Gurkha Rifles

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Gurkha tribesmen began to be recruited into the Bengal Army after the Gurkha War in 1816. They bore many names before becoming Gurkha Rifles. Articles on the regiments can be found as follows:

The 11th Gurkha Rifles was raised during the 1st World War then disbanded. The 25th, 26th & 29th Gurkha Rifles were raised during the 2nd World War then disbanded.

On the FIBIS website British Indian Army regiments are listed with titles as at the re-organisation of 1895. So 6th, 7th & 8th Gurkha Rifles are in articles titled 42nd, 43rd & 44th Gurkha Rifles. At the Partition of India in 1947 the regiments were given the choice of attachment to the British Army or the Indian Army. The 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th & 10th Regiments chose Britain, and retained the name Gurkha. The 3rd, 4th, 5th , 8th & 9th Regiments chose India, and after a few years the name changed to Gorkha regiments.

Details of the structure of the Regiments are available below.[1]

Spelling variants

Gurkha, Goorkha, Goorkhá, Gorkha, Gorkhali [2]

The kukri

The kukri ( or ‘khukuri’) , the Nepalese knife used by the Gurkha Regiments is a lethal weapon which could be used to behead opponents.[3][4]

The kukri has been used from the time the Nepalese joined the East India Company Bengal Army in 1815[5]

There have been 5 Officially military pattern number kukris in official British Gurkha issue.[6] A small batch of kukris were manufactured at the Rifle Factory, Ishapore in 1927[7]

Gurkha jaats or tribes

Gurkha jaat or tribe names may be seen on medals. Common names include Gurung, Limbu, Pun, Rai, Tamang and Thapa.

The Gurungs were the largest tribe recruited by the British and Indian Armies for their Gurkha regiments, particularly for recruitment in the West of Nepal. Rais and Limbus were Eastern Nepal - 7th and 10th Gurkhas. The Gurungs, along with the Magars were considered the beau ideal of what a Gurkha soldier should be.

In the Army most men were known by their 4 digit numbers rather than their names as the number of surnames was extremely limited. One might have 30 Gurungs on parade and young Officers who knew their men knew their numbers. The men also referred to each other by their numbers and each cohort regarded their intake as "number-ies" - men of the same intake and therefore seniority. [8]

External links

Mary K. DesChene was the author of the 1991 Stanford University PhD thesis Relics of Empire: a Cultural History of the Gurkhas 1815-1987 which has not been published but is/was available from University Microfilms. This thesis is possibly available through "ProQuest Dissertations & Theses" which may be available though some Libraries (subscription website basis), or for purchase through "Dissertation Express (ProQuest)".
Articles on by author V K Kunwor [Viking Krishna Kunwor] "Exploring aspects of: The Kukri / Khukuri Knife, Nepali History, Gurkha & Gorkha Regiments". Includes
"The British Army Kukri: An artifact of western orientalism or the 20th century’s greatest combat knife?"

Historical books online

The Nepalese Contingent page 159 The Gurkhas : Special Force by Chris Bellamy 2011 Books to Borrow/Lending Library
  • Under Ten Viceroys: the Reminiscences of a Gurkha by Major-General Nigel Woodyatt 1922 Chapters XII and XIII are specifically about the Gurkhas.
  • The Gurkhas. 1928., Public Library of India Collection. Full title: The Gurkhas: their Manners, Customs and Country by Major W Brook Northey, late 1st KGO Gurkha Rifles and Captain C J Morris 3rd QAO Gurkha Rifles. Also available as a download from PAHAR Mountains of Central Asia Digital Dataset.
The Land Of The Gurkhas Or The Himalayan Kingdom Of Nepal by Major W Brook Northey, late 1st KGO Gurkha Rifles. Reprint edition, first published 1937., Public Library of India Collection. The author held the post of Recruiting Officer for five years, during which he was permitted to visit the interiors of Nepal that were out of bounds to other Europeans. Also available to download as a pdf from PAHAR-Mountains of Central Asia Digital Dataset.
  • The Gurkha Soldier by Major H. R. K Gibbs (6th Gurkha Rifles). Deputy Recruiting Officer for Gurkhas. Second Edition 1947, first published 1944. Link to a pdf download, PAHAR Mountains of Central Asia Digital Dataset. Includes various tribes & classes, customs etc, (63 pages).
  • Gorkha - the Story of the Gurkhas of Nepal by Lt.-Gen. Sir Francis Tuker 1957. Link to a pdf download, PAHAR Mountains of Central Asia Digital Dataset.
  • Johnny Gurkha by Duncan Forbes 1964. Link to a pdf download, PAHAR Mountains of Central Asia Digital Dataset.
  • The Gurkhas, Public Library of India Collection. A regimental history. This appears to be a reprint edition, for which no author is given, and which advises first published 1960. However the final chapter refers to events in 1964. The most likely publication appears to be The Gurkhas by Harold James and Denis Sheil-Small published 1965, London.
The Gurkhas by James, 1965. Link to a pdf download, PAHAR Mountains of Central Asia Digital Dataset.


  1. Muerrisch et al. Ghurka infantry establishments Great War Forum 5 July 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  2. "The “G” word: Gurkha, Gurkhas, Gurkhalis, Gorkha, Gorkhas, Gorkhalis, Goorkas & Goorkhas" 24 December 2015.
  3. William Pennington in his autobiography Pick up your Parrots and Monkeys: The Life of a Boy Soldier in India (2003) reports being saved in WW2 Burma by a Gurkha who beheaded a Japanese who was about to kill the author (page 333). Pennington also reported seeing Ghurkas playing football with severed Japanese heads (page 332). Now available online Books to Borrow/Lending Library.
  4. "Henry George "Hank" Baker: An Obituary: 23rd June 1918 – 15th January 2006" by Roger Croston The Tibet Journal Vol. 30/31, No. 4/1, Contributions to the study of Tibetan medicine (Winter 2005 & Spring 2006), pp. 193-196. Register and read online for free, see Miscellaneous tips. Page 193 details an incident against tribesmen in the Ahmedzai Salient, Waziristan, North West Frontier c 1939
  5. 19th Century accounts of the kukri in action by 'Sirupate' Gurkha and Kukri Historical Tora Blades Forum, archived pages.
  6. The 20th Century British Military Gurkha Issue Kukri [with images] by Spiral [Jonathan Sedwell] 1 February 2015.
  7. Thread from Sword Forum, archived page, 1927 RFI MKII Kukri with images.
  8. Guest (previously Martin G). whats a GURUNG and a THAPA Great War Forum 10 January 2016. Retrieved 3 June 2018.