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Last Updated: Monday, 26 June 2006, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Gurkhas in London for VC ceremony
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Ram Bahadur Limbu (left) with fellow VC winner John Alexander Cruickshank
Captain Limbu (left) recently called for better Gurkha pensions
Two Nepalese Gurkha Victoria Cross (VC) winners have attended a ceremony in London to mark the 150th anniversary of the introduction of the medal.

Four of just 12 surviving VC holders are Gurkhas from Nepal.

Most Nepalese people are completely unaware that their countrymen are among the tiny surviving group who hold Britain's most prestigious medal.

Gurkha soldiers were first recruited by imperial Britain in 1815, and are deeply admired for their fearlessness.

Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung, an 80-year-old who attended Monday's celebrations, made a solo stand against 200 Japanese troops during the World War II after being blinded in one eye.

Retirement issues

Also in London was Captain Ram Bahadur Limbu, aged 66, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving two wounded comrades in Borneo in 1965.

The other two Nepalese VC holders, both now in their eighties, were decorated for action in Burma.

One continued a charge after almost all his colleagues were killed.

The other repelled a Japanese counter-attack on a captured bunker.

Wreath laying ceremony at Westminster Abbey
The ceremony was attended by 2,000 people

In recent years, some Nepalese Gurkhas have been involved in disputes with London over retirement issues.

Captain Limbu recently led a group petitioning British Prime Minister Tony Blair to demand the same pay and pension rights as British-born soldiers.

Gurkha pension and citizenship rights have recently been improved, but only for those retiring since 1997.

Recently, several hundred retired Gurkhas received a 10,000 ($18,000) payout from London after being imprisoned in Japanese camps.

In a poor country with high unemployment, men still flock to sit the Gurkhas' gruelling recruitment test.

But Maoist rebels now involved in peace talks - and about to enter an interim government - say they want the system to end.

The Prince of Wales was among 2,000 people gathered at the church service in London's Westminster Abbey to pay their respects to the VC winners.




SEE ALSO
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