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Gurkha Rifles in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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Gurkha Rifles

17th May 1941 Iraqi forces surrender

If you can provide any additional information, especially on actions and locations at specific dates, please add it here.

Those known to have served with

Gurkha Rifles

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

  • Ghale Gaje. Hdvr.
  • Gurung Bhanbhagta. Hvdr.
  • Gurung Lachhiman. Hvdr.
  • Gurung Thaman. Rfm. (d.10 Nov 1944)
  • Hawke Selwyn. 2nd Lt (Act Capt)
  • Lama Ganju. Subedar Major.
  • Pun Tul Bahadur . Rfm.
  • Rai Agansing. Naik.
  • Thapa Netrabahadur. A/Sbdr. (d.26 June 1944)
  • Thapa Sher Bahadur . Rfm. (d.19th Sep 1944)

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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Subedar Major. Ganju Lama VC, MM. 1st Battalion 7th Gurkha Rifles

Ganju Lama was born in Sangmo, southern Sikkim, India. He enlisted in British Gurkha Army in 1942 at the age of seventeen. His parents were both Sikkimese but at that time Gurkha regiments were prepared to accept any recruit who closely resembled the Gurkha and lived near the border of Nepal. His name was Gyamtso Shangderpa, but a clerk in the recruiting office wrote it down as Ganju, and the name stuck. After leaving the regimental centre in 1943, he joined the 1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles, near Imphal, India

"On 12 June 1944 at Ningthoukhong, India , 'B' Company was attempting to stem the enemy's advance when it came under heavy machine-gun and tank machine-gun fire. Rifleman Ganju Lama, with complete disregard for his own safety, took his PIAT gun and, crawling forward, succeeded in bringing the gun into action within 30 yards of the enemy tanks, knocking out two of them. Despite a broken wrist and two other serious wounds to his right and left hands he then moved forward and engaged the tank crew who were trying to escape. Not until he had accounted for all of them did he consent to have his wounds dressed."

A month earlier, during operations on the Tiddim Road, Ganju Lama's regiment had surprised a party of Japanese and killed several of them. He was awarded the Military Medal for his part in the action.

S. Flynn

Naik. Agansing Rai VC. 2nd Battalion 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles

Agansing Rai was a 24 year old Naik in the 2nd Battalion, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, when he led his section in an attack on one of two posts which had been taken by the enemy and were threatening the British forces' communications on 26 June 1944 near the town of Bishenpur in the state of Manipur, India. Under withering fire Agansing Rai and his party charged a machine-gun. Agansing Rai himself killed three of the crew. When the first position had been taken, he then led a dash on a machine-gun firing from the jungle, where he killed three of the crew, his men accounting for the rest. He subsequently tackled an isolated bunker single-handed, killing all four occupants. The enemy were now so demoralised that they fled and the second post was recaptured.

S. Flynn

Hvdr. Bhanbhagta Gurung VC. 3rd Btn. 2nd Royal Gurkha Rifles

Bhanbhagta Gurung was born in Phalpu, a small hill village in western Nepal in the district of Gorkha in September 1921. He enlisted in the British Indian Army joining 3rd Battalion, 2nd King Edward VII's Own Gurkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles) at the age of eighteen.

Promoted to Lance Naik, he served in the Chindit expedition led by Brigadier Orde Wingate into northern Burma in March 1943. He was serving in Number 4 Column, deep behind Japanese lines across the Chindwin, when the column was ambushed by the Japanese 33rd Division and ordered to disperse. His battalion was withdrawn from the line after the expedition for several months of training and refitting, and redeployed in March 1944 in Arakan in the 25th Indian Division, fighting down the Mayu Range towards Akyab. Bhanbhagta was promoted to Naik.

Shortly before the action that won him the VC, he was reduced to the ranks for neglect of duty after being blamed for taking the wrong hill, to the ire of the battalion commander, it later transpired that he had followed the orders of his platoon commander, who had given him the wrong target.

