Gurkha hero and activist Tul Bahadur Pun dies in Nepal

Tul Bahadur Pun with actress Joanna Lumley
Image caption Joanna Lumley credited Mr Pun him as having saved her own soldier father's life in 1944

A former Gurkha soldier who won the Victoria Cross and later became the figurehead for a campaign on Gurkha's rights to settle in the UK has died.

Tul Bahadur Pun died in his home village of Myagdi, in Nepal, aged 88.

He received the Victoria Cross for saving the lives of dozens of his comrades in Burma during WWII.

In 2009 he campaigned for Gurkhas' rights alongside actress Joanna Lumley, who credited him as having saved her own soldier father's life in 1944.

Although Mr Pun was listed as 88 years old when he died it is thought his real age was 92, because birth records were inaccurate in the country at the time.

He won the military decoration after he saved the lives of his comrades by single-handedly attacking a Japanese machine-gun position in Burma in June 1944.

Martin Howe, his solicitor and joint leader of the Gurkha Justice Campaign, said Mr Pun's efforts were instrumental in bringing about a turning point in the war in the Far East, by opening the way for the allied troops to take the strategically important town of Mogaung.

Mr Pun, who served in the 3rd Battalion the 6th Gurkha Rifles, entered the public eye again after his application to settle in the UK was rejected in 2007.

He was later given the right to settle after becoming one of the figureheads of a campaign for Gurkha rights, spearheaded by Ms Lumley.

In May 2009 the campaign forced a government U-turn on a policy that had seen 36,000 Gurkhas, who retired before 1997, denied UK residency.

The rules were changed so that all Gurkha veterans who retired before 1997 with at least four years' service were allowed to settle in the UK.

Mr Howe, who described Mr Pun as the "personification of integrity", said he suffered serious illness in later life, and was virtually blind due to cataracts.

He had to be carried on a sherpa's back from his Himalayan home in order to receive medical treatment and get his monthly British Army pension.

'Passionate about education'

After he was given the right to settle in the UK he lived in Chiswick, west London. But he had returned home to Nepal to see the completion of a project to build a school in his village, in which he had been involved.

Mr Pun intended to return to the UK this summer, but suffered serious respiratory problems and died unexpectedly on Wednesday night, Mr Howe said.

His funeral will be held in Nepal but a memorial service may be held at a later date in London.

Mr Howe added: "He was not boastful or egoistic, but like so many brave Gurkhas he was a mild-mannered and considerate man.

"He dedicated his early life to 18 years' service in the British army, and then spent his later years fighting for Gurkha rights and justice for his comrades.

"He was passionate about education, and that children in Britain and Nepal take full advantages of the opportunities he missed out on as a young man.

"Here was a man who at the prime of his life did everything to protect our country and defend it, and in later life was honoured to be living here and being around British people, family and friends."

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