November 11. The day of remembrance. The day we commemorate the sacrifice of the heroes who died in line of duty. The day that marks the end of a horrifying world war. However, one group of heroes are often forgotten. These men fought alongside Britain in friendship and loyalty, through two centuries of conflict. Many people don’t know who they are. Many people have no knowledge of what they have done.
They are the Gurkhas.
These fearsome Nepalese fighters have fought for the British Army for more than 200 years. During the height of British imperialism, the Gurkhas thwarted and frustrated the Brits for two long years during the Anglo-Nepalese war of 1814-16. Highly impressed with their fighting spirit, the British East Indian Company signed a treaty which allowed them to recruit them into the British army. This historic moment began 200 years of friendship and fellowship between the Gurkhas and Great Britain.
To join the honorary Brigade of Gurkhas, young Nepali men aged 17-21 are recruited from remote villages in the mountain and hills of Nepal. They go through one of the toughest recruitment process in the world, with tests ranging from a half Nepalese, half English assessment to the ‘Doko race’, where applicants must carry 25kg in a basket and run 5km uphill. Only 230 out of 17,000 applicants are selected every year.
Till this day, they have seen combat for Britain all over the world. Over 200,000 Gurkhas fought during both World Wars, with tens of thousands losing their lives. In more recent years they have fought everywhere from Borneo to the Falklands, as well as in the recent engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have won 13 Victoria Crosses, the highest military honour bestowed in Britain, and are famed worldwide for their bravery, fearlessness and heroism. In short, the Gurkhas are a huge part of our military heritage.
In spite of all of this, however, the Gurkhas still face discrimination. The protracted ‘Gurkha Justice Campaign’ finally succeeded in allowing all Gurkhas to settle in the UK after 2009, but Gurkha veterans are still treated unfairly. Many Gurkha veterans from World War II are still facing difficulties, as they do not receive the same welfare system that their British counterparts do. Furthermore, Gurkha pensions remain lower than the pensions of British soldiers. This is patently unfair. Therefore, this Remembrance Day, remember the Gurkhas. Remember their service. And if you have any money to spare, consider donating to The Gurkha Welfare Trust (https://www.gwt.org.uk/) which helps Gurkha veterans and their families with financial, medical and community aid in Nepal. The Gurkhas should not be forgotten.