The Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) sees a change of leadership
In May 2016, Colonel (Retd) William Shuttlewood OBE passed the torch to The Gurkha Welfare Trust’s new Director, Al Howard, as he headed off into retirement.
The Gurkha Welfare Trust caught up with them both during their handover to discuss their work to date, plans for the future, and any challenges that may lie ahead. The following is largely extracted from the GWT website.
Time at the Trust
The Trust’s work clearly means a great deal to Colonel William, who has spent over a decade at its helm. He discussed his abiding impression of his time there:
“I don’t have a favourite memory of my time at The Gurkha Welfare Trust. I think it would be invidious to try and define one if truth be known, because it’s been eleven years of the most remarkable experiences of my life.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been doing this at a time of change, at a time when the Trust is able to make a real difference in the foothills of the Himalayas.”
Al is more than ready for the challenge. Having spent the last five years in Nepal working with one of GWT’s implementing partners – the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association (KAAA) – he’s enthusiastic about maintaining his links with Nepal.
“I hope it will give me the opportunity to use the expertise I’ve garnered. I understand what is required and expected of the Trust in Nepal and I think my time there has given me a valuable insight into the implementation of work in the region.”
The Nepal earthquakes
Both Colonel William and Al were involved in the response to last year’s earthquakes – Colonel William as Director of the Trust and Al in his previous role as Director of KAAA.
Speaking about the challenge of GWT’s earthquake response, Colonel William said:
“The earthquake was a national crisis and when you have a single crisis like that you can focus on it, marshal the resources required and deal with it – and that is what we are doing at the moment. It will be a long term programme (3-5 years), costing a huge amount of money (£17.5 million).”
Al was in Nepal when the first quake struck in April last year and witnessed first-hand the work the Trust’s field team was doing right from the offset.
“The key difference between the Trust and many others involved [in the earthquake response] is that the Trust was always there. It has a footprint through its Welfare Centres and it is not going anywhere.
“As a result, we have extensive local knowledge and our beneficiaries know and trust us.”
Colonel William and Al share similar ideas regarding the challenges ahead. As time has passed, Gurkha veterans and their widows have grown older. As a result, the Trust has had to adapt, becoming more responsive and mobile – bringing individual aid to people’s homes.
On top of that, the Trust has expanded its community work across rural Nepal – notably building schools and water projects. Colonel William explains why community aid forms an important part of their work:
“When I was part of the Brigade of Gurkhas our ethos was always to look after our own. And our own includes the country of Nepal, because that is the homeland of these remarkable soldiers.
“During my recent visits to Nepal I have come across a number of Queen’s Gurkha Engineers on Op MARMAT (serving Gurkha soldiers who are supporting the Trust’s earthquake response). Without exception, they have all been thrilled to have been deployed to help their countrymen in a time of crisis and this reflects our community aid ethos.”
Farewell to Colonel William
Colonel William Shuttlewood OBE joined the Trust in 2005 after a distinguished career in the Brigade of Gurkhas where he was awarded both an MBE and OBE. Colonel Wiliam led the GWT against the backdrop of The Maoist Insurgency in Nepal and in 2009 he established our Welfare Advice Centres in response to Gurkhas obtaining the right to settle in the UK.
Colonel of the Brigade of Gurkhas, Colonel James Robinson said, “The serving Brigade of Gurkhas is incredibly indebted to Colonel William who has led and developed the Gurkha Welfare Trust for over a decade and in doing so he has also done much to enhance the Gurkha name. He leaves an incredible legacy at the heart of which was last year’s G200 Pageant and the reponse to the 2015 Earthquakes that struck Nepal“.
The Brigade of Gurkhas wishes Colonel William the very best for the future and warmly welcomes Al Howard in his new role as Director of The Gurkha Welfare Trust.
Mark Lancaster TD MP, Minister of Defence Personnel, Veterans and Welfare, visited HQBG on 26 May 16. He was welcomed by Colonel James Robinson, Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas, who briefed him on the current Brigade, its history, laydown and dispositions as well as plans for future growth. Mr Damian Paterson, Head Army Secretariat, was also in attendance.
Mark Lancaster was first elected as MP for Milton Keynes North in 2005. Shortly after his re-election in 2010 he was appointed as the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Secretary of State for International Development. In September 2012 he became a government minister when he was made a Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury before being appointed to his current role in May 2015.
