GURKHAS IN KENT
|Gurkhas in their distinctive green uniforms|
of Folkestone and most people imagine beaches, the Edwardian seafront and the
picturesque fishing harbour. So it comes as a surprise to find that the town is
home to Britain's most fearsome fighting force.
The Royal Gurkha
Rifles are based in Folkestone, and they have transplanted a little bit of Nepal
into the heart of Kent.
The Gurkhas' mission - "To
serve as an integral part of the British Army whilst retaining its Nepalese identity
and culture, and adhering to the terms and conditions of Gurkha service".
Gurkhas are one of the most respected regiments of soldiers in the British Army,
but most of us wouldn't expect to find them on parade in the coastal town of Folkestone.
hundred Gurkha families have made their home in the area, 4,500 miles away from
their native land in the Himalayas,
Inside Out South East visits the Gurkha
community, and investigates how they're finding life in Kent.
The Gurkhas have been employed as an integral part of the British
Army since the early 19th Century.
|"They are fantastic soldiers, very disciplined and good
at learning - some of the finest soldiers in the British army."|
|Captain Marianne Basham, Royal Gurkha Rifles|
Gurkhas play an important role in British Army commitments, serving in the Gulf,
the Falklands, and Afghanistan.
So how did a Gurkha regiment find themselves
deep in the heart of Kent, a world away from the foothills of the Himalayas?
1997 the Gurkhas' main base was the Far East, but following the closure of Hong
Kong, their main focus became the UK.
The Gurkhas now have a network of
bases across the country, with one of the biggest in Kent.
In 2001 the Royal
Gurkha Rifles moved to the army barracks in Folkestone, and since then they've
built up a thriving community in the town.
new Gurkha communities are spreading fast in and around Folkestone. Some Gurkha
families are even moving as far as Dover to get away from the confines of the
The word Gurkha derives from the valley of Gurkha in West Nepal.
term Gurkha is used as a generic term for the indigenous population of the middle
hills of East and West Nepal.
The Gurkhas have provided a military service
to the British crown since 1815.
After the partition of India in 1948,
four Gurkha regiments moved across to the British Army whilst the rest continued
to serve the Indian Army.
There are over 3,000 Gurkhas in the British Army
Major Gurkha bases in the UK include Folkestone, Catterick, Edinburgh
Most Gurkha serve for a minimum 15 years, but can continue
on to a maximum 30 years service.
Gurkhas serve in a variety of roles, mainly
in the infantry. Many are engineers. logistics and signals specialists.
They are integrating well into local communities.
One in every
six pupils at Cheriton Primary School is Nepalese.
The school's Headteacher
believes that the Nepalese children have helped to enrich the experience of local
"It's a very rich experience. I think the whole community has
gained so much.
"We have a better understanding of their culture, and
they take part in our culture too. It's worthwhile for all of us."
other areas of life, Folkestone has also been enjoying the Nepalese presence.
businesses in the town have benefited, especially specialist food shops and greengrocers.
Gurkhas are keen on cooking, and Nepalese cuisine is heavily influenced by Indian
Many curry and vegetable dishes feature on the family menu.
curries are a lot milder than the average Indian vindaloo, and they emphasize
And the cuisine is starting to catch on in Kent with
the opening of several Nepalese restaurants and takeaways including one run by
a former Gurkha in Tunbridge Wells.
Home and abroad
Kent couldn't be more different from life back home in Nepal. The Nepalese are
a mountain people with a rich culture and century-old traditions.
|Guide to Nepal|
Population - 27 million.
Location - borders China and India in
Capital - Kathmandu.
Climate - cool summers and
sever winters in north, sub tropical summers and mild winters in south.
- landlocked country. River Ganges plain to south, Himalayas to the north.
Highest point is Mount Everest.
Religion - Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam.
Language - Nepali.
Economy - one of the poorest countries in
the world. 47% unemployment. Agriculture is a major employer.
weather in Nepal can be bitterly cold, and the women wear lots of layers.
a result, the average Nepalese woman takes 30 minutes to get into her traditional
Nepal is also one of the poorest countries in the world, and is currently
suffering from political unrest.
For the last three years insurgents have
been trying to take over the country, and are targeting retired Gurkhas and their
There has been extortion, and even the kidnapping of family members.
a result some Nepalese may be looking for a permanent move to Britain.
law is also being relaxed to allow Gurkha families to come over to Britain.
a feeling amongst Gurkhas that Kent is something of a safe haven.
who settle in the area the Army run a welfare centre to help introduce newcomers
to life in Kent.
This year the centre is being improved and redeveloped,
thanks to a £1/4 million Lottery grant.
original meaning of the word Gurkha is "defender of cows", but today's
men are defenders of people.
Their historic links with the British Army
derive from a long battle with the British East India Company in the 18th and
|Ready for action - the Gurkhas are a fearsome force|
Impressed by the men's formidable fighting powers, the company began
recruiting Gurkhas into their own service.
They were later to be called
into service in World War I and II.
They were also involved in more recent
military action in Bosnia, the Falklands War, Sierra Leone and Kosovo.
The Gurkhas have won 13 Victoria Crosses, and are one of the most decorated regiments
in the British Army.
The regiment's motto is, "It is better to die
than be a coward", and hundreds of Gurkhas are testament to that statement,
having given their lives over the course of the regiment's 190 year history.
The Gurkhas are renowned for their bravery and tenacity, and
have a tradition of being fearsome warriors.
These soldiers have played
a key role in many skirmishes and continue to serve around the world's hotspots.
their modern weapons, the Gurkhas still carry their traditional tool into battle
- a 16 inch curved knife known as a Khukuri or Kukri.
|Inside Out's Kaddy tries her hand at Gurkha training|
This formidable weapon started life as a farming implement and is also
used in sacrificial ceremonies. It can rip open an opponent in a single blow.
In World Wars I and II it became as important as conventional weapons such
as guns and grenades.
Today's soldiering is as much about trying to keep
the peace as launching a combat offensive.
The Gurkhas have developed a
new skill, keeping a cool head in the face of a crisis and provocation.
much of their training involves exercises in riot situations and crowd control.
It's clear that many Gurkhas enjoy the experience of living
in Kent and combining their army careers with sampling the British way of life.
the next time you drive through the quiet seaside town of Folkestone, keep an
eye out for the Gurkhas.
Far from the mountains of Nepal, the Weald of Kent
is now their home, and their rich culture and traditions are bringing greater
diversity to the Folkestone area.