Official Association of Britain’s Brigade of Gurkhas

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The Band of The Brigade of Gurkhas at Public Duties 2019

The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas, began their Public Duty from 18th February 2019, alongside the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers.

It’s been a successful first week, where The Band was involved in mounting and dismounting of Queen’s Guards at the Buckingham Palace, St. James Palace and Windsor Castle.

A Musician in the band said; “It’s been an honour to participate in this prestigious ceremony and perform at the forecourt of the palaces and  entertain the thousands of visitors on behalf of The Band and The Brigade of Gurkhas”.

At the start of this year, 250 Gurkha Signal Squadron deployed to Brunei on Exercise GLOBAL KHUKURI 19.

We were accommodated in Medicina lines, with fans rather than air conditioners and, as night fell, we hoped it would get cooler. However, the temperature stayed somewhat constant and the fans only blew the hot air around.

Next day we visited Tuker Lines where 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles are located and the exercise phase was to start on the following day, so we prepared ourselves accordingly. The main objectives of the exercise was to demonstrate the capacity to deploy to the tropical jungles of Brunei, survive, and test and trial Legacy Blue Sustain equipment (LBS) in the field for the first time.

The exercise was divided into two main parts: Bowman and LBS. As the LBS crew set themselves up in Brunei Signals Troop (BST)’s restroom, the Bowman group, led by Corporal (Cpl) Hemanta Nembang, deployed to Training Area C. For the next four days, we deployed to the exercise location every morning, trained throughout the day and recovered every evening.

We were honoured with the opportunity to welcome Commander Queen’s Gurkha Signals (QG SIGNALS), Lieutenant Colonel Stoy, and Gurkha Major QG SIGNALS, Major Dhirbahadur Pun Saheb, from 30 Signal Regiment to our exercise. They were given a short introduction on LBS and then taken to Training Area C, where they observed the boys utilising their knowledge and experience. After a quick lunch, they observed lessons on model-making by Corporal Yogesh Gurung and Battlefield Casualty Drill by Lance Corporal Ella Caruthers. After spending the time out in the jungle, everyone was pleased to be heading back.

Over the last few days in the jungle, we were also able to undertake a few lessons on ‘Survival in the Jungle’. It consisted of collecting clean water, making shelter and food consumption in the jungle. 

The 16th of January was a cultural-visit day. We first visited the Royal Regalia Museum, where we witnessed the history of all the rulers of the country and we also saw a range of gifts presented to Brunei from other countries. This was followed by a short visit to Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. We set out for a boat ride on the Brunei river and along the river we were able to see more of the dense jungle, Proboscis monkeys and the village of Kampong Ayer. The unique thing about that village was that it is built over the river where the buildings are made on top of stilts and it has everything to make it self-sufficient, even schools and hotels.

The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers and the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas took centre stage in the sun on Monday 25th February at Buckingham Palace as once again they took over as The Queen’s Guard with the traditional handover ceremony on the forecourt.  

The sun brought out a fine crowd once again to cheer the Gurkhas on.

The Queen was in the Palace as the flag was raised above the grand building to signify her presence, 

Brigadier Simon Banton OBE, who has recently taken over as Head of Arms and Services (Commander of all Regimental/Corps Headquarters) at Home Command, made his first official visit to Headquarters (HQ) Brigade of Gurkhas in his new role on Thursday 21st February. 

The Brigadier received a welcome brief on the HQ and wider Brigade from Colonel James Robinson CBE and Major Shane Burton, who were able to explain the Brigade’s laydown and unique construct as well as the plans to help alleviate the Army’s current manning challenge before taking the time to meet and talk to other HQ staff over coffee.

Brigadier Banton has taken up his new post having previously served as Chief of Staff at HQ Regional Command and was delighted to be able to talk about his previous experiences including three official visits to Nepal and Brunei. 

28 Transport Squadron is part of 10 The Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment and is now, with its large Nepalese contingent, on continental roads for the first time.

They are confident but had to learn fast but are confident at the wheels of their vehicles. To get there more than 100 personnel have driven 45 trucks from their Aldershot base.  With a Channel ferry crossing the nearly 500-mile journey has taken three days.

For 90% of the squadron driving on the continent and on the right-hand side of the road is a new experience.

Stepping off for the first time from Wellington Barracks on 18th February, soldiers from the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers will provide the prestigious Queen’s Guard at the Royal Palaces in London and Windsor this Spring. This mainly ceremonial role, ordinarily undertaken by the Brigade of Guards, is carried out at Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace, the Tower of London, and Windsor Castle.  It is the first time the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers have undertaken the duty since the Gurkha 200 celebrations in 2015, when the Brigade of Gurkhas provided a Queen’s Guard to mark 200 years of service to the British Crown.

Formed in 1948 in Malaya, since the 1990s the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers have been based in Maidstone as part of 36 Engineer Regiment. ‘Gurkha Sappers’ have been widely deployed in recent years, to Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan on numerous occasions. Gurkha Engineers were deployed to Nepal in 2015, where they took on a key role in the disaster relief effort following the devastating earthquake of that year.

The connections with both the Brigade of Gurkhas and the Corps of Royal Engineers will be visible to spectators who come to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony. Each Gurkha will carry a kukri instead of a bayonet on parade. These distinctive weapons are famously sharp and are useful for everything from preparing ingredients for a curry to striking fear into the hearts of their enemies, if necessary. Tourists will be able to watch the Gurkhas draw their kukris and have them inspected at Wellington Barracks immediately before the Changing of the Guard.

Major Ian Pilbeam RE, Officer Commanding 70 Gurkha Field Squadron explained: ‘It is a real honour and privilege for the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers to be providing the Queen’s Guard, it is something quite different from our normal role of providing Force Support Engineering to the Field Army.  All of those taking part are looking forward to this fantastic opportunity to highlight yet another side of the Corps of Royal Engineers and the Brigade of Gurkhas.’

The Royal Engineers are amongst the most highly qualified soldiers in the British Army and experts at providing bridging, demolitions, and water supply for troops on operations, and skilled in trades such as bricklaying, electrics, plumbing, surveying and carpentry. The Gurkhas have now added a high standard of drill to their coterie with weeks of preparation prior to taking up their new ceremonial role.

Whilst on Queen’s Guard, the Gurkhas will wear Kilmarnock Hats on parade, as their forefathers have for two centuries. The cap badge of the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers is two crossed kukris with the ‘flaming bomb’ of the Corps of Royal Engineers on top. The black brogues worn by the Gurkhas and cross belts worn by the officers on parade are reflections of the Brigade of Gurkhas heritage as a rifle brigade. The Gurkhas are historically light infantry, and whilst on duty the Gurkha Engineers will march at the faster rate of 140 paces a minute. They will carry their rifles at ‘the trail’, or down by their side as opposed to on their shoulders like the rest of the army.  Due to their links with the Royal Engineers, the Ensign of the Guard will not carry a Colour (Regimental flag).

They will be supported by music from the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas, led by Director of Music Captain Basu Dev Gurung, and visitors to London will be entertained by traditional Gurkha military marches such as “Birata ko Chino”, “Jellalabad”, and the rousing “Yo Nepali” (Quick march of the Brigade of Gurkhas).

Sapper Bijay Ale, who joined the British Army in 2012 said: ‘It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us. I am excited and looking forward to it’.

The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers will be providing the Queen’s Guard and Windsor Guard from 18th February to 12th April 2019.

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