Official Association of Britain’s Brigade of Gurkhas

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Exercise SWIFT RESPONSE 19

Brigadier Christopher Pike, DSO, OBE, Gurkha Rifleman has died on July 15, 2019, aged 85. He was born on November 10, 1933. A Good-humoured yet ruthless and single-minded Gurkha Rifleman who saw action in Borneo, Hong Kong and Cyprus.

Outwardly good-humoured and smiling, Chris Pike had an underlying ruthlessness, but also a single-minded calm in crisis. When faced by a howling mob of Chinese workers at the Man Kam To checkpoint, linking the New Territories of Hong Kong with China, during the 1967 Cultural Revolution, he leant against the bridge, casually smoking a cigarette and discussing The Thoughts of Chairman Mao.

Earlier that year he had commanded one of the two leading companies of the Gurkha Rifles who drove invading Chinese militants out of the border village of Sha Tau Kok, where they had killed several policemen and besieged the government office. The sight of the Gurkhas drawing their kukris had been enough to send the Red Guards scrambling over each other in their haste to get back across the border.

Pike had already won the DSO for a clinically executed operation in north Borneo. Scarcely had the new Federation of Malaysia found its feet after its formation in 1957 than President Sukarno of Indonesia began military incursions along the 800-mile border. A divisional-size force of British, Gurkha, Australian and New Zealand troops was assembled to protect the frontier. During his third operational tour of duty in the region Pike found an empty, but well maintained Indonesian base camp, clearly intended for future use, on the bank of the Koemba river, and made a comprehensive plan to ambush the approaches. After several hours’ wait in silence, a landing craft loaded with troops was seen approaching the campsite, accompanied by two small river boats. Pike gave the order to fire as the landing craft neared the shore, causing it to beach with heavy casualties. The two river boats were sunk with their crews. This provoked a barrage of retaliatory mortar fire from beyond the opposite bank, forcing Pike to pull one of his platoons back and hold ready for further action. Thirty-seven Indonesian troops were killed in this engagement.

Anticipating an Indonesian follow-up, Pike set another ambush down his withdrawal track. After a tense wait of two hours the follow-up force entered the ambush and a further nine Indonesian soldiers were killed.

Pike was decorated for his leadership and professionalism, and by 1974 he was commanding 10th Gurkha Rifles in England as part of the UK Strategic Reserve. The Turkish armed intervention in Cyprus, after a Greek-Cypriot coup against the elected government that threatened the safety of the Turkish-Cypriot population, led to a call for reinforcement of the single British garrison battalion on the island. Pike’s unit was selected. The Turkish advance was rapid, but was halted when it reached the Gurkha outposts. Pike was appointed OBE for command of his battalion during the seven months after the Turkish intervention.

Christopher James Pike was born in Cape Province, South Africa, the son of William Pike, a sheep farmer and veteran of the North African campaign of 1941-42. He was educated at Hilton College, Natal, and RMA Sandhurst, from where he was commissioned in 1954. He married Prue McDermid, who he had met playing tennis in Hong Kong, in 1967. They had two sons — James, a charities fund manager, and Tom, who followed his father into the Gurkha Rifles and now works for KPMG — and a daughter, Tamzin, a graphic artist. All survive him.

On his advancement to Brigadier, Pike commanded the British Gurkha recruiting and pensioner support structure in Nepal and later became Brigadier of the Brigade of Gurkhas in Hong Kong. He left the army in 1988 and for nine years was the director of administration for a group of solicitors in Norwich, retiring in 1997 to devote his time to his family, gardening, golf, fishing, ornithology and sailing.

An incident showing Pike’s unusual character occurred as the situation in Cyprus settled down in late 1974. He invited the regimental signals officer to join him for a game of squash in the barracks. During a spirited match, the signals officer accidentally struck Pike in the face with his racket, knocking out a front tooth. After being patched up at the medical centre, Pike turned to his subordinate to remark: “I asked you to play as I have you in mind to be the next Adjutant. I haven’t changed my mind.”

Staff Sergeant Akash Tamang was awarded a Commander 8 Engineer Brigade’s Certificate of Commendation for his outstanding contribution as an Observer Mentor to Exercise WESSEX STORM 1901.

Staff Sergeant Joseph Subba was awarded a 7th Infantry Brigade’s Certificate of Commendation for his exemplary ambassador for his both trade and the Gurkha traditions of Infantrymen first, unwavering integrity and dedication to duty. 

