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Rifleman Ganju Lama

Discussion in 'British WWII Medals and Awards' started by Jim, Oct 7, 2010.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Rifleman Ganju Lama MM, 7th Gurkha Rifles, Burma - 23rd 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 the enemy infantry, supported by three medium tanks, broke through, pinning our troops to the ground with intense fire.

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    "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 P.I.A.T. gun, on his own inititative, with great coolness and complete disregard for his own safety, crawled forward and engaged the tanks single handed. In spite of a broken left wrist and two other wounds, one in his right hand and one in his leg, ...Rifleman Ganju Lama succeedeed 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, ...he then moved forward and engaged with grenades the tank crews... 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...

    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..."

    Extracts from London Gazette 7 September 1944...

    Rifleman Ganju Lama.

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    During fierce hand-to-hand fighting in Burma, in June 1944 Rifleman Lama, 7th Royal Gurkha Rifles, on his own initiative, with great coolness and complete disregard for his own safety, crawled toward and engaged three enemy tanks singlehanded, killing or wounding the crews. He is seen in this picture sat on his bed in hospital receiving the congratulations and homage of his father and brothers.
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Ganju Lama, VC​


    Gurkha hero who won two decorations within a month when fighting the Japanese - using his teeth to remove the pins from his grenades OF THE THIRTY Victoria Crosses awarded to the Indian Army during the Second World War, ten were won by soldiers of the Gurkha Rifles. While sometimes displayed in acts of great gallantry, the courage of these "bravest of the brave" was typically manifest in a relentless determination to go on killing the enemy, irrespective of the loss of immediate comrades or virtually certain death.

    The spring of 1944 saw General Sir William Slim's offensive into northern Burma countered by the move of the three divisions of General Mutagachi's 15th Japanese Army into the Imphal Plain. Mutagachi aimed to block Slim's lines of supply through the mountain passes from Assam, but first he had to take Kohima and Imphal. The consequent collision led to some of the fiercest combat of this grim campaign. Even as Slim began to turn the tide, Mutagachi regrouped his divisions, which fought with all the vicious tenacity of desperate men in a slowly closing trap.

    On May 17, 1st/7th Gurkha Rifles of 48th Indian Brigade pushed forward to milestone 33 on the Tiddim road, running northeast towards Imphal. The battalion's task was to clear the Japanese from a complex of bunkers and road blocks impeding the advance of the 17th Indian Division to relieve Imphal. The enemy was known to be wellentrenched, but B Company of 1st/7th Gurkhas, in the lead on the left of the road, was suddenly held down by fire from the 37mm guns of Japanese light tanks, which had apparently appeared from nowhere.

    Rifleman Ganju Lama carried B Company's projector infantry anti-tank machine-gun, an awkward weapon with a kick like a mule and a maximum reliable range of 75 yards. As soon as his company was checked, and despite intense 37mm fire, he crawled forward on the enemy's flank and fired two squash-head projectiles from a range of 60 yards. His first shot missed, but the second penetrated the side armour of the leading enemy tank and set it ablaze. Hearing his platoon ordered back out of the open, he remained in position to cover his comrades' withdrawal, and destroyed a second tank before crawling back to safety. He was subsequently awarded the Military Medal for his resourcefulness, coolness and disregard for personal safety.

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    Armoured forces played a relatively small part in the Burma campaign compared with the Western Desert, Italy and North-West Europe. Yet when tanks appeared on the narrow fronts which the jungle imposed, their impact could be crucial. The Japanese used them at milestone 33 on the Tiddim road as mobile strongpoints; shortly afterwards they were to deploy them in direct support of their attacking infantry.

    Such was the tenacity of the Japanese resistance and counter-attacks that 48 Brigade advanced only 12 miles northwards toward Imphal in the ensuing three weeks to reach the village of Ningthookong, just short of milestone 20. On the morning of June 12, the enemy put down an intense artillery barrage on the brigade's positions north of the village. As the barrage lifted, Japanese infantry supported by tanks attacked and broke through the brigade's outer perimeter, from where the tanks threatened to overrun the defenders' positions.

    B and D Companies of the 1st/7th Gurkhas were ordered to launch an immediate counter-attack to restore the perimeter. Initially good progress was made, but enemy tanks firing their main armament caused the attack to falter.

    Just four weeks after his earlier act of heroism, Ganju Lama crawled forward with his anti-tank machinegun and again engaged the enemy armour from the flank. Although wounded in his left wrist, right hand and a leg, he held his fire until only 30 yards from the leading tank. He destroyed it with his first missile and then destroyed the next supporting Japanese tank with his second shot. A third tank was destroyed by an anti-tank gun supporting the counter-attack.

    As the enemy crews scrambled out of their burning vehicles, Ganju attacked them with hand grenades - removing the pins with his teeth because of his broken hand. Not until he had killed or wounded the last enemy tank crew member could he be persuaded to return to the Regimental Aid Post to have his wounds dressed.

    He later described the scene of the action: "I crawled on my belly through the dense snake-infested jungle while firing was going on from all the sides." He had to stay in hospital for 22 months, and when he received his VC from Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of India, it was from a wheelchair at the Red Fort in Delhi in the autumn of 1944.

    The prosaic language of the citation for the award of his Victoria Cross records that "Throughout this action Rifleman Ganju Lama, although seriously wounded, showed a complete disregard for his personal safety, outstanding devotion to duty and a determination to destroy the enemy that 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 heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy."

    Ganju's tribe, the Lamas or "Murmis", are found in eastern Nepal and neighbouring Sikkim. It is thought they were originally elements of a Tibetan tribe which made its way through the Himalayan passes into the valleys of Nepal and Sikkim in remote times. Ganju Lama was born in the village of Sangmo in Sikkim of a Tibetan father, who was a mandal (village headman) and a Nepalese mother (who died when he was two). He was admitted into the Gurkhas at the age of 18 only because in wartime the regiment let slip its usually stringent ethnic criterion.

    On the Partition of India in 1947, Ganju joined the 11th Gorkha Rifles of the new Indian Army. The regiment had been re-raised from soldiers of the 7th and 10th Gurkha Rifles who opted to continue their service with the Indian Army, rather than join the British Army.

    A reminder of his earlier service surfaced when he was serving in Delhi in 1964. Applying a poultice to a swelling on his leg, he eventually drew out a Japanese bullet that had been lodged there for more than twenty years.

    Before ending his service in 1972, Ganju was promoted subadar-major. He was appointed ADC to the President of India in 1965 and granted the honorary rank of captain in 1968. On his retirement the Government of Sikkim granted him a piece of land near his native village in the Ravangla District where he farmed both potatoes and the profitable spice crop cardamon. He was accorded VIP status which included provision of a white Ambassador car, complete with red flashing light and inscribed with the letters VC.

    As his farm prospered, Ganju encouraged the establishment of a school in Sangmo village by paying the teachers himself.

    His death reduces to 25 the number of living holders of the Victoria Cross

    Ganju was twice married. He is survived by his second wife, a son and three daughters of his first marriage and a son and two daughters from his second.

    Ganju Lama, VC, MM, was born on July 7, 1922. He died on June 30 aged 77.

    Source:The Sunday Times
     

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