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Gareth Davies

Hackney Gurkhas

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Gareth Davies

Why are the 10th Londons known as the Hackney Gurkhas?  Is it:

 

a.  Because they came from the East (End)?

b.  Because they all carried a blade?

c.  Because they took no prisoners?

d.  Because they were small?

 

Or maybe something else?

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Gareth Davies

I guess this means that no one knows. 

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IPT

1938 Sketch article

hackney.jpg

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Gareth Davies

Thanks IPT. Chris Baker shared that with me earlier but I don't like obscurity,  I think we* can do better.

 

 

* we = you lot

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QGE

Gallipoli. Self styled Walter Mitty battalion. The idea that they did anything comparable to the Gurkhas at Gallipoli stretches the bounds of credulity somewhat. Trust me on this. MG. 

 

edit. Hackney was not and is not in the East End of London.

Edited by QGE

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Moonraker

No doubt you've seen

 

this definition

 

Two random ideas:

 

1. They looked mean and tough, not the sort you'd want to fall out with. (I've a couple of pre-WWI cards - with no reference to the Gurkhas - that confirm this.)

 

2. It was a term they themselves adopted out of affectation - perhaps to differentiate themselves from units who proclaimed themselves to be "swells" and "knuts".

 

Moonraker

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IPT

From "Bugle and Kukri" 1957 ;

 

"He was succeeded as Subadar-Major by Honorary Lieutenant Bhawansing Rai, O.B.I., I.O.M. It was while the 1st Battalion was in Loralai that the unofficial affiliation with the "Hackney Gurkhas" was born. 

When the designations of the battalions of the old London regiment were altered, Colonel Mullaly was struck by the coincidence that the old number of what was now the 5th Battalion The Royal Berkshire Regiment had been "10th" and that it's nickname was the "Hackey Gurkhas" and he wrote to the regiment pointing out the coincidence and asking about the origin of the nickname.

"The result was a charming letter from the Commanding Officer of the 5th Berkshires and the beginning of a friendly association. The " Hackney Gurkhas " had been so nicknamed during the First World War by reason of their short stature and their pugnacity."

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QGE

Gallipoli. Trust me. 

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Knotty

I have a theory that it was simply down to the colour of their uniform, Rifle Green, as worn by the Paddington Rifles, who in 1880 became the 5th (later 4th) Volunteer Bn of the Rifle Brigade. In 1888 the Paddington Rifles formed part of the North London Brigade. When the Volunteers were subsumed into the Territorial Force (TF) under the Haldane Reforms in 1908, the Paddington Rifles becoming 10th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Paddington) in the 3rd London Brigade in 1st London Division. Due to poor recruitment as a result, the Paddington Rifles were disbanded on 31 May 1912 and replaced by a new 10th Battalion, London Regiment (Hackney Rifles), still using the original Rifle Green uniform with black facings, similar to the Gurkhas dark green dress uniform, hence the Hackney Gurkhas.

As I say just a theory.

 

John

 

 

 

 

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IPT

Chris Tarrant's father was a WW2 officer in the 5th Berkshire Regiment, who were recruited from the East End and apparently known as the Hackney Gurkhas, Berkshire Regiment-  https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=-TqdAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA60&dq="hackney+gurkhas"&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiH1IqOt7nVAhWCJsAKHQpMAlAQ6AEIODAD#v=onepage&q="hackney gurkhas"&f=false

 

 

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QGE
57 minutes ago, IPT said:

Chris Tarrant's father was a WW2 officer in the 5th Berkshire Regiment, who were recruited from the East End and apparently known as the Hackney Gurkhas, Berkshire Regiment-  https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=-TqdAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA60&dq="hackney+gurkhas"&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiH1IqOt7nVAhWCJsAKHQpMAlAQ6AEIODAD#v=onepage&q="hackney gurkhas"&f=false

 

 

 

I fail to see the connection withhe 1/5th Berks in WWII and the 1/10th Londons Regt in the Great War. At risk of stating the obvious the latter preceded Tarrant Mitty by at least 25 years. Why iate the Berks in WWII relevant?

