REMEMBRANCE EXHIBITION: A Gurkha Victoria Cross at San Marino, Italy – Rifleman Sherbahadur Thapa

REMEMBRANCE EXHIBITION: A Gurkha Victoria Cross at San Marino, Italy – Rifleman Sherbahadur Thapa

Rifleman Sherbahadur Thapa enlisted at the outbreak of World War II and after completing his basic training at the Regimental Centre was sent to 1st Battalion, 9th Gurkha Rifles who were based at that time in Italy. He was sent out when a new draft of men was needed following the extremely heavy casualties suffered during the second assault on Monte Cassino. By September 1944 German troops in Italy had pinned their hopes on the line of fortifications in the north of the country known as the Gothic Line. Breaking this line was considered essential to reaching the ‘underbelly’ of Europe for the Allies and 1/9GR were detailed as part of the 4th Indian Division to take a sector of the line near the small Italian town of San Marino.

On the night of 18/19 September 1944 Sherbahadur Thapa and his section commander, stormed an enemy strongpoint in San Marino. Having overcome a machine gun post, he continued to engage the enemy and despite being urged to seek cover, he lay in the open under a hail of bullets firing his rifle, silencing further enemy machine guns and keeping the Germans from advancing. After two hours of severe fighting he was ordered to retire with his Company. He covered their withdrawal alone until his ammunition was exhausted. Then, before retiring, he ran out in the face of accurate small arms and mortar fire to rescue two wounded comrades who were between him and the Germans.

His citation for the Victoria Cross ends “While returning the second time he paid the price of his heroism and fell riddled by machine gun bullets fired at point blank range….His name will live in the history of his Regiment as a very gallant soldier”.

Sherbahadur Thapa’s body was recovered and he was buried with full military honours in the Gurkha War Cemetery, Rimini, Italy. His posthumous VC announced in the London Gazette on 28th December 1944, was presented to his mother at a special ceremony in March 1945. She had travelled from Nepal to the Red Fort in Delhi for the occasion, and the medal was given to her by the Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Lord Wavell. The medals were later donated by the family to the 9th Gurkha Rifles Museum, Varanasi, India.

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