Saturday, April 25, 2020

[Singapore Police] The Gurkhas of Mount Vernon

"Kaphar Hunnu Bhanda Marnu Ramro" (It's better to die than to be a coward)

One of the first photos of the Gurkha contingent taken in 1950. (3) Source:
Brave! Super Fit! Humble and Shy! Ask any Singaporeas about this unseen community and these are some adjectives that will come to mind.

The Gurkha contingent was brought into the Singapore Police Force in 1949. (2)

It was said that the first batch 147 recruits (who were ex-army personnel) did tremendously well that the Gurkha numbers was brought up to 330 members by 1954. (7) It then grew to 400 members in 1979. (9), 650 members in 1985 (5) and then 760 members in 1989. (4) By 2008, there were about 2,000 members. (1)

Interestingly, the Gurkha Contingent in Singapore had been managed by the British.

The Straits Times (1953) first reported about the tender to be called for the building of the Gurkha cantonment at Mount Vernon. The cost was estimated to be around S$3million. (10)

Prior to 1955, the Gurkhas were based at Cantonment Road. (11)

In the 1960s, the Gurkhas were deployed to fight in the gang lands of Geylang. (5)  

The closest public school to the Gurkha cantonment is Bartley Secondary School. In 1985, it was reported that more than 30% of the school-going students in their school were Nepalese. (5)

In 1979, Mr Douglas Moore, from the British 7th Duke Edinburgh Gurkha Rifles, took over the command of the Gurkha contingent from Mr J. O. Donnell. The latter had served in the contingent for 15 years. (12)

In 1981, the Prison Gurkha Unit formed two years back was subsumed under the Gurkha Contingent that was led by Superintendent P. Niven, a secondment from the 10th Gurkha Rifles based in Hong Kong. (8)

Issues Faced in Singapore and Nepal
There were issues faced on the ground - Disputes over pay (1)

The story did not end there. The alleged leader of  the dispute, Sanman Limbu, was disgracefully dismissed and sent back to Nepal together with 16 other Gurkhas. To take it out on his previous colleague, he masterminded a kidnap of a then-retired colleague, Mr Bahadur Garung. The Nepal Police managed to free Mr Garung, whilst at the same time, apprehend the kidnappers. (13)


In the early days, the Gurkha contingent practiced their ritual called "Phul Pati" or head-cutting ceremony - "At the Phul Pati rite, a goat, a buffalo, and two ducks" were sacrificed. Four pigeons were also released. (9)


1. Leong, W. K. 2008, June 21. 'Scuffles' in Gurkha camp over pay issues. Today. P13.
2. New Nation. 1973, July 27. Uphold traditions, Gurkhas told. P7.
3. National Archive of Singapore. Retrieved on 2020, April 25.
4. Ong, C. C. 1989, March 18. Panel suggests redeploying HK Gurkhas to Singapore. P40.
5. Sam, J. 1960, February 21. 'Red van' toughs bring war to gang hideouts. P7.
6. Singapore Monitor. 1985, April 19. Bartley School's Gurkha. P4.
7. Sidhu, K. S. 1973, February 18. Singapore's Gurkhas still do a great job. The Straits Times. P8. 
Sidhu, K. S. 1981, March 30. Prison Gurkha unit to join police force. The Straits Times. P8.
8. The Singapore Free Press. 1961, October 20. Gurkha sacrifice at Mount Vernon: A goat, buffalo and two ducks. P7.
9. The Straits Times. 1953, November 21. Children take over when aircraft leave. P2.
10. The Straits Times. 1955, February 3. Police boss sees the riot squad. P4.
11. The Straits Times. 1979, April 5. New chief for the Singapore Gurkha unit. P11.
12. Today. 2009, April 7. Kidnappers' motive was revenge: Police. P4.

Other Resources

The Invisible Force. Retrieved on 2020, May 4.

Further research area:-

There was another group of Gurkha - the 2nd King Edward XII's own Gurkha Regiment from 1949 to 1971. They were based at Slims Barrack.

Gurkhas were involved in Singapore 's National Day in 1966 -1969. They also changed their uniform from kakis in 1968 to their blue uniforms from 1969.

The Gurkha Pipe and Drums were also involved in National Day from the 1960s to 1990s.

It was said that Gurkhas were hired to become Prison guards due to poor response from Singaporeans. The prisons that they took care of included Queenstown Prison.

The Gurkha Prison unit was formed in 1968