In March 2016, HRH Prince Harry conducted the first Royal visit to Nepal since his father, HRH The Prince of Wales, visited in 1998.
Prince Harry enjoyed his trip to Nepal so much, that he extended his visit by 6 days to help rebuild a school in a village that was hard-hit by the earthquakes. Prince Harry stated, “The people I have met and the beauty of this country make it very hard to leave.” Prince Harry was amazed by the beauty of Nepal and he linked it with his admiration for the warmth of the Nepalese people, “Living in such dramatic scenery clearly has an effect on the Nepalese – such calm, friendly people….watching the sunrise over those mountains is something I will never forget.”
A Warm Welcome
During a very busy schedule, HRH firstly met with the Prime Minister of Nepal, KP Sharma Oli, and then proceeded to see many of the areas of Kathmandu that were badly hit by the massive earthquakes that struck Nepal in April 2015. After trying his hand at ornate wood carving in Kathmandu and seeing the great conservation work done in Bardia National Park, Prince Harry then flew into the hills of Nepal, where he was met by Major Prakash Gurung MVO. When they met, smiles burst across both their faces, as they had previously met in Afghanistan in 2007 and whilst Maj Prakash was the Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officer in recent years.
In the Gurkha Heartlands
Accompanied by Maj Prakash, Prince Harry then met with staff from the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT). They trekked around Lamjung District where Prince Harry witnessed the work of the GWT’s mobile doctors and the GWT’s ongoing reconstruction of homes that had been destroyed by the earthquakes.
Around 1,200 homes of former Gurkhas or their widows were destroyed by the earthquakes and the GWT hope to rebuild at least 80% by the end of 2016. In Gauda VDC, Prince Harry saw a school that is being rebuilt by GWT.
Prince Harry was also extremely fortunate to be in the hills during the festival of Holi and thoroughly enjoyed celebrating with the locals.
After his time in the hills, Prince Harry flew to British Gurkhas Pokhara (BGP). He was briefed about the infamous Gurkha Recruitment process, the huge numbers who apply and the gruelling tests the potential Gurkhas must undertake, including the legendary Doko Race.
Prince Harry also met with many members of the British Gurkhas Nepal community, including Lt Col (Retd) John Cross OBE, who was the Deputy Recruiting Officer in Nepal when HRH The Prince of Wales visited BGP in 1980 – 36 years ago.
Prince Harry was reunited with Maj (Retd) Bishnu Pun who had last seen Prince Harry in 1991. This was a truly magical moment.
Respects to Our Fallen
Prince Harry met with family members of those Gurkhas who have sadly been killed in action during the recent operational tours of Afghanistan. This was clearly a more sombre and reflective moment. A 2-minute silence was observed across BGP before Prince Harry laid a wreath and left a note as an act of remembrance. Immediately afterwards, Prince Harry also planted a tree close to the BGP memorial in memory of those Gurkhas who had fallen in Afghanistan. Prince Harry then departed back to Kathmandu, where he announced his intent to remain in Nepal for a further 6 days. HRH Prince Harry’s visit was hugely successful and it is hopeful that given his admiration for the Gurkhas, and, moreover the beauty of Nepal and its people, a return in the future seems likely.
Prince Harry’s visit in pictures and videos
Below is a collection of photos and videos which have captured Prince Harry’s historical visit to Nepal.
Gurkhas based all over the UK, Brunei and Nepal celebrated the Hindu Festival of colours; Holi. It marks the beginning of spring and symbolises new beginnings. It’s a time to put conflicts and worries behind you and to start a fresh. It also commemorates the story of Prahlada, which is seen to symbolise good overcoming evil.
Soldiers from 2 RGR and The Band of The Brigade of Gurkhas celebrated Holi in Shorncliffe. A temple service was organised in Sir John Moore Barracks to celebrate the event.
The existing rates of Gurkha Retirement Pension, Gurkha Service Pension, Gurkha Disability Pension and Gurkha Family Pension have been revised with effect from 1 April 2016.
The current rates, which are based on Indian Army pensions, but incorporate a welfare related cash uplift to take account of the benefits in kind provided to Indian Army ex-servicemen, have received a 2016 pension increment of 11.6% to take account of cost of living increases in Nepal. In line with existing policy the increase is based on the Rastra Bank figure for inflation in Nepal. The increase also applies to Dearness Allowance which is used in calculating Indian Army Pay for gratuity purposes.
