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He was Ganju Lama, 19, a rifleman in the 1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles, in the Indian Army during World War II. He won the Victoria Cross (VC) in Burma on 12 June 1944. A month before this engagement, Ganju Lama had been awarded the Military Medal. During operations on the Tiddim Road, his regiment surprised a party of Japanese and killed several of them and destroyed two tanks in the action. 

He was born on 7 July 1922 in the village of Sangmo in Sikkim of a Tibetan father, who was a mandal (village headman) and a Nepalese mother. He enlisted in the 7th Gurkhas in 1942. He was admitted into the Gurkhas at the age of 18 only because in wartime the regiment let slip its usually stringent ethnic criterion. At that time, Gurkha regiments were prepared to accept any potential recruit who closely resembled the Gurkha and lived near the border of Nepal. After leaving the regimental centre in 1943, he joined the 1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles, in Burma, near Imphal.

Rifleman Ganju Lama VC, MM, 1st Battalion, 7th Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkha Rifles, 1944 (courtesy from National Army Museum, London - NAM. 1951-02-10-29)

Victory Cross citation

'In Burma, on the morning of the 12 June 1944, the enemy put down an intense artillery barrage lasting an hour on our positions north of the village of Ningthoukhong. This heavy artillery fire knocked out several bunkers and caused heavy casualties, and was immediately followed by a very strong enemy attack supported by five medium tanks. After fierce hand-to-hand fighting, the perimeter was driven in in one place and enemy infantry, supported by three medium tanks, broke through, pinning our troops to the ground with intense fire. "B" Company, 7th Gurkha Rifles, was ordered to counter-attack and restore the situation.

Shortly after passing the starting line it came under heavy enemy medium machine-gun and tank machine-gun fire at point blank range, which covered all lines of approach. Rifleman Ganju Lama, the No. 1 of the PIAT gun, on his own initiative, with great coolness and complete disregard for his own safety, crawled forward and engaged the tanks single-handed.

Two tanks destroyed by Rifleman Ganju Lama, 1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles, Ningthoukong, 12 June 1944 (courtesy from National Army Museum, London - NAM. 1951-02-10-31

In spite of a broken left wrist and two other wounds, one in his right hand and one in his leg, caused by withering cross-fire concentrated upon him, Rifleman Ganju Lama succeeded in bringing his gun into action within thirty yards of the enemy tanks and knocked out first one and then another, the third tank being destroyed by an anti-tank gun.

In spite of his serious wounds, he then moved forward and engaged with grenades the tank crews, who now attempted to escape. Not until he had killed or wounded them all, thus enabling his company to push forward, did he allow himself to be taken back to the Regimental Aid Post to have his wounds dressed.

Throughout this action Rifleman Ganju Lama, although very seriously wounded, showed a complete disregard for his own personal safety, outstanding devotion to duty and a determination to destroy the enemy which was an example and an inspiration to all ranks. It was solely due to his prompt action and brave conduct that a most critical situation was averted, all positions regained and very heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy'.

Ganju Lama was invested with his VC by the Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Lord Wavell, at the Red Fort, Delhi, on 24 October 1944.

Post war

After India gained its independence, he joined the Indian 11th Gorkha Rifles, retiring in 1968, when he became a farmer in Sikkim. He was appointed honorary ADC to the President of India for life

Source: | - National Army Museum, London |

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