23 June 2008

This day in history: 23 Jun

1944: Corporal Sefania Sukanaivalu, 3rd Battalion, Fijian Infantry Regiment, crawled forward in order to rescue some wounded men on Bougainville, Solomon Islands. After successfully bringing in two men, he went to bring in a third, but on the return journey was seriously wounded, making it impossible for him to move his legs. Several attempts were made to rescue him, but these only resulted in further casualties. Knowing that his men would never abandon him while he was still alive, Sukanaivalu raised himself as high as he could, in full view of the enemy, and was immediately shot and killed. Sukanaivalu was awarded the Victoria Cross, the only Fijian to have received this honour.

That same day, in Burma, a battalion of the 6th Gurkha Rifles was ordered to attack the railway bridge at Mogaung. Both leading platoons of B Company were immediately pinned by an intense cross-fire which wiped out one section completely with the exception of the section commander and two other men. The section commander immediately led a charge on the Red House, but was at once badly wounded; the remaining two men continued the attack, but one was also wounded. The remaining man, Rifleman Tul Bahadur Pun, then seized the Bren gun, and firing from the hip as he went, continued the charge alone, in the face of intense machine-gun fire. Silhouetted against the sunrise, he presented a perfect target as he moved thirty yards over open ground, ankle deep in mud, but nonetheless reached one bunker and closed with the Japanese. He killed three, put five more to flight, and captured two light machine guns and much ammunition. He then gave supporting fire from the bunker to the remainder of his platoon, enabling them to reach their objective. Tul Bahadur Pun was also awarded the Victoria Cross.*

* Tul Bahadur Pun is one of the 11 surviving holders of the Victoria Cross.

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