During the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–16), the native soldiers from Nepal made an impression on the British. Originally raised by King Prithvi Narayan Shah from the fortified kingdom of Gorkha in Nepal, the derivative ‘Gurkha’ became the common name for these warriors. The British began to recruit Gurkhas into the Honourable East India Company Army and subsequently into the British Indian Army. From this original group of soldiers came, with others, what was called the Nusseree Battalion, later known as the 1st King George V’s Own Gurkha Rifles.
By 1815 there were estimated to be around 5,000 Nepali men in British service. These men included those of two further regiments; the ‘Sirmoor’ soldiers becoming the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles and the ‘Kemaoon’ becoming the 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles.
Between 1815 and 1914 there was massive expansion of the enlistment of Commonwealth soldiers and many more Gurkhas were also signed up. Over time, the Gurkha regiments were increased in number and were given numerical titles, numbered from 1 to 10.
Collectively, these ten regiments were known as the Gurkha Brigade and from an operational perspective took their place within the Indian Army’s order of battle and served in different military formations.
World War Years
During the First World War, the Gurkhas gained a short-lived 11th Regiment (1918–1922). During this time the number of Gurkha battalions was increased to 33.
Prior to the First World War the ten Gurkha regiments each had two battalions, however, to help cope with the demands of the Second World War, the Nepali government again allowed an increase in the recruitment of Gurkhas to enlarge the number of battalions in British service to 43.