Officers and Soldiers from around the Brigade of Gurkhas marked Armistice Day with a number of ceremonies and two-minute silences around the world.
Being furthest East, 1 RGR in Brunei were the first to mark the occasion, with Nepal following a few hours later. Then the UK based troops observed the silence with 2RGR in Shorncliffe Barracks joined by Officers and Soldiers from Risborough Barracks to mark the event.
It began at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the time in 1918 when the guns finally fell silent along the Western Front in Europe. Armistice Day pays tribute to all those who died in World Wars One and Two and in every conflict since.
Wreaths were laid at the memorial in Shorncliffe Barracks by 2RGR’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Murray and the Gurkha Major, Major Prem Gurung. The Last Post was played by a Gurkha Bugler and a two-minute silence was observed at 11am.
Gurkhas were also present at the ceremonies in London, capping off a week of Remembrance based activities that started with the opening of the Field of Remembrance in Westminster and taking part in the Cenotaph ceremonies on Remembrance Sunday.
At RMA Sandhurst the HQBG troops joined their AMS colleagues, with whom they share a building, to mark the occasion and remember the fallen.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
11 June 1923 – 7 November 2015
Jim Tainsh had a long and distinguished career as an architect after recovering from serious wounds suffered in Burma. There he served with the 3rd Battalion of the 10th Gurkha Rifles, for whom he maintained lifelong respect and affection.
As a pupil at Morrison’s Academy in Crieff, Perthshire, he developed his skills in art and design. In his retirement he constructed a beautiful stained glass panel which combines intricate patterns of jungle, mountains and inscriptions relating to Gurkha regiments. The frame is fashioned from a 300 year old oak tree from Jim’s garden. He presented this to the Royal Gurkha Rifles and it now takes pride of place in the Hindu Temple in their barracks at Shorncliffe, Kent.
After officer training he joined 3/10GR in the desperate battles of 1944 to halt the Japanese advance towards Assam and to cover the withdrawal of the 17th Indian Division which included 1/10GR. With that battalion was serving Jim’s schoolfriend Albert Wilson, whom Jim planned to meet, but fate intervened.
In March 1944 in a dawn attack on a Japanese position Jim was seriously wounded by our own artillery and evacuated back to UK. The same 25 pounder shell that struck him killed five Gurkhas nearby. A year later his friend Albert Wilson fell leading his company of 1/10GR against the Japanese, whose defeat in Burma still had some way to run. Albert is buried at Taukkyan and remembered at his school and on the village War Memorial at Muthill.
Because his recovery in UK took so long Jim did not return to the Gurkhas but joined his county regiment, the Black Watch, in Scotland. There he met his wife Pamela who had served with the ATS in North West Europe after D-Day. After demobilisation he trained as an architect in Dundee, but finding no suitable work in Scotland, crossed the Border. He enjoyed a successful career in England, culminating in his appointment as County Architect for Warwickshire, where he built a beautiful house above Barford. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1969.
Helped by their daughter Deborah, he nursed Pamela through a long and distressing illness until her death in 2014. He continued to support the Gurkhas in many ways. With his grandson Edward he attended the opening of the Gurkha Memorial at the National Arboretum in September 2014. For his 92nd birthday this June he organized a party at the Crossed Kukris Restaurant in Nuneaton which realized £500 for the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
He had hoped to join the Gurkha marching contingent at this year’s Service of Remembrance in Whitehall, despite suffering from several serious conditions. Ever optimistic and thrusting against the odds, a slight recovery was enough to galvanize him and his family into making all the arrangements for travel and accommodation. Alas, this was not to be. He passed away at home the day before the parade.
Our sympathies go to Deborah, to her husband Paul and to Jim’s grandson Edward at their loss.
PICTURE ENCLOSED – Jim at his 92d Birthday Party, raising funds for the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
Thursday 5th November 2015 saw the annual opening of the Field of Remembrance outside Westminster Abbey, with representatives from the Brigade of Gurkhas and the Gurkha Brigade Association taking part in the poignant event.
Prince Phillip and Prince Harry were the Royal guests of honour this year and after a short service they placed a pair of crosses before meeting the representatives from each of the units present.
It also happened to be Brigadier John Anderson OBE’s last Field of Remembrance event as Chairman of the Gurkha Brigade Association as he hands over to Colonel David Hayes CBE after the Remembrance weekend. He was joined at the Gurkha Brigade plot by the Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officers and Field Marshal John Chapple GCB, CBE.
The Field of Remembrance opening was followed by a wreath laying ceremony at the nearby statue of Field Marshal Slim, attended by his son, Colonel John Douglas Slim, 2nd Viscount Slim OBE. The Gurkha Brigade Association representatives then moved on to the Gurkha Statue in Whitehall to each lay a wreath in honour of those who have fallen for each of the regiments.
On Monday 30th November 2 RGR, along with the whole of 16 Air Assault Brigade, will be replacing their Eagle flash with the historic Pegasus emblem as they re-subordinate under Commander Field Army.
The change comes after a 15-year-long battle by the Parachute Regiment to reinstate its famous wartime emblem after it was controversially axed in a defence shake-up in 1999 despite the decision being met by strong opposition from politicians and former officers who argued it was part of the Paras’ regimental history.
Some soldiers even went to the extent of stitching the emblem, which was approved by Winston Churchill and seen by many as the trademark of Britain’s airborne rapid reaction force, inside their uniforms after it was replaced so they could still wear it.
2 RGR will be part of the change which is particularly poignant as they wore the same emblem the last time the Gurkhas were part of an airborne Brigade (see history below.)
The Army Board’s ceremonial dress committee has now agreed the move and Brig Colin Weir, commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, will issue paratroopers with the badge at a ceremony at Colchester’s Melville Barracks next month.
The emblem of the airborne forces is Bellerophon mounted on the winged horse Pegasus. The first instance of an airborne warrior, his exploits are recounted in Greek Mythology where he is chiefly famous for slaying the fire-breathing monster Chimaera. Mounted on Pegasus, with spear in hand, Bellerophon rode into the air, swooped down upon the monster and destroyed it.
This emblem was chosen by the British airborne forces by Lieutenant General Sir Frederick (“Boy”) Drowning GCVO,KBE,CB,DSO,DL when he was appointed to raise Airborne Forces in 1941. The emblem was designed in May 1942 by Major Edward Seago, to be worn on the arms of all airborne soldiers.
Gurkhas first wore this emblem, with the addition of the title “India,” when serving as part of 153 and 154 (Gurkha) Parachute Battalions during World War 2. These battalions became part of 50 Indian Parachute Brigade under the command of 44 Indian Airborne Division (later 2 Indian Airborne Division). Gurkha airborne soldiers fought with distinction at the Battle of Sangshak in March 1944 and at the fall of Rangoon in 1945. Reformed in 1945 as 2nd and 3rd (Gurkha) Battalions, Indian Parachute Regiment they served as part of 77 Indian Parachute Brigade at the end of the war. Images from this period clearly show the emblem on the arms of Gurkha airborne soldiers.
5 Infantry Brigade, including 1st Battalion 7th DEO Gurkha Rifles, served during the Falklands Conflict in 1982. Two Parachute Battalions had originally been part of 5 Brigade but transferred to 3 Commando Brigade prior to deploying to the South Atlantic. Following the Falklands Conflict, 5 Brigade was redesignated 5 Airborne Brigade in 1983 and included a Gurkha Battalion in addition to the other airborne units. During this time the emblem was again worn by Gurkhas.
At the end of 1996 an RGR Gurkha Reinforcement Company joined 2 Para and also became part of 5 Airborne Brigade wearing the winged Pegasus and Bellerophon. In 1999 the Brigade merged with 24 Air Mobile Brigade to become 16 Air Assault Brigade which had its own distinctive “striking eagle” emblem.