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Who are the Gurkhas of the British Army?

Topics Covered:

Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

 

Who are the Gurkhas of the British Army?

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Gurkha regiment in British army, historical background and significance.

 

Context: The British Army announced this week that it would create a new Specialised Infantry Battalion by recruiting more than 800 Nepalese Gurkha servicepersons this year.

 

Who are they? Brief background:

Currently, the Gurkhas comprise up to 3% of the British Army, and in 2015 completed 200 years of service there.

Impressed by their discipline and ferocity in Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814-16, the British decided to recruit Gurkha soldiers starting in 1815. Since then, the Gurkhas have fought on the side of the British Empire in almost every war, including both World Wars.

  • Upon Independence in 1947, the question of allotting the 10 regiments of Gurkha soldiers arose. This was settled by the Britain-India-Nepal Tripartite Agreement. In 1948, India created an 11th Gurkha Rifles regiment to accommodate the Gurkhas who refused to depart with the now-British regiments.
  • Later, the British Army amalgamated their four regiments into a combined Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) regiment consisting of three battalions. The RGR was subsequently deployed in Britain’s remaining colonies in Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong, to fill the vacuum created by departing Indian regiments such as the Sikhs, which were stationed there earlier.

 

Recruitment of Gurkhas:

The Gurkhas are recruited every year at the British Gurkha camp at Pokhara in Nepal. The camp enlists fresh recruits not only for the British Army, but also for the counter-terror arm of the Singapore Police Force. British Army scouts roam the Nepalese countryside to identify potential recruits, who then undergo a rigorous training process before joining.

 

Service:

  • Regarded as fierce and loyal, the Gurkhas are held in high esteem in the British Army. They are enlisted not only in the infantry, but also in the engineering corps and as logisticians. Their signature weapon, the khukri, famous for the inwardly curved shape of its blade and its legendary utility, forms part of the Gurkha regimental insignia in Britain as well as in India.
  • Queen Elizabeth II of Britain is guarded by two personal Gurkha officers. Former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew is known to have preferred Gurkha police officers for his protection.

 

Sources: Indian Express.

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