A Swindon man who served for nearly 30 years in the Gurkhas has been made an MBE - but revealed he initially thought his award was a HOAX.

Father-of-two Santa Pun, 61, says he was stunned but incredibly proud to be recognised in the New Year's honours list for services to defence.

He followed in his father's footsteps by joining the Gurkhas in 1974 and rose through the ranks to become a captain during an illustrious 27-year career.

During his time in the British Army, Santa served across the world in countries including Hong Kong, Brunei, Nepal, Bosnia and Kosovo.

He said: "It was just my duty as a soldier to go wherever I was needed. Whatever the army had to do we had to do.

"I have enjoyed all my military life. It has made me very happy.

"Every time was a memorable time. I have different memories of everywhere I was. Brunei was very different to Bosnia for example but I am very proud to have been a Gurkha."

After retiring from the Army in 2001, Santa moved to Swindon and became a co-ordination staff officer in the Army division at the defence academy.

He said: "I run the course twice a year and we have 400 students at any time. I do the day to day training programme for all the British army and Royal Marine majors.

"I also joined the Army reserves as well and left after eight years just last year. I am now a major retired."

Santa is married to Nanda and has two sons and said his dream had always been to join the Gurkhas.

He added: "My dad was with the Gurkas and I always wanted to be one

"It is a tough selection scheme and I feel very proud to have served with them.

"I did not expect to be made an MBE but I am very surprised. When I got the letter I was not sure whether it was real or fake,

"I thought it was a hoax at first but then I had a telephone call from the Cabinet office who confirmed it was real.

"I am so grateful and proud. It is a wonderful feeling."