I think Gurkhas became prominent only in modern times because their short height makes them smaller targets.
For all their talk, the British treated Gurkhas like a use and throw commodity. They refused to even give them pensions till very recently lol.
Mixed comment, now if you a cynic the fact that Gurkhas were paid and pensioned (so basic comment is a lie) on 'Indian' pay scales (by treaty with India) was very attractive to the 'bean counters; in the MOD , as is the fact they don't come home in a body bag to a grieving British family to distressing TV scenes.
However they were paid a pension (now improved) and ex-Gurkhas ran a very popular campaign ( in the most right wing anti immigrant even xenophobic press) to improve their conditions.
and as a 'historian' or whatever with family/friends in the military I can safely say the Gurkhas are regarde with great affection and esteem in the UK --one friend loved their very spicy curry day in Brecon