Amidst the massive PR fail that is the governments handling of Gurkha veterans resising in the UK there was an interesting article in the Independent that I feel shines a sad light over the situation. Thanks to a story in Private Eye I came across some interesting information and an article in the Independent a couple of weeks ago.
The story centres around Lord Edwin Bramall, an ex-chief of the defence staff and former colonel with the Gurkha Rifles, 1976–1986. Writing in the Independent on Sunday Lord Bramall says remarkably bluntly: “Don’t be sentimental. We have treated the Gurkha’s well.” He goes on to explain that having worked with the Gurkha’s he thinks, “They are marvellous.” Ignoring his patronising tone, he goes on to explain quite astutely that: “Apart from their outstanding abilities in the field, for a long time the Gurkha’s, to put it at its baldest, offered the British government another advantage: they cost less than their British counterparts.”
To sadly prove the point that even in death the Gurkha’s are cheaper, back in 1999 Seargeant Balaram Rai, a Gurkha, was killed alongside his British-born commander while clearing unexploded NATO bombs in Kosovo. The MoD gave his widow a lump sum of just under £20,000 as compensation. A non-Gurkha of equivalent rank and length of service would receive £54,000. Mrs. Rai also received a pension, but only for £939.24 a year for the first five years, followed by £771.48 a year after that. That’s just 7.5 percent of the £15,192 pension the widow of an equivalent British soldier would receive.
To put this into context, the Gurkha’s have fought for the British Crown for over 180 years and on their memorial outside the MoD the plaque reads: “Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had a country more faithful friends than you.” As the Private Eye story suggests, maybe it’s time to add “and they save us an awful lot of money to boot”?