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The Gurkha Welfare Trust
Share your story
The Gurkha Welfare Trust
My Father was a soldier with the Cameronians in the 2nd World War and was a great admirer of the Gurkhas. His admiration has passed to me and that's why I support all Gurkha veterans,
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I joined the British Army as a Gurkha in mid the 1990s and trained as an infantry soldier in Hong Kong. On completion I joined the Queen's Gurkha Signals and later served across the world for 22 years’ service. During that time, I had the opportunity to be deployed on four major military operations including Afghanistan and various overseas joint military exercises alongside other nations. Over time I came to realise how much the British Army and its Brigade of Gurkhas was renowned and revered globally. I felt pride to be a Gurkha working with British counterparts whilst in barracks. On an operations tour in Afghanistan at the end of 2010, I organised a 10 km race at Camp Bastion to fundraise for the Gurkha Welfare Trust, Vigilance’s charity partner. The event was open to all nationalities including Americans, Swedes, French, Italians among others. Representing the British Army and Gurkhas was a challenge under pressure; everyone knew who we were and expected us to perform outstandingly. Participants joined in overwhelming numbers and the event was a huge success; I believe this was because people identified with who we were, British Army Gurkhas. This reputation of the Gurkhas and its benefit to the British Army is due to our professionalism, standards and the ways we operate. Although I retired from the Army, it doesn't change the values and the standards that we as a people hold. We must continue to maintain our culture, tradition and ethos which only makes us stronger and unique. It is fortunate that I came across and have worked with many ex-Gurkhas during my time at Vigilance. It is a privilege to be able to uphold these values we hold dear, and to support organisations like the GWT.
I joined the Army as an infantry solider over two decades ago and have had the privilege of working with many fine Ghurkha soldiers in my 15 years in the Military. I have served on Operational Deployments, Promotion Courses and at training Entablements with these fine men. My most vivid memory was carrying an extremely heavy stretcher over a 2,907-foot-high peak, the Pen Y Fan in Wales whilst on The Platoon Sergeant's Senior's Course at the Infantry Battle school. The Fan Dance is used as the first major indicator of whether a candidate has the physical and mental aptitude to complete the long selection course. This particular course mate next to me on the stretcher weighting in excess of 50 Kilos was small in stature but had legs like an Ox and a heart of a lion, he was a little machine and inspired me to dig a little deeper when I felt like giving up. Now on a daily basis in my civilian life I am surround by this fantastic race of people and a privilege it is to.
My own association with the Gurkhas dates back to childhood, when I first visited Nepal and was impressed by the majesty of this Himalayan nation and the resourcefulness, warmth and generosity of spirit of its Gurkha people. Fast forward thirty years and I now count over a decade of professional work with Brigade of Gurkhas veterans. My admiration and the many humbling lessons I have learned from Gurkha colleagues and friends continues to grow. A very special people, a very special place.
Flying ground attack strike sorties in the early 1950s during the Malayan Emergency, I was well aware of the deservedly high reputation of the Gurkhas but had no close contact with them. This changed in 1965 when I was appointed to command No.103 Squadron RAF, with 12 Whirlwind helicopters based at Kuching and supporting 99 (Gurkha) Infantry Brigade in the latter part of the Borneo campaign. Our Whirlwinds carried men and supplies and, of course, casualties. My log book shows that in the early hours of 22nd November 1965 I evacuated two casualties from a 2/10 GR forward company base at Serikin. As an example of determination, the casualties must have been carried for around 12 hours through difficult terrain and in tropical heat and humidity before reaching Serikin to be taken to hospital in my Whirlwind. Later I had the satisfaction of finding that they were from the operation in which L/Cpl Rambahadur Limbu’s bravery earned him the only VC awarded during the Borneo campaign. I feel it is safe to say that anybody who has worked with Gurkhas could not fail to develop the greatest respect for their courage and determination. As helicopter operators we had a rapport with the men fighting on the ground and enjoyed Gurkha hospitality from time to time, including the mug of cold ‘jungle juice’ handed up to the pilot on landing at any remote site. For me the hospitality included attending Dashera in 1966 as a guest of 2/10 GR back in Singapore on Blakang Mati – a memorable experience!. The Gurkha Welfare Trust deserves our generous support to help these great men and their families. Fred Hoskins
As a regular soldier, I served with 3 Regiment Royal Horse Artillery in support of 48 Gurkha base in Hong Kong in 1973. In 2003, I trekked to Annapurna Sanctuary and in doing so I met many Nepalese and also Gurkhas. In Nov 2005, I trekked to Base Camp, I was aged 71. In the new year 2006, we brought our sherpa guide to England for two weeks holiday which he enjoyed immensely. He owned a tea house in Khundi. Sadly two years later he died of cancer aged 41. I found Nepal a fantastic country and the Nepalese so happy and friendly.
Many thanks for your letter of February 2019. You ask why I support the Gurkhas - it is because my husband Peter O'Neal was an officer with first Gurkhas, many years ago now but he was a prisoner of war with them in Malaya and was devoted to them, so on his behalf I support Gurkhas if only in a small way. I have the silk cloth wraps he was issued with, together with various other things and an article in the Telegraph for November 19th 2004 about a list Peter had kept hidden from the Japanese of the Gurkha prisoners of war. I was able to help about three hundred Gurkha veterans claim their compensation. So that is why I support them.