Corporal Kumar Pun was awarded a Commander 8 Brigade’s Certificate of Commendation for his outstanding leadership and wider support to UK task force in South Sudan. 

This year Mandalay Company, based in Brecon, decided to resurrect the Gurkha Khud Race . It was run over the Pen-y-fan area in Brecon Beacons on 20th July 2019.

Photographer: Mr Ian Griffiths, Army Photographer, Infantry Battle School

The history of Gurkha Khud Race dates from 1800 AD. You can read the full history at www.gurkhakhudracebrecon.com The event was organised in Pen-y-fan Brecon Beacons.

To reinstate the old traditional Gurkha Khud Race dated back to 1890s with the aims to make it an Inter-unit competition including other arms and services as well civilians. The Race was extremely popular in Hong Kong within Gurkha Brigade, wider Army units and as well as in the local population.

The race was held on 20th July 2019 in Brecon Beacons National Park. Starting from Story Arms going all the way up to the Pen y Fan and descending to the other side of the Story arms. The total distance of the route was 6km

Race categories and prizes:

  1. Open (individual) category

Route: Starting from Storey Arms to Pen y Fan via Corn Du and back to Pont ar Daf car park. 

Winner:  Sapper Himal Limbu (Gurkha Wing Mandalay) 37 minutes and 56 seconds.

First Runner up:  Private Prem Thapa (Gurkha Wing Mandalay) 38 minutes and 53 seconds.

Second Runner up:  Sapper Bijendra Gurung (Queen’s Gurkha Engineers) 40 minutes and one second.

 

  1. Female (individual)

Route: Starting from Storey Arms to Pen y Fan via Corn Du and back to Pont ar Daf car park. 

Winner: Miss Claire 44 minutes and 15 seconds.

Runner up: Ms Anne Marie Harris 56 minutes and 55 seconds.

 

  1. Military Team (Four persons)

Route: Starting from Storey Arms to Pen y Fan via Corn Du and back to Pont ar Daf car park. 

Winners:  Infantry Brecon School B Team with score of (Gurkha Wing Mandalay)

Lance Corporal Ritesh            42 minutes and 50 seconds

Private Prem Thapa                38 minutes and 53 seconds

Sapper Himal Limbu               37 minutes and 56 seconds

Rifleman Sagar Rai                40 minutes and 17 seconds

Runners up:  Infantry Training Centre Gurkha Company Catterick

Corporal Bel Gurung               45 minutes exactly

Corporal Dhan Tamang          44 minutes and 36 seconds

Corporal Netra Rana              44 minutes and 16 seconds

Rifleman Pradip Gurung         41 minutes and 33 seconds

 

  1. Youth One (under 12)

Route: a short version of Khud Race. 

Winner: Saket Limbu

First Runner up: Sakhcham Limbu

Second Runner up: Bijes Gurung

 

  1. Youth Two (under 18)

Route: slightly longer than Youth One. 

Prizes: First, Second and Third

Winner:  Aagman Limbu

 

There is an aspiration for an open category at future events.

The nature of race was challenging but short so we were able to include families race categories which generated a more family friendly event and attract more interest. The day offered an excellent opportunity for community engagement as we implemented cultural displays and stands, to highlight to the local  community some of the Gurkha and Nepalese traditions including Gurkha curry.

By Captain Padam Gurung, Support Platoon Commander, Gurkha Wing Mandalay

Since the inauguration of the Brigade of Gurkhas Cricket Club (BGCC) in 2018 by our presiding Secretary, Major Buddhibahadur Bhandari MVO, BGCC has been fortunate enough to carry the Brigade Of Gurkhas reputation widely playing against a few big names including; Lord Traveners last year and Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) this year. Currently, there are 32 BGCC players formed across the Brigade of Gurkhas. 

This year BGCC had a cracking start with a very successful week of training sessions during our AGM playing and practicing against few local Cricket club in the Army Cricket Pitch, Aldershot. We are progressing and few resolutions have already been identified by our Secretary for the next year to bring more fixtures.

On the 16th July 2019 The Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) formally presented The Queen’s Truncheon to Her Majesty The Queen in a private ceremony inside Buckingham Palace in the 1844 room. 