The minimum rate of pension been raised to ICR 17,476.45 per month with effect from 1 April 2016. Below are full rates of GPS according to different ranks and structure:
A. Gurkha Commissioned Officers – Rates of Retirement Pension.
B. Gurkha Service Pension Rates for Queen’s Gurkha Officers Granted Honorary Rank.
C. Gurkha Service Pension Rates for Queen’s Gurkha Officers, Honorary Queen’s Gurkha Officers and Gurkha Other Ranks.
D. Gurkha Disability Element Pension Rates.
E. Gurkha Family Pension Rates.
F. Indian Army Pay Rates for Gratuities.
On Tuesday 22 March Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas, Colonel James Robinson, provided an update to a group of those soldiers from the Brigade who were wounded in Afghanistan and have since left the Army. Also supporting was Maj Dammarbahadur Shahi, the new SO2 Pers Policy FTRS at HQBG. The briefing was held in the Visitors’ Centre in Sir John Moore Barracks in Shorncliffe and was also attended by a number of the 2RGR leaders who are due shortly to deploy to Kabul on Op TORAL. The briefing covered a range of activities which Brigade units have been involved in over the last few months and highlighted some growth of the Brigade which will increase conversion to full careers and increase promotion opportunities in the coming years. Maj Dammarbahadur Shahi added – “These kind of event will keep happening in the future to support our wounded soldiers who have left the Brigade. We are planning to organise one in Hampshire area in near future as it covers most of the Brigade’s retired community.”
As the event drew to a conclusion all present were delighted to see the famous TV presenter, Alan Titchmarsh, surprise Haribahadur Magar to tell him that he had been selected for a garden makeover and will be appearing on the ITV programme, “Love Your Garden” later in the year. ITV cameras were there to capture the moment. The briefing was then followed by photographs and tipaan-tapaan.
The RGR will be laying on transport for the wounded and their families to attend the Brigade Bhela/Nepal Cup Final on Saturday 9 July in Aldershot.
Queen’s Gurkha Engineers and The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas became the runners up at the Army Inter Major and Minor Units’ Championship 2016 which was held in Aldershot Garrison Sports Club on 17 March 2016.
The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas entered the minor units final beating 4 RMP while 36 Engineer Regiment, Queen’s Gurkha Engineers beat 6 REME to reach the Army Major Units final. Both the BG units performed extremely well to reach the finals. The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas lost the finals against a strong “Upavon Station” team led by Maj Gen T R Urch CBE, President of the Combined Services Squash Rackets Association. Likewise, 36 Engineer Regt QGE became the Army Major Unit runners up. They lost their final match played against another strong team, 1 RSME.
The President of the Combined Services Squash Rackets Association, Maj Gen Urch CBE gave the final speech at the award ceremony afterwards and thanked everyone for playing a superb series.
Second Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles (2 RGR) have been continuing their Afghanistan pre-deployment training.
This is a special report from Forces TV in Caerwent Training Area in South Wales focusing on B Coy and C Coy 2 RGR personnel who will be guarding the Officer Training Academy outside Kabul in Afghanistan.
The Commonwealth Memorial Gates Service was held on 14 Mar 16 at Hyde Park Corner. It was dedicated to the people of Africa, the Caribbean and the five regions of the Indian subcontinent (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) who served in the British Armed Forces during the two World Wars.
Delegates from Headquarters Brigade of Gurkhas attended the ceremony, including Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas, Colonel J G Robinson and the two Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officers, Captain Mukti Gurung and Captain Buddhi Bhandari. Other notable attendees included Field Marshall Sir John Chapple GCE CBE, Lt Gen Sir Peter Duffell KCB CBE MC and representatives from Commonwealth countries including the Charge d’Affairs of the Nepalese Embassy, Mr Tejbahadur Chhetri.
The Service was very memorable. This was followed by the Last Post and laying of the Wreaths. Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas laid a wreath on behalf of all ranks of The Brigade of Gurkhas in memory of those who volunteered from Nepal to serve in the Gurkhas. The event was an excellent dedication to all ranks from Africa, the Caribbean and Indian subcontinent who served in the British Armed Forces in the World Wars.
Inside the roof of the traditional Indian Chattri are the names of all the Victoria Cross holders of the Indian Army, including the 15 members of Gurkha Regiments awarded the VC in WW1 and WW2. In total 26 VCs have been awarded to Gurkha Regiments.
Some media coverage of the day:
On Saturday 12 March 2016, 10 Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment (QOGLR) were granted the Freedom of the Borough of Rushmoor in front of the people of Aldershot. The Regiment marched through Aldershot town centre on Saturday morning, led by the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas and their own Regimental Pipes and Drums.
Colonel of the Regt QOGLR, Major General Angus Fay and Mayor of Rushmoor Councillor Martin Tennant inspected the troops before presenting the Freedom Scroll to Commander QOGLR , Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Reehal MBE.
Councillor Tennant said, “On behalf of the Borough of Rushmoor, it gives me great pleasure to present this scroll to The Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment. The decision to grant the Freedom of the Borough was unanimously carried by our councillors in recognition of the Regiments’ bravery, courage and distinguished achievements.”
