30 Dec 1917 – 12 Dec 2010
ZUI this article from The Telegraph:
Havildar Lachhiman Gurung, who died on December 12 aged 92, won the Victoria Cross while serving with the Gurkha Rifles in Burma in 1945; in recent years he had been a prominent figure in the campaign led by the actress Joanna Lumley to allow former Gurkhas to settle in Britain.
At the end of April 1945, the 89th Indian Brigade of 7th Division was ordered to cross the Irrawaddy and destroy the enemy north of the Prome-Taungup road. By May 9 the Japanese, after a series of desperate attacks, had broken off contact and were withdrawing towards the Taungdaw Valley. “B” and “C” companies of the 4th/8th Gurkha Rifles were positioned to block their route at the village of Taungdaw, on the west bank of the river.
When the Japanese arrived, the two Gurkha companies were surrounded and their lines of communication cut. On the night of May 12, Rifleman Gurung was manning the forward post of his platoon almost 100 yards ahead of the main company.
At 1.20am, more than 200 Japanese attacked the company position. The brunt of the assault fell on Gurung’s section and, in particular, on his post, which dominated a jungle track leading up to his platoon’s position. Had the enemy been able to overrun it and occupy Gurung’s trench, they would have secured control over the whole of the field before them.
For four hours Gurung remained alone at his post, calmly waiting for each new onslaught, firing into his attackers at point blank range, determined not to yield an inch of ground. His comrades could hear him shouting: “Come and fight a Gurkha!”
The following morning, of the 87 enemy dead found in the company’s immediate locality, 31 lay in front of Gurung’s section. The Japanese made repeated attempts to break through, but the 4th/8th held out until May 15, when they were relieved.
Gurung later said: “I had to fight because there was no other way. I felt I was going to die anyway, so I might as well die standing on my feet. All I knew was that I had to go on and hold them back. I am glad that helped the other soldiers in my platoon, but they would have all done the same thing.”
Lachhiman Gurung was born on December 30 1917 at Dakhani village in the Tanhu district of Nepal. He enlisted in December 1940 and after completing basic training was recruited into the 8th Gurkha Rifles. Of small build (he stood just 4ft 11in tall), he was under the minimum height and would not have been accepted in peacetime.
After the action in which he won the Victoria Cross, Gurung was evacuated to hospital, but lost his right hand and the use of his right eye. He continued to serve with the 8th Gurkha Rifles but transferred to the Indian Army after Independence in 1947. He retired in the rank of havildar (the equivalent of sergeant) in the same year.
Gurung married soon afterwards and had two sons and a daughter. Later, after the death of his wife, he had two sons from a second marriage.
In 2008 Gurung became closely involved in the campaign to allow Gurkhas to settle in Britain. The British government had refused entry to the 2,000 Gurkhas who had retired before July 1997, the date when their base was moved to the UK from Hong Kong.
Five claimants — including a Falklands veteran, Lance-Corporal Gyanendra Rai; a Gulf War veteran, Birendra Man; and a Gurkha widow — launched a legal challenge, supported by Lachhiman Gurung and a fellow winner of the VC, Honorary Lieutenant Tul Bahadur Pun, then aged 87. Both men had been told that they would not be allowed to settle here because they had failed to “demonstrate strong ties” to the UK.
In the High Court in September 2008, however, Mr Justice Blake said that the policy should be reviewed, referring to the “Military Covenant undertaken by every British soldier by which, in return for their pledge to make the ultimate sacrifice, they are promised value and respect”. He added: “Rewarding distinguished service by the grant of residence in the country for which the service was performed would be a vindication of this covenant.”
One of Gurung’s sons subsequently became an officer in the 8th Gurkha Rifles. His second wife, Manmaya, survives him with his five children.
ZUI also this article (with photographs) from The Daily Mail.
There are now eight surviving VC holders:
WO Tul Bahadur Pun VC, 6th Gurkha Rifles - Burma, 1944
Flt Lt John A Cruickshank VC, RAFVR - North Atlantic, 1944
Sgt William Speakman VC, The Black Watch - Korea, 1951
Capt Ram Bahadur Limbu VC MVO, 10th Gurkha Rifles - Borneo, 1965
WO Keith Payne VC OAM, Australian Army - Vietnam, 1969
Pte Johnson G Beharry VC, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment - Iraq, 2004
Cpl Bill H Apiata VC, New Zealand SAS - Afghanistan, 2004
Tpr Mark G S Donaldson VC, Australian SAS - Afghanistan, 2008
Rifleman, 4th Battalion, 8th Gurkha Rifles
Born: 30 December 1917, Dakhani, Nepal
Died: 12 December 2010, London
Citation: 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 issue 37195 dated 27 Jul 1945, published 24 Jul 1945.]