Indian Theme on Foreign Stamps
Gurkhas have played a vital part in British military operations since the raising of the first Gurkha regiment in 1815. Originally part of the British Indian Army, they fought Pathans on the frontiers, dacoits in Burma and mutineers in India. With six battalions on the Western Front, four in Gallipoli and others in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Palestine, Persia and Salonika, Gurkhas were prominent in the First World War, and similarly so in the Second World War, where they served in North Africa, Italy, Malaya and Burma. After 1947, Gurkha regiments were divided between the armies of independent India and Britain, with British Gurkhas in the forefront of operations in Malaya and Borneo, and subsequently taking part in the Falklands campaign, and more recently in Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan.
THE GURKHAS’ ORIGINS Gurkhas are of Mongolian ethnicity and originate from the Himalayan foothills of Nepal, a landlocked country between the Indian plain of Bengal and Tibet. They have soldiered for the British for 200 years.
INDIAN MUTINY, 1857–59 The first non-British troops in action against the mutineers, Gurkhas withstood constant attacks on Delhi Ridge. Despite threats and attempts to persuade them to change sides, Gurkha loyalty was never in doubt.
BATTLE OF DARGAI, 1897 During the Pathan Uprising, the British route was overlooked by the 6,500-foot-high Dargai Heights. Heavily defended, the Heights were eventually taken at great cost by the
2nd Gurkhas and Gordon Highlanders.
FIRST WORLD WAR, 1914–18 Around 100,000 Gurkhas fought in the Great War and 13 per cent losttheir lives. Gurkha battalions served on the Western Front, as well as in Persia, Mesopotamia, Palestine,Egypt, Salonika and Gallipoli.
SECOND WORLD WAR, 1939–45 In the Second World War, Gurkhas fought in North Africa, Italy, Malaya and Burma. The soldiers of the Nepal Army were also involved and nearly every Gurkha of military age was fighting for the British.
BORNEO, 1963–66 From 1963 to 1966, Indonesian troops attempted to invade the Malaysian Borneo territories. The British response depended mainly on Gurkhas, whose skills in jungle fighting defeated a far more numerous enemy.
FALKLANDS, 1982 After the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, the British response included a Gurkha battalion. Such was the Gurkhas’ reputation that when they were about to attack aposition, the enemy fled.
AFGHANISTAN, 2000– Having fought in all of the three Afghan Wars of the 19th and early 20th centuries, all arms of the Gurkha Brigade played a major part in Operation Herrick, the Afghan campaign of 2002–14.
GURKHA TRADITIONS : Soldiering for Britain has long been an honourable profession among Gurkhas, and the virtues of loyalty, integrity and self-sacrifice are highly revered. While he has breath in his body, a Gurkha will never give up.
THE GURKHA WELFARE TRUST :The Gurkha Welfare Trust exists to repay the debt that the British nation owes to veteran Gurkha soldiers who may have fallen on hard times, as well as to fund improved conditions in the hills where Gurkhas live.