Prince Charles honours Britain’s Gurkha soldiers

January 29th, 2011 - 9:20 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 29 (IANS) Britain’s Prince Charles has paid tributes to the Gurkha soldiers killed or injured in the Afghanistan war, saying their contribution has made the war-torn country a better place.Charles presented medals to members of the First Battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles - also known as 1RGR - who recently returned from six months in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, the Independent reported.

Wounded troops on crutches and wheelchairs lined up alongside their comrades on a bitterly cold parade ground Friday at Sir John Moore Barracks in Folkestone, Kent.

Charles - colonel in chief of the Royal Gurkha Rifles - said they had endured “yet another gruelling tour” in Afghanistan but had left the country a better place.

Progress in Helmand has come at a “terrible cost”, Charles said, referring to the 16 members of 1RGR’s battle group killed during April to November last year and the 110 wounded.

“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 said.

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.

Charles awarded Sergeant Bikash Gurung, 33, with the Prince of Wales Khukri, given each year to the senior non-commissioned officer who has done the most to enhance the reputation of the regiment.

Gurung said he was “very honoured” to receive the award - which takes the form of a large traditional Gurkha khukri dagger mounted on a plaque.

Charles also visited a Hindu temple in the barracks, where schoolgirl Pooja Ghale, 10, whose father is a Gurkha soldier, placed a green, red and black garland around his neck.

Gurkhas have been part of the British Army for almost 200 years. The name comes from Nepal’s hill town of Gorkha.

The soldiers are still selected from young men living in the hills of Nepal, with about 28,000 youths tackling the selection procedure for just over 200 places each year.

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