The King of Siam is perhaps best known from his deception in the King and I. But, as Sarah Foster discovers, he also had an unusual connection

A North-East Army regiment renewed its acquaintance with the King of Siam yesterday after its unlikely link came to light.

In 1899, the grandson of King Rama IV - the King of Siam in the musical The King and I - was attached to the 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry (DLI) in Aldershot.

He represented his father, Rama V, on several occasions, including Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee and funeral, and the coronations of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

In 1910, on the death of Rama V, he acceded the throne as Rama VI - but never forgot the DLI's friendliness or acceptance of him.

Yesterday, members of the regiment accompanied by the 68th Re-enactment Society marked the link by meeting Ronobir Lahiri, who is playing Rama IV in the King and I at the Sunderland Empire theatre.

Major Randal Cross, secretary of the Light Infantry in Durham, said: "He (Rama VI) took great interest in the DLI's progress during the Great War and showed his depth of feeling by sending substantial sums of money for the wives and children of officers and men who had been killed in action.

"King George V acknowledged King Rama VI's friendship and his association with the British Army by asking him to become an honorary general and wear the uniform of the DLI.

"In accepting the honour, King Rama VI asked King George V to become a general in his army."

The friendship continued when Siam declared war on Germany and Austria in 1917, sending an expeditionary force of 1,200 volunteers to Europe.

In 1991, the DLI sent a complete uniform to a museum in memory of King Rama VI, in Bangkok.

Major Cross, who contacted the theatre to inform it of the link, said: "We brought an actual photograph of the King in DLI uniform, and a copy of the 2nd Battalion war diary from 1916, which gives an account of the message they received from him saying, 'my comrades from the DLI'."

Dominic Stokes, general manager of the Sunderland Empire Theatre, said: "It's a fantastic coincidence that the biggest show to hit Sunderland and the North-East for a long time has a link with the North-East."

Seats are still available for the King and I, which runs until Saturday