Honorary Havildar Bhanbhagta Gurung VC

Bhanbhagta as a Rifleman shortly after winning the Victoria Cross

Bhanbhagta was born in September 1921 in Phalpu, in Gorkha district in western Nepal.  He joined the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas in 1940 and had served with them in No 2 Column of the first Chindit expedition before going to the Arakan.

The citation for his Victoria Cross, published in the London Gazette of 1 June 1945, read as follows:

‘In Burma, on 5th March, 1945, a Company of the 2nd Gurkha Rifles attacked an enemy position known as Snowden East. On approaching the objective one of the sections was forced to ground by very heavy Light Machine Gun, grenade and mortar fire, and owing to the severity of this fire was unable to move in any direction. While thus pinned, the section came under accurate fire from a tree sniper some 75 yards to the South. As this 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 then advanced again, but when within 20 yards of the objective was again attacked by very heavy fire. Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung, without waiting for any orders, dashed forward alone and attacked 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. Two further enemy fox-holes were still bringing fire to bear on the section and again Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung dashed forward alone and cleared these with bayonet and grenade. During his single-handed attacks on these four enemy foxholes,

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. Realising that this Light Machine Gun would hold up not only his own platoon which was now behind him, but also another platoon which was advancing from the West, Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung for the fifth time 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. Two Japanese rushed out of the bunker partially blinded by the smoke.

Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung promptly killed them both with his Khukri. A remaining Japanese inside the bunker was still firing the Light Machine Gun and holding up the advance of No 4 Platoon, so Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung crawled inside the bunker, killed this Japanese gunner, and captured the Light Machine Gun.

Most of the objective had now been cleared by the men behind and the enemy driven off were collecting for a counter-attack beneath the North end of the objective. Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung ordered the nearest Bren gunner and two Riflemen to take up positions in the captured 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 singlehanded 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.’

Bhanbhagta Gurung was presented with his Victoria Cross after the war by King George VI at Buckingham Palace.

By 1944 Bhanbhagta had achieved the rank of Naik (corporal) but was reduced to Rifleman for an offence which was subsequently found not to have been his fault.  Some said this unfair loss of rank played a part in his determination to prove that he had been unjustly treated by an act of bravery, but others knew he was a reasonable man and not one to bear a grudge.  After the war his company commander tried to persuade him to continue serving but he had a frail widowed mother and a young wife at home so he decided to leave.  By the time he quit the Regiment in January 1946 he had regained his former rank of Naik and was given the honorary rank of Havildar.

In later years he visited his Regiment in Malaya, Hong Kong and the UK as an honoured guest.  In addition to his VC he was also awarded the Star of Nepal, 3rd class.  In 2000 the Gurkha training company block at Catterick was named after him.

Bhanbhagta and his three sons in Hong Kong, 1979

His three sons also served in the 2nd Goorkhas.  Bhanbhagta suffered from asthma for many years and for the last four years of his life was housebound at his youngest son’s house at Dharapani in Gorkha, where he died on 1 March 2008.  His Victoria Cross is displayed in the Gurkha Museum.

His company commander, Major Nick Neill, described him as ‘a smiling, hard-swearing and indomitable soldier who in a battalion of brave men was one of the bravest’.


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