12 – Bhanbhagta Gurung
Our final military madman is one that few will have heard of, but whose bravery to the point of insanity is nye on unbelievable. Bhanbhagta Gurung was a Gurkha, a Nepalese soldier contracted to the British Army and – in a very competitive field – perhaps the greatest Gurkha of them all. He was a Victoria Cross recipient, the highest honor that a member of the British Army can receive, as well as being awarded the Star of Nepal, the equivalent honor in his native land.
Gurung won his award in 1945, at the tail end of the war, when fighting against the Japanese in Burma, while pinned down with sniper fire. His citation for the Victoria Cross tells the story: 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 Bhahbhagta Gurung dashed forward alone and cleared these with bayonet and grenade.
During his single-handed attacks on these four enemy fox-holes, Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung was subjected to almost continuous and point-blank Light Machine Gunfire from a bunker on the North tip of the objective. Realizing 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 leaped 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 (the traditional Gurkha sword). 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.”
The citation later went on to describe Gurung’s “complete disregard for his own safety” – bravery that only a madman would show.
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