Gurkha veterans have lost a court battle to win pensions parity with their non-Gurkha British Army counterparts.
The case, taken to the European Court of Human Rights by the British Gurkhas Welfare Society (BGWS), was launched back in 2011 after being rebuffed in a UK court test case.
Prior to 1997 Gurkhas had a different pension scheme from other soldiers, with their pensions worth between a third to half of their non-Gurkha colleagues.
In 1997 their pensions were brought in line with those of other soldiers and a decade later it was announced that they could transfer their pension schemes from the original Gurkha pension scheme to that of the regular Armed Forces Pension Scheme.
While the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Gurkhas had been treated differently in terms of pension entitlement, they said that by 2007 they were in a similar situation to other soldiers.
Due to this the Court ruled that any difference in treatment on grounds of nationality had been justified, and the cut-off point of July 1, 1997, was not arbitrary as it represented the transfer of the Gurkhas' home base to the UK.
Nepalese Gurkha soldiers have served the Crown since 1815, initially as soldiers in the (British) Indian Army. Following Indian independence in 1947, six Gurkha regiments were transferred to the Indian Army, while four regiments became an integral part of the British Army.
More than 200,000 Gurkha soldiers fought in the two world wars, and in the past fifty years they have served in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Borneo, Cyprus, the Falklands, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. They have served in a variety of roles, mainly in the infantry but also as engineers and in signals and logistics units.
Today, they form the Brigade of Gurkhas (“the Brigade”), in which only Nepali nationals are eligible for service. The Brigade is not an operational brigade in the conventional sense; rather, it is an administrative entity which ensures that Gurkha units, into which all Gurkha soldiers are recruited and serve, are able to be integrated into – and form part of – other operational brigades in the British Army.
The Brigade was originally based in the Far East, in the region formerly known as Malaya. In 1971 the Brigade’s base moved to Hong Kong. On completion of the handover of Hong Kong to China in July 1997, the home base moved to the United Kingdom.
Consequently, the majority of Gurkhas are currently stationed in the United Kingdom, although since 1962 a section of the Brigade has been stationed in Brunei.