Photo of Gurkha veteran demonstrating outside Downing Street, London 2008.
©Shubha Giri

Gurkhas have been serving in the British Forces since the Anglo-Gorkha War of 1814-16 - the hard-fought conflict in which the bond of mutual admiration between British and Gorkhali (Gurkha) soldiers was forged.

This bond has, if anything, grown deeper and stronger over the past two centuries as Gurkhas have proven their courage and loyalty in war after war - giving up their lives in their tens of thousands in the First and Second World Wars and many other conflicts across world. It is fair to say that Gurkhas are regarded with great respect and affection by the people of the United Kingdom, as demonstrated by the enormous public support for the Gurkha Justice Campaign that resulted in Gurkha veterans who retired before 1997 with four or more years' service being granted the right to settle in the UK.

Photo of Tulbahadur Pun VC , Joanna Lumley and Lachhiman Gurung VC 2008

Photo of Tulbahadur Pun VC , Joanna Lumley and Lachhiman Gurung VC 2008
©Shubha Giri 2010

Decades of Campaigning

The victory of the Gurkha Justice Campaign was by no means an over-night success. It has been twenty years since Gurkha veterans who retired before the 1997 Handover of Hong Kong began campaigning for the right to settle in the UK and for pensions equal to those of British soldiers - a campaign that still continues.

Although Joanna Lumley was the charismatic public face of the Gurkha Justice Campaign and solicitors firm Howe & Co provided the legal expertise, the campaign itself was the work of a coalition of Gurkha organisations, led by the Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Organisation (GAESO), supported by the British Gurkha Welfare Society (BGWS) and a number of other groups including the Forgotten British Gurkha.


Photo of Tulbahadur Pun VC and Lachhiman Gurung VC outside the High Court in London, 2008
©Shubha Giri

Rules from a Bygone Era?

The MOD's rules mean that Gurkhas who retired before 1997 (when Hong Kong was handed back to China) are only eligible for pensions worth a fraction of other British soldiers' pensions - including Gurkhas who retire after 1997. The pensions of Gurkhas who retire after 1997, but who also served before 1997, are calculated using a set of complex rules that effectively mean that the years they served before 1997 are worth much less than the years they served after 1997 in terms of pension contributions. Gurkhas who enlisted - i.e. joined the army - after 1997 receive the same pay, pensions and settlement rights as other British soldiers and are not affected by these arcane terms and conditions, neither are Gurkhas who become Sandhurst-commissioned 'British Officers'.

The level of pre-1997 Gurkha pensions was originally determined by the 'Tripartite Agreement' signed by Nepal, India and Britain at the time of the Partition of India in 1947. Following years of pressure from Gurkha organisations, Gurkha pensions were doubled in 1999 with a commitment to monitor the cost of living in Nepal and increase pensions accordingly. Then in 2005 the British Government began a review of Gurkhas' Terms & Conditions of Service which resulted in a revised set of 'proposals' in 2007. These revised policies did not however grant pre-1997 Gurkha Veterans any increase in their pensions. A full explanation of the British Government's position can be read in this Parliamentary Briefing from July 2009 (PDF).

Still Fighting

While the spotlight of mainstream media attention has moved on, Gurkhas continue to campaign for equal pensions and for the right to bring family members who are over 18 to the UK. Most recently, in January 2010, Gurkha veterans from the British Gurkha Welfare Society lost their case for equal pensions at the High Court in London.

Meanwhile Gurkha veterans continue to arrive in the UK, many facing financial hardship when they arrive. The UK Gurkha community continues to support these veterans and their right to fairer pensions, with organisations such as the Gurkha Welfare Trust, the Forgotten British Gurkhas and the British Gurkha Welfare Society and UK veterans' organisations providing material support that should be coming from government agencies. Many ex-Gurkhas have expressed anger at the way in which they have been treated by the Ministry of Defence and by the British Government, who appear not to have made adequate preparations for the arrival of the Gurkha veterans that they have invited to live in the UK.

Back in Nepal, Gurkha veterans continue to live on their army pensions, while the many veterans who do not qualify for a military pension rely on the support of initiatives such as the Gurkha Welfare Trust's Welfare Pension Scheme.

Links & Feedback

Gurkha Welfare Organisations:
Gurkha Welfare Trust
British Gurkha Welfare Society
Forgotten British Gurkha

Extracts used from these Timeline entries:
1999 Ex-Gurkhas Pensions increased 100%
2009 Ex-Gurkhas Victory
2010 Ex-Gurkhas Lose Pensions Case

Please let us know what you think about the Gurkha veterans' rights situation, by leaving a comment below or by contacting us. You can also reach us via Facebook or Twitter

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Comments (9)
  • eraj  |  'gurkha s children above 18 yrs '
    what is the latest developments of bringing ex-Gurkha's children in UK whose age is over 18 ? the more they do late the more our children age will increase and the more problem will b deteriorates ? why did not any Gurkha organization has made this issue primary ?will 22 June budget of coalition govt. address the this issue ?
  • Rohit wadhawan  |  'Gurkha'
    Feel proud that they r there in Indian army.
  • Devendra  |  'over 18'
    its a very sorrowfull decision by british government not to give entry who is over 18,parents and thier spouse are sepereted due this foolish decision by british government.All we Nepali people deeply condem by this decision,we all nepali people supports that, please give permission to those who is over 18.
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  • subana lama  |  'PLIGHT OF GURKHA CHILDREN ABOVE 18'
    The British Government does not seem to be helping the Gurkhas wholeheartedly as is supposed to be as per their absolute loyalty from the days of British Empire. Even for settlement in the UK, it was not given just because the Gurkhas asked for it ; but was given only after they fought for it. Although settlement was allowed after years and years of struggle, it is stilll not without a hitch. Now Gurkha families have been separarted from their children who happen to be above 18. Most of the Gurkhas who are now allowed to settle in the UK have children above 18. The Gurkhas who have come are also very old and almost all of them have wishes to spend their last days in their own homeland. The British Government with all their guilty conscience from their past deeds, should and must allow Gurkha children above 18 to come and join their parents so that they can look after their parents as per our custom and also perceive and endeavour for their own opportunities for a better and prosperous next generation.
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  • subhana lama  |  'Plight of Gurkha Children above 18'
    Human rights of Gurkhas have been immensely harmed by the British Government's policy of separating families. The recent settlement rights granted to ex Gurkha servicemen have drastically affected the family lives of Gurkhas by separating children above 18 from their parents. When the settlement right was granted a mistake in history has been made, this happened because the British policy makers did not understand the deep rooted family ties of Gurkha families.
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