The Queen, accompanied by other senior members of the Royal Family, has attended a special pageant in London to mark the 200 years of service that the Gurkhas have given to the Crown. The Sultan of Brunei was also present at the event which took place in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
The open air pageant, organized by the Gurkha Welfare Trust, chronicled the two centuries of Gurkha service before an audience of 1, 400 people. It was narrated in parts by Joanna Lumley who famously campaigned for Gurkhas rights. She was joined by historian and TV presenter, Dan Snow, to tell the story of the regiment on a night of music, words and re-enactments.
The Queen arrived at the Royal Hospital in the early evening with The Duke of Edinburgh, just hours away from celebrating his 94th birthday, at her side. The Prince of Wales who is Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Gurkha Rifles and a patron of the Gurkha Welfare Trust was also in the royal party as was his younger son, Prince Harry, who worked alongside a Gurkha battalion during his service in Afghanistan.
During the event, The Queen met many Gurkha soldiers and veterans including Captain Rambahadur Limbu who was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1965 and who is now the only living Gurkha recipient of this medal. She was also show many exhibits from the Gurkha Museum including photographs of Prince Charles and Prince Harry with members of the regiment.
Father and son also got the chance to meet Gurkha soldiers and veterans as they attended a reception for supporters of the Gurkha Welfare Trust. Among those that Prince Harry spent time talking to was Sergeant Dipprasad Pun who was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross and Kushal Limbu was was part of Team GB at last year’s Invictus Games.
The pageant itself included a minute’s silence to remember the thousands of people who were killed in the earthquake that struck Nepal in April. The director of the Gurkha Welfare Trust, Colonel William Shuttlewood, explained that the funds raised by the organisation don’t only help former soldiers and their families but will also help rebuild their communities in Nepal which have been affected by the disaster.
The evening itself, the centrepiece of a year of celebrations marking the 200th anniversary, featured cultural displays, Gurkha music and re-enactments of some of the most famous military moments in the regiment’s history. The Gurkhas trace their roots back to an 8th century Hindu warrior, Guru Gorakhnath, and they first encountered British soldiers in the Gurkha War of 1814 – 16. Under the Peace Treaty which followed that they began serving with the East India Company Army and later the Army itself going on to serve in every major conflict.
And there was plenty of praise for them from their royal guests at the pageant. The Prince of Wales described them as ‘these remarkable men’ and added ‘the Brigade of Gurkha is more than just a fighting force, it is also – in every sense of the word – a family.’ And Prince Charles went on to say that ‘in the two hundred years that the Gurkhas have fought for the British Crown, they have earned our nation’s deepest respect and gratitude.’
The presence of The Queen and so many senior royals at this special event only underlined the great value placed on the service of the Gurkhas over two centuries.
photo credit: Crown Copyright 2015, Corporal Daniel Wiepen