A Collection of Gallantry Awards to the Indian Army for the Burma Campaign 1944-45

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Date of Auction: 22nd July 2016

Sold for £2,800

Estimate: £2,000 - £2,600

A rare and outstanding Second World War Burma operations M.M. and Bar awarded to Lance-Naik Kharakbahadur Rai, 2nd Battalion, 5th Gurkha Rifles, who won immediate awards for his gallantry on the Tiddim Road during the battle of Imphal in April-May 1944

Military Medal, G.VI.R., with Second Award Bar (63258 L./Naik Kharakbahacdur Rai, 2/5 R.G.R.), officially engraved naming; 1939-45 Star; Burma Star; War Medal 1939-45, the first with edge nicks and bent suspension, very fine or better (4) £2000-2600

Footnote

Just 21 soldiers of the Indian Army were awarded the M.M. and Bar in the 1939-45 War, eight of them Gurkhas.

M.M.
London Gazette 22 June 1944. The recommendation - for an immediate award - states:

‘‘On 1 April 1944, during the attack on the MS 72 feature, this rifleman was in the platoon which reinforced the left flank of the attacking force. Armed with a T.M.G. and grenades, he was seen advancing up the hill alone, by the Platoon Commander, whose platoon had been temporarily stopped about 25 yards below the crest of a very steep hill. The Platoon Commander told him not to advance any further but the rifleman continued up the slope. He got within a few yards of the top and spotting some enemy in their trenches threw some grenades before retiring. He gave the Platoon Commander some useful information about the ground ahead and although again ordered to stay with his platoon, he again moved forward by another route. He repeated his bomb throwing into the enemy positions several times although frequently he had to run the gauntlet of his comrades’ fire from behind as well as that of the enemy. As well as inflicting casualties on the enemy he was able to give the Platoon Commander extremely useful and valuable information about the enemy positions, all of which were hidden from the advancing troops below. It was by the aid of this information that the Platoon Commander was able to advance his line until the enemy position was in our hands. In the initial stages of this attack our casualties had been very heavy and but for this rifleman’s outstanding courage and initiative many more would have been undoubtedly incurred.’

Bar to M.M.
London Gazette 5 October 1944. The recommendation - for an immediate award - states:

‘On 26 May 1944, whilst 48 Light Indian Infantry Brigade was fighting its way back from the road block at MS 33 on the Tiddim-Imphal Road, ‘B’ Company, 2/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (F.F.) was ordered to carry out a sweep to Tamnapopki village near the Moirang cross roads. As it was entering the Battalion harbour at dusk on return from their sweep, the harbour was attacked by five Jap tanks supported by infantry. A number of casualties were sustained in ‘B’ Comany and they became disorganised. Volunteers were called for to take out three Bren guns on the threatened flank to hold off the enemy infantry whilst the remainder of the company was being re-organised. Lance-Naik Kharakbahadur immediately came forward, followed by about six other men. This small party, led by Lance-Naik Kharakbahadur, then worked its way forward under heavy close range fire from the Jap tanks and L.M.Gs and drove off the enemy infantry. As soon as the situation was partially restored, the Company Commander called for volunteers to go out and deal with the two Jap tanks which had penetrated the perimeter. Kharakbahadur again came forward and leaving the Bren in charge of another rifleman, took a PIAT gun and accompanied the tank hunting party. After several efforts to being their fire to bear on the tanks, without success, the party closed with the tanks in an attempt to throw Molotov Cocktails. In so doing they were spotted and came under heavy automatic fire and grenades from the enemy. One of the party was killed and the remainder wounded. The wounded made their way back to the Company H.Q. unable to bring their weapons with them. On learning that the Company anti-tank weapons had been lost, the Company Commander again called for volunteers to recover them. A Havildar came forward and Kharakbahadu, though suffering from a painful scalp wound, again volunteered to accompany him to show him the way and assist in bringing them in. Ignoring the great risk involved as the enemy were now fully on the alert for tank hunting parties, these two men reached the weapons which were lying not ten yards from the tanks, recovered them and brought them back to safety.

Throughout this action Lance-Naik Kharakbahadur’s initiative, resource and devotion to duty were outstanding. His determined efforts to close with and destroy the enemy on this and other occasions during a fortnight’s fighting connected with the roadblock at MS 33, and his complete contempt of danger, were an inspiring example to all ranks of the Company.’

Kharakbahadur Rai was a Hindu Gurkha from the Ilam region of Nepal.

Both of his M.Ms were won within the space of eight weeks for actions on the Tiddim Road during the battle of Imphal. In the first of these 2/5th Gurkhas suffered casualties of 13 killed and 46 wounded while in the second, owing to the enemy tanks ‘blazing away with their high velocity guns and machine-guns at anything they could see’ throughout the night, the Battalion sustained a further 50 casualties: by the time the Imphal offensive had burnt out and the siege been lifted, 2/5th Gurkhas had sustained a total of 800 casualties in a four month period.

Sold with extensive copied research and photographs, among them the recipient.