Gurkha officer reminisces about heroics of his grandfather

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KATHMANDU, AUGUST 14

As the United Kingdom marks the 75th anniversary of ‘Victory over Japan Day,’ a Gurkha officer has paid tribute to his grandfather, who was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung was given the nation’s highest honour for his valour in recognition of his “outstanding bravery and complete disregard for his own safety” during the battle in Burma on 5 March 1945, read a press release issued by British Army, in Colchester, UK today. As 3rd Battalion, 2nd Gurkha Rifles advanced near Tamandu, they came under heavy machine gun, mortar and sniper fire from the Japanese troops. Repeatedly exposing himself to the danger, Bhanbaghta VC cleared five positions single-handedly, inspiring his colleagues to overcome the Japanese resistance.

Captain Buddhi Gurung, a member of Brigade of Gurkhas, holding his grandfather’s Victoria Cross medal near a framed photo of Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung. Photo courtesy: British Army

Captain Buddhi Gurung, who works at the Infantry Battle School in Brecon, is Bhanbaghta VC’s grandson and spoke of how his grandfather’s heroism inspired him to serve as a Gurkha.

“To be able to hold my grandfather’s actual Victoria Cross means a lot to me,” the 45-year-old said. “I’m very proud of what he did and he is remembered for it. We should remember everyone who fought in all campaigns in the Second World War to celebrate their achievements and honour their sacrifice.”

“The Burma campaign is a very important part of Gurkha history. When recruits come from Nepal to train they are taught about what their forefathers did, our history sets the example for current soldiers.”

Bhanbaghta VC was awarded the medal by King George VI at Buckingham Palace, and he later presented it to the Gurkha Museum in Winchester. He left the Army in 1946, to return to his home village of Phalpu in Nepal’s Gorkha district. He had three sons, who served in the Gurkhas.

Capt Gurung said, “My grandfather was a strong man, a good speaker who people listened to and a born-leader. When I was a child, he used to tell me stories about what he had done in Burma and it was my dream to be a Gurkha like him.”

Capt Gurung joined the Army in 1995, serving with 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles on operations in Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Kosovo and three tours of Afghanistan. As the third generation of his family to serve in the British Army, he is the first to commission as an officer.

Capt Gurung, who lives in Brecon with his wife Sabita and two children, said, “My grandfather is the person who influenced me to become a Gurkha — if he were alive today, I hope he would be proud of what I’ve achieved.”

A version of this article appears in e-paper on August 15, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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