In February 1945, the 25th Indian Division landed at Ru-ywa, as a diversion from the offensive by General Sir William Slim's 14th Army towards Mandalay, and advanced to the Irrawaddy through the An pass, held by the Japanese 54th Division from a number of hills. The Gurkhas held two hills, code-named "Snowden" and "Snowden East", but were attacked by the Japanese and pushed back. They were ordered to retake the hills

On 5 March 1945 at Snowdon-East, near Tamandu, Burma, Gurung and his unit were approaching Snowdon-East. His company became pinned down by an enemy sniper and were suffering casualties. As the sniper was inflicting casualties on the section, Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung, being unable to fire from the lying position, stood up fully exposed to the heavy fire and calmly killed the enemy sniper with his rifle, thus saving his section from suffering further casualties. The section advanced again but came under heavy fire once again. Without waiting for orders, Gurung dashed out to attack the first enemy fox-hole. Throwing two grenades, he killed the two occupants and without any hesitation rushed on to the next enemy fox-hole and killed the Japanese in it with his bayonet. He cleared two further fox-holes with bayonet and grenades. "During his single-handed attacks on these four enemy fox-holes, Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung was subjected to almost continuous and point-blank Light Machine Gun fire from a bunker on the North tip of the objective." For the fifth time, Gurung "went forward alone in the face of heavy enemy fire to knock out this position. He doubled forward and leapt on to the roof of the bunker from where, his hand grenades being finished, he flung two No. 77 smoke grenades into the bunker slit."

Gurung killed two Japanese soldiers who ran out of the bunker with his Kukri, and then advanced into the cramped bunker and killed the remaining Japanese soldier. Gurung ordered three others to take up positions in the bunker. "The enemy counter-attack followed soon after, but under Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung's command the small party inside the bunker repelled it with heavy loss to the enemy.

Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung showed outstanding bravery and a complete disregard for his own safety. His courageous clearing of five enemy positions single-handed was in itself decisive in capturing the objective and his inspiring example to the rest of the Company contributed to the speedy consolidation of this success."

S. Flynn

Hdvr. Gaje Ghale VC. 2nd Btn. 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles

Gaje Ghale was 20 years old, a Havildar in the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles when he was awarded the VC.

"During the period 24th to 27th May 1943 in the Chin Hills, Burma, Havildar Gaje Ghale was in charge of a platoon of young soldiers engaged in attacking a strong Japanese position. Wounded in the arm, chest and leg he nevertheless continued to lead assault after assault, encouraging his men by shouting the Gurkha's battle-cry. Spurred on by the irresistible will of their leader, the platoon stormed and captured the position which the Havildar then held and consolidated under heavy fire, refusing to go to the Regimental Aid post until ordered to do so."

S. Flynn

Hvdr. Lachhiman Gurung VC. 4th Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles

Lachhiman Gurung was born in the village of Dakhani, in the Tanahu District of Nepal, the son of Partiman Gurung. He joined the British Indian Army in December 1940, permitted to enlist in wartime although only 4'11" tall and so below the peacetime minimum height. He was 27 years old, and a Rifleman in the 4th Battalion, 8th Gurkha Rifles, when he was awarded the VC.

His Battalion was part of the 89th Indian Infantry Brigade of 7th Indian Infantry Division, which was ordered to cross the Irrawaddy River and attack Japanese forces to the north of the road from Prome to Taungup. The Japanese withdrew towards Taungdaw, where Gurung was part of the two companies of the 4th Battalion, 8th Gurkha Rifles waiting, when the Japanese attacked in force in the early morning.

"On 12/13 May 1945 at Taungdaw, Burma, Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung was manning the most forward post of his platoon which bore the brunt of an attack by at least 200 of the Japanese enemy. Twice he hurled back grenades which had fallen on his trench, but the third exploded in his right hand, blowing off his fingers, shattering his arm and severely wounding him in the face, body and right leg. His two comrades were also badly wounded but the rifleman, now alone and disregarding his wounds, loaded and fired his rifle with his left hand for four hours, calmly waiting for each attack which he met with fire at point blank range. Afterwards, when the casualties were counted, it is reported that there were 31 dead Japanese around his position which he had killed, with only one arm."

He received his Victoria Cross from the Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Lord Wavell at the Red Fort in Delhi on 19 December 1945. Gurung was hospitalised for the wounds he received during the above action and subsequently lost his right eye and the use of his right hand, but he continued to serve with the 8th Gurkhas, choosing to remain with them when they were transferred to the newly-independent Indian Army in 1947.

S. Flynn

A/Sbdr. Netrabahadur Thapa VC. 2nd Battalion, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (d.26 June 1944)

On 25th/26th June 1944, at the age of twenty eight, Netrabahadur Thapa was an acting subedar of the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles. He was in command of a small isolated hill post at Bishenpur, India when the Japanese army attacked in force. The men, inspired by their leader's example, held their ground and the enemy were beaten off, but casualties were very heavy and reinforcements were requested. When these arrived some hours later they also suffered heavy casualties. Thapa retrieved the reinforcements' ammunition himself and mounted an offensive with grenades and kukris, until he was killed. For this action he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

S. Flynn

Rfm. Thaman Gurung VC. 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (d.10 Nov 1944)

Thaman Gurung was 20 years old, and a Rifleman in the 1st Battalion, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, when he was awarded the VC. The citation in the London Gazette reads:

"On 10th November 1944 at Monte San Bartolo, Italy, Rifleman Thaman Gurung was acting as one of two scouts to a fighting patrol. By skillful stalking both scouts succeeded in reaching the base of the position undetected. Rifleman Thaman Gurung then started to work his way to the summit; the second scout attracted his attention to Germans in a slit trench just below the crest, who were preparing to fire with a machine gun at the leading section. Realizing that if the enemy succeeded in opening fire, the section would certainly sustain heavy casualties, Rifleman Thaman Gurung leapt to his feet and charged them. Completely taken by surprise, the Germans surrendered without opening fire.

