The Gurkhas have fought on the side of the British in almost every military campaign from 1816 to the present day. Conservative estimates place Gurkha casualty figures at 150,000 wounded and 45,000 killed in action, for the two world wars and other conflicts before and since. More than 6,500 decorations for bravery have been awarded including thirteen Victoria Cross awards and two George Cross medals. There are innumerable histories documenting the legendary valour of the Brigade of Gurkhas but none considering their lives post-service.
Since 1st July 1997, the move of the Brigade of Gurkhas' permanent base to the UK, the government has taken some steps to treat fairly and equally the Gurkhas by numerous changes in their terms and conditions. The report highlights that this date provides no rational or logical basis for discriminatory practices prior to that date. The report highlights that the government cannot escape from a legal and moral duty to review the grievances, injustice and hardship felt by veterans who fought, served and were discharged from the British Army prior to the 1st July 1997.
Gurkha veteran soldiers who fought and served from the second world war until 1997 were just as much the victims of discriminatory terms and conditions of service as those who were discharged after the 1st July 1997: the discriminatory terms of service impacting perhaps more, not less, harshly on them. The report highlights many of the shameful situations faced by many Gurkha Veterans of the British Arm. See below for some of the veterans stories included in the report. The report recommends that these veterans should have recompense and that the government should take steps within its current review of serving Gurkhas' terms and conditions to remedy the grievances of these loyal and long suffering veterans before it is too late for them.
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The Ghurkas Veteran stories included in the report
Mrs Nirpa Sahi describes how her husband Nok Bahadur Sahi, who served in the Brigade from 1963 to 1971, developed a kidney problem and needed it replaced. With no welfare state in Nepal and no medical after-care freely available to Gurkha Veterans as there is for their British and Indian counterparts, they spent all of their money and accrued huge loans for him to have a kidney replacement in India. He died a year after the operation: his death attributed to the lack of medical after care. She continues to pay back the loans.
Lachhuman Gurung, an 87 year old veteran of the second world war, describes his living conditions: 'I live with my eldest son and daughter in law. They don't want me with them but I have no where else to go. I sleep in the corner of the kitchen. There is no electricity or running tap water in the house. Water is collected from the community stream. I see my twin brother and grandchildren regularly but I feel redundant, isolated and a burden. It particularly saddens me that I am unable to buy gifts for my grandchildren'.
Phul Maya Pun's husband, Shyam Lal Pun, was killed in Iraq in April 2004. He had served in the British Army from November 1975 until October 1990. She told us that she believed that 'If my husband had received an adequate pension for his service with the British Gurkhas, he would never have gone abroad, left home.' Her husband had first gone to Brunei to work ,where he had stayed for nine years, but joined a private security firm operating in Iraq soon after and was then killed on duty in an ambush. Hers is one of the many stories of ex-Gurkhas working in Iraq: paid less than their British and American counterparts, they are not allowed to work in the UK post-service unless they retired on or after 1st July 1997.