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Gurkha temple opens at Colchester Garrison

With the burning of incense and ringing of bells, a temple has been opened to provide “a spiritual anchor” for a Gurkha unit that recently moved to Colchester’s Merville Barracks.

A service was held at the Colchester Gurkha Temple, set up in the former Garrison Sergeants’ Mess, to dedicate it as a place of worship for the soldiers of 15 Air Assault Support Squadron Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment.

Whilst most Nepali people identify as Hindu, Buddhist influence is pervasive in many aspects of Nepali culture and the temple uniquely blends the two religions. The service was jointly led by the Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment’s Hindu Pandit and Buddhist Lama and attended by soldiers, their families, and local Gurkha veterans.

Corporal Shekhar Thapa was part of a team who worked to convert an unused dining room in the Grade II-listed mess into the temple.

“It was a very happy occasion to see the temple opened,” he said. “As Gurkha soldiers we are recruited from Nepal and come to the UK. It is very important for us to keep in touch with the culture we come from, and the temple will act as a spiritual anchor for the whole squadron.”

15 Air Asslt Sp Sqn QOGLR moved to Colchester from Abingdon at the beginning of the year as part of the implementation of the Army's Future Soldier vision. The squadron joined 13 Air Assault Support Regiment Royal Logistic Corps to expand 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team’s capabilities as the Army’s global response force.

“It is very important for us to keep in touch with the culture we come from, and the temple will act as a spiritual anchor for the whole squadron.” Corporal Thapa
13 Air Assault Support Regiment RLC

Unveiling a plaque to mark the temple’s opening, Brigadier Nick Cowley, Commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team praised the Gurkha’s “character, spirit, and culture” which serve “to make us a stronger and better formation”.

All Gurkha units in the British Army have a temple at their barracks, to enable soldiers and their families to observe religious rites and celebrate festivals in the correct manner.