The Forgotten Army is Remembered

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Many Phoenix Masters may remember PM Helen Esmonde’s husband, Bob Couldrey. Here he is on VJ Day Anniversary in Whitehall. Bob was representing his regiment, the 7th Gurkha Rifles.

The Gurkhas served under Field Marshal Slim in his 14th Army in Burma and NE India. Following the retreat from Burma in 1942, the war continued in NE India (Manipur and Assam). Here, under Slim’s command, Gurkhas and others prevented the Japanese advancing into India. This was at great cost and the words from the Kohima (1944) memorial highlight this – for their tomorrow, we gave our today. They then pushed back into Burma, liberated Rangoon in 1945 and the war ended shortly after.

Whilst the nation’s commemoration on 15 August was being led by the Prince of Wales at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, an important event was also taking place in London.

Members of the Gurkha Brigade Association first laid a wreath at the Chindit Memorial on the Embankment. Gurkha battalions were involved in both Chindit operations, and three of the four Victoria Crosses won by the Chindits were awarded to members of the Gurkha Brigade.

This was followed by wreaths being laid at the statue in Whitehall of Field Marshal Sir William (Bill) Slim, Commander-in-Chief of the 14th Army. The first wreath was laid by one of his grandsons Mr Hugo Slim, and the other two by representatives of the 6th and 7th Gurkhas (Bob Couldrey) regiments with which Slim had close associations.

The third ceremony was at the Gurkha Statue outside the main entrance to the Ministry of Defence, where Her Majesty’s two Gurkha Orderly Officers, and a bugler and a piper of the Royal Gurkha Rifles were also on parade.

Helen and Bob have visited both Kohima and Imphal. Field Marshal Slim was Master of the Clothworkers’ Company.

Helen Esmonde