On Monday 15th May 2017 members of the Gurkha Everest Expedition reached the top of Everest, becoming the first to scale the world’s tallest peak this year. The 14 summiteers included three Gurkha soldiers. “They made it to the summit at 1:15 pm,” said Gyanendra Shrestha, a Tourism Ministry official. This is the first time that serving Gurkha soldiers have reached the summit.
Then on Tuesday morning ten more of the Gurkha Everest team made it to the top of the world. This is a fantastic achievement for the Brigade and the British Army.
Mountaineering officials had said; “As the weather forecast stated high winds, it was not certain when Everest aspirants would make their summit bids. On the 10th May, the so-called Icefall Doctors, a dedicated team of local climbers who prepare the route up Everest by fixing ropes, had attempted to reach the top, however, they were forced to return due to high winds and heavy snowfall above what is called the ‘balcony’ (8,400 metres). The high-altitude Nepali mountain workers had then decided to make their summit bids after 17th May
However, the Gurkha Everest Expedition did not wait. “The Gurkha team assessed the weather themselves. They decided to mount the summit bid considering the weather window, a period of time when weather conditions can be expected to be suitable for them to climb,” said Shiva Raj Thapa, managing director of Summit Nepal Trekking that is handling the Gurkha Everest Expedition.
Deputy expedition leader Major Andrew Todd MBE said: “This is a fantastic achievement for the Brigade of Gurkhas, after our attempt in 2015 was called off due to the avalanches from the earthquake and our team then turned to assist the humanitarian aid that was required in the area. We are ecstatic about this success. It is another example of how the British Army strives to achieve excellence. We are delighted to have worked with the Sherpa to fix the ropes to the summit and to be the first team to summit this year — a great collaboration between Nepalis, working together to get the job done. We now hope for a safe descent to Base Camp over the next 24 hours or so.”
The team will now make their way down the mountain to the relative safety of Basecamp, regroup and prepare to return to Kathmandu and home to the UK.
We will update our dedicated page for the Gurkha Everest team as the full story unfolds.
Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas (Colonel James Robinson) popped into the BFBS studio as part of his visit to 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles, the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas and the Brigade Training Team all based at Sir John Moore Barracks, Shorncliffe on 7th December 2016.
While he was there he was interviewed by Mr Lal Shahi at Shorncliffe BFBS station.
Colonel BG disclosed that his intention of visiting 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles was to welcome Op TORAL team and get updates on how the battalion was doing. He also mentioned the Mt Everest expedition that was going to take place in year 2017. Colonel BG and the Battalion COS Major Andy Todd also discussed the need for further fund raising to allow the expedition to take place in May next year.
Colonel BG had also visited the Brigade Band to brief them and to discuss next year’s programme as well as to award Long Service Good Conduct (LSGC) medals to a number of band personnel.
Reviewing the year 2016, Colonel BG spoke about the safe return of 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles Op TORAL team from Afghanistan. He praised the hard work and great effort that 2 RGR put in order to make the Operation a great success in last 8 months.
Colonel BG mentioned about the tragic moments, and dark hours that Nepal faced during the devastating Earthquake incident last year. He highlighted the contribution of the Brigade to Nepal for the reconstruction of Schools, Community centres, and pensioners damaged houses in affiliation with Gurkha Welfare Trust. This was led by The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers for last 18 months (Op MARMAT).
Colonel BG also spoke his heart about the gradual Growth of the Brigade that would now offer Gurkha soldiers better career prospects through more opportunity for 24 years’ service and increased promotions.
His appointment as the Colonel BG has now been extended for two more years and he is very much looking forward to developing his strategies. He also recognised the importance of the wider Gurkha family in Nepal, UK and around the world; the ex-servicemen who help maintain and develop the worldwide reputation of Gurkhas as ambassadors for Nepal.
Finally, he wished the Brigade a Merry Christmas and expressed his gratitude towards all the supporters of the Brigade, especially to the Gurkha families whose love, support and commitment is hugely appreciated by him and allows our soldiers to do so well.
Gurkha Staff and Personnel Support (GSPS) held their annual briefing day on Friday 25th November 2016. The event this year was extended to junior ranks for the first time. Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas, Colonel James Robinson opened the event and gave a first-hand account of the BG growth activities and what this meant for the future of the Corps.
This was followed by the GSPS annual Dinner Night attended by the Officers & Senior Non Commissioned Officers and their families. The evening event was held at the Indian Army memorial room (IAMR) – a perfect fitting venue with its rich and glorious history shared with our fore bearers from the Indian Gurkhas. Also in attendance were selected guests mainly Brigadier Paul Burns (Col GSPS), Colonel James Robinson (Col BG), Colonel Stephen Pyle, Colonel Andrew Griffiths OBE and Lieutenant Colonel Richard Clarke.
