Gurkha Victoria Cross at San Marino – Rifleman Sherbahadur Thapa

Gurkha Victoria Cross at San Marino – Rifleman Sherbahadur Thapa

Born in Ghalechap in the Tanhu District of Nepal in 1921, Sherbahadur Thapa enlisted with 9th Gurkha Rifles in November 1942 and joined 1st Battalion 9th Gurkha Rifles in Italy as part of a draft replacing heavy casualties suffered during the battalion’s attacks at 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 region of the line near the small Italian town of San Marino.

On the night of 18th/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 suggestions to seek cover, he lay in the open under a hail of bullets firing his gun, 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”.

Sadly there is no known photograph of Rfn Sherbahadur but his memory is immortalised in a monument erected in San Marino where there are maintained close links with those Second World War members of his Regiment who still survive.

Learn about more Gurkha Victoria Cross stories here.
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