Gurkha Wars

1814 to 1816
Gurkhas of Nepal — versus — British


The Gurkhas were a tribe that resided in the Katmandu valley, now known as Nepal that claimed descent from a Rajput prince. In 1769 they defeated several other local tribes and took over the entire valley. Gradually they expanded their territory into the western lowlands where they came into conflict with the territory controlled by the British. The incursions of the Gurkhas occurred over a long period of time, the Gurkhas were known to be fearsome fighters, and there was considerable hesitation to undertake a war against them. The resolution was finally made however, and the British undertook the difficult task of driving the mountain fighters out of Indian territory.

The first battle which commenced before war was officially declared, was a siege upon a fort at Kalunga. The attack went badly for the first month and the British suffered heavy casualties. Eventually however the fort was taken. The second battle, in which the British troops were led into an ambush was even worse. The British were determined however, and the division under General Ochterlony had considerable success pushing the Gurhkas back into mountain territory. After a decisive defeat at the battle of Mukwanpur, the Gurkhas agreed to sign a treaty ceding the disputed territory, but they retained complete sovereignty over Nepal. The British had been greatly impressed with the Gurkhas fighting abilities and from this time, recruited them very heavily into their imperial army.

DateBattle Summary
Siege of Kalunga   British victory
This place was attacked by the British under General Gillespie, in October, 1814, and was defended by the Gurkhas under Bulbuddur Singh. An unsuccessful assault cost the besiegers 260 officers and men, and after waiting a month for the arrival of heavy guns, a breach was made, and a general assault ordered. This also failed, 680 men being killed and wounded. The fortress was then shelled for three days, at the end of which time the survivors of the garrison, 70 only out of 600, made their escape, and the place was captured.
Battle of Jitgurh   Gurkas victory
Fought January 14, 1815, between 4,500 British troops, under General Wood, and 1,200 Gurkhas, occupying a strong stockade. The British were led unexpectedly into the zone of fire by a treacherous guide, and though Wood fought his way to a position from which he could have carried the stockade, he retired, having suffered considerable loss, just when the Gurkhas were about to abandon their works.
Battle of Almorah   British victory
Fought April 25, 1815, when 2,000 British regulars under Colonel Nicolls and a force of irregular troops under Colonel Gardiner assaulted and captured the heights of the town of Almorah. The result of this victory was the surrender of the province of Kumaon and all its fortresses.
Battle of Mukwanpur (Celtiberian Wars ) British victory
Fought February 27, 1816, when a village, forming part of Sir David Ochterlony's position, was attacked by 2,000 Gurkhas. The village was defended by three companies of Sepoys and 40 men of the 87th Regiment, and the defenders were hard pressed, but the arrival of reinforcements enabled them after severe fighting to beat off the assailants with very heavy loss.

Short Biography
Amar Singh Thapa Nepalese General during the Gurkha war.
Sir David Ochterlony British General who successfully drove the Gurkhas out of the lowlands back into Nepal.

Story Links
Book Links
Ghurkas  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Unsheathed Sword  in  India  by  Victor Surridge