Prince Philip and the Gurkhas

Sir Peter Duffell (left) introducing HRH the Duke of Edinburgh to the two Queen’s Gurkha Orderly Officers at the annual Field of Remembrance on the grounds of Westminster Abbey in November 2012. (source: courtesy of Sir Peter Duffell)

I have always been a huge fan of the Gurkhas, who are among the best soldiers who have served and are still serving for Queen and Country. In that regard, I have the privilege of being in touch with Sir Peter Duffell, author of Gurkha Odyssey: Campaigning for the Crown (Pen & Sword), a former commanding officer of the Gurkhas, who later went on to commanding British Forces in Hong Kong between 1989 and 1992. This impressive and generous military figure also served as British Army’s Inspector General.

Upon learning of Prince Philips’s passing two weeks ago, I wrote Sir Peter to ask him about the relationship between the consort and the Gurkhas. Here’s what he mentioned:

“The 7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles was one of four Gurkha Regiments in the British Army that were collectively amalgamated in 1994 to form The Royal Gurkha Rifles. HRH The Prince of Wales was formerly Colonel in Chief of my own Regiment: The 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles. Following amalgamation Prince Charles was then appointed Colonel in Chief of The Royal Gurkha Rifles.  He has been associated with Gurkhas for well over 40 years and is a great supporter as was the Duke of Edinburgh.”

Sir Peter was also extremely kind and generous to find an anecdote about Prince Philip and the Gurkhas. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did:

“HRH The Duke of Edinburgh paid a visit to the 7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles in March 1983.

After watching a dramatic mock battle laid on by one of the companies, HRH went forward to meet the men and clearly enjoyed himself, chatting and joking as he went round. Approaching one rifleman he pointed to the man’s lanyard and said:

“What’s on the end of that?”

“Whistle, Sahib”, came the reply.

The Duke took hold of the lanyard and pulled it to reveal a bottle opener. Everyone, including the Duke and the soldier, burst into laughter.”

Given my deep admiration for Prince Philip and my interest in anything related to the British Army, I’m very grateful to have the opportunity of sharing this with you today. I’ll now return to reading Sir Peter’s excellent book, which I will review here in the coming weeks.

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