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By Vron Ware (auth.)

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8 Military Migrants I asked them if they had noticed the two soldiers who had stepped forward to hand the Queen a wreath to place on the tomb of the Unknown British Warrior that we had glimpsed earlier. One of these soldiers was Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC. Originally a citizen of Grenada, he had passed through this same selection centre in 2001 shortly before being sent to Catterick in Yorkshire, where many of the young recruits now watching the ceremony were bound as well. While on deployment in Al-Amarah, Iraq, in 2004 he had distinguished himself by driving members of his unit to safety on two occasions when they came under heavy fire.

Ollie had brought me to the memorial to begin our tour of the academy where officer cadets are trained. At first I thought it was a diversion from my mission to compare how the officer class was educated in relation to the ordinary soldiers I had been meeting. By the end of the day I had learned a great deal more than I had bargained for, not least that studying the military history of the British Empire was a core part of the syllabus for young officers today. It was also in the fabric of their physical environment, woven into their training experience through direct contact with the memorials, paintings, artefacts, traditions and ceremonies that reference the myths and legends of Britain’s heyday as a global power.

Most of them now belong to one of the two battalions of the Royal Gurkha Rifles. A small number will also work within the Gurkha Signals or other smaller contingents. The ‘traditional’ elements of their drawn-out graduation process might have been different from the routine followed by their peers in the same garrison, but one important discrepancy was abolished just a few years earlier. Although they had trained separately from their British Army counterparts and were bound for special Gurkha units, they are now entitled to the same terms and conditions relating to pay, pensions and other benefits after a government ruling that came into effect in 2007.

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