Gurkha regiment under threat as MoD spending cuts dig deep
By Ian Drury
Last updated at 9:27 AM on 30th August 2010
One of Britain's most famous Army regiments could be sacrificed under drastic defence cuts.
Ministers risk being forced to take the axe to the Gurkhas in an attempt to save millions of pounds.
One military expert warned that the 'writing was on the wall' for the Nepalese soldiers, who have been part of the Army for nearly 200 years.
Chancellor George Osborne has ordered the Ministry of Defence to make cuts of between 10 and 20 per cent of its £36.9 billion budget as he attempts to claw back Britain's multi-billion-pound deficit.
Public support for the Gurkhas was highlighted last year when actress Joanna Lumley spearheaded a successful campaign to force the Labour government to give retired veterans the right to settle in the UK.
Her fight was backed by David Cameron, the Tory leader, and his Liberal Democrat counterpart Nick Clegg.
But the campaign has made the Gurkha regiments - which have 3,640 personnel - more vulnerable to the axe by increasing their costs.
Gurkha veterans who move to Britain are entitled to full pensions, whereas those back home receive around a third of what former British soldiers are paid.
Patrick Mercer, a Tory MP and a former army officer, said: 'The first people to go will be the Brigade of Gurkhas, probably in their entirety.
'In the past, the Gurkhas' existence was guaranteed by the fact they are cheaper to run than British troops, and that there was a shortage of British troops. Recent changes mean they are now just as expensive, and recruitment is extremely healthy at the moment. I am afraid the writing is on the wall.'
The recruitment of Gurkhas was placed under review by the MoD in January last year.
It came as Army chiefs scrapped the active recruitment of foreign troops in favour of Britons during the credit crunch. The number of Britons joining up rose by 1,000 in 2009 compared with the previous year, and taking foreign and Commonwealth soldiers was seen as a 'lesser requirement'.
The Prime Minister and his deputy in the Coalition Government, are now among the leading politicians who have ordered cuts in a bid to drag the UK's finances back into the black.
Defence chiefs may be forced to cut deeper if Mr Osborne insists that the replacement of the Trident nuclear deterrent submarines is paid for from the MoD's budget.
A spokesman for the Gurkha Welfare Trust, which provides support for ex-Gurkhas and their families, admitted that they were vulnerable.
He said: 'The Government has made it clear there are no sacred cows.'
Britain's elite Special Forces suffered a blow after MoD officials scrapped rules which allow the crack troops to serve until the age of 45.
The move to bring the SAS into line with the regular Army by imposing an age limit of 40 was last night branded 'madness'. Almost 40 men will be affected by the move.
Former SAS figures warned it would mean the loss of some of the most experienced fighters, whose participation in missions to kill or capture Taliban leaders in Afghanistan has been invaluable.Gurkha regiment under threat as MoD spending cuts dig deep | Mail Online
My father always held the Gurkhas in highest esteem, regarding them as superlative, tough-as-nails warriors without whom their fight against the Japanese in Burma during WW2 would have been much harder.
It will be sad to see them go.