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Colonel “Runce” Rooney has died aged 96

Colonel “Runce” Rooney, who has died aged 96, had wide operational experience and a number of narrow escapes in an Army career which spanned 37 years.

In 1943 Rooney accompanied 4th Battalion 1st Gurkha Rifles (4/1 GR) to the Arakan, west Burma, as part of 33 Brigade, 7th Indian Infantry Division. His first success was bringing in the heads of four Japanese soldiers that a patrol had killed. This resulted in a reprimand from the brigade commander, who wanted prisoners taken alive and reminded him that severed heads could not be interrogated.

In January 1944, the battalion launched a dawn attack after a night advance across a mile of paddy fields. Ordered to clear an area against strong Japanese opposition, Rooney was shot in the chest while attacking a bunker.

His wound was dressed at the regimental aid post but later in the day his condition became critical. The enemy controlled the evacuation routes, and so he was put on a stretcher and five Indian bearers attempted the dangerous crossing of the paddy fields.

A short way across, they came under fire. One of the bearers was killed and Rooney was dropped into the paddy. The other bearers put him into cover until nightfall when they carried him to the medical centre.

He was not expected to live and was put in a tent with another officer, who died during the night. A Japanese patrol attacked the centre and murdered all the wounded in the main ward, including many of the doctors and orderlies. They did not find Rooney, who survived and was flown to a hospital at Comilla in Bangladesh.

Bertram Francis Louis Rooney was born in Dublin on September 15 1922 and was educated at the High School. A bout of meningitis kept him out of school for 14 months; his doctor prescribed a small carton of cream per day and a sip of champagne once a week.

He represented the school at cricket, boxing and swimming and was capped for Leinster County Schools at rugby. In 1940 he won a German language prize and passed the entrance exam for Trinity College Dublin but decided to join the Army.

He enlisted in the Royal Ulster Rifles, and on being recommended for a commission, opted for the Indian Army. In 1941 he did officer training at Mhow (now known as Dr Ambedkar Nagar) and was posted first to the 45th Cavalry in Poona, then to 4/1GR at Shinkiari and subsequently to Nowshera, northern India, (now in Pakistan). At a dinner party in the mess his recitation of Edward Lear’s poem, “The Owl and the Pussycat”, which contains the nonsense word “Runcible”, resulted in his nickname.

A photograph of Rooney taken when he was Commander of the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment
A photograph of Rooney taken when he was Commander of the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment
After recovering from his wounds he was discharged and posted to the 1st Gurkha Depot at Dharamsala but decided that he must rejoin his battalion. He arrived at Kohima, where his comrades were rather surprised to see him. Having taken part in chasing the Japanese back to the Chindwin River, he was charged with being “absent without leave”, a court martial offence, but the commandant at the depot saw sense and the charge was dropped.

He subsequently took part in the Battle of Meiktila and, after the end of the campaign, moved to Chiang Mai in Thailand to help to disarm 108,000 Japanese soldiers.

After Indian Independence in 1947 he was posted to the 1st Bn 7th Gurkha Rifles (1/7GR) and spent most of the next 12 years on operations in Malaya. Flies spreading disease were a persistent nuisance and, at one camp, he was ordered to establish a fly-free zone. Rooney was the senior officer present when a general, whose idea this was, came to visit. A fly suddenly appeared.

The general turned to Rooney, “Don’t you realise this is a fly-free zone?” he said angrily.

“Yes, sir,” replied Rooney, “But the fly does not.”

After Staff College, he was posted to HQ British Gurkhas India as Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General. There, he had the exacting task of establishing a British depot in Nepal. He was single-handed, communications were poor and he had to travel widely while keeping on top of the HQ administration. He was appointed MBE.

After rejoining his battalion in antiterrorist operations in Malaya, he was appointed brigade major at HQ 99 Gurkha Infantry Brigade Singapore. He then commanded 2nd Bn 7th Gurkha Rifles on four tours in Kalamantan and Sarawak in the Confrontation with Indonesia. He was advanced to OBE.

After a number of staff postings in Germany and Singapore, in 1972 he was appointed Commander Royal Brunei Malay Regiment. On returning to England, he moved to the MoD on becoming Deputy Director of Defence Sales, an appointment that involved travel to Egypt, the Philippines and South Korea.

In 1977 he retired and, settled in Salisbury, for the next 10 years he took up a Retired Officer’s post as Military Secretary HQ SW District. He subsequently did voluntary work, arranging transport for elderly people attending day centres.

Rooney worked himself and his men extremely hard. He had a great sense of humour and was a generous and entertaining host. He did not, however, suffer fools gladly and was never afraid to speak his mind whatever the rank of the person he was speaking to.

Colonel “Runce” Rooney married first, in 1959, Beppy Van Der Leden, who predeceased him. He married secondly, in 1974, Veena Dutt, who was a stalwart support to him and who survives him with a son of his first marriage.

Obituary taken from The Telegraph – 4th February 2019.

