1952: Gurkha Radio On Air in Singapore

Archive photograph on a radio presenter sat at a desk.

Former soldier and BFBS employee, Kishore Gurung, ran the Gurkhas’ Forces Radio in Singapore until 1970.


Gurkha soldiers are among the finest and most feared fighters in the world and, with that in mind, BFBS offers them a radio station befitting their more than two hundred years of fierce loyalty to the British Army.  

BFBS Gurkha Radio broadcasts 24 hours a day in the Nepali language, and is seen as an essential pillar of welfare support by the British Army.  

Set up in Singapore in 1952 to broadcast to the servicemen based in Malaya, the Gurkha Service was a Forces Broadcasting Unit that was part of FARELF (Far East Land Forces) Command. 

Broadcast in five different languages, including two for the regiments of the King’s African Rifles, in both Swahili and Chinyanja and in Fijian for the 1st Fijian Infantry Regiment, the Gurkha Service used Nepalese soldiers as announcers.  

The station was established within Dharan camp, one of the major recruitment grounds for the Brigade of Gurkhas. When the radio service needed a new Programme Organiser, the late legendary broadcaster Lieutenant Kishore Kumar Gurung was selected.  

Fondly remembered as 'Bada', Lieutenant Gurung's forces broadcasting career spanned 41 years, starting when he was a sergeant in 1967.  

By 1970, the base in Singapore was winding down and the bulk of the Gurkha Regiments moved to Sek Kong in the New Territories in Hong Kong. Of course, this meant the Gurkha broadcasting side of BFBS Singapore would move with it.  

The new Gurkha HQ was to be located in Sek Kong but no-one had created a plan for the new service. When Station Controller John Campbell arrived, he discovered he had no vehicle, no office, no vacant building for a temporary studio and no staff. And these weren't the only problems.  

When Campbell asked for carpets for the studios, he was informed Gurkhas were not entitled to carpets. It had not occurred to anyone that Gurkha footsteps are just as noisy as British.  

Susan Bala Rai BFBS Gurkha Radio Presenter with vintage BFBS branding in the studio

Susan Bala Rai BFBS Gurkha Radio Presenter in the studio.

When the Gurkhas moved to Brunei in 1978, the need for a broadcasting service led to BFBS Brunei being established on 8 March 1979.  

However, one of the problems affecting the new service was the shortage of Nepali music and, as a result, the BFBS Hong Kong Gurkha staff made their own recordings of local Gurkha groups. This was later supported by programmes from the Nepalese government.  

When BFBS Hong Kong closed in 1997, plans were already under way to use Shorncliffe in the UK as the new headquarters of the BFBS Gurkha service, and so a radio station was opened there in 2000. 

At the same time, Lieutenant Gurung was in charge of a studio in Kathmandu and was supplying programmes to the team in Shorncliffe.  

Speaking with Nepali Times in July 2017, former BFBS Gurkha Radio News Editor Suman Kharel spoke of how fond Gurkhas are of their radio service, saying:

The first Nepali language TV channel was added to the BFBS TV core channel line-up in 2010. Distributing it via satellite meant Gurkhas in operational areas such as Afghanistan had access to TV in their native tongue.   

In a further phase of innovation and  to ensure a full, balanced service, BFBS Gurkha Radio opened its own newsroom in Kathmandu in 2011, broadcasting hourly live bulletins in the Nepali language. 

Before this, the station had been taking bulletins from the main BFBS English language newsroom in the UK.  

Seventy-one years after it first started broadcasting, BFBS Gurkha Radio connects Nepali soldiers in the British Army with families back home and is one of the most listened to of the stations in the BFBS network.