Rifleman Thaman Gurung then crept forward to the summit of the position, from which he saw a party of Germans, well dug in on reverse slopes, preparing to throw grenades over the crest at the leading section. Although the sky-line was devoid of cover and under accurate machine gun fire at close range, Rifleman Thaman Gurung immediately crossed it, firing on the German position with his Tommy gun, thus allowing the forward section to reach the summit, but due to heavy fire from the enemy machine guns, the platoon was ordered to withdraw.

Rifleman Thaman Gurung then again crossed the sky-line alone and although in full view of the enemy and constantly exposed to heavy fire at short range, he methodically put burst after burst of Tommy gun fire into the German slit trenches, until his ammunition ran out. He then threw two grenades he had with him and rejoining his section, collected two more grenades and again doubled over the bullet-swept crest of the hill top and hurled them at the remaining Germans. This diversion enabled both rear sections to withdraw without further loss. Meanwhile, the leading section, which had remained behind to assist the withdrawal of the remainder of the platoon, was still on the summit, so Rifleman Thaman Gurung, shouting to the section to withdraw, seized a Bren gun and a number of magazines. He then, yet again, ran to the top of the hill and, although he well knew that his action meant almost certain death, stood up on the bullet-swept summit, in full view of the enemy, and opened fire at the nearest enemy positions. It was not until he had emptied two complete magazines, and the remaining section was well on its way to safety, that Rifleman Thaman Gurung was killed.

It was undoubtedly due to his superb gallantry that his platoon was able to withdraw from an extremely difficult position without many more casualties than were in fact incurred and that some very valuable information was obtained which resulted in the capture of the feature three days later. The rifleman's bravery cost him his life."

S. Flynn

Rfm. Tul Bahadur Pun VC. 3rd Battalion 6th Gurkha Rifles

Tul Bahadur Pun was 21 years old, and a Rifleman in the 3rd Battalion, 6th Gurkha Rifles when he was awarded the VC.

"War Office, 9th November, 1944 The King has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the Victoria Cross to 10119 Rifleman Tulbahadur [sic] Pun, 6th Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army. In Burma on 23 June 1944, a Battalion of the 6th Gurkha Rifles was ordered to attack the Railway Bridge at Mogaung. Immediately the attack developed the enemy opened concentrated and sustained cross fire at close range from a position known as the Red House and from a strong bunker position two hundred yards to the left of it. The cross fire was so intense that both the leading platoons of 'B' Company, one of which was Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun's, were pinned to the ground and the whole of his Section was wiped out with the exception of himself, the Section commander and one other man. The Section commander immediately led the remaining two men in a charge on the Red House but was at once badly wounded. Rifleman Tulbahadur (sic) Pun and his remaining companion continued the charge, but the latter too was immediately wounded. Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun then seized the Bren Gun, and firing from the hip as he went, continued the charge on this heavily bunkered position alone, in the face of the most shattering concentration of automatic fire, directed straight at him. With the dawn coming up behind him, he presented a perfect target to the Japanese. He had to move for thirty yards over open ground, ankle deep in mud, through shell holes and over fallen trees. Despite these overwhelming odds, he reached the Red House and closed with the Japanese occupants. He killed three and put five more to flight and captured two light machine guns and much ammunition. He then gave accurate supporting fire from the bunker to the remainder of his platoon which enabled them to reach their objective. His outstanding courage and superb gallantry in the face of odds which meant almost certain death were most inspiring to all ranks and beyond praise."

Supplement to the London Gazette, 7 November 1944.

S. Flynn

2nd Lt (Act Capt) Selwyn Hawke 7th Gurkhas

I found an envelope of my great uncle's, and the writing on it says Indian Army 7th Gurkhas 2nd Lieu(acting captain). His name was Selwyn Hawke and i would like to know more about his service time in the war. I don't know a thing about what he did or where. I have a photo showing men standing around a tent. Any information would be appreciated, maybe someone knew him?

Pat Hawke

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