Dear all Gurkha Brigade Association friends, please find below the link to all online version of Parbate.

This is January/February’s edition and it covers some events including:

  • The Reformation of 247 Gurkha Signal Squadron
  • Operation TORAL 7 The Story So Far
  • A Company’s Year to Remember:AMBOOR in 2018
  • Gurkha Company Sittang Exercise DYANMIC VICTORY
  • Pre-Infantry Battle School Course

The Brigade of Gurkhas Media Team.

General Sir Gordon Messenger CB DSO OBE recently paid a visit to British Forces Brunei.  With 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles as the only fighting troops in the region, their responsibilities are not just limited to tactical but increasing becoming strategic. 

General Messenger had the opportunity to witness 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles A Company in the jungle, was provided with a brief on Brunei and an honour guard greeted him.  

Major General Paul Nanson CBE (General Officer Commanding Army Recruiting and Initial Training Command) visited Central Selection taking place in Pokhara over the period 19th to 23rd January 2019. He was accompanied by his MA, Major Ed Withey Royal Gurkha Rifles and Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas, Colonel James Robinson CBE. 

General Nanson is responsible for the British Army’s recruiting and made the visit to see and better understand the demands of Gurkha recruiting.  He spent time with recruiting staff and received a briefing on the Gurkha recruitment process. He also had an opportunity to see some of the education and physical assessments in progress and sit in on some interviews.

As the Army changes its physical entry requirements to Physical Employment Standards (PES) General Nanson was able to see how the Brigade of Gurkhas will adapt PES to meet its particular challenge. 

He also (after an 0400hrs start) completed the Doko Run in a pass time! He spent time talking with the Senior Area Recruiting Officers and galla wallahs (the veterans who work as administrators) to learn how the annual Gurkha recruiting cycle operates and more about the intense competition which exists to join the Brigade.

The programme allowed General Nanson to conduct a short trek in the Ghandruk region with his MA and he was delighted to come across a water project that had been paid for by funds raised during Trailwalker (the annual GWT/Oxfam fundraising event).  General Nanson completed Trailwalker in 2017 and plans to run again this year. 

In addition he was able to visit the home of Welfare Pensioner Mrs Parbati Tiwari and spend time talking with her to see directly for himself the difference made by the Gurkha Welfare Trust to her life.

The Central Selection process is now drawing to a close.  580 Potential Recruits (PRs) have been undergoing their assessments and this year places will be offered to around 400 young Nepali men in order to meet the significant growth that the Brigade is undergoing.  Once selected the PRs then come under the command of Gurkha instructors from the School of Infantry who prepare them for the move to UK which happens after the Attestation Parade on 8 February where the proud parents come to see their young men in uniform before they fly to UK to start their basic training.

 

Colonel the 2nd Viscount Slim , has died aged 91, lived one of the last great imperial lives, principally through a military career in which he rose to command 22 Special Air Service Regiment.

After an idyllic childhood in India, Slim served in Burma during the last phase of the campaign and then in the Korean War. Subsequently, with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the SAS, he saw service in Malaya, Borneo, Kenya, Cyprus, Aden and Oman.

John Douglas Slim was born on July 20 1927 at the military hospital in Quetta (now in Pakistan). His father, then Captain William “Bill” Slim, who later commanded the 14th Army in the Burma campaign during the Second World War, was at the Staff College there at the time. His mother, Aileen (née Robertson), was the daughter of a minister of the Church of Scotland.

Slim was educated at the Rashtriya Indian Military College at Dehradun, where he became fluent in Urdu. He enjoyed the military culture, sport and camaraderie with his fellow students.

As a teenager he spent holidays with his father near the front lines in India and Burma, seeing the tough fighting conditions of the 14th Army, which he then joined as a Gurkha soldier in the final months of the war.

He was commissioned into the 6th Gurkha Rifles and added Gurkhali to his languages. In 1946 he went to Japan as ADC to Major General “Punch” Cowan. After commanding a platoon in Burma for 18 months, he contracted dysentery and, advised against further service in Asia, joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the regiment of his Scottish uncles.

In 1950 he went to Korea with the 1st Argylls and was soon involved in action. He lost several close friends during a series of hard-fought engagements. On returning to Scotland, he commanded the Queen’s Guard at Balmoral.

In Edinburgh he met Elisabeth “Buffy” Spinney, whom he married in 1958. She was the daughter of the founder of a retail chain in the Middle East and was an accomplished singer, pianist and cordon bleu chef. She was a great support to her husband; during more hazardous postings like Aden and Cyprus, she kept a pistol in her handbag.

But Slim missed Asia and applied to join 22nd Special Air Service Regiment (22 SAS), reformed from the Malayan Scouts. He was involved in pioneering techniques of resupply by helicopter, parachuting into jungle canopy and river patrolling in inflatable boats.

After instructing at Staff College, Camberley, he became Brigade Major at Headquarters Highland Infantry Brigade from 1962 until 1964. He commanded an SAS squadron during the “Confrontation” between Malaysia and Indonesia before assuming command of 22 SAS in 1967.

