A Collection of Awards for Burma Operations during the Second World War

Date of Auction: 27th September 2017

Sold for £3,800

Estimate: £2,000 - £2,600

A superb Second War 1944 ‘Defence of Shenam - Scraggy Hill’ Immediate M.M. and Second Award Bar group of four awarded to Naik Manbir Pun, 3rd Battalion, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, for his part in a gallant night raid on Japanese trenches only 30 yards from his own, 17/18 June 1944. Having crawled on top of a bunker with another Naik, they then proceeded to burrow with their hands through the soil and roof, before dropping their grenades in between the gaps in the rafters. All this was done in darkness whilst surrounded by enemy listening posts, only a matter of feet distant from their position. In the chaos that followed up to 20 Japanese soldiers were accounted for from 27 grenades thrown. Some official war correspondents were in the area at the time, and an account of the raid appeared in the Statesman under the heading “Gurkhas’ night out.” Manbir Pun was severely wounded in action 9 days later during the battle for Rajput Hill

Military Medal, G.VI.R., with Second Award Bar (10200 Nk Manbir Pun G R ) impressed naming as to Indian Army; 1939-45 Star; Burma Star; War Medal 1939-45, mounted for wear, generally good very fine (4) £2000-2600

Footnote

Provenance: Spink, October 1991 and DNW, March 2002 (sold as a single on both occasions).

M.M. London Gazette 4 January 1945:

‘On the night of 17/18 June 1944, at “Scraggy” Hill on the Palel/Tamu Rd, 10200 Nk Manbir Pun was 2 i/c of a raiding party sent to move into the Jap trenches, 30 yds from ours, and to kill the occupants. He accompanied his comdr up an old crawl trench and crept into the Jap position. There they could just see a long bunker, but were unable to find its entrance. So creeping up with his comdr this Naik got on top of the bunker and burrowed a hole in its roof.

Scraping away the earth with his hands he came upon rafters; these he prized apart making a hole sufficiently large for a grenade to be pushed through. Into this hole two grenades were dropped.

There was a muffled explosion and shouts and cries from inside the bunker. One Jap ran out of the far end of the bunker and jumped into a bagged post. He was followed by a grenade. There were shouts and cries all round and about ten Japs came tumbling out of bunkers into a crawl trench. These two men then threw six grenades at a range of ten paces. All the grenades burst in the trenches and shrieks and cries of pain were heard.

More Japs left their bunkers to the North and threw grenades; meanwhile Naik Manbir Pun creeping back with his comdr picked up the other small parties and returned to our trenches. In all 27 grenades had been thrown. A minimum of 10 and a possible maximum of 20 Japs casualties had been inflicted. Our casualties were nil. Throughout this action, this young Naik showed great coolness under fire coupled with fine offensive actions.’

M.M. Second Award Bar London Gazette 28 June 1945:

‘Period 16 May 44 - 15 Aug 44. Naik Manbir Pun has been with his company throughout the last operations on the Assam - Murma border up to 27 June 1944, when he was severely wounded in the battle for Rajput Hill in the Shenam defences.

Throughout this difficult and trying time he has shown himself to be a courageous and intrepid young leader - especially so, on the night of 17/18 June 1944, at Scraggy Hill feature, on the Palel/Tamu Rd.’ The recommendation goes on to recount his actions at “Scraggy” Hill for which he received his first award.

Manbir Pun was a Hindu Gurkha from the village of Thotneri, in the Baglung District of Nepal. He served during the Second War in Burma with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, as part of the 37th Indian Infantry Brigade. The History of the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force) 1929 to 1947 offers the following:

‘The tour from 15th to 19th [1944] was marked by a very successful raid on the enemy position on Scraggy by a small party from “C” Company (Major B. J. Hickey, M.C.). Some official war correspondents were in the area at the time, and an account of the raid appeared in the Statesman under the heading “Gurkhas’ night out.” The raid was a harassing one, its object being to inflict the maximum of damage on the enemy. The raiding party consisted of Naiks Narbahadur Gurung and Manbir Pun, with three men each carrying a number of grenades and two men with a Bren gun. Narbahadur led his party at 1am on 18th June to the edge of the Japanese-held north-eastern tip of Scraggy, dropped his Bren-gun team in a covering position and crawled into the position. They found a group of two large bunkers with a number of slit trenches and two listening posts. Narbahadur left his three men some five paces from the first bunker with orders to lie doggo and attack the bunker when they heard his own attack begin. These three men remained in position on one side of the bunker for about half an hour without discovery, although there was a Japanese listening post with three men in it immediately beyond the bunker. Meanwhile Narbahadur with Manbir crawled forward past another listening post to the second bunker. This they found to be over fifteen paces long and they could hear coughing and muttering inside. Fearing grenades thrown in at the end might not do enough damage, they decided to try the roof. They then proceeded carefully and deliberately to dig through the roof immediately over the heads of those inside and with enemy all around them.

The night was, of course, very dark and the unmelodious snoring which emanated from the bunker probably helped. Having removed about six inches of packed earth and a layer of sandbags, they then found a layer of large logs which luckily presented a small gap. Dropping two grenades through the hole, they followed up with more through the two ends, and then the party started. The listening post got the surprise of its life and probably the last it ever got as it received the next couple of grenades. Japanese came tumbling out of fox holes and slit trenches all round, while the two naiks lobbed grenades at all as they appeared with the strictest impartiality. As soon as the first grenades were heard the three Gurkhas at the first bunker lobbed in their grenades and dealt with their listening post, while the Bren gun farther down the hill opened fire on the rear of the Japanese position. Pandemonium is an inadequate description as the Japanese too began to fire wildly in all directions. Narbahadur, taking advantage of the confusion, collected and withdrew his party, which returned intact to its company having thoroughly enjoyed its “night out.” Naik Narbahadur Gurung was awarded the I.D.S.M. and Naik Manbir Pun a M.M. for this gallant - perhaps audacious - exploit.’

One of only 8 bars to the Military Medal awarded to Gurkha regiments for the Second World War, and one of only 21 to the entire Indian Army for the same period.