Elite Gurkha soldiers visit South Island to train with NZDF

One of the world’s most elite military units has traveled to New Zealand to train with the New Zealand Army on the South Island.

About 200 members of the Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) arrived in Buller and Tekapo in April to conduct exercises with the 2nd/1st Battalion of the New Zealand Army.

The Gurkhas, a British Army regiment made up of Nepalese soldiers, are jungle specialists known for wielding their distinctive kukri short swords.

The cold plains and bushland of the South Island are a change for visiting soldiers, accustomed to the humidity of Asian jungles.

Royal Gurkha Rifles soldiers brandish their Kukris in training.

“Coming to the plains and forests of New Zealand in winter gives us a valuable opportunity to train and develop our skills in a completely different environment and climate,” said RGR Delhi officer Major David Walker.

“Delhi Company is serious about experimentation and learning.

“We want to see how others approach situations, experiment, discuss and learn.

“We also wanted to experience some unique customs and traditions of the New Zealand Defense Force while also sharing some of our own.”

An NZDF spokesperson said the training was a “step forward” for the battalions and saw the groups spend two weeks “working through various maneuvers and scenarios, developing warfighting capabilities focused on operating in the near country”.

The Royal Gurkha Rifles patrol at Reefton.

Troops also carried out patrols around Reefton and conducted maneuvers in nearby woods.

“From conducting attacks on a target to ambushing and patrolling for extended periods in difficult terrain and weather, all of this will be a challenge for the unit,” said New Zealand Army Lieutenant Colonel Sam Smith.

“Training with international partners like the Gurkhas enhances our ability to integrate into multinational forces on the battlefield and shows how we can expand our capabilities.”

The Gurkhas were formed after the British East India Company waged a war with the powerful city-state of Gorkha between 1814 and 1816.

A Royal Gurkha Rifles soldier brandishes his Kukri in training.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Army Museum, British senior commanders were so impressed by their fighting skills that they allowed them to join the company as part of a treaty.

In recent history, Gurkhas have fought in World Wars I and II, the Falklands War and the Gulf War, as well as in Afghanistan and Iraq.