Gurkhas – The Toughest Warriors in The World

Gurkha soldiers are among the toughest and most resilient in the world.  From Nepal, these soldiers served with the British army beginning in 1815, when the British East India Company invaded Nepal and received heavy casualties. Impressed by the Gurkhas fighting abilities, the British incorporated them into their own forces.

The Gurkha fought valiantly in the first World War and equally in World War II serving on both the European and Pacific theatres of war.  As the Japanese worked to take more and more territory the British army participated in a bloody defense of Burma on the 13th of May 1945 just after the surrender of the Axis Powers.

One particular soldier stands out among the bravery of the Gurkhan troops.

According to warhistoryonline.com, Lachhiman Gurung and his fellow soldiers defended a hill against about two hundred Japanese soldiers.

A Burmese hill during the British defense, similar to the one defended by Gurung.
A Burmese hill during the British defense, similar to the one defended by Gurung.

Grenades were being thrown into Gurung’s foxhole and he coolly picked them up and threw them back until finally one exploded in his hand.  He suffered a loss of part of his hand, most of his fingers, bone fractures and shrapnel in his legs and face including his eye.

Rather than give up he used his left arm to fire on the Japanese as they advanced even reloading his gun several times.  As his blood was gushing, he was able to defend the hill for most of the night with eighty seven Japanese killed.

He was taken to the hospital and his right arm was saved but he lost much of his ability to use it and also lost his right eye.  He returned to his brigade and continued the fight until India was liberated in 1947.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery and went home to his farm in Nepal.  He and his wife raised five children and then moved to London where he died in 2010.

Gurkhas still fight for the British and countries around the world such as Cyprus, the Falkland Island and most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only do they recruit soldiers, they use engineers and logisticians.

Gurkhas from C Company 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles on patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj region of Helmand province. Image by MOD.
Gurkhas from C Company 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles on patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj region of Helmand province. Image by MOD.

Thousands of young men from Nepal apply when there are just a few openings every year in the brigades but must pass rigorous testing, both regional and then to central selection.  If one doesn’t have the Indian equivalent of a high school diploma or is unable to get a passport to prove their citizenship they are turned away.

According to forces.net, the tests include physical endurance, a written exam and an oral interview.  An applicant for all three tests must pass with above average scores or they are eliminated from the central selection.

Gurkhas advance through a smokescreen up a steep slope in Tunisia, 16 March 1943.
Gurkhas advance through a smokescreen up a steep slope in Tunisia, 16 March 1943.

The physical tests are running for about a half mile in under two minutes and forty seconds, seventy sit ups under two minutes, twelve underarm heaves within two minutes, a lift of just over seventy seven pounds and carrying a twenty gallon jerry can filled with sand and rocks for almost four hundred feet.

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If at any time a tester feels the candidate is not giving his best effort he can be dismissed.  Applicants must be able to speak English and be proficient in math to pass the written tests.  Those that pass get into the British army and the pay and retirement perks after fifteen years benefit his family and himself for the remainder of their lives.