Gurkha Stories is a heritage project with a simple vision: to create an oral history archive that captures a flavour of the life stories of a community of retired Gurkha veterans who have settled primarily in the town of Colchester, Essex, although some further afield. Many of them live at a retirement home called Abbeygate House, run by the Gurkha Homes Project.

We began collecting our oral histories long before the sad news of the devastating earthquake in Nepal filled our media channels in April 2015. The tragic loss of whole communities in the mountains of Nepal makes these memories all the more dearer.

With stories spanning from the 1930s to 2010, our veterans recall their childhoods in the remote farming villages nestled among mountains of eastern and western Nepal. They reflect on life as Gurkhas of the British Army when they were posted across the globe in peacetime, such as on the Hong Kong border patrol, or while in active combat in campaigns including the Malayan Emergency, the Brunei Rebellion, the Borneo Confrontation, the Falklands and Afghanistan. And they talk about what life dealt them after retiring from service in the British Gurkha army.

An oral history book will be published later this year, giving the Gurkhas a voice to share their inspiring stories, and reflect on their experiences. We hope you enjoy discovering the more personal anecdotes about life as a Gurkha.

Gurkha Stories invited the youth community in Colchester to make a short film with the Gurkhas which can be viewed from our website. And in the summer of 2015 Gurkha Stories is linking up with young students at Hazelmere Junior School in Colchester to use the Gurkha Stories archive in creative workshops to learn about the lives of Gurkhas. There is an educational resource pack for young students available from our website: Secrets of the Gurkha Suitcase.

Our website showcases all the elements of the Gurkha Stories project and we hope you enjoy it. We have learnt so much about what it means to be in the British Brigade of Gurkhas and have the utmost respect for the veterans who shared their memories.

You can sample a ‘taster’ as some of our Gurkhas give voice to their stories in the Veteran Stories of this website, and we hope it inspires you to buy our book with their full histories, from which all profits will be donated to the Gurkha Homes Project, a charity that provides homes for Gurkha veterans in Colchester.

We are extremely grateful to everyone who has contributed to our project, especially our funders, the British Army Community Covenant and our volunteers and supporters. This project has been an incredibly evocative journey for the veterans and those participating have experienced the entire range of emotions while working on it.

The full audio interviews and transcripts are available to the public at the Essex Record Office and Colchester Recalled archive.

Gurkha Stories exhibition at Colchester Castle runs from 13th June to 13th September 2015

Juliana Vandegrift

Umesh Kumar Pun MVO

Gurkha Stories Project Team