THE GURKHAS IN FLEET

The Gurkhas have been part of Fleets history and culture for the past 29 years. On the 5th August 2000 the 1st Battalion of the Gurkha Rifles marched down Fleet Rd to say goodbye to the community of Fleet and Church Crookham. 

A square in front of the Library and Harlington Centre has been named after them. There is a small exhibition about the Gurkhas in the foyer of the Harlington Centre.

The following proud history of the Gurkhas is "fleethants.com's" tribute and thank you for all they did for Fleet during their 29 year stay.

Video of the unveiling of the Gurkha Statue placed in front of the Gurkha Orchard in Church Crookham

THE BRIGADE OF GURKHAS

Gurkhas have been serving the British Crown for 185 years and have fought and died alongside their British comrades in nearly every theatre of war around the world.

The connection began in war between the  British, in the shape of The Honourable East India Company, and the fledgling and expansionist warrior Gurkha state of Nepal.  Gurkhas raids into Northern India led to the Anglo-Nepal war of 1812 and 1814. The war ended in stalemate but was an unusual conflict for the time. Both British and Gurkha armies had become accustomed to previous enemies which broke and ran when faced with organised military opposition. Here, both faced an enemy which stood and fought  bravely. Both sides treated prisoners honourably and refrained from the then accepted excesses of the victor. By the end of the war a mutual respect had grown up between British and Gurkha, and the Gurkha suggestion that they would prefer to fight with the British than against them was swiftly accepted.

At first the three Gurkha regiments raised were "irregular" that is while they were armed, trained and commanded by British officers they lacked the status of being part of the regular army proper. It was the mutiny of the Bengal  Army in 1857, when the survival of  British power in India hung by a thread, that led to the full integration of Gurkha regiments. All Gurkha units remained loyal to Britain, and their actions, particularly during the siege of Delhi, led to them being placed on the regular order of battle. They were also given the rank 'Rifleman' rather then 'Sepoy'. and were awarded the perhaps odd but unique privilege of access to British canteens, out of bounds to all other non-British troops.

Throughout the rest of the 19th century the Gurkha Brigade, now comprising ten regiments each of two battalions, a total of some. 18,000 men, saw service throughout the subcontinent of India. They took part in operations in China, Tibet, Afghanistan, 'Asia Minor' and Cyprus.

In World War 1, over  120,000 Gurkhas joined the Army, fighting in Flanders with eight battalions in 1914 and 1915. Gurkhas were the first British units to break the German Line at Neuve Chapelle. They also fought in the Middle East and most notably at Gallipoli, where they alone secured the commanding heights of Sari Bair, Meanwhile as close allies the Nepalese Army helped to garrison India. Ten percent of those who joined were casualities.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Gurkha Brigade were a main part of the Garrison of India, and played an active and special role securing its borders and holding its remote regions.

During the Second World War, 131,000 Gurkhas fought in the Desert, Italy, Greece and Burma. As part of the 8th Army they were present at all the major desert battles, winning particular fame at the break-in-battle on the Mareth Line, where the 2nd Gurkhas gained a VC. In the battle to retake Italy, Gurkhas were involved in all the key battles, winning particular fame at Monte Cassino and at the breaking of the Gothic Line. Inevitably, it was in Burma where their contribution was greatest, taking part in all the bitter battles of 'Defeat into Victory'. In particular, their exploits in the 2nd Chindit Operation resulted in a number of VCs. Their contribution at Imphal, Sangshak and the final break through into the Irrawaddy Delta and Rangoon must live unforgettably in any account of that bitter campaign, resulting in the award of 8 VCs. In effect, the entire youth of Nepal was placed at the disposal of the British. With a Population of only four million, this meant that virtually every Nepali of the martial clans and of military age was serving the British Crown. Casualities were heavy, especially in Burma and Italy, and almost ten percent were casualities.

With Indian independence in 1947, the ten regiments of Gurkhas were split between the Armies of independent India and Britain. The 2nd, 6th, 7th and 10th Gurkha Rifles transferred to the British Army and were immediately thrown into the campaign to defeat communist insurgency in Malaya. The Borneo campaign, which involved fighting the Indonesian Regular Army in primeval jungle conditions, followed. Gurkhas were also in action in the Falklands war, in the Gulf conflict and in UN peace keeping operations in Africa and the former Yugoslavia and East Timor.

Today, there are two battalions of The Royal Gurkha Rifles, one in UK and one in Brunei, as well as a squadron each of Engineers,  Signals and Transport. As a temporary arrangement three independent companies of Gurkhas support under strength British battalions; one of these companies is parachute trained. About a  third of Gurkhas serve accompanied by their families. A small organisation is set up in Nepal to arrange for recruiting of Gurkhas, to pay pensions to retired Servicemen and to handle welfare requirements.

Competition to get into the British Army is fierce in Nepal. where soldering has always been regarded as an honourable profession. There are usually some thirty applicants for every recruit vacancy offered. Soldiers are recruited annually with only the very best being selected to undergo the rigorous recruit training in UK, then going on to join their respective regiments.

Recruitment to both British and Indian armies established by a Tripartite Agreement with the Kingdom of Nepal, which governs rates of pay, terms of service and international status. This Agreement is recognised by the United Nations Organisation. Gurkha Soldiers of the British Army are available for service in any role envisaged by the British Ministry of Defence. Recently, Gurkhas have been on operations in six countries and exercised in another fourteen countries around the world.

DEPLOYMENT

Headquarters The Brigade of Gurkhas Netheravon
British Gurkhas Nepal Nepal
Training Wing Brigade of Gurkhas Catterick
2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles Folkestone
1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles Brunei
The Queens Gurkha Engineers Maidstone
Queens Gurkha Signals Bramcote
The Queens Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment Colchester

 

Under the British Government's current plans to increase the Regular Armed forces the Brigade will be maintained at a strength of  3,078, with two infantry Battalions, two Squadrons each of the corps units two Demonstration Companies, three reinforcement companies with British Battalions, a Gurkha Training Wing, Band and a modest infrastructure in the United Kingdom and Nepal

The Gurkha Welfare Appeal charity does much to alleviate distress amongst ex-Servicemen in Nepal.

The history, traditions and ethos of Britain's Gurkhas are graphically portrayed in The Gurkha Museum at Peninsula Barracks, Winchester. for more Information ring (01962) 842832 or visit www.thegurkhamuseum.co.uk