 

I worked in the City of London for most of my working career. In the City (The Square Mile) and Canary Wharf in the epicentre of the East End. I also served in the Gurkhas. I also have degree in Architecture and have a fairly forensic knowledge of the districts of London and the historical boundaries of parishes, particularly that of the East End, having written my dissertation on the architecture of London Dockyards. Pevsner is my bible. I have also transcribed every Gallipoli battalion diary (BEF and Indian Army). I would like to think I am approaching this debate with happy coincidence of interests that forms  an 'informed' view. Happy to be proven wrong....

 

Hackney is not in the East End of London. It is nowhere near the East End.

 

there is no connection between the East End and the units in the Great War claiming the moniker of "Gurkhas". 

 

The poor performance of the 10th Londons and the 54th East Anglian Division (TF) and the TF in general is well recorded in the Gallipoli diaries. regular Staff Officers, in particular Duncan, whose account runs to a few thousand words in direct criticism of the TF and incidentally the New Army battalions. Particularly the disastrous advances in Aug 1915. These failures and letter criticisms were an embarrassment to the TF and by way of self preservation they started to write a new version of events. The evidence is in the huge gaps between their war diaries (which I have transcibed) and their published histories (ditto via OCR) . This is the crux of much of Great War history; the gap between what was written at the time and what was written years later by historians who subordinated the truth to the primary objective of preserving regimental, battalion and personal reputations. The Hackney Gurkhas is a prime example of this by self-ascribing a moniker that raises outsiders' perception of heroism and bravery that was part of an earlier Victorian construct based on racial prejudices and biases.  Contrast this with one of the Australian Battalions at Gallipoli known by others (British) units as the "White Gurkhas". In this case the aggrandised title was not self-selected but ascribed by their peers. A very different construct. 

 

In in my view, the self selection of "Hackney Gurkhas" was a deluded view of their own poor performance at Gallipoli using the Gurkha Rifles and the "White Gurkhas" as conscious reference points. 

 

The offensive actions at Gallipoli for the TF barely lasted a few weeks and see without doubt an unmitigated disaster..at every level. Their limited. fatal casualty rolls compared to other units will tell you every thing you need to know about how 'offensive' they were. The casualty roll for the Battalion and the whole division pales into insignificance next to the New Army Battalions and the Regulars in particular. I am pretty sure  a number of Regular Battalions lost more men killed that the whole of the 54th Div. I will revert with the hard data if necessary. 

 

Hackney Gurkhas is a flight of fancy in my view. 

 

MG

Edited by QGE

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IPT

So is Berkshire in the East End?

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QGE

All yours. I have now lost interest. I thought this was a serious discussion. MG

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IPT

I've found a reference to a soldier "of London Regiment known affectionately as the "Cockney Gurkhas" being in Palestine in the floods of 1917. 

 

Another anecdote refers to the author's father as having been "attached to a territorial battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, a collection of cockney reprobates whose fearsome reputation for fighting with one another and with the men of other units had earned them the informal title of the Hackney Gurkhas."

 

One merely finds these snippets, and passes them to the more learned for analysis.

 

2 minutes ago, johnboy said:

so where is it

 

Berkshire?

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IPT

"In the Army, manners had not mattered; one of my very best friends, in fact, had been in the Hackney Ghurkas, the Tenth Londons, and so called from their ferocity at once in battle and at the table" - 1930

 

There's also a tale from Amiens in April 1918, where a solemn procession of two "Cockney Gurkhas" came  through the town, leading a mule wearing a hat, one dressed in the finery of the local "maire", and one as a peasant woman.

