By Rfn Hombahadur Purja
Guernsey, officially the Bailiwick of Guernsey is a British Crown Dependency in the English Channel about 30 miles west of Normandy, France and 75 miles South of Weymouth. As well as the island of Guernsey itself; the Bailiwick also includes Alderney, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou and Sark. Jersey and the Bailiwick of Guernsey are included in the collective grouping known as the Channel Islands. Although the defence of these islands is the responsibility of the United Kingdom, the Bailiwick of Guernsey is not part of the United Kingdom nor is it a part of the European Union.
During World War II the island of Guernsey was occupied by the Germans in the summer of 1940. After five years of occupation, in 1945 the island was re-occupied by the British when the Germans surrendered. The British troops landed on Guernsey on 9 May 1945 and, since that day, each year 9 May has been marked as Liberation Day and celebrated by the people of Guernsey.
The islanders invite 12 Chelsea Pensioners from the Royal Hospital Chelsea to join in the celebrations. From 2010, a wonderful lady from the island, Dame Mary Perkins, the owner of Specsavers, has sponsored 11 Gurkhas from Gurkha Company Sittang to join the Chelsea Pensioners, giving us the honour of representing the Brigade of Gurkhas. The people of Guernsey are very supportive, enthusiastic and have the highest respect for the Gurkhas.
The main parade on 9 May lasts an hour and a half, and is halted at the centre of the town where it is inspected by the Governor and Bailiff. It was a most enjoyable and memorable experience.
We also visited the Isle of Sark which is just nine miles east, off the coast of Guernsey. It is a small island with a total population of 600. We were warmly welcomed by the people of Sark, and had the opportunity of experiencing clay shooting for the first time.
We were surprised to see that the islanders seemed to have taken a step back from the present day to the 1960s. They live a very simple life – for instance, using horse drawn carriages instead of cars. There are no tarmac roads, no street lighting etc, but the people of Sark are humble, respectful and kind.
We also met up with veterans who fought alongside our forefathers during the Borneo Confrontation. It was exciting to hear their war stories. We were well looked after during our short stay on Sark.
There was a set programme for the whole week arranged by Mr John Gallinne MBE, a retired soldier. Each day we visited new places and met new people. There were opportunities to learn a variety of new things. It was so much fun.
Jai Gurkha Company Sittang.