On 8th April 2017, members of the Brigade Band flew to India to provide musical support for the Queen’s Birthday Party celebrations held by the High Commission in New Delhi.
20 members of the Band who were led by the Director of Music (DOM), Major Tony Adams, were also accompanied by Officer Commanding Brigade Training Team, Lieutenant Will Reeve, 2 RGR Training Officer Captain Badri Rai and Corporal James Muir, a bagpiper from the Black Watch.
Following a concert for the Gurkha Welfare Trust in Hunstanton on the 7th April, the band returned and linked up with Captain Badri and Lieutenant Will before quickly packing their instruments and uniforms and moving to Heathrow airport.
Passing through customs is always interesting when you are transporting 3 swords, 16 khukuris and lots of metal disguised as musical instruments, but it became quite funny as the search officials rather confusedly examined the X-ray of Corporal Muir’s luggage as he joined us from Edinburgh with his bagpipes!
The overnight flight was uneventful and with the time zone change, we arrived in Delhi on the following afternoon. We dropped off the kit at the High Commission complex before taking over our accommodation at the Taj Maising Hotel. This also proved to be a hurried affair as the DOM and Band Sergeant Major (BSM) (WO2 Yam) immediately undertook a recce of the Defence Attache’s residence for a Dinner Night that evening. Brigadier Mark Goldsack was to host high ranking attendance from various nations, including the USA and India, and he was delighted to hear that the brass quintet was also able to accompany the Khukuri Dance as the evening was dedicated to the Khukuri!
Monday was a chance for most of the band to catch up on sleep and then find everything on their wives’ shopping lists in town (how many saris, khurtas and lehengas can we get into our return luggage!). Not for the DOM and BSM, however, as recces to the famous Gymkhana Club for a concert on Tuesday and the High Commissioner’s residence for the Queen’s Birthday Party on Wednesday had to be completed first!
On Tuesday morning, the hired in PA and electrical equipment was scheduled to arrive for a 1100-1500 rehearsal (the only possible time) but only half the kit arrived. Thankfully the piper was excellent and his part of the rehearsal was over in double quick time, which meant we could move directly to the Gymkhana Club and pray that the remaining kit arrived in time.
It did, along with a completely unexpected sound crew who were quick and adaptable, and we were then ready for the concert. Major (Retired) Karun (Kinny) Khanna, a former Indian Army Officer and now chief ‘mover and shaker’ for the Gymkhana Club introduced us and we began.
We showed off the versatility of the band with traditional favourites such as:
What really surprised the audience was that the first 2 were Bollywood favourites Roop tera mastana and O mere, both in Hindi! They followed this up with the Gurkha favourite Jham Jham pareli and then Syndicate. The band wasn’t finished there, however, and WO2 “Kenny G” Bhojendra played a soprano sax solo before Cpl Muir joined us for Highland Cathedral. The finale sequence featured Cpl Manikumar Rai with What a wonderful world and the Michael Buble number, Cry me a river.
The band was then presented with the traditional Indian gift of a case of Rum and a personal request to play Amazing Grace, which we did, combining vocals, bagpipes and the full band. What a night!
Wednesday was no less busy as we went to the High Commissioner’s residence to plan the entertainment for over a thousand guests within the gardens. Captain Badri and Lieutenant Will met the guests along with a selection of bagpipe tunes whilst the Hill Boys played folk music on the stage erected at the far end of the garden.
To announce the arrival of the principal guests the band performed a flashmob to Jai Ho, which culminated in the band marching from the residence to the stage, followed by the VIPs for welcoming speeches. The band then performed for another 45 minutes before signalling the end of proceedings with High on a Hill.
The band performed superbly and took great pride in representing not only the Brigade, but the British Army in what was a highly successful and productive series of events. We were wonderfully hosted during our and the links we have forged give hope to the possibility of follow-up events in the future.
25th April 2017 marks two years from the first earthquake that hit Nepal and gives an opportunity to reflect on the contribution of the Brigade of Gurkhas.
