Official Association of Britain’s Brigade of Gurkhas

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Outgoing Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas – Final thoughts – Colonel J G Robinson CBE

19th September 2019

My time as Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas has come to an end. I have had the most enjoyable and rewarding seven years supporting the Brigade whilst also serving as a Trustee of both the Gurkha Welfare Trust and Gurkha Museum. It is the best job in the Army and I have so many wonderful experiences to take away as I start a new career. I have spent all my life in the Brigade, first with my father who served in 7 Gurkha Rifles and then starting as a young sano saheb in Hong Kong. It has been a most privileged position to support such a high performing organisation, seeing the full pipeline from recruiting in Nepal, basic training at Catterick, special to arm training and unit activities.  The Brigade has changed a great deal; it went through a redundancy programme, then growth and also a bicentenary. In my last communication, I thought I might take the opportunity to leave some lasting thoughts which I spoke about at this year’s Brigade Briefing Day in Sandhurst in July.

The relentless pursuit of excellence.  A few years ago, our then Colonel Commandant, General Sir Peter Wall, challenged us to continue to be better by the ‘relentless of pursuit of excellence’. I ask each unit to think about what this means specifically to you and how you will determine progress in your cap badge. It is because of our exceptional performance that the growth has been easier to negotiate; the Army knows that we will fill the new roles to a high standard. When doing well, it is easy to relax and get comfortable. So, continuing to excel at Bisley, competing at the Cambrian Patrol and other events is vital and must be invested in. But excellence is not just operations and competitions; it is also less exciting work such as administration, management, communication, community engagement, welfare and doing the right thing when not being observed. A few years ago, the author James Kerr spoke to the Brigade Briefing Day about how the New Zealand rugby team, the most successful sports team of the last decade, continues to sustain high performance. Each All Black is challenged to leave ‘his shirt in a better place’. We, as individuals and teams, too must look to leave our cap badges in a better place. The All Blacks too were reminded to be humble in all they did; we too must let others do the talking. Our role is to walk the walk.

The Whole Team. There are a number of parts to this. First, we must support our total Gurkha brand; the 4 Pillars of the serving Brigade, Association, Museum and Welfare Trust. They are mutually supporting, united behind a world-famous organisation. This synergy provides the foundation of support for us all, serving and veterans, and it is our complete Gurkha community. Secondly, as soldiers we place much reliance on the support of our families. With long periods away on operations, training and courses, it is our families who continue to look after the home. Recognising this collectively and individually must be part of our thinking. And finally, not every soldier is a gladiator, not everyone wins the Queen’s Medal or gains a distinction on a career course. We can only be as fast as the slowest man. There is a natural tendency to focus attention on the heroes, so think about how you develop those who are not in the lead group.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. We are very fortunate to be in an organisation with a worldwide reputation formed over 200 years of exceptional, loyal service. The famous Gurkha name was created in Delhi in 1857, during the World Wars and on other operations. It was our predecessors, the Giants, who performed with such bravery that made the Gurkha name what it is today. The role of the serving Brigade is to maintain that reputation in all we do and that is why our efforts on providing unit input to the Brigade communications, exploiting our success and highlighting our cultural differences, are so important.  It is also vital that we understand our own heritage. Support to and from the Gurkha Museum, our corporate memory, is excellent and we must support it as it starts a major transformation programme to modernise its displays and activities. Continuing to educate our people through studies, battlefield tours and other learning will ensure, from recruit training onwards, that we understand where we came from. Only by looking back can you know the way ahead.

Do as you would be done by. The Army has placed much effort on enhancing leadership in recent years. The Army’s Leadership Code applies equally to us. In times when retention was not a problem, I know we were perhaps less good at looking after our people than we are today. A lesson for managing our people and also for life is to ensure that we treat others in the same way we would wish to treated ourselves. By doing this we will make the Brigade a hard place to leave and it will reinforce the close brotherhood which is a unique part of serving in such a special organisation.

We are all temporary passengers on the Brigade train. I am getting off now, but I wish all of you who continue on the very best of luck and fortune. I am extremely delighted to be handing over to Colonel Jody Davies as Colonel Brigade of Gurkhas.  He is exactly the right man to take the Brigade forward through the next phase and I wish him every success.

Jai Brigade of Gurkhas!

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