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The Gurkha and the Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross is the highest recognition for valour that can be given to members of the British and Commonwealth armed forces of any rank in any service, and civilians under military command. On this day in 1857, the award was first made. On horseback, in Hyde Park, Queen Victoria personally gave the Victoria Cross to each of 62 servicemen, bending down to pin it on their uniforms.

Yesterday, Tul Bahadur Pun VC, MBE, 87, a Second World War hero who is blind and in a wheelchair, was close to tears as he turned in his medals to Downing Street, just days after he was refused treatment for a heart condition at an NHS hospital. He made his protest on behalf of 2,000 Gurkhas who fought for Britain, retired before 1997 and wish to live in Britain.

Pun was originally refused entrance to the UK by British officials in Nepal, incredibly because "it was claimed he did not have strong enough ties with the UK". That decision was overthrown, but the status of the remaining Gurkhas remains in limbo.

The British men who fought alongside them called the Gurkhas brothers and "the bravest of the brave". Tul Bahadur Pun fought in Burma against the Japanese. According to his citation, on 23 June 1944 the cross-fire was so intense that his whole Section was wiped out with the exception of Pun, his commander and one other man. They charged the heavily bunkered Japanese position, but both other men were wounded, leaving Pun firing from the hip and charging alone "in the face of the most shattering concentration of automatic fire". Moving through deep mud and over shell holes and fallen trees he closed with the Japanese and captured the bunker.

On 23 June 2008, the NHS showed Tul Bahadur Pun VC the door, after threatening him with medical bills.

The positive news is the valour of VC recipients and the British people who support the Gurkhas in their quest.

David wrote last year -

The Gurkha Welfare Trust was organised in Britain to respond to the Gurkhas' needs. It is a wonderful organisation with 22 area welfare centres in Nepal that provide medical care and pension assistance. I support it, as do many others. Do consider contributing to the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

Here is an excellent Victoria Cross reference site.