'I think someone spiked his drink'

Gurmit Davatwal, 22, from Slough, became the first Sikh to join the Blues and Royals regiment of the Household Cavalry. His mother, Kushalaya, supported his decision. But in March a drugs test revealed ecstasy in his blood and Gurmit was dismissed
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The Independent Online

Gurmit

Gurmit

Being in the army was something I've wanted to do ever since I was a child. When my dad was alive he used to take me all over London to see the soldiers on ceremonial duties, the changing of the guard and stuff like that. When I joined up he was very proud of me. But it was hard, while I was away his health started deteriorating. When he passed away it was mum who supported me all the way through.

I chose the Blues and Royals because they have an incredible history. I love their uniform and I like what they represent. It's a battle regiment with split duties - one minute you could be on ceremonial duty on The Mall, the next you could be packed up to go and fight in Bosnia. Once I'd made my decision, nothing was going to stop me.

My friends thought I was mad, completely off my tree. Joining the Household Cavalry, standing on mounted box duty on Horse Guards Parade is not something an Asian guy would normally do. Every time I saw them they were like "so you're still in then?". I even tried to get a few to join up too, one almost did.

Some of the people I was training with had never met an Asian person before. I think I surprised them, I was very open with them and made friends quickly. I never experienced any racism whatsoever. I heard a lot of stories before I went in but when people told me the army was racist I said you get racism in the street, I've had it at school and in the area I've grown up in - I'm not stupid enough to take it on board.

At times I did feel like I was being used by the army as a demonstration model. The officers got me doing seminars and going out on recruitment drives to try and persuade more ethnic groups to join up. I enjoyed going out and recruiting but at times I just wanted to get on with the job I'd joined up to do. I told the officers I didn't want to be a role model, and they took it on board after a while and eventually everything started to work out the way I wanted it to.

I prided myself on everything, I loved the challenge. I was always punctual, I would clean my kit until I could see my face in my boots and I learnt everything about riding and working with horses. It was a great feeling trotting out of Horse Guards Parade on a horse and getting all the attention from tourists.

I was at home when I heard about my positive drugs test. I called in because I needed to get hold of a room key and the officer told me to come in immediately. They told me I had tested positive for a class-A substance. I was in pieces. I was in shock, I broke down and all I could do was ask why? Why?

A rumour had been going round that I was going to be moved to work in the officers' mess. That would have meant much nicer work, so it was a promotion of sorts. All I can think is that maybe some of the guys wanted to get rid of me and spiked my drink. When I watched the Queen Mother's birthday on TV I started crying - I should have been there. I just want to be back there doing the job that I love.

Kushalaya

I was really happy and proud when Gurmit said he wanted to join the army. I'd heard a lot about racism in the ranks but my brother was in the territorial army for five years so that put my mind at rest. We went down to the Army Careers Office in Reading together. Mothers don't usually accompany their sons but I wanted to be with him. After we filled in the forms he was so excited, he phoned them every day to see if he had been accepted.

I cried when he went, I missed him so much. After my husband died, Gurmit really stepped into his role. He got a part-time job in McDonald's and was a really hard-working boy. He helped to look after the house and gave me the courage to pull myself together.

Any doubts I had about him leaving vanished when he came home from training after a couple of months. He walked in with an enormous smile on his face, I've never seen him looks so happy.

The whole family went to his passing-out parade. It was beautiful, we were all so proud. He did so well they said he had leadership potential. Sometimes I would find him still up at three in the morning polishing his kit.

Gurmit's favourite shift was box duty. One day one of the black troopers got attacked with CS gas when he was on guard. I was terribly shocked and worried but Gurmit just said, "what happens, happens, I've got a job to do", and just carried on as normal.

He used to bring his friends from the army home quite a lot. They loved my curries and sometimes used to bring their washing for me to do. They even started to call me mum. They all gave me so much respect and I treated them as if they were my own.

I trust my son so much. He was very responsible. He would always let me know exactly where he was and when he would be coming home. If I told him not to do something, he wouldn't. So when I heard about the positive drugs test I was utterly shocked. It broke my heart because I knew it had broken his heart. I think his drink was spiked, I think there were some jealous kids there who didn't like to see him doing so well. Being the first Sikh in the Blues and Royals, he was singled out for attention. He was a brave soldier and all he wants is his job back. I think they should give him another chance. I'm praying they do.

'New Model Army' is on Channel 4, 9pm, 15 August

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