The worst earthquake to hit Nepal for 80 years was followed by a second earthquake two weeks later on 12th May 2015. In those devastating weeks 8,891 people were killed, more than 22,300 injured, more than 893,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, as well as schools, clinics, temples and ancient buildings. The disaster affected 8.1 million people, many living in remote and mountainous areas of the country.
The Brigade of Gurkhas was able to provide support for its own people in its own country. A small team consisting of soldiers from 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) and Queen’s Gurkha Engineers (QGE) were dispatched within days of the first earthquake and were able to provide immediate assistance and relief.
At the time of the first earthquake the main body of our Everest Team had just reached Camp 1. They were able to help save the lives of those stranded there and manage their evacuation whilst the remainder of the team, who were still at Base Camp, miraculously survived a huge avalanche which left devastation and killed many.
The Everest team then moved back to Kathmandu and were able to provide additional assistance. At the same time our serving Gurkhas based in Nepal, as part of British Gurkhas Nepal, were the focal point for the UK aid for British citizens, assisting with food and shelter and later evacuation while also coordinating the emergency aid and assistance being delivered from UK.
At the same time the Gurkha Welfare Trust was providing situational awareness from its Area Welfare Centres across Nepal and immediate support to those affected. Personnel from 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) deployed to Pokhara in West Nepal to assist the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) in running an Operations Room and helping with reporting updates back to Kathmandu and UK.
For the last 18 months four deployments of Gurkhas, based on QGE but with representation from all cap badges, have deployed to Nepal to assist with the rebuilding of houses and schools damaged by the earthquake.
And finally serving Gurkha units raised over £500,000 for dealing with the aftermath of the earthquakes and the Disasters Emergency Committee raised over £86M – the largest figure raised for a worldwide disaster; such is the special place of Nepal in the hearts of the UK public.
ANZAC Day is celebrated on 25th April each year and marks the date when the allied landings took place in 1915 on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Four Gurkha battalions fought at Gallipoli including two from antecedent Regiments of the current Royal Gurkha Rifles.
ANZAC day, commemorating members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations and the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.
Gurkhas have special affinity with the day, especially since the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 where the they fought valiantly.
The Armed Forces Operational Awards List 47 was published on Friday in the London Gazette with 48 members of the Armed Forces being cited for exceptional service in respect of worldwide operations for the period 1st April to 30th September 2016.
Members of the Brigade of Gurkhas were selected for the following awards:
QUEEN’S COMMENDATION FOR VALUABLE SERVICE – CORPORAL MAHESH GURUNG
ROYAL GURKHA RIFLES
Section Commander, Qargah Force Protection Company
Afghanistan, April – August 16
Corporal Gurung operated as a Platoon Sergeant responsible for the protection of mentors working at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy for half of his deployment. His outstanding efforts have been universally recognised by the mentors he worked alongside and he has produced an operational performance of the highest calibre.
He has single-handedly revamped previous procedures, seen gaps in protection that others had missed and voluntarily re-developed the entire base force protection plan, far exceeding the expectations of his rank. As a leader he was highly effective and at the very heart of everything. Gurung also went out of his way to develop relationships with the wide range of partners, both Afghan and coalition, that he came into contact with. His reputation for excellence, humility and outstanding professionalism preceded him.
Often asked for by name, he was the ‘go-to’ man for all of the mentors; popular, trusted and hugely respected. For the duration of his tour Gurung has excelled and been a shining light. His work has been crucial to the UK’s wider contribution to Afghanistan. He has played a crucial role in setting the conditions for the mentors to perform their duties and has enhanced the reputation of his Battalion and the Army. His stellar contribution, far beyond any reasonable expectation of his rank is worthy of formal recognition.
QUEEN’S COMMENDATION FOR VALUABLE SERVICE – MAJOR EDWIN PETER OLDFIELD
ROYAL GURKHA RIFLES
Officer Commanding, Kabul Protection Company
Afghanistan, April – September 16
Major Oldfield was charged with the delivery of the force protection of NATO advisors across the congested and volatile Kabul battlespace, where there was no room for error. In a uniquely integrated setting and under the gaze of a 4* HQ, he and his troops provided a critical capability to the NATO mission at a particularly sensitive juncture in the campaign.
