Doc Jawa of Petting My Jawa posts about the recent murder of 12 Nepali workers and the beheading of one of the workers (names here). The comments section of the post, as well as other letters received, reflects the sentiments of a number of Nepalese commenters, who seem to be posting with more than just a bit of blood in their eyes.
One common theme in the posts is the strongly expressed desire for the jihadis to meet the Gorkhalis in combat. This has lead to some questions about who the Gurkhas are, as well as a few tales of Gurkhas on the battlefield.
So I've put together a bit of information about these fearsome fighters and their history.
First, a bit of background. The Gurkhas are troops serving in the British army and are recruited from Nepal. Nepali warriors in general are known as Ghorkhalis, while those serving under the crown are called Gurkhas. As such the Gurkhas are not British citizens, although earnings from the Gurkhas constitute a major source of income for Nepal:
The Gurkhas also played an important role in the country's economy. The cash flow derived from annual pensions, remittances to families, or monies taken home in a lump sum by discharged veterans or by service personnel on leave represented a major source of the country's foreign exchange. Remittances and pensions contributed by British Gurkhas were estimated in 1991 to total over US$60 million annually, or over twice the value of Britain's annual foreign aid commitment to Nepal. Pensions from Indian Gurkhas also represented a major revenue source. Gurkhas returning from duty in Hong Kong also were able legally to import a few kilograms of gold bullion duty free. SOURCE
The Gurkhas have an immense reputation for bravery and fierceness in battle. A flavor of what makes the Gurkhas such formidable warriors can be found in this description of the 13 Victoria Cross citations issued to Gurkhas since their service under the crown. For those desiring a more complete history of the Gurkhas in the British army, the official history can be found here, which is also nicely supplemented by these two pages.
But all this aside, what makes a Gurkha so formidable? Why are they considered to be so tough? Well, there are several factors involved. First
among them is that Nepal had a strong warrior culture long before the British arrived. In fact, it was the fact that 30,000 British troops were held off by 12,000 Nepalese (and that both sides fought tooth and nail) that a sufficient level of mutual respect was reached which created the foundation for this very close and long-lived alliance between the two peoples. For instance, in one engagement:
"...during extremely bitter fighting while defending the hill fortress of Kalunga the Gorkhas lost 520 out of 600 defenders but they fought so bravely and so well and the losses they inflicted on the British were so staggering it inspired the British to erect a stone battle monument at Kalunga inscribed with the words: THEY FOUGHT IN THEIR CONFLICT LIKE MEN AND, IN THE INTERVALS OF ACTUAL CONFLICT, SHOWED US A LIBERAL COURTESY"
More elements of the creation of the Gurkhas can be found here.
Secondly, Nepal was and is a poor country. This, combined with the fact that Nepal had (and retains some remnants of) a caste system, made any opportunity to make one's way in the world quite desirable. The Gurkhas were essentially recruited from every caste, so as a result, hundreds (or even thousands) of young Nepalese men apply to join the Gurkhas for every slot available in the Brigade of Gurkhas (something on the order of 28,000 applicants for 200 openings). This was due not only to the prospect of obtaining a pension and good standards of pay, the 10 month basic training of Gurkhas also included education in some skills, such as language and manners expected of the crown's soldiers. This may not sound like much, but for some aspiring Gurkhas a century or more ago, it may have been their only chance at formal schooling. But make no mistake, even with all the additional subjects covered in training, they still train harder and longer than any other Commonwealth troops recruited from the general populace.
Third, Gurkhas tend to spend, on whole, much more time in the military than do soldiers elsewhere. The average amount of experience in a Gurkha unit is 15 years. And as any experienced old coot will tell you, experience counts.
So what does all this mean?
Well, there may be more skilled marksmen, or stronger soldiers, or stealthier scouts, but Gurkhas are as good as any and better than most in any given specific infantry skill set. What sets them apart, however, is not their skills, but three parts toughness and one part wildness. Sometimes the wildness leads to some unusually colorful stories (and not all of them about blood-curdling charges). However, the stories that are of brazen courage, incredible fighting spirit and just plain ole' big brass balls are pretty amazing in and of themselves. One story involves a couple of Gurkhas sneaking up on this hut in the middle of a clearing in Indonesia (the problem being that they had been instructed to take the enemy alive). As the Gurkha crawled forward, he put down his rifle, held two concussion grenades in his teeth and drew his Kukri. The soldier then sprinted forward, jumped in one window of the hut, and then out the other side, leaving the two armed concussion grenades behind. Seconds later two Indonesians burst forth from the hut in to a thicket of guns awaiting their surrender. Pretty brassy, if you ask me.
I was speaking to a Nepalese man about the Gurkhas and he explained something that said a whole lot about the character of these men. As he related, if a Gurkha is charging a machine gun nest and gets hit, then he tries to run as far forward as he can before he succumbs to wounds. The logic is that since he's pretty much a dead man walking, he can draw fire and provide a shield to the other Gurkhas following behind him as a last, final effort.
Yeah. I really wouldn't mind seeing the Gurkhas cut loose in Ira to extract payment for the butcher’s bill. They sure as hell won't leave without their pound of flesh. That you can bank on.Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at September 1, 2004 09:23 PM