A medal ceremony was conducted outside Buckingham Palace yesterday on behalf of the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles yesterday, with the Prince of Wales and Prince Harry presiding.
In recognition of the Battalions many efforts, including their recent successes in Operation Toral in Kabul last December, 154 medals were awarded to the troops. While many were receiving recognition for their services in Afghanistan by the Afghanistan Operational Service Medal, others were also to receive the Accumulated Campaign Service Medal marking prolonged participation in a particular campaign (typically more than 1080 days service). The ceremony was started by the Royal Gurkha Rifles and the Band of the Brigade of the Gurkhas marching from their barracks in Wellington Barracks to Buckingham Palace, before assembling just in front of The Ballroom.
After the medals had been presented to their recipients, the ceremony was concluded with a general reception within The Ballroom, where the Royal Gurkha Rifles and their families had the opportunity to meet the Princes personally, and vice versa.
The association of the Gurkhas with the British Armed Forces began during the 19th century when the Kingdom of Nepal resisted efforts by the British to conquer the remote Himalayan kingdom in 1814. Impressed by the tenacity and ferocity of the local warriors, Britain began to recruit them into the British East Indian Army. Although the term Gurkha (or Gorkha) referred to a particular collection of Nepalese hill tribes, there are no ethnic restrictions on who can join the Battalion, and it has since become a catch-all term that refers to any Nepalese soldier within the regiment. As well Great Britain, a tradition of recruiting Gurkha regiments for their armed forces was also inherited by India, Singapore and Brunei.
Gurkhas have since been famed for their prowess and loyalty in battle and are greatly respected within the United Kingdom. This culminated in numerous campaigns from 2007 to 2009 to allow Gurkha veterans the right to remain within the UK as British citizens. The then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith granted that right on 21 May 2009 for all veterans who had served for four years or more before 1997.
There is also a strong royal connection to the Royal Gurkha Rifles as well, with King Edward VII being made Colonel-in-Chief of the battalion in 1876 when he was still the Prince of Wales. The current Prince of Wales has just this year celebrated his own 40th anniversary of being the Royal Gurkha Rifles’ Colonel-in-Chief himself. He has made numerous visits to the Battalion and three visits to their native Nepal and is a Patron of The Gurkha Welfare Trust, and The Britain-Nepal Medical Trust.
Prince Harry, likewise, has had a long relationship with the Battalion. Prince Harry had the privilege of serving alongside them while in service in Afghanistan, as well as visits to Nepal himself to visit the spiritual home of the Royal Gurkha Rifles.