Through the recognised fighting season, where unseen threats emerged and violent acts across the city were common, Oldfield delivered hundreds of force protection missions without a single incident. His consistent excellence stood him out from the rest; his leadership was first class and, his tireless personal example a force multiplier. He was at the very heart of everything be it on the ground, in the Operations Centre or in front of senior customers. Calm, insightful and persuasive he understood the context, delivered the effect and placed the mission first.
Oldfield thrived when he stepped up as the Chief of Operations and then as the Acting CO. His deft leadership of the US sub-units was exceptional as he commanded them like a seasoned veteran, receiving universal praise for his efforts. Tested in this complex and multi-faceted operation, Oldfield delivered an eye-catching leadership performance of the highest possible quality, excelling at every turn and placing the mission and his men above all else. A mainstay of this Battalion he has left the operation in a better place and enhanced its reputation and that of the Army. His individual contribution to Operational success and the wider NATO mission merits formal national recognition.
Captain Rai – 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR)
Awarded a Joint Commanders Commendation for his role as Company 2IC of the Kabul Force Protection Company, in Afghanistan from April to August 2016.
Captain Rai was second-in-command of the Kabul Force Protection Company during 2 RGRs deployment as the Kabul Protection Unit on Op TORAL 3. He is deserving of recognition not only for his outstanding performance but also for his exceptional efforts in furthering relationships with coalition partners in this uniquely integrated, multinational organisation. Rai has had a brilliant operational tour. His output has created clear benefits for the entire force and has far exceeded expectation. The challenges he has faced are not to be underestimated.
With no real handover or explanation of his role in theatre he had a standing start. Unflustered, he set out to ensure he put himself at the heart of everything his company did. He expanded his responsibilities and in doing so massively increased productivity and efficiency. Rai has produced a performance of sustained quality during Op TORAL 3. He gave selflessly of himself to improve the output and ultimately the success of his company. Everything that he did was focussed towards mission success. He achieved it all superbly, enhancing the name of the Battalion and the Army. For his quietly outstanding contribution at a particularly sensitive and heavily scrutinised juncture in the campaign, he is worthy of formal recognition.
Corporal Yolmu – 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR)
Awarded a Joint Commanders Commendation for his role as Regimental Signals Detachment Commander, in Afghanistan from April to August 2016.
Corporal Yolmu was the Regimental Signals Detachment Commander for the Kabul Force Protection Company during 2 RGRs deployment as the Kabul Protection Unit on Op TORAL 3. He is recognised for his superb performance in the delivery and development of vital, battle-winning communication systems across a uniquely integrated multi-national organisation. Yolmu has played a critical role during this tour as the JNCO charged with the delivery of communications across a mixed 550-man strong US and UK unit. Working near single-handedly in a high pressure operational environment, where failure to establish robust communications would represent risk to life and mission, Yolmu has quite simply excelled. He has far exceeded the expectations of his rank, delivering a showing one would normally expect from a much more experienced and senior NCO.
He has done so with humility and grace, working tirelessly to ensure the unit could deliver its mission; unglamorous but crucial work. Yolmu’s output as a JNCO has been a pleasure to observe and is a brilliant example of the selfless dedication of our young soldiers. He has enhanced the name of the Battalion and the Army and has been a key player in the delivery of operational success on Op TORAL 3. Easily overlooked, such an exemplary contribution at this sensitive juncture in the campaign is absolutely worthy of formal recognition.
Sergeant Limbu 250 Gurkha Signal Squadron
Awarded a Joint Commanders Commendation for his role as Company Quartermaster Sergeant for Op NEWCOMBE in Mali from May to September 2016.
Sergeant Limbu has performed an exceptional job as CQMS for the 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) company deployed to Koulikoro, Mali as part of the EU training mission tasked with providing infantry training to Malian troops. Despite no previous G4 training or experience, nor All Arms CQMS qualification, he has served far beyond the standard required of the unit’s CQMS. He has consistently operated in the challenging circumstances of co-ordinating resources between UK, Brunei and Mali, across three continents and eight time zones.
