The Royal Gurkha Rifles
The Royal Gurkha Rifles was formed on 1 July 1994. This was the result of the Government’s announcement in 1991 of plans to restructure the Army (‘Options for Change’), and with the planning for the handing back of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China (completed 30 June 1997) necessitating the withdrawal of the military garrison, it was decided to reduce the size of the Brigade of Gurkhas. On 1 July 1994, the four Gurkha Rifle Regiments, (click on Individual Regiments to see their history) 2 GR, 6 GR, 7 GR and 10 GR amalgamated to form one Regiment titled ‘The Royal Gurkha Rifles’ (RGR). Initially, the Regiment comprised of three battalions but the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were amalgamated in Brunei in late 1996. The Regiment has carried forward the traditions of its forbears; its uniform combines the historical embellishments and they carry the Battle Honours of the four previous Regiments and their property is found on display, and in use, in the RGR Battalions. Regimental affiliations with the King’s Royal Hussars, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (a legacy of the association with The Royal Scots) and the Rifles (similarly, a legacy of the association with the Royal Green Jackets) have also been retained. The latter affiliation goes back to the days of the Indian mutiny and a working relationship with the 60th Rifles, from whence the Regiment’s beginnings as a Rifle Regiment came. The distinctive rifle green uniform, red piping on the collars of tunics and Rifle Regiment’s marching pace of 140 paces to the minute all stem from this era.
The Royal Gurkha Rifles is a regiment that is considered, widely, to be amongst the best in military professionalism. Manned by particularly fit, enthusiastic and committed officers and soldiers, it takes pride in its world-renowned operational effectiveness.
The word 'Gurkha' is synonymous with unswerving loyalty, cheerful courage, uncomplaining acceptance of hardship and the highest standards of discipline and smartness. The Gurkhas' fundamental strength is drawn from their clan heritage and warrior instincts. Mentally and physically tough and possessing inherently adroit field crafts and skills, they make ideal infantrymen. The British and Gurkha officers, in particular, emulate the 'Rifles' philosophy, which centres on 'the thinking fighting man': alert, dynamic, thorough, self-reliant, forward looking and resourceful. It is about using initiative without necessarily always waiting for precise instructions. There is flair, ingenuity, versatility and an eagerness always to improve.
We are an organisation primarily for operational service. But, we are an extended family regiment, which cares about and looks after the welfare of its members and their relatives. High morale is paramount. For ours is an esprit-de- corps based upon a soldierly comradeship that transcends the normal impediments of rank, culture and religion. There is a generosity of spirit and a tolerance of others, and there is a deep bond yet lightness of touch, founded upon mutual trust, respect and genuine friendship between officer and soldier.
The Royal Gurkha Rifles is also responsible for providing manpower (for training support tasks) for Gurkha Company (Sittang) at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) as well as Gurkha Company (Mandalay) at the Infantry Training Centre (ITC) Wales – the home of the Infantry’s Junior Officer and NCO Training. These Companies usually only have one British Officer, the Company Commander, with Gurkha Officers commanding the Platoons.
The Gurkha Reinforcement Company (GRC)
In addition to the battalions and their integral companies, a number of ‘stand-alone’ rifle companies (GRCs) have existed at various times since 1996 in order to meet short falls in UK infantry manpower. These companies have, in the past, been permanently attached to UK infantry units but more recently they have been ‘battle grouped’ with an Infantry battalion only for the duration of an operational deployment (including build-up and pre-deployment training). Units that have received GRCs include 2 PARA, 1 R IRISH and the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (prior to amalgamation to become 5 SCOTS). It was an embedded GRC that deployed with the R IRISH to the Gulf in 2001, and a similarly embedded GRC deployed with 2 PARA in Jan 02 on the initial launch into Afghanistan. Again, a GRC deployed with 16 Air Assault Brigade on the initial deployment into Helmand Province in Apr 06, although this time attached to a Regiment of the Royal Artillery.
Recent Operational Heritage
Since 1996, the two battalions of The Royal Gurkha Rifles have continued to be located in UK and Brunei respectively, ‘arms-plotting’ between the two locations every 3 or 4 years. Prior to 2004, it was only the UK-based Gurkha battalion that was liable for the full range of operational deployments, as carried out by the remainder of the British infantry, whilst the Brunei Resident Infantry Battalion (BRIB) fulfilled a dual role as the regional contingency force in Asia and as the Army’s in-role jungle warfare unit.
In 1999, soldiers of the 1st Battalion deployed from the UK and were among the lead troops into Kosovo after a bombing campaign to force Serbian withdrawal, the first time a battalion of Gurkhas had served in the Balkans, although detached companies had previously been deployed to Bosnia.
In 2000, a breakdown of law and order in Indonesian controlled East Timor (formerly a Portuguese colony) led to intervention by an Australian-led peace enforcement contingent. The British contribution came from the 2nd Battalion, then stationed in Brunei, demonstrating the utility of the BRIB. No sooner had East Timor been pacified than the 2nd Battalion moved to UK, being replaced in Brunei by the 1st Battalion. The 2nd Battalion was then deployed from the UK to Sierra Leone, a former British colony, where UK intervention had assisted in restoring a peaceful situation following a violent insurrection. The battalion was employed in a training role to bring the Sierra Leone army up to a standard where it was capable of ensuring the security of the country.
In late 2001 soldiers of the 2nd Battalion deployed to Bosnia in the Peace Support role, with the Rifle Companies and Support Company re-roled to achieve multiple missions around the country.
At the outbreak of the second Gulf War in 2003, the 2nd Battalion was the Spearhead Lead Element (SLE) Battlegroup and at various points of the strategic planning found itself on, and then off, the ORBAT for the Iraq deployment. Ultimately, no RGR Battalion took part in the conflict, although Gurkhas were there, serving alongside the R IRISH and RLC. In the summer of 2003, the Battalions arms-plotted and, later that year, whilst the 1st Battalion deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo, the 2nd Battalion sent elements to Afghanistan; their various roles to enable security in the capital Kabul, and to establish and monitor the cease-fire between the hostile factions that had previously comprised the Northern Alliance - in the North of the country. This was a notable first, as it demonstrated the ability of the BRIB to contribute to the Operational Commitments Plot whilst based in South East Asia. As a result of his actions during this tour, Sergeant Kajiman Limbu was to receive the Military Cross, the first in the history of the Regiment. Meanwhile, in the Balkans, the 1st Battalion was achieving record successes in seizing caches of heavy weapons and arresting war criminals.
2005 was again a busy year for the Regiment with the 1st Battalion deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo again, picking up the covert observation role - previously the preserve of Special Forces - in addition to the, now familiar, previous tasks. At the same time, the 2nd Battalion in its entirety was in Afghanistan, again operating in company groups with independent roles, but focussed on the security and reconstruction of the areas in the North whilst continuing to maintain the security in Kabul. The Regimental Headquarters was kept busy across the country and was responsible for conducting the early recces and planning for the subsequent 16 Air Assault Brigade deployment to the Helmand Province in 2006.
The early days of 2006 saw the formation of a new Gurkha Reinforcement Company (GRC), with manpower coming from both Battalions (a truly ‘RGR’ combat unit), that deployed with 16 Air Assault Brigade on the initial deployment to the Helmand Province (see below). In the summer of 2006, it was time for the Battalions to arms plot again. The 2nd Battalion had hardly unpacked before hey were off to Kenya on Exercise GRAND PRIX, prior to assuming the SLE role again in early 2007.
In 2007, the 1st Battalion deployed as part of 52 Brigade to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on Operation HERRICK. It was during the early days of this deployment that the Regiment suffered its first operational fatality with the death of Major Alexis ‘Lex’ Roberts, killed when an Improvised Explosive Device detonated under the vehicle he was travelling in whilst returning from a battle group operation. Major Roberts was buried with full military honours following a service at Canterbury Cathedral. The 1st Battalion sustained further casualties during their tour, some very serious, although Major Roberts was the only fatality. In recognition of their actions during the tour, three soldiers, one officer and the attached Regimental Medical Officer received the Military Cross from Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace.
In October 2008, it was the turn of the 2nd Battalion to deploy to Helmand Province as part of 3 Commando Brigade. Again, the Battalion was to suffer casualties during the early days, with the deaths of Colour Sergeant Krishnabahadur Dura and Lance Corporal Yubaraj Rai. It was CSgt Krishna’s second tour to Helmand province in as many years, having previously been a Pl Sgt in the Gurkha Reinforcement Company that deployed with 16 Air Assault Brigade in 2006. An immensely popular figure, 2RGR now commemorates him by playing an annual football match ‘The Krishnabahadur Dura Trophy’ between the Officers’ and Senior NCO’s messes.
GRC 1 (F Coy, 2 RGR) – OP HERRICK 10
GRC 2 (G Coy, 1 MERCIAN) – OP HERRICK 12
In April 2011 the 2nd Battalion again deployed on OP HERRICK 14 to Helmand Province, as part of 3 Commando Brigade, performing the role of Police Mentoring Advisory Group. This required the Battalion to mentor and provide deep partnering to the Afghan Police, at all levels, across the entire Task Force Helmand. It also saw the 2nd Battalion building Afghan Police capacity in Helmand by running the Regional Training Centre. In addition, two sub-units were deployed as part of the Combined Forces (45 Cdo and 1 RIFLES) in ground holding roles assisting their Afghan partners in providing security to the local population. At the end of the tour, it was in one of these ground holding roles that the Battalion unfortunately suffered a fatality when Rfn Vijay Rai was killed while protecting a checkpoint.
In Oct 2011, the Gurkha Reinforcement Company 3, formed by 2RGR, was deployed again, this time in support of the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment as part of 20th Armoured Brigade on OP HERRICK 15. They were to perform a challenging but important ground holding role – and made significant advances in a heavily contested part of Helmand. At the mid point of the tour LCpl Gajbahadur Gurung was killed when his foot patrol was attacked by insurgents. It was his third tour of Afghanistan. Like all 2RGR soldiers killed in action, he is commemorated on a granite plinth (a stone brought back from Afghanistan) and on individual marble plaques which adorn the Afghanistan Memorial Wall in Tuker Lines, Brunei.