Sensible villains are giving the Oakgrove area a wide berth at the moment – because the Gurkhas have arrived, writes Xenia Rimmer.
A team of the crack soldiers who hail from the Himalayas are on duty at the new, 40,000 sq ft Waitrose store which has just opened off Brickhill Street.
But law abiding citizens can relax - Sergeant Gajendra Limbu India and his men are not carrying the Gurkhas’ feared Khukuri blade. Instead, they are armed with charm.
Working for Hampshire based Topher Ltd, the Gurkhas have been drafted in to patrol the car parking facilities at the new store, which opened on Thursday. And they’ve got a wealth of experience behind them to keep MK shoppers in line. Gajendra, head of Parking Operations for the company, served 16 years in the British army, alongside his colleagues Sal Kumar Limbu and Kessar Subba before becoming a security officer for the Sultan of Brunei, one of the world’s richest men.
They’ve circled the globe, serving our country in the far reaches of Hong Kong, Belize and Canada. And now they’re travelling the country, enforcing security for retail outlets such as Waitrose partner John Lewis, as well as large scale Classic Car Shows.
Greeting us with a friendly smile, their aim now, they say, is to “polish the Gurkha reputation which our fathers and grandfathers created.”
Topher Ltd comprises mainly ex-servicemen and supports The Gurkha Welfare Trust, for whom Joanna Lumley is Vice-Patron.
“She’s like our mother... a God,” said Gajendra.
And trolley thieves ought to stay away; the pint-sized soldiers whose fearsome reputation and bravery has earned them 26 Victoria Crosses in 200 years of service, will be making regular appearances over the coming weeks.
Chris Haywood, managing director of Topher Ltd, said: “The company is based in Fleet which has a proud military history and the town grew up with Gurkhas. Respect is part of their culture and it goes both ways. We as a company have it for them and they show it to customers because they have a great work ethic.
“People go through hell getting to some shopping venues so to be greeted by friendly, helpful people is what they need. I have worked with companies before where I have wanted to involve these guys but I didn’t think they would be well-treated. Now I have my own company I know they are part of a long-term partnership, for their future and ours.”
Waitrose in Oakgrove opened last Thursday.