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Armed Forces

Great Western Railway names train in honour of Gurkha soldier awarded the Victoria Cross

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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.

Tulbahadur Pun (Image: GWR)

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.

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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.

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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.

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Joanna Lumley, Vice Patron of the Gurkha Welfare Trust, and Arjun Pun, son of Tulbahadur Pun. (Image: GWR)

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.”

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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.”

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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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Armed Forces

Welsh Ambulance Service commends military’s contribution to Covid-19 effort

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The Welsh Ambulance Service has extended thanks to the Armed Forces once again for its support through the coronavirus pandemic.

Ahead of winter and the emergence of the Omicron variant, the Trust secured military assistance to increase emergency ambulance capacity across Wales.

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At peak were 235 Armed Forces personnel from the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force who joined the service in October, which was the third occasion the Trust had enlisted military support.

On Wednesday (30 March), the Chief Executive and Director of Operations presented a commemorative plaque to colleagues at Cardiff’s Maindy Barracks as a token of its appreciation.

Tuesday (29 March 2022) marked the military’s last shift with the service.

Director of Operations Lee Brooks said: “The pandemic has been one of the toughest chapters in our history but having the military on board was a huge help in the collective effort against Covid-19.

“Since re-joining us in mid-October, military colleagues have put in more than 11,500 shifts – or 121,395 hours – to bolster our capacity and help us deliver the best service we can in the face of extreme pressures.

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“We also thank our staff who have worked differently to maximise benefits for as many patients as possible.

“We’ve enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the military, which has been further strengthened as a result of their support through Covid-19.

“We were thrilled to present colleagues with a token of our appreciation today.”

Chief Executive Jason Killens added: “This was the third occasion that we had enlisted military support through the pandemic, in what was always a time-limited agreement to bolster our capacity during the busy winter period.

“We’re extremely proud and grateful for military support, but long-term it is not the role of the military to compensate for the complex and long-standing issues in the NHS.

“We’ve been making preparations over many months for the withdrawal of the military in order to lessen the impact on patients, which has included the recruitment of 100 Emergency Medical Technicians who will become operational in May.

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“This will bring the total growth in new frontline posts to over 260 in the last 24 months.

“We’re also doubling the size of the control room’s Clinical Support Desk, which means that we can assess more patients – up to 15% – over the phone, which negates the need to send an ambulance.

“Despite the growth in our workforce, the reality is that some patients will still wait longer than we would like in the coming weeks while pressures remain across the wider NHS urgent and emergency care system that inhibit our ability to respond.

“The public can play their part by making use of the full range of options available to them, including the NHS 111 Wales website for advice and information, Minor Injury Units, pharmacists, opticians and GPs.”

Jason added: “Military support has not only strengthened our existing relationships with the Armed Forces community but has opened up new opportunities for collaboration in future.

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“We hope that their glimpse into the world of the ambulance service has been as rewarding an experience for them as it has been for us.”

More than 20,000 military personnel were tasked with supporting public services across the UK during the pandemic as part of a ‘Covid Support Force’.

Also among the ambulance services supported by the military were East Midlands Ambulance Service, South Central Ambulance Service and North West Ambulance Service.

Military support of the Welsh Ambulance Service, under what is known as Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA), has now drawn to a close.

Brigadier Andrew Dawes CBE, the Military Commander for Wales, said: “We are humbled to receive this commemorative plaque from the Welsh Ambulance Service today.

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“It represents the culmination of a great collaboration during the past two years.

“It has been an extraordinary time for everyone during the pandemic.

“The military support we have provided since March 2020 – known as Operation Rescript – has seen service personnel involved in a wide variety of tasks in support of the civil authorities.

“In that time, we have learned a huge amount and made many new friends across the length and breadth of Wales.

“As we conclude our support to the Welsh Ambulances Service today, the soldiers, sailors and airmen, drawn from dozens of units across the UK, can be rightly proud of their contribution.

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“It has been an utter privilege to support the ambulance crews on many thousands of callouts.

“We now return to our normal duties, but we depart with renewed respect for our emergency services who do such a fantastic job for us all day in, day out.

“Thank you for allowing us to be a small part of your amazing team.”

(Lead image: Wales Ambulance Trust)

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UK Government

Colonel James Phillips made first Wales Veterans’ Commissioner

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The Office for Veterans Affairs and the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales appoint Colonel James Phillips as the first Veterans’ Commissioner for Wales.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said he was delighted that James Phillips had been appointed to the role, which will build on the success of counterpart roles in Scotland and Northern Ireland and will mean that all devolved nations have a Veterans’ Commissioner.