 

 

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IPT
36 minutes ago, QGE said:

 

I fail to see the connection withhe 1/5th Berks in WWII and the 1/10th Londons Regt in the Great War. At risk of stating the obvious the latter preceded Tarrant Mitty by at least 25 years. Why iate the Berks in WWII relevant?

 

Well I thought because, in the 1937 reorganisation of the Territorial Army, the 10th London became the 5th (Hackney) Battalion, The Royal Berkshire Regiment?

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T8HANTS

The 10th Londons were not the only unit to have the term 'Gurkha' applied to the them.

Princess Beatrice's Isle of Wight Rifles were also referred to as Isle of Wight Gurkhas.

I have not studied the etymology of its use, but I believe its post WW1 and by coincidence the Rifles also fought at Gallipoli.

However I had always assumed (risky thing to do) that the title was applied because of the similarity of the full dress Rifle uniforms. 

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Robert Dunlop
9 hours ago, IPT said:

Berkshire?

 

Fraffly sorreh dibboh. 'Ackney is in Norf London... (well Inner London but hey).

 

Robert

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Knotty

T8hants

Thats the same theory I came up with in post#9, so I wasn't talking cr*p:thumbsup:

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Gareth Davies
10 hours ago, QGE said:

 

I fail to see the connection withhe 1/5th Berks in WWII and the 1/10th Londons Regt in the Great War. At risk of stating the obvious the latter preceded Tarrant Mitty by at least 25 years. Why iate the Berks in WWII relevant?

 

I worked in the City of London for most of my working career. In the City (The Square Mile) and Canary Wharf in the epicentre of the East End. I also served in the Gurkhas. I also have degree in Architecture and have a fairly forensic knowledge of the districts of London and the historical boundaries of parishes, particularly that of the East End, having written my dissertation on the architecture of London Dockyards. Pevsner is my bible. I have also transcribed every Gallipoli battalion diary (BEF and Indian Army). I would like to think I am approaching this debate with happy coincidence of interests that forms  an 'informed' view. Happy to be proven wrong....

 

Hackney is not in the East End of London. It is nowhere near the East End.

 

there is no connection between the East End and the units in the Great War claiming the moniker of "Gurkhas". 

 

The poor performance of the 10th Londons and the 54th East Anglian Division (TF) and the TF in general is well recorded in the Gallipoli diaries. regular Staff Officers, in particular Duncan, whose account runs to a few thousand words in direct criticism of the TF and incidentally the New Army battalions. Particularly the disastrous advances in Aug 1915. These failures and letter criticisms were an embarrassment to the TF and by way of self preservation they started to write a new version of events. The evidence is in the huge gaps between their war diaries (which I have transcibed) and their published histories (ditto via OCR) . This is the crux of much of Great War history; the gap between what was written at the time and what was written years later by historians who subordinated the truth to the primary objective of preserving regimental, battalion and personal reputations. The Hackney Gurkhas is a prime example of this by self-ascribing a moniker that raises outsiders' perception of heroism and bravery that was part of an earlier Victorian construct based on racial prejudices and biases.  Contrast this with one of the Australian Battalions at Gallipoli known by others (British) units as the "White Gurkhas". In this case the aggrandised title was not self-selected but ascribed by their peers. A very different construct. 

 

In in my view, the self selection of "Hackney Gurkhas" was a deluded view of their own poor performance at Gallipoli using the Gurkha Rifles and the "White Gurkhas" as conscious reference points. 

 

The offensive actions at Gallipoli for the TF barely lasted a few weeks and see without doubt an unmitigated disaster..at every level. Their limited. fatal casualty rolls compared to other units will tell you every thing you need to know about how 'offensive' they were. The casualty roll for the Battalion and the whole division pales into insignificance next to the New Army Battalions and the Regulars in particular. I am pretty sure  a number of Regular Battalions lost more men killed that the whole of the 54th Div. I will revert with the hard data if necessary. 

 

Hackney Gurkhas is a flight of fancy in my view. 