A silver ring with an inscription about the event has been added to the The Queen’s Truncheon on the staff and Her Majesty was keen to see this. Major General G M Strickland DSO MBE, talked about the Truncheon and answered her questions. Her Majesty stated it was a pleasure and nice to see The Queen’s Truncheon again which resides in the safe custody of The Royal Gurkha Rifles. 

Present at the event were:

  • Colonel RGR – Major General G M Strickland DSO MBE
  • Deputy Colonel RGR – Colonel J G Robinson CBE
  • Commanding Officer 1 RGR – Lieutenant Colonel C P L Conroy
  • Commanding Officer 2 RGR – Lieutenant Colonel D T Pack MBE
  • Gurkha Major 1 RGR – Major Lalit Gurung MVO
  • Gurkha Major 2 RGR – Major Raj Kumar Rai
  • Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officer RGR – Captain Kiran Pun
  • Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officer Corps – Captain Kamal Khapung Limbu
  • Truncheon Jemadar – Captain Bahadur Budha Magar
  • Colour Sergeant Sunil Gurung
  • Sergeant Poshraj Rai
  • Corporal Mohan Angdembe
  • Corporal Surya Jirel

At 1240hrs Her Majesty The Queen entered the Marble Hall and was escorted to the Carnarvon Room by the Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officers, where the Equerry presented Colonel RGR and Deputy Colonel RGR.

Her Majesty then entered the 1844 room where The Queen’s Truncheon party, Commanding Officers and Gurkha Majors were gathered to present The Queen’s Truncheon.  The Queen was given a brief history about The Truncheon and an opportunity to inspect it and ask further questions, escorted by Colonel RGR. 

The Queen was then introduced to the RGR Command Group, taking time to speak to all four Officers. She then spoke to the Deputy Colonel RGR who escorted her from the 1844 room back to the Carnarvon Room where in a private ceremony she presented the two Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officer with their Royal Victorian Order medals (MVO) in recognition of services to the Royal family during their tenure as Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officers over the last 12 months. 

 

More images from the event can be seen here.

History of The Queen’s Truncheon

During the Indian Mutiny in 1857-8 the Sirmoor Battalion (which later became the 2nd KEO Goorkhas, and latterly The Royal Gurkha Rifles) remained loyal to the British Crown. The Battalion, together with the Guides and the 60th Rifles, held the key position on the outskirts of Delhi known as Hindu Rao’s House for over three months of constant attack. During this period the 2nd Goorkhas suffered 327 casualties (including 8 of their 9 British Officers) out of a total strength of 490.

Following the conclusion of the mutiny, the 2nd Goorkhas were designated as a Rifle Regiment as a mark of the bond that had been created with the 60th Rifles. This explains the dark green uniforms, the rapid marching pace, and the title of Rifleman given to Gurkha soldiers. In addition, Queen Victoria directed that the Battalion be awarded a special truncheon to replace the Regimental Colours that could no longer be carried by a Rifle Regiment. The ornate Gurkha Truncheon (ceremonial staff), which is the Gurkha Rifles equivalent of a Regimental Colour (battle flag) was given to the Rifles by order of Queen Victoria in 1863 during a viewing of the truncheon in the Bow room at Buckingham Palace in London. The Queen’s Truncheon is still in service today, proudly guarded by The Royal Gurkha Rifles. There is an inscribed band around the staff of the truncheon to commemorate each occasion that it has subsequently been presented to the Sovereign.

Brigade of Gurkhas Sounding Retreat 2019 at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on 10th July 2019. Performed by the Band, Pipes and Drums of the Brigade of Gurkhas.

 

 Nepal Cup, Tug of War, Ladies Volleyball ( V/Ball) and Thelo

Time

Event

 

0940

Players line up for third place match of the Nepal Cup

 

0955

2 x Pipers from the Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment (QOGLR) escorts Nepal Cup third place match.

 

1000 – 1045

Nepal Cup third place – first half.

 

1030

Thelo Preliminary Round.  

 

1050

Ladies Volleyball semi-final Team escorts by Numati Panchai Baja.

 

1100

Ladies Volleyball semi-final matches start.

 

1100 – 1145

Nepal Cup third place – second half.

 

1200

Tug of War Semi final 1 and semi-final 2.

 

1230

Tug of War Final.

 

1250

Ladies Volleyball Finalist Team escorts by Naumati Panchai Baja.

 

1300

Ladies Volleyball Final.

 

1430

Thelo Final start.

 

1450

Brigade of Gurkhas Band escort Nepal Cup Final Teams.

