Many of the Gurkhas who were told they were being forced out of the Army yesterday will be paid less than their British counterparts, The Independent has learnt.
Morale amongst the Brigade of Gurkhas, one insider revealed, was at rock bottom with soldiers from the famous regiments feeling betrayed by the fact that they were bearing the brunt of compulsory redundancies.
Yesterday 920 soldiers across the Army were told that they would be made redundant in the first tranche of plans to cut a fifth of the service. While many were volunteers, 260 face compulsory redundancy, of which 140 will be Gurkhas despite the fact they represent just over 3 per cent of the force.
"I joined as a boy. I have given my whole life to the Army. I feel helpless," said one Gurkha officer facing compulsory redundancy. "I said to my commanding officer: 'What would you do if you were in my shoes?' He did not have an answer. There is no morale in the brigade, it is very, very bad."
The Nepalese soldiers, who have a 200-year association with Britain, have long been recognised for their loyalty and gallantry. "If a man says he's not afraid to die, he's either lying or he's a Gurkha," said the late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.
The brigade has continued to serve and suffer losses in Iraq and now Afghanistan, with the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Gurkha Rifles, in Helmand.
Under the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), the RAF, Army and Royal Navy have been told they must cut 17,000 staff by 2015 and 11,000 will be redundancies. Defence Secretary Liam Fox blamed the cuts on the Labour government "which left a £38 billion black hole in the defence budget".
The head of Army manning, Brigadier Richard Nugee, said in April that the cuts to the 3,500-strong Brigade of Gurkhas were necessary following recent changes to their terms of service, which granted them equal pay and pensions as well as the right to extend their service from 15 to 22 years. Because nearly all Gurkhas have chosen to serve the longer period, the brigade has been overmanned for years.
Yesterday the Ministry of Defence said that it expected some of those facing compulsory redundancy to take up the opportunity to transfer to another regiment.
The Gurkha officer, who wished to remain anonymous, said he would receive thousands of pounds less a year than his equivalent in other regiments. The redundancy pay calculator for the British Army stated that Gurkhas should use another system. For his service pre-1997, the officer will receive less than a third, making his severance pay considerably lower.
Gurkhas who did not transfer into the new pension system or turned down opportunities to transfer to other units believing they would serve out their time with their regiment, will be hit hard.
Former Major Tikendra Dal Dewan, chairman of the British Gurkha Welfare Society, said the brigade was likely to lose a total of 700 soldiers.
Up to 930 RAF personnel were also told they were being made redundant yesterday, of which 490 were compulsory.