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Jesse Norman calls for SAS hero to receive Victoria Cross
Jesse Norman MP has called for an SAS hero to receive a posthumous Victoria Cross in the Houses of Parliament.
MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire Jesse Norman asked Prime Minister David Cameron if he would support a campaign to give Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba the highest military honour for bravery.
Sgt Labalaba was killed in the 1972 Battle of Mirbat in Oman – 40 years ago this month. For over an hour, the Fijian soldier single-handedly manned a 25lb field gun normally crewed by a team of four and continued to fight even after being injured.
Laba, as he was known to friends and comrades, received a Mention in Dispatches – the lowest military honour for valour.
In 2009, a statue of Sgt Labalaba was erected at the SAS’s Credenhill base outside Hereford and today quiet campaigns for him to receive the prestigious VC continue.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament on June 27, Mr Norman said: “The SAS has many heroes, but will the Prime Minister give his support to the campaign to award Sergeant Labalaba the posthumous Victoria Cross that he so clearly earned?"
I don't usually talk about the SAS and their extraordinary work, but too few people know about the battle of Mirbat.Jesse Norman MP
In reply Mr Cameron said: “These sorts of decisions are not for politicians to make, but let me once again pay tribute to the heroic actions of that man and everyone involved on that day.
“We are not allowed to speak a lot on the record about what they [the SAS] do, but it is worth putting on the record the immense gratitude of all Governments and, I think, the entire British people for the risks they take on our behalf.”
Speaking afterwards Mr Noman said: “I don't usually talk about the SAS and their extraordinary work, but too few people know about the battle of Mirbat.
“As we approach the 40th anniversary, I wanted to bring to light that particular story.”
Mike Colton, secretary of the Allied Special Forces Association which successfully campaigned to get a Battle of Mirbat Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, said the call for Labalaba to receive the VC was “commendable”, but may not hold sway as many others also deserve the honour.
“We feel that all those that fought should have been given higher awards,” said Mike.
“Tommy Tobin received nothing yet he was as brave as Laba and Mike Kealy who did. Perhaps the local MP might consider Tommy for a VC as well.”
Trooper Tommy Tobin died of wounds following the Battle of Mirbat.
Captain Mike Kealy, who led the campaign, died of hypothermia in the Brecon Beacons in 1979.
• While military honours are awarded to individuals upon the recommendation of commanding officers, the Victoria Cross, as the highest honour for bravery in ‘the face of the enemy’, must also be endorsed by a special committee of government politicians.
Only 13 VC’s, nine to members of the British Army, have been awarded since the Second World War.