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.