Adrian Griffith – 31 May 2012
We are here today to celebrate the life of Lt Col A P M Griffith, 6th Queen Elizabeth’s Own Gurkha
Rifles and The Royal Gurkha Rifles.
At least that is how eulogies to most military men start. But Griff is not just “most military men”, he
is much more that, he is our friend, he is our fellow-officer, he is our companion. He is a one off.
So I shall start again.
We are here to say farewell to Adrian, and to celebrate the life and achievements of this
extraordinary man, and we are here to thank Adrian – or Griff as many of us called him – for being
in our lives, for making a positive difference to so many other peoples’ lives, for bringing joy and
inspiration to so many.
I am not going to try to give you a detailed account of his life, his achievements on operations or in
peacetime, his successes and foibles, his ability as a linguist and soldier – these are things his
family and friends can reminisce about quietly and at the right time. But I will try and give you a
flavour of the man as I knew him. You will all have different memories of Griff, and I will draw
unashamedly on some of the hundreds of moving and emotional messages received.
We’ve heard of Adrian’s early life, and we know that as a boy he was determined to become a
soldier, and in particular a Gurkha. A close friend, the photographer Crispin Hughes, met him at
the Mersey Mission to Seamen where he was helping as an assistant in what was effectively a gap
year. Crispin writes:
“He had come from public school and was waiting to take up his place at Sandhurst. I had come
from a comprehensive and was going on to study English. I had never met anyone quite like him
before and despite our differences I took to him instantly. He was funny and friendly and showed
me the ropes with the kind of quiet assurance which served him so well in his career.” He goes on
to explain how Griff introduced him to hill walking where, I quote “he led me into icy and
mountainous terrain with impeccable leadership and confidence, and around this time I started to
realize Adrian’s legendary fitness. He instilled in me a love of walking in wild places, which is as
strong now as ever.”
At Sandhurst Griff excelled, and his Company Commander, Gordon Corrigan, wrote “… he was the
fittest cadet in the Company and he arrived determined to join the Gurkhas. He was a JUO and
had he not been going into my regiment, I would have put him up for the Sword of Honour: I think
he would have got it”
In 1979 Griff joined 6th QEO Gurkha Rifles and in his early years he filled a variety of Regimental
posts, as well as serving as ADC to MGBG, spending time with 14/20th King’s Hussars and
running several marathons. But for him the real joy was his first tour in Nepal, as 2IC at Pokhara,
where he worked for the legendry John Cross. It was a meeting of minds, for Griff thirsted for
knowledge of Nepal, its language and people and John was the right man to provide it. Not all the
esoteric words he taught Griff had the desired effect and years later, when he used the phrase
'pratilom anupat' for 'inverse ratio' to Anne, she suggested that it would make an excellent name for
I first really got to know Griff well when he took over as Adjutant whilst I was CO of 6GR. I was
privileged to have an extraordinary group of very able young officers in the Battalion – a golden
gang – who had to take on responsibilities far beyond their age and experience, and yet who rose
to the challenge. Griff was fundamental in keeping them in order and restraining their occasional
excesses – and mine – not by imperious orders or pompous dictat, but by quiet common sense
and gentle persuasion. I often wondered why someone so young could have garnered skills that
belied his years, and I think it was simply because he was held in such huge respect by everyone.
That he was a most able Adjutant was only part of the story. That he was incredibly fit, morally
strong and a good leader also helped. But what made the real difference was that Griff was the
sort of person that inspired respect and huge affection.
And then his ordered life turned upside down. While we were in 5 Airborne Brigade the powers
that be decided that we needed a lady Assistant Adjutant, and one day, preceded and followed by
what appeared to be hordes of press men, the lady arrived. We met in Bn HQ – “Hallo”, I said,
“I’m John Anderson, the CO”. “Yes”, she replied, “…and I’m Marilyn Monroe”. I may have been
surprised – I subsequently discovered that Anne had been warned that the officers would play this
sort of trick on her – but I was not as surprised as Griff was: he walked about as if semi-stunned
thereafter. A classic coup de foudre – and it was mutual. The entry of the famous Dhumsi,
Anne’s weimaramer puppy, simply allowed me to believe the mutterings of endearment in the
adjoining office were directed solely towards the puppy.
To the delight of everyone, Griff and Anne got married - and how very proud he was of their two
wonderful daughters, Hattie and Phoebe – and quite rightly so.
After Staff College and two years in HQ 48 Gurkha Infantry Brigade, Griff was able to return to real
soldering in both 2GR, and then 1RGR on amalgamation. This was followed by a staff tour in
Bosnia and then back to 1RGR as Second-in-Command in time for the intervention in Kosovo.
His operational tours encompassed Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, but it was
his service in Nepal that was to make his reputation across the whole Brigade and for which he will
be most remembered.
