Gurkhas are known by their graciousness, loyalty and great courage. As gentle in daily life as they are fearless and tenacious in battle, they are a dignified people and ideal soldiers and security personnel.
Gurkhas first encountered the British in the Gurkha War of 1814 – 1816, which ended not just in stalemate, but with an abiding sense of mutual respect and admiration between the two sides.
A soldier of the 87th Foot wrote in his memoirs: “I never saw more steadiness or bravery exhibited in my life. Run they would not, and of death they seemed to have no fear, though their comrades were falling thick around them.” The Peace Treaty that ended the war enabled Gurkhas to serve under contract in the East India Company’s army, for whom they first fought in the Pindaree War of 1817. Thus, began Britain’s relationship with Nepal.
Gurkhas fought on the British side in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and at the end of the war, Gurkhas became a part of the British Indian Army. In recognition of their service at Delhi, the 2nd Gurkha Rifles was awarded the Queen’s Truncheon, a unique emblem which is believed to have magical powers. To this day, new recruits to The Royal Gurkha Rifles swear allegiance to the Crown and the Regiment on the Truncheon.
From 1857 until 1947, the Gurkha regiments saw service in Burma, Afghanistan, the North-East and North-West Frontiers of India, Malta (The Russo-Turkish War 1877-78), Cyprus, Malaya, China (the Boxer rebellion of 1900), Tibet, and in the First and Second World Wars. They have continued to serve in every major conflict since.
British officials in the 19th century declared the Gurkhas as a ‘Martial Race’, a term describing people thought to be ‘naturally warlike and aggressive in battle’ possessing qualities of courage, loyalty, self-sufficiency, physical strength, resilience, orderliness, the ability to work hard for long periods of time, fighting tenacity and military strength.
Gurkhas are famed for carrying a khukuri. It is the national weapon of Nepal, but it is also used as a work tool in the Hills. Each Gurkha carries two khukuris, one for every-day use and one for ceremonial purposes. Their famous war cry, “Ayo Gorkhali” translates as “The Gurkhas are here”, their motto, ‘Kaphar hunnu bhanda marnu ramro’ means, ‘It is better to die than to live like a coward.