Captain (Gurkha Commissioned Officer) Tikajit Pun, Bahadur MBE OBI IDSM

Captain Tikajit Pun was a much-decorated veteran who was Subedar-Major of both the 2nd and 3rd Battalions and subsequently Subedar Major of the Regimental Centre.  He was appointed as a Gurkha Commissioned Officer (GCO) in November 1948, one of the first officers to be promoted into this new rank.  This made him a highly-respected member of the British Officers’ rather than the Gurkha Officers’ Mess and was also a measure of the very high regard in which he was held.

Born in 1904 in Nangi village in west Nepal, Tikajit had joined the 1st Battalion in 1922 and served with them on the North-West Frontier.  He transferred to the 3rd Battalion in 1940 as a Subedar.  He went on the Chindit expedition with No 4 column, and was awarded the Indian Distinguished Service Medal.  The citation, in the London Gazette of 19 October 1944, read:

‘Subedar Tikajit Pun was the senior Gurkha Officer of a Column which was forced through a breakdown in communications and the consequent lack of rations to return across the CHINDWIN under particularly arduous conditions.  His energy and devotion to duty were unfailing and on all occasions he set a superb example of cheerfulness in great adversity.  It was largely due to his exemplary conduct that his men, despite hunger and exhaustion, regained their base as a formed body and without casualties.  He displayed the same qualities of leadership during this difficult march as he had previously shown under fire and was throughout of the greatest assistance to his Column Commander.’

He then took part in operations with the 3rd Battalion in the Arakan for which he was awarded the MBE for ‘outstanding and gallant service’, and later went with them to Malaya.  He became the Subedar-Major of the 2nd Battalion when it and the 3rd Battalion amalgamated in May 1946, remaining in that post until June 1947, at which point he was awarded the Order of British India (2nd Class) and the title ‘Bahadur’.  He then became Subedar-Major of the Regimental Centre but spent time with the Training Battalion commanding one of its ad hoc companies deployed on internal security duties in the Dehra Dun area.  He was nominally Subedar-Major of the 1st Battalion during 1948, by which time he was an Honorary Lieutenant, but spent most of that time on leave in Nepal.

Promoted to Lieutenant (Gurkha Commissioned Officer) in November 1948 he was posted to India where he spent time as an Assistant Recruiting Officer and as Officer Commanding the Depot Duty Company in the Brigade of Gurkhas Lines of Communication in India.  He was promoted to Captain (Gurkha Commissioned Officer).  In 1953 his name became international news when the SS Sangola ran aground in the Hooghly river.  The ship was in danger of sinking when, under his command, the 1,500 passengers were rescued without panic or loss of life.

He retired in 1961 after 39 years’ service and a record of his career, with an appreciation, was published in the Regimental Journal that year.  He died in October 1977 at Paklihawa in Nepal, and obituaries appeared in both Regimental and Brigade Journals and Newsletters.  His son, Lalbahadur Pun, was also a highly successful officer, going to Sandhurst, winning a Military Cross in the Indonesian Confrontation and being the first Gurkha in the British Army to be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Lieutenant-Colonel H.C.S. Gregory of the 10th Gurkha Rifles was Tikajit’s Commanding Officer in India, and became a close friend.  He recalled:

‘Tikajit did not smoke, nor did he drink anything but water.  Though not very talkative, he was a most alert listener.  What little he said was always sound and very often quotable.  He talked slowly with many hesitations and much thoughtful in-drawing of breath through his teeth – an amusing habit of his which many will recall.  Under-statement came naturally to him.  Never did he describe anyone or anything as being more than ‘Kharib ramo chha’ [‘Quite good’].  His response to a comment or remark which he thought frivolous, incomprehensible or irrelevant was to give a completely disarming smile.’

Lieutenant Colonel Philip Panton, Commandant of the 3rd Battalion, later wrote:

‘Tikajit was not a clever officer, but he was shrewd and what he may have lacked in brains he made up for by sheer hard work and application, and he drove himself unmercifully.  Luckily, despite appearances – in those days he did not look particularly robust – he was as tough and resilient as any man I have ever met both physically and mentally.

How do I remember Tikajit?  I remember him steadfast and imperturbable under small arms fire and bombardment.  I remember his championing of riflemen in the orderly room.  I remember him giving his daily report in his manly voice, standing straight as a ramrod until, the official part delivered, I would turn to less official matters and he would tip his hat a fraction to the back of his head and his stern mandarin face would relax with that steady smile.  I remember taking him with me to visit companies before an attack and seeing how he could inspire Gurkhas to that cocky, nonchalant bravery which has brought success to many a desperate plan.  But above all I remember him with the wounded, tears behind his eyes, as he soothed those uncomplaining Gurkhas who, hiding their pain as always from the eyes of the onlooker, suffered in silence.  He was one of the greatest Gurkhas I have ever met and he served the Regiment to the utmost of his exceptional ability.’

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