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Crossing the Tees.

Byline: By michael Wall , War veteran

I was delighted to see your front page coverage of the Ghurkas' situation.

Their citizenship has been a topic dear to my heart for years as has their need for a British Army pension instead of the pittance they receive after 30 years' service.

I wrote to Mrs Blair when she represented their legal application for equal pension rights with the British soldier, which unfortunately was refused.

I was disgusted and appalled at Tony Blair and the relevant government department for refusing British citizenship to the 400 Ghurkas who have served at least 15 years in the British Army.

They have served, fought and died on all war fronts and yet, once retired, are told to go home.

A succession of Ghurkas has served Queen and country since 1815.

They have no equal in bravery, devotion to duty and dignified demeanour.

They have truly earned the title "The Bravest of the Brave".

I served alongside the 3rd Ghurka Rifles in Burma during the war and no finer man could you have by your side.

Illegal immigrants are coming into this country from north, south, east and west, under trucks, in trucks, through the tunnel, by boat or any means at their disposal.

When they are allowed to stay or not ordered to go home like the Ghurkas, it sickens me.

These gallant men have served our country so valiantly for 200 years and number many VCs among their ranks, yet they are not granted the full citizenship they so richly deserve.

I think our former premier John Major may have had a more sympathetic attitude, as the following shows.

A number of years ago a function was held at the Mansion House to salute the holders of the VC. Lord Slim, son of General Slim, Tony Blair and many more dignitaries were present.

Outside on the steps was a soldier directing the VIPs and he noticed an old man wandering about near the entrance, apparently lost.

The soldier gently took him by the arm and directed him to the back entrance where he knew someone would help him.

An officer paused on the steps, called the old man back and said to the soldier: "Don't you recognise the badge in his lapel, it's worn by holders of the VC."

The old Ghurka was immediately ushered through the main entrance.

When the incident was reported to Mr Major he ordered a chair to be placed at the table beside him so the old Ghurka VC could sit at the table in the Mansion House among the VIPs.

I believe that Mr Major may have seen their application in a different light.

Finally, a few years ago a BBC TV crew, along with a few Burma veterans, went out to Kohima to visit the battle scene and see the monument erected there.

An officer with the party arranged to meet a Japanese officer who had fought in the same battle and they discussed tactics and losses.

The British officer asked if there was anything the Japanese soldier feared.

The Japanese officer replied simply: "The Ghurka."

I sincerely hope Mr Blair has a change of heart, reads a bit of history and realises how much "The Bravest of the Brave" have contributed to this country.

They have not asked anything in return, but have given everything - including their lives.

So my advice to Mr Blair is Geldy, Geldy (hurry, hurry) and give them the citizenship they so richly deserve.

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Title Annotation:Column Crossing The Tees
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Sep 16, 2004
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