The Brigade Culture and Language Team (BCLT) is currently in Nepal to deliver a ten week long residential Nepali language course. The Survival Nepali Language Course (SNLC), as it is known, is run in British Gurkhas Pokhara and commenced on 18th February 2019.
The SNLC is in its second week and expected to finish on 25th April 2019 following which they complete a two week long Directed Duty Trek in Nepal. A total of ten new Young Officers across the Brigade of Gurkhas Units are participating on the course.
Colonel Royal Gurkha Rifles, Major General Strickland DSO MBE visited the BCLT during his visit to Nepal on 26th February 2018 and was briefed on its activities. He also took the time to meet the students where he re-emphasised the importance and the relevance of Young Officers learning the Nepali language.
The delivery of Nepali language and culture to prepare British officers and soldiers to serve with Gurkhas goes to the heart of the Brigade. The SNLC offers a rare opportunity to Young Officers joining the Brigade to learn, first hand, about the people, culture and the rich tradition of the Gurkha soldier in a unique environment.
On 11th March 2019 members of the Brigade of Gurkhas gathered with International Commonwealth dignitaries, representatives of International organisations, Embassies, High Commissions and Service representatives for the Commonwealth Commemoration event at the Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill, London.
The history behind the Memorial.
On the 6th November 2002 Her Majesty The Queen officially inaugurated the Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill, in London. These Gates have been erected as a lasting memorial to honour the five million men and women from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Caribbean who volunteered to serve with the Armed Forces during the First and Second World Wars. They also celebrate the contribution that these men and women and their descendants, members of the Commonwealth family, continue to make to the rich diversity of British society.
Since Her Majesty opened the Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill in 2002, there has been a wreath laying ceremony at the Memorial Gates to commemorate the actions of all those from the Empire who sought for the British in the two World Wars.
The Windsor Castle Guard consists of one Officer, two Senior Non-Commissioned Officers, eight Junior Non-Commissioned Officers, and ten Sappers, who provide ceremonial security to Her Majesty the Queen while she is at Windsor. Similar to at Buckingham Palace, the Guard form up at Victoria Barracks, where they are inspected by the Officer of the Guard.
Accompanied by the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas, the Guard marches in light drill to Windsor Castle, where the Changing of the Guard takes place at 1100hrs. Prior to dismounting 48 hours later a kukri inspection is carried out in the courtyard, providing a unique spectacle for the viewing public.
Command Group Visit
A recent visit was made by the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers Commanding Officer, Gurkha Major and Regimental Sergeant Major.
All were very impressed with the soldiers on guard. They joined for tea before going on a tour of St Georges Chapel and the Castle.
On 10th March Rt Hon Mark Lancaster TD VR MP, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, announced an expansion to the Brigade of Gurkhas which will see it provide an additional Queen’s Gurkha Engineer Squadron, two additional Queen’s Gurkha Signals Squadrons and additional support to the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps Support Battalion and the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas.
He also confirmed the reformation of 3rd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles to become the British Army’s fifth Specialised Infantry Battalion (SpIB).
The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR15) set out the Army’s plans to develop up to five specialised infantry battalions. Specialised Infantry Battalions consist of about 270 personnel, roughly half the size of an ordinary infantry battalion.
They are made up of Non-Commissioned Officers/Senior Non-Commissioned Officers and officers as their role is to train, advise, assist and mentor designated partner nation, something that private soldiers would not be experienced enough to do.
They will operate overseas in specified regions on a long-term basis, to enable the formation of strong relationships and to gain in-depth knowledge of their areas of responsibility including the terrain, culture and language.
The expansion in the Brigade will allow Gurkhas to access more career opportunities, including promotion and increased chances to serve a full 24-year Army career within the Brigade of Gurkhas. To assist with initial requirements, there will be an increase in Gurkha recruiting from 270 in 2018 to 432 personnel per year for the next few years.
On the 7th March 2019 the Brigade of Gurkhas Steering Group, formed of Headquarters Brigade of Gurkhas Staff, Commanding Officers and Gurkha Majors, came together at the Headquarters at Robertson House, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The meeting was chaired by the Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas.
The group discussed a number of issues and Brigade developments. The importance of the meeting is to inform unit management and discuss issues in a forum which then allows for future informing and educating to the wider Brigade on the current issues and developments across the Brigade of Gurkhas.
This meeting included briefs on; Brigade growth, changes to selection process, challenges to units, operational commitments, welfare, pension, media development and pension changes.
Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster has announced an increased support package for 22,000 Gurkha veterans and their families.
The veterans, who all joined the Brigade of Gurkhas before 2007, will benefit from a £15 million (2.2bn Nepali Rupees) increase in the Gurkha Pension Scheme. While the increased remuneration will vary depending on an individual’s circumstances, veterans could receive increases of up to 34% extra in their pensions and with the increases being backdated to 1 January 2016 this means Gurkha pensioners will receive a total of £46m (6.7bn Nepali Rupees) extra this financial year.
Alongside the increased pensions, the MOD is also announcing today a new £25 million (3.6bn Nepali Rupees) investment, over the next ten years, for medical support for veterans living in Nepal.
This new investment will be delivered in partnership with the Gurkha Welfare Trust, a charity which provides a range of support to Gurkha veterans in Nepal, including via a series of regional healthcare facilities.
Today’s announcement comes after Mr Lancaster recently visited Nepal, where he met with the President, Rt. Hon. Mrs Bidya Devi Bhandari, to present the annual report of the Brigade of Gurkhas.
The Minister also met with the Prime Minister of Nepal, Rt Hon. Mr K P Sharma Oli, the country’s Foreign and Defence Ministers, and the Chief of the Nepal Army Staff. Both sides emphasised the importance of Gurkhas in the UK-Nepal relationship and discussions covered a range of issues, including the additional support for Gurkha veterans being announced today and UK-Nepal economic and investment collaboration.
The Minister also saw work being done to reduce pollution and improve social conditions in brick kiln manufacture being supported by DFID Nepal.
Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster said:
This pension increase for Gurkha veterans, alongside long-term funding for healthcare support in Nepal, will make a difference to the lives of Gurkha veterans and their families.
I have huge respect for the Gurkhas, who have been important to the British military for more than 200 years, and I hope will be for many years to come.
These are significant sums which reflect the outcome of dialogue with Gurkha veterans and the Government of Nepal.
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The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers Tower of London Detachment has been working in tandem with Yeoman Warders to provide security and ceremonial guarding of the Tower.
Every day the guard conducts the Ceremony of the Word at three o’clock in the afternoon, where the ‘word’ that will grant entry to the tower after dark is received. At ten o’clock at night, the Ceremony of the Keys is performed, where the Chief Yeoman Warder locks up the Tower in a manner unchanged for centuries.
Photo Credit @Cloud20177_photography
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,
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.
The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers prepare for Public Duties have been preparing to take on public duties in London. The preparation has meant weeks on the drill square both in Chatham and also at Woolwich.
The final phase was an inspection of their turnout and knowledge of the required parade movements and drill by the London District Garrison Sergeant Major who is in charge of all public military events inside the London area.
A list of dates you can see The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers on Public Duties at either Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace or Windsor is available here.
The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas will also be on Public Duties in London, not always supporting the Gurkhas but other London based units as well.