BLOG: My Year With The Gurkhas
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BLOG: My Year With The Gurkhas

A brand new Gurkha opens his mouth as wide as he can and takes his first ever bite of that traditional culinary delight - a burger from...

BLOG: My Year With The Gurkhas
A brand new Gurkha opens his mouth as wide as he can and takes his first ever bite of that traditional culinary delight - a burger from McDonalds.
 
He chews for a while, analysing the meaty flavours, complemented by that delicious floppy bread bun.
"The taste is... interesting”
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One of the best things about my 'patch' is that it's home to Gurkha Company – the training centre where all Gurkha recruits come to learn to be soldiers. 
 
The recruits fascinate me. They are formidable, fearsome fighters - the very reason we took them into our army, after initially fighting against them in the Anglo-Nepal wars.
 
Yet minutes after you've witnessed them screaming fiery-eyed, at their sandbag enemies, driving their fatal bayonets repeatedly into the unsuspecting target, they will quietly sit and tell you how much they miss their mum, how much love they have for their numbaries (their fellow trainee riflemen) and how much they want to be like their gurugies (their instructors). 
 
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I know all soldiers can flick the switch between aggression and emotion - that's what they are trained to do - but somehow it seems more pronounced in the Gurkhas.
 
They have less qualms about showing their softer side perhaps. I remember going into their temple when I first arrived. It was packed full of fresh-faced recruits, squashed in, knee-to-knee, to welcome the arrival of a new statue of the deity Lord Shiva.
 
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One of the ladies had a baby and the child was being passed down the rows, the boys loving every minute, as the youngster gurgled her way down the aisles between the combats.
 
I remember thinking it unlikely to happen in a room full of British teenage recruits!
 
My favourite days of the year have to be the arrival and the departure of the recruits. I can't decide which I love more.
 
They arrive in early January, clearly terrified but trying not to show it. They're 17 years old, they've never seen tarmacked roads or multi-storey buildings, they've left their families, friends, and homeland far behind. They don't know when they might see them again, and they've landed in the dark, in a cold, wet, windy country where no-one speaks their language.
 
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They don't even know the Nepali boys standing alongside them, but they still manage to flash a smile as they spot my camera. 
 
Their year is filled with colourful stories for me. The bright festival of Holi saw them plastering their commanding officer in red, yellow, green and blue paint.
 
And their celebration of the 'Top Shot' – the champion shooter – saw him hoisted high above the heads of the instructors in a throne and paraded around the training area flanked by his numbaries.
 
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When they come to leave there are tears. Lots of them. Their English has improved so much and now they can tell me how they really feel - even in front of a camera - and that's not easy for anyone!
 
Most of them hope one day to return to Catterick to be just like their gurugies and to teach the recruits of the future. 
 
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And I hope I'm here to interview them if they do.
 
I only wish I could stop them calling me Ma'am. It makes me feel (increasingly) old!