The First Gurkha Victoria Cross – Rifleman Kulbir Thapa, 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles, 25th/26th September 1915
February 20, 2020
Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung and Tamandu Day
March 4, 2020


After Nepal was unified into a modern state in the 1760’s and 70’s by the King of Gorkha, Prithvi Narayan Shah, many of the country’s politicians felt that expansion was the best form of foreign policy and a later prime minister, Bimsen Thapa, led a series of conquests into the Kingdom of Sikkim to the east, the Indian lands of Garhwal and Kumaon to the west, and finally territory administered by the British Honourable East India Company to the south. These actions proved untenable to the HEIC and the Anglo-Nepal War was formally declared on 1st November 1814.

There were a number of battles and engagements that took place from the end of 1814 through to the spring of 1815. Four columns of HEIC and British Troops were sent into Nepal to attempt to fight Gurkha soldiers in strongly defended hilltop positions, but were met with stubborn resistance and in all but one case failed to achieve the easy successes that were anticipated, with the initial commander of the invasion, General Rollo Gillespie, being killed early in the war.

It was during this first phase in the fighting that Lieutenant Frederick Young and others first recognised the superb fighting skills of the people they had come to subdue. They and officers like them saw how valuable these skills could be in the service of the crown and began recruiting even before the end of the war, with the first British Gurkha units being founded on 24th April 1815.

The war, however, was not over and began to drag on for both sides. A peace treaty was drawn up in December 1815 but was not ratified, and a further campaign under the command of General Sir David Ochterlony was directed at the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu. After a number of skirmishes the HEIC troops and the armies of Nepal met again in battle at Makwanpu, during which a British Officer observed of the Gurkha soldier “I never saw more steadiness or more bravery exhibited by any set of men in my life. Run they would not and of death they seemed to have no fear…”. Following this battle, after nearly three years of war and a series of inconclusive and costly engagements, the Nepalese army decided to sign the peace treaty at Segauli on 4th March 1815.

Amongst a number of terms of this treaty, Article 1 stated “There shall be perpetual peace and friendship between the Honourable East India Company and the Rajah of Nipal (sic)”. As a result, Nepal is Britain’s oldest ally in Asia.


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