Colonel Paddy Vernon from the Gurkha Welfare Trust spoke to the club about the Trust’s work supporting Gurkha pensioners who have served in the British Army. He was in the Signals Regiment and first served in Nepal in 1962.
The Gurkha Welfare Trust was formed in 1969. Many soldiers who had served in the Second World War had not qualified for an army pension and so were living in poverty in the Nepal hills. The Trust bought farms and taught retired soldiers how to work on their land to provide enough food to support their families.
At the end of the Anglo-Nepal war, Britain was allowed to recruit Gurkhas and between 1815 and 1902, 10 regiments of infantry were formed. In 1999 a single regiment – the Royal Gurkha Regiment was formed and based in Brunei
In the First World War, 200,000 Gurkhas volunteered for service – this was approximately 90% of the eligible men. In the Second World War over 100,000 volunteered. There are currently over 10,000 World War Two pensioners and widows. Younger Gurkhas have service pensions with the same terms and conditions as others in the British Army.
The Welfare Trust continues to provide pensions and to provide relief of hardship & distress. It also works on education and training and medical services. Nepal is a very poor country, with no national health service and no social security system so the work of the Welfare Trust is essential for the pensioners and widows of former Gurkha soldiers.
The Gurkha Welfare Scheme is the field arm of GWT. There are over 20 welfare centres and these are managed by retired Gurkha officers. More retired Gurkhas as choosing to stay in the UK so it is becoming more difficult to support the older population in Nepal.
The annual costs of the Welfare Trust are over £4million.
Applications are increasing for the Gurkha Settlement Project, allowing those who retired between 1948 and 1987 and who have more than 4 years service to settle in the UK. It is expected that more than 10,000 will apply to live in the UK.
At the end of the presentation, Michael presented Paddy Vernon with a cheque from the club for the Trust’s work.
The Gurkha Welfare Trust has a very interesting and informative website
The diary of an Area Welfare Officer is particularly interesting