 

MG

 

Thank you Martin.  My suggestion that Hackney was in the East (End) was made on the basis of its geographic position in relation to Charing Cross (when I worked in the MOD that was the Army's centre point for London when working out allowances and the like). 

 

I don't buy the suggestion that it is based on the similarity of the uniforms.  

 

I hadn't considered that it was a self-appointed nickname but the absence of any substantial evidence of external influence does support this idea.  Who was CO and who were the Coy Comds in 1915?  Can we learn anything more about them?

12 hours ago, Moonraker said:

No doubt you've seen

 

this definition

 

Two random ideas:

 

1. They looked mean and tough, not the sort you'd want to fall out with. (I've a couple of pre-WWI cards - with no reference to the Gurkhas - that confirm this.)

 

2. It was a term they themselves adopted out of affectation - perhaps to differentiate themselves from units who proclaimed themselves to be "swells" and "knuts".

 

Moonraker

 

Point 2 is what @QGE is saying, thank you. 

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Gareth Davies
11 hours ago, Knotty said:

I have a theory that it was simply down to the colour of their uniform, Rifle Green, as worn by the Paddington Rifles, who in 1880 became the 5th (later 4th) Volunteer Bn of the Rifle Brigade. In 1888 the Paddington Rifles formed part of the North London Brigade. When the Volunteers were subsumed into the Territorial Force (TF) under the Haldane Reforms in 1908, the Paddington Rifles becoming 10th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Paddington) in the 3rd London Brigade in 1st London Division. Due to poor recruitment as a result, the Paddington Rifles were disbanded on 31 May 1912 and replaced by a new 10th Battalion, London Regiment (Hackney Rifles), still using the original Rifle Green uniform with black facings, similar to the Gurkhas dark green dress uniform, hence the Hackney Gurkhas.

As I say just a theory.

 

John

 

 

 

 

 

1 hour ago, T8HANTS said:

The 10th Londons were not the only unit to have the term 'Gurkha' applied to the them.

Princess Beatrice's Isle of Wight Rifles were also referred to as Isle of Wight Gurkhas.

I have not studied the etymology of its use, but I believe its post WW1 and by coincidence the Rifles also fought at Gallipoli.

However I had always assumed (risky thing to do) that the title was applied because of the similarity of the full dress Rifle uniforms. 

 

If this is the reason why aren't more Rifle Regts & Bns given the same nickname?  Who would have given it to them?  How would that person giving them thenickname have known about Gurkha uniforms?  

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Gareth Davies
10 hours ago, IPT said:

I've found a reference to a soldier "of London Regiment known affectionately as the "Cockney Gurkhas" being in Palestine in the floods of 1917. 

 

Another anecdote refers to the author's father as having been "attached to a territorial battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, a collection of cockney reprobates whose fearsome reputation for fighting with one another and with the men of other units had earned them the informal title of the Hackney Gurkhas."

 

One merely finds these snippets, and passes them to the more learned for analysis.

 

 

 

 

Thank you.

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T8HANTS
30 minutes ago, Gareth Davies said:

 

 

If this is the reason why aren't more Rifle Regts & Bns given the same nickname?  Who would have given it to them?  How would that person giving them thenickname have known about Gurkha uniforms?  

I have only studied one Battalion, so I have no knowledge if other ex Rifle Volunteer rifle green units had the epithet applied to them, but we are back in the days of Empire and there would have been many ex soldiers, colonial officials, or even missionaries in any given location who could have started the ball rolling.

 

I can easily imagine two old India hands watching the Rifles march by and one turning to his mate with a knowing look and saying "There go the Isle of Wight Gurkhas'. His mate still feeling the scar from when he was nicked by a tribesman's bullet would know exactly what he meant!

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QGE

Col D - I think there is little doubt that Hackney Gurkhas was a WWI construct.  