Sergeant Limbu’s contribution has been vital to ensuring the effectiveness and professionalism of the 1 RGR deployment and the high regard in which they are held by the EUTM. Of most note, Sergeant Limbu has been the lead for the logistical downsizing of the 3 year mission rotation from 19 to 4 people, including the recovery of personnel and material. Sergeant Limbu put together the initial in-theatre J1/4 estimate for the recovery operation, which PJHQ and allied commands have used as the blue print for planning and support activity to the drawdown of NEWCOMBE contribution. He has competently, and independently, undertaken this work with little reach back support from PJHQ, and with minimal direction required. For his core tasking, Sergeant Limbu provided equipment support to 1 RGR personnel deployed as infantry team trainers.
With minimal planning time available due to fluid programming of training tasks, Sgt Limbu always ensured that 1 RGR personnel were provided with the various equipment required for a diverse variety of training tasks. Sergeant Limbu’s professionalism, patience and relationship-building with all the nations in the EUTM has been key in building the high reputation that the 1 RGR deployment, and the UK overall, has achieved within the mission. He leaves Mali having enhanced Gurkhas and the British Army’s reputation with all who have met him.
The Brigade would like to congratulate all of the above Officers and Soldiers on their awards.
A full list of the awards to British Army personnel is available on this link.
On 19th April 2017, the Army Volleyball Championship 2017 was held in Aldershot Garrison Sports centre. The championship started at 0900hrs and saw a lot of fantastic competition between the different units.
All participants were enthusiastic and put on a great show which pleased the spectators often bringing them to their feet.
The final results of the competitions placed the 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles as winners and 10 The Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment in second.
The Colonel of the Brigade of Gurkhas handed over the respective prizes at the end of the event. Another proud day for the Brigade of Gurkhas.
Sport is critically important to the morale, welfare and operational effectiveness of Army personnel.
PANAGA HALF MARATHON
The journey of the 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles runners for the Trail Walker 2017 has commenced. After the three consecutive victories over the title no doubt, this year the team will be working much harder to keep hold on it.
The 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles running team led by some fittest personnel of the battalion Capt Cassini and Sgt Santosh, have certainly taken a path to success. With a motto “Train Hard Fight Easy”, the team are all into their training with the positive attitude and for sure the winning mentality.
On the due course of the training the runners got a great opportunity to participate at PANAGA HALF MARATHON.
The event was organised by the PANAS (Panaga Athletics Society), who often organises various events here in Brunei and this event is one of their main priority, which is held annually.
This physical/social event is designed to assess a runners physical fitness, mental robustness and determination, also to establish a friendly environment where the participants from diverse backgrounds of various ages come together and share their experiences and get chance to know each other. Even this creates an opportunity for runners to compete with the one with whom they never did earlier.
The event was held at Panaga beach shelter just behind the main club Building. The participants could choose amongst three different distances;
More than 15 runners were signed up for the event. Our aim to participate in the event was to train the team and lead the team towards the victory of Trail Walker 2017 and also to maintain the (G9) community engagement within the locals of Brunei.
Everything was set and the runners were just waiting for the day to come. The early morning on 11th of March, all the runners from different companies were driven by bus to the venue. We received our numbers and checked the route map as we arrived at the starting point. Most of the runners had already arrived and were preparing themselves before race, so did we. The clock was about to hit 0630 hrs as all the runners lined up at the starting point, very soon on a blast of the whistle the race began. The race started from the beach, the route was simply making a loop along the beach, metallic roads and finishes at the same point.
The organisers have placed water points and guides to control traffics at various points, which made the event run more smoother.
At around 0900 hrs all the participants have completed their respective distances and enjoying refreshments (fruits and drinks).
It was the time for result then, a member from the organising team started announcing the winners and runner ups of all three distances of both male and female categories.
As the results were being announced, the winners and runner ups in all the distances in male category were proudly captured by the runners. We all proudly went to the front and received our medals and rewards.
All the runners were also commended by the Commanding Officer, which even boosted their moral.
Our look forward is to win the Trail Walker 2017, which has been the Commanding Officer’s main priority and so as ours.
By Anuch Gurung B COY, 5 Platoon, 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles