It is with great sadness that we record that Rifleman Suraj Gurung from 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) was killed in action in Afghanistan on Saturday 2 October 2010.
Rifleman Suraj, serving as part of Combined Force Nahr-e Saraj (South), was killed during a follow-up foot patrol after an attack on his patrol base. He was caught in an explosion as a suicide bomber detonated himself. He died at the front of his platoon, leading the way as he had done for the previous six months. Rifleman Suraj was 22 years old and born and raised in the hill town of Gorkha in Nepal. He passed the notoriously gruelling process for Gurkha selection into the British Army in December 2007. In early January 2008 he made the journey from the tranquil foothills of the Nepalese Himalaya to Catterick in North Yorkshire as a trainee Rifleman ready to begin the arduous months of Gurkha infantry training.
In October 2008 he completed this training and travelled to Brunei to join 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles. As a result of his good command of English and his obvious intelligence he was immediately selected to be the Platoon Radio Operator. This position is normally reserved for a senior Rifleman and as such it was testament to the high regard in which he was held so early on in his career.
Rifleman Suraj returned to the United Kingdom in August 2009 and was selected as the lead man in his patrol, known as the Vallon man, for the upcoming tour in Afghanistan. His ability had again been singled out. He deployed on Op HERRICK 12 in April 2010 and even from the start of the tour he was always confident and calm under pressure. As a soldier he excelled in Afghanistan. As the point man of every patrol he led his multiple unflinchingly across some of the most daunting and uncertain terrain, day after day, time after time. For six months he had been finding IEDs and selecting safe routes, keeping those following behind safe. Only recently married he leaves behind his wife and family in Nepal.
His family said: Our family is devastated with the news of Suraj’s death in Afghanistan on 2 October. He was a very caring son and loving husband. He followed his forefathers’ footsteps as both his grandfather and father served with the British in India: and his father- in- law served in the British Army. He loved the army and was very proud to be a Gurkha: and died doing a job he loved. His family members are very proud of him.”
Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox said: “I was extremely saddened to hear about the death of Rifleman Suraj Gurung. He was a brave and highly respected soldier who showed a lot of promise and led by example. My thoughts and sympathies are with his family, friends and former colleagues at this difficult time.”
Lieutenant Colonel G M Strickland MBE, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, Combined Force Nahr-e Saraj South said: “Rifleman Suraj Gurung was the Vallon man for my Tactical Headquarters Team. Throughout this tour, he led the way through areas of high Improvised Explosive Device risk with fortitude and courage. Never once did he complain or shy away from his duty, despite the fact that his team had suffered a partial detonation of one device and found several others during their time in Afghanistan.This was his first operational tour. It is telling that when we trawled the battalion for photographs of Suraj, the ones that came forward showed him with his arms around groups of grinning local children. He had a good heart, and was here to help the Afghan people. He was a very fine Gurkha soldier; tough but compassionate, and always there for others. To all around him he was a source of strength. His ready smile is now gone from us, but his memory remains. We mourn his passing, and share in the grief of his family who have lost a very special man. I am intensely proud to have served with him.”
Major David Jones, Officer Commanding C (Mogaung) Company, 1 RGR said: “Rifleman Suraj Gurung was killed in action whilst on patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj District of Helmand Province. As he was returning to his base he was caught in the blast of a suicide bomber.Rifleman Suraj was everything that the man who killed him was not. He was brave, courageous, considerate, compassionate and kind. He truly believed in the job that he was doing and took immense pride in the fact that he was helping people less fortunate than himself every single day. A cracking soldier, respected by all, he had unflinchingly led his multiple down some of the most daunting alleyways and across some of the most haunting ground, every single day for the last six months. He was one of the very best of his generation and almost certainly destined for promotion. I personally will remember him for his trademark booming voice cheerfully singing out ‘morning sahib’ as he passed my office on his way to breakfast each day. Tomorrow there will be no such greeting. Rifleman Suraj was the life and soul of his multiple. There was nothing that he would not do for anyone. A gentle character, yet incredibly brave, he will be sorely and sadly missed by every single man in the Company. He had an exceptionally bright future, but we should treasure his past, because he made a difference, he contributed, and the world is a better place for him having been in it.”
Major Khusiman Gurung MVO, Gurkha Major, 1 RGR said: “A dark cloud has been cast over us all by the tragic loss of Rifleman Suraj Gurung. His life was taken in a cowardly act whilst he was carrying out an important role for the security and development of Afghanistan. In my view Rifleman Suraj was a true Gurkha soldier with a promising future.He was utterly loyal and dedicated to his profession; it was a job he loved. He was known for being courageous, selfless and ambitious and he will be remembered as such. He will always remain in our hearts and memories. Our thoughts and prayers go to his wife, Permila, and family currently in Nepal.”
Captain Rupert Anderson, Adjutant, 1 RGR said: “In 2007 I was working as part of the Gurkha recruiting and selection team in Pokhara, Nepal. I remember Rifleman Suraj Gurung sitting in front of me, awaiting interview, as a potential recruit hoping to make the grade and be one of the 230 selected to join the British Army. I cannot remember all of the 17,349 potential recruits that year but Rifleman Suraj Gurung stood out from the moment he appeared. When I returned to regimental duty in the 1st Battalion it was no surprise to discover that he had gone on to become an outstanding Gurkha soldier forging his own path by leading from the front. His dedication to his wife, family and friends was evident from his nocturnal internet usage here in Afghanistan. My walk back to the accommodation from the office late each night will not be the same without his enthusiastic ‘goodnight sahib’ booming out from the internet room here in the patrol base. Rifleman Suraj grew up in the very place from which our Regimental history began almost 200 years ago. He now enters that history and we shall remember him as a Gurkha who truly upheld the traditions of courage, pride and loyalty.”