 

1500 – 1545

Nepal Cup Final – first half.

 

1545 – 1600

Brigade of Gurkhas Band Display and followed by Recruit Intake 19 Gurkha Company Catterick Display.

 

1600 – 1645

Nepal Cup Final – second half.

 

1700 – 1725

Prize Presentation

Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas

1730 – 1800

Cultural Dance and Live Concert by Preety Ale Magar

 

 

Activities

  • Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) Weapons Display
  • Gurkha Welfare Trust
  • Gurkha Museum
  • Junkari Charity Group
  • RGR PRI Shop

Family Fun Fair

  • Twist Around Family Ride
  • Chair-o-Plane
  • Dodgem
    £5 for All ride – All Day Tickets from Control Tent 1.

General Stalls

  • Gurkha Mortgages
  • Peepal Mortgages
  • MUMs Mortgages
  • SSAFA
  • REFA

Food Stalls

  • Palace Resturant
  • QOGLR Food Stall
  • Gurkha Company Sittang Food Stall
  • Fish ‘n’ Chips, Burger and Hot Dogs
  • Ice Cream and Ice Slush Puppy
  • Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolate
  • Gurkha Company Sittang and Gurkha Welfare Advice Centre Cold Drinks

Retail Stalls

  • UK Sweaters
  • Lumbini Clothing
  • Kala Jyoti

NB: Timings may be subject to change. Changes will be broadcast on the PA system.

On the 10th July 2019 members of the Brigade of Gurkhas and their guests gathered for a cocktail party with a performance of Sounding Retreat by the Band and Pipes and Drums of the Brigade of Gurkhas.

The event took place on the parade square in front of Old College, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The back drop of Old College at the is an impressive scene. Guests gathered and old friends from across the Brigade caught up with each. The Brigade is diverse covering a number of trades and Arms across the British Army. Many of the Warrant Officers and Officers joined with other numberies but then followed different career paths across the Brigade and this type of event may be one of a few occasions when they get to catch up with the friends they made in basic training in many cases over 20 years ago.

After the sounding retreat the attendees moved into the Old College Dining Hall supported once again by the Band and Pipes and Drums of the Brigade of Gurkhas. 

The main guests for the evening included:

  • Rt Hon Mark Lancaster TD VR MP (Minister of State for the Armed Forces)
  • Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP (Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime)
  • Dr Durga Subedi (Nepalese Ambassador)
  • Lord Karan Bilimoria CBE DL
  • Gen Sir Peter Wall GCB CBE DL
  • Gen Sir Sam Cowan KCB CBE
  • Gen Lord Richards GCB CBE DSO DL
  • Lt Gen Sir Mark Poffley KCB OBE
  • Lt Gen Sir David Bill KCB
  • Mr Allan Crockatt (The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers)
  • Earl of Portsmouth (The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers)
  • Mr James Maunder Taylor (The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers)
  • Mr Michael Nicholson (The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers)
  • Mr James Gray MP
  • Brigadier E Millar MBE 
  • Brigadier J Clark CBE 
  • Brigadier S Banton OBE
  • Brigadier T Bateman CBE 
  • Brigadier J Collyer

The officer taking the salute at the of the Sounding Retreat was the Colonel Commandant, Lieutenant General Sir Nick Pope KCB, CBE.

The Dinner Night took place in the Dining Hall old College. Music during the Dinner was supplied by the Hill Boys band from the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas. During the final speech Lieutenant General Sir Nick Pope thanked the Brigade for another impressive year, on Operations, training and various military competitions. He then thanked the Colonel of the Brigade of Gurkhas, Colonel James Robinson CBE, for over 37 years dedicated service to the Brigade and seven of those years steering the Brigade forward as the Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas and he wished him well from the whole Brigade as he retires from the Army in a few weeks time. General Pope also retires from the Army in a few weeks but will remain as the Colonel Commandant Brigade of Gurkhas. 


All the photos from the event can be found on this link.

Brigade Week 2019 took place from 8th – 13th July involving numerous Gurkha personnel and administrative staff support for many meetings, a briefing day, cocktail party, Dinner night and finally the Brigade Bhela on 13th July.

