The former JFS pupil who wears his kippah under his army cap

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The former JFS pupil who wears his kippah under his army cap

Captain Louis Trup is one of a handful of Jewish servicemen

Capt Louis Trup
Capt Louis Trup

In the middle of a cold night last September, when most of us were sleeping in our warm beds, the streets of central London echoed to the sound of marching boots. Final rehearsals were taking place for the funeral of Her Late Majesty The Queen and thousands of servicemen and women, including Jewish British Army Officer Captain Louis Trup, were working hard to ensure that, with the world watching, the final farewell would go without a hitch.

On the day itself, the extraordinary precision of our servicemen was universally praised. Honoring the late Sovereign, the Royal Engineers marched from Westminster Abbey past the Cenotaph, up the Mall and up to Wellington Arch.  Among them, Captain Trup proudly wore his kippah under his hat, for he is one of an estimated couple of hundred Jews who currently serve in the Armed Forces today. We also know that there were other Jewish service personnel involved in arguably one of the most significant State occasions for a generation in a range of roles.

“It was an amazing experience, quite powerful to see the crowds, but also to know that there were so many people watching from around the world,” says Louis, 29, who grew up in Bushey. “We had had numerous rehearsals. We were based in Pirbright and we all came together a few days before. We had a rehearsal in the centre of London at about three in the morning. It was quite an experience to go through the whole parade in the pitch black. It was surreal.”

Capt Trup (right) with Rabbi Ariel Abel in Liverpool’s Princess Road Synagogue during a visit as part of the UK’s community Covid testing pilot

Army life is not, perhaps, what would first spring to mind as ideal for a nice Jewish boy, but after university – Louis went to Oxford and was president of the Students’ Union – the idea appealed.  “I wanted to do something that involved leadership, working with people and was physical. The army ticked those boxes for me. I thought about myself as a British Jew; I wanted to contribute to British society and be part of the enduring connection that the Jews have had with the armed forces for over 300 years.”

Fortunately, his parents supported his choice as they realised this former JFS pupil would not go down the typical career route. “I know they were really proud. They appreciated my reasoning, doing something that had a deeper meaning alongside ticking the things I would want out of my job and they understood what it meant to me. They may have been surprised initially but they always thought I would do something a little bit different and have supported me every step of the way.”

Based in Chatham, Kent, at the One Royal School of Military Engineering Regiment, Louis is the adjutant, in charge of discipline and overseeing the welfare of all the people on the site.

Cat Trup at No 10 during the pandemic

Having served for nearly six years, including his initial training at Sandhurst, Louis has travelled the world. “I have been to Germany working with the US Army there and to Morocco working with US and Moroccan armed forces. I have been deployed to South Sudan where I was a UN peacekeeper. I was in Poland with NATO last December. I trained in finding bombs, so that’s the kind of advice I was giving in Poland and Morocco, but in South Sudan we were constructing hospitals to support the UN there and in Liverpool we were conducting lateral flow tests, so it is really varied experiences from all different places.

“In South Sudan we were stationed as peacekeepers in an internally displaced persons’ camp. Living in a camp with some of the most vulnerable people in the world inevitably throws up different situations but I think the main thing there is the training and high standards expected that is what you always refer back to.”

Louis is clear that he has not encountered any antisemitism; instead, practicing his religion has provoked curiosity amongst his colleagues. “I’ve had lots of people interested in Judaism and what it means. There are also inevitable challenges. Sometimes it is hard when you are in a new place working with different people to get certain days off when there is an operational necessity.

“I’ve celebrated Chanukah with lighting candles on a shipping container in the camp in South Sudan, I’ve celebrated it with doughnuts cooked in a tent in the snow in Poland, and with each of those things I’ve had loads of people coming along with me. I’d often be the only Jew but lots of people would want to join in because they wanted to learn about it and have a different cultural experience, so it has always been really positive.”

Capt Louis Trup (standing to the right behind the table) and Capt Ben Ryde (standing behind the pink card) , another Jewish officer serving in the army, at a Chanukah celebration with NATO allies in Poland

Louis is on the leadership team of the Armed Forces Jewish Community (AFJC), which, alongside several uniformed Jewish chaplains, offers a support network to Jewish members of the Royal Navy, the army and the Royal Air Force. “For the past couple of years, particularly through Covid, we managed to do things like virtual seders. We’ve sent out seder boxes with matzah and various bits you need for the seder plate to all our community members because we’ve got people stationed all over the world and certainly across the country. People are often in areas where there may not be a Jewish community, so it is just to help people celebrate Judaism wherever they are. We are not able to physically get together at festivals most of the time – and lots of people go back to their families. We do like to virtually get together and support each other from afar.”

“I’ve been fortunate to do Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle as well, so I have done a fair amount of what we call ceremonial duties. I do enjoy them – I think they are really special. The Tower of London is where, in 1290, Jews went to prison before they were expelled from the country and there was I, as Captain of the Guard, technically responsible for the security of the Tower of London… as a Jew!”


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