My relationship with the Gurkha Rifles goes back to 1977 when I became Colonel-in-Chief of the 2nd Goorkhas, one of your antecedent regiments, thus renewing the Royal connection with the Regiment and Gurkhas that began 101 years earlier in 1876 when the then Prince of Wales, my great great grandfather, was the first Colonel-in-Chief. I am very proud to think that during the two hundred years of the Regiment’s existence, I have been your Colonel-in-Chief for very nearly forty of them!
I well recall my first visit to the 2nd Goorkhas in Hong Kong in 1979 where, among other memorable moments, I was initiated into eating snake for the first, and I'm glad to say only, time in my life.
That year I also visited Nepal for the first time as Colonel-in-Chief and did what has now, apparently, been called “The Royal Trek,” during which we stopped on a ridge above Pokhara with a most beautiful view of the Annapurna range. That spot was subsequently chosen as the site of the present Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge.
On 1st July 1994, when all the antecedent Regiments amalgamated to form the Royal Gurkha Rifles, I was greatly honoured to transfer from the 2nd Goorkhas to become your Colonel-in-Chief. And only recently I was presented with the “Sirmoor 200” Commemoration Medal struck this year and issued to all former officers and soldiers of the 2nd Goorkhas. I am wearing it proudly today on the right as is customary.
Now though the Regiment is only twenty-one years old it comes from a Gurkha lineage of two hundred years of unbroken, dedicated loyal service to the Crown, with an enviable war fighting history.
In recent times the RGR has played a significant role on operations around the world, not least in Afghanistan, and in jungle warfare training in Brunei.
Your forefathers would be most proud of you here today, continuing to demonstrate the traditions and achievements that, together, ensure the world-wide reputation of Gurkhas as the very best soldiers – as exemplified by Colour Sergeant Jiwan Prasad Gurung, the first Gurkha Colour Sergeant Instructor at Sandhurst.
If I may say so, I very much wanted to congratulate you on your exceptional performances at the London Parade on 30th April, Public Duties in May and the splendid Gurkha Pageant on 9th June. It was also particularly special to be present when The Queen’s Truncheon was inspected by Her Majesty The Queen on 10th June at Buckingham Palace and to know that you are now part of 16 Air Assault Brigade, where your considerable airborne heritage and your fine infantry skills will stand you in good stead.
Of course, I know for you all that the dreadful earthquakes in Nepal have brought immense worry and concern for your own families and your countrymen. All I can tell you is that countless people in this country feel deeply for the suffering of the Nepalese people and have responded, as you know, with great generosity. I know that the road to full recovery and reconstruction will take time but, with the aid of British Army Gurkhas deployed there and with support from the Gurkha Welfare Trust, we will be able to help Nepal in its hour of need.
It has been the greatest pleasure to be with you today and to meet your families. My special congratulations go to the prize winners, shyabash to the Band and good luck to you all when you deploy to Afghanistan next year.
“Jai Royal Gurkha Rifles”