All applicants must meet certain basic standards of education, fitness and health. If successful, they will be given a pass to attend the next stage. Retired Gurkha Officers will then hold a number of selection days across the country. They will set up a camp in the fields outside a village, and the candidates will come forward.
Each and every hopeful recruit will give his all, be it in heaves, sit ups or maths exams. The criteria are strict, and no weakness goes unnoticed. All who make it through this stage are good enough to be soldiers in the British Army, but not all will make it, as the final hurdle still remains.
Only some 700 make it to the last stage in the process, known as Central Selection. The candidates report to the recruiting depot in Pokhara in Western Nepal and spend 2 weeks being put through their paces. The most gruelling assessment test is known as the doko race.
Candidates complete a 2 mile race up a near vertical hill carrying 35kg of rocks in a basket, the weight borne by the traditional Nepalese carrying strap across the forehead. It is not for the faint hearted, but the potential recruits will hurtle round the course in only 20 minutes.
The Recruiting Team (34 x retired Gurkha servicemen, 4 x retired Gurkha officers and serving British and Gurkha Officers) travel across Nepal to conduct advertising briefs. This is a six-week long phase. This is essential because the vast majority of houses nationwide and entire villages will not have access to the internet.
Nepal is a country that primarily communicates orally (like early modern Britain). It is critical to conform to this socio-cultural reality and to thus dispel oral myths about Gurkha recruitment, particularly in the hills and rural areas. Advertising is also conducted by maintaining the Gurkha recruitment page on the British Army website with all the correct joining criteria and supporting videos. Radio advertising is being introduced for Recruit Intake 2017 (RI 17) and recruiting posters are put on display outside all three UK military camps in Nepal and at the 20(+) Area Welfare Centres of the Gurkha Welfare Trust across the country.
Conducted normally around May-July at temporary Army Careers Centres (ACCs) in Pokhara and Dharan. Applicants register their intent to join and they are checked that they meet the physiological, education and documentation criteria to be eligible to register. They have to conduct eight underarm heaves.
No medical testing is conducted at this phase. Applicants are provided with Army Careers information and advised on how to prepare for the Assessment Centres (ACs). Districts of Nepal (known as jillas) are allocated certain days within the 6-week Registration Phase when applicants from those jillas can attend either ACC to register. Thus, this phase only requires one day of investment from each applicant.
Assessments Centres are setup in British Gurkhas Dharan (BGD) for Eastern applicants to conduct Regional Selection East Jul/Aug. An AC is then setup in British Gurkhas Pokhara (BGP) for Western applicants in Aug/Sep. The order between East and West rotates each year.
All applicants who have successfully registered are called-forward to take part in a one-day selection process that involves education, medical and physical tests; and an interview. Applicants that pass the tests and the interview are placed in an order of merit and are eligible to be called forward to Final Selection known as Central Selection if they fall within the top quota to be called-forward.
The education exams include a challenging maths test and a basic English written test. Physically, applicants must be able to complete an 800m run in under 2mins 40secs, complete a minimum of 12 underarm heaves, and complete a minimum of 70 situps in 2 minutes.
Conducted in January at British Gurkhas Pokhara. The circa 500 applicants who were selected from Regional Selection are called-forward to take part in a three-week selection process that involves further medical, physical and education tests and an interview. Applicants who pass the tests are placed in an Order of March and the best are selected.
Education tests include further English exams. Physical tests include a 2.4km run with a cut-off time of 9mins 40secs. It also includes the famous DOKO RACE.
Candidates complete a 4.6km race up a near vertical hill carrying 25kg in a traditional wicker basket known as a “Doko”. It is a true test of determination and grit and ensures that those selected will be robust enough to meet the high physical demands expected of the Gurkha soldier. The cut-off time is 46 minutes.
If successful, the new recruit will be kitted out and flown to Catterick in North Yorkshire to undergo training in the Gurkha Wing of the Infantry Training Centre. In his 8 months training, the new soldier will not only learn military skills, but will also pass English language exams.
As he passes out of recruit training, he can be justifiably proud of what he has achieved, but every new soldier joins his battalion knowing just how hard he will have to work to live up to the reputation that his forefathers have built.