The Queen last night led celebrations to mark 200 years of Gurkha service with Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.
The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales and Prince Harry joined The Queen to remember the 8000 people killed in the recent earthquake in Nepal, the home country of the Gurkahs.
The celebrations were held at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where 1 minute’s silence was held for those lost.
Prince Charles is patron of the Gurkha Welfare Trust, and said it was right “to recognise and celebrate these remarkable men and their extraordinary service to our country”.
He added: “The Brigade of Gurkhas is more than just a fighting force, it is also – in every sense of the word – a family. As with every family, they have lifetime responsibilities to one another and especially in times of great need. This has been painfully illustrated by the appalling earthquakes which have recently struck Nepal, with devastating consequences across the traditional Gurkha heartlands.
‘As part of the wider Gurkha community, we share in these responsibilities and I am constantly humbled by your ongoing support.’
Visitors, of which there were around 1400, were given the chance to witness battle reenactments, telling Gurkha history. Joanna Lumley also attended; she led the campaign to allow Gurkhas settlement rights in Britain in 2009, and told reporters:
‘It’s terribly thrilling. I’ve been here rehearsing with the whole gang this morning, all yesterday. We’ve got a cracking show here but it makes me just almost tearful to feel so proud to be part of it.’
The Prince of Wales further spoke of the Gurkahs’ service: ‘In the two hundred years that the Gurkhas have fought for the British Crown they have earned our nation’s deepest respect and gratitude.
‘Throughout their service they have shown time and again the most remarkable devotion to duty and bravery in the most challenging of circumstances, with significant numbers of their officers and men being awarded the Victoria Cross, this country’s highest award for gallantry.’
He said the Gurkhas’ loyalty, coupled with the highest professional standards, has “put them at the forefront of the British Army”.
Prince Harry, who served alongside the Royal Gurkha Rifles in Afghanistan, said he wanted to join the fearsome soldiers himself.
Captain Wales will leave the Army this month after 10 years service, and said he wanted to be part of the regiment: ‘I always wanted to be a Gurkha, but the opportunity never arose. ‘Physically, I bow down to these guys. They are incredible.’
Harry was also reunited with Sgt Dipprasad Pun, with whom he served in Garmsir, Afghanistan in 2007. He congratulated Sgt Pun, 35, after he was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for single-handedly defeating up to 30 Taliban fighters who attempted to storm his control post in Helmand in 2010.
Feature image; Andrew Parsons / i-Images