It was becoming clear that the regiment would increasingly be deployed in counter-terrorist operations and he set about training his men for this exacting new role. He was Chief of Staff (Special Forces) at HQ UK Land Forces from 1970 to 1972 and was appointed OBE at the end of his tour.

In 1970 he succeeded to his father’s title and in 1999 was one of the hereditary peers elected to remain in the House of Lords. He sat as an independent and, as a member of the Defence Committee, visited troops in Iraq and Afghanistan into his eighties.

Slim retired from the Army in 1972 and, basing himself in London, became a commercial “headhunter”. He held several directorships, including of Trailfinders. He was president of the Burma Star Association and for more than 40 years he and his wife travelled the country meeting Burma veterans, attending celebrations and visiting the sick.

He was president of the SAS Regimental Association from 2000 to 2011 and a patron until his death. He devoted himself to promoting the welfare of its members and their dependants. He was also Master of the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers from 1995 to 1996.

Slim had a lively sense of humour and spoke well in the House of Lords: his name and position enabled him to advance the cause of the SAS and the charities that he supported.

Viscount Slim’s wife predeceased him and he is survived by their daughter and two sons, the elder of whom, Mark Slim, inherits the title.

Colonel the 2nd Viscount Slim, born July 20 1927, died 12th January 2019.

Text taken from The Telegraph

Potential recruits to The Brigade of Gurkhas and military staff based in British Gurkhas Dharan can now listen to the full service from Gurkha Radio, BFBS.

Dharan is one of two regional selection areas for the Brigade, so the installation of a new transmitter in this eastern region of Nepal means that the service can be heard on 107.5FM.

This will help to inform the potential recruits and local community about the training, operations and activities being undertaken by the Brigade worldwide.

Colonel James Robinson, Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas, said: “I am hugely grateful for the work and support of SSVC.  With their assistance we are now broadcasting across Kathmandu Valley, in Pokhara and now to Dharan.

“Gurkha Radio BFBS provides up to date news on what the Brigade is achieving.  Linking with our veterans in Nepal and UK is a vital part of us being one Gurkha family. So a warm welcome to Dharan to Gurkha Radio, BFBS.”

This is not the first time that BFBS Radio has been broadcast in this region. In 1982 BFBS Dharan was established as the ‘smallest but most picturesque of radio stations’ and was run by the Queens Gurkha Signals but it closed in 1989.

Gurkha Radio, BFBS broadcasts in Nepalese on AM and DAB in selected UK locations as well as on FM in the Falkland Islands, Afghanistan, Brunei, Nepal, Belize and on Ops.

Listen online at www.forces.net/bfbsgurkha and connect on Facebook @GurkhaRadio and via the free-to-download BFBS Radio app.

Lieutenant Scott Sears (Royal Gurkha Rifles) was awarded Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) on the New Year’s Honours 2019.

On Christmas Day 2017 He reached the South Pole, securing the world record as the youngest person to do so alone and unassisted attracting highly positive media coverage for the Army, and raising over £40,000 for the Gurkha Welfare Fund.

He did not hold the requisite military adventure training qualifications to conduct his attempt as a military expedition, so chose to pursue it in his own time and without drawing on the public purse.

His record breaking expedition demonstrated to the public the finest qualities they can expect from the Army: bravery, determination, sheer ability and adventurous spirit.

Colonel J G Robinson, current and long serving Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas, was awarded Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) on the New Year’s Honours 2019.

Throughout his unparalleled six-year tenure, he has made an immense contribution to the Colours. He advises CGS and Ministers on Gurkha matters and manages the practicalities of issues as far back as the 1947 Tripartite Agreement with India and Nepal through modern immigration policy for Nepali citizens with family connections to British Gurkhas.

In 2015 he oversaw Gurkha 200, the bicentennial of Gurkhas in the British Army.

He has worked tirelessly to reinforce the esprit de corps of the Brigade and ensure that it is able to give its absolute utmost to the Army.

He has demonstrated extraordinary ability, vision, capacity and resilience, as well as results, well above what should be expected, and on sustained basis.

Lance Corporal Sawan Sewa was awarded the top student with distinction and instructor recommendation on the Regimental Signals Detachment Commander (RSDC) course which he recently completed.

The course was held in the Armour Centre, Allenby Barracks, Bovington which included 2 months of Infantry Signal Bowman Instructor course followed by a month of Infantry Signaller Tactics course. 

Dear all Gurkha Brigade Association friends, please find below the link to all online version of Parbate.

This is December’s edition and it covers some events including:

  • C (MOGUANG) Company Set Foot In Afghanistan
  • Brigade of Gurkhas 2018 Versatile Engagement (Full) Conditional Board Offers
  • Exercise CAMBRIAN PATROL 2018
  • Field of Remembrance Westminster 2018
  • Training Support (Babaji) Company Formation Parade

The Brigade of Gurkhas Media Team.

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