On Friday 28 January His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales presented campaign medals to members of 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (1 RGR) who have recently returned from six months in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
On a chilly morning at Sir John Moore Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, proud members of the regiment, including wounded troops on crutches and in a wheelchair, lined up alongside their comrades to receive their campaign medals from the Prince, who is Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Gurkha Rifles.
Addressing the troops, Prince Charles said they had endured ‘yet another gruelling tour’ but had left the country a better place, adding that progress in Helmand had come at a ‘terrible cost’, with 16 members of 1 RGR’s wider battle group killed and 110 wounded during the deployment from April to November 2010.
1 RGR itself lost Major Josh Bowman, Lieutenant Neal Turkington and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun who were killed by a rogue Afghan soldier on 13 July 2010, and Rifleman Suraj Gurung was killed in an explosion while on patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj district on 2 October 2010.
The Prince also highlighted the courage of injured soldiers who are now recovering. He said:
I know only too well that at the end of the day it is your unwavering willpower and determination to get on with your lives that sees you through.
You are without doubt a shining inspiration to us all and we can only wish you the speediest of recoveries.
He also spoke to the families of the soldiers killed during the tour:
You have shown enormous inner strength and courage, and this is the time when we can express our deepest sympathy for all that you suffer and endure on behalf of your loved ones,” he said.
Prince Charles also awarded Sergeant Bikash Gurung with the Prince of Wales Kukri, given each year to the senior non-commissioned officer who has done the most to enhance the reputation of the regiment.
Sergeant Bikash said he was ‘very honoured’ to be presented with the award - which takes the form of a large, traditional, mounted Gurkha Kukri dagger.