Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung was born in September 1921 in Phalpu in the Gorkha District of Nepal and joined with the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles in 1940. He saw service in the First Chindit Operation in 1943 and by 1945 his battalion had advanced against the disintegrating Japanese forces down the Arakan Coast in a number of assault landings. By February 1945 the Battalion had advanced to the village of Tamandu. The road ahead was dominated by a hill feature known as ‘Snowdon’ and 3/2GR were detailed to capture Snowdon to allow units of the 82nd West African Division to safely evacuate some of their casualties.
Though the hill was initially captured without opposition, the Japanese forces decided to retake a neighbouring hill known as Snowdon East on the night of March 4th. ‘B’ Company of 3/2GR were detailed to retake Snowdon East and during their attack, whilst subject to withering enemy fire, that Bhanbhagta participated in actions for which he would be awarded the Victoria Cross, setting an example to his fellow soldiers and allowing them to finally clear the Japanese from Snowdon, despite the company taking over 50% casualties. Bhanbhagta’s citation reads as follows:
“In Burma, on 5th March, 1945, a Company of the 2nd Gurkha Rifles attacked an enemy position known as Snowden East. On approaching the objective one of the sections was forced to ground by very heavy Light Machine Gun, grenade and mortar fire, and owing to the severity of this fire was unable to move in any direction. While thus pinned, the section came under accurate fire from a tree sniper some 75 yards to the South. As this sniper was inflicting casualties on the section, Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung, being unable to fire from the lying position, stood up fully exposed to the heavy fire and calmly killed the enemy sniper with his rifle, thus saving his section from suffering further casualties. The section then advanced again, but when within 20 yards of the objective was again attacked by very heavy fire. Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung, without waiting for any orders, dashed forward alone and attacked the first enemy fox-hole. Throwing two grenades, he killed the two occupants and without any hesitation rushed on to the next enemy fox-hole and killed the Japanese in it with his bayonet. Two further enemy fox-holes were still bringing fire to bear on the section and again Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung dashed forward alone and cleared these with bayonet and grenade. During his single-handed attacks on these four enemy foxholes, Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung was subjected to almost continuous and pointblank Light Machine Gun fire from a bunker on the North tip of the objective. Realising that this Light Machine Gun would hold up not only his own platoon which was now behind him, but also another platoon which was advancing from the West, Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung for the fifth time went forward alone in the face of heavy enemy fire to knock out this position. He doubled forward and leapt on to the roof of the bunker from where, his hand grenades being finished, he flung two No 77 smoke grenades into the bunker slit. Two Japanese rushed out of the bunker partially blinded by the smoke. Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung promptly killed them both with his Khukri. A remaining Japanese inside the bunker was still firing the Light Machine Gun and holding up the advance of No 4 Platoon, so Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung crawled inside the bunker, killed this Japanese gunner, and captured the Light Machine Gun.
Most of the objective had now been cleared by the men behind and the enemy driven off were collecting for a counter-attack beneath the North end of the objective. Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung ordered the nearest Bren gunner and two Riflemen to take up positions in the captured bunker. The enemy counter-attack followed soon after, but under Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung’s command the small party inside the bunker repelled it with heavy loss to the enemy. Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung showed outstanding bravery and a complete disregard for his own safety. His courageous clearing of five enemy positions singlehanded was in itself decisive in capturing the objective and his inspiring example to the rest of the Company contributed to the speedy consolidation of this success.”
Bhanbhagta Gurung was later awarded the Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace by King George VI, and 2GR gained the Battle Honour “Tamandu” as a result of the Battalion’s actions. March 5th, Tamandu Day, was celebrated as a Regimental Day by 2GR until their amalgamation in 1994.
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