Charles and Harry recognise Ghurkas for Afghanistan tour

Yesterday, Prince Charles and Prince Harry recognised the recent tour of the Ghurkas in Afghanistan at a medal ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Amidst the magnificence and grandeur of Buckingham Palace’s ballroom 126 Gurkha soldiers received their Afghanistan Operational Service Medals from Prince Charles and Prince Harry. (MoD/Cpl Steve Duncombe)

126 officers marched to Buckingham Palace for the ceremony with The Prince of Wales and his son, who presented Operational Service Medals to members of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles (2RGR) in the Ballroom.

The regiment completed an 8-month deployment to Kabul on Operation TORAL last year, where they helped Afghanistan take control of its own affairs, advised Afghan ministers and officials, mentored instructors at the Afghan National Officers’ Academy, and were also responsible for the security of advisors and other coalition personnel in the area.

Charles and Harry received a bound book of photographs showing each of their visits to the Gurkhas over the last four decades, with Prince Harry spending time with recruits during his 2016 trip to Nepal.

Prince Charles presents a Ghurka soldier with his operational medal, joined by Prince Harry (MoD/Cpl Steve Duncombe)

In an address, Prince Charles – who became Colonel-in-Chief of the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles) in 1977 – said: “I know that your eight-month tour in Kabul was arduous and dangerous but that you performed to the very highest standards of professionalism in true Gurkha spirit.”

“I recall my first visit to the 2nd Goorkhas in Hong Kong in 1979 where, among other memorable moments, I was initiated into the deadly art of eating snake for the first (and only!) time in my life.

“I see, as I look around, that there are a number who witnessed that event who are here today.”

“Your forefathers would be most proud of you here today, continuing to demonstrate the traditions and achievements that together ensure the worldwide reputation of the Gurkhas as the best soldiers.”

The ceremony also marked 40 years of the Prince as Colonel-in-Chief.

Prince Harry speaks with soldiers as he hands out operational medals to the Ghurkas with Prince Charles. (MoD/Cpl Steve Duncombe)

Ghurka soldiers have been supporting the British military since the early 19th century, and volunteers from the Ghurka community were allowed to serve with the East India Trading Company’s men following a treaty between the British and the Nepalese folk. They are now recognised amongst the most fearless brigades in the world.

The ceremony involved traditional Nepalese song, and Prince Charles unveiled a specially commissioned oil painting of Ghurka soldiers, which celebrates 200 years of service to the British Crown. In addition to the medals, two annual awards were also presented. The Prince of Wales Kukri Award, for best senior non-commissioned officer, went to Colour Sergeant Raj Rai and the Tuker Award, best junior officer of the year was received by Lieutenant M F Barney.

Prince Charles speaks to Ghurkas soldiers and their families at Buckingham Palace as Prince Harry looks on (MoD/Cpl Steve Duncombe)

Prince Harry was also reunited with the Gurkha who guarded him during his first tour to Afghanistan during the awards. Major Chancre Bahadur Pun showed the Prince pictures of his time in the Helmand Province war-zone in 2008. Captain Wales, as Harry was then, was made an honorary Gurkha after serving with the regiment during his time as a forward air controller.

In the past, Harry has said that “when you know you’re with the Gurkhas, there’s no safer place to be”.

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