One of a series of posts concerning Gurkha recipients of the Victoria Cross, each of which will appear on the anniversary of the action leading to the award.
Recipient: Lt. John Duncan Grant
Unit: 8th Gurkha Rifles
Date: 6 July 1904
Engagement: British Expedition to Tibet 1903-4
Citation: The KING has been graciously pleased to signify His intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross upon the undermentioned Officer, whose claims have been submitted for His Majesty’s approval, for his conspicuous bravery in Thibet, as stated against his name:— Lieutenant John Duncan Grant, 8th Gurkha Rifles.
On the occasion of the storming of the Gyantse Jong on 6th July, 1904, the storming Company, headed by Lieutenant Grant, on emerging from the cover of the village, had to advance up a bare, almost precipitous, rock-face, with little or no cover available, and under a heavy fire from the curtain, flanking towers on both sides of the curtain, and other buildings higher up the Jong. Showers of rocks and stones were at the time being hurled down the hillside by the enemy from above. One man could only go up at a time, crawling on hands and knees, to the breach in the curtain.
Lieutenant Grant, followed by Havildar Karbir Pun, 8th Gurkha Rifles, at once attempted to scale it, but on reaching near the top he was wounded, and hurled back, as was also the Havildar, who fell down the rock some 30 feet.
Regardless of their injuries they again attempted to scale the breach, and, covered by the fire of the men below, were successful in their object, the Havildar shooting one of the enemy on gaining the top. The successful issue of the assault was very greatly due to the splendid example shown by Lieutenant Grant and Havildar Karbir Pun.
The latter has been recommended for the Indian Order of Merit.
London Gazette: 24 January 1905
The British expedition to Tibet (December 1903-September 1904) was an invasion by British Indian forces under the auspices of the Tibet Frontier Commission, to establish diplomatic relations and resolve the dispute over the border between Tibet and Sikkim (the latter being a British protectorate in 1903).
The expedition fought its way to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in August 1904, via Gyantse, and obliged Tibetan officials to sign the Great Britain and Tibet Convention (1904).
Gyantse was historically the third most prominent town in Tibet, after Lhasa and Shigatse, and was protected by the massive Gyantse Dzong fort, constructed in 1390.
Subsequent career: Grant served in the Persian Gulf (1915–16), France and Belgium (1917), Mesopotamia (1918) and Afghanistan (1919) and Waziristan (1919–1920). He was subsequently Assistant Adjutant General at Army of India headquarters (1925–28), Deputy Director of the Auxiliary and Territorial Force in India (1928–29). He retired in 1929 with the rank of colonel and was ceremonial Colonel of the 10th Gurkha Rifles 1934–47. He died in Tunbridge Wells, UK, aged 89.
Sale of VC: This medal was offered for sale by auction, with Grant’s CB and DSO, on 2nd July 2014. The estimated sale price was £200,000-£250,000; the actual sale price was £408,000 (£340,000 + 20% auctioneer’s fee) (just a handful of change short of US$700,000 at today’s exchange rate).
The medal was bought by Lord Ashcroft and will be displayed in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum. The article at this link shows some interesting photos, including one of the rock face scaled by Lt. Grant and Havildar Karbir Pun.
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