During my research for the books shown above, I often come across interesting facts about Gurkhas which I think are worth capturing. I continue to add to the list on this page but I hope it provides a useful starting point for anyone wanting to know about these fearsome warriors! For those who want to know even more, the 'About Gurkhas' page (see tabs above) provides an illustrated overview of the Gurkhas' 200+ years of service to the British Crown.
10 Facts About Gurkhas:
1. Where do Gurkhas come from? Gurkhas come from Nepal, a mountainous country sandwiched between China (in the north) and India (in the south).
2. When were Gurkhas first recruited by the British? In 1814, the British East India Company was trying to expand the territory it controlled in the north of India. At the same time, the Nepalese were trying to expand their empire in the same area. Conflict was inevitable and the British East India Company had to dispatch a large Army to bring the 'aggressive little state of Nepal' to heal. The British East India Company eventually won the war but its officers were so impressed by the Gurkhas they were fighting against that they decided to recruit them into their own ranks. The first units were formed in 1815 - their successor units are still in service with the British Army over 200 years later!
3. Why are Gurkhas so famous? Gurkhas have now served the British Crown for over 200 years. Throughout that time, they have repeatedly demonstrated their bravery and loyalty. They became particularly well known in 1857 when, unlike many 'native' troops, they remained loyal to the British during the so-called Indian Mutiny. Queen Victoria presented them with a special Truncheon to commemorate their loyalty which is still carried today with immense pride by The Royal Gurkha Rifles.
4. What is the famous Gurkha fighting knife called? The Gurkhas are famous for their kukris, or khukuris. Kukris are carried by all serving Gurkhas and are as important on today's battlefields as they were over 200 years ago when Gurkhas were first recruited to serve the British Crown. on 22 March 2013, a Gurkha soldier - Lance Corporal Tuljung Gurung - used his kukri (or khukuri) to defend himself against Taliban attackers in Afghanistan. He was awarded a Military Cross (MC) for his bravery.
5. How many Victoria Crosses have the Gurkhas won? So far, officers and soldiers of Gurkha regiments have won a total of 26 Victoria Crosses (VCs), 13 of these have been awarded to ethnic Gurkhas and 13 to British Officers. The first VC awarded to a British Officer was to Lieutenant John Tytler of the the Goorkha Regiment (later to be titled the 1st Gurkhas) for his actions on 10 February 1858 during the Indian Mutiny. The first VC awarded to a Gurkha was to Rifleman Kulbir Thapa of 2/3rd Gurkhas for his actions at the Battle of Loos in September 1915. The last VC awarded to a Gurkha was to Lance Corporal Rambahadur Limbu for his actions on 21 November 1965 during the Borneo Confrontation.
6. How many Gurkhas served during the First World War (WWI)? Some 90,780 Gurkhas served the British Crown during WWI. Of these, over 20,000 became casualties and, of these, 6,168 died. Gurkhas won a total of 3 Victoria Crosses (VCs) during WWI, including the first VC won by an ethnic Gurkha (see above).
7. How many Gurkhas served during the Second World War (WWII)? The number of Gurkhas serving the British Crown increased dramatically during WWII with a total of 138,000 taking part in the conflict. Of these: 7,539 Gurkhas were either killed or died of wounds; 1,441 Gurkhas were posted as missing, presumed dead; and a further 14,082 Gurkhas were wounded. Of note, Gurkhas distinguished themselves, earning 2,760 awards for bravery or distinguished service, including 12 Victoria Crosses (VCs) and 333 Military Crosses (MCs).
8. Do we still have Gurkha units? Yes we do! As well as engineers, signallers, administrative experts and logisticians, there are currently two Gurkha infantry battalions belonging to The Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR). One of these is based in Brunei and provides the UK's high readiness jungle capability; the other is based in Shorncliffe in Kent and belongs to 16 Air Assault Brigade, the British Army's UK based high readiness formation.
9. What is the connection between the Gurkhas and Prince Charles? His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is the Colonel-in-Chief of The Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR), the infantry component of the Brigade of Gurkhas. Before the RGR was formed on 1 July 1994, His Royal Highness was the Colonel-in-Chief of the 2nd King Edward VII's Own Gurkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles), one of the four Gurkha infantry regiments which amalgamated to form the RGR. Prince Charles remains very actively involved in his regiment, often visiting its two battalions and taking part in celebrations and parades.
10. How can I find out more facts about Gurkhas? Given Gurkhas have served the British Crown for over 200 years, it's probably no surprise that there are lots of books out there about these fearsome warriors. Of these, my two most recent Gurkha histories provide a great place to start if you want to get a better insight into the Gurkhas' remarkable history - see below. If you don't want to buy a book, then the brief illustrated history at the 'About Gurkhas' tab on this webpage might be what you're looking for as it is written in an accessible style, has lots of images and includes a number of short films! Access it by clicking the tab at the top of the page or by following the below link:
Gurkha adventure thriller
All about strategy
Due late 2019
Gurkhas: 1914 - 1918
200 years of Gurkha history
Out on 1 October 2019
It's a little known fact that The Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) was formed on 1 July 1994 when the existing Gurkha regiments amalgamated to form a single Gurkha regiment of three battalions. Although the RGR has only existed for 25 years, it carries the traditions and history of its antecedent Gurkha regiments and has already established itself as a formidable fighting force in its own right. Crammed with facts about this new Gurkha regiment's first quarter century of life, the book provides a visual history of its many achievements over the last 25 years. With a Foreword by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, it includes more than 500 photographs of Gurkhas that have not been published before and it should therefore be of real interest to anyone who wants to know more about this elite fighting force. As well as facts, it also includes lots of new quotes about Gurkhas which you might find of interest!
Gurkha adventure thriller
With heroes, villains, action, adventure, Gurkhas and a bit of romance - and set in Nepal, Dartmoor, London and Edinburgh - this thriller will grip you from the first page! And it even has a few facts about Gurkhas in it!
'Craig Lawrence, a modern Major General, draws on his army career and bursts onto the literary scene with a novel that begins with skulduggery in the city and ends in the snows of Devon...I really enjoyed it and it's a great choice to hunker down with as the nights draw in. Inspired by Lee Child, Craig turns out a fast-paced adventure (with Gurkha guest appearances) that has appeal for many ages and covers a range of relationships.' Devon Life, December 2015