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The Gurkha Brigade - 200 Years of Service to the Crown

14th May 2015

The Gurkha 200 Pageant The Gurkhas 200 Years of Service to the Crown written by Major General J.C. Lawrence CBE

2015 marks the bicentenary of loyal Gurkha service to the British Crown. Various events will be held throughout the year to commemorate this remarkable achievement and to raise funds for the Gurkha Welfare Trust, a charity which supports ex-Gurkhas and their families, enabling them to live out their lives with dignity.

THE GURKHA 200 PAGEANT

One of the highlights of the year will be an evening of celebration in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London on Tuesday 9th June 2015. A spectacular open-air Pageant chronicling 200 years of Gurkha service, the event includes performances by serving Gurkhas and their families.

The story of the Gurkha soldier will be told with narration by Dan Snow, battle re-enactments and musical performances by the popular Band of The Brigade of Gurkhas.

A commemorative book launch will take place on 30 April at the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall. All proceeds from the book and the events being held throughout the year will go to the Gurkha Welfare Trust. The book launch will be preceded by a Gurkha Parade down the Mall and a Memorial Service at the Gurkha Statue (in front of the Ministry of Defence). The book, ‘The Gurkhas, 200 years of Service to the Crown’, is written by Major General J C Lawrence CBE, with a foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales and an introduction by Joanna Lumley OBE. It provides the complete visual history of Britain’s Gurkhas and the mystique that surrounds them. From the same author comes a high altitude, high octane fiction novel, The Legacy, which involves an ex-Gurkha Army Officer, a story that promises to captivate from the first page.

Gurkhas history

Gurkhas are recruited from the hill people of Nepal. Their name has an interesting history. In 1768, Prithvi Narayan Shah, the ruler of a small mountain kingdom called Gorkha in the west of Nepal, succeeded in unifying the country. Because he came from Gorkha, his men were known as Gorkhas or Gurkhas. The British first encountered the Gurkhas in the Anglo-Nepal War of 1814 - 1816 when an expansionist Honourable East India Company met an equally expansionist Kingdom of Nepal in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The Nepalese eventually lost the war but each side was so impressed by the other that a mutual respect was born. Recognising an opportunity, the British decided to recruit Gurkhas into the ranks of the East India Company, laying the foundations for the service to the British Crown that continues to this day.

Between 1857 and 1947, the Gurkha regiments saw service in Burma, Afghanistan, the North-East and North-West Frontiers of India, Malta (The Russo-Turkish War 1877-78), Cyprus, Malaya, China (the Boxer rebellion of 1900), Tibet and in various theatres of the First and Second World Wars. They have continued to serve in every major conflict since and still do so today - units of the Brigade of Gurkhas are integral elements of the fighting component of the British Army. As Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw, former Chief of Staff of the Indian Army, once said, “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.”

Gurkha Recipients of the Victoria Cross

There are 26 Gurkha recipients of The Victoria Cross; 13 have been awarded to British officers and the same number to Gurkha soldiers. The first was awarded in 1858 whilst the most recent was awarded in 1965 during the Borneo Confrontation.

The Gurkha Welfare Trust

There are over 7,000 retired Gurkhas and widows living in Nepal who have no service pension income and who therefore rely solely on The Gurkha Welfare Trust - www.gwt.org.uk - to help them live their lives in dignity and relative comfort. 

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