London, 9 June 2015 – The Royal Hospital Chelsea provided the spectacular backdrop for celebrations marking 200 years of loyal Gurkha service to the Crown. The fundraising event, an open air pageant with music and cultural displays, was organised by The Gurkha Welfare Trust and attended by members of the royal family, including Her Majesty The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, who is Patron of The Gurkha Welfare Trust and Colonel in Chief of The Royal Gurkha Rifles, Prince Harry and His Majesty The Sultan of Brunei.
The event, although a celebration, was also an opportunity to pause and remember all those who tragically lost their lives in the recent earthquakes in Nepal. All funds raised at the pageant will go to The Gurkha Welfare Trust’s work providing vital support to impoverished ex-Gurkhas and their communities, enabling the Trust to expand its medical programme in Nepal and respond to the urgent need to rebuild following the earthquakes.
As the sun set, hundreds of serving and ex-service members of the Brigade of Gurkhas and their families took part in the pageant, the centrepiece of a series of events taking place throughout 2015. Actress and Gurkha Welfare Trust Vice Patron Joanna Lumley and television historian Dan Snow narrated the history of the Gurkha soldier whilst battle re-enactments, cultural displays and musical performances by the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas entertained the sell-out audience of 1,650 people.
For two centuries, Gurkha soldiers have served alongside British forces in every major conflict. From the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58 to the two World Wars where the Brigade suffered over 40,000 casualties, the Gurkhas have formed a fearsome reputation for bravery and loyalty. A total of 13 Victoria Crosses – the highest award for valour – have been awarded to Gurkha Soldiers since the First World War and they continue to serve with distinction. On return from his tour in Afghanistan, where he served alongside The Royal Gurkha Rifles, Prince Harry said that there was “no safer place” than by the side of a Gurkha.
The Prince of Wales as Patron of The Gurkha Welfare Trust wrote a message for the commemorative booklet marking the pageant. In the message His Royal Highness said: “I could not be more delighted to join you here this evening to mark the Gurkhas’ bicentennial anniversary. We come together to recognise and celebrate these remarkable men and their extraordinary service to our country. In the two hundred years that the Gurkhas have
fought for the British Crown they have earned our nation’s deepest respect and gratitude. Throughout their service they have shown time and again the most remarkable devotion to duty and bravery in the most challenging of circumstances, with significant numbers of their officers and men being awarded the Victoria Cross, this country’s highest award for gallantry. The Gurkhas’ loyalty, coupled with the highest professional standards, has put them at the forefront of the British Army. ”
The Gurkha Welfare Trust offers financial and medical support to former Gurkha servicemen and their families, predominantly in Nepal. It also delivers community aid projects in Gurkha villages. The Trust recently launched the Gurkha 200 Bicentenary Appeal: ‘Our Duty of Care’ which aims to raise £6 million for a vital expansion of its medical programme in support of its ageing welfare pensioners.
General Sir Peter Wall, Chairman of The Gurkha Welfare Trust said: “We’re honoured to welcome such distinguished guests to this evening’s celebration, where we are not only commemorating 200 years of exemplary service but also raising funds for an important cause. The Gurkha Welfare Trust is the Brigade of Gurkhas’ charity partner. It provides the support our Gurkha veterans richly deserve once their military service is complete. That support must be relevant to the changing needs of our Gurkha ex-servicemen, their dependants and their communities in Nepal.”
Sir John Peace, Chairman of Standard Chartered PLC, proud sponsors of The Gurkha 200 Pageant, said: “Standard Chartered considers it an honour to support the Gurkha bicentenary celebrations in 2015, marking 200 years of loyal Gurkha service to the British Crown. We are the largest international bank in Nepal, and since 1987, we have been the principal bankers for the Gurkhas, and not least the 32,000 ex-service personnel who receive British Gurkha Nepal (BGN) pensions. This is a source of quiet pride for all involved, and a daily demonstration of our promise to be ‘Here for good’. This is of course especially important for Nepal as it recovers from the recent tragic earthquakes, and we are working with our clients and international financial institutions to find ways to help in financing the reconstruction of the country. ”
Below are national and international media coverage links for G200 Pageant Celebration:
1. The BBC
3. ITV News