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: Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung
Unit: 8th Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army
Date: 12th May 1945
Engagement: Taungdaw, Burma
Citation: The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS to: No. 87726 Rifleman LACHHIMAN GURUNG, 8th Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army.
At Taungdaw, in Burma, on the west bank of the Irrawaddy, on the night of 12th/13th May, 1945, Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung was manning the most forward post of his platoon. At 0120 hours at least 200 enemy assaulted his Company position. The brunt of the attack was borne by Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung’s section and by his own post in particular. This post dominated a jungle path leading up into his platoon locality.
Before assaulting, the enemy hurled innumerable grenades at the position from close range. One grenade fell on the lip of Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung’s trench; he at once grasped it and hurled it back at the enemy. Almost immediately another grenade fell directly inside the trench. Again this Rifleman snatched it up and threw it back. A third grenade then fell just in front of the trench. He attempted to throw it back, but it exploded in his hand, blowing off his fingers, shattering his right arm and severely wounding him in the face, body and right leg. His two comrades were also badly wounded and lay helpless in the bottom of the trench.
The enemy, screaming and shouting, now formed up shoulder to shoulder and attempted to rush the position by sheer weight of numbers. Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung, regardless of his wounds, fired and loaded his rifle with his left hand, maintaining a continuous and steady rate of fire. Wave after wave of fanatical attacks were thrown in by the enemy and all were repulsed with heavy casualties.
For four hours after being severely wounded Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung remained alone at his post, waiting with perfect calm for each attack, which he met with fire at point-blank range from his rifle, determined not to give one inch of ground.
Of the 87 enemy dead counted in the immediate vicinity of the Company locality, 31 lay in front of this Rifleman’s section, the key to the whole position. Had the enemy succeeded in over-running and occupying Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung’s trench, the whole of the reverse slope position would have been completely dominated and turned.
This Rifleman, by his magnificent example, so inspired his comrades to resist the enemy to the last, that, although surrounded and cut off for three days and two nights, they held and smashed every attack. His outstanding gallantry and extreme devotion to duty, in the face of almost overwhelming odds, were the main factors in the defeat of the enemy.
London Gazette: 27 July 1945
Subsequent career: Despite losing his right eye and the use of his right hand, Lachhiman Gurung continued to serve with 8th Gurkhas up to and after the transfer of the regiment to the newly-independent Indian Army in 1947, and was promoted to Hon. Havildar.
Lachhiman Gurung relocated to Hounslow in the UK, where he was made a Freeman of the Borough, after a successful claim for residence rights by ex-Gurkhas. British officials had initially stated that Gurung, and other ex-Gurkhas, ‘had not demonstrated sufficient ties to Britain’ to be permitted residence.
No politics here, but I would like to see the person who made that statement standing in a trench, with a shattered hand and no sight in one eye, manipulating a right-handed bolt-action rifle with his left hand, against multiple enemy attacks, and then see how strong his ties to Britain were. I am increasingly embarrassed to admit I am British.
Lachhiman Gurung eventually died in Charing Cross Hospital, London, on 12 December 2010.
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