Veteran of Afghanistan campaign welcomes QE boys to Sandhurst

Veteran of Afghanistan campaign welcomes QE boys to Sandhurst

Captain Charles Russell (OE 1997-2004) hosted a visit to Sandhurst by a group from the School’s Combined Cadet Force.

Charlie, who is currently a platoon commander on the permanent staff at the Royal Military Academy, answered searching questions from the 15 boys when they called in at the Officers’ Mess for coffee.

The CCF group were led by Captain Kieron Howe, who is also the School’s Director of Music. “Charlie was brilliant with the guys,” he said.

In July 2010, Charlie was quoted in a Ministry of Defence announcement, which celebrated the rapid improvements brought about by joint patrols between members of 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (1RGR) and Afghan National Army (ANA) troops in Helmand province, Afghanistan. The patrols had “seen the pernicious influence of insurgents in the village of Piand Kalay diminish and a new level of normality return for the local people”, the announcement stated.

Charlie, who was then a Second Lieutenant, explained at the time: “Four weeks ago when I used to patrol through the village on a daily basis I’d be lucky if I spoke to three or four people. It was an empty village, the locals were intimidated, they were scared to come to talk to us because they’d be seen interacting with ISAF [the International Security Assistance Force] and ANA.

“Now, when we walk through the village from checkpoint to checkpoint and push out into the Green Zone, they welcome us – they want to speak to us. They are a little intimidated but the overall impression is that they are happy with us in the village and they want to see more progress.”

He was injured in Afghanistan in 2010. The following summer he attended a reception for wounded servicemen and women hosted by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in the grounds of Highgrove, their Gloucestershire home. The Prince of Wales is Colonel in Chief of the Royal Gurkha Rifles.

During their visit to Sandhurst this term, the QE contingent were given a tour of the Academy’s extensive grounds. They also enjoyed lunch, a talk on the history of the facility and an opportunity to meet Officer Cadets and Officers.

The day started with an introduction by an academic member of the Academy’s staff, Sebastian Puncher, who talked through the development of the college since its foundation in 1812.

“The boys walked up the steps into Old College, an experience that Officer Cadets undergo on their first day of training and then not again until the day they pass out,” said Captain Howe. “We were shown the Indian Army Memorial Room, with its window dedicated to the Gurkha regiment amongst others. We also saw the five-metre-wide painting of the moment when the battle of Waterloo turned in Wellington’s favour, painted by Sir William Allan in 1847.”

The tour continued with a drive around Chapel Square, followed by lunch at New College amongst the Officer Cadets. The boys then moved on to the Officers’ Mess for coffee and quizzed Charlie, before he had to leave to go on exercise. The visit concluded with a drive around the rest of the extensive grounds, taking in a little rugby before setting off back to Barnet.

“The boys gained a vast amount of knowledge about the workings of the Academy and also a better picture of life in the Army as a whole. It was a really insightful day,” said Captain Howe.