It is with great regret that we report that Rifleman Vijay Rai from 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) was killed in Afghanistan on Saturday 15th October 2011.
Rifleman Vijay received a gunshot wound when the checkpoint that he and his team were protecting in the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand Province came under insurgent small arms fire. Rifleman Vijay was born in Bhojpur District, Deurali, in the East of Nepal on 5 August 1990. The youngest of five, he studied in Sidhakali Boarding School in Bhojpur until the age of 12 when he transferred to Himshikhar English School in Tarahara.
After completing his education at Kasturi College, Itahari, Rifleman Vijay decided his future lay in continuing his proud family history of military service. After passing the gruelling Gurkha Selection, he was enlisted into the British Army on 21 December 2008 at the age of 18. He completed his basic training at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick in September 2009 before being posted to 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles in Brunei. Rifleman Vijay soon established himself as one of the leading lights within 2 Platoon, A (Amboor) Company. After a number of demanding jungle exercises, it soon became apparent that this was a young man who epitomised the very finest qualities of a Gurkha Rifleman. Nowhere was this more apparent than on the sportsfield where his endearing personality came to the fore.A gifted footballer, he led his intake to victory in 2 RGR’s inter-intake competition prior to deployment to Afghanistan. An integral member of the Battalion, his company and recruit intake, Rifleman Vijay could be found at the heart of any social gathering or function, strumming his guitar or treating everyone to his latest rendition of a Nepali folksong.
Rifleman Vijay deployed to Afghanistan on his first operational tour of duty attached to Combined Force Nahr-e-Saraj (South) as part of the 1st Battalion The Rifles Battle Group on 22 April 2011. On 14 October, A (Amboor) Company deployed alongside members of the Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) and Riflemen from 1st Battalion The Rifles into a temporary checkpoint named TCP Rome in an area known to have a strong insurgent presence. On 15 October Rifleman Vijay took over a sentry position on the roof of TCP Rome, and about an hour later the checkpoint was attacked with small arms fire. Rifleman Vijay Rai was hit in the opening burst. He was given medical care on the ground and evacuated to Bastion hospital by helicopter but sadly he later died of his wounds.
Rifleman Vijay Rai’s family said: “Our family is shocked with the revs of Vijay’s death in Afghanistan on 15 October 2011. He was the youngest son. He followed his father’s and brother’s footsteps as his father and elder brother served as Indian Gurkhas and his middle brother is serving with Indian Gurkhas as a Sergeant. He rang his family a day before he was taken away from us. He was very proud to be a Gurkha, and died doing his chosen job. His father and family members are very proud of him.
Lieutenant Colonel Fraser Rea, Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (2 RGR), said; “2 RGR has lost a fine Gurkha soldier Rifleman Vijay was tough, loyal, uncomplaining and utterly professional. He had a ready smile, a big heart and loved his sport and music. He was deeply committed to his fellow soldiers in Amboor Company and to the local Afghans whose lives he strove to improve during the tour. “He came from a military background and was immensely proud to nave been selected for service in the British Army. He was a talented young man with vast amounts of promise. Although only two years into his own military career, he had established himself as a leader amongst his own peer group and on the sports pitch, where he excelled.
“His death, coming so close to the end of the tour and with the majority of 2 RGR now back in Brunei, has rocked the Battalion. Our pain, however, is nothing compared to that of his family. He was the youngest of five siblings and leaves loving parents, two brothers and two sisters behind. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time.”
Lieutenant Colonel James de Labilliere, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion The Rifles, said: “I ‘met Rifleman Vijay Rai just ten days before his passing, at Amboor Company’s modest and enlightening Dashain, the main Hindu celebration of the year He sang a Nepali song in a way that quite simply played with the emotions of the gathered crowd, inciting both reflection and elation in equal measure. He was evidently a gifted and popular Gurkha Rifleman, one of a tight team of 18 ‘numberi’ or training intake, together in Afghanistan on their first operational deployment.”Rifleman Vijay and his Company were taking part in a joint operation with the Afghan Uniformed Police and elements of I RIFLES. Their base was a temporary checkpoint, established in the heart of a village called Char-Baghona in Nahr-eSaraj District. Rifleman Vijay was on sentry duty when he was fatally struck by insurgent gunfire.
