Victoria Cross Holder & Gurkha Justice Campaigner
At Taungdaw, in Burma, on the west bank of the Irrawaddy, on the night of 12th/13th May, 1945, Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung was manning the most foward post of his platoon. At 0120 hours at least 200 enemy assaulted his Company position. The brunt of the attack was borne by Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung's section and by his own post in particular. This post dominated a jungle path leading up into his platoon locality.
Before assaulting, the enemy hurled innumerable grenades at the position from close range. One grenade fell on the lip of Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung’s trench; he at once grasped it and hurled it back at the enemy. A second grenade landed in his trench. Again this Rifleman snatched to throw it back but it exploded in his hand, blowing off his finger, shattering his right arm and severely wounding him in the face body and right leg. His two comrades were also badly wounded and lay helpless in the button of the trench.
The enemy, screaming and shouting, now formed up shoulder to shoulder and attempted to rush the position by sheer weight of numbers. Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung, regardless of his wounds, fired and loaded his rifle with his left hand, maintaining a continuous and steady rate of fire. Wave after wave of fanatical attacks were thrown in by the enemy over the next four hours and all-were repulsed with heavy casualties.
For four hours after being severely wounded Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung remained at this post, waiting with perfect calm for each attack, which he met with fire at point-blank range from his rifle, determined not to give one inch of ground.
Of the 87 dead counted in the immediate vicinity of the Company locality, 31 lay in front of this Rifleman's section, the key to the whole position. Had the enemy succeeded in over-running Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung's trench, the whole of the reverse slope position would have been completely dominated and turned.
This Rifleman, by his magnificent example, so inspired his comrades to resist to the last, that, although surrounded and cut off for three days and two nights, they held and smashed every attack.
His outstanding gallantry and extreme devotion to duty, in the face of overwhelming odds, were the main factors in defeating the enemy.
Extract from London Gazette, 27th July, 1945
'If we didn’t kill them, they killed us...'
Lachhiman Gurung VC in his own words
The passage below is from 'Lahure ka Katha' (Soldiers' Stories), published by Himal Books, translated into English by Dev Bahadur Thapa and serialised in the Nepali Times - with thanks to khukurihouseonline.com for their transcription.
I have no idea where I was kept for five or six days. After that I was on another plane. We arrived at Comilla a well-equipped hospital. Some were bleeding from fresh wounds and others are recuperating. I had a lot of trouble because of my wounded hand. It had to be operated on three times. In the first operation, the hand was only shortened a little, yet it would not heal. So I had another operation where my hand was amputated. I stayed for 22 days in Comilla and was then shifted to Calcutta from where I was taken to Murshidabad for three months. By then I slowly started regaining my strength and was walking as little.
After that I was sent to Poona to get an artificial limb. A Gurkha captain and a lance corporal went as escorts. I was brought back in time for the Dasain festival. I was then told that I was to go to Delhi for the investiture ceremony. It was earlier proposed that I go to London, but I had never been there before and did not know any English. So, I chose Delhi instead of London. My father, mother and elder brother arrived from home for the ceremony. I was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery on the Burma front, and then I went home.
In the meantime, the armistice was signed. I was on the front only a short while compared to others who spent up to seven years fighting. One of my instructors served right through the war but remained unscathed-well, they command from the rear and face little chances of being hit. On the other hand, we were involved in the front. A number of my comrades-in-arms laid down their lives. Many millions had died. The sole purpose of the war was to lower the population, which it succeeded in doing. Politics warranted the state to lessen its people when it could not provide food and shelter. The sons and descendants of rulers were spared. Ordinary people became victims. Many just disappeared. In the war we focused on fighting and how to do away with the enemy. If we didn’t kill them, they killed us.
Since we were recruited by the British, we had to fight on their behalf. We knew they were fighting the Japanese and the Germans. At that time, Germany was a big power. Physically too, they were big. They were strong enough to thrust in the bayonet in the body of a Gurkha soldier and then raise his body up. They could squeeze a Gurkha to death using one arm.
Quite a few Nepalese died in the war. One of them was my brother-in-law. Unfortunately, no-one can collect his pension because his father and mother were long dead and as he joined the army as a lad and died in the war, he never had the chance to marry. I enrolled at the age of 22 and was a bachelor. I married only at the end of war. In those days no one could refuse to enlist in the army. I did not inform my family about my own voluntary enlistment till after I had joined the army. I knew how to read and write a little, so I sent them a letter. Since we belonged to a family of headmen, our grandfathers had taught us to read and write. Quite a few of the other soldiers were illiterate.
Read the extract on khukurihouseonline.com