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Brit salaam for soldier

india Updated: Aug 04, 2006 03:55 IST
Highlight Story

Honour above all — a motto that Late Honorary Captain Umrao Singh's family in Palra hasn't flinched from serving even if it meant turning down Rs 60 lakh.

The gesture — refusing, even in straitened circumstances, to sell the Victoria Cross (VC) that Singh had won during World War II — has made ripples in the Queen's land.

As a result, on Wednesday, Brigadier Clive Elderton, defence and military adviser, British High Commission, travelled through Palra's uneven and narrow bylanes to express appreciation and gratitude for the manner in which the family has treasured the VC.

Plonking himself on a squeaky charpoy in the modest room where Singh spent his last days, Elderton told the family, "Your gesture was remarkable and it has struck a chord with the British people. Their respect for you has increased manifold and they salute your values. The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association is especially concerned about your welfare."

The British military adviser animatedly clicked snapshots of Singh's VC citation, sepia tone photographs of his youth and some historic mementos adorning the decaying walls.

Singh, who died on November 21 last year, became one of the most recognisable mascots of Haryana and nudged this backward Ahir village into prominence.

Accompanied by his wife Sheila, the Brigadier asked Singh's son Ved Prakash, who serves in the Haryana Police, and grandson Sukhbir Yadav if the high commission could extend some kind of support to them. Pride prevailed again. The family made no demands.

Elderton, on his part, said should the family ever decide to part with the VC, the high commission would act as a facilitator and ensure that the medal went into the right hands and remained available for public display.

After spending more than three hours with the family — a lunch and glasses of lassi thrown in —  the Eldertons visited Singh's grave and paid tributes to the war hero.

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