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James will be working to enhance the support for veterans in Wales, as well as scrutinising and advising on government policy for veterans.

The establishment of a Welsh Veterans Commissioner will ensure that the particular needs and contributions of veterans in Wales are represented.

The Veterans’ Commissioner will help direct veterans and their families to local support available in areas such as healthcare and mental health provision, housing and employment, as well as assisting charities and advocating for the veteran community in Wales.

The appointment has been announced as Wales celebrates St David’s Day and during Wales Week in London, where the UK Government is holding a number of events.

James has just completed his own transition to civilian life after 33 years in the Army. He has served in Germany, Cyprus, The Netherlands, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq. He has commanded soldiers, sailors and air personnel and worked in NATO, MOD, Joint and Army Headquarters. He is married and lives in Pembrokeshire with 4 children and a very boisterous Welsh Springer Spaniel.

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The Veterans’ Commissioner for Wales, Colonel James Phillips said: “As a veteran of more than thirty years’ service, I am very excited to be appointed as the first Veterans’ Commissioner for Wales.

“The ex-forces community forms an important part of Welsh society and there is a long tradition of service and sacrifice. I will utilise my experience and position to improve the lives of all veterans and their families.”

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said: “The Armed Forces have a long and important tradition in Wales and we are exceptionally proud of our Welsh veterans. Our ex-servicemen and women and their families deserve recognition, support and respect throughout the duration of their service and beyond.

“The appointment of a Veterans’ Commissioner for Wales will increase and coordinate the support available and highlights the UK Government’s commitment to the welfare of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.

“I am delighted that we could make this hugely important announcement on St David’s Day.”

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Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay said: “We want to ensure that veterans across all corners of the United Kingdom have access to high quality support.

“The appointment of Colonel Phillips to this role now means that all parts of the UK have commissioners to champion veterans across society and hold the public sector to account.”

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Leo Docherty said: “This appointment delivers on a key part of our Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan and I look forward to working with Colonel Phillips.

“I know they will work hard to represent veterans in Wales – driving forward support for them across the country, whether it is housing, employment or healthcare.”

Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn said: “Wales provides a wide range of support for veterans – from NHS Veterans Wales to our Armed Forces Liaison Officers – and we are committed to working with stakeholders to supporting all those who have served.

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“The Veterans’ Commissioner for Wales is a UK Government appointment. We look forward to working with Colonel James Phillips as part of our commitment to veterans across Wales.”

Colonel Phillips will be reporting directly to the Secretary of State for Wales, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay and Minister for Defence, People and Veterans Leo Docherty.

In January the Office for Veterans’ Affairs launched the government’s Veterans Strategy Action Plan. Commitments in the plan relating to Wales include:

  • Stepping up data and understanding of the veterans’ cohort in Wales, through the first veterans question in last year’s Census in England and Wales. This will allow us to publish insights developed from the census data across a range of topics affecting veterans and their families, from health and wellbeing to housing and employment.
  • The Welsh Government continuing to support the Veterans NHS Wales specialist mental healthcare service and Veterans Trauma Network (VTN) Wales service for veterans with complex physical injuries.
  • The Welsh Government will work with Armed Forces Liaison Officers (AFLOs) and partners including regional suicide and self-harm prevention coordinators to promote mental health first aid training.
  • The Welsh Government will review and publish a new Armed Forces Covenant, Healthcare Priority for Veterans Guidance, subject to UK developments including the Armed Forces Bill.

(Lead image: Crown copywrite)

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Armed Forces

Council awarded for commitment to armed forces

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Neath Port Talbot Council has been awarded the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme’s Bronze Award, in national recognition of its commitment to the Armed Forces.

The Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) encourages employers to support defence and to inspire others to do the same. The scheme encompasses three awards: bronze, silver and gold. Employer organisations who receive this award pledge to support and align their values with the Armed Forces Covenant.

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Neath Port Talbot Council has been a signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant since 2013 and has worked hard to support the local armed forces community.

The council has set up a Guaranteed Interview Scheme for ex-service personnel, employs a Regional Armed Forces Liaison Officer and is supported by the Armed Forces Champion, Councillor Chris James.

The Chief Executive of Neath Port Talbot Council, Karen Jones, said: “I am proud the council has received this award in recognition of its continuing commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant. We as a council support service families and are proud to have them working and living in Neath Port Talbot and understand the value this community brings to our workforce.”

Armed Forces Champion Cllr Chris James said: “I am delighted Neath Port Talbot Council has been recognised for supporting the local armed forces community by attaining the bronze award and I hope the council will continue its efforts in moving towards obtaining the silver award accreditation.”

(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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