9th December 2016

Gurkha soldiers complete earthquake mission

Since last year’s earthquakes, we’ve been fortunate to have specialist Gurkha troops supporting our response. This month, they’ve finally completed their mission.

The last soldier has pulled out of a construction site deep in Lamjung District in the Himalayan foothills. Since September 2016, a team of around 90 soldiers has been rebuilding a school and several Gurkha pensioners’ homes in the area.

Operation MARMAT

When the British Government decided to send some of its Gurkha soldiers back to help their homeland in its hour of need, we were delighted to receive their support.

After deploying to help with immediate relief efforts, their emphasis soon turned to reconstruction. The mission was known as Operation MARMAT, which means ‘rebuild’ in Nepali.

For the last 18 months, apart from breaks imposed by the monsoon seasons, troops have been in place supporting our long-term response for Gurkha veterans, their families and wider communities.

The Brigade and the Trust

The Trust is the official charity partner of the Brigade of Gurkhas and we have close links both in Nepal and the UK. For us as a charity, this was an ideal way to add experience and momentum to our efforts as we faced the overwhelming challenge ahead.

Amar Jyoti School has been rebuilt by soldiers on Op MARMAT 4

John White, who directs our earthquake response, said: “Op MARMAT offers a true Rolls Royce solution. The work they’ve carried out serves as an example to all of our other construction teams working in the hills and they’ve been generous in sharing their expertise with our own staff and local labourers.

“The Brigade of Gurkhas brought a huge boost to our response over the last 18 months, from bolstering the immediate relief effort to giving real impetus to our rebuilding work.”

It’s a fitting way to support Nepal after 200 years of friendship.

John White, head of GWT Earthquake Response Team

Sergeant Major Birendra Kambang, who has over 20 years’ experience in the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers including seven tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, is preparing to return to the UK after his second stint with Op MARMAT.

Talking about the latest school build, Birendra said: “We arrived in the tail end of a long monsoon, which made the initial construction work especially challenging.

“The guys showed real resilience to get through those early weeks when many locals were away celebrating the major Nepali festivals. They worked incredibly hard because they wanted to complete the mission before they left.

“Now it’s over they have a real sense of achievement. To start from scratch and leave behind something that the children will use for many years to come – the guys can be very proud of what they’ve done.”

What next?

Experts predict that further earthquakes are likely to occur in Nepal, a risk that was highlighted by a 5.6 magnitude tremor last month. In light of this, the need for quality, quake-resistant construction is pressing.

Our work goes on, but we can reflect on a successful mission from this committed group of soldiers who have made an enormous contribution in helping their countrymen.

Watch an update from the head of our earthquake response below or read on for some fun facts and images from the Op MARMAT mission.



Op MARMAT in facts

From April 2015 to December 2016:

  • 296 soldiers deployed from UK (including repeat visits)
  • 71 buildings constructed: 61 Gurkha homes, 7 schools, 2 community centres and 1 GWT Welfare Centre
  • 7 Toyota Landcruisers broken due to the roughness of the terrain
  • 7,700 km travelled in the hills replenishing troops in the field
  • 1,800 corrugated iron (CGI) sheets used for roofing
  • 7,000 CGI sheets distributed for temporary shelters
  • 6,000 kg of rice distributed during emergency response
  • 14,121 portions of dal bhat (the traditional Nepali meal) eaten by the troops


From September to December 2016:

  • 89 British Army personnel involved with soldiers from all the core Gurkha Regiments – Rifles, Signals, Engineers and Logistics
  • Rebuilt Amar Jyoti Lower Secondary School in Dodini village, Lamjung District
  • Supervised 19 Gurkha home builds in Lamjung, Gorkha and Syangja Districts, out of 620 homes built by GWT so far
  • School construction site is 120 km from base location (Pokhara) and 1,630m above sea level
  • Amar Jyoti provides an education to 125 children who walk up to 2 hours to attend
  • School built using 28,000 bricks and 5,000 reinforcing links cut and bent by a team of 4 soldiers
  • 8-classroom, earthquake-resistant school design costs around £80,000
  • 10th school rebuilt by GWT since the earthquakes, with 13 more to be completed by the monsoon in 2017

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