Gurkha Orderlies Reunion at Clarence House

By Sgt Bijay Limbu GSPS

“The Prince of Wales supports Her Majesty The Queen in her role as the focal point for national pride, unity and allegiance, bringing people together across all sections of society, representing stability and continuity, highlighting achievement, and emphasising the importance of service and the voluntary sector by encouragement and example.”
– Clarence House

As I take a sip of my brew and gaze out the window towards the Caledonian hills, far across the horizon from Glasgow city centre, perhaps waiting for some inspiration before picking up my pen to write this article, my eye unwittingly catches the beautiful panoramic formation of the clouds forming above the Caledonians.

At this moment, I am vividly reminded of the days I spent at Birkhall, the official Scottish residence of The Prince of Wales. I would travel to Scotland frequently from my base at Clarence House in London, as part of HRH’s staff to assist with the running of the Estate and other day to day activities. These cloud formations I see before me today are very similar to the ones I witnessed many times above Beinn Chiochan at Birkhall, also known as Lochnagar. My mind wonders further, and I remember the treacherous walks up Lochnagar with ferocious winds hindering progress and the angry rain with mist trying to blind my view of the tracks.

I am suddenly brought back to the present day by a rush of cold wind through the window. Now, realising my empty mug, I stroll along the corridor of the APC towards the tea bay for a refill. Previously, I would walk along the corridors of the Clarence House to recharge my cup of tea. The ancient sculptures, tapestry, furniture, porcelain and historical artefacts filling the corridors would give a feeling of travelling in a time capsule through history.

It is late Friday evening, after the hustle and bustle of the day’s business; the corridors of the APC are quiet. At Clarence House Friday evening would be the busiest of the week. We would pack hurriedly and rush to Highgrove in Gloucestershire.

‘Time and Tide wait for no man’ and neither did mine. Two years passed as quick as a breath. Indeed, I had been extremely lucky and privileged to be seconded as the Gurkha Orderly to Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Before my secondment, I recall HRH visiting the Brigade of Gurkhas on numerous occasions and during my secondment further visits were undertaken to 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles in January 2009 when they were stationed at Sir John Moore Barracks, Folkestone. In July 2009, HRH bid farewell to the outgoing Colonel of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, Lt General PTC Pearson CBE and welcomed Brigadier JC Lawrence MBE as his successor at Clarence House. In February 2010, HRH visited 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles on Salisbury Plain before their deployment to Afghanistan and on return presented the Battalion with the medals in January 2011 at Sir John Moore Barracks, Folkestone.

To sum up HRH’s role, I evoke leafing through a book lying astray in the butler’s pantry of Clarence House, ‘The English Constitution’, published in 1867, written by a Victorian economist and writer, Walter Bagehot (1826-77). The particular line regarding the constitutional monarchy “the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn” is a fitting ethos of the work of HRH, the heir apparent to our reigning Sovereign today.

 HRH The Prince of Wales likes to maintain very close links with his former Gurkha Orderlies. On Wednesday 20 February 2013, HRH The Prince of Wales invited all his former Gurkha Orderlies and Colonel James Robinson (Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas) for luncheon at Clarence House.

My previous experiences of the London traffic are not yet a distant memory. Better to be safe than sorry, I took a bus an hour early. The gamble paid off, I arrived at the Cleveland Row Entrance opposite Clarence House on time. Mohandas Gandhi once said ‘There is more to life than increasing its speed’, but I wonder what Gandhi would think today, if he was stuck on a stalled bus in Central London trying to get somewhere important!

By 1230 hrs, all the invitees had gathered at the Cleveland Row Entrance. As customary, The Equerry to TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall Maj Pete Flynn PARA accompanied us to the Morning Room of Clarence House. All of HRH Staff were gathered there to greet us and I wouldn’t be wrong to admit that Clarence House came to a stand still for once. Being in the Morning Room as a guest this time and being looked after felt surreal and instantly brought floods of memories of days when I stood in this very room looking after HRH guests.

HRH Prince of Wales joined us at 1300 hrs. On arrival, HRH welcomed Colonel James Robinson, the newly appointed Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas, after which, Colonel Robinson briefed HRH with the BG updates and commitments. HRH then took turns to meet us.AP3T0115

Meeting with HRH brought vivid memories of my days of Royal duties and how much I missed it. HRH was keen to know about our days after Royal duties, families and current work. Truly a gentleman at heart, world’s leading charity entrepreneur and tailor made for his role; to me he is a finished article of a modern Royal. After a group photograph in the Library Room commemorating the first Gurkha Orderlies reunion, the event concluded at 1400 hrs.

On behalf of all the former Orderlies, I wish to express our sincere gratitude to Their Royal Highness’ for a wonderful and memorable visit. The food was exquisite and enjoyed by us all but of course it’s the sentiment behind the gathering that meant so much to us. We greatly look forward to meeting again in the near future.