Sunday, 26 April 2009
Have the Brits Betrayed the Gurkhas?
One of the stories in the book relates to the Gurkhas, the fierce, tough kukri-wielding soldiers from the Himalayas that have long been valued by the British Army for their remarkable tenacity, courage and loyalty.
They are, incidentally, to be found in Oman among other places, where they have had a long history of service.
Their officer announced to the men on parade that there was to be a difficult and dangerous mission behind enemy lines. So much so, that it had been decided to ask for volunteers. They were to be flown in Lancaster bombers and dropped from a height of tens of thousands of feet far behind the front line – and would have to fight their way back.
When he finished, he asked any man who wished to volunteer to take one step forwards. Not one man moved – a massive shock to the officer. Then the light dawned and he announced that parachutes would be provided – the entire regiment took one step forwards to a man.
Apocryphal or not, it’s a story that epitomises the bravery of the Gurkhas and the respect in which they are held. Even to enter the regiment requires an amazing degree of toughness – recruits are required to run uphill for 40 minutes carrying over 30Kg of rocks in a rucksack.
But the 200-years of service and bravery the Gurkhas have given Britain are not, apparently, valued by the British government, which is refusing to grant the right to settle in the UK to Gurkha soldiers. Despite a court ruling last September that specifically gave the Gurkhas that right, the government continues to evade its responsibilities – including a new document that limits the right of settlement to those who have served over 20 years in the regiment. Only officers, therefore, would qualify – a rifleman is not permitted to serve more than 15 years.
More here, including a petition that you can sign up to (your voice apparently doesn’t quite count for as much if you’re non-resident, but don’t let that stop you!). Do feel free to lend your voice to the many appalled citizens of the UK who do not associate themselves with the government’s craven and indefensible filibustering, prevarication and duplicity in dealing with people that have given the country such service.
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