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Gurkha Brigade

"Gurkha Brigade" is a collective term for British army units that are composed of Nepalese soldiers. They are also famous for their ever-present kukri blade.

First Gurkhas volunteered as mercenaries to service of British East India Company after the war in Nepal on 1814-1816. During the war, British were impressed by the tenacity of the Gurkha soldiers and encouraged them to volunteer for their armed forces.

Gurkhas served in British troops in the Pindaree War of 1817, in Bhurtbore in 1826 and Sikh Wars in 1846 and 1848. During the Sepoy Mutiny in 1875, Gurkhas fought on the British side. 2nd Gurkha rifles defended Hindu Rao’s house for over three months, losing 327 out of 490 men. 12 Nepalese regiments also took part in the relief of Lucknow. 2nd Gurkha Rifles served in Malta during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78.

In the beginning of the 20th century Gurkhas formed 10 Gurkha Rifles regiments. 100.000 of them fought in the First World War. They served in the battlefields of France in the Battle of Loos, Givenchy, Neuve Chapelle and Ypres; in Mesopotamia, Persia, Suez Canal and Palestine against Turkish advance, Gallipoli landings, and Salonika. One detachment served with Lawrence of Arabia. 2nd battalion of 3rd Gurkha Rifles was in the conquest of Baghdad.

In the interwar years, Gurkhas fought in the Third Afghan War.

During the World War Two, Nepalese crown let British recruit 20 extra battalions – 40 in total – and let them serve everywhere in the world. In addition to keeping peace in India, Gurkhas fought in Syria, North Africa, Italy, Greece and against Japanese in Singapore and in the jungles of Burma. 10 Gurkha rifles became a nucleus for Chindits. They fought in the Battle of Imphal.

After Indian independence – and partition – in 1947 and Tripartite agreement, 6 regiments remained in the Indian Army. Four Gurkha regiments joined British service in January 1 1948, formed the Gurkha Brigade and were stationed in Malaya.

During the Malayan Emergency Gurkhas worked as jungle soldiers as they had done in Burma. They also formed three other units – Gurkha Engineers, Signals and Transport. They were also used for convoy escort duties, security of the new villages and ambushing guerillas. In the year of Malayan independence, Gurkha Signals also monitored communications during the first free elections.

One Gurkha battalion – 2nd Gurkha Rifles - was stationed in Tidworth, UK in 1962. In December 7 the unit was deployed to Brunei in day’s notice in the outbreak of Brunei Revolt. Forthcoming Indonesian Confrontation saw the formation of Gurkha Independent Parachute Company in April 1 1963. It ended up as a commando unit and worked with Special Air Service. The unit was disbanded at 1972.

After that conflict ended, Gurkhas were transferred to Hong Kong, where they had security duties during the upheavals of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Gurkha brigade’s size was reduced to 8000 men when British government changes its defense policy. Hong Kong became their headquarters when other battalions were stationed in UK and Brunei.

In 1971 7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Gurkha Rifles moved to Queen Elizabeth Barracks at Church Crookham, Hampshire. In 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus and 10th Gurkha Rifles was sent to defend the British sovereign base area of Dhekelia. Later they remained in peacekeeping duties and sometimes had to literally place themselves between Greeks and Turks.

On July 1, 1997, The British government handed Hong Kong over to the People's Republic of China, which also lead the reduction of the local garrison. The size of Gurkha Brigade was reduced to 3400. In July 1, 1994 Four Rifle Regiments were merged into one, 1st Royal Gurkha Regiment and three Corps regiments to squadrons. Gurkha HQ and recruit training were moved to UK.

Gurkhas have had their roles in Falklands War, Gulf War, NATO operations in Kosovo and UN peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and East Timor. Two Gurkha battalions are stationed in Sierra Leone as of this writing.

Currently all Gurkha recruits begin their service in Gurkha Training Wing in Church Crookham, Hampshire. Brigade HQ is based at Airfield Camp near Netheravon, Wiltshire. 2nd Gurkha Rifles Regiment is stationed in Brunei.

Gurkha regiments have British officers. Past officers have described their troops as silent, reliable and loyal. Their enemies describe them as silent, ruthless and dangerous.

Gurkha Brigade - or to be precise, their salaries and pensions - is a significant source of income for Nepal. Gurkha recruiters select yearly 270 of ten of thousands of applicants. Usual tribes are Magar, Gurung, Rai and Limbu. There are about 3400 Gurkhas in the British army. They also have the Gurkha Welfare Scheme.

Gurkhas have one five-month leave in Nepal every three years. Some of them can take their families with them – this becomes a permanent right once they have reached the rank of Colour Sergeant. Most serve unaccompanied.

Historically, Gurkha soldiers of the Brigade have won 12 Victoria Crosses. They have affiliations with the Royal Scots, the King’s Royal Hussars and the Royal Green Jackets.

In addition to British Army, Gurkhas are also recruited for Gurkha Contingent of Singapore Police Force. Indian army also have Gurkha troops.