Ed and Siddhanta started their lives in quite different settings, but were brought together through the bond found in serving alongside each other as members of the Brigade of Gurkhas.
Lance Corporal Siddhanta Kunwar was born on 19 June 1984 in Pokhara, Nepal, where he was raised amongst his brother and four sisters. He grew up against the dramatic backdrop of the famous Annapurna mountain range in the city where the British Gurkhas Pokhara recruitment centre lies. As a young boy he enjoyed collecting music cassette tapes and travelling within Nepal. After completing his higher education from Kalika Multiple Campus he began to dream of becoming a soldier in the British army.
He passed the arduous selection for the Brigade of Gurkhas on 17 December 2004 and after his year-long infantry training joined 1st Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles in October 2005.
Lieutenant Edward Drummond-Baxter was born almost a year earlier than Siddhanta, in Peterborough, on 15 September 1983. For much of his early life he lived in and around Peterborough with his parents and sister. Ed studied at Eton and subsequently at University College London. Whilst in London, Edward joined his local Army Reserves regiment, The Honourable Artillery Company.
Following his studies, Ed worked overseas for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Japan. He subsequently attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2010 and commissioned into 1st Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles where he was appointed as Platoon Commander of 1 Platoon, A Company.
After commissioning, Ed travelled to Nepal to learn the language and gain an understanding of the land whose countrymen he would now serve alongside. On behalf of the Gurkha Welfare Trust, Ed trekked between the districts of Gorkha, Lamjung, Kaski and Syangja to document the challenges facing the communities there, highlighting the need for better infrastructure with regards to sanitation, water, housing and schooling. Ed’s journey took him over two weeks to complete on foot. Along his route, Ed visited numerous former-serving members of the Brigade of Gurkhas, now long retired and living in the hills. The impression left by the warm, close-knit communities of Nepal gave him a deeply embedded respect for the country and its people.
It was shortly after this experience in Nepal that Ed and Siddhanta found themselves together in the UK, preparing for an operational tour to Afghanistan. In mid-2012 the War in Afghanistan, by now amongst the longest campaigns in UK history, had reached its eleventh year. For Siddhanta, this would be his third deployment to the country.
Following lengthy pre-deployment training, Ed and Siddhanta deployed to Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand Province. 1 Platoon was deployed to the austere checkpoint known as Prrang. There, the platoon conducted patrols, often partnered with local police, to try and reassure the local population and deter the influence of the Taliban in the area.
Though the period was busy and at times dangerous, those early days were not without their brief moments of happy respite. In the month of October, the platoon would occasionally find time between patrols to celebrate the traditional Hindu festival of Dashain within the quiet confines of their checkpoint.
Both Ed and Siddhanta were considered consummate soldiers. Siddhanta’s career had seen him serve on operations in Bosnia as well as Afghanistan. He was known as an outstanding soldier and a ‘true Gurkha’. For Ed, although this tour was his first, he had already proven himself an able officer. There was no doubt in his own mind of where his responsibilities lay.
On 30 October 2012, whilst conducting a Shura meeting inside their checkpoint, Ed and Siddhanta were betrayed and murdered by a man claiming to be a member of the Afghan police. Their loss has been felt bitterly and profoundly by their families, and by fellow soldiers who had served alongside them. Days later, their bodies were flown from Camp Bastion to the UK, to be handed over to their families.
Although from different backgrounds, both men had cared passionately about the Brigade of Gurkhas and for the country and people of Nepal.
In 2015 disaster struck Nepal in the form of a fatal Earthquake that placed further burdens on a land already battling hard to provide education for its children.
In honour of their memory, here is how you can help…