MASERU – A team of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Sergeant Majors (Sgt Maj) formed part of the coronation parade of the United Kingdom’s (UK) King Charles III at the Westminster Abbey on May 6. The team comprised of Brigade Sgt Maj Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO I) Ntlama Moremoholo, the LDF Band Unit Sgt Maj WO I, Khama Moneuoa, and WO I Lehloenya Matlabe from the Military Training Institute. The UK armed forces made a major contribution to the historic coronation of the British monarch, conducting their largest ceremonial operation for 70 years in accompanying King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla to the spectacular coronation service at the Westminster Abbey.
King Charles III was crowned with regal pomp and cheers in a ceremony steeped in ancient ritual and brimming with bling at a time when the monarchy is striving to remain relevant in a fractured modern Britain, a ceremony tinged with displays of royal power straight out of the Middle Ages. Charles was given an orb, a sword and sceptre and had the solid gold, bejewelled St Edward’s Crown placed atop his head as he sat upon a 700-year-old oak chair. The British High Commission in Maseru joined the celebration with invited local guests through the screening of the coronation at the Maseru Golf Course on the same day.
In the Coronation Procession that followed the crowning over 7 000 soldiers, sailors and aviators from across the UK and the Commonwealth participated in ceremonial activities in processions, flypasts and gun salutes to mark the event. Around 400 members of the armed forces of 33 Commonwealth nations and six British Overseas Territories took part in the joint parade. The soldiers took part in the ceremonial procession for the coronation following training for several days at the Pirbright Army Training Centre near Aldershot, south-east of England.
The troops were presented with a commemorative coin in recognition of their efforts. LDF spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola told Public Eye on Monday that LDF was invited to take part in coronation in line with the general invite to British Overseas Territories and the Commonwealth across the world – and cut on the long standing relationship both armies have had over the years. Lekola said the trip to England was sponsored by the local business community that included LNIG Hollard. He, however, was not aware if the team was back in the country already.
The Lesotho and Britain armies’ relationship dates back to the early 1990s when the British Army Training Team arrived in the country to sharpen the skills of the local military. This was until training changed hands with the arrival of the Indian Army Training Team that was roped in by the Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili administration to restructure and professionalise the LDF. The British bond was reawakened 2019 when then defence minister, Tefo Mapesela, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the British affirming co-operation between the two countries.
The areas outlined by the cooperation included peace-keeping missions, military exercises, health and medical care as well as training for LDF personnel by British army. In 2016 the British presented a full-size replica Spitfire to Lesotho for its role as one of the unsung heroes of the World War II – this was during the year’s Armistice Day commemoration at the Makoanyane Square in Maseru. The fiberglass replica of the Spitfire was built in an industrial unit in Withiel, Cornwall, before making its journey by land and sea to Lesotho. Historical reports indicate that then known as Basutoland, Lesotho presented 24 Spitfire fighter aircrafts to Britain at the height of the Battle of Britain in 1940, a move described as incredibly generous of Lesotho. The government said at the presentation that Spitfire embodies the might, valour and warriorship of the people of Lesotho.
Spitfire Heritage Trust director, David Spencer Evans said at the event: “We owe so much to the Basutoland, to Lesotho, to the people, that those of us who were not born even during the Second World War, feel that it’s a debt of honour that we have to pay. “We are the beneficiaries of their help and they have given us our freedom and it is such an honour to be able to present this small tribute to this great nation.” Lesotho was a British protectorate from 1860 till 1966 when it gained independence. The country had sent approximately 20 000 troops to serve with the British forces during World War II.