The association of the Nepalese soldiers called Gurkhas (native form Gorkha) with the British army dates from 1814, when Nepalese incursions into East India Company territory in Bengal and Sikkim led to a war between Britain and Nepal. The Gurkha warriors were so impressive in their valour, ferocity, and honour that on the conclusion of peace, a Regiment of Gurkhas was formed in 1815.

They stayed loyal to the Crown during the Indian Mutiny, and have served Britain with intense fidelity and courage in every war and conflict since. A hundred thousand Gurkhas fought in the First World War, and even more in the Second. They have been honoured with many a Victoria Cross.

On the independence of India in 1947, four of the ten Gurkha regiments of rifles remained British. They have been based at Singapore, then Hong Kong, and are now based in Britain and Brunei. The four regiments have since been restructured into the Royal Gurkha Rifles. Their headquarters is at Church Crookham in Hampshire.

A kingdom of Gorkha existed from 1669 under the Saha dynasty, with rajas

  1. Prithvipati 1669-1716
  2. Narabhpati 1716-1742
  3. Prithvinarayana 1742-1775
On 25 September 1768 Raja Prithvinarayana Saha annexed the kingdom of Kathmandu and became the first king ( Maharajadhiraja) of Nepal, under the title Prithivi Narayan Shah Deva. He absorbed the other Nepalese kingdoms of Lalitapatan in October 1768 and Bhatgaon in November 1769. Nepal had been divided into these kingdoms since 1484. His Shah Deva dynasty continues to rule Nepal.

In India, the state of Sikkim is Nepalese-speaking, as is the district around Darjiling in West Bengal, this having formerly been part of independent Sikkim. The ethnically Nepalese people of Darjiling call themselves Gorkha, and sometimes call their form of the Nepalese language Gorkhali. There is some agitation for separation from West Bengal into a new state or territory of Gorkhaland. These are native to the district: there are also immigrants from Nepal, who are not classed as Gorkhas.

Note that Ghurka is a baseless misspelling.

The word Gurkha derives from the village of Gorkha, where the British first recruited the Nepalese in the 1800s for their loyalty, strength, and because they apparently even ate faster than Indian recruits. Gurkhas began fighting in the Anglo-Nepal War of 1814-1816. In 1974 Gurkhas were deployed to reinforce the British Sovereign base in Cyprus when Turkey invaded the island. They were also brought in for the Gulf War, Bosnia, and more recently in Kosovo, as well as the Falklands campaign.

The British currently employ approximately 3800 Gurkhas, who are typically discharged after 15 years. Between 1901 and 1906 Gurkha Regiments were renumbered from the 1st to the 10th and redesignated as Gurkha Rifles. After 1947, the remainder of the Gurkha Rifles not remaining in the Indian Army reformed as the modern Brigade of Gurkhas under the British Army. The Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) were formed in 1994.

The Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Organization, or GAESO, is a union-like group of Gurkhas headquarted in Pokhara. Gaeso has filed a case with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, claiming that their pensions are lower than that of British army regulars. Rates are limited by a 1947 agreement signed by Britain, Nepal and India, which ruled that basic pay for British Gurkhas should be the same as that of those serving with the Indian Army.

Rival groups have formed, but the Gurkhas are the only ones that have formed a national network. The Gaeso has taken a leftist position since their publication of the 'Gurkha Soldier Voice' newsletter in the 1990s. One of the Gaeso's top advisors is a communist, and the deputy mayor of Pokhara.

There are three women's auxiliary branches; The Queen's Gurkha Engineers, The Queen's Gurkha Signals and The Queen's Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment.

Information from the WSJ, the BBC, and the British Army site.

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