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Great Western Railway names train in honour of Gurkha awarded the VC

Great Western Railway has named a train in honour of Tulbahadur Pun, one of only 13 Gurkha soldiers to have received the Victoria Cross. Pun’s son Arjun and daughter Megh Kumari were joined at London Paddington by guests including actress Joanna Lumley OBE, whose father Major James Rutherford Lumley was Pun’s Commanding Officer during the Second World War. Pun was aged just 21 and serving as a Rifleman in the 3rd Battalion of the 6th Gurkha Rifles when his heroic deed at Mogaung, Burma, led to him receiving the highest honour for gallantry awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Having seen several members of his platoon killed during an attack on a railway bridge on June 23, 1944, Pun continued the charge alone, killing three enemy soldiers and forcing five more to flee. He then gave accurate supporting fire, enabling the rest of his platoon to reach the bridge. Later rising to the rank of Honorary Lieutenant, Pun was awarded 10 other medals including the Burma Star. GWR set out to mark last year’s 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two by naming seven of its Intercity Express Trains after remarkable people involved in the conflict. Highly-decorated spy Odette Hallowes, D-Day veteran Harry Billinge MBE and ‘Cockleshell Hero’ Cpl George Sheard were added to its list of #greatwesterners before the Covid-19 pandemic prevented any further ceremonies from taking place. Last month the train operator resumed its tribute to Second World War heroes by honouring Wing Commander Ken Rees, a pilot who played a vital part in the ‘Great Escape’ from a German prisoner-of-war camp. Now it has honoured Tulbahadur Pun VC, who passed away in 2011 but whose name will go down in folklore as one of only 13 Gurkhas to have received the Victoria Cross. Absolutely Fabulous star Lumley became the public face of the campaign to provide all Gurkha veterans who served in the British Army before 1997 the right to settle in Britain. Those serving after 1997 had already been granted permission but the UK Government had not extended the offer to all Gurkhas – a decision which was reversed thanks to a petition signed by 250,000 people and a march on Downing Street. Joanna Lumley, who is Vice Patron of The Gurkha Welfare Trust, said: “I shall never forget the moment I met Lachhiman Gurung and Tulbahadur Pun, who fought so bravely as Chindits with my father in Burma. I believe we all owe brave veterans like this an immense debt of gratitude – for going above and beyond the call of duty to protect our freedom. That is why The Gurkha Welfare Trust will always be a charity immensely close to my heart, allowing me, allowing us all, the chance to give something back, and to help these brave men and their widows live in the dignity they so richly deserve.” Gurkha Welfare Trust CEO Al Howard said: “The Gurkha Welfare Trust is honoured that Great Western Railway is naming one of its Intercity Express Trains after Tulbahadur Pun VC. “Having served in the same regiment, I had the great honour of meeting him once. I am grateful that Great Western Railway is remembering Tul’s bravery with such a fitting tribute. We should never forget the sacrifices, loyalty and immense bravery the Gurkhas have given to protect our freedom for over 200 years.”

GWR Human Resources Director Ruth Busby said: “We are honoured to be naming one of our Intercity Express Trains after Tulbahadur Pun VC, who displayed such commendable bravery in the Battle of Mogaung in 1944. We at Great Western Railway have a long history of naming trains after Great Westerners, the past and present heroes from across our network. It is right that we honour some of those heroes of the war effort, remembering the sacrifice, bravery and tenacity that later generations owe so much to.”

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