Statues and Monuments: The Gurkha

Posted: October 6, 2016 in History, London, UK
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The Gurkhas, drawn from Nepal, are unique amongst units in the British army as they are the only units drawn from a country which has never been part of the British Empire.

The British first encountered the Gurkhas in 1814 when they fought a 2-year war against the forces of the British East India Company. Their courage and skill greatly impressed the British Commanders. As part of the peace treaty, it was agreed that Gurkha units would be recruited into the British Army and initially 5000 men enlisted. They served in a number of conflicts in India between 1817 and 1846. During the Indian rebellion of 1857, they were involved in a number of campaigns including the siege of Delhi and the relief of Lucknow.

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In the following 50 years, they saw service in many areas of the world including the Indian sub-continent, Europe, the Far East and China. By 1906 there were 10 regiments of Gurkha Rifles within the British army. It is estimated that 200,000 served in the First World War with 10% of that number being killed in action and over 2000 gallantry awards being won in actions in France, Turkey, Palestine and Mesopotamia. From 1918 until 1939 they returned to guard and police the Indian Frontiers. During the Second World War, the number of troops was doubled with 2 new battalions being added to each regiment and it is reckoned that around 250,000 Gurkhas served with the British forces in North Africa, Europe, Burma, India and Singapore.

On Indian independence in 1947, 6 Regiments transferred to the newly formed Indian army, whilst 4 remained in the British army. Specialist Gurkha units can also be found in the Singapore Police Force and in the army of the Sultanate of Brunei.

Wherever they have served they have been noted for the valour and courage.

This monument stands outside the Ministry of Defence in London, a tribute to these brave soldiers who have loyally served the British Government despite never being British subjects.

The epitaph reads

Bravest of the Brave

Most Generous of the Generous

Never had any country

More faithful friends than you

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