The news of the earthquake in Nepal has touched the hearts of all of us, particularly those of us who have had the privilege of serving alongside the Gurkhas. As the enormity of the disaster became apparent, we were relieved to hear that a group of H4H fundraisers were safe at Everest Base Camp but Nepal has been devastated and will take years to recover.
H4H, only too aware that many of the injured and homeless are Gurkhas who have served in the British Army, was quick to contact our friends at the Gurkha Welfare Trust and make an immediate grant of £100,000. As the relief teams assess the damage, we stand by to help in any further way we can. I think we all felt a sense of pride that our charity was able to deliver support within hours of hearing about the crisis and to stand by those who have served.
With the anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe being celebrated this week it is important that we understand that for some veterans their battles go on. In the case of WWII POW Robbie Clark, for whom £14,000 was raised, the prospect of leaving his home brought on bouts of anxiety having suffered Hitler’s death march in 1945. We could not change his past but at least we could ensure that he will have a peaceful and less anxious future in his own home.
Of course, the war in the Far East continued into the autumn of 1945, for those in the Forgotten Army, there was no celebration in May. There were no street parties, instead the fighting in Burma and the suffering on the railway continued until the atomic bombs brought the fighting to a cataclysmic end.
My grandfather was in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, captured in the fight for Malaya in 1941 and liberated eight weeks after the war ended. My father fought with the 2/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles in Burma and was at both the defeats at Sittang Bridge and Pegu as well as the victory at Imphal. Next year I will join H4H's latest fundraising bike ride to Thailand and Burma and I will lay a wreath in their memory. We will remember the forgotten army and those who suffered in the prison camps. Come and join us.
H4H, founded as a simple emotional reaction to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has always remembered those killed, wounded and affected in our previous wars. Generations have served and are still with us, soldiers from the Second World War, Korea, Malaya, Cyprus, Kenya, Aden, Northern Ireland, the Falklands and all the other conflicts since 1945. The veterans are not a part of history, they are part of today and they will be with us in future.
They don't consider what they did heroic. They will say they were doing their job, that they were just blokes looking out for their mates. That may be so, but to us they were heroes, that they are still heroes and we need to look out for all of them, now and for years to come.
Onwards and Upwards