Robert Clive’s decisive victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 firmly established British supremacy in India thereby opening the door for expansion of the Honourable East India Company. Some 10 years after Plassey the British started to come into contact with a unique and vigorous power on the northern borders of its newly won territories in Bengal and Bihar. This power was the city-state of Gorkha led by its dynamic King Prithwi Narayan Shah. Gorkha was a feudal hill village in what is now western Nepal, the village from which the Gurkha takes its name. Prithwi Narayan Shah and his successors grew so powerful that they overran the whole of the hill country from the Kashmir border in the west to Bhutan in the east. Eventually, as a result of boundary disputes and repeated raids by Gurkha columns into British territory, the Governor General declared war on Nepal in 1814. After two long and bloody campaigns a Peace Treaty was signed at Sugauli in 1816.
During the war a deep feeling of mutual respect and admiration had developed between the British and their adversaries, the British being much impressed by the fighting and other qualities of the Gurkha soldier. Under the terms of the Peace Treaty large numbers of Gurkhas were permitted to volunteer for service in the East India Company’s Army. From these volunteers were formed the first regiments of the Gurkha Brigade, and from this time stems Britain’s friendship with Nepal, a country which has proved a staunch ally ever since and has become our ‘oldest ally’ in Asia. Never has the trust that was then placed in the Gurkha soldier ever been in doubt. Alongside his British comrade in arms he has fought in many parts of the world and has proved himself to be of the closest of friends and bravest of allies that Britain has known.
‘Keeping the Peace’ in India under the British flag began for Gurkha soldiers with the Pindaree War in 1817,and the first battle honour gained by Gurkha troops was at Bhurtpore in 1826.The two senior regiments distinguished themselves in the hard fought battles of the 1st Sikh War in 1846, and six regiments of the Nepalese Army were offered to the East India Company for service in the 2nd Sikh War of 1848. In the Indian Mutiny of 1857-1858 the 2nd Gurkhas showed striking proof of their loyalty at Delhi where, together with the 60th Rifles (now part of the Royal Green Jackets), they held Hindu Rao’s house, the key to the British position which was under continuous fire from the mutineers for over three months. During this period the 2nd Gurkhas suffered 327 casualties (including 8 of their 9 British Officers) out of a total strength of 490. Also during the mutiny, 12 Nepalese Army Regiments, a force of 8,000 men under the personal leadership of the Prime Minister of Nepal, took part in the final relief of Lucknow.
AFTER THE EAST INDIA COMPANY
Throughout the next 50 years there was much active service in Burma, Afghanistan, the North-East and the North-West Frontiers of India, Malta, Cyprus, Malaya, China (the Boxer Rebellion of 1900) and Tibet (Young husband’s Expedition of 1903).
The history covering the period during the 2 World Wars and the subsequent conflicts can be found by going to Brigade of Gurkhas History.