 

If memory serves it is mentioned in correspondence between Aspinall Oglander and an Officer in the 1/10th Londons. The relevant files are CAB 45 at The National Archives. I did not make notes at the time as it was a piece of trivia and having served in the Gurkhas it stuck in the mind.... but my notes from trawling these files show Lord Dunalley DSO (Capt Hon H C O'C Prettie in WWI) and Capt F A S Clarke and Brig Hammond (although I think the latter was 1/11th London Regt (Finsbury Rifles). I was focused on the failed attack on 15th Aug 1915 on Kidney Hill where 1/10th lost heavily (44 killed, or two thirds of all its Gallipoli casualties) and nicknames for battalions were then not of interest. De Winton commanded the Brigade (162nd Inf Bde) and his papers  (if you can trace them) are probably worth trawling if you are determined to get to the bottom of this. He was wounded in the action and I think it is this particular action that probably started the process of constructing reputations.  The correspondence was from 1931 an related to clearing up minor points of the Gallipoli campaign.

 

There is also a WWI film recording a 1/10th London referring to Hackney Gurkhas in 1916 in the Imperial War Museum collection. 

 

Height. I think this is a myth. According to a study by Imperial College  on heights and nationalities across the world starting in 1914, the average height of British men in 1914 was 5'6". You will know the lower limit for recruiting in 1913-1914 for the TF (I think 5'3" and certianly changed through the war but an expert will appear soon I am sure). A random trawl of Service Records for men who attested in 1914 for the 1/10th London shows the first four were all ex-regulars and their average height was 5' 8"  -  considerably taller that the minimum required. Two were 5' 10", incidentally the average height of an adult British male in 2016..... A small sample and not statistically robust, but if you wanted to eliminate the 'height' theory it would not take long as there are plenty of records. As you know the 1/10th were not a Bantam Batallion (something introduced much later in the war) so the idea that 1/10th were generally shorter men is I think another flight of fancy. ...as is the widespread misconception that urban recruits were physically inferior to rural recruits in stature. J M Winter is worth reading on the matter of demographics and health. Historical recruiting data for 1902 to 1914 shows that most 'rural' County Regiments still had to rely on the Metropolitan Boroughs for significant proportions of their recruits. While late Victorian and Edwardian urban areas produced squalor, they also provided work (Dockyards for example) and the ability to out a regular meal on the table. There are plenty of decent books on this subject. 

 

Hackney and the East End. The "East End" was never officially defined. It is a subjective concept. Anyone can choose where they think it starts and stops. Personally speaking I would not place Hackney as part of the East End. The desire for outlying areas to be classified as East Enders spreads as far as Ilford in Essex. Most East Enders I know and worked with are usually quite defensive about where the East End start and stops. The same applies to self-styled 'Cockneys'

 

Any mistakes are mine. MG

 

Edit. Uniforms. Most Gurka Rifles regiments had black facings. Of the 10 Gurkha Rifle regiments, 8 had black facings and two had scarlet facings - 1st KGO Gurkha Rifles and 2nd KEO Goorkha Rifles. 

 

 

Edited by QGE

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MBrockway
1 hour ago, Knotty said:

T8hants

Thats the same theory I came up with in post#9, so I wasn't talking cr*p:thumbsup:

 

Several of the London Regiment battalions with rifles traditions wore rifle green full dress uniforms - see this topic:

London Regt battalions full dress uniforms - Caton Woodville plates

 

As did numerous other rifles based TF battalions of county regiments - such as the IoW Rifles.

 

As rifle units, the gurkhas also wore rifle green.

 

It is possible that the units in rifle green might have got the 'gurkhas' nickname based on the shared uniform  colour, but there seems to be little correlation between the two given very few units got the nickname.

 

Rifles units were more commonly known as 'the black buttoned b@st@rds! - clearly natural jealousy from the onlookers :P

 

Mark

Edited by MBrockway
Edited as original got bowdlerised - LOL

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