24 May 2007

Refused entry: Tulbahadur Pun VC

On 7 November 1944 the London Gazette carried the Victoria Cross citation for a 21 year old Gurkha Tulbahadur Pun. The citation is set out at the bottom of this post but in short he attacked and destroyed two Japanese machine gun emplacements despite being seriously wounded. Needless to say my précis does not go close to describing his bravery.

One would have thought that such bravery would stand him in good stead when applying as an ill old man for permission to live in the UK. However, his application has been refused by Entry Clearance officials in Nepal. One of the grounds cited for refusal was that he failed to demonstrate strong ties with the UK. Lawyers acting for Mr Pun will appeal his case before the immigration courts in London in August.

Pun suffers from a range of serious health problems, must hope he can survive the intervening months in his ramshackle home in Nepal 4,000 feet up a mountain. He has a heart condition, poor eyesight, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and he requires daily medication - which is not always available where he lives - to survive.

He receives a £132 a month British Army pension and wants to move to Britain for the sake of his failing health. Among the reasons given for the refusal to let him ender the UK was that he had "not produced satisfactory evidence" that he had a "chronic or long term medical condition" and that treatment here would significantly improve his quality of life.

Explaining his reasons for the application, he said: "I take a substantial amount of medication daily, without which I would die. There is not always a constant supply. When it runs out I feel vulnerable. There are no doctors or nurses, no medical outposts. I wish to settle in the UK to have better access to medication, care and support from doctors and nurses."

Pun has to travel from his remote home once a month to collect his pension - which pays for his medication. It involves a day's walk - and as he is unable to walk that far, he has to be carried in a basket by several men.

His Ealing-based solicitor Martin Howe said former Gurkhas like Mr Pun have to show "strong reasons", which can include medical needs and family ties, why they should be allowed into the UK. He criticised Government officials in Nepal for being "too formulaic" in their approach to applications from brave old soldiers. "They don't take into account the dignity and valour of these people. This man's conduct has been exemplary and he was prepared to lay down his life in defence of Britain."

This post is based on an article in the Mail and it is not often I agree with that ugly little rag. In this case I agree wholeheartedly. Tulbahadur Pun was an astonishingly brave man who fought in defence of the UK and its interests during WWII, gaining the highest award for bravery that this country can award. If there ever was a man who should be given carte blanche to become a drain on the public purse then it is Mr Pun. The decision of the Entry Clearance Officer is not surprising but is still utterly crass. Mr Pun should be admitted forthwith on compassionate grounds.

The Citation

"The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS to :- No. 10119 Rifleman Tullbahadur Pun, 6th Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army. In Burma on June 23rd, 1944, a Battalion of the 6th Gurkha Rifles was ordered to attack the Railway Bridge at Mogaung. Immediately the attack developed the enemy opened concentrated and sustained cross fire at close range from a position known as the Red House and from a strong bunker position two hundred yards to the left of it. So intense was this cross fire that both the leading platoons of 'B' Company, one of which was Rifleman Tul Bahadur Pun's, were pinned to the ground and the whole of his Section was wiped out with the exception of himself, the Section commander and one other man. The Section commander immediately led the remaining two men in a charge on the Red House but was at once badly wounded. Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun and his remaining companion continued the charge, but the latter too was immediately wounded. Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun then seized the Bren Gun, and firing from the hip as he went, continued the charge on this heavily bunkered position alone, in the face of the most shattering concentration of automatic fire, directed straight at him. With the dawn coming up behind him, he presented a perfect target to the Japanese. He had to move for thirty yards over open ground, ankle deep in mud, through shell holes and over fallen trees. Despite these overwhelming odds, he reached the Red House and closed with the Japanese occupations. He killed three and put five more to flight and captured two light machine guns and much ammunition. He then gave accurate supporting fire from the bunker to the remainder of his platoon which enabled them to reach their objective. His outstanding courage and superb gallantry in the face of odds which meant almost certain death were most inspiring to all ranks and beyond praise."