The evening sadly, also drew the end of an era as we bade farewell to Col GSPS Brigadier Paul Burns who has been that sturdy pillar for the GSPS. The Company stood as one and thanked him for his immense service to the GSPS and the wider Brigade. That same evening, we welcomed in our midst, the successor to Colonel GSPS, Colonel Andrew Griffiths OBE. Colonel Andrew has been affiliated with the Gurkhas for some time and we are certain that he can guide us in similar fashion to his predecessor and some more.
Major Andrew Todd, of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, who helped rescue climbers from Mount Everest following the massive earthquake in Nepal in April 2015 received his MBE from HRH The Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace on Friday 18th November 2016. Major Todd, was deputy leader of the G200 Everest Expedition, the attempt to put the first serving Gurkha on the summit to mark the 200th year of Gurkha service to the Crown, when the quake struck on 25th April 2015 causing an avalanche on the mountain which killed 22 climbers.
Major Todd and his fellow Gurkhas, many of whom had families in devastated regions, stayed to help rescue people from the mountain and help the clean-up operation. He said: “What we did was no different from what any soldier would have done. We stayed because we are British soldiers and that’s what they do. We had a duty to do what we did.”
After two nights and three days, Major Todd was instrumental in evacuating all 116 climbers and Sherpas to the safety of the Base Camp from Camp 1 in a limited 5-hour weather window.
In the weeks following the earthquake Major Todd, who has served three tours of Afghanistan, co-ordinated the team in providing medical support and emergency relief to the villages along their route as they trekked back to Kathmandu and supported the UK relief effort.
His citation states: “Throughout the immediate aftermath, and the ensuing weeks, he displayed outstanding leadership in adversity.”
Today members of the Brigade and representatives from all the current and past regimental associations plus key members of the Gurkha Welfare Trust and the Gurkha Museum gathered at the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey.
The event is organised by the Royal British Legion Poppy Factory as part of the annual Poppy Appeal commemorations.
This year 380 plots were laid pit in the names of military organisations and associations. Remembrance crosses are planted in these plots – often with hand written messages from family, friends or colleagues.
The Field of Remembrance was started in 1928 by Major Howson MC, the founder of the Royal British Legion Poppy Factory.
Major Howson and a few disabled ex-servicemen from the Poppy Factory grouped together around a battlefield cross and with trays of poppies, invited passers-by to plant a poppy in the vicinity of the cross.
Since then, the Field has evolved to include a wide range of military interests. Ex-Servicemen and Woman, both young and old turn out for the opening ceremony to pay their respects to their colleagues.
On this occasion our current Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officers (Captain Ganesh Tamang and Captain Lalitbahadur Gurung) and Colonel (Retd) David Hayes were presented to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH Prince Henry or Wales (Prince Harry). Prince Harry and Captain Lalitbahadur Gurung have trained and served together.
After the service at the Westminster Abbey gardens the Gurkha community moved to the statue of Field Marshal The Viscount Slim on Whitehall and a small number of wreaths were laid as a mark of respect. Our two Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officers were working hard today and took up position on either side of the statue.
Then the party moved to the Memorial to the Brigade of Gurkhas on Horse Guards Avenue, Whitehall, London. This was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on 3 December 1997. This was the first memorial to Gurkha soldiers in the United Kingdom, and was occasioned by transfer of their headquarters and training centre from Hong Kong to London in 1997. The sculptor was Philip Jackson, working from a statue of 1924 by Richard Reginald Goulden in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the plinth was designed by Cecil Denny Highton.
A small service took place with Last Post performed by a bugler from the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas and a lament performed by a piper for the Royal Gurkha Rifles.
In Cornwall HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) is deployed at St Mawgan exercising as a Land Component Command on Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE 16. The HQ is the UK’s 3 star multi-national deployable HQ contribution to NATO. The 500 strong HQ has deployed from its home base in Innsworth, Gloucester and is preparing to be the 2017 NATO Response Force. It will be on standby in 2017 when the UK takes the lead in NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Force (VJTF) to be ready to be deployed in days to protect NATO allies from potential threats. Comprising staff from 21 nations it also has a significant Gurkha presence.
The HQ took two weeks to set up and this was established by the ARRC Support Battalion. Currently there are 55 Gurkhas from RGR, QOGLR, QGE and GSPS and this number will rise to 105 over the next year. Additionally HQ ARRC is supported by 22 Signal Regiment with 248 Queen’s Gurkha Signal Squadron providing all the Communication Information Systems for the HQ.
