It was my privilege today to take two Gurkha veterans from the Gurkha community at Thurrock out to tea at Lowestoft.
Although I am no longer a trustee I still have a keen interest in the Lord Kitchener Memorial Holday Centre at Lowestoft. The Manager, Duane Ashworth, made contact with a Gurkha community in Thurrock and in 2020 we had invited two Gurkha veterans to join us for the Armed Forces Day event. Sadly the pandemic overtook those plans and the 2021 AFD event was also cancelled but this week two veterans were able to visit us for a short break and we welcomed Mr Man Bahadur Rai (President, below right) and Mr Kishor Limbu (Advisor, left) from the Thurrock Nepalese Gurkha Community.
At ‘The Thatch’, almost opposite the Centre, they were keen to relate the proud tradition of the Gurkha connection with the British Army since 1815. The annual recruitment process is still very competitive and only a relatively small proportion of applicants are actually accepted. While there I was the somewhat embarrassed recipient of a scarf of ‘peace and prosperity’ as well as a T shirt and plaque and the latter will be offered to the Centre to be added to the many already on display there.
They assured me that they were very impressed with the Kitchener Centre and would make their community aware of what is provided to the many veterans of military and emergency service. They were especially impressed with Lord Kitchener. They were, of course, familiar with the WW1 image of Kitchener pointing at you from a poster declaring that ‘Your Country needs You!’ but I don’t think that they had realised, until their visit, that the Kitchener of that poster had been a real person. And they were impressed with the photograph in the hall of our patron, Lady Kitchener, and thought her very beautiful.
It was discovered during their visit that the Gurkha community does not have its own national memorial, even at the National Arboretum, and our two visitors are keen to see one set up. It would be good if in some way our Kitchener community could assist them to establish somewhere where all their fallen comrades could be commemorated.
It is hoped that the links forged today will lead to visits by many more Gurkha veterans in the future.