GARETH VIPERS, LONDON: The Queen has led moving tributes to those killed in the Nepalese earthquake at celebrations marking two centuries of Gurkha service.
Joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and Prince Harry, the Queen lead tributes in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea this evening as thousands of attendees bowed their heads in memory of those who died in the disaster in April.
Some 8,000 people were killed and thousands more injured when the Himalayan country – home of the Gurkha fighters – suffered a devastating earthquake on April 25.
Charles, as patron of the Gurkha Welfare Trust, said it was right “to recognise and celebrate these remarkable men and their extraordinary service to our country”.
Remembering the victims of the Nepalese earthquake, Charles paid poignant tribute to those who lost their lives and those left behind.
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.”
Earlier, the Queen, wearing an Angela Kelly silver and white coat and dress, met Gurkha veterans and joked about the age and condition of some Gurkha artefacts – describing a truncheon as “battered” and laughing that a Charles Read telescope was “going back a long way, isn’t it”.
Temporary stands were erected in the grounds of the hospital, allowing visitors the chance to witness battle reenactments charting Gurkha history.
There were moments of light relief, too, during a celebration of their culture described as “Strictly Come Dancing, Nepali style”.
The Nepalese servicemen were praised during the hour-long ceremony for their fighting qualities.
The Prince of Wales said: “In the two hundred years that the Gurkhas have fought for the British Crown they have earned our nation’s deepest respect and gratitude.
:: Honoured guests: The Prince of Wales and Prince Harry arrive.
“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”.
Joanna Lumley, who led the campaign to allow Gurkhas settlement rights in Britain in 2009, was among those paying tribute to the servicemen at the Royal Chelsea Hospital.
She 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.”
:: Two centuries service: Gurkhas during the Gurkha 200 Pageant at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
Captain Rambahadur Limbu, the only surviving Gurkha recipient of the Victoria Cross, was among those present to greet the Queen in the grand council chamber room.
The 76-year-old, awarded the British military’s highest decoration for storming an enemy position during the Indonesian Confrontation in 1965, said: “I am so proud to have been awarded the VC.
“In the year of 200 it is great to be here in England.
“It is my great privilege to meet the highest members of the British royal family. I am, as you say in England, over the moon.”
:: (Additional reporting by the Press Association)
:: Gift: Queen Elizabeth receives a bouquet of flowers from six year-old Swechya Joshi the daughter of a serving Gurkha
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