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New Gurkhas pass rigorous tests to join the British Army

Recruit Intake 23 for the Brigade of Gurkhas was completed on Saturday the 4th of February 2023 at British Gurkhas Pokhara, Nepal.

The recruitment process was an intense time for the lucky few that made it through regional selection events on route to Phase Three (Final Selection). Nearly 20,000 applied for only 204 vacancies in 2023. 

The potential recruits (PRs) called forward to Phase Three (Final Selection) have to meet the minimum standards as a starting point. They then compete against each other on various fitness tests, educational tests, medicals, paperwork checks and interviews to show the recruitment staff they are the best PRs and deserve the chance to be become a Gurkha soldier in the Brigade of Gurkhas

Medicals are carried out for each PR as per any British Army applicant. Various tests are run to make sure there are not any hidden conditions or concerns over an individual’s health so the British Army can be assured the person is medically fit for military service. 

In line with the British Army’s Physical Entry Standards (PES), the following physical assessments are tested at Phase Three - Final Selection:

  • 2km Run: Under 8 minutes (best effort)
  • Jerry Can Carry: Under 2 minutes (best effort)
  • Doko: Under 46 minutes (best effort)
  • Mid-Thigh Pull: 76 kilograms 
  • Medicine Ball Throw: 3.1 Metres

The famous Doko that PRs have to complete is a tough and gruelling individual effort. PRs run up steep inclines and steps in the hills close to the British Army camp in Pokhara. They have to carry 15kg in a Doko basket and cover a distance of 5.8km in less than 46 minutes. 

There are two English tests in Phase Three - Final Selection. A 10-minute speaking and listening exam and a 30-minute writing exam. The tests are run by professional education officers. The written examination assesses the content, spelling, punctuation and grammar. During the speaking and listening assessment, PRs are tested on answer structure, grammar, vocabulary, clarity of speech, flow and response, as well as understanding. During the interview stage PRs are assessed for having excellent values and standards, robust and, most importantly, must want to be a Gurkha Soldier. 

Then each PR entered the conference room where they are either congratulated and directed to exit a door for those who are successful or told that unfortunately there were unsuccessful and are directed to leave by another door and follow a route to leave the camp. Those who were not successful on their exit from the camp collect their mobile phones and are given an allowance based on where they have travelled from to help them get home.

The successful ones are smiling and some cry as they are so pleased to have been selected. They make their way (running) around a series of points and are stopped by training staff from Gurkha Company Catterick, who congratulate them and offer advice. They then arrive at a series of desks where they can contact their next of kin to inform them of their success at being selected to join the Brigade of Gurkhas. The successful recruits then move on to another instructor who passes them a notebook and pen. They are instructed to sit in a group in straight lines on a grass area and write down what they are thinking and expecting now they are on their way to becoming a Gurkha in the Brigade of Gurkhas.

Outside of the camp in Pokhara, many family members and friends gather waiting for either their mobile phone to ring with good news or see their family member leaving camp and walking down the hill having not been successful. Some will try again next year as each PR is allowed to apply three times, as long as they are between 18 and 21 years of age as of 1st of January each year.

We should also mention the Gurkha Recruiting Staff, because without their support delivering the selection process would be very difficult. These veterans not only organise the young men and make sure they are in the right place at the right time, but also advise and support them, notably when the PRs are preparing their Doko baskets the day before the Doko race. They take time and care to make sure every one of the PRs has the best chance of success during the process. The whole selection process is free, fair and transparent.