Aayo Gurkhali!* The Gurkhas are from Nepal, a country in the Himalayas with one of the toughest climates in the world. They are unique in that their chief fame comes from their service as Hired Guns rather than for their own country. They came to English attention in a war between the East India Company and the King of Nepal. As part of the peace treaty the Company demanded permission to recruit from Nepali for, in a fashion reminiscent of John Wayne, the Company had liked the Gurkhas so much as enemies that they couldn't wait to have them as allies. The Gurkhas were recruited mostly from the Mager, Gurang, Limbu, and Rai tribes. Other tribes have occasionally joined, especially when manpower is desperately needed like in World War II. Curiously, the Sherpas, which are the most famous tribe in the area, have not been well represented: perhaps it's enough work getting rich glory hounds up Mount Everest. Another interesting curiosity is that only one regiment (9th Gurkha rifles) of Gurkhas is made up of the Kshatriya (warrior) caste. Most are Vaisha's (peasants), though such things were apparently not taken as seriously in the mountains as they have sometimes been in the valley. Gurkhas are famous for their curious boomerang shaped Kukri knives, which serves as a sort of machete. Much of their prowess comes from the poverty and hardship of their homes, which is so tough that it provides its own Spartan Way. Military service for a richer country not only brings reputation but is also very attractive for material reasons, what with pay, as well as the inoculation and technical training that necessarily comes with the service. As a result, employers can afford to be extremely selective about whom they pick. Gurkhas serve mostly as infantry and though experiments have been made using them in other specialties, that is where their chief fame has been won. Like many a local ethnic group, their loyalty has been reinforced by the British regimental system in which each regiment is effectively a warrior-fraternity and the parochial eccentricities of each allow local traditions to be made an asset to the service of The Government. The Gurkhas have had many a Crowning Moment of Awesome and are among the worlds most highly regarded military forces. And ever since the Victoria Cross became open to non-British they have had a disproportionate representation. Gurkhas until the 2000s have seldom been officers and usually served in units with white officers. This was partly because of prejudice held by the British that Gurkhas were fine soldiers, but too ineducable to make good officers. Another reason was that the original Indian army was at least partly and often a very large part, a constabulary to prevent revolt and therefore the upper caste had to pull the strings. Despite that, relations have usually been fairly good between British and Gurkhas, arguably better than the British deserved. Perhaps it's simply that all soldiers live in a caste system while they serve and for the Gurkhas it more or less ended when they went home as far as British were concerned. And maybe British were nicer then their Feudal Overlord back home. Also the quality of leadership may have been better; British officers in Gurkha regiments were specially picked. In any case that has changed of late and there have been a number of Gurkha officers. After independence the Gurkha regiments were divided between the British and the new Indian army (really the army of The Raj changing employers), by election of the soldiers as agreed in the treaty. Some continued in British service and others served the Indian government. They proved valuable in the little wars of colonial devolution and the Cold War, as well as the wars on the Indian border with Pakistan and China. They continue to serve to the present day. Singapore also uses Gurkhas as police. Go on, tell him◊ you won’t pay your parking ticket. I dare you. And yes, he is wearing a kukri on his belt◊.
"My inclination to run for cover, not lessened by a salvo of mortar bombs that came down behind me, was only restrained by the thought of what a figure the Corps Commander would cut, sprinting for safety, in front of all these little men. So, not liking it a bit, I continued to walk forward. Then, from behind a bush that offered scant cover to his bulky figure, rose my old friend, the Subadar Major of the 7th Gurkhas, his face creased in a huge grin which almost hid his twinkling almond eyes. He stood there and shook with laughter at me. I asked him coldly what he was laughing at, and he replied that it was very funny to see the General Sahib wandering along there by himself not knowing what to do! And, by Jove, he was right; I did not!
It is a funny thing how differently the various races react to such a situation. A British soldier would have called out to me to take shelter and would have made room for me beside him. The average Indian sepoy would have watched anxiously, but said nothing unless I was hit, when he would have leapt forward and risked his life to get me under cover. A Sikh would have sprung up, and with the utmost gallantry dramatically covered me with his own body, thrilled at the chance of an audience. Only a Gurkha would stand up and laugh."