Insufficient information is held to enable a reliable estimate to be made of the number of Gurkhas who retired from the Armed Forces before 1997 and who have now passed away. Many generations of Gurkhas have served with great distinction in the UK Armed Forces, since they were first permitted to volunteer for British military service in the 1815 peace treaty that ended the Anglo-Nepalese war of 1814-15. Between 1948, when the Brigade of Gurkhas was formed as part of the British Army and 1 July 1997, when the brigade became UK-based, it is estimated that some 37,100 Gurkhas served in and were discharged from the brigade. We also estimate that from those years there remain 34,700 Gurkhas and Gurkha widows, who are in receipt of a Gurkha pension.
There are around 5,000 veterans and veterans' widows who do not qualify for a service pension but who receive a welfare pension from the Gurkha Welfare Scheme, which is the field arm of the independent charity, the Gurkha Welfare Trust. The welfare pension is paid from donations made to the Gurkha Welfare Trust which allows them a sustainable lifestyle. The Ministry of Defence grants the Gurkha Welfare Trust more than £1 million per year, which covers most of its administrative costs in Nepal.
There are around 7,000 veterans who did not serve for long enough to qualify for a service pension and who are not yet old enough or needy enough to qualify for a welfare pension. On leaving the Brigade of Gurkhas, they would have received a gratuity but no pension. If these veterans fall on hard times they too become eligible for a welfare pension.
All veterans receive free primary healthcare and those without Gurkha Pension Scheme or AFPS payments receive free secondary healthcare, all through the Gurkha Welfare Scheme.
Provision in the Gurkha Pension Scheme is higher for the vast majority of British Gurkhas than that provided to Indian Gorkhas. The main area for change arising from the Indian 6th Central Pay Commission affects those pensioners aged 80 or over, the most vulnerable group, who are to receive an increase of at least 20 per cent.