“His passing comes as a great loss to his highly professional Company and to the Combined Force as a whole. His name joins the list of those who have passed before him, and will never be forgotten. As we reflect on our loss, our thoughts and prayers go particularly to his family at this most difficult of times.”
Major Yambahadur Rana, Gurkha Major, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said; “2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles has lost a fine soldier and I am stunned by his unexpected passing. Rifleman Vijay Rai had been with the Battalion for two years which was certainly long enough to make a lasting impression upon it and A (Amboor) Company.”He was an immensely proud Rifleman from a strong military background, following his father and two elder brothers’ footsteps who all served with the Indian Army He epitomised the very best qualities expected of a Gurkha soldier He will be sorely missed by all within the Battalion and his memory will endure in our hearts. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends; may Goddess Durga give strength to them at this very difficult time.”
Major Nick Thom, Officer Commanding A (Amboor) Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said: “Rifleman Vijay turned up in A (Amboor) Company back in October 2009, not long after I took over command. / remember him arriving as part of a very close-knit group of recruits, eager and enthusiastic but initially not being one to steal the limelight. So it was actually on the basketball court that I first recall him standing out as a real character. “Indeed, although he had not been with us long, I sense it will be for his personality and contribution to the Company out of uniform that he will be remembered most fondly. He was a true team player, keen to please and with a real ability to bring out the best in others and make them laugh……
“An enthusiastic and hard-working soldier, he recognised that he had much to learn and always applied himself wholeheartedly to improving himself. This was his first operational tour, and five and a half months in, the manner in which he had matured and developed was evident. His sociable nature meant that he was most in his element when engaging with the local Afghans and children, but his work in this part of Nahr-e-Saraj (South) was not without significant risk and driven by his desire to look out for his comrades, he had, on a number of occasions, demonstrated true grit and courage. “The fact that his loss has hit the Company so hard is real testament to the affection with which he was regarded, and the contribution he had made in the tragically short time he was with us. He gave his all to look out for others and in the end he paid the ultimate sacrifice doing just that a truly selfless and brave Gurkha soldier Whilst our loss is deeply felt our thoughts must go to his family, of which he was immensely proud.”
Warrant Officer Class 2 Dillikumar Rai, A (Amboor) Company Sergeant Major, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said: “Rifleman Vijay Rai, was a truly outstanding and bright Gurkha soldier with an extraordinary personality. He was young but highly respected by all members of the Company, and he never failed in his duty. He loved his job and performed extremely well during this, his first tour of Afghanistan. Rifleman Vijay was a man who would always volunteer for work, he was a great entertainer and a key player within his multiple”.
Lieutenant Benjamin Ball, 2 Platoon Commander, A (Amboor) Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said: “Rifleman Vijay was proud to call himself a Gurkha. He joined his platoon in Brunei where his love of sports and social activity saw him fit in quickly to a platoon that grew very fond of him. He displayed significant confidence and leadership on the sports field and on numerous occasions was instrumental in leading his team to victory. “Prior to and throughout the deployment to Afghanistan the pace of life was extremely busy with substantial demands being placed upon everyone. During this period his light-hearted spirit and enthusiasm was a source of morale for all those around him, comrades for whom he genuinely cared. “His generosity was always plain to see, highlighted by a particularly memorable evening on his birthday. Determined to enjoy the occasion despite being stuck in a remote Check Point he bought a goat for the multiple, with which an amazing curry was prepared and the day was marked in style. “His own morale was rarely dampened and he could often be heard singing to himself or indeed as entertainment at parties. On a professional note he always strove to understand the situation and what was required of him. He conducted himself in a professional manner and performed well in a number of very demanding situations while deployed on his first tour of Afghanistan. Overall he looked for the positive in any situation and the good in people, his team spirit was second to
none and he will be sorely missed by all. “
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “Rifleman Vijay Rai was clearly a dedicated, professional and well loved soldier who tragically lost his life while protecting his comrades. My thoughts go out to the family, friends and colleagues of this proud Gurkha at this most difficult time. “