The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas played Abide With Me on the BBC’s One Show last night in preparation for their performance at the FA Cup this weekend.
The rendition of the Henry Francis Lyte hymn was performed in front of a small audience outside of Television Headquarters in central London.
The clip can be watched on BBC Iplayer until the end of June (footage starts at 21 min 15 sec)
The FA Cup Final we be played at Wembley on Saturday with footage being shown on the BBC.
A total of 30 families from HQ British Gurkhas Nepal have been repatriated from Nepal to the Services Cotswold Centre in Corsham following the earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April 2015. The families began arriving UK on 18/19 May as a precautionary measure due to major structural damages to the local Married Quarters/Hirings caused by the earthquake. They are expected to return back to Nepal when the housing situation improves. WO2 Surya Gurung GSPS (RAOWO) is on site to assist with routine administration as well as to reinforce the rear-link back to Nepal
In terms of Real Life Support, they have been received and looked after very well by the team at the Services Cotswold Centre. The on-site Primary School is a valuable asset, with the children getting straight back into a routine the day after their arrival in the country. In addition to the AWS Community support, DCOS Brigade of Gurkhas visited the families on 27 May to scope any additional welfare support that HQ Brigade of Gurkha might be able offer to help them settle-in at the Services Cotswold Centre.
On Saturday 23 May, the MCC kindly allowed Gurkhas to conduct fund raising at Lords in support of the Gurkha Welfare Trust Earthquake Appeal.
Five Bhanjas (Sons of Gurkhas) are raising fund to support Earthquake victims in Nepal on Thu 21 May by swimming the distance of Mt Everest in the Brunei Garrison Swimming Pool.
Likewise, A six man team from Queen’s Gurkha Engineers will be climbing the height of Mt Everest on a rope in the Regimental Gymnasium, Maidstone on 28 May. This event will take place over a 24 hour period.
The Governor-General of Australia, General Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC, was invited to inspect the men from A Company 1RGR on Monday 18th May.
He had glowing words of praise for the men stating that they had an “Immaculate turn out, no less than I would expect from such outstanding soldiers.”
He went on to talk about his history with the Gurkhas and commended them on 200 years of Gurkha heritage: “I have had the fortune to command Gurkhas a number of times, always to my considerable advantage. It is a pleasure to welcome you to Australia in this your remarkable 200th year of service. I applaud the work of the Gurkha Welfare Foundation and the considerable efforts of the Gurkha Welfare Trust in Nepal.”
Gurkhas have fought for the British Army for two hundred years. With such a determined and ferocious enemy, it was essential to have them on our side.
Exactly 200 years ago The East India Company and the Kingdom of Nepal were slugging it out in a bloody and bruising war. The British, on the basis of, “If you are not beating them, get some of them to join you”, decided to raise a regiment of Gurkhas. They, equally impressed by the Brits’ martial qualities, signed up and, war over, many more regiments followed. And so it was that our long and deep relationship with these doughty mountain warriors was born.
I first came across the Gurkhas as an officer cadet at Sandhurst. Like so many before and since (there was always a Gurkha “demon-stration” battalion based nearby), we marched off for Fieldcraft, Lesson One. Gazing out over acres of yellowing September heather, the directing staff (DS) asked whether we could see anyone. “No, Sir,” we replied. And, hard as we looked, we could not. A nod from the DS, a command in Gurkhali from a sergeant and an entire section of heavily armed Gurkhas got up from right in front of us. It was deeply impressive and also scary: their skill, our blindness. Like many of my generation, I had heard stories of them sneaking into enemy encampments at dead of night during the Second World War, checking the sleeping men were Japanese by feeling their boots (“they” crossed their laces, “we” tied ours parallel); then slitting their throats before disappearing back into the jungle.
That day at Sandhurst I not only believed those stories but that display of superb fieldcraft instilled in me a deep sense of wanting these men on my side, never as my enemy. Back at Sandhurst 40 years later, I asked Colonel James Robinson, Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas, to distil the essence of a Gurkha soldier and that 200-year relationship. He pointed to a large, bronze plaque leaning against the wall of his office. It commemorates “Three Gallant Soldiers” killed in action at Dargai in 1897, including Captain John Graham Robinson, his great-great-great uncle. There has been a Robinson in the regiment ever since. The colonel still carries his forebear’s sword, a weapon he shows me with pride.
Similarly, some Gurkhas can trace their families serving for five generations. While tradition is one strand of the story, it is more complex than that. Gurkhas desperately want to join the Brigade, not least because it is, for them and their families, like pulling the ace of spades in the playing pack of Nepali life. Acceptance means wealth nearly beyond compare in that poor mountain kingdom. The soldiers understand the opportunity they are given. They are happy to repay that obligation, and with interest. Conversely, their British officers are somewhat “different”. They must be determined to lead Gurkhas. For starters, and until the recent spread of the internet and very much higher standards of education in Nepal, soldiers did not speak English. To lead their men in battle officers had to speak basic – “fighting”, at least – Gurkhali. And that takes commitment. Because, as Robinson explains, language is the route in to understanding their culture. And, for mutual respect, soldiers and officers must first understand each other.
Captain Sam Meadows, Adjutant of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, joins us and explains that the Gurkha is essentially deeply competitive. Furthermore, he learns well and rigorously applies what he is taught. It is this – and exceptional courage and fitness – that is at the heart of what makes Gurkhas such exceptional soldiers. For example Gurkhas, he tells me, are not “natural” shots. But, in 2014, they won The Queen’s Medal for the best individual shot in the Army and won the team events for brigade, division and the Army itself. And these guys are not natural shots? “They listen. They learn. They apply those lessons. Then add their determination to win and that is the result,” Meadows explains. Similarly, with a recent Brigade “patrols” competition: nine teams of Gurkhas entered the competition. They finished one to eight, a “British” team, ninth and the bottom Gurkha team, 10th. “How did they take that?” I asked, mischievously. “To say that 10th team was disappointed is to put it mildly,” was a far as Meadows would go.
The Brigade takes 230 new soldiers a year in one annual selection held in Nepal. Thous-ands of fit and determined Nepalis apply. Only 500 make it to the final selection. One requirement is that a recruit must be able to do 12 pull-ups, a test of upper body and arm strength. When I joined up many managed only five or so and achieved 10 by the end of training. And, if anyone (except Gurkhas or Special Forces, of course) is sneering as they read this, then I suggest they see how many times they can haul their heavy, Western bodies up to that bar. So, 12 heaves sounds good. But, and what few know, is that a standard “Nepali” pull-up is to nipple level. We only just pulled our quivering chins to the bar. Par for day one of selection is about 18. Some pull 44.
After training? Meadows recounts a muscular Fijian taking on his sergeant – in full body armour. The Fijian heaved an impressive 16. The Gurkha added a General Purpose Machine Gun over his armour to keep things interesting and pulled an easy 17. Then did “one more for luck” with the bar behind his head. And endurance? They are mostly mountain men and, from childhood, they run and carry to a level few Europeans can comprehend, let alone emulate.
How can a British officer physically outperform them? The answer is, few do. But the soldiers do not look to him for this. An officer leads by looking after his men, by being skilled at his craft, by respecting them. Then they will follow him anywhere and do anything asked of them – and more.
And that legendary ferocity that has seen them awarded endless gallantry medals in umpteen conflicts? Colonel Robinson explains that you could not hope to meet a more cheerful, hospitable and friendly soldier than a Gurkha. But, when “the red mist comes down” he becomes something altogether different. And nothing is more inexorably linked with that killer fury than the kukri: the lethal, curved, Gurkha fighting knife.
Was it true, I asked one former colonel, that, pulled from its sheath, the knife had to “taste” blood? “They’d bleed themselves out in a fortnight,” was his amused dismissal of that myth, explaining that they used it as an all-purpose tool: peeling spuds, cutting wood or removing bottle tops. But, when that red mist does
come down, it is for his kukri the Gurkha instinctively reaches. Anyone who has read George MacDonald Fraser’s Quartered Safe Out Here will recall his description of Gurkhas as-saulting a wooded Japanese strongpoint. They attacked across open ground, firing as they ran until, just before they hit the wood line, they dropped their rifles and went in with blades only. They returned – unlike the Japanese.
Meadows tells how, in Afghanistan in 2013, insurgents attacked LCpl Tuljung Gurung in his sangar. First he was shot. A lucky deflection off his helmet left him stunned. Next, a hand grenade landed beside him. He lobbed it back. Finally, up went an Afghan, out came his kukri and down went the insurgent. He was awarded a Military Cross.
Which brought us neatly to the Gurkha on the modern battlefield. Meadows explains how impressive they were in Afghanistan, whose terrain is similar to that of Nepal. Gurkhali has the same linguistic roots as Pashto, Dari and Urdu. For example, the word for enemy – dushman – is the same in all four languages. Gurkha soldiers got to know the local Afghans and in the summer of 2012 in Helmand he and his men felt so unthreatened around their base that they would happily have patrolled without helmets or body arm-our. The locals told them where the IEDs were as they did not want to see their friends hurt.
The highlight of this anniversary year will be the Gurkha 200 Pageant on 9 June at The Royal Hospital Chelsea, where the Gurkha story will be told by their ultimate pin-up girl, Joanna Lumley, together with Dan Snow.
Following the devastating earthquake in Nepal, members of the Brigade of Gurkhas have been working hard to assist their fellow countrymen with rescue, aid and reconstruction projects taking place across the country.
Soldiers from QGE and RGR have joined the troops permanently stationed in British Gurkhas Nepal based in Kathmandu and Pokhara to assist with aid pack distribution, shelter construction and clean water projects in the aftermath of the major quakes that have hit the country over the past weeks and their subsequent aftershocks.
While the focus has shifted away from the rescue of survivors trapped in rubble, a new threat in the form of the impending monsoon looms making water and shelter from the elements priority effort. The work of the Gurkhas so far has been vital in ensuring that the people in the worst affected areas do not get hit by disease or starvation with the RGR teams alone having already distributed over 670 temporary shelters.
The initial quake struck right in the traditional Gurkha heartland with its effects felt in Kathmandu, where many buildings were destroyed, and at Mount Everest where a number of avalanches hit the climbers in the region.
HQ British Gurkhas Nepal (BGN) in Kathmandu was immediately tasked with providing assistance in the local area while sending updates back to the UK providing important situational awareness. BGN subsequently became part of the logistics and management of the UK military relief efforts. Gurkha soldiers were sent out patrols to the remote areas to find out the impact of the earthquake and direct emergency aid there.
The Brigade of Gurkhas will continue to assist Nepal over the coming weeks and months while the people rebuild the homes and villages destroyed by the earthquakes.
The public support from Britain has been over whelming with over £115 million pounds in aid sent to Nepal through a mixture of government funding and public donations towards the various Nepal disaster appeals. If you would like to help the victims of the Nepal earthquakes, please visit the GWT’s earthquake appeal fund.
The Triple Crown Challenge 15 took place in Worthy Down, Winchester yesterday on 14 May 15. The event is organised annually to encourage all AGC Personnel to uphold their Corps ethos as in reflecting the Soldier first principles.
The Competition was divided into two groups: The 12 Miles March and Shoot Competition and the Military Skills Competition. Altogether, 7 teams from Gurkha Staff and Personnel Support (GSPS) took part in the 12 Miles March and Shoot competition for the Colonel Commandant Brigade of Gurkhas Cup along with more than 100 AGC teams competing for their Corps Trophy.
This year, 1 RGR successfully won the Col Comdt Brigade of Gurkhas trophy beating the last year’s winner, 2 RGR who had to settle down as runners up. 1 RGR Team Captain, LCpl Roshan Tamang said that the team deserved to win this year’s trophy, as they were practicing hard regularly. He also added that the weather was in their favour as they had practiced in a much hotter climate as compared to the UK.
The Adjutant General, Lieutenant General Sir G W Berragan KBE CB presented the prizes to the winning teams and also spoke with Sandhurst based GSPS team about the GSPS commitment in the Triple Crown Challenge. He said that it was incredible to see about one third of the whole GSPS Cohort taking part in the event. The competition ended after the prize distribution and winner team photographs with OC GSPS, Maj Bijayant Sherchan and other senior GSPS Ranks.
Some glimpses from the event
You will all have heard the news of further earthquakes (magnitude 7.3) at midday, Tuesday 12 May, with an epicentre near Namche Bazaar. At present the Airport at Kathmandu is closed.
This comes against a background of Nepali Press reports (led by Kantipur) on 10 May that the Government has refused to let UK Chinook helicopters into Nepal for technical reasons: these reports are unsubstantiated.
At present accurate and verified information is difficult to come by, and for the latest you are advised to follow (you do not need an account) the following Facebook links:
On 8 May GWT were able to report:
That the relief operation in the middle hills was gathering momentum, with a clearer picture of the need beginning to emerge. There is significant loss of life and widespread damage to buildings/houses. For example, the Nepal Army (NA) Ops Room at Gorkha reported that the district had suffered 439 deaths, 716 serious casualties and 44,607 properties severely damaged, with 13,236 completely destroyed.
The immediate needs remain for food/shelter/water/medical care, and the monsoon is less than one month away. Reports indicated that six Welfare Pensioners (WPs), three Service Pensioners (SPs) and one dependant had been killed and a number injured, some seriously. Damage to WP/SP property is widespread but to date GWT’s water projects and schools appear to have come through the disaster almost unscathed – a testament to the quality of construction.
GWS are following four key lines of activity:
Within UK, GWT have received over £1 Million in donations to their Earthquake Response Fund.
If you would like to help, please donate to the Gurkha Welfare Trust’s Earthquake appeal.
Seventy-six soldiers from 69 Squadron of the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers have deployed to Nepal in order to provide support to the country’s post-earthquake reconstruction effort. The troops from Maidstone, Kent, arrived in Nepal on 8th May and have based themselves from the British Army base in Pokhara and will deploy as 16 man teams into the worst affected areas to provide assistance to all effected by the earthquake. They will be working closely with the Gurkha Welfare Scheme to provide construction, water supply and medical expertise.
The teams will be operating across a wide area, including Gorkha, Lamjung, Jiri and Bagmati, all of which are heartlands of the Brigade of Gurkhas. The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers will provide valuable skills and capabilities to the area to support their fellow nationals in rebuilding their country, who are working to provide the best situation possible prior to the monsoon season starting in a few weeks.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “The British Army Gurkhas deploying have a unique set of local knowledge, language skills and engineering experience, making them a vital element of the international response.
“We recognise that this terrible disaster will have directly affected our own Gurkha community and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”
More information on the Defence Secretary’s statement can be found on the BBC website.