Gurkhas

Where Are They Now: The Gurkhas Who Served

Many often remain in the UK, but when the British Army scaled back after the Second World War, many were forced to return home to Nepal...

After serving, many Gurkhas remain in the UK.

But when the British Army scaled back after the Second World War, many had not served long enough to receive a pension and were forced to return home to Nepal.

Forces News travelled to Nepal to find out what former Gurkha soldiers do after retirement.

Manbahadur Ghimire, 97, fought for Britain in Japan, Italy and Germany and is a resident of a Gurkha residential home, run by the Gurkha Welfare Trust in Dharan.

"I’m very happy and proud to be an ex-serviceman and to serve the UK. Today I am here because I was a Gurkha and because of all I did for the UK," he said.

The Gurkha Welfare Trust began in the 1960s, when, following an end to various Eastern conflicts, there was a significant reduction in Gurkhas in the British Army.

Gurkha Welfare Trust
Two residents of the Gurkha residential home enjoy some music and dance.

Many, who fought for Britain, had not served the 15 years needed to receive a pension and now faced poverty and destitution in old age.

Unlike their British counterparts, the Gurkhas had no welfare state to rely on.

An appeal letter from 8 British Field marshalls then appeared in The Times:

"Sir, the Gurkhas are our oldest and staunchest allies - they have made a magnificent contribution to the success of British Arms.

"When a Gurkha leaves the British service he faces a difficult future in Nepal – a country of limited resources, subject to frequent natural disasters.

"We believe that everyone in this country owes them a great debt.”

Letter Gurkhas Welfare from the Times
From the letter, £1 million was raised which launched the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

Gurkhas serving today donate one day’s pay a year towards the care of veteran Gurkhas and their widows in Nepal.

Naramaya Limbu, the wife of a Rifleman of 7 Gurkha Rifles, said she was "very happy":

"Everything is perfect. Everything is going smoothly. We have fun.

"I’m happy for servicemen to sacrifice their lives for the UK.

"My husband fought for people in the world war. What he did for the British army made the Nepalese Gurkhas recognisable worldwide."

With more Gurkhas choosing to settle in the UK, the trust has widened its remit to care for the general community in Nepal.

“Mainly we focus on school buildings and infrastructure," said Purna Limbu, a retired captain who currently works as a senior welfare officer. 

"And [we] provide drinking water facilities. We build the bridges and provide solar home lights… and other small things as well."

Gurkha fun and games
Wives and widows of Gurkha veterans are entitled to live in the home too.

For the lucky few at the Gurkha residential home – life is fun. As for Manbahadur – he likes it here. They have fun.

And there’s only the occasional interruption to their dancing - to attend clinical appointments.