They first encountered the British in the Gurkha War of 1814-1816, which ended not just in stalemate, but with an abiding sense of mutual respect and admiration between the two sides.
The Peace Treaty that ended the war enabled Gurkhas to serve under contract in the East India Company's army, for whom they first fought in the Pindaree War of 1817. Thus began Britain's relationship with Nepal, our 'oldest ally' in Asia.
Gurkhas fought on the British side in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and at the end of the war, Gurkhas became a part of the British Indian Army. In recognition of their service at Delhi, the 2nd Gurkha Rifles was awarded the Queen's Truncheon, a unique emblem which is believed to have magical powers. To this day, new recruits to The Royal Gurkha Rifles swear allegiance to the Crown and the Regiment on the Truncheon
From 1857 until 1947, the Gurkha regiments saw service in Burma, Afghanistan, the North-East and North-West Frontiers of India, Malta (The Russo-Turkish War 1877-78), Cyprus, Malaya, China (the Boxer rebellion of 1900), Tibet, and in various theatres of the First and Second World Wars. They have continued to serve in every major conflict since.
British officials in the 19th century declared the Gurkhas as a 'Martial Race', a term describing people thought to be 'naturally warlike and aggressive in battle' possessing qualities of courage, loyalty, self sufficiency, physical strength, resilience, orderliness, the ability to work hard for long periods of time, fighting tenacity and military strength.'
If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha.
Former Chief of staff of the Indian Army, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw
Today, Gurkhas are marked by their graciousness, loyalty and very great courage. As gentle and shy in daily life as they are fearless and tenacious in battle, they are a dignified people and ideal soldiers.
Gurkhas are famed for carrying a kukri. It is the national weapon of Nepal, but it is also used as a work tool in the Hills. Each Gurkha carries two kurkis, one for every day use and one for ceremonial purposes. The kurkri is the stuff of legends; the most common being the myth that whenever you draw the kukri from its sheath you must also draw blood. The kukri is accompanied by two tiny knives one for skinning and slicing, the other for sharpening the main blade.
Their famous war cry, "Ayo Gorkhali" translates as "The Gurkhas are here", their motto, 'Kaphar hunnu bhanda marnu ramro' means, 'It is better to die than to live like a coward.'