong as of April 1, 2021, draws its heritage from Gurkha units that originally served in the British Indian Army prior to Indian independence, and prior to that served for the East India Company. The brigade includes Infantry, Engineering, Signal, Logistics, Training and Support units.

The selection process for the Gurkhas is demanding. It filters the toughest men. In 2017, 230 trainee riflemen were recruited from about 25,000 applicants. Recruitment is run by British Gurkhas Nepal; based at Jawalakhel. Recruitment sees the prospective soldier undergo two stages of selection; first the regional selection at either Pokhara or Dharan, where the recruit undertakes a series of physical tests, written English and numeracy assessments, and an interview. Those that pass regional selection move forward to the central selection process in Kathmandu. Gurkha training lasts for 36 intense weeks and addresses a range of areas such as the Brigade ethos, language training, cultural training, career management and trade selection, as well as the same 26-week Combat Infantryman’s Course. This enables trained Gurkha soldiers to fulfil their roles on operations and continue the gallant legend of their courageous forefathers.

The four Gurkha regiments transferred to the British Army were posted to other, remaining, British colonies. In Malaya and Singapore, their presence was required in the Malayan Emergency, and they were to replace the Sikh unit in Singapore which reverted to the Indian Army on Indian independence. Since independence, the Gurkhas have fought in every major campaign involving the Indian Army, being awarded numerous battle honours. The regiments have won many gallantry awards like the Param Vir Chakra and the Maha Vir Chakra medals.

The Gurkha hat is wide brimmed and comprises two layers of material. It is made of felt and is worn tilted. It was originally adopted prior to World War I for wear with the khak drill service uniform of the time. The round “pill-box” cap worn with the traditional rifle-green dress uniform of Gurkha regiments was retained after 1947 for off-duty use. The kukri is a type of machete originating from the Indian Subcontinent, and is traditionally associated with the Gurkhas of Nepal and India. The knife has a distinct recurve in its blade. It serves multiple purposes as a combat weapon. The blade has traditionally served the role of a basic utility knife for the Gurkhas. The kukri is the national weapon of Nepal. The kukri also sees standard service with various regiments and units within the Indian Army. The kukri is effective as a chopping weapon, due to its weight, and slashing weapon because the curved shape creates a “wedge” effect which causes the blade to cut effectively and deeper. Because the blade bends towards the opponent, the user need not angle the wrist while executing a chopping motion. The knife’s design enables the user to inflict deep wounds and to penetrate bone. The Gurkhas have 200 years of gallant history. The fearless and indomitable Gurkha soldiers will sustain their combat prowess for decades to come.

Add new comment