Honorary Captain Lalbahadur Thapa Sirdar Bahadur VC OBI

Honorary Captain Lalbahadur Thapa enlisted into the 2nd Goorkhas on 6 February 1925.  He rose quickly through the ranks and was commissioned as a Jemadar on 19 November 1937 and promoted to Subedar on 1 October 1940.  On 15 October 1944 he was again promoted and made Subedar Major of the 5th Battalion on the North-West Frontier.

The citation for his Victoria Cross read:

On the night of 5th/6th April during the silent attack on the Ross-Ez-Zouai feature, Subedar Lalbahadur Thapa was the Second-in-Command of D Company. The Commander of No. 16 Platoon was detached with one Section to secure an isolated feature on the left of the Company’s objective. Subedar Lalbahadur Thapa took command of the remaining two sections and lead them forward towards the main feature on the outer ridge, in order to break through and secure the one and only passage by which the vital commanding feature could be seized to cover the penetration of the Division into the hills. On the capture of these hills the whole success of the Corps plan depended.

First contact with the enemy was made at the foot of a pathway winding up a narrow cleft. This steep cleft was thickly studded with a series of enemy posts, the inner of which contained an anti-tank gun and the remainder medium machine-guns. After passing through the narrow cleft, one emerges into a small arena with very steep sides, some 200 feet in height, and in places sheer cliff. Into this arena and down both its sides numbers of automatic weapons were trained and mortar fire directed.

The garrison of the outer posts were all killed by Subedar Lalbahadur Thapa and his men by kukri or bayonet in the first rush, and the enemy then opened very heavy fire straight down the narrow enclosed pathway and steep arena sides. Subedar Lalbahadur Thapa led his men on and fought his way up the narrow gully straight through the enemy fire, with little room to manoeuvre, in the face of intense and sustained machine-gun concentrations and the liberal use of grenades by the enemy.

The next machine-gun posts were dealt with; Subedar Lalbahadur Thapa personally killing two men with his kukri and two more with his revolver. The Gurkha officer continued to fight his way up the narrow bullet-swept approaches to the crest. He and two Riflemen managed to reach the crest, where Subedar Lalbahadur Thapa killed another two men with his kukri, the Riflemen killed two more and the rest fled. Subedar Lalbahadur Thapa then secured the whole feature and covered his Company’s advance up the defile.

This pathway was found to be the only practicable route up the precipitous ridge, and by securing it the Company was able to deploy and mop up all enemy opposition on their objective. This objective was an essential feature covering the further advance of the Brigade and the Division, as well as the bridgehead over the anti-tank ditch.

There is no doubt that the capture of this objective was entirely due to this act of unsurpassed bravery by Subedar Lalbahadur Thapa and his small party in forcing their way up the steep gully, and up the cliffs of the arena under withering fire. The outstanding leadership, gallantry and complete disregard for his own safety shown by Subedar Lalbahadur Thapa were an example to the whole Company, and the ruthless determination of this Gurkha officer to reach his objective and kill the enemy had a decisive effect on the success of the whole operation.

On his retirement he was made Honorary Captain and played a leading role in dealing with the welfare of Gurkha ex-servicemen in Nepal.  As well as receiving his Victoria Cross from King George VI he also met Queen Elizabeth II at least twice, first when he accompanied Colonel RC Jackman to Buckingham Palace in 1956 to present a kukri to the 7½-year old Prince Charles, and later when Her Majesty visited Nepal in 1961.

His two sons both became 2nd Goorkhas.  He died in the Medical Reception Centre in Paklihawa on 19 October 1968.


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