When my mother was liberated from concentation camp in Indonesia at the end of WWII, she found herself facing another threat: the native Indonesians were rising up against the colonial Dutch. For them, killing the sick, starved Dutch ex-POWs, all still clustered in the camps pending repatriation, was like shooting fish in a barrel. Relief came in the form of the Gurkhas. My mom still remembers these fearless fighters hiding in bug/reptile infested ditches outside the camps, armed (literally) to the teeth with knives and other weapons. Within days, the Indonesian attacks against those pathetic ex-prisoners stopped.
Don’t expect the Gurkhas to be able to help out much longer, though. PC has struck the Gurkhas and the British government, as a preemptive strike, has demanded that Gurkha women be allowed to join the regiments, despite the fact that they cannot meet the standards:
Junior defence minister Derek Twigg revealed last year that the Army would recruit female Gurkhas from 2009, but gave no details.
Half the Army’s 3,400 Gurkhas are infantry soldiers in the Royal Gurkha Rifles, and half serve in specialist Gurkha ‘corps’ units providing engineering, logistics, signals and medical support.
Unlike the rest of the Army, every Gurkha undergoes full infantry combat training.
As a result, if infantry are in short supply in the field, a Gurkha engineering or signals unit can pick up their rifles and join in an attack.
The flexibility it offers is hugely prized by the Army, already facing a serious shortage of infantry.
The problem is it is illegal to recruit and train men and women differently to do the same job.
Putting female Gurkhas through gruelling infantry training will leave them more at risk of injury and failure, it is feared, and liable to sue the Army for sex discrimination. [How are they being discriminated against if they’re being trained in the same way as men? Rhetorical question. Don’t bother to answer that in the Bizarro-land of sexual politics the only way to avoid discrimination is to treat women as — and the Victorians would love this — the weaker sex.]
In a trial in Nepal last year no women passed the current tests.
On a slightly related topic, I have a question for you. As I’ve always understood it, military guys wear buzz cuts because (a) it helps hygiene, especially in combat or near-combat situations and (b) it means that you don’t have a handle that a bad guy can grab. If short hair serves a practical purpose, why aren’t military women required to shave their heads too? I think they should be.