On 24-25 October Colonel BG, Colonel James Robinson, visited Gurkha troops on the exercise. In addition to meeting senior commanders he had the opportunity to see Gurkhas in both the ARRC Support battalion and 248 QGS Squadron in action. He also provided the Gurkhas with a Brigade update and was able to answer questions about the impending growth of the Brigade and enhanced career opportunities it provides.
Troops from the UK and its allies have been testing their ability to deploy a command centre at the sharp end of a major NATO operation.
The results of this conversion board are good news for all in the BG.
Much of the success in increasing the VEng(F) conversion rate is the result of a number of new posts for Gurkha soldiers and particularly the increase in JNCO and SNCO positions.
The Brigade is getting bigger and employment opportunities are growing.
Today was the pass out parade for Gurkha Company Recruit Intake 2016 and it was held at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, North Yorkshire.
This event marked the end of a 9 month training cycle for 240 young soldiers.
The young Gurkhas will now be assigned to various units within the British Army:
To deliver trained Gurkha soldiers in order to meet the operational requirements of the Brigade of Gurkhas. Gurkha Company currently has 71 permanent staff. It is responsible for delivering the 39 week long combat Infantryman’s Course (Gurkha). All Gurkhas serving in the British Army are trained by the Gurkha Company to become infantrymen first. This provides the Brigade with an agile edge.
The inspecting officer was Lieutenant General J I Bashall CBE, Commander Home Command and Standing Joint Commander (UK). He thanked all the families and friends who made the journey to be at this special occasion; many of whom had travelled long distances to be there.
General Bashall said; “I took the salute at the attestation parade on 2nd January 2016 in Nepal. Now 9 months on, the journey that has taken you from Pokhara as selected Trainee Riflemen to Catterick as Trained Soldiers has been realised. It is a proud moment for you all and something I feel privileged to be a part of. The next phase of your career as a soldier in the British Army is ahead of you and is your chance to put all you have worked for and learnt into reality.
Many of you have already battled through adversity in light of last year’s earthquakes which are still very fresh in everyone’s minds. I know many of you will have been personally affected by this tragedy. Your on going support to your families back home has been unwavering and I know you have participated in events such as the Great North Run to help raise money to rebuild the lives of those communities affected.
Put your heads down and continue to soldier to the best of your ability. Master the basics, bring honour to your family and regiment and never forget where you come from. We, the British Army and the wider British public, owe you and your country a debt of gratitude.
I am honoured to be here today to mark the start of your journey as trained Gurkha soldiers. Well done and many congratulations.”
On Mon 25 Jul 16, three members of Brigade of Gurkhas jumped together for the first time over the skies of Salisbury Plain, setting a record as the first Gurkha Formation Skydiving team during the Advance Parachute Course held at Joint Service Parachute Wing, Netheravon (previous base of HQBG). They are WO2 Khadak Chhetri GSPS, Cpl Dhurba Gurung and Pte Sunny Tumbahangphe both from QOGLR.
WO2 (SQMS) Khadak, an airborne Gurkha, is currently serving at the Defence Academy. He is also a member of the AGC Skydiving and Sports Parachuting Team and has won medals in the Armed Forces Parachute Championships while representing the AGC. Brigade of Gurkhas Welfare and Education Fund has provided funding assistance to support his overseas training in Spain in 2015.
Cpl Dhurba Gurung and Pte Sunny are members of permanent staff currently attached to Joint Service Parachute Wing (JSPW), Netheravon and they are already qualified as Formation Skydivers. They are proud to be representing their regiment and the Brigade of Gurkhas and they are grateful to their chain of command for giving this opportunity.
The team is grateful to Capt Somerville QOGLR for not only vising the team but also for releasing LCpl Vishal Gurung to capture this historic sporting event in the Brigade’s history.
Parachute Courses (Basic, Intermediate and Advance) are open to all members of the Armed Forces including the Reserves and they are free. Courses are held at Netheravon, RAF Weston-on-the-Green as well as in Cyprus. WO2 Khadak Chhetri and Cpl Dhurba Gurung will be taking part in AFPC 16 being held at Army Parachute Association Netheravon over period 20 – 26 Aug 16.
Please feel free to contact WO2 Khadak should you wish to find out more information about how you could also take part in Gurkha Formation Parachuting.
Photos credits: LCpl Vishal Gurung QOGLR and Capt Sean Sapsford AGC (SPS).
Article: WO2 Khadak Chettri, GSPS.