The Royal Gurkha Rifles is an elite infantry unit within the British army. It's members come from Nepal where the United Kingdom maintains a selection centre.
In 1815, the first Regiment of Gurkhas (Gorkhas) was formed from volunteers who were in service of the East India Company. The formation of the regiment was a direct result of the war between the British East India Company and Nepal in 1814. Impressed by the qualities of the Gurkha soldiers the British were keen on recruiting them. The peace treaty that followed the conflict allowed the Gurkhas to volunteer for service with the East India Company. A force of 3,000 Gurkhas divided into four battalions was erected.
The regiment served with the British Army in India. While the numbers of the regiment continued to grow it soon became one of the pillars the British relied on. One of the examples of their loyalty is the mutiny in 1857. Instead of joining the mutineers they joined the British ranks and helped to put the mutiny down. Their loyalty and qualities were also confirmed during several campaigns on the Northwest frontier of India.
The Gurkha Regiments were reorganised between 1901 and 1906. The official name was changed to the Gurkha Rifles. Ten battalions numbered from 1st to 10th battalion were part of the regiment. When World War I broke out the British started increasing the number of Gurkha soldiers. By the end of the war over 100,000 Gurkhas had been part of one of the regiments of the Gurkha Rifles. Again, the Gurkhas proved their qualities on almost every battlefield of the war, earning two Victoria Crosses in the process.
Directly after the Great War, the amount of Gurkha soldiers was decreased again to the size of ten battalions. For the time being, the Gurkhas took on their old duties in the British colonies. As soon as World War II was a fact, enormous amounts of Gurkha soldiers were enlisted again. Over 112,000 served in some 40 Gurkha Battalions of the Gurkha Rifles. Like in World War I the Gurkhas served on all the major battlefields of Africa, Europe, the Pacific and Asia. Ten Victoria Crosses awarded their actions.
After World War II the Gurkha Rifles were again down sized to the original ten battalions. The global decolonisation process directly after the war was responsible for another major change in the existence of the Gurkha Rifles. When India became independent in 1947 six regiments of the Gurkha Rifles were attached to the Indian Army. 2 Gurkha Rifles, 6 Gurkha Rifles, 7 Gurkha Rifles and 10 Gurkha Rifles remained a part of the British Army. The regiments were moved to Malaya in the Far East in 1948. Here they received their own Gurkha engineer, signal and transport regiment and together they formed the 17th Gurkha Infantry Division.
Gurkha brigades served continuously during the twelve years of the Malayan Conflict. The Gurkha also participated in the Brunei Revolt in 1962. That very same year battalions of the Gurkhas started serving in the conflict with Indonesia. Until 1966 they operated in the jungles of Malaysia, deserving one Victoria Cross.
In the period from 1967 and 1972, the Gurkha Rifles were reorganised. The amount of Gurkhas was decreased from 14,000 to 8,000 men and, although some units were sent to Great Britain and Brunei, headquarters was moved to Hong Kong. When Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 Gurkhas were transported to a British base on the island. In 1982 a Gurkha battalion participated in the Falkland War and during Gulf War in 1990 and 1991 were again back on the frontline. More recently, they were part of U.N. missions in Bosnia and Kosovo.
In 1994, the British Army started a major reorganisation. On July 1st 1994 the four regiments of the Gurkha Rifles were disbanded and a new larger Regiment was formed under the name, the Royal Gurkha Rifles. For the time being, the regiment received three battalions. One (3 R.G.R.) based in Great Britain, one (2 R.G.R.) in Brunei and one (1 R.G.R.) in Hong Kong. The engineer, signal and transport Regiments were reduced to squadron size. Together with Gurkha Headquarters, the recruit training wing and the Band these three units were based in Great Britain.
Royal Gurkha Rifles.
[Photo: Army.mod.co.uk - Gurkhas.]
- Primary mission: Elite infantry.
Raised and Disbanded
- raised: 1815.
- 1st King George V's Own Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment);
- 2nd King Edward VII's Own Gurkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles);
- 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles;
- 4th Prince of Wales's Own Gurkha Rifles;
- 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force);
- 6th Queen Elizabeth's Own Gurkha Rifles;
- 7th Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkha Rifles;
- 8th Gurkha Rifles;
- 9th Gurkha Rifles;
- 10th Princess Mary's Own Gurkha Rifles;
- The Queen's Gurkha Engineers;
- Queen's Gurkha Signals;
- Queen's Own Gurkha Transport Regiment;
- Gurkha Military Police;
- British Gurkhas Nepal;
- Gurkha Company, 3rd Battalion Infantry Training Centre;
- The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas;
- Gurkha Demonstration Company, Royal Military Academy;
- Gurkha Demonstration Company, Infantry Training Centre.
- Airfield Camp, Netheravon, Wiltshire, United Kingdom.
Hundreds of Gurkhas were ordered to lead Nato forces into Kosovo in 1999.
[Photo: Russell Boyce/Reuters.]