At the British Army camp in western Nepal, staff are preparing for thousands of potential recruits to pass through the doors. November is selection month for the Brigade of Gurkhas – but this year it’s very different.
Rather than spread out selection over four months, they will have to process thousands of applicants over the next five weeks.
The British Army has been recruiting Gurkhas into its ranks since 1815. The salary and experiences on offer make it a fiercely sought-after career.
Speaking in this 200th anniversary year, Major James Arney, Officer Commanding British Gurkhas Pokhara, said:
“They can travel the globe, make new friends and push themselves further than they ever felt possible. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the young men out here.”
Last year recruitment targets rose from 126 to 230, split between east and west Nepal. More than 7,800 people applied for a place and the teams are preparing for thousands again this year.
It won’t be clear what impact the earthquake has had until the gates are open but it won’t be a surprise if there are fewer people through the door.
The earthquake on April 25 killed more than 9,000 people and injured more than 23,000. Millions in the central and eastern regions were left homeless; their situation compounded by another major aftershock two weeks later.
Recruitment plans were immediately postponed to let people repair, rebuild and recover.
Now six months on, the country is still trying to get back on its feet but recent crippling fuel shortages
have certainly not helped. Protests over Nepal’s new constitution and a dispute with India have meant road blockades and fuel not getting through. Getting to Pokhara for selection this year is not going to be straight-forward.
The first stages of regional selection, which would have been held earlier in the summer, will take place over the next two weeks. The final 400 will go through central selection in December to decide the chosen few.
Timings may have changed, but the selection criteria have not. All recruits have to be aged between 17.5 and 21. They must be a minimum of 50 kg in weight, 158 cm tall, and go through a full medical.
Finalists have to go through fitness tests, as well as the infamous doko run, a 5km uphill route carrying a 25kg basket. If they pass that, they still have education and team-work assessments to complete.
Nerves might be running high in November but for the lucky few who make it through, it will be the start of a whole new military life. For many, after the year they’ve had, it will be the chance to change their lives forever.