See the reviews and listen to an interview about the book at the bottom of the page!
When I did the research for the book ‘The Gurkhas: 200 Years of service to the Crown’, I was struck by just how much The Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) had managed to achieve since its formation in July 1994. My regret at the time was that I was not able to do these achievements justice as space was limited and the book had to be about the 200 years of the wider Brigade of Gurkhas, not just my own Regiment. I was therefore delighted when the 25th Anniversary of the RGR presented an opportunity to produce another book, but this time one focused exclusively on the RGR.
The original intention had been to produce a coffee table book with lots of pictures and very little text. However, it soon became apparent that images alone would not suffice in trying to tell the story of the RGR’s first quarter century of life. I have therefore included a fair amount of narrative. In doing this, the aim is not to provide a detailed Regimental history – others have this in their sights – but to provide sufficient background that the images, and the achievements they represent, can be seen in context. The other thing that became apparent is how much harder it is to write recent history than that of the distant past. When I did the Gurkha 200 book, I was able to draw on a number of other well-researched Gurkha histories to help me get the facts right. But for this book I had to piece the story together from the RGR's Regimental newsletters, newspaper cuttings, articles in the Kukri, official letters, e-mails, the results of on-line searches, conversations with those who were there, hand-written notes in the archives of the Gurkha Museum and comments from my expert proof-readers.
Craig Lawrence was interviewed on Monday 7 October 2019 by Chris Kaye for BFBS. The interview was broadcast on all BFBS stations on Wednesday 9 October 2019 during the 'Totally Connected' programme hosted by Chris. To hear the interview, click on 'play' in the media box below left.
Above: Available to the RGR from 9 July 2019; the book went on general release in all good bookstores (and on Amazon) on 1 October 2019.
Gurkhas were first recruited to serve the Crown in 1815 during the wars between the East India Company and Nepal. This brief illustrated history explains the background and provides an insight into why, 200 years later, these remarkable soldiers continue to serve in today's British Army.
'As I reflect upon the Regiment's first quarter century, it is sometimes difficult to remember exactly just how much has been achieved. This is why this book is invaluable - carefully researched, and with hundreds of fascinating images, it will perhaps help the reader to understand my deep personal pride in being Colonel-in-Chief.' His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales
Above: With the Director of the Gurkha Museum. The book would not have been possible without the support of this remarkable Museum.
Above: It was a real honour at the Regimental launch to sign a copy of the book for one of my Regimental heroes, Corporal Haribahadur Budha Magar who lost both his legs in an IED strike in Afghanistan in April 2010. Ever cheerful and a tremendous fundraiser for charity, he is an inspiration to all who meet him and features in the book several times.
Above: With His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales at the Regimental launch of the new book on 9 July 2019. Prince Charles is the Colonel-in-Chief of the RGR and wrote the Foreword to the new book.
For any historian, working from such primary sources is exciting but it brings with it the possibility that some mistakes will be made. To some extent, I therefore hope that this book will act as a stalking-horse, flushing out errors and omissions in order that when the more comprehensive Regimental history is produced, it can avoid making the same mistakes.
The more the book started to come together, the more I began to realise that the RGR’s many achievements are down to the people who have served, and continue to serve, in its battalions and sub-units. I have therefore tried to include photographs of as many of them as possible in telling the story of the Regiment. Inevitably, the later years benefit from the ubiquity of digital cameras and I have therefore been able to draw on a rich seam of imagery. This is not the case with the earlier years and I have struggled to collate sufficient imagery to adequately illustrate some of the key events in the Regiment’s first ten years or so of life. Despite putting out several trawls, I have also struggled to find photographs of some of the RGR’s later operational tours, particularly those undertaken by the Gurkha Reinforcement Companies and independent sub-units. I would like to reassure those whose images do not appear in the book that their absence is a consequence of the imagery available to me, not a lack of respect for their contribution.
A great many people helped me with the book but I am particularly grateful to the Regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, for writing the book’s Foreword. Not only does it explain why His Royal Highness is so proud of the Regiment but, importantly, it reminds us all that whilst the last 25 years have given us much to celebrate, so does the RGR’s future, which looks brighter now than it has done for many years.
Lastly, I would like to thank those members of the Regiment, past and present, who have made writing this book, like my 22 years of service with the RGR, such a fascinating and enjoyable endeavour, as well as an honour and a privilege. Their many achievements over the last 25 years, which have come at a very real human cost, have made our Regiment what it is. My only hope is that I have done them justice.
‘A pictorial celebration of 25 years of The Royal Gurkha Rifles, this book is crammed with more than 500 images of the brave soldiers past and present (pictured here with Colonel in Chief Prince Charles) – Lawrence wanted to include as many of the men as possible as a tribute to those who had served and continue to serve in the RGR. Soldiers are selected only from young men living in the hills of Nepal – with 9,568 applicants for 270 places in 2018. Gurkha includes sections on kukri fighting, snipers and tracking, all of which go into shaping this elite unit.’ The Daily Mail, 11 October 2019.
Above: It was also a great pleasure to finally meet Rifleman Ekbahadur Gurung whose face is on the cover of the new book. An outstanding soldier, he embodies what it means to be a member of the RGR!
Above: Discussing the new Gurkha book with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.
Above: The inspirational Corporal Vinod Burathoki holds the book open showing him before he lost both legs in an IED strike in Afghanistan.
The new Gurkha book runs to 288 pages and contains over 500 images, providing a pictorial history of The Royal Gurkha Rifles' first quarter century of service to the Crown. This unique insight into one of the world's elite fighting units includes descriptions of operational deployments in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Sierra Leone and East Timor, as well as special interest sections covering recruiting, sport, adventure training, snipers, tracking and, of course, the kukri, the famous Gurkha fighting knife. The Roll of Honour, its Battle Honours (including those of its antecedent regiments), honours and awards received by members of the Regiment and a brief history of Britain's 200+ years of Gurkha service are amongst the detail amassed in this special edition.
Right: Corporal Hari is such an inspirational figure that my wife, Laura, wanted my daughters to meet him so they could try and get an understanding of what real adversity is, enabling them to put the challenges they have to face as they grow up in some sort of perspective. Perhaps not surprisingly, they are now amongst his biggest fans!
The book includes chapters about the operational deployments of the RGR interspersed with special interest sections, which describe some of the Regiment's unique features. There are then 19 appendices at the end of the book with lots of detail about recipients of awards etc. In more detail:
Chapters: the Formation of the RGR, the Balkans, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, other operational deployments, the jungle, parades and visits.
Special Interest Sections: the Queen's Truncheon, the Royals, recruiting, specialist skills (extreme fitness, snipers, tracking), sport and adventurous training, the kukri.
Appendices: the Roll of Honour, Honours and Awards (a list of all the RGR recipients of honours and awards over the last 25 years), Colonels of the Regiment, COs, GMs, RSMs, Regimental Secretaries, recipients of the POW Kukri, recipients of the Tuker Award, recipients of the Parish Trophy, recipients of the Warren Trophy, table of operational deployments, organisational changes (formation of the GRCs etc), battle honours of the RGR (and antecedent regiments), before the RGR - a short history of Britain's Gurkhas, the RGR Regimental Association, the Gurkha Museum.
Although it was available earlier to members of The Royal Gurkha Rifles, the new RGR book didn't go on general release until 1 October 2019. It is now available in 'all good bookshops' and on-line. You can see it on Amazon by using the link below (or the ones at the top of the page). I've also included a link to 'The Legacy', a Gurkha action adventure thriller with heroes, villains, Gurkhas (of course!) and a bit of romance. It's had great reviews and I've no doubt you would enjoy it!