The Culture of the Gurkhas
Kaida is a word which in the British Army is unique to the Brigade of Gurkhas. In its simplest translation, it means a combination of custom and tradition. Within the Brigade it has a wider translation and that is a method of operating based on our traditions and our unique culture. Kaida is based on tangible traditions and customs which have evolved and survived over time.
The purpose of Kaida is to encourage professional excellence at all times, the maintenance of high standards and military innovation. It forms the basis of our strong leadership ethos. It is also about the maintenance of our unique Gurkha tradition through our strong cultural identity. It is, in short, our vehicle for achieving success. The importance of Kaida can best be summarised by the acronym GURKHAS – Gurkha Units Reinforce Kaida to Help Achieve Success.
The Regimental System
The Regimental System has evolved over time as a highly effective mechanism for engendering fighting spirit. The successful inculcation of this fighting spirit is the difference between winning and losing wars. The basis of the Regimental system is based on 3 components: unit cohesion, authority and responsibility.
The cohesion of the Regiment is based on several factors which are all interrelated. The first of these is identity. Identity is created either through common knowledge of a geographical area, role specialisation or a sense of sharing a unique history. It is more often a combination of all three. This influence may start subliminally through family association with the Regiment, through seeing soldiers of the Regiment locally, or through the Media. Once in the Regiment this sense of identity is confirmed by training and sharing experiences together as a team. This sense of identity creates, in turn, a sense of family, or belonging which provides a form of security, and a sense of purpose. Security is therefore the second factor. The Regimental family bonds through trust at all levels, mutual respect, teamwork and peer group competition. The family cares for the individual while building the team to achieve the mission1.
Each Regiment is unique, producing an ethos, or spirit of community, sense of values, and method of operating, particular to that organisation. In the case of the Brigade of Gurkhas our unique bond is formed through our Nepali heritage and Kaida coupled with our Rifle Regiment tradition.
The Gurkha Ethos
We are all infantry first, and our infantry heritage is a light infantry tradition as riflemen. Whilst our sappers, signallers, logisticians, bandsmen and GSPS soldiers all have their own proud traditions, they are all inculcated with the rifle regiment spirit during recruiting and training – the start of their apprenticeship to become a Gurkha. As riflemen, we must be well trained, quick thinking, innovative and highly professional soldiers with an exceptionally high standard of leadership and personal skills. The best definition of the Rifle Regiment spirit was produced by Field Marshal Lord Bramall in 1966: ‘. . . pride in fighting qualities and professional skill, intelligent and humane discipline, sympathy and understanding between all ranks and concern for the individual, for his welfare and for that of his dependants . . . This is exactly the spirit that we strive to embrace. In our minds the words Gurkha and Rifles remain forever cemented together less we forget our unique identity. However, we do not forget the importance of our 6 different Gurkha capbadges. Each one offers a particular strength which makes us greater as a whole, and we must all be experts in our own Regiments and Corps to deliver our Brigade capability.
In the old Gurkha Brigade of the British Indian Army, the officers and soldiers of the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (5 RGR) won 7 VCs, more than any other Gurkha Regiment before or since. They had a motto that best encapsulates our ethos, our mix of Kaida and Rifle Regiment spirit: ‘Hami Jasto Kohi Chhaina’ (There is nobody quite like us). We are unique. We have an outstanding operational record forged through our identity as Gurkhas. It is the qualities of the Gurkha soldier that makes the regiment, but it is the standards and Kaida of the Regiment that make the Gurkha soldier. In battle we have another motto: Kathar hunu banda marnu ramro – it is better to die than be a coward. We will always strive to live up to these high standards.