It was on his first tour that Griff had begun to make his name as the Brigade’s expert on Nepal, its
culture, language and people. He was to return regularly, spending over 10 years in senior posts
and serving there during the Maoist insurgency. Many of you will remember when, in October
2003, Griff and Major Balkrishna Gurung were escorting Michael Palin and a group of BBC
journalists around the Baglung district, when Griff and some of his men were abducted by Maoists.
Recently Balkrishna Saheb wrote:
“During our 42 hrs of captivity, your cool and calm approach with the Maoists ensured that we were
safe and life not threatened. Even when we were about to be released and had to walk two hours
to the road head, you volunteered to lead the group so that the army sees you first and do not
shoot on sight. Since then whenever we met either in the camp, in the mess or during Dashain –
Kalaratri we greeted each other with our fists clinched and “LAL SALAAM”. I will always
remember you as an excellent commander, a superb friend and a caring parent.
Finally may your soul rest in peace and for the last time and forever “LAL SALAAM” saheb.”
As Field Director of the Gurkha Welfare Scheme, his final and longest tour in Nepal, and the one
he loved the most, he invigorated and reorganised the Brigade’s welfare work, in spite of the
Maoist insurgency and, later on, the surge of emigration to the UK. He was fundamental to the
building of the GWS’s first Residential Home and selection of the residents, many of whom were
living in abject poverty and often in appalling squalor. He carefully guided the GWS through a
period of transition into a modern NGO, without losing track of the core values that set it apart from
the civilian world, and he created his legacy to the country and people he loved: a caring and
efficient organisation which, quite simply, changes peoples’ lives.
General Sir Sam Cowan noted, and I quote: “I came away from every conversation feeling better
for having seen him, and always carrying with me the image of his open and shining face and a
great, great smile. His insights on Nepal were profound. He was not one of the Brigade’s
experts on Nepal - he was the current expert. In this, as in so much else, he is irreplaceable. He
will be badly missed and fondly remembered in remote villages and hamlets that few British
officers, or indeed any other foreigners, have ever ventured.”
John Cross, who describes Griff as the 'quintessential British officer for Gurkhas' wrote last week:
“Adrian had an infectious laugh, a good sense of humour, a character that did not know wrong, a
body that was ready and fit for anything - and, to cap it all, a wonderful example of a man who was
a practicing Christian in the best sense. We held a short ceremony in Pokhara for Adrian
yesterday. His photos were on the chautara. Almost everyone in camp and from Kadoorie was
present. The Field Director praised him for his work, his love of Nepal and his language prowess,
the ex-6 GR bugler blew Last Post, we had two minutes silence before Reveille was blown. We
put flowers and khatas on his photos. Some were in tears”.
Stories, anecdotes, reminiscences and praise for Griff’s work have flooded in since his untimely
death. They have been from Generals and Field Marshals, from Riflemen and Gurkha Majors,
from those serving and those retired. Many of the names are familiar – Gyanbahadur,
Manbahadur, Talim, Lokbahadur, Mahendra, Bhimbahadur, Khusiman, Namsing, as are the
locations from which they write – Hong Kong, Nepal, Brunei, UK. There are common themes –
they write of a popular, tough, professional soldier, of a kind man who inspired love, affection and
respect wherever he went, of a man with the gift of friendship, a man who was, to quote many, “the
finest Gurkha officer of his generation”.
But perhaps the final words on his military service should rest with someone who knew absolutely
nothing of his achievements in the Brigade and in Nepal, or of his reputation. Griff’s last tour was
as Camp Commandant in Kabul, Afghanistan, and I have permission to read from a letter from
Padre Heather Rendell, which she wrote to Anne, Hattie and Phoebe. I quote:
“I met him as my CO in Camp Souter Kabul, last Spring. It was my first tour and I could not have
wished for a more pleasant, encouraging CO in the world! He gave me the courage and
confidence to be myself, and there is no greater gift in a leader.
He came when he could to the Bible Studies and, for this novice padre, was a terrific friend. Col
Adrian was THE kindest, most gentlemanly individual I have come across in the British Army, and
he was utterly devoted to you and his girls. We had many chats about the prospects for
redundancy and what might be in store for the future, and in everything, he thought about you and
Hattie and Phoebe. Unfortunately, many officers can "talk the talk" about the importance of family,
but for Adrian, there is no doubt at all that you were utterly central to his life.”
Nothing I can say today can lessen the grief so many of us feel. To Anne, his wonderful loving
wife, and to Hattie and Phoebe, his beloved daughters, and to his parents and brothers, please
accept our sincerest condolences, and remember Adrian as we talk of him today – as a wonderful
man. His is a life worth celebrating.
Shakespeare, that master of the spoken word, must have the final say. He wrote of a warrior:
“His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, “This was a man!”
29 May 2012