Gurkhas at Potsangbam – May 12th-15th 1944 

Gurkhas at Potsangbam – May 12th-15th 1944 

On 12th May 1944, 1st Battalion 10th Gurkha Rifles (1/10GR) undertook what has been described as one of the hardest fought actions in which the Battalion was engaged in the War: the battle for Potsangbam village in Manipur. 1st Battalion 3rd Gurkha Rifles (1/3GR) fought alongside 1/10GR in this action, against an enemy position which was held by a significantly larger force than intelligence had led the commanders to believe. The battle started badly for the Battalion when the initial heavy fire support provided by Allied gunners fell on C Company 1/10GR causing 35 casualties, necessitating a change of leading company (B Company replacing C Company). Unfortunately, this also alerted the Japanese defenders of Potsangbam to the Allied plans and allowed them to withdraw away from the next tank barrage. Once B Company had replaced C Company, the attack recommenced but opposition quickly became very strong and casualties mounted, including D Company’s Officer Commanding, who was shot in the head by a Japanese sniper. 

The Gurkha soldiers reached a stream in front of the village and managed to cross it but in doing so  found that they were facing considerably more than the expected single company of Japanese soldiers and that it was impossible to move tanks across the stream in support. After diggingin until early the next day, 1/10GR and 1/3GR managed to set up a temporary bridge to allow tanks to cross.  Howeverslightly further into the village, bamboo clumps had been formed into makeshift anti-tank defences and so neither the Gurkha soldiers nor the tanks that had managed to cross the stream could make further progress.  

Not wishing to take further heavy casualties, the Gurkhas and tanks withdrew back across the stream to plan their next move. The plan changed from one of a direct frontal assault to a ‘coup-de-main’. The main concept involved 1/3GR committing to a heavy diversionary night attack supported by artillery, whilst 1/10GR led the real main assault on their right flank. By 0100 on May 14th1/10GR were in place with A and B Companies advancing to the outskirts of Potsangbam by crawling through its outlying rice fields and managing to storm into the village.  They took only minor casualties (including the Major leading B Company who suffered the loss of an eye after triggering a Japanese booby-trap). By first light the Gurkhas were established inside the Japanese perimeter and began the process of clearing the village and defending against counterattacks, which were initially heavy but petered out by the morning of the 15th 

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