THE GURKHAS in FLEET & CHURCH CROOKHAM

CLICK HERE FOR A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GURKHAS

Gurkhas were stationed at QEII Barracks, Church Crookham for 29 years (1971-2000).  They were much admired by local residents for their excellent discipline, friendly nature and smart appearance.  In August 2000 they sadly had to leave Fleet and are now based at Shorncliffe, Folkestone, Kent.

The Gurkha Statue will be important to the people of Church Crookham and Fleet, as well as to those Gurkhas and their families who will travel to see it as an act of both remembrance and celebration. The sculpture reflects the warmth that the local people have for The Gurkha Regiment, including the young recruits with their reputation of civility, enthusiasm and cheer. It will mean that a sense of The Regiment's presence will be retained well after their 200th celebratory year of 2015.
 
From a distance the statue has the feeling of being on parade in front of the trees of The Sirmoor Orchard. The figure retains a proud, upright posture yet "stands easy" in the most relaxed stance on a parade ground. 

The soldier's cheerful and proud expression is driven by two factors; firstly the Gurkha's inbuilt capacity for mirth; secondly their pride in two centuries of successful collaboration with the British. Since the sculpture is designed to be the Keeper of the Memorial Orchard there is need for a certain level of formality, even shyness, so his warmth is expressed by a generous emerging smile rather than a full grin.
 
The figure is depicted wearing combat dress and retaining his 'Hat Felt Gurkha' which chimes with The Royal Gurkha Regiment's final march through Fleet on their farewell parade. This hat is iconic, unique to the Gurkha's and instantly recognisable. There is a deliberate joy on the part of the sculptor in all of the detail of his uniform. 
The bronze circular base has been designed to accommodate the text of dedication, the Royal Gurkha Regimental Insignia and a line drawing of Mount Machapuchare. The Orchard serves its function 'In Memoriam' but also its simple and natural setting links with the beauty of this mountain peak, which holds spiritual significance to the Gurkha's and is a link with home. 

Jemma Pearson 

UNVEILING OF GURKHA STATUE CHURCH CROOKHAM 10TH JULY


Coming soon: Video of the making of the statue

COMMENTS:

Great to see that Statue Smiling away! All who serve with these great Soldiers always say the Gurkha's have good humour when doing any Task asked of them. Sad to see some Gurkha been Stood Down due to "Defence cuts.?

Derek Stynes

 

Address by Lieutenant General Sir Peter Duffell

2016 County Council Chairman, Church Crookham Parish Councillors, Ladies and Gentlemen thank you for those generous words about the Gurkhas and can I, on behalf of the Brigade express our deep appreciation to your Council for commissioning the Gurkha statue in this memorial Sirmoor Orchard planted many years ago by my Regiment; to Taylor Wimpey for their bountiful contribution and to the Sculptor, Jemma Pearson for executing the work that we are much looking forward to seeing. Almost forty years have passed since I commanded the First Battalion of the Second Goorkhas when we occupied the antique spider huts of Queen Elizabeth Barracks. Old men forget much but I can still recall with much nostalgia our time here before deploying to Belize to deter Guatemalan ambitions for that Territory. For thirty years between 1970 and

2000 successive Rifle Battalions of the Gurkha Brigade were stationed in these lines for a two year tour and overall some 12,000 Gurkhas must have briefly lived here on unaccompanied service before returning to the Far East. It was from here that they sallied forth on operations to Cyprus at the time of the Turkish invasion, to the Falkland Islands, to the First Gulf war, to Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia. From here, too, they set off to Buckingham Palace for many tours on Public Duties, on Fire service with the famous and not lamented Green Goddesses and on exercise to many parts of the world. It was from here also that they set off to savour the rich delights and pleasures of Fleet and

Aldershot and much further afield. And if the barracks themselves were far from enticing the soldiers much enjoyed their UK posting introducing many of them to England for the first time and entitling them to far higher rates of pay than they were used to. The H shaped spider huts each accommodated 56 soldiers and the whole barracks was home to some 750 Gurkhas. Each Rifleman's space contained one bed, one cupboard, one bedside cabinet, one box soldier and a piece of carpet meagre stuff indeed and the whole barracks was a maintenance nightmare for the Battalion quartermaster. But as always the Gurkha Battalions loyally made do. This site had been part of the Aldershot military complex since well before the first world war designed no doubt as temporary accommodation as wars

This site had been part of the Aldershot military complex since well before the first world war designed no doubt as temporary accommodation as wars threatened; it previous name for reasons I cannot discover was Boyce barracks but following a visit by the Queen Mother in 1948 it was renamed after her and served as a training establishment for various Corps units until the arrival of the Gurkhas. In spite of it's somewhat Dad's Army appearance this did not deter members of the Royal Family from visiting the barracks. The Queen twice inspected her Sixth Queen Elizabeth Own Gurkha Rifles, Prince Philip came to see his 7th Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkhas and the Prince of Wales as Colonel in Chief of my Regiment and later of the Royal Gurkha Rifles was also a fairly frequent visitor. As I well recall on the day of his engagement to Princess Diana Prince Charles dined here that evening with his British and Gurkha Officers having

first arrived at Fleet Station in the Royal train. A visit that caused a flurry in our somewhat antiquated Mess kitchen. The barracks was also popular with television companies anxious to create the atmosphere of a wartime camp. I recall an episode of The Avengers with the delightful Joanna Lumley mixing easily with the Riflemen while Two Fat Ladies sought out the secrets of a Gurkha Curry; and Dad's Army felt very much at home. Today most of the Gurkhas that lived in Queen Elizabeth Barracks and served the British Crown with such fidelity have long left the service with just a few of the last occupants still serving in the Royal Gurkha Rifles in their splendid modern barracks at Shorncliffe. From there they have set off again - this time to

Iraq, Timor, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan where they are serving at the moment but our old barracks has an honourable place in the history of the Gurkha Brigade. Not least it is testament to the memory of Church Crookham and Fleet that many Gurkhas have returned to settle in the surrounding areas where long ago they briefly passed by with much lingering affection. As an historic relic from the past one but was taken down piece by piece and reassembled in the Aldershot Military Museum to ensure that Queen Elizabeth Barracks honourable story is not forgotten while the street names here will hopefully resonate with the new residents as they recall the light hearted and gallant Gurkha Rifleman. Thank you very much.
Peter Duffell