On Monday 8th July series of meetings were held including

  • Brigade of Gurkhas Steering Group
  • Media Officers meeting
  • Gurkha Majors Kabal

With most of the Headquarters deployed over to Shorncliffe for the Royal Gurkha Rifles 25th Anniversary there were no meetings on the Tuesday. However on the Wednesday the 10th July the Brigade held its annual briefing day. Over 800 Gurkhas covering all ranks and guests gathered at Churchill Hall, RMAS for a day of briefings and guest speakers:

  • Brigade update – Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas, Colonel James Robinson CBE
  • News from Nepal – Colonel Richard Goodman MBE and Major Sandy Nightingale
  • Gurkha Welfare Trust update – Major (Retd) Hemchandra Rai MBE BEM
  • The Gurkha Contingent Singapore Police – DAC Will Ketford MBE GCSPF
  • The Annual Heritage Lecture ‘The 1947 to 1966 years’ – Mr Gavin Edgerley-Harris
  • Operation CLARET Experiences – Brigader (Retd) Bruce Jackman OBE MC
  • Key Note Speaker: Leadership – Lord Karan Bilimoria CBE DL
  • Colonel Commandant’s Address – Lieutenant General Sir Nick Pope KCB CBE

On the Thursday 11th July.

  • Royal Gurkha Rifles RAB(O)
  • Pre unit move meeting
  • Religious leaders meeting
  • Regimental Career Management meeting

On the Friday 12th July:

  • Royal Gurkha Rifles Corps Council
  • Royal Gurkha Rifles Trustees Meeting
  • Royal Gurkha Rifles Colonels Meeting

See all the photographs of the meetings and briefs here. 

Over the last few weeks A Company 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) have been in the Balkans. On arrival at Zagreb International Airport, unsuspecting tourists were seemingly aghast at the array of soldiers, equipment and vehicles that represented a fraction of the military footprint that comprised North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)’s premier multinational exercise.

A Company 1 RGR have been working alongside the 3 Parachute (PARA) Regiment Battlegroup (BG) for the last 18 months so were straight into a week of ‘in-theatre training’ to help acclimatise to the notable heat of the Croatian summer and to conduct battle prep for the upcoming missions. This included night training, building clearances and Company-level advance to contacts.

On conclusion of this training, the BG moved to a staging location and on orders from 16 Air Assault Brigade Headquarters (HQ) we began to prepare for a night mission to secure Ubdina airfield. A Company were the first boots on the ground as we inserted in several waves of aviation to secure the hills overlooking the airstrip to allow British and French paratroopers to land on their respective drop zones.  As the tailgate lowered and Gurkhas streamed out of the Chinook helicopter, it was clear that, contrary to the intelligence brief, the enemy had surrounded the landing zone and we found ourselves under contact from 360 degrees. Regardless, we fought through and regained the initiative by securing several objectives before clearing across dense vegetation to the top of the hill.  Having facilitated the PARA insertion, we subsequently helped to secure the rest of the Area of Operation, combatting a challenging enemy armour threat to ensure the airfield was safe for follow on forces to move in and conduct a rapid air landing.

Having successfully delivered a joint theatre entry against a strong enemy, the BG was issued orders to secure a notional train station that represented an important logistical hub for critical national infrastructure. A Company was commended for our efficient clearance of dense woodland, where well-practiced jungle tactics proved invaluable.  The final mission saw the BG move to a mountainous region near the border with Bosnia, tasked with flushing the enemy out of Croatia and cementing NATO’s foothold in the region. Guided by 3 PARA Patrols Platoon, A Company conquered some extremely testing high ground where the Riflemen surpassed expectations by effortlessly navigating boulders and dense vegetation, whilst navigating at night.  After a final skirmish with Croatian armoured vehicles, and with the objective secured, the BG looked to administrate itself after a challenging but thoroughly rewarding exercise.

The Company Quarter Master Sergeant ensured a superb evening of messing that was enjoyed by Commanding Officer 3 PARA and other members of BG HQ who all had very kind words to say regarding the performance of A Coy.  Following a couple of days R&R in the stunning Plitvice Lakes National Parks, the Company travelled back to the UK and earnestly begins preparation for our upcoming operational deployment to Bosnia in the Autumn.

Exercise SWIFT RESPONSE proved to be an excellent opportunity for the Company to demonstrate its ability to work as an integral part of the Air Assault Task Force that successfully demonstrated a capability to project force against a peer enemy. The experiences and lessons learnt from this exercise will undoubtedly prove invaluable as 1 RGR assumes the role of 16 Air Assault Brigade’s Air Manoeuvre Battle Group in July.

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