Indeed, the QOGLR has completed two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan since they moved to Aldershot.
It is worth noting, that this is the highest honour a council can give and comes at a symbolic time as 200 years of loyal service of the Brigade of Gurkhas to the British Crown were recently celebrated.
Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Reehal MBE said, “In the year in which we celebrate 200 years of dedicated and unbroken service by the Brigade of Gurkhas to the British Crown, it is a single honour for us to be able to say ‘thank-you’ to the people of Rushmoor and Aldershot. We are, and will remain, your obedient servants – your Gurkhas.”
Led by the Band and the Regimental Pipes and Drums, the QOGLR then proudly marched along Grosvenor Road, Station Road, High Street and then back to Princess Hall. Hundreds of people lined the way, applauding and cheering to support this momentous occasion.
Below are some media coverage links:
Cpl Rabin Koyee Rai from Queen’s Gurkha Signals was awarded this year’s Fishmongers’ Gold Medal Award. He received the medal for his contribution to Recruit Intake 15 training in Gurkha Company Catterick and for raising thousands of pounds towards the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund. The award ceremony took place on 10 Mar 16 in The Fishmongers’ Company Hall, Central London. The Fishmongers’ Company is one of the oldest City Guilds, with a rich history that expands over 700 years.
The Gold Medals were presented by the Prime Warden to the outstanding performers from various Arms and Services affiliated with the The Fishmonger’s: The Brigade of Gurkhas, The Royal Navy units and The Parachute Regiment. The Prime Warden presented five gold medals to this year’s winners.
The event commenced with a guided tour of the Hall followed by pre-lunch drinks, medal presentations and then lunch. The presence of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, HRH Prince Philip, and The Princess Royal, HRH Princess Anne, made the event a once in a lifetime opportunity for the medal recipients.
Below is an extract from Cpl Rabin’s citation for the Fishmongers’ Gold Medal Award:
“Corporal Rabin Koyee Rai exemplifies the finest traditions of the Brigade of Gurkhas and the Queen’s Gurkha Signals. Selfless, loyal and compassionate, he is a shinning example to the Trainee Riflemen that he instructs….In response to the tragic earthquakes in Nepal last year, Cpl Rabin was a leading member in organising the ITC Bolton Castle Charity Dinner. This event raised £10,000 for Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund. After the success of this event, Cpl Rabin took the lead in organising another Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund charity dinner, raising a further £ 1,500. He then took the lead for ‘enduring charity collection’ to support the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund. This fund has already reached £2,000 and continues to go up. He competed in ‘Race the Sun’ – the Royal Corps of Signals relay competition. He helped secure 4th place out of 26 Unit teams. He competed in The Army Orienteering League (MLN) and successfully secured the Major Unit Winner trophy. He has shone brightly within the fiercely competitive multi-cap badge environment in Gurkha Company Catterick. For that he must be commended and rewarded.”
HRH Prince Harry is visiting Nepal for the first time from 19-23 March 2016 on an official visit that further enriches the great history and strong relationship between Nepal and the UK.
Prince Harry will meet the Nepali Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli and also meet Nepal’s first female President, Bidya Devi Bhandari.
During his visit, Prince Harry will be looking at the consequences of the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in April 2015. He will witness first hand, the excellent work the Gurkha Welfare Trust and our serving soldiers from the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers are doing to rebuild homes, schools and water infrastructure in those areas worst affected.
Prince Harry’s huge admiration for Gurkha soldiers, their bravery and loyalty, is well known. He built up a particular rapport with Gurkhas when he served alongside 1RGR in Afghanistan during 2007 stating: “When you know you are with the Gurkhas, I think there’s no safer place to be, really.”
Prince Harry will be visiting British Gurkhas Pokhara, the birthplace of the Brigade of Gurkhas, to learn more about Gurkha Recruitment into the British Army. He will go trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas, visiting traditional Nepali villages and staying with retired Gurkha servicemen and their families.
Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas, Col James Robinson (Col BG) and Director Gurkha Welfare Trust, Col (Retd) William Shuttlewood OBE, met Prince Harry at Kensington Palace on Thursday 10 March to discuss the upcoming visit.
Prince Harry is clearly looking forward to his visit and it is apparent he wholeheartedly values the vital contributions of Nepal to the UK over the last 200 years.
Col BG was delighted to be able to present Prince Harry with a copy of the book, The Gurkhas – 200 Years of Service to the Crown, written by Major General J C Lawrence CBE.
There will be a lot more coverage of Prince Harry’s visit both on our website and our social media pages.
More details about Prince Harry’s upcoming visit to Nepal have now been publicised in The Kathmandu Post.