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 £1,400

Estimate: £800 - £1,000

A Second World War Burma operations M.M. group of six awarded to Naik Kulbahadur Gurung, 4th Battalion, 8th Gurkha Rifles, who took a steady toll on the enemy in a series of daring patrols on the east and west banks of the Irrawaddy in March-May 1945

He also distinguished himself in the three day siege of Taungdaw, where he displayed magnificent steadfastness in the face of overwhelming odds, his example so inspiring his men that ‘every enemy attack was held and smashed’: one of those so inspired was Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung, who was awarded the V.C.

Military Medal,
G.VI.R. (2218 Nk. Kulbahaddur Gurung, G.R.), officially impressed naming; India General Service 1936-39, 1 clasp, North West Frontier 1937-39 (2218 Rfn. Kulbahadur Gurung, 1-8 G.R.); 1939-45 Star; Burma Star; War Medal 1939-45; India Service Medal 1939-45, the last three officially impressed, ‘2218 L. Nk. Kulbahadur Gurung, 8 G.R.’, contact marks, generally very fine (6) £800-1000

Footnote

M.M. London Gazette 17 January 1946. The original recommendation states:

‘Near Ywathit, on the east bank of the Irrawaddy, on 2 March 1945, Naik Kulbahadur Gurung lead a small patrol to observe and pin-point enemy positions. This N.C.O. himself penetrated to within seven yards of the nearest position from which two Japs emerged and gave the alarm. After shooting one dead he extricated his patrol without loss. A few nights later, this N.C.O. led a strong fighting patrol to raid the area. He himself, acting on the information he had obtained, wiped out with his Tommy gun and grenades a complete post containing five Japs.

On numerous occasions, first at Milaungbya, at Singu and at Lanywa, Naik Kulbahadur Gurung constantly led important patrols by day and night and always succeeded, not only in bringing back vital information, but also in taking a steady toll on the enemy.

At Taungdaw, on the west bank of the Irrawaddy, from 12-14 May, he displayed magnificent steadfastness when his company was besieged for three days, and continuously attacked by day and night. His example so inspired and encouraged his men that every enemy attack was held and smashed.’

Kulbahadur Gurung was a Hindu Gurkha from the village of Sankyapur in Bhirkot district, Nepal. A pre-war regular in the 1st Battalion, 8th Gurkhas, he served in the North-West Frontier operations of 1939 (Medal & clasp). Joining the 4th Battalion when it was raised at Shillong in 1941, he would have arrived in the Arakan in September 1943.

V.C. action

In May 1945, 4-8th Gurkhas, part of 89th Indian Infantry Brigade, were ordered to cross the Irrawaddy and attack the Japanese forces to the north of the road from Prome to Taungup. The Japanese withdrew towards Taungdaw, where Kulbahadur Gurung, a member of ‘B’ Company, 4th Battalion was positioned; so, too, one other company. The Japanese attack arrived in force on the 12th and thus ensued - as cited in the closing paragraph of his M.M. recommendation - a siege of three days, in which he so inspired and encouraged his men that ‘every enemy attack was held and smashed.’ Those very same words were also to appear in another citation: that for the V.C. awarded to Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung.

On 12 May 1945, this fellow member of the 4-8th Gurkhas, was manning the most forward post of his platoon which bore the brunt of an attack by at least 200 of the Japanese enemy. Possibly having been inspired by his senior, Naik Kulbahadur Gurung, he twice hurled back grenades which had fallen on his trench, but the third exploded in his right hand, blowing off his fingers, shattering his arm and severely wounding him in the face, body and right leg. His two comrades were also badly wounded but this rifleman, now alone and disregarding his wounds, loaded and fired his rifle with his left hand for four hours, calmly waiting for each attack which he met with fire at point blank range. The closing paragraphs of his V.C. citation state:

‘ ... of the 87 enemy dead counted in the immediate vicinity of the Company locality, 31 lay in front of this Rifleman's section, the key to the whole position. Had the enemy succeeded in over-running and occupying Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung's trench, the whole of the reverse slope position would have been completely dominated and turned.
This Rifleman, by his magnificent example, so inspired his comrades to resist the enemy to the last, that, although surrounded and cut off for three days and two nights, they held and smashed every attack.’

His outstanding gallantry and extreme devotion to duty, in the face of almost overwhelming odds, were the main factors in the defeat of the enemy.’

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