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The Gurkha culture

The Gurkhas are recruited from Nepal into the British Army. Brought up in the foothills of the Himalayas, they are ideally suited to the light infantry role where endurance and ingenuity are at a premium. For many Gurkhas, service in the British Army is a strong family tradition, but competition to join is fierce.

Gurkha soldiers come from tight knit communities where mutual respect and trust are instilled from an early age.

The majority of Gurkhas are either Hindu or Buddhist, and the Regiment observes the appropriate religious festivals. The most notable in the annual calendar is Dasain, which is a major event with long established and colourful rituals and traditions.

Nepal is changing rapidly, and the education standards demanded of the soldiers are high. Most soldiers will join the British Army having already attained a high standards of English. This is then developed through an intensive language package during recruit training.

One of the strengths of a Gurkha battalion on operations today, and particularly in Afghanistan, is the ability of the soldiers to understand cultural nuances, and to empathise with people in conflict zones. Unforgiving in battle, the soldiers are equally generous and warm hearted to those who are affected by conflict.

The kukri

The kukri is the famed knife carried by Gurkhas. It is the national weapon of Nepal, but is also a work tool, used for all means of every day business in hill communities.

Every Gurkha has at least two kukris; one for ceremonial purposes, and one for every day use. Maintenance of the kukri is a key part of daily routine, and it is kept sharp and clean at all times.

Various legends surround the use of the kukri, the most commonly cited being that every time it is drawn, blood must be shed. Sadly this is but a myth, as the kukri is used so regularly that there would be a bloodbath if it were true.

The blade is carefully weighted so that in skilled hands it can be used to cut deeply or to slice cleanly. The kukri is accompanied by two small knives; one sharp for delicate skinning and slicing, and the other blunt, for sharpening the main blade.

Brunei

The First Battalion is currently based in Brunei, a small kingdom in the north west of the island of Borneo. The battalion forms the largest part of a British Garrison near the town of Seria.

The majority of the battalion's time in Brunei is devoted to jungle training. Most officers and senior NCOs will attend the Jungle Warfare course at some stage in their careers.

The Bruneian jungle is a fantastic training ground. The terrain ranges from close thick set swampy jungle, to virgin primary rainforest, intersected by steep mountain ridges. It is the perfect environment to hone skills such as tracking, ambush, patrolling, survival, navigation and many more.

Nepal

Nepal, the Mountain Kingdom, is the home of the Gurkhas. Our soldiers grow up in the shadows of the Himalayas. Most come from the foothills of the country, characterised by steep valleys and precipitous gorges cut by raging mountain rivers.

Villages are perched high on hillsides, surrounded by networks of paddy fields, patiently constructed over generations. Community life is all important, and the selfless nature of the Gurkha is forged in these conditions. School may be an hour's walk from home, often up steep hills.

The country is starkly divided into three main areas; the Gangetic plain to the south is completely flat, stretching away across the Indian border. It is here that you will find the famous tiger and rhinoceros sanctuaries of Chitwan and Bardiya.

In the central belt of the country lie the foothills of fertile but steep sided valleys from where most Gurkhas originate. In the north and bordering Tibet are the mighty Himalayas, home of the world's largest peaks such as Everest , Lhotse, Makalu, Ama Dablam, Dhaulagiri and Annapurna.

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