Mark Lancaster’s connection with the military began in 1998 when he served with Queen’s Gurkha Engineers in Hong Kong on an extended gap year commission. He transferred his commission to the Army Reserves and is now a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Engineers who, as a qualified EOD operator, has completed three operational tours; in Kosovo, Bosnia (with 2 RGR) and Afghanistan.
Gurkha Everest Expedition 2017
On Monday 23rd May 2016, an initial meeting was held to plan The Gurkha Everest Expedition 2017. The expedition will see the same team of Gurkhas from last year’s Gurkha 200 Everest Expedition Team attempt to summit Mt Everest.
The Expedition Chairman, Brigadier Ian Rigden chaired the meeting that saw the Gurkha Everest Steering Committee come together (GESC). The GESC included nearly all the members of last year’s G200 Everest team under the leadership of Major Andrew Todd (2 RGR). Also present was Colonel of the Brigade of Gurkhas, Colonel James Robinson, and representatives from the media and the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
The plan of action was discussed in detail and the generic plan is for training to commence in the Alps in September, then Scotland in January 2017 before deploying to Nepal in March 2017. The summit window, once the team is settled and acclimatised at Everest Base Camp, will be around April to May 2017 (dates TBC).
Last Year’s Expedition and The Gorkha Earthquake of 2015
Last year the Gurkha 200 Everest Expedition were caught up on Everest when the fateful ‘Gorkha Earthquake’ struck on 25 April with a magnitude of 8.1 on the Richter Scale. The expedition was named ‘Gurkha 200’ because the team were conducting the expedition at the time of celebrations marking 200 years of loyal service from the Gurkhas to the British Crown.
Many of the team were at Everest Base camp when the earthquake hit and they were struck by the ferocious avalanche that came down on top of them killing 22. This marked the deadliest day Mt Everest had ever seen. Thankfully, although some of the Gurkhas at base camp were injured, no one was lost and all were just about ‘fighting-fit’. Captain Buddhibahadur Bhandari of the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers, with blood pouring from a gash in his head, dragged several of the team’s Sherpas behind some rocks to protect them from further avalanches.
The bulk of the team were located at Camp 1 and after the earthquake they were cut-off when the only way down via the infamous,Khumbu Icefall, was prohibited as an option having been destroyed also. The team was stranded at first with many other climbers, including many who had been injured.
Major Todd and his team were awarded 9 Commendations in total for their bravery that day; they all showed exemplary courage and calmness amongst the horror around them.
Major Todd himself, won the Sun’s Millies Award for Most Outstanding Soldier 2015. Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the British Explorer, presented Major Todd with the award and said: “What you and your men did on Mount Everest was incredible and in the great tradition of bravery, gallantry and service. You should all be proud of what you did.”
The Gurkha expedition team helped more than 60 climbers who were injured. Major Todd and his team facilitated the evacuation of 116 climbers by helicopter, putting their own safety second.
The team eventually got down off the mountain on foot. They then reported to British Gurkhas Kathmandu and began to offer their services to help with the nationwide relief effort.
The G200 Everest Team were the only team up Mt Everest on that fateful day to not lose any members of their team. They are eternally humbled by that fact. But, this is unfinished business and the same team, with one or two new additions, will now attempt to put the first serving Gurkha on the summit of Everest in 2017.
They will be raising money for The Gurkha Welfare Trust and over the coming months we shall keep you updated with all their progress and fundraising requests.
A link to the BBCs Tom Martienssen’s, ‘Disaster on Everest’ Panorama programme can be found here. It features members of the G200 Expedition Team.
C Company and some specialist platoons from Support Company, 1st Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles (1 RGR), have just completed their one-month long training exercise in New Zealand.
The exercise, known as Ex PACIFIC KURKI rotates each year between Australia and New Zealand. This year, 1 RGR deployed to New Zealand and worked alongside the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). The training area was located at Tekapo, an area of stunning scenery on New Zealand’s southern island.
The training was undertaken to train and practice a Rifle Company (C Coy) in how to operate up to Company level in unfamiliar terrain whilst working alongside Support Coy assets (Recce, Mortars and Anit-Tank specialists) and with partners from another nation (the NZDF).
There is a great history between The Gurkhas and the New Zealanders. They fought alongside each other in The Gallipoli Campaign in World War I. The Gurkhas saw action alongside the 22nd Battalion during the bloody battle of Monte Cassino, Italy in World War II and they worked side-by-side during the Malayan Emergency and the Borneo Confrontation.
1 RGR Senior Platoon Commander Lieutenant Jamie Dick said training with the New Zealand Army was very rewarding:
“Our tactics and procedures are very similar but we have both been learning from each other a lot. The history between New Zealand forces and the Gurkhas runs all the way back to Gallipoli in 1915 and many times since. Training together is worthwhile and continues to foster an already strong relationship.”
There is always a great exchange of military knowledge and moreover, of cultures.
C Coy 1 RGR are now preparing to return to Brunei from Queenstown where they are conducting some Adventurous Training.
A great article from the NZDF about Ex PACIFIC KURKI 2016, can be found here.
Second Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (2 RGR) are now over four weeks into their deployment to Kabul as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. The Gurkhas have been picking up old friendships with Afghan Security Forces and are in good spirits in their role of Kabul Protection Unit which they began on 16 April. Their job sees them providing protection for NATO advisors to the Afghan Government.
The Gurkhas and 16 Brigade have a significant relationship with Afghanistan. Bound by over a decade of operations spanning the country from the Northern mountains of Mazr-E-Sheriff to the Southern plains of Helmand, it seems fitting that on TORAL 3 it is once again the Gurkhas, wearing the Pegasus flash, patrolling the streets of Afghanistan.
However, for those who were in Kabul in 2002, the operating environment of the capital city is almost unrecognisable. Modern Kabul is a sprawling, urbanized and highly populated city, whose skyline is punctuated by concrete high-rise towers. At night, wedding halls in the North-West are lit up to impressive effect, more reminiscent of Las Vegas than the Afghanistan that veterans may recognize. However, the infrastructural and financial advances of the city belie the greatest constant; the existential threat posed by motivated and determined insurgents.
The soldiers have been taking the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with parts of the city they know from previous deployments. Their role as ‘Guardian Angels’, protecting both civilian and military NATO advisers is complex, but one which they are performing with their characteristic professionalism and good humour.
Kabul is a complex operating environment. The insurgent can be dormant for weeks, only for silence to be ripped apart without warning. This requires soldiers of great mental discipline and physical endurance to be ever alert, either when conducting long vehicle moves or in the force protection of advisors. In this role as force protection, selflessness is critical in recognition that we work in support of the main effort and must facilitate advisors’ intent no matter what the burden may be. In the response to insurgent activity, the employment of the QRF requires the bravery to operate in an environment in which the threat is truly 360 degrees, and the compassion to aid local nationals who suffer so greatly at the hands of the insurgent.
The Adventures of Cpl Baloobahadur
2 RGR are delighted to announce that Cpl Baloo (the teddy bear mascot) has made his way back to Afghanistan for the first time in five years since Op HERRICK 14 in 2011 when he was often seen patrolling with the Gurkhas in Helmand Province. Welcome back Baloo Guruji.
Photo Credits: Captain Ben Norfield Adj 2 RGR
Earlier this month, Captain Rambahadur Limbu VC MVO, joined part of a special service with HRH The Prince of Wales in London together with 31 other surviving Victoria Cross and George Cross recipients.
Rambahadur Saheb was a Lance Corporal in the 2nd Battalion, 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles, during the Borneo Confrontation. On 21 November 1965, the then Lance Corporal Rambahadur Limbu was in an advance party of 16 Gurkhas when they encountered about 30 Indonesians holding a position on the top of a hill. Ram went forward with two men, but when they were only 10 yards from the enemy machine-gun position, the sentry opened fire on them. Ram rushed forward and killed him with a grenade. The remaining enemy (“dushmen”) then opened fire, wounding the two men who were with Ram. Ram, under heavy fire, made three journeys into the open, two to drag his comrades to safety and one more to retrieve their Bren gun. He then attacked the enemy with the Bren gun, killing several.
Here is an extract from the citation:
“Rushing forward he hurled himself on the ground beside one of the wounded and calling for support from two light machine guns… he picked up the man and carried him to safety… Without hesitation he immediately returned… [for the other] wounded man [and] carried him back… through the hail of enemy bullets. It had taken twenty minutes to complete this gallant action and the events leading up to it. For all but a few seconds this Non-Commissioned Officer had been moving alone in full view of the enemy and under the continuous aimed fire of their automatic weapons… His outstanding personal bravery, selfless conduct, complete contempt of the enemy and determination to save the lives of the men of his fire group set an incomparable example and inspired all who saw him.
Finally, Lance Corporal Rambahadur was responsible for killing four more enemy as they attempted to escape…”
Some coverage of the event and a glimpse of Rambahdur VC MVO Saheb can be seen here: http://forces.tv/76571089