The Gurkhas: Best Soldiers In the World?

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Gurkhas training with US Marines at Camp Lejune, NC in May of 1996. Note the khukuri on the left side of the combat webbing of the Gurkha trooper in the foreground. (Official US Marine photograph)

 The Gurkhas are a warrior tribe from the mountains of Nepal, who have served in various formations in the British Army for hundreds of years and continue to do so under an agreement with the government of Nepal. These famous soldiers are said to be fearless and hence among the best assault troops ever to fight for the British Empire.

In 1994, the British Government, which seems determined to eliminate its military, amalgamated the four existing Gurkha regiments into one regiment: the Royal Gurkha Rifles. Naturally this meant reducing the number of Gurkhas at a time when the British military can’t recruit enough of the Queen’s own subjects to fill the thin ranks of the armed services.

 Khukri-knife

The khukuri

 

Gurkhas traditionally carry a curved knife known as the khukuri or the “Gurkha blade.” When the Gurkhas fought in the Falklands War, their propensity to slit the throats of their enemies with their khukuris terrified Argentinian soldiers—especially since the Gurkhas can reportedly move at night without making a sound.

The best book on the Gurkhas is Bugles and a Tiger by John Masters. It is his memoir of serving as a British officer with the Gurkhas both before and during the Second World War. He became a novelist after the war (most have been hit in the head by something) and is best known for Bhowani Junction, a novel which depicts the turmoil among Anglo-Indians shortly after the end of the British Raj in 1947. It was made into a movie of the same name starring Ava Gardner and Steward Granger.

I read in the New York Times a few years back that several of the security companies working in Iraq were composed solely of veteran Gurkhas.

If you want to join or learn more about them, you can go to the official website of the Brigade of Gurkhas here:

 http://www.army.mod.uk/gurkhas/27784.aspx

and this link is to an article from the BBC on the Gurkhas:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10782099

 

 

Published by

Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/