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Gravesend landmark receives national award

PUBLISHED: 11:25 06 November 2015 | UPDATED: 11:26 06 November 2015

Mahinder Singh Pujji

Mahinder Singh Pujji

Archant

The Pujji Memorial commemorates the service of people from across the Commonwealth in military campaigns from since 1914

A statue of a World War Two airman, Mahinder Singh Pujji, and former Gravesend resident has received a national award for public statues and artwork.

The statue celebrates the military service of people from across the Commonwealth since 1914.

The statue’s sculptor, Douglas Jennings, took eight months to complete the work, which was funded after a public subscription raised £70,000.

Mr Jennings received the Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture in London on Wednesday night.

Upon receiving the award, Mr Jennings said: “I immersed myself in the commission for eight months and my references were based on knowledge gleaned from family members of the subject and senior members of the RAF.”

“Pujji refused to wear the protective head gear because of his religion. Researching the turban was fascinating; I learnt how to tie the turban Pujji wore from Mr Jagdev Virdee. He highlighted there are several different ways of tying a turban; however Pujji tied his in a distinct way with six folds and a high peak. It was paramount that I got that right.”

The statue of Mr Pujji, who spent his later years in Gravesend, before he died in 2010 aged 92, is found on the riverfront of St Andrews Gardens.

Squadron leader Pujji, who received the Distinguised Flying Cross was one of 2.5million volunteer servicemen from the Indian subcontinent who came to the aid of the Allies during World War Two.

It is considered to be the largest volunteer army in history.

Council leader John Cubitt said: “The statue has rapidly become a major feature of Gravesend’s historic riverside and it is a wonderful and long-overdue tribute to all those who served this country. The award is recognition of the sculptor’s incredible attention to detail and is truly deserved.

“All who see it cannot fail to be impressed and I’m absolutely thrilled for Douglas and very thankful that he has given the borough such a tremendous and enduring landmark as well as providing cultural heritage for future generations.”

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