HONORARY CAPTAIN LALBAHADUR THAPA VC OBI
1st Battalion 2nd K E O Goorkhas (Sirmoor Rifles)
Wadi Akarit, North Africa
(London Gazette dated 11th June 1943)
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.
HAVILDAR BHANBHAGTA GURUNG VC
3rd Battalion 2nd K E O Goorkhas (Sirmoor Rifles)
Snowdon East, Burma
(London Gazette dated 1st June 1945)
In Burma, on 5th March 1945, A Company of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Gurkha Rifles, attacked an enemy position known as Snowdon East. On approaching the objective one of the sections was forced to ground by heavy light machine-gun fire, 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 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 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. Realising that this light machine-gun would hold up not only his own platoon which was now behind him, but also another platoon that 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 onto 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 kukri. 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 the Japanese gunner and captured the light machine-gun.
Most of the objective had now been cleared by the men behind, but 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 position 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 single-handed was in itself decisive in capturing the objective and his inspired example to the rest of the Company contributed to the speedy consolidation of his success.