Gurkha veterans have taken their fight for the right to settle in Britain to the High Court, arguing that the country owed them a "special debt" of gratitude.
The actress Joanna Lumley, whose late father, Major James Rutherford Lumley, served with the 6th Gurkha Rifles, marched with the veterans as they began their legal challenge.
She fought back tears outside the High Court as she accused the British legal system of "shamefully" ignoring the plight of the Gurkhas, saying her father would be "ashamed" of the refusal to let many settle in the UK.
The Absolutely Fabulous actress was given a guard of honour and bagpipes played Cock o' The North as she arrived on the steps of the court.
Miss Lumley met VC winners Lachhiman Gurung, 91, and Tul Bahadur Pun, 87, as hundreds of Gurkhas, their wives, families and supporters, lined the streets waving banners.
In 1944 Mr Pun saved the lives of fellow soldiers, including Miss Lumley's father, as they faced Japanese machine gunners in Burma.
Miss Lumley, 62, said: "Ever since I was a small child this man has been my hero. I hope we will see justice."
More than 2,000 Gurkhas are challenging a tribunal ruling on their immigration status that means those who retired before 1997, when their base moved from Hong Kong to Kent, cannot automatically settle in the UK.
Those who retired before that date, and had their cases decided by visa officials in Kathmandu and Hong Kong, must apply for permission to stay and may be refused and deported.
All other foreign soldiers in the British Army have a right to settle in Britain after four years of service anywhere in the world.
Seizing a megaphone outside the High Court Miss Lumley addressed the crowd with the traditional Gurkha cry "Ayo Ghurkali!" which means "Here come the Gurkhas!".
She said: "My father would be absolutely overwhelmed with shame and fury that we behaved this way to our most loyal and constant friends.
"We have discriminated against them dreadfully and it is a stain on our relationship."
As the two day court hearing began Edward Fitzgerald QC, representing the Gurkhas, said part of the Government's explanation for refusing settlement rights was that the Gurkhas lacked "strong ties" with Britain.
Mr Fitzgerald said: "To say this is to ignore the special debt this country owes to all Gurkhas, past and present, whatever their brigade's location and whatever their date of discharge. They have served with great distinction and extraordinary courage.
"Their long and dedicated service links them inextricably to the people of this country and creates a debt of gratitude and honour.
"What matters is the fact of service, not the location of service.
"However distant their country of origin, whatever the location of their headquarters at a particular moment in history, however remote the battlefields on which they fought and risked their lives and shed their blood, all the Gurkha soldiers, past and present, were fighting for this country."
The Gurkhas have also struggled for many years for equal pension rights which, for those who retired before 1997, are about a quarter of the level paid to those who served after that time.
Three Gurkhas who lost a court challenge on pensions in July are taking their case to the court of Appeal next month.
Almost 50,000 Gurkhas have died in action and 150,000 have been seriously injured since they first fought on behalf of Britain in 1816.
The